Chrétien and Canadian Federalism: Politics and the Constitution, 1993–2003

Chretien and Canadian Federalism

Chrétien and Canadian Federalism

Politics and the Constitution, 1993–2003

by Edward McWhinney


  • Autumn 2003
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-006-4 (1-55380-006-0)
  • 6″ x 9″ Trade Paperback, 220 pages
  • Politics, Canadian Government

Constitutionalist Ted McWhinney draws on his extensive experience in the workings of our federal system to discuss the need for modernization and updating to meet the radically new demands of the plural, multicultural Canada of the 21st century. His focus is on law-in-action — the “living law” of contemporary intergovernmental practice — rather than the abstract law in books of the Constitution Act of 1867, which was fashioned on imperial, British stereotypes for a colonial society.

McWhinney’s thinking has the advantage of his personal exchanges with prime ministers from the time of John Diefenbaker, as well as his recent direct participation in governmental decision-making in Ottawa during two elected terms as Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary to several ministries.

Among the key contemporary topics discussed are the atrophy of the House of Commons and the role of MPs; the development of the “presidential” Prime Minister without any constitutional checks and balances; the emergence of “judicial legislation” through a Supreme Court suddenly empowered by the 1982 Charter of Rights; the provincial demands for a new “cooperative federalism”; Quebec’s long festering demands for a “particular” status; and the aboriginal peoples’ claims to an “inherent right” to self government.

Proposals for reform are canvassed frankly. More importantly, practical ways out of our present constitutional straight-jacket — the result of the failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords — are put forward for debate.

“Ted McWhinney, a brilliant political scientist, lawyer and MP, takes the reader behind the scenes to deliver a first hand, close-up view of government. A highly informative and worthwhile read.”
— Barbara Yaffe, Vancouver Sun Political Columnist

“A lucid, measured and devastating indictment of our obsolete constitutional arrangements, and a plea for innovative reform.”
— Alan Cairns, Past President of the Canadian Political Science Association

Also by Edward McWhinney: