Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Constructing Tomorrow's Federalism: New Perspectives on Canadian Governance

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Constructing Tomorrow's Federalism: New Perspectives on Canadian Governance

Article excerpt

Ian Peach (ed.), Constructing Tomorrow's Federalism: New Perspectives on Canadian Governance (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2007), 252pp. Paper. $27.95. ISBN 978-0-88755-697-5.

Canadian federalism frequently forms the backdrop to or an element of a discussion on social policy, constitutional law, regional affairs or indeed anything apart from federalism. This book, though, emerging from a conference held in Regina back in 2004, takes federalism itself as its key concern, interrogating the concept and practice from various angles, the tools of analysis including economic statistics, Royal Commission archives and treaties with First Nations.

Sandwiched between the warm introduction from former Saskatchewan NDP Premier Roy Romanow (fresh from grappling with the perennial question of Canadian healthcare in his 2002 report) that opens this publication and the text of an informed legally-focused speech by Quebec minister Benoit Pelletier that ends it, nine chapters assess the current and future challenges facing the federal system. A recurring theme is that of the role of finance in the construction of modern federalism, with the grand initiatives of the Chrétien government and the 'democratic deficit' agenda of his successor Paul Martin being parsed by a number of scholars. The Council of the Federation comes in for particular criticism, lacking in formal constitutional authority and contributing to a executive-led approach at both federal and provincial levels. Both (Régean) Pelletier (voter opinions) and McGrane (social spending) turn to empirical analysis, carefully explaining and illustrating issues of perception and reality.

A particular strength is the triptych of chapters dealing with Northern and First Nation affairs, with Furston's chapter (the longest of the nine) on the development, governance and future of the three Territories deserving particular praise for being both historically comprehensive and analytically compelling, and two further chapters by Slowey and by Abele and Prince considering what must be one of the most intractable of questions, that of the role of First Nations (and the associated legal structures) in not just the formal definitions of Canadian federalism but also the policy-oriented meetings, conferences and projects that have characterised the last two decades in Canadian intergovernmental affairs. …

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