UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Whither Leviathan : Canadian federalism and Alberta Chesman, David D.


Secession is federal failure and a phenomenon of identity politics. This thesis applies a theory of federal failure, as distilled from existing scholarship, to the relationship between Canadian federalism and Alberta. The theory posits that the successful conduct of federalism is constrained to avoid the initial phase of secession, “secessionist alienation”, defined as a constituency that can be mobilized in favour of secession within a specific federal territory. Secessionist alienation is composed of two (2) essential, interdependent elements: “secessionist capacity” and “secessionist will”. Secessionist capacity requires a separable territory within which its constituents share a territorial identity. Secessionist will is an intense fear of the federal union triggered by the emergence of the Federal Leviathan, central government oppression in the form of the appropriation of, or interference with, a federal territory’s authority in breach of the federal bargain that presents as an existential crisis for the territory’s identity. The application of the theory to the relationship between Canadian federalism and Alberta reveals that Alberta possesses secessionist capacity as a consequence of Canadian federalism and that the factors that facilitate the emergence of the Federal Leviathan are routinely present in the relationship between Alberta and Canadian federalism. Accordingly, if the successful conduct of Canadian federalism is constrained to avoid secessionist alienation in Alberta, the central government must respect Alberta’s territorial identity, economic subnationalism, that presents as its intense commitment to Alberta’s ownership and control of its oil and gas resources.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International