State of the Federation

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State of the Federation 2019

Green Finance: New Directions in Sustainable Finance Research and Policy

La finance verte: Nouvelles directions en recherche et en politiques publiques de la finance durable

Conference Co-Chairs: Sean Cleary (Smith School of Business) and J. Andrew Grant (Political Studies)

Donald Gordon Centre
Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario

Held 14-15 June 2019

Program [PDF 559 KB]

The 2015 Paris Agreement represented the commitment of 197 nations to limit global warming to no more than 2°C, setting climate resilience and clean growth as one of the most influential multi-level governance opportunities of the 21st century. This set a new direction for even the world’s most progressive economies, requiring a sea of change in the interaction between rapid technological innovation, international policies, consumption patterns, and investment behaviours. Canada remains committed to the Paris Agreement as outlined in the 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which prescribes a concerted focus to translate climate goals into transformative economic policies and sustainable financial practices. It is universally accepted that finance plays a critical role in achieving the transition to a clean economy, and that it will require significant collaboration and governance co-ordination between private and public financial institutions, and with policy makers. The quest for energy and natural resources in Canada can be quenched through a clear path of transformations in the financial sector. Canada has the chance to become a world leader in showing that low-carbon-economy bears incredible economic and societal opportunities. In this evolving global economy, businesses, insurance companies, banks, pension funds, mutual funds, academia, not-for-profit, and government institutions must have the knowledge about financial risks of stalling action around climate change, and recognize that sustainability is crucial to Canada’s long-term success. 

This conference serves as an ideal opportunity to engage leaders from academics, civil society, financial industry and government to share interests, present new research ideas, reflect on multi-level governance trends, and discuss current and challenging issues in sustainable finance. Organized by Dr. J. Andrew Grant (Department of Political Studies) and Dr. Sean Cleary (Smith School of Business), the conference will bring experts from these sectors to Queen’s University in order to disseminate and exchange such insights with fellow participants as well as the Queen’s community and public. Ultimately, the goal of the conference is to serve as a platform for building new research collaborations aimed at contributing to the transition of Canada’s financial system to one in which sustainable growth is engrained in everyday policy decisions and business practices.

Canada at 150: Federalism and Democratic Renewal/Le Canada à 150 ans: Fédéralisme et renouveau démocratique

Donald Gordon Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
16-17 June 2017

Agenda [PDF 1 MB]

Program [PDF 1.6 MB]

Canada’s 150th anniversary provides an occasion to celebrate, take stock of, and critically reflect on the political institutions that serve the country’s people and provinces and territories. The Trudeau Liberals have overhauled the Senate appointment process, and re-engaged provinces after a decade of “open federalism”. This government has committed to formally extending intergovernmental relations to include Aboriginals, a change that may help repair relationships with Aboriginal peoples and honour the fundamental right to self-governance, and has put municipal governance in the reform agenda too. We are also witnessing attention to institutions with critical implications for federalism and the representation of provinces and territories, focussing on the Supreme Court and the electoral system.

Our distinguished roster of speakers discussed enduring questions about the functioning of federalism and intergovernmental relations in Canada, including how we should evaluate the quality of Canada’s institutions and practices in light of our federal structure, and how current institutional arrangements and their possible alternatives fare according to these criteria.

Canadian Federalism and Infrastructure/Fédéralisme canadien et infrastructures

Donald Gordon Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
4-6 June 2015

Agenda [PDF 213.4 KB]

The annual Institute of Intergovernmental Relations State of the Federation conference was held at the Donald Gordon Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, on June 4-6, 2015. The focus of the conference was on the intergovernmental dimensions and implications of the massive infrastructure investments required to be made by all three orders of government. Conference sessions were devoted to the role of infrastructure investments in Canada's development; the infrastructure 'Report Card'; jurisdictional issues in a federal system; decision processes for infrastructure investments; innovative approaches to financing infrastructure investment; infrastructure and First Nations; and lessons to be learned from the infrastructure experience of other countries.

Included in the conference was the Kenneth R. MacGregor Lecture, delivered by Professor Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez, the Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School. Professor Gomez-Ibanez currently serves as co-chair of the Infrastructure in a Market Economy executive program at the Kennedy School.


