article has examined the doctrinal, theoretical and political
justifications for the federal spending power and the regime of
administrative federalism to which it has given rise. I have argued
that the spending power not only lacks doctrinal foundation, but
that it serves to undermine provincial autonomy and political
accountability, thereby weakening the federal and the democratic
character of the Canadian state. I have also tried to show that
the political claims of those who defend the spending power as
being necessary to preserve equalization, to fund existing programs
and to promote social progress do not withstand close scrutiny.
the same time, I have acknowledged that it would be a mistake
to look to the courts to curtail the spending power. Forty years
of constitutional development cannot be undone by judicial decree.
Reform of the spending power must come, if at all, in the political
arena. The prospects of such reform, admittedly, are not great;
yet the Meech Lake Accord provides a glimmer of hope. While the
limitations it proposes are minor, the Accord at least demonstrates
that a substantial number of politicians across Canada are capable
of acknowledging a constitutional problem with the spending power.
The question that remains is whether they are capable of doing
more. If so, the Meech Lake initiative may yet serve as an important
milestone along the road to more meaningful change. If not, that
initiative, even if successful, could do more to legitimize the
spending power than to curb its exercise.
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