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Dilemmas of Solidarity

Dilemmas of Solidarity: Rethinking Distribution in the Canadian Federation

Sujit Choudhry
Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens
Lorne Sossin
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Dilemmas of Solidarity
    Book Description:

    Since the rise of the Canadian welfare state in the aftermath of the Second World War, the politics of social policy and fiscal federalism have been at the centre of federal-provincial relations. Recent events have given impetus for scholars to re-examine these issues.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7392-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction: Exploring the Dilemmas of Solidarity
    (pp. 3-28)

    Since the rise of the Canadian welfare state in the aftermath of the Second World War, the politics of social policy and fiscal federalism have been at the centre of federal-provincial relations and constitute a perennial topic of academic study. Recent events have given impetus scholars to re-examine and interrogate some basic aspects of the institutions and policies of the ‘Social Union,’ a term coined by Keith Banting and others to emphasize that the Canadian welfare state had to adapt to the reality of federalism.

    The immediate impetus for this volume was the publication of the report of Quebec’s Commission...

  5. Part One: Social Justice and the Politics of Redistribution

    • Social Justice: Does Federalism Make a Difference?
      (pp. 31-44)

      ‘Social justice’ is a concept that is hopelessly general, has multiple meanings, and is highly contested. Federalism also has multiple meanings, varies hugely across systems, and is highly contested. These two observations suggest that no clear linkages, positive or negative, can be drawn between the presence or absence of federalism institutions and social policies that promote justice through more or less egalitarian, redistributive, or ‘progressive’ means. But it is worth exploring the relationship between federalism and social justice, not least because so many assertions – both favourable and critical – abound in the literature and in the public discourse about federalism. Globally,...


    • Redistribution in the Canadian Federation: Impact of the Cities Agenda and the New Canada
      (pp. 45-56)

      Richard Simeon asks the question of whether federalism promotes social justice, understood in T.H. Marshall’s sense of ‘social citizenship.’ The promotion of social citizenship in federations such as Canada requires interpersonal redistribution, either directly between individuals through direct transfers from the federal government, the federal income tax system or the design of federal social programs (e.g., the regional differences built into Employment Insurance), and/ or indirectly between the residents of different regions or provinces through federal transfer payments to provinces. Canada employs both types of policy instrument. Simeon concludes that redistribution is surprisingly resilient in federations, and that the relationship...

    • Social Justice in Overlapping Sharing Communities
      (pp. 57-72)

      The purpose of this volume is to reflect upon social justice in Canada, in the context of ongoing discussions on the distribution of resources and powers in the federation. In the beginning of 2002, Quebec’s Commission on Fiscal Imbalance presented a report documenting the causes and consequences of fiscal imbalance in the federation and proposing a new distribution of financial resources in the country. The same year, in November, the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada recommended major changes in the sharing of powers and resources associated with health care. In the fall of 2004, a new...

  7. Part Two: Taxation and the Search for Redistribution

    • Personal Income Tax and Redistribution in the Canadian Federation
      (pp. 75-104)

      It is well known that the personal income tax (PIT) is the primary vehicle for income redistribution on the revenue side of the government budget. Government transfers to individuals and the distributional impact of government spending on programs such as health and education are important elements in government’s array of redistribution tools as well, but for many citizens, the main thrust of income redistribution comes through the PIT.

      Since at least the 1980s, Canadian governments have periodically focused their attention on reforming the PIT to achieve a number of objectives. In part, the impetus for reform has come from international...


    • Taxation, Redistribution, and Fiscal Federalism
      (pp. 105-115)

      In this comment, I wish to discuss broader issues related to taxation and redistribution in the Canadian federation arising from Paul Boothe and Katherine Boothe’s paper. In order to do so, I intend to address the following three questions:

      1. Should the tax system generally and the personal income tax in particular redistribute economic resources, and if so how?

      2. If we think that economic resources should be redistributed among individuals and/or among regions, can we say anything about the level of government that should be responsible for this task?

