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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evolving federalism : intergovernmental relations and multilevel governance in Canada Jessica, Weller


The following research paper investigates the changing character of federalism in Canada, as expressed through intergovernmental relations. Specifically, the impact that individual prime ministers and their governments may have on these relationships is explored. In particular, Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau’s management styles are compared in order to determine what lasting or significant effect, if any, these individuals have had on how Canada’s federal and provincial governments interact with each other. Secondary literature describing and summarizing Harper’s style of open federalism, in conjunction with primary research on Justin Trudeau’s reversion to a more collaborative style, concludes that though each prime minister was able to have some tangible effects on federal-provincial relations during their time in office, these effects were, or will be, easily overridden by their successors. The following research asks whether Harper and Trudeau’s actual styles of intergovernmental relations were consistent with their rhetoric on the same subject. Though Harper spoke often about his preferred style of open federalism, it appears to many scholars that not all of his actions reflected the core tenets of this model. Likewise, though Trudeau advertised a collaborative, more multi-level approach to governance during the 2015 election campaign and during his time in office, I conclude that much of his efforts to follow up on these principles are symbolic at best. In both cases, it appears that the federal government consistently pursues its own goals, regardless of the rhetoric used to describe provincial involvement, rights, and in Trudeau’s case, genuine collaboration with both the provinces and additional third-party groups.

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