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Perspectives Of Austrian And Canadian Federalism

2979 words - 12 pages

A federation is a type of sovereign state in which a number of smaller self-governing states are united by a federal government (Watts)1. However, all federations are not made equal. There exists a great amount of variation between federal states on a number of functional areas. The aspect of federalism that this paper will address is power centralization. The two countries that will be compared are Austria and Canada. This author will attempt to prove that Austria’s federal system is more centralized than Canada’s by analyzing their orders of government, their constitutional mandates, and the impact of sociocultural cleavages on the federal model.
The federation of Austria consists of nine constituent states collectively referred to as the Länder, and singularly referred to as Land (Gamper 1)2. Each of them has an elected legislature called the Landtag. The federal legislature consists of two houses, the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat). The National Council is the lower house of the bicameral legislature; it consists of 183 members and is elected directly by the citizens of Austria (Gamper 2)3. The Federal Council is consequently the upper house, and its 62 members are elected by the Landtag. The two houses are commonly referred to as peers but, as the evidence will demonstrate, the power lies decidedly in the hands of the National Council with little impact by any other order of government. The citizens of Austria vote for the Federal President directly, and although in theory the President has a wide range of powers, they have been essentially reduced to the role of a figurehead (Gamper 6)4. Federalism has little to no influence on the design of the executive or any influence on the role of the Federal President. In addition to the orders of government mentioned above there are municipal governments who have a very marginal role in the political sphere and act largely as administrative extensions of the Länder.
Canada has a very similar structure in regards to orders of government. The federal level consists of the House of Commons (lower house) and the Senate (upper house). The House of Commons has 308 members and is elected directly by the citizens of Canada (Cameron 49)5. On the other hand, the 105 members of the Senate are appointed by the Prime Minister (Cameron 49)6. The Prime Minister has the most powerful role in the Canadian federal system. They are normally the leader of the party with the greatest number of seats in Parliament. There are ten provinces and three territories in Canada, each have their own legislature of directly elected individuals. Canada’s federal system is often described as “collaborative federalism”, which is characterized by the principle of co-determination (Cameron 50)7. The governance of Canada is viewed by many as a “partnership between two equal, autonomous, and interdependent orders of government that jointly decide national policy” (Cameron 51)8....

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