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The Supreme Court’s Understanding of Federalism: Efficiency at the Expense of Diversity
This paper is an examination of the Supreme Court of Canada's interpretation of federalism since constitutional repatriation in 1982. It argues that the lure of centralist efficiency is overpowering a fundamentally important part of our federal order: regionalism. The author contends that changes made by the Court to certain fundamental concepts of Canadian constitutional law now provide Parliament with greater latitude than before in the exercise of its legislative powers. According to the author, these changes are disturbing because they are structured so as to preclude consideration of the legitimate concerns of regional polities. Furthermore, he argues that the Court has reinforced the central government's power to regulate the economy, including intraprovincial matters affecting trade, by resorting to highly functional tests that emphasize economic efficiency over other criteria. This, he claims, makes it more difficult to invoke legitimate regional interests that would lead to duplication, overlapping and even, in the eyes of some, inefficiency. The author the focuses on the Court's treatment of environmental protection in an attempt to show the tension between the Court's desire to use a functional approach and the need to recognize regional interests. Finally, through an examination of recent case law, he attemps to demonstrate that the Court's dominant perspective remains functional despite its endorsement of a more community-oriented undestanding of federalism in Secession Reference. If the Court chooses to proceed in this manner, it will alienate regional polities and may encourage them to choose more radical means of asserting their differences. Further, the author argues that strict adherence to the functional effectiveness approach will undermine the very values that federalism is meant to promote.
Publisher(s)Queen's law Journal
LECLAIR Jean, « The Supreme Court’s Understanding of Federalism: Efficiency at the Expense of Diversity », (2003), Vol. 28, Queen’s law Journal 411-453.