The Rowell-Sirois Commission and the Remaking of Canadian Federalism
350 pages, 6 x 9
4 b&w photos, 3 b&w illus.
Release Date:15 Jun 2021

The Rowell-Sirois Commission and the Remaking of Canadian Federalism

UBC Press

The Rowell-Sirois Commission and the Remaking of Canadian Federalism investigates the groundbreaking inquiry launched to reconstruct the federal system – revealing its impact on the high politics of federal-provincial relations and its legacy for Canadian federalism today.

In 1937, the Canadian confederation was broken. As the Depression ground on, the economic crisis highlighted a fundamental dilemma: the provinces faced increasing obligations but limited funds, while the dominion had fewer responsibilities but lucrative revenue sources. A public inquiry was struck to review the system. But the process was soon beset by conflicts between Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia and hampered by problems within the commission itself. The breakthrough was a plan for a bold new form of federalism based on the national collection of major tax revenues and unconditional transfers of these revenues to provinces based on fiscal need.

Robert Wardhaugh and Barry Ferguson dig through the evidence and counter misconceptions to demonstrate that even though the report was at first rejected, it provided a storehouse of innovative ideas that redefined the nature of federal government and shaped policy – and thinking – about federalism for decades.

This book will be indispensable reading for students and scholars of Canadian history, political science, and public policy, as well as for politicians, public affairs writers, researchers, and politically engaged Canadians.

The Rowell-Sirois Commission and the Remaking of Canadian Federalism is a thoughtful and well-written analysis of one of the most important royal commissions in Canadian history. Collecting a very impressive body of primary research, Wardhaugh and Ferguson provide evidence from the key players in politics, academia, the bureaucracy, and especially the commissioners and support staff. Stephen Henderson, associate professor of history and classics, Acadia University
The Rowell-Sirois Commission and the Remaking of Canadian Federalism is an invaluable study of Canadian federalism, past and present: history, political science, public policy, and economics. There’s an enormous amount of new material here that illuminates the precipitation and fallout of the Rowell-Sirois Commission. lsbeth Heaman, professor of history and classical studies, McGill University

Robert Wardhaugh is a professor in the History Department at Western University. He is the author of Mackenzie King and the Prairie West and Behind the Scenes: The Life and Work of William Clifford Clark. With Barry Ferguson, he is also a co-editor of Manitoba’s Premiers of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Barry Ferguson has just retired as professor in the History Department and the Duff Roblin Chair in the Political Studies Department at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of Remaking Liberalism: The Intellectual Legacy of Adam Shortt, O.D. Skelton, W.C. Clark, and W.A. Mackintosh, 1890–1925.

Foreword / Robert Bothwell and John English


1 A Federation Turned Upside Down

2 Towards a Royal Commission

3 Organizing a Commission: Summer 1937

4 Setbacks and Recovery: Autumn 1937

5 Winter of Discontent: January–March 1938

6 Stormy Spring: April–June 1938

7 Hard Seasons: Summer and Fall 1938

8 Toil and Trouble: 1939 and 1940

9 Reinterpreting Canadian Federalism: May 1940

10 Dark Days: 1940–41

11 The Aftermath: 1941–46


Notes; Index

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