Institutional policy learning and formal federal-urban engagement in Canada

Zachary Spicer


Canada has experienced two formal federal ministries dedicated to addressing urban issues. The first, the Ministry of State for Urban Affairs, encountered resistance from provincial governments and its fellow departments. Both worked to undermine it. The second, the Ministry of State for Infrastructure and Communities, was created with a more conciliatory tone towards the provincial governments and its ministerial colleagues. This paper examines the establishment of both ministries and tracks their efforts using a policy learning and lesson-drawing framework, concluding that common institutional actors, such as the Privy Council, were responsible for the Ministry of State for Infrastructure and Communities’ change in tone and approach to multilevel governance. General lessons are drawn about inter-governmental relations and multi-level policy formation in federal systems.

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