Andrew Petter ..................................

Federalism and the Myth of the Federal Spending Power, by
Andrew Petter

MP Intro. Introduction. 1. 2, 3, 4, 5, Conclusion, Postscript, End


This 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.

At 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.