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In and out of crisis : federalism, parliamentarism and the federal bargain in Canada, Australia and India McDonald, Iain

Abstract

Periodically federations face one crisis or another. These crises challenge the status quo and offer an opportunity for change. Three federal-parliamentary systems similar in design have all recently experienced such a crisis: Canada, Australia and India. What can these crises tell us about how these federations work and the changes that occurred within them? What forces or conditions drove these three cases to the point of crisis? Likewise, what forces or conditions permitted changes in the federal arrangements to materialize? Did they produce a resolution of the crisis? An historical survey is presented of the circumstances that drove each case towards federation, the key developments that led to each crisis, and the developments that signalled change in each case. Data from the survey are analyzed against the literature on federalism and Westminster parliamentarism in order to address the following hypotheses: first, that parliamentarism has a negative impact on the conduct of federalism and in the present cases played a central role in their falling into crisis and equally important role in their inability to resolve the crisis. Second, because the quintessence of a federal arrangement is a bargain between those actors predisposed to entering into such an arrangement, and because the crux of each crisis was the perceived devaluation of the original federal bargain, it is hypothesized that these crises would be resolved by negotiating a new federal bargain. The conclusions drawn from the analysis of these crises support the first hypothesis, but did not support the second. However, these conclusions did reinforce, the importance of the federal bargain in a federation, and the continued predisposition of the federal government and the states/provinces towards bargaining.

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