Rivals for Power: Ottawa and the Provinces

The contentious history of the Canadian federation

by Ed Whitcomb

This book provides a history of Canadian federalism and the various politicians over the years who have engaged in an ongoing push and pull over power between Ottawa and the provinces. Ed Whitcomb examines their past successes and failures and the ongoing challenges to the country's unity.

Rivals for Power: Ottawa and the Provinces tells the story of the politicians who continually contend over the division of power (and money) between Ottawa and the provinces. The heroes and villains of this story include many of the leading lights of Canadian history, from John A. Macdonald, Wilfred Laurier, and Maurice Duplessis to Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, Bill Davis, Peter Lougheed and Jean Chretien. The unique feature of this book is its focus: no matter what their policies, Canadian politicians over the years have engaged in an ongoing push and pull over power, with both successes and failures. As Whitcomb sees it, the success of the provinces at preventing Ottawa from becoming the overwhelming power in Canadian life has been the key to the country's stability and its cultural cohesion. But the failure of the provinces to achieve an equal measure of power and the growing gap between the have and have-not provinces stands as an ongoing challenge — and threat — to the country's unity.

About the Author

Ed Whitcomb

Ed Whitcomb graduated with a Ph.D. in History from the University of London. After a short university teaching career he joined the Canadian Foreign Service specializing in political, economic, strategic, and intelligence analysis. He has lived in four regions of Canada as well as in four other countries with federal constitutions. He has published numerous articles on Canadian history, and is the author of a series of ten brief histories of the Canadian provinces.


"This book will help anyone who wants to better understand today's Canada, by explaining how we got here and why."
Donald Benham, Winnipeg Free Press
"Rivals for Power is a meticulously researched book ... [Whitcomb lets the history tell the story, which he describes in completely accessible language."
Geoff Norquay,, Policy Magazine
"[Whitcomb] provides a concise account of British duplicity and Canadian acquiescence making Canada a land from sea to sea."
Gar Pardy,, The Hill Times

Subjects (BISAC)

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