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The Living Tree: Contemporary Issues in Canadian Federalism Series

Why federalism matters

Charles Breton, Jenna Bednar and Benoit Pelletier November 4, 2022

Tensions within a federation are a frequent, normal occurrence. In Canada, one only has to think about recurrent debates over health care funding to equalization payments.

But recently, Canadian federalism has been experiencing more tension than usual. Alberta’s new premier is proposing a Sovereignty Act, Saskatchewan’s premier expressed a desire for his province to be ‘a nation within a nation’, while Quebec’s government was handily reelected on a platform of strengthening provincial autonomy even further.

How can a federation manage these tensions and adapt when faced with such challenges? What are the features of a robust federation? This episode of the podcast is a panel that returns to the fundamentals of federalism to answer these questions.

Moderated by Charles Breton, the director of the Centre for Excellence in the Canadian Federation, the discussion features two experts. Jenna Bednar is a professor of political science at the University of Michigan and a leading scholar of federalism. Our second guest, Benoit Pelletier is a professor of law at the University of Ottawa and a former cabinet minister of Quebec.

This episode was recorded during an online event held by the Canada School of Public Service and is the first installment of a partnership between the school and the IRPP’s Centre for Excellence.

This episode of the podcast is bilingual, with speakers shifting between English and French.

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About the Centre

COVID-19 provincial policies, fiscal relations, Indigenous governance, public opinion on federalism: the Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation is the IRPP's new permanent research initiative providing key insights on the Canadian federation.

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