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The Politics of Federalism

The Politics of Federalism: Ontario's Relations with the Federal Government. 1867-1942

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 276
  • Book Info
    The Politics of Federalism
    Book Description:

    After Confederation, the government of Ontario took the lead in demanding a greater share of the power for the provinces, and it has continued to press this case. Professor Armstrong analyses the forces which promoted decentralization and the responses which these elicited from the federal government.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5635-2
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. The Ontario Historical Studies Series
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Murray G. Ross, Goldwin French, Peter Oliver and Jeanne Beck
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    Just before six o’clock on the afternoon of 15 January 1941 the premier of Ontario, Mitchell Hepburn, rose for the last time to address the dominion-provincial conference. Under discussion was the report of the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations which the year before had recommended a radical restructuring of the Canadian federal system. Hepburn charged that Prime Minister Mackenzie King had seized upon the report,

    dressed it up with the garments of patriotism and cloaked it with the exigencies of war as well, and… said to those of us who represent the provinces, ‘We want you to accept the findings...

  6. 1 Remoulding the Constitution
    (pp. 8-32)

    The British North America Act made the Confederation agreement law. In 1867 the compromise arrived at by the colonial politicians during the Quebec Conference of 1864 became a British statute which divided jurisdiction between two levels of government. Surprisingly, the Upper Canadian leaders had agreed to the creation of a highly centralized federation. John A. Macdonald, of course, had long believed in the superiority of a unitary state (or legislative union), but George Brown had for years complained vehemently about the interference of Lower Canadians in local affairs under the unhappy union of the two Canadas formed in 1841. Yet...

  7. 2 Federalism and Economic Development
    (pp. 33-53)

    In the late nineteenth century promoting economic growth seemed all-important to Canadians. Their country was underdeveloped, economically backward in light of the existing technological knowledge,¹ and comparisons with the United States provided incessant reminders of this fact. From the time of Confederation the federal government’s chief instrument for promoting economic development was the protective tariff. No province benefited from the tariff more than Ontario which underwent rapid industrialization, and the ‘National Policy’ received hearty support from many in the province from the time of its inception in 1878.

    Gradually during the 1890s, however, Ontarians began also to look to the...

  8. 3 Public Power and Disallowance
    (pp. 54-67)

    During the early twentieth century popular enthusiasm for provincial policies designed to promote the development of Ontario resources continued to grow. The Royal Ontario Nickel Commission, which reported in 1917, summed up their appeal this way:

    There is, first, the natural desire to have all the work on raw material which is produced here done at home, up to the point of turning out the finished article. Employment is given to Canadian workmen, Canadian chemists and Canadian experts. The rewards of this labour are spent in Canada and swell the volume of Canadian business. There is a feeling of impatience...

  9. 4 Exporting Electricity
    (pp. 68-84)

    Provincial policies designed to regulate the production and distribution of Ontario’s natural resources, such as the manufacturing condition and the creation of Ontario Hydro, had an obvious appeal to the voters. Upon this base of primary products and cheap energy supplies might be built the economy of an industrial giant. But one danger existed: the export of electricity to the United States might undermine the objectives towards which successive provincial administrations had worked. The danger was a real one, owing to the historical development of the hydroelectric industry in Ontario. American promoters had been early in the field, and by...

  10. 5 Playing the Federal-Provincial Game
    (pp. 85-113)

    Federal interference in provincial affairs was not confined to policies concerning natural resource development. As Ontario’s economy grew, control of corporate business became another source of friction. As in the cases of the Hydro and Florence Mining Company, private interest groups in pursuit of their own objectives often provoked the conflict between governments. In addition, a bureaucratic imperative existed, with provincial officials defending their sphere of authority against what they saw as federal interference. Ontario civil servants became fearful that the central government might encroach upon their power to incorporate and regulate companies. They enlisted in this battle both their...

  11. 6 Financing the Federation in Peace and War
    (pp. 114-132)

    The province of Ontario fully shared in the rapid growth which Canada underwent during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Economic development and population increase (in Ontario’s case from 2.2 to 2.9 million people) caused a rapid rise in government spending. As late as 1899 the province spent a total of only $3.7 million – less than the Mowat administration had disbursed in 1874. Thereafter, however, spending mounted steadily (see Table 1). After 1915 the rate of increase was markedly enhanced by wartime inflation. In 1900, for instance, the Department of Education required $758,466.26, while by 1920 it...

  12. 7 Social Change and Constitutional Amendment
    (pp. 133-159)

    The economic crisis of the early 1930s convinced a great many Canadians that their country’s constitution had to be changed. But how? To most people it seemed obvious that the central government needed wider authority to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. Ontario’s political leaders, hard-pressed as they might be by the cost of providing relief to those out of work, rejected this conventional wisdom. They would have been content to shift the heavy burden of relief payments onto a national program of unemployment insurance, but beyond that they were unwilling to surrender any jurisdiction or any sources of...

  13. 8 Water-power and the Constitution
    (pp. 160-177)

    Control of the development of water-power on the rivers forming Ontario’s southern and eastern boundaries was the key economic issue in dispute between the province and the Dominion during the 1920s. By comparison, all other questions paled into insignificance. Memories of the wartime wrangle over electricity exports remained fresh. Efforts by private developers to seize the vast potential of the St Lawrence and the Ottawa rivers revived pre-war fears that Ontario Hydro might be undermined by rivals. Two wily and successful political leaders, Premier Howard Ferguson and Prime Minister Mackenzie King, did their best to secure an advantage over one...

  14. 9 The Battle of the St Lawrence
    (pp. 178-196)

    Electrical energy policy continued to disrupt relations between Ontario and the federal government during the later 1930s. Once the economy of the province began to recover from the depression, Ontario Hydro came to fear a renewed shortage of power. Cheap electricity was still the basis of Ontario’s industrial strength, but having been caught with a surplus of energy in the early 1930s the government subtly altered its power policy. After 1934 Mitchell Hepburn’s administration was determined to secure for itself a maximum of manoeuvrability. The huge investment required to harness the power of the St Lawrence River not only seemed...

  15. 10 Revising the Constitution
    (pp. 197-232)

    Prospects for constitutional reform in Canada had never seemed better than they did in late 1935. A severe depression had clearly demonstrated that the existing system of government was ill-equipped to deal with mass unemployment. Only the central government could fund and manage a national relief system, but it was the provinces who possessed jurisdiction, and the municipalities alone had the machinery to administer relief. By the mid-1930s both provinces and municipalities were staggering under the financial burden of caring for the jobless, although they were assisted to some extent by grants-in-aid from Ottawa. Many people were convinced that a...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 233-238)

    From Confederation to the Second World War (and beyond) the strategy for the conduct of relations between the province of Ontario and the federal government, which had first been mapped out by Sir Oliver Mowat in the late nineteenth century, continued to be followed by his successors as premier. All of them sought the widest possible sphere of independence in shaping policies designed to promote the economic growth of the province, particularly through the development of natural resources, where ownership of lands, forests, and minerals gave the provincial government great authority. Beginning with the dispute with Ottawa during the 1870s...

  17. Appendix
    (pp. 239-240)
  18. Note on Sources
    (pp. 241-242)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 243-272)
  20. Index
    (pp. 273-279)