Harrison on federalism and environmental policy


in Canada, Economics, Law, Politics, The environment

While not denying the existence of either constitutional limitations or resistance from at least some of the provinces, I argue that the explanation for federal and provincial roles in environmental protection is not complete without considering governments’ electoral incentives to extend or defend their jurisdiction over the environment in the first place. Environmental protection typically involves diffuse benefits and concentrated costs, and thus offers few political benefits but significant political costs. One can expect the opponents of environmental regulation to be better organized, informed, and funded than the beneficiaries. Moreover, since environmental protection typically involves the imposition of costs on business, strengthening environmental standards can run counter to voters’ concerns about the economy and unemployment. Thus, the absence of electoral incentives, rather than constitutional constraints or provincial opposition per se, may explain why the federal government did not pursue a larger role in environmental protection throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. The reality may be closer to a federal surrender than the provincial victory implied by many authors. (p. 5 hardcover)

Harrison, Kathryn. Passing the Buck: Federalism and Canadian Environmental Policy. 1996.

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. August 12, 2013 at 3:36 pm

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