Montreal – Since 2003, when it was established, the Council of the Federation (COF) has become an active intergovernmental institution that allows provincial and territorial governments to work together more effectively, says a new publication from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Today the council is a quite different institution than its predecessor, the Annual Premiers’ Conference, which was a low-key but regular venue for interprovincial relations for 40 years, says Emmet Collins (adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba). A secretariat, a steering committee and ongoing funding have made the COF more substantial and led to closer links among provincial and territorial governments.
Based on his review of COF documents from 2003 to 2016, Collins provides an overview of its activities in a range of sectors. On the COF’s ability to exercise leadership in areas of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, he finds the record is mixed: some issues have seen major accomplishments, while there has been little progress in others. “In certain fields, such as pharmaceutical pricing, the council has developed useful policy alternatives; where the interests of the provinces and territories do not coincide, as on climate change, it has been less successful,” he says.
In assessing its contributions, Collins notes that although the COF will likely continue to present a united front against decisions on federal transfer payments, its focus extends well beyond relations with the federal government and includes a wider range of issues. “The Council of the Federation has come into its own,” Collins concludes.
Coming into Its Own? Canada’s Council of the Federation, 2003-16, by Emmet Collins, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
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