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POSC 1000 Introduction to Politics


POSC 1000 Introduction to Politics Unit Six: Political Systems Russell Alan Williams – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: POSC 1000 Introduction to Politics

POSC 1000Introduction to Politics
  • Unit Six Political Systems
  • Russell Alan Williams

Unit Six Political Systems
  • Required Reading MacLean Wood, Chapter 6.
  • Outline
  • Introduction
  • Unitary Systems
  • Confederal Systems
  • Federal Systems
  • Canadian Federalism

1) Introduction
  • While states can be dived along
    presidential/parliamentary/hybrid systems, there
    is also a wide range of practices relating to the
    power of central governments
  • Experience has suggested problems with
    centralization in some settings . . . .
  • Centralization Concentration of power in a
    single body of government.
  • In practice there are three systems of government
    relating to centralization
  • Unitary, Federal and Confederal

  • All states have central and local/regional
  • But . . . powers of local/regional governments
  • Determined by constitutions
  • Question How do different governments relate
    with one another?
  • Is the central government supreme
  • Are there power struggles?

2) Unitary Systems
  • Unitary Systems Political system that
    concentrates power within the central government
  • Local/regional governments very weak
  • Examples?
  • Iceland, New Zealand, Netherlands, Japan
  • Britain?
  • Benefits?
  • Uniform national policies
  • Local authorities do what they are told
  • Efficiency
  • Mobility

  • Drawbacks
  • Poor at responding to needs of citizens at local
  • Delegated Authority Some powers may be
    formally delegated in a unitary system to local
    governments, based on functions being better
    provided at that level.
  • E.g. Central governments usually charter towns
    or cities to take responsibilities for certain
  • Powers of those jurisdictions are outlined in
    central government legislation

  • Drawbacks
  • Poor at dealing with political economy of
    different regions geography often creates
    different interests
  • Decentralization Some powers may be formally
    transferred to a lower level of government with
    more independence and control over policy
  • E.g. Paraguay New constitution in 1992 A
    decentralized unitary state
  • Created elected governors and councils to
    replaces ones appointed by central gov.
  • Central government still controls most issues,
    but local governments more responsive

  • Drawbacks
  • Poor at dealing with regionally concentrated
    ethnic/linguistic/national differences
  • Devolution A wide range of powers may are
    transferred to a regional government
    representing a different nation
  • E.g. Scotland and Wales have new national
    assemblies within the United Kingdom
  • Both also send MPs to Westminster
  • In Unitary states, powers granted by Devolution
    are still subject to central authority they can
    be taken away . . . .

3) Confederal Systems
  • Confederalism Political system in which power
    is divided between central and regional
  • In confederal states, real power rests at the
    regional level central governments have
    pooled powers granted to them under limited
  • E.g. look after issues on behalf of regional
    governments National defence, foreign relations
  • Real World examples????
  • United States (18th century)
  • The European Union Union of 27 states. Has
    parliament, and has control over foreign policy,
    economic affairs and more . . . .

4) Federal Systems
  • Federalism System of governance in which power
    and responsibilities are formally divided between
    central and regional governments.
  • Local/regional governments States,
    Provinces, Lander
  • Regional governments powers are constitutional
    they cannot be changed without their consent
    divided sovereignty
  • Separate jurisdictions
  • Regional governments have important independent
    sources of revenue
  • Examples U.S., Canada, Australia and Germany

  • Most federations are products of political
    expediency. Federalism was necessary to state
    formation . . . .
  • Example United States
  • Example Canada
  • Results in different dynamics from unitary states
    regional governments (states and provinces) are
    indivisible, but the same may not be true of the
    central government . . . .

  • Like Unitary States, Federations can be more or
    less centralized . . . depends on political
  • Centralized Federalism Central Government
    retains most real power
  • Can be constitutionally driven . . . . But also
    maybe a pattern that emerges due to financial
    strength of central governments

  • Like Unitary States, Federations can be more or
    less centralized . . . depends on political
  • More decentralized federations?
  • Switzerland? Canada???

  • Benefits?
  • Regional accommodation!
  • Problems?
  • Inefficiency duplication of services
  • Mobility problems
  • Uneven policies . . . Some provinces have more
    than others . . . .

  • Duplication of authority and services
  • E.g. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  • Canada, US, Mexico are all federations some
    areas of trade and economic policy involve four
    levels of government
  • Multilevel governance is much more complex,
    time consuming and can be inefficient . . . .

