The Evolution of Federal/Provincial Relations in Natural Resources Management

  • Susan Blackman
  • Janet Keeping
  • Monique Ross
  • J. Owen Saunders


Issues related to the management of natural resources have played an important role in federal provincial relations over the past quarter century. Due to Alberta's position as a major producer of natural resources in Canada, the province's role in the evolution of federalism over that period has been particularly influential. In this paper, the history of federal-Alberta relations concerning energy over the past twenty-five years is reviewed, noting in particular where conflicts between the two jurisdictions have been evident, and stressing general themes where they can be distinguished. The Alberta approach to federalism reflects a different historical context than that of the Eastern provinces as a result of its economic dependence on natural resources and its relatively recent position of affluence. The ability of the province to make full use of its resources to diversify beyond a reliance on raw energy and agricultural markets is a driving force behind the insistence on control of resource exploitation and revenues. Thus, federal measures that threaten to impinge on the province's abilities to set its own priorities have typically been regarded with some hostility. However, Alberta's approach is not only ideological but also pragmatic, and objections that might be expected on an ideological basis have been notably absent when federal actions coincide with Alberta's own immediate interests.

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