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Reconciling Diversity with Equality: The Role of Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangements in Maintaining an Effective State in Canada


  • Richard M. Bird

    (International Tax Program, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto)

  • Francois Vaillancourt

    () (Centre de recherche et developpement en economique (C.R.D.E.), and Department de sciences economiques, Universite de Montreal)


Regional diversity may influence the nature and effectiveness of public sector activities through many economic and political channels. The most important and prominent manifestation of diversity in Canada has been the rise to dominance in the largely francophone province of Quebec of a political party advocating secession, but regional differences and tensions in Canada are by no means confined to Quebec. In particular, the rise of the western provinces -- particularly Alberta and British Columbia -- as separate and important players on the Canadian political and economic scene was almost as marked a feature of the last third of the 20th century as the consequences of Quebec’s “revolution tranquille” since the 1960s. More recently, since about 1990, the key central province of Ontario has also begun to separate itself to some extent from Canada as a whole in a way that it has never done before in Canadian history. The last half of the 20th century was a turbulent period in Canadian politics. The first part of the 21st century seems unlikely to be calmer, as the continental integration of the Canadian and U.S. economies continues to re-orient Canadians in a “north-south” rather than “east-west” direction. Section 1 of the paper looks at how the federal government has attempted to accommodate the rise of Quebec, and to a lesser extent, Western unrest, through changes in intergovernmental fiscal arrangements. In Section 2, we sketch the nature and size of the fragmentation problem in Canada, tracing how some of the key dimensions of regional diversity have evolved over the last half-century or so. In Section 3, we set out some developments in Canadian fiscal federalism during this period that both reflected and shaped the factors discussed in Section 2. Section 4 assesses whether the intergovernmental fiscal arrangements developed in the last half of the 20th Century have helped or hindered the maintenance of an effective state in Canada. We conclude by suggesting that more than changes in fiscal institutions may be required if Canada is to continue to cope with the problems regional diversity creates for maintaining and effective state in its vast and diverse territory.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard M. Bird & Francois Vaillancourt, 2001. "Reconciling Diversity with Equality: The Role of Intergovernmental Fiscal Arrangements in Maintaining an Effective State in Canada," International Tax Program Papers 0406, International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, revised Apr 2004.
  • Handle: RePEc:ttp:itpwps:0406

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Enid Slack & Richard M. Bird, 2004. "The Fiscal Sustainability of the Greater Toronto Area," International Tax Program Papers 0405, International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
    2. Richard M Bird & François Vaillancourt, 2001. "Fiscal arrangements for maintaining an effective state in Canada," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 19(2), pages 163-187, April.
    3. Richard M. Bird, 2009. "Taxing Business," World Bank Other Operational Studies 11117, The World Bank.
    4. Richard M. Bird & Enid Slack, 2004. "Fiscal Aspects of Metropolitan Governance," International Tax Program Papers 0401, International Tax Program, Institute for International Business, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.
    5. Richard Bird & Pierre Gendron, 1998. "Dual VATs and Cross-Border Trade: Two Problems, One Solution?," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 5(3), pages 429-442, July.
    6. Richard M. Bird, 2003. "Fiscal Flows, Fiscal Balance, and Fiscal Sustainability," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0302, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    7. Vaillancourt, F., 1999. "Canada's Federal Arrangement is the Most Enough," Department of Economics at Dalhousie University working papers archive 99-03, Dalhousie, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jorge Martinez-Vazquez, 2007. "Asymmetric Federalism in Russia: Cure or Poison?," Chapters,in: Fiscal Fragmentation in Decentralized Countries, chapter 8 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item


    Canada; fiscal federalism; regional diversity; Quebec;

    JEL classification:

    • N92 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General


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