La conférence annuelle de l'Institut des relations intergouvernementales sur l'état de la fédération se tiendra du 4 au 6 juin 2015 au Centre Donald Gordon de l'Université Queen's, à Kingston en Ontario. Elle portera sur les dimensions et les implications intergouvernementales des investissements massifs en infrastructure que devront faire les trois ordres de gouvernement. La conférence comportera des sessions sur le rôle des investissements en infrastructure dans le développement du Canada; le « bulletin » des infrastructures; les questions de juridiction; la prise de decisions pour les investissements en infrastructure; infrastructures et Premières Nations; et les leçons à tirer des expériences étrangères.

La conférence Kenneth R. MacGregor fera partie de la conférence. Elle sera prononcée par le professeur Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez qui est « Derek Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy » de la Kennedy School de Harvard. Le professeur Gomez-Ibanez co-preside actuellement le programme pour les cadres "Infrastructure in a Market Economy" de la Kennedy School.


Aboriginal Multilevel Governance/La gouvernance autochtone à paliers multiples

Kingston, Ontario
28-30 November 2013

Aboriginal Multilevel Governance/La gouvernance autochtone à paliers multiples

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In 2003, the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations held its annual State of the Federation conference on the theme of Aboriginal-State relations. The conference highlighted the disjuncture between the institutions and policies that govern our relations and a rapidly changing Aboriginal reality on the ground. Ten years later, the Idle No More movement starkly reminds Canada of its limited success in addressing Aboriginal rights and land claims, not to mention the ongoing socio-economic challenges facing First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities.

Addressing the complex legacies and ongoing consequences of colonialism is a challenging task. Not only is it exceedingly difficult to transform deeply rooted institutions, practices and attitudes, but there are also fundamental disagreements as to the direction change should take. What has become increasingly clear in recent years is that the federal government cannot act alone. Aboriginal peoples are no longer willing to see policy reforms imposed from the top without appropriate consultation and substantive participation. Many communities and nations are also revitalizing traditional models of governance, thereby inviting Canadian authorities to recognize alternative forms of decision-making. Moreover, while some Aboriginal nations are reluctant to engage with provincial and territorial authorities, many core issues facing communities relate to areas of provincial jurisdictions, from education and health care to lands and resources management. Provinces and territories are therefore increasingly active at developing their own approaches to relationships with Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal governance is, in other words, an increasingly multilevel reality.

The shift from a federal-centred to a multilevel model of Aboriginal governance is also reflected in the growing number of bilateral and trilateral governance arrangements that have emerged in recent years in response to ongoing political and judicial developments. Self-government and land claims settlements are but one example of such arrangements. Lesser-known but nonetheless significant sector-specific agreements between Aboriginal, federal, provincial and territorial governments in areas as diverse as lands and resources management, training, education, health care, child welfare and housing, to name a few, also contribute to the reconfiguration of Aboriginal governance. While the constitutional foundations of Aboriginal-state relations are not altered by these agreements, they do transform practices of governance and policy-making.

The 2013 State of the Federation conference will focus on the implications, challenges and transformative potential of these developments, with a focus on the growing interplay between Aboriginal, federal, provincial and territorial governments in the context of multilevel governance. What can we learn from Aboriginal nations and communities that are seeking to reassert their own approaches to governance? Can Aboriginal, provincial, territorial and federal governments work together in developing innovative approaches to multilevel governance? Do existing governance arrangements in, for example, natural resources management or in the delivery of social services, create opportunities for real and substantive Aboriginal participation in decision-making? What are, in other words, the main challenges, limits of such models? And what are the implications of these multilevel arrangements for Aboriginal rights and political aspirations, as well as for Canadian federalism? Can they be conducive to fundamental changes in our relationships?

