Reforming Federal Systems : Insights from Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland

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CÉRIUM Working Paper No3, 2014-11

Author: Jörg BROSCHEK (Wilfrid Laurier University)

Abstract
Reform represents a distinct mode of change within federal systems that can be distinguished from passive adaptation. Through reform, political actors deliberately seek to alter parts of the federal institutional architecture so as to modify or even reverse an established historical trajectory. This study systematically explores the variety of reform patterns in federal systems by looking at instances of institutional reforms in four federations (Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland) since the early 1990s. It demonstrates that reform patterns exhibit interesting similarities and differences. To a great extent, these are largely contingent on the nature of problems that different types of federalism tend to produce. The study detects similarities between Australia and Canada, where federal reforms sought to strengthen mechanisms of collaboration and to address the vertical fiscal imbalance, and between Germany and Switzerland, where dis-entanglement occurred as the leitmotiv of federal reforms. At the same time, the study finds no systematic connection between one of the two identified reform patterns on the one hand, the sustainability of federal reforms on the other hand. While Australia and Switzerland seem to represent examples of rather sustainable reform pathways, in Canada and Germany the gap between reform rhetoric and reform impact remains large.

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Citation
Broschek, J. (2014). Reforming Federal Systems : Insights from Australia, Canada, Germany and Switzerland. Cahiers du CÉRIUM Working Paper No3. Centre d’études et de recherches internationales, Université de Montréal.

This Working PAper is part of the Series of the Observatoire des fédérations.

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