      3. What implications do different methods of redistribution have for...

    • Is Vertical Equity a Virtuous End?
      (pp. 116-124)

      Equity is one of the central planks of Canadian federalism. It is represented most graphically through equalization transfers between ‘have’ ‘have-not’ provinces and through constitutional provisions such as section 36 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which, inter alia, commits all Canadian governments to ‘promoting equal opportunity for the well-being of all Canadians.’ Equity is also one of the core values of the Canadian progressive income tax system (which includes both federal provincial components), which seeks, at least in part, to redistribute income from those advantaged to those in need. However, paradoxically, the Canadian federation has been built on principles of...

    • Personal Income Tax, Redistribution and Fiscal Federalism in Canada: Some Observations
      (pp. 125-142)

      In their paper, Paul Boothe and Katherine Boothe address one aspect of the redistributive dimension of the personal income tax (PIT) in the Canadian federation – namely, the impact on the personal distribution income of the PIT and of the recent changes resulting from the replacement of the tax-on-tax by the tax-on-income; this allows the nine provinces that have their PIT collected by the federal government to vary the progressivity of their tax system by means of tax rates and brackets, based upon the federal definition of income. This gives them more choice than before 2000, although still not as much...

  9. Part Three: The Spending Power and the Constitutional Architecture of Redistribution

    • The Federal Spending Power and Fiscal Imbalance in Canada
      (pp. 145-166)

      In federations, centralization is the name of the game. Canada is both a pro and a constant winner at that game, which it plays with an array of tools, of which the spending power is but one, albeit not a new one. The spending power has been around since 1912, when the first program of conditional subsidies for the provinces was implemented by federal authorities in the field of agricultural education in the provinces. My interest in the subject, although it does not date that far back, not new either. It springs from my work in the 1970s about the...


    • Liberty and Overlapping Federalism
      (pp. 167-174)

      Professor Lajoie claims in her interesting and thought-provoking paper not to be interested in the question of whether a conditional federal spending power conforms to federalism construed as a normative theory of government. Her claim is more limited, though important if true: the Canadian federal government’s practice of conditional spending in areas of provincial jurisdiction has no basis in Canadian constitutional law.

      At the very end of the paper, however, Lajoie makes a slightly more ambitious claim. In her view, the federal spending power ‘is unconstitutionaland disruptive of the federal principle and spirit, not to mention national harmony’ (my...

    • Fiscal Federalism: Not Resolvable by Constitutional Law
      (pp. 175-184)

      It is a pleasure to read and have the opportunity to comment on the by Andrée Lajoie. As usual it is clear, forceful, and principled, addresses an issue of fundamental importance in our constitutional life. However, I fear that my comment may be somewhat disappointing to her. For I am the kind of Anglo-Canadian federalist that should be receptive to her arguments. Unlike many constitutional scholars who have taught at the University of Toronto, I was rather partial to the constitutional jurisprudence of the Judicial Committee of Privy Council – not all of it, but its tendency from the 1890s to...

    • The Irreducible Federal Necessity of Jurisdictional Autonomy, and the Irreducibility of Federalism to Jurisdictional Autonomy
      (pp. 185-205)

      What is the meaning of jurisdictional autonomy in a federation? Where does jurisdictional autonomy start and where does it end? Does it alone, define federalism? Andrée Lajoie’s contribution to this volume obliquely raises these fundamental questions by analysing the positive lawm framework applicable to a constitutional problem that has lately drawn a lot of attention. This problem is that of the ‘fiscal imbalance,’ which allegedly exists between the two orders of government and which permits the federal government to encroach at will on provincial jurisdiction, primarily through its spending power. Lajoie says that 'fiscal imbalance’ occurs when ‘there is too...

    • Afterword: Solidarity as the Boldness of Modesty
      (pp. 206-216)

      The individuals who drafted Canada’s federal constitution in the nineteenth century, were trying to respond to a set of preoccupations that were common to the different societal and cultural experiences and interests of their constituents. They were joining together North American British colonies that, prior to Confederation, had not had extensive political or economic ties with each other (with the possible exception of the two parts of the United Province of Canada, which later became Ontario and Quebec). These individuals, the so-called Fathers of Confederation, were working to unite colonies that were either functionally foreign to one another or had...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 217-218)