Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Exploring Decentralisation in Canada: Devolution of Labour Market Policy

Document type Thesis
Author Gray, E.
Author Gray, Erin
Degree Ph.D.
Publisher University of Wales, Swansea; Swansea, UK
Date 2004
Pages 312 pages


This thesis entails the study of both why and how decentralisation of government authority takes place. Decentralisation in Canada is explored by investigating a federal proposal for the devolution of active labour market policies from federal to provincial governments, and by closely examining the positions taken by both levels of government during the development of two federal-provincial labour market agreements in the mid-1990s. The two bilateral agreements chosen for this examination are, the Canada-Nova Scotia Agreement on a Framework for Strategic Partnerships, and the Canada-Alberta Labour Market Development Agreement. The central focus of this research is to examine the extent to which federal and provincial governments’ positions on the devolution of policy are influenced by ‘political’ and ‘public’ interests. The first argument holds that political imperatives influence governmental priorities, attitudes, and motivations as decisions about devolution are made. The second argument maintains that governmental positions on devolution are founded on the motivation to promote the best outcomes for the public at large. This study employs a research focus that is qualitative in nature, and it draws from interpretive and constructivist approaches to inquiry. Interviews were conducted with civil servants who represent federal and provincial interests in the provinces of Alberta and Nova Scotia. A comparative analysis of the evidence found that both political and public interests influenced federal and provincial positions on devolution. This research illustrates that while political and public interests might be separated analytically, in real cases of policy-making they overlap. Nonetheless, the evidence tips the scales towards a political interest explanation much more clearly and convincingly than a public interest interpretation.