Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Arbitrating a Fiction: Canadian Federalism and the Nova Scotia/Newfoundland and Labrador Boundary Dispute

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Arbitrating a Fiction: Canadian Federalism and the Nova Scotia/Newfoundland and Labrador Boundary Dispute

Article excerpt

Abstract: The offshore area between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and the natural resources that it holds have recently been the subject of dispute between the two provinces. Constitutionally, jurisdiction for offshore resources belongs to the federal government. Control over development and revenues has been shared with the provinces through joint management accords. In order to deal with the dispute over where the offshore boundary between the two provinces lies, the accords provide for arbitration by a tribunal reporting to the federal minister of natural resources. That tribunal has now completed its work. This article analyses the tribunal, its terms of reference, and its findings, and concludes that the tribunal process was flawed. There are reasons to doubt the appropriateness of its role, the method by which it made its decision, and the legality of its findings. Ultimately, the tribunal's process perpetuates the myth that what is being discussed are genuine boundaries between the provinces. The boundary is, in that regard, a fiction. In fact, the process is simply apportioning federal resources between two provinces. The tribunal cloaks a political decision in legal garb. The minister of natural resources is able to avoid political responsibility for making a decision by relying on a pseudo-judicial body for technical recommendations. As in many of the other practices that have come to dominate intergovernmental relations in Canada, the accountability of governments is lost in the process.

Sommaire: La zone cotiere entre la Nouvelle-Ecosse, Terre-Neuve et le Labrador ainsi que les ressources naturelles qu'elle comporte ont recemment fait l'objet de conflits entre les deux provinces. Conformement ala constitution, les ressources en mer sont du ressort du gouvernement federal. Le controlde la mise en valeur et des revenus a ete partage avec les provinces par le biais d'accords de gestion conjoints. Ces accords prevoient l'arbitrage par un tribunal relevant du ministre federal des Ressources naturelles pour traiter les conflits concernant la frontiere au large des cotes entre les deux provinces. Ce tribunal a maintenant termine son travail. Le present article offre une analyse de ce tribunal, de son mandat, et de ses conclusions, et releve que le processus du tribunal etait defectueux. Il existe des raisons de douter du caractere adequat de son role, de la methode par laquelle il a pris sa decision et de la legalite de ses conclusions. Enfin, le processus du tribunal perpetue le mythe selon lequel l'enjeu des discussions porte sur les veritables frontieres entre les provinces. La frontiere est, a cet egard, de la fiction. En fait, le processus repartit tout simplement les ressources federales entre deux provinces. Le tribunal masque une decision politique sous un deguisement juridique. Le ministre des Ressources naturelles arrive a eviter la responsabilite politique d'une decision en comptant sur un organe pseudo-juridique pour presenter des recommandations techniques. Comme cela est le cas dans de nombreuses pratiques qui dominent aujourd'hui les relations intergouvernementales au Canada, l'imputabilite des gouvernements se perd dans le processus.

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The allocation and control of Canada's offshore natural resources is a flashpoint in intergovernmental relations. Constitutionally, jurisdiction for offshore resources resides with the federal government. Political realities have nevertheless compelled the federal government to share that jurisdiction with determined provinces. Having wrestled some control from Ottawa, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have just emerged from a relatively acrimonious dispute over claims to the Laurentian sub-basin, a sizeable area of the Atlantic between northern Cape Breton and southwestern Newfoundland. This article examines the role of the arbitration tribunal set up to referee this dispute. While the tribunal's work may seem relatively insignificant to most Canadians, it represents a disturbing turn in the practise of contemporary Canadian federalism and intergovernmental relations. …

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