We will explore these questions through a series of panels designed to facilitate dialogue between researchers and practitioners of Aboriginal governance along the following themes:

Aboriginal perspectives on governance

  • Innovative approaches in revitalizing traditional governance practices
  • Self-determination through community-based constitution-making

Provincial and territorial perspectives on Aboriginal governance

  • What is (and should be) the role of provincial and territorial governments in Aboriginal governance?
  • Key challenges in developing sustained Aboriginal, provincial relations

Multilevel governance agreements: lessons from the field

  • Trilateral agreements in education, health, housing: do they work?
  • Accountability in multilevel governance regimes: accountable to whom, and how?
  • Urban Aboriginal multilevel initiatives

Multilevel governance in the natural resources economy

  • The changing role of Aboriginal peoples in natural resources development: emerging practices in forestry, mining and the oil and gas industry
  • Consultation and accommodation: evolution, limits and practical implications
  • The politics of revenue sharing

Multilevel governance under modern treaties: lessons learned and the way forward

  • The potential and limits of treaties as multilevel governance models
  • The challenges of treaty implementation

Métis Multilevel Governance

  • Implications of Daniels and Manitoba Metis Federation court decisions
  • Innovate practices in Métis governance

Governance and the grassroots: lessons from the Idle No More movement


Comparative perspectives on Aboriginal governance in federal state


En 2003, la conférence annuelle sur l'état de la fédération de l'Institut des relations intergouvernementales a porté sur les relations entre les Autochtones et les gouvernements. La conférence a souligné l?incohérence des institutions et des politiques qui régissent ces relations d?une part et les nouvelles réalités autochtones d?autre part. Dix ans plus tard, le mouvement « Idle No More » nous rappelle brutalement le peu de progrès pour donner suite aux droits et aux revendications territoriales autochtones, pour ne rien dire des défis socio-économiques auxquels font face les communautés des Premières nations, des Métis et des Inuits.

Faire face à l'héritage complexe et aux conséquences du colonialisme n?est pas une tâche facile. Non seulement est-il très difficile de transformer des institutions, des pratiques et des attitudes fortement enracinées, mais la marche à suivre donne lieu à de profonds désaccords. Depuis quelques années, ce qui devient de plus en plus clair, c?est que le gouvernement fédéral ne peut pas faire cavalier seul. Les peuples autochtones n?acceptent plus que les réformes leur soient imposées d?en haut sans consultations appropriées et sans une participation réelle. De nombreuses communautés et nations sont en train de réanimer des modèles de gouvernance traditionnels et ce faisant d?inviter les autorités canadiennes à reconnaitre de nouvelles façons de gouverner. En outre, même si certaines nations autochtones hésitent à traiter avec les gouvernements provinciaux et territoriaux, plusieurs des questions centrales auxquelles les communautés font face relèvent de la juridiction des provinces, de l?éducation et la santé à la gestion des terres et des ressources. Les provinces et les territoires consacrent donc de plus en plus d?efforts à développer leurs propres façons d?aborder leurs rapports avec les peuples autochtones. Autrement dit, la gouvernance autochtone devient une réalité à paliers multiples.

Le passage d'un modèle de gouvernance autochtone centré sur le gouvernement fédéral à un modèle à paliers multiples est aussi marqué par l'émergence au cours des dernières années d'un nombre croissant d'arrangements bilatéraux ou trilatéraux à la suite de développements politiques ou juridiques. L'autonomie gouvernementale et les règlements des réclamations territoriales en sont des exemples. La gouvernance autochtone est aussi en train d'être redessinée par des ententes; moins connues mais significatives entre les gouvernements autochtones, fédéral, provinciaux et territoriaux dans des secteurs qui vont de la gestion des terres et des ressources, à la formation, l'éducation, les soins de santé, l'aide à l'enfance et le logement. Même si le fondement constitutionnel des rapports entre l'état et les Autochtones n'est pas modifié par ces ententes, ils transforment réellement les façons de gouverner.

La conférence sur l'état de la fédération de 2013 va se pencher sur les implications et les défis de ces développements ainsi que sur leur capacité de changer les choses en examinant surtout les interactions de plus en plus nombreuses entre les gouvernements autochtones, fédéral, provinciaux et territoriaux. Que pouvons-nous apprendre des nations et communautés autochtones qui cherchent à faire reconnaître leurs propres façons de gouverner? Les divers gouvernements en cause peuvent-ils s'entendre pour inventer des façons de gouverner à plusieurs paliers? Les arrangements actuels, par exemple pour la gestion des ressources naturelles ou la livraison des services sociaux, encouragent-ils une participation autochtone réelle à la prise de décisions? Autrement dit, quelles sont les limites de tels arrangements? Et quelles en sont les conséquences pour les droits des Autochtones et leurs aspirations politiques, et pour le fédéralisme canadien? Peuvent-ils mener à des changements en profondeur dans nos relations?

