Friday, May 16, 2008

Current State of Federalism Studies in Canada

Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN) has released a study by 2 University of Ottawa scholars entitled The Current State of Federalism Studies in Canada (2000-2007): A Quantitative and Qualitative Review of the Scholarly Literature.

CPRN is a non-profit, charitable policy think tank based in Ottawa founded in 1994 by Judith Maxwell, the last Chair of the Economic Council of Canada.

The study tracks changes in how federalism is examined as an issue in Canada:
"The Supreme Court of Canada, in the Secession Reference, suggested that federalism is among the core shared values of Canadians along with democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and respect for minorities ... As such, it would be reasonable to expect that federalism would be a major and ongoing preoccupation and concern for those who, broadly defined, study Canadian politics and government. However, there is some debate about the extent to which, in fact, federalism remains the object of sustained and continuing scholarly attention. This paper seeks to add to this debate based on a review of recent scholarly literature on federalism published in Canada and the results of a series of interviews with scholars for whom federalism is a major concern."
From the conclusion:

"First, our research suggests that, while the total number of studies having something to do with federalism in Canada (defined broadly) is quite large (about 1200 between 2000 and 2007 published in academic journals, released by think tanks, published in edited collections, etc.), the number of studies that deal with federalism per se is quite small. In other words, there is a large and evolving literature in law, economics and particularly in political science where federalism is given at least some consideration. However, our qualitative and quantitative review of the recent literature on federalism in Canada suggests that federalism is, very often, a contextual or explanatory factor and not the principal object of study. Much less common are studies where federalism is the main focus of the research."

"Second, this study suggests that federalism studies in Canada continue to be tied to current events and contemporary issues. This focus on what is more or less immediate has several advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it suggests that students of Canadian federalism are engaged with the debates of the day and are, in a small way, willing and able to contribute to
framing, understanding and, in some cases, advancing the debate. However, this focus on the here and now may mean that scholars of Canadian federalism focus on the detail (e.g. How big is the fiscal imbalance?) or are, at least to some extent, captured by the particular framing that is dominant in the current debate (e.g. What does 'open federalism' mean?). This makes it more difficult to explore the more fundamental questions. In fact, this lack of attention to some of the more enduring questions that underline contemporary debates may make the short-term interventions of scholars less effective and compelling. A second disadvantage of this strong linkage to current events is that perennial issues (e.g. Why is Canada a federation?), issues that are just over the horizon (e.g. demographic change and fiscal arrangements) or issues that will, sooner or later, return to the agenda (e.g. What are the necessary conditions to allow for constitutional change?) may not get the attention they deserve."


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:42 pm


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