Policy Papers

Jennifer Wallner

Understanding Canadian Intergovernmental Relations

August 26, 2014

19th Century Division of Powers, 21st Century Problems

As Canada’s Premier’s meet in Prince Edward Island this week at the Council of the Federation, Canada’s intergovernmental relations agenda has rarely been this packed, with agreements on equalization, the Canada Health Transfer, and the Canada Social Transfer (CST) set to expire – in addition to existing work on energy, climate change, new developments in job training, and the ongoing issues in the immigration and refugee files.

But as new anonymous interviews published in 19th Century Division of Powers, 21st Century Problems: Understanding Canadian Intergovernmental Relations suggests, the way federal-provincial-territorial relations is conducted in Canada needs a systematic renewal for progress to be made. The paper asks three questions:

  1. Why should Canadians care about intergovernmental relations?
  2. Why are intergovernmental relations often fraught with conflict?
  3. What can we do to make intergovernmental relations run more smoothly?

Written by Jennifer Wallner, Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa, the paper’s findings are based on in-depth interviews with more than two-dozen current and former officials from all 14 jurisdictions (federal, provincial, and territorial). From these interviews and additional research, the paper makes five recommendations for how Canadian intergovernmental relations can be improved.

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