Nous allons explorer ces questions grâce à une série de panels destinés à faciliter le dialogue entre chercheurs et praticiens selon les thèmes suivants:

  • Perspectives autochtones sur la gouvernance
  • Perspectives provinciales et territoriales
  • Ententes à paliers multiples : les leçons du terrain
  • Gouvernance à paliers multiples et économie des ressources naturelles
  • Gouvernance à paliers multiples et traités modernes : leçons et pistes
  • Métis et gouvernance à paliers multiples
  • Gouvernance et terrain : leçons du mouvement "Idle No More

Regions, Resources, and Resiliency

Kingston, Ontario
November 29 - December 1, 2012

Regions, Resources, and Resiliency

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The theme of this volume was triggered by Richard Simeon, the outstanding scholar of federalism who passed away in October 2013, and it is dedicated in his honour.

As recent Canadian debates about resource development, "Dutch disease", and employment insurance demonstrate, regional tensions remain alive and well in the Canadian federation. Past regional disputes often centred on questions of federal government 'fairness' to particular provinces, most notably Quebec. While the outcome of the recent Quebec election will likely re-open and broaden those debates, the  economic, political and social implications of the unequal distribution of natural and human resources among provinces will remain.  In the current market, natural resource-rich provinces, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador, enjoy fiscal capacities far superior to other provinces, and wrestle with labour market supply challenges.  At the same time, provinces with fewer natural resource industries, including Ontario and Quebec, struggle with manufacturing industry decline and relatively high unemployment.  Such differences lead to (often heated) discussions about the impact of natural resource economies on the value of the dollar, the appropriate model for employment insurance, and the federal equalization program, among other issues.

The State of the Federation 2012 conference brought together academics, policymakers and politicians to engage in a constructive dialogue about regionalism, resources, and the resiliency of the Canadian federal system, keeping in mind the  renewed challenge created by the election of the Parti Québécois.  Questions to be considered will include:

  • How do provincial and regional differences in economic capacity impact upon Canadian federalism? Do the current economic strains represent a unique challenge to Canadian national unity, or do they simply reflect the country's long history of regionalism?
  • To what extent do Canada's natural resource industries benefit the Canadian economy? To what extent do they create pressures for other industries? Do Canada's federal institutions hinder or promote the ability of the economy to respond to global economic shifts?
  • Should Canada pursue national policy approaches, such as a national energy strategy, in areas of provincial or concurrent jurisdiction? If so, what national approaches are needed and how can they be achieved?
  • Do the current intergovernmental structures allow for constructive dialogue about national policy issues? Are other institutional arrangements require?
  • Does Canada need new concepts of provincial and regional 'fairness' and 'equity'?
  • What lessons, if any, might be learned from other federal systems? What lessons might be learned from Canada's past?
  • How will the recent Quebec election change the Canadian landscape and the way we address new and not-so-new challenges?

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Financial support provided by:


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Federal Idea

Forum of Federations




The Changing Federal Environment: Rebalancing Roles?/Un jeu d'équilibres en mutation?

1-3 December 2011

The Changing Federal Environment: Rebalancing Roles?/Un jeu d'équilibres en mutation?

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In the last decade, Canadians have been witnessing a change in the Canadian federal environment. The creation of the Council of the Federation in 2003, the strength of the resource sector, the growing attention paid to the North, changes to the equalization formula and the readjustments of fiscal arrangements, the "new" Ontario, the changing partisan landscape in Canada, the view that Québec's influence is declining in the federation, and "open federalism" (and its actual practice), are all manifestations of the changing federal environment.

More specific illustrations are Saskatchewan's stance on foreign investment in potash, regional initiatives on climate change, new provincial demands for a larger role in international trade negotiations, widespread opposition to a national securities regulator, with the important exception of Ontario, attempts at institutional reform of the Senate and the House of Commons and NL's, NS's and Quebec's position on the Lower Churchill project. Provincial governments are not hesitating to assert themselves in protecting their interests.

For the State of the Federation 2011, the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations (IIGR) will explore this "new" Canadian federal environment, looking specifically at the role of the provinces and of the territories. Are we witnessing a redefinition of roles?

