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Canadian Federalism and Change in Policy Attention: A Comparison with the United Kingdom

  • Éric Montpetit (a1) and Martial Foucault (a1)

Abstract. Federal systems empower multiple policy actors from different levels of governments. For some scholars, the disagreements arising within such a diverse group of actors create policy stalemates. Others contend instead that new ideas are more likely to arise and diffuse from such a diverse group. This article is a contribution to this scholarly debate, proposing an original contribution on policy agendas. It argues that both perspectives are useful to understanding the dynamic of policy making within federal systems. Looking at change in policy attention in Canadian and British speeches from the throne, the article argues that federalism constrains change immediately following a party turnover in government. In the following years, however, federal arrangements encourage larger changes in policy attention than arrangements where power is centralized.

Résumé. Les systèmes fédéraux rassemblent plusieurs acteurs politiques issus de différents niveaux de gouvernement. Pour certains chercheurs, l'existence de potentiels désaccords entre de tels décideurs est susceptible de créer des impasses politiques. D'autres soutiennent au contraire que les nouvelles idées sont plus susceptibles d'émerger et de se diffuser à partir d'un tel groupe diversifié. Cet article s'inscrit dans ce débat sur le fédéralisme et propose une contribution originale en termes de mise à l'agenda des politiques publiques. Il soutient que les deux perspectives sont nécessaires à la compréhension de la dynamique de l'élaboration des politiques au sein des systèmes fédéraux. En mesurant le changement de l'attention politique dans les discours du Trône canadiens et britanniques, l'article affirme que le fédéralisme freine le changement de politique immédiatement après un changement de parti au gouvernement. Au cours d'une législature, toutefois, les institutions fédérales encouragent de plus grands changements dans l'attention des politiques que dans des systèmes unitaires où le pouvoir est centralisé.

Corresponding author
Éric Montpetit, Département de science politique, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128 succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7,
Martial Foucault, Département de science politique, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128 succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, (currently a visiting scholar at Science po Paris).
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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique
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