“The Supreme Court Appointments Process: Improved Federal-Provincial Relations vs. Democratic Renewal?” (2005) (7) Democracy and Federalism Series, Queen’s University Institute of Intergovernmental Relations.


There are two distinct institutional reform agendas underway in Canada which are being pursued independently of each other, and whose interconnection remains unclear and urgently needs to be explored. The first is the so-called democratic renewal agenda, and the second is the effort underway to improve intergovernmental relations (IGR), principally between the federal government and the provinces. I want to argue that these two agendas, as they have been framed thus far, are deeply in tension, because they point in opposite directions with respect to the relationship between executives and legislatures. Without sorting out this tension, one agenda will likely prevail over the other. For example, in the case of the reform of the Supreme Court of Canada appointments process, the democratic renewal agenda has prevailed over the IGR agenda, notwithstanding that Supreme Court appointments have long been of concern to the provinces. To achieve gains for both democracy and federalism, governments must become institutionally creative and adopt hybrid mechanisms of decision-making. If they do not, improving Canadian federalism and enhancing Canadian democracy will be at cross-purposes.