In Canada, there has been a tussle between the two levels of govt. over the years but through compromises and decisions of the Supreme Court an understanding was reached, whereby differences will be settled through dialogue at the ministerial level or failing that at the leadership level at Federal/ Provincial meetings. This has led to what has been called "co-operative federalism" and with a few exceptions (Trudeau and the Energy Policy, Bi-lingualism; Mulrooney on Free Trade . Meech Lake ), had come to define the relationship between the rwo levels of government. A form of "Executive Federalism" was established to bring the Prime Minister and the Provincial Premiers together on a regular basis . This has worked to remove tensions within the system and had established stability in the system, more stability than in any other federation (of course the one "boogaboo' has continued to be but with less and less danger, the issue of Quebec's place in the federation).
The majority victory of the Ref-Con (Reform/ Conservative) in the last election has seen the politics of consensus replaced by the politics of polarisation, as it applies to the provinces and the federal govt. and between the Govt. and the other political parties. This was bluntly present at the meeting of finance ministers recently, when federal Finance minister Flaherty stunned his provincial counter-parts with his plan to fund medicare. No negotiations. No provincial input. No compromises, just take or leave it. Health care funding will be 6% ( as agreed upon before) up to 2016-17. After that. increases will be tied to economic growth, including inflation, but would not fall below 3%. Provinces will be urged to be"accountable", but there will be no intrusion on how health care is delivered. as long as it is publicly funded. This has caused a split among the provinces, with the West not complaining, but the others led by Ontario are furious. The complaint is not only about the threats to the single payer, publicly-funded, universally accessible with national programs with common standards, but the manner in which it was done. This debate will be ongoing, especially after Canadians become aware of what has been done, the possible threats to medicare ( remember the attempts by Klein and Harris to undermine the Canada Health Act) and the high-handed manner in which it has been done.
There is a pattern being followed here by the Harper government, especially by the Reform wing, (the stronger part , Kenny Toews, Baird, Flaherty etc). Bills are being rammed through parliament. Closures and time constraint are used to cut off or limit debates, whether it be the bill to close the gun registry, climate change and withdrawal from Kyoto (without any replacement), or the omnibus crime bill (up to nine different bills stuck together for quick passage) which was done so hurriedly that the Justice Minister Toews had to rush amendments to the committees after the bill was passed second reading ( he refused to accept opposition amendments).
There is tension in the House (members shouting profanities...Trudeau calling Kent " a piece of shit" for his treatment of an NDP member whom he accused of not going to Durban, when he prevented her accreditation; Martin tweeting about the "f'...ing" govt. restricting debates and others shouting. whistling and stomping, with the Speaker unable to control proceedings). The fall session ended in anger and rancour.
The provinces are angry not only about the health funding (Ontario), but about Kyoto and climate change ; about the crime bill, especially Quebec,which is also angry about the gun registry.
Harper's approach is to divide and govern. It may work in the short term, but it undermines the sysyem and will bring to the fore the things that divide us. That is a threat to the stability, that has been the hallmark of the Canadian Federation.
This is government by stealth, by secrecy, by division, by dictat.