Spring 2021 - POL 827 G100

Issues in Canadian Government and Politics (5)

Class Number: 4875

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM





This class explores a wide cross-section of issues in Canadian politics, through the lens of the constitution and the federalism system it creates.  While federalism fosters a kind of institutionalized pluralism, the constitutional boundaries between communities become in themselves an on-going source of political tension.  It is important to appreciate why we have a federal division of powers, how the division between the federal and provincial governments has evolved over the years, what practical consequences flow from a federal division of governmental structures, how public policy is managed in a federal system, the roles of political parties, and why Canadian federalism has continued to be a focus of discontent.  The failure of the national Parliament to provide effective regional representation will be examined, especially with respect to the electoral system.

Federalism is a starting point in this class to examine a variety of issues in Canadian politics. The class will look at intergovernmental clashes over policy control that are played out through jurisdictional disputes and the power of the federal purse. Aboriginal self-government will be examined for potential changes that differing self-government proposals may entail. The class will also cover the strong challenge from Quebec nationalists seeking to reshape or leave the Canadian federation.

This class provides an opportunity to develop number of very different skills. The course will include short-deadline in-class research assignments, speed reading, and writing assignments that cover a range of styles and tasks: a book review appropriate for an academic journal, “op-ed” commentaries that fit the style of newspaper editorial pages, and a research paper. Students may write their term papers on almost any topic related to Canada’s politics and government.


  • Book Review 15%
  • Essay 50%
  • Written Opinions (2) 20%
  • Oral Participation 15%



Bakvis and G. Skogstad (eds.), Canadian Federalism: Performance, Efficiency, and Legitimacy, Second Edition, Fourth Edition, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020.

Douglas Brown, Herman Bakvis, and Gerald Baier, Contested Federalism:Certainty and Ambiguity in the Canadian Federation, Second Edition, Toronto: Oxford University Press Canada, 2019

Jack Mintz, Ted Morton, and Tom Flanagan (eds.), Moment of Truth: How to Think About Alberta’s Future, Toronto: Sutherland House, 2020.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).