Theses Doctoral

Beyond Umpire and Arbiter: Courts as Facilitators of Intergovernmental Dialogue in Division of Powers Cases in Canada

Wright, Wade Kenneth

The courts in Canada have often been cast, by both courts and legal scholars, as 'umpires' or 'arbiters' of the federal-provincial division of powers - umpires or arbiters that have the exclusive, or at least decisive, authority to clarify and enforce, and resolve disputes about, 'who does what' in the federal system. However, the image conveyed by these metaphors underestimates the role that the federal and provincial political branches play in the federal system, by working out their own solutions, in the intergovernmental arena, both directly and indirectly, where questions and disputes arise about how jurisdiction is and should be allocated. The image conveyed by the umpire or arbiter metaphors also sits uncomfortably with the facilitative role that the Supreme Court of Canada has carved out for itself in its recent division of powers decisions, a role that casts the courts as facilitators of these instances of intergovernmental dialogue.

This doctoral dissertation challenges, and moves beyond, the umpire and arbiter metaphors. It examines the political safeguards available to the provinces in Canada to prevent, or limit, perceived federal encroachments on provincial jurisdiction, in the process highlighting the role that the political branches play in Canada in working out their own allocations of jurisdiction, outside of the courts. It describes, and critically evaluates, the facilitative role carved out by the Court in its recent division of powers decisions, identifying various reasons to be skeptical of a facilitative role that casts the courts as facilitators of intergovernmental dialogue. Finally, and with an eye to future research, it briefly outlines an alternative facilitative role that focuses on facilitating deliberation about the division of powers implications of particular initiatives, arguing that it would be premature to dismiss facilitative approaches to judicial review altogether.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Metzger, Gillian E.
J.S.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2014