ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Canadian Federalism; How Diversity Affects Democracy

Updated on July 26, 2010

Marty Thurston

December 4, 2008

There are three fundamental pillars of Canadian constitutionalism; continuity, consent and mutual recognition. Canada’s multinational democracy has different degrees of diversity including national, ethnocultural, and social groups. “Indeed, Kymlicka concedes that self-government rights for national minorities pose a theoretical problem for liberal citizenship, as opposed to what he considers the more straightforward task, within a liberal framework, of recognizing culture as a primary good for citizens.” (339) The aim here is to reconcile diversity and citizenship. Canada is a multinational democracy and an ideal case for watching diversity take place in differing scenarios.

“National identity was depicted as an outdated loyalty, which narrowed interests and undermined the progression of civilization. Quebec neo-nationalism was deemed to constitute a threat to progressive politics and certain to lead to a cycle of never-ending conflicts that would hinder reconciliation and unity.” (339) Not surprisingly this seems to be the case today, as national identity has just been dealt a low-blow with the proposed coalition government. Equally not surprising is the fact that Quebec neo-nationalism is a front-and-centre actor, holding the balance of power for the mythical coalition.

G&I explain that recognition is not to be taken too literally. It is not the fact of opening your eyes and recognizing something, but rather, “recognition is an outcome of participation. It is the result of contributing to the development of a common public culture and to larger consensual bases of allegiance and identification, without rejecting the established symbolic order offered by Quebec society as it has evolved historically.”(343) This is the idea that a model of citizenship is not a physical reality but rather a process of give-and-take. Shared values alone do not constitute citizenship but it is the ongoing stream of public debate, and the citizens' ability to interact with ongoing issues.

Ultimately, G&I argue that federalism is not just a national institution that we have taken on. “Rather than being threatened by the political conflicts spawned by diverging visions, Canada has been shaped and indeed defined the negotiation of distinct visions over time.” (348)

One of the realities of Canadian federalism is that regardless of principle, the provinces are still treated very much as junior partners in the federalism relationship. While Harper’s notion of ‘open federalism’ is a step for G&I’s multinational democracy, but it is one of many. Mega-constitutional reform would require a huge commitment on behalf of the federal government, and as of recently, my perception of national unity has been weakened. Federalism has its back against the wall; and as soon as certain people come to their senses, it will go back to being a secondary priority. Now is not the right time for mega-constitutional reform. I think the last thing anyone will want to do is drag this issue out. I think there’s a lot of support for the argument that government ought to get back to work instead of bickering over the identity crisis. If the economy keeps taking a backseat to partisan tomfoolery, then it really doesn’t matter who is running the circus.

Back to G&I. Another significant problem with implementing the idea of multinational democracy is that for all intents and purposes, Quebec will never be satisfied. That is to say Quebec discontent is a product of Ottawa’s centralizing agenda, which is a deep vein Canadian federalism. Until this issue is addressed, Canada will be in a state of perpetual tension with Quebec nationalism. Asymmetrical federalism, which Milne (2005) would describe as, “differences within a federation among the units may arise from geography, history, demographics, economic and fiscal responsibilities, population characteristics, culture, or other key characteristics specific to particular units. (Kent, 144) Asymmetries in administrative process are much easier to work with than asymmetries of a constitutional nature and therefore this is usually the quick-fix.

The argument from the Quebec nationalist perspective sounds familiar. In fact, you can almost feel it pulsating down the Red Mile in Calgary. “Why be satisfied with piecemeal powers when Quebec (or Alberta) could have a single state capable of administering all of its responsibilities? (350) One could claim that unlike Alberta, Quebec has been in a pursuit of self-determination since the beginning. “Multinational democracies must live with the prospect of potential secession because of the imperative of self-government rights (self-determination), the dictates of popular sovereignty and democracy, and the fact that citizens are entitled to debate the boundaries of their political communities.” (351) The key lesson for multinational democracy is that citizens must be engaged willing participants; if they are not treated in this manner, there will always be the prospect of secession and discontent.

Bakvis and Skogstad, Chapter 16 (Gagnon and Iacovino), “Canadian Federalism and Multinational Democracy (334-54)

Reading # 16 – Kathy L. Brock (2008), “The Politics of Asymmetrical Federalism”, Canadian Public Policy XXXIV:2 (June), 143-61.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • mthurston profile imageAUTHOR

      mthurston 

      5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thanks very much

    • profile image

      francis5k 

      6 years ago from New York, New York

      interesting and informative article! great work...!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)