Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations Commission

There is an urgent need to re-assess federal, provincial and municipal expenditure responsibilities, tax powers, and intergovernmental transfers in Canada to address looming fiscal imbalances.

To address these ongoing concerns, a steering committee made up of academics and policy researchers from across Canada has proposed an Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations Commission. An independent team of academic experts and policy practitioners from a variety of disciplines across the country will recommend practical reforms to the system of intergovernmental fiscal relations in Canada. Like a Royal Commission, it will take a coordinated deep dive into complex questions; unlike a Royal Commission it would be independent of government appointments or political priorities.

Once established, the Commission will publish research papers, policy briefs and op-eds and make recommendations for the reform of fiscal relations among the federal, provincial and municipal governments within the framework of the existing Canadian Constitution.


The Fiscal Relations Challenge in Brief

Fiscal relations challenges have been a long-standing concern of provincial leaders and at times federal governments. It is a complex and controversial subject that contributes to strained federal-provincial relations. Perceptions of fairness and concerns about sustainability of critical health and social programming are at issue. One on-going concern is that federal transfers are determined by the federal government independently of the provinces, despite their impact on provinces who deliver services within their jurisdiction.

The second challenge is that the current mix of expenditure responsibilities, tax powers and intergovernmental grants is unsustainable. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, provincial governments were running deficits and increasing debt levels over the longer-term (Parliamentary Budget Officer). As we have seen with the current Covid-19 crisis, the federal government is in a much stronger fiscal position compared to provinces-territories and municipalities to deal with the costs of this response.

The third challenge is that Canada’s fiscal relations ignore the increasingly important role of municipalities. While municipalities are the jurisdiction of provinces under the Constitution, the growth of city states means the role of municipalities cannot be ignored any further.


Commissioners

Daniel Béland*
Professor and Director, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Charles Breton*
Executive Director, Centre of Excellence on the Canadian Federation, IRPP

Colleen Collins*
Vice-President, Canada West Foundation

Bev Dahlby*
Senior Fellow, Canada West Foundation, Research Fellow School of Public Policy, University of Calgary

Herb Emery
Vaughan Chair, Department of Economics, University of New Brunswick

Marcelin Joanis
Professor, Department of Mathematics and Industrial Engineering, Polytechnique Montreal

Margaret Melhorn
Former Deputy Finance Minister, Government of the Northwest Territories

Haizhen Mou
Professor, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan

Steve Orsini*
Adjunct Professor, Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University and Sr Fellow, C.D. Howe Inst.

Nathalie Des Rosier
Principal Massey College, Former Dean, Faculty of Law-Common Law at the University of Ottawa

Enid Slack*
Director, Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance, University of Toronto

Michael Smart
Professor, Department of Economics, University of Toronto

Tracey Snoddon
Associate Professor, Lazaridis School of Business, Wilfred Laurier University

Trevor Tombe*
Professor, Department of Economics, University of Calgary

* Steering Group


Advisory Board Members (as of May 2021)

Elizabeth Beale
Former President and CEO, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council

Robin Boadway
Professor Emeritus Department of Economics, Queens University

Jean Charest
Former Premier of Quebec and Deputy Prime Minister of Canada

Jim Dinning
Former Provincial Treasurer, Alberta and Corporate Director

Janet Ecker
Former Finance Minister of Ontario

Mike Harcourt
Former Premier of BC, Mayor of the City of Vancouver

Shirley Hoy
Former City Manager, City of Toronto

Tom Jenkins
Chair of the Board of OpenText

Chris Ragan
Director, Max Bell School of Public Policy, McGill University

Brian Topp
Former Chief of Staff to Premier Notley of Alberta

Wayne Wouters
Former Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet


Guiding Principles

Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations Commission Guiding Principles


Briefing Notes, Op-eds, Reports


WHAT NOW? Policy Brief
Canada Health Transfer: Background and future


OP-ED / Policy Options / May 2020
Covid-19 Will Force a Change to Canada’s Fiscal Arrangements


WHAT NOW? Policy Brief
The Need to Review Canada’s Fiscal Stabilization Program for Provinces After COVID-19


Reforming Canada’s Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations in a Post-Pandemic World
Draft Proposal – November, 2020