Political Science (POLI) 390

Canadian Federalism (Revision 5)

POLI 390 Course cover

Revision 5 is closed for registrations, see current revision

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Social Science

Prerequisite: An introductory political science course or one other course in Canadian government and politics is recommended.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Political Science home page

POLI 390 has a Challenge for Credit option.

Detailed Syllabus (PDF)

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The major concern of POLI 390 is the structure and operation of the Canadian federal system and the relations between Ottawa and the provinces.


Unit 1: Introduction

  • Part 1.1: The Study of Federalism
  • Part 1.2: Federal Systems around the World

Unit 2: The Origins of Canadian Federalism

  • Part 2.1: Confederation
  • Part 2.2: The Constitution and the Game of Politics

Unit 3: Regionalism and Province Building

Unit 4: The Drive for Self-Determination: Quebec Nationalism

Unit 5: The Drive for Self-Determination: Self-Government

Unit 6: Canada's Constitutional Odyssey: Patriation and After

Unit 7: The Courts and Judicial Review

Unit 8: Executive Federalism

  • Part 8.1: Government by Conference
  • Part 8.2: Evaluating Executive Federalism

Unit 9: Fiscal Federalism

  • Part 9.1: Revenue Sharing/Tax Collection
  • Part 9.2: Equalization

Unit 10: Federalism and the Welfare State

Unit 11: Federalism and Economic Policy

Unit 12: Whither Canadian Federalism?


To receive credit for POLI 390, you must achieve a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination and an overall course composite grade of at least D (50 percent). You must complete a quiz, three written assignments, and a supervised final exam. The following chart summarizes the types of credit activities, the credit weight associated with each activity, and the recommended place in the course for each activity.

Activity Weighting
Quiz 5%
Assignment 1 15%
Assignment 2 20%
Assignment 3 25%
Final Exam 35%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Meekison, J. Peter, Hamish Telford, and Harvey Lazar. 2004. Canada: The State of the Federation 2002, Reconsidering the Institutions of Canadian Federalism. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Rocher, François, and Miriam Smith. 2003. New Trends in Canadian Federalism. 2nd ed. Peterborough: Broadview Press.

Stevenson, Garth. 2009. Unfulfilled Union: Canadian Federalism and National Unity. 5th ed. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Other Materials

The course materials include a study guide, student manual and an assignment manual.

Challenge for Credit Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows you to demonstrate that you have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university-level course.

Full information about Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the POLI 390 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least D (50 percent) on the examination.

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 5, May 20, 2010.

View previous syllabus