Les Canadiens ont assisté depuis 10 ans à une transformation de l'environnement fédéral dont témoignent de nombreuses manifestations : création en 2003 du Conseil de la fédération, renforcement du secteur des ressources, focalisation grandissante sur le Nord, modifications à la formule de péréquation et rajustements des arrangements fiscaux, « nouvel » Ontario, réalignements partisans, l'idée que l'influence du Québec dans la fédération diminue, adoption (et mise en pratique) du « fédéralisme ouvert ».

Pour illustrer plus précisément cette transformation, citons notamment la position de la Saskatchewan sur les investissements étrangers dans l'industrie de la potasse, les initiatives régionales en matière de changement climatique, les demandes des provinces en vue d'élargir leur rôle dans les négociations commerciales internationales, l'opposition généralisée (à l'importante exception de l'Ontario) à la création d'un organisme de réglementation des valeurs mobilières, les tentatives de réforme institutionnelle du Sénat et de la Chambre des communes ainsi que la position de Terre-Neuve, de la Nouvelle-Écosse et du Québec sur le projet du cours inférieur de Churchill. Clairement, les provinces n'hésitent plus à s'affirmer pour protéger leurs intérêts.

À l'occasion de la conférence État de la fédération 2011, l'Institut des relations intergouvernementales (IRIG) examinera donc ce « nouvel » environnement fédéral en se penchant notamment  sur le rôle des provinces et territoires. Assiste-t-on à une redéfinition de leurs rôles ?

Shifting Power: The New Ontario and what it means for Canada

Toronto, Ontario
19-20 November 2010

Shifting Power: The New Ontario and what it means for Canada

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Canada's policy architecture evolved over the 20th Century. It built a protected national internal market, a strong manufacturing base centred in southwestern Ontario and a set of redistributive policies that supported less prosperous individuals and regions.

But Canada and the world are transforming rapidly. The country faces a set of important new realities:

  • Canadian prosperity is more evenly distributed across Canada's regions
  • Services and natural resources have emerged as the primary drivers of aggregate national growth and of regional inequality
  • Globalization and free trade mean that Canada is, more than ever, competing with countries around the world for investment, human capital, and markets for our goods and services
  • The recent global recession also means that governments across the federation are facing deficits, some of which are structural
  • Demographic changes, including an aging population, will compound the enormous fiscal pressure on many national and provincial programs

During most of the 20th Century, Ontario was unique among Canadian regions in its lack of a strong regional identity, moderating and complicating conflicts over the role of the federal government. Ontarians' stronger support for the federal government during this period was a defining characteristic of many of Canada's political and constitutional debates. It is possible that this feature of Canadian political life is evolving.

To what extent is current public policy capable of addressing these realities? What changes are required to ensure that Canada is positioned to retain and build upon its competitive advantage in the global economy while ensuring the adequacy of programs that its citizens rely upon? To what extent does the policy architecture of the 20th Century, including regional redistribution, need to be modified to reflect recent economic and demographic shifts within the federation? What are the signs and implications of the evolving attitudes to the federation among Ontarians and other Canadians?

Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen's University partnered with the Mowat Centre to deliver the annual State of the Federation Conference on November 19-20, 2010, at the University of Toronto.

Some of Canada's foremost scholars, thought leaders and public sector executives examined Ontario's changing role in the Canadian federation and the implications for our national politics and economy.

2008: Carbon Pricing and Environmental Federalism

Climate change that is attributable to global warming has emerged as one of the most significant public-policy issues for governments in the twenty-first century. Respecting neither intranational nor international boundaries, the emissions giving rise to the problem are especially difficult to combat in a multi-level state such as Canada, where environmental responsibility is shared by the federal and provincial governments.

Jointly sponsored by the Queen's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy and by Sustainable Prosperity and held in Kingston, Ontario.

2007: Open Federalism and the Spending Power

The purpose of the conference was, first, to address the varieties of ways Ottawa and the provinces share roles and responsibilities in the day to day practice of Canadian federalism and then to compare these practices with institutional frameworks provided by our Constitution. The conference then addressed the potential, in light of practices of "open federalism," for providing more principled approaches to power sharing and in particular for a more principled (and constitutional) approach to the exercise of power.

2003: Reconfiguring Aboriginal-State Relations