At a Glance:
Year became a federation: 1867
Current constitution in force since:1867 (repatriated in 1982)
Constituent units: 10 provinces, 3 territories
Head of State: Governor General
Head of Government: Prime Minister
Lower House: House of Commons
Official language(s): English and French
Our work in Canada:
Since 1999 the Forum has worked with local partners in Canada to organize learning events ranging from the first International Conference on Federalism to a conference on internal market barriers in federal countries, including Canada.
Federalism in Canada:
In Canada, major pressures for the reform of federalism have emerged from a wide range of issues, including the desire to accommodate the special status of the province of Quebec and attempts to reform the federal Senate.
Canada is a parliamentary democracy with a system that expresses a divided rather than a shared model of federalism, independent taxing authority for both orders of government – provincial and federal – and weak provincial representation at the centre. Strong executive-led government in the federal and provincial capitals, combined with a weak Senate, has led to executive domination of relations between and among the federal partners.
Founded by the Constitution Act of 1867 Canada was initially quite centralized. The 1982 Constitution Act affirmed aboriginal rights and introduced an entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedoms to which all governments and legislatures are subject.
The Council of the Federation, established in 2003, acts as a spokesman for the provincial governments of this large and diverse country.
Canada’s high degree of decentralization has been driven by factors such as: judicial interpretation of division of powers in favour the provinces; inadequate representation of regional diversity leading to popular support for provincial powers; the growing importance of provincial jurisdiction areas such as health, welfare and education; and Quebec nationalism. Managing this system requires considerable intergovernmental coordination, which is carried out by regular meetings of ministers and officials, and occasional meetings of first ministers.
* Development assistance program countries