  • Benefits?
  • Regional accommodation!
  • Problems?
  • Inefficiency duplication of services
  • Mobility problems
  • Uneven policies . . . Some provinces have more
    than others . . . .

5) Canadian Federalism
  • Canadian federalism is constitutionally-entrenched
    . Provinces have powers the federal government
    cannot change
  • Constitution Act (1867) assigned specific
    jurisdictions to federal and provincial
    governments and some jurisdictions to both . . .
  • E.g. Concurrent Powers Shared jurisdictions
    where both governments have significant authority
  • Direct Taxation, Immigration, Agriculture etc.
  • Division of Powers The constitutional division
    of responsibilities between provinces and the
    federal government in Canadian Federalism
  • VERY POLITICAL Federalism, and struggle over
    provincial and federal rights dominates
    politics and public policy in Canada

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  • Federal government also has powers of
  • Reservation Lieutenant Governor can send
    provincial legislation to federal cabinet for
  • Disallowance Federal cabinet can (in theory)
    veto provincial legislation
  • In theory, Federal government should have had
    most power, but things have not really worked out
    that way . . . . Canadian federalism has gone
    through periods of centralization and

  • Canadian federalism has a problem
  • Federal government was assigned most of the
    important responsibilities (in the 19th
  • Federal Govt has most of the money power to
    tax and raise revenues is clearer
  • In the real world provinces have most of the
    spending responsibilities (health, education and
    social services) but limited money
  • When combined with high levels of regionalism,
    ethnic nationalist tensions, etc. Canadian
    federalism has had to evolve

  • Canadian Federalism Phases
  • Early years British JCPC (Canadas Supreme
    Court until 1949) interprets the Canadian
    constitution weirdly supports provincial
  • Transfers new powers to provinces at expense of
    federal government provincial jurisdiction

  • Canadian Federalism Phases
  • Cooperative Federalism Governments cooperate
    and coordinate policies regardless of
    jurisdictions effective centralization
  • After World War II, public wants bigger social
    programs provincial jurisdictions, but
    provinces have no money solution the power of
    the purse
  • Federal government intrudes in provincial
    jurisdiction, creating national programs (E.g.
  • Provinces get Conditional Grants to deliver the
  • Unconditional Grants Federal transfers to
    provinces to support their activities
  • E.g. transfer payments, equalization etc.

  • Canadian Federalism Phases
  • Executive Federalism A more conflictual style
    of federalism where provinces have tried to
    achieve greater autonomy from federal control
  • Political executives of provinces and federal
    governments meet to negotiate national policy
  • Federal financial problems have weakened ability
    to influence provinces since 1980s
  • Provincial governments jurisdictions seem to
    have grown
  • E.g. Trade, finance, climate change . . . .

  • Problems with Canadian federalism
  • Duplication . . . .
  • Provincial variation in programs and mobility . .
    . .
  • Ambiguity about jurisdiction creates constant
    bickering over programs
  • Provinces are not all equal . . . Some provinces
    have valuable natural resources and some do not .
    . . Many of them are going broke in the era of
    Executive Federalism
  • Demands for Equalization!

  • Federal Government transfer payments to
  • General CHST transfers to support programs
  • Equalization A system of additional transfers
    to provinces that lack tax base to afford
    equivalent programs to better off provinces
  • Principle of Constitution Act (1982)
  • Transfers to have not provinces

  • Finacial challenges of Canadian federalism
  • Example Newfoundland
  • NL Govt Revenue comes from
  • Provincial taxes
  • CHST
  • Equalization
  • Oil Revenue (Atlantic Accord)
  • NL briefly had more revenue per person than any
    province in Canada
  • However . . . New program 2007(!)


2006-07 632 291 1,386 1,451 5,539 1,709 13 260 11,281
2007-08 477 294 1,308 1,477 7,160 1,826 226 0 12,768
2008-09 197 310 1,294 1,492 7,622 2,003 0 0 12,918
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  • Financial challenges of Canadian federalism
  • Like the other attempts to manage Canadian
    federalism, equalization has generated political
    controversy and tension illustrates drawbacks
    of federalism????

For next time
  • Unit Seven Elections and Political Parties
    (March 4, 6, 11 and 13)
  • Required Reading
  • MacLean and Wood, Chapter 7.
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