Intergovernmental and Administrative Federalism

AuthorKathy L. Brock/Geoffrey Hale
 
Intergovernmental and
Administrative Federalism
Canada’s federal system does not function as a series of watertight
compartments, in which the activities of dierent governments
function in relative isolation. Even in areas in which jurisdictions
are distinct, policy choices over many years create various kinds of
interdependence particularly in accommodating the movement
of people, goods, services, and capital across national, provincial,
and territorial borders (including those of Indigenous commun-
ities). But more than that, the interests, activities, and ambitions of
senior orders of government overlap and often compete, as do those
of dierent provinces, and relevant economic and societal interests.
e result is often a system of multi-level governance in which
the policy making and regulatory activities of federal, provincial,
and sometimes local and/or Indigenous governments overlap to
varying degrees, with rule-making and governance processes “inter-
acting, reinforcing (and/or) colliding” at dierent levels. Canadian
regulatory systems may also be inf‌luenced, directly or indirectly, by
international agreements, system-wide or sector-specif‌ic regulatory
trends, and periodic policy shocks: events or trends that disrupt
established patterns of political, economic, and/or social activities
within and across national borders.
Managing these realities requires the development of political
and administrative processes to establish a practical (and some-
times principled) basis for cooperation; reconcile competing inter-
ests, where possible; balance aspirations for self-rule and shared
rule across jurisdictions; and work out day-to-day administrative
processes for politicians, public servants, individual Canadians, and
businesses to navigate these policies. While disputes over jurisdic-
tional boundaries may be resolved by the courts, more frequently
they are managed through political and bureaucratic relationships
of senior elected ocials and public servants.
Executive federalism describes the processes for negotiat-
ing and managing policy relations in various f‌ields between and
among senior (executive) decision-makers in federal, provincial,
and increasingly territorial (F/P/T) governments in Canada. Key
decision-makers in such cases include f‌irst ministers (prime min-
isters and premiers), Cabinet ministers responsible for overseeing
specif‌ic policy and regulatory f‌ields (for example, f‌iscal issues, f‌inan-
cial institutions, income transfer policies, immigration, and labour
market training), their deputy ministers, senior advisers, and lead-
ers of related F/P/T regulatory agencies. Some observers suggest a
trend toward greater “informality” in f‌irst ministers’ meetings since
the s, ref‌lected in the frequent use of online and telephone
meetings during the – pandemic. Such approaches place
a greater priority on discussion than decision-making, reducing
opportunities for political grandstanding, while leaving room for
lower-prof‌ile discussions and agreements among individual, policy-
specif‌ic ministers and their senior ocials.
Administrative federalism describes processes for implementing
policy decisions arising from the processes of executive federalism
and for adapting them to evolving circumstances. It involves the
nuts-and-bolts of day-to-day interactions of government depart-
ments and specialized regulators, along with processes available

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