There are ten provinces within Canada and each has its own level of government which is the provincial level. Two other government levels that can have an effect of the provinces are the Federal government and the municipal levels. The Provincial level is the in-between level of these three tiers.
Getting the provincial governments to the level of power they have today was no easy task. The federal government of the time which was the Fathers of Confederation had the vision of maintaining a strong government presence. They wanted to maintain the power of cancelling provincial statutes within a year of their introductions. They were keen on putting lieutenant governors in charge of overseeing the provinces.
This being mandated by the Federal government did not sit well with the Provinces who wanted to maintain their own control. Their approach was to have an equal partnership with the federal government and not to be subservient to them.
As the role of the provinces was being developed it was going through a stage of nation-building but was overpowered with the wants and needs of the provinces both involving the political segments as well as economically.
The Building of the Provincial Governments
As the building of the provincial governments was taking place it was moved along at a steady pace because of strong leadership. These were those who took on the role that showed powerful characteristics which included:
- William Fielding for Nova Scotia
- Honore Mercier for Quebec
- Oliver Mowat for Ontario
Fortunately, there was a Prime Minister in place who was Sir Wilfrid Laurier who was sympathetic towards the desires of the Provinces.
In the beginning, the Provinces had some substantial investments in transportation and their education systems. But they wanted to expand their control to include health and hospital programs as well as social assistance. Each province had its own views about their needs pertaining to these elements.
The powers that the Provinces legally held were dictated by the Constitution Act of 1867. This act severely limited provincial powers. Within the act, there were only 16 areas of jurisdiction that pertained to the provincial level while there were 29 for the federal level. This gave the federal government great leverage over laws for peace for the country as well as the Order and Good Government of Canada.
The scope of power as outlined in the Constitution for the Provinces was very limited and applied to only local or private aspects. These included some specifics such as property rights or civil rights. The provinces had the power of sale and control over property that each province owned. The Provincial courts had the power to uphold both civil and civil law. The provinces had complete control over their education. When it came to agriculture and immigration the provinces had limited power but if the legislature clashed with that of the Federal government, then this level of government superseded the provincial government.
Taxes and Revenues
This is another important area that had to be worked out between the Federal and Provincial governments. The provinces are restricted to direct taxation as it pertains to the individual provinces. These do include personal and corporate taxes, and some property taxes as well as the consumer tax. There was an amendment to the constitution in 1982 that broadened some of the tax powers of the provinces.
The Present Day
The provincial governments have made great strides in the power that they hold and maintain. However, there is still a disallowment in the constitution that the federal government can disallow a provincial statute. This has not happened since 1943.