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Canadian Federalism

Founded in 1867, Canada was among the first federations of the modern era. The constitutional division of powers between the federal and provincial governments follows the classic model of dualism, consisting of dividing areas of responsibility on an exclusive basis between the two orders of government, covering both legislative and executive functions. Thus each order of government has paramount authority over the areas accorded to it by the Constitution.

The framers of the Canadian federation had not intended for the two orders of government to develop ongoing relations. Intergovernmental discussions were indeed rare until the second half of the 20th century and were almost exclusively devoted to constitutional issues. However, starting in the 1960s, they became more frequent. Constitutional reform has remained a significant element, but intergovernmental discussions have gradually turned to the content of public policies as well as their fiscal dimensions.