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federal jurisdiction

The federal jurisdiction – generally defines who is in charge of what or on what topics the federal government can legislate?. In the Canadian Constitution?, this is known as the "Division of Powers." While the constitutional definitions of who is in charge of what are fuzzy at best, rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada? have clarified the federal and provincial jurisdictions.



The Federal government can spend and tax however it wants.

Not having the authority to legislate does not stop the federal government from enacting policies on issues within the provincial or municipal jurisdiction. Simply put, the federal government may spend the money that it collects as it pleases, provided it does not break any provincial laws in doing so. The government may also impliment any kind of tax it pleases.

The Division of Powers

"The term ‘division of powers’ refers to the distribution of legislative jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution. More particularly, the distribution is set out in various sections of the Constituion.

Powers of the Provinces


The provincial legislatures have exclusive power to make laws regarding the following:

  • Direct taxation
  • Hospitals and social welfare institutions
  • Municipalities
  • Local works and undertakings EXCEPT
    • interprovincial railways & telegraphs
    • international shipping
    • any works that Parliament has declared are within federal jurisdiction.
  • Solemnization of marriage
  • Property and civil rights (meaning private law)
  • The administration of justice in the province, including the establishment of all courts except the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal Court, and prosecution of criminal cases.
  • All matters of a merely local or private nature.
  • The provinces can regulate non-renewable natural resources, including forestry and electrical energy, and can even regulate exports. However, the federal government can also regulate exports in this area, and federal laws are paramount.

Powers of the Federal Government


The federal government may make laws with regard to matters covered by the following list.

  • Trade and Commerce
  • Unemployment insurance (added in 1940)
  • Unlimited taxing powers (direct and indirect)
  • Postal service
  • Currency & coinage
  • Banking
  • Interest
  • Patents & Copyrights
  • Indians, and lands reserved for Indians
  • Marriage and Divorce
  • Criminal Law

Shared Jurisdictions


  • Parliament and the provinces can both make laws regarding old age pensions; if there is a conflict, provincial laws are paramount. (added in 1964)
  • Agriculture and Immigration are concurrent powers (both the feds and the provinces can legislate). If there is a conflict, the federal legislation is paramount.
  • The federal cabinet has the power to appoint all superior court judges in the provinces.



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