Political Science (POLI) 390

Canadian Federalism (Revision 6)

POLI 390

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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

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POLI 390 has a Challenge for Credit option.

Detailed Syllabus (PDF)

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The primary aim of POLI 390 is to introduce the study of Canadian federalism and explain the relationship between the federal and provincial governments. Federalism is a complicated and sometimes frustrating form of government. Yet the Canadian version of federalism is remarkably innovative, adaptive, and accommodating. Despite all predictions to the contrary, Canadian federalism continues to endure, although the efficiency and effectiveness of our federal arrangement is increasingly being called into question.


Political Science 390: Canadian Federalism is composed of twelve units as follows:

  • Unit 1: Introduction: The Study of Federalism
  • Unit 2: The Origins of Canadian Federalism
  • Unit 3: Regionalism and Province Building
  • Unit 4: The Drive for Self-Determination: Quebec Nationalism
  • Unit 5: The Drive for Self-Determination: Indigenous Self-Government
  • Unit 6: Canada’s Constitutional Odyssey: Patriation and After
  • Unit 7: The Courts and Judicial Review
  • Unit 8: Executive Federalism
  • Unit 9: Fiscal Federalism
  • Unit 10: Federalism and the Welfare State: Health Care and the Social Union
  • Unit 11: Federalism and Economic Policy
  • Unit 12: The Evolution of Canadian Federalism: The Presence of the Past and the Prospects for the Future


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 two quizzes, three written assignments, and a supervised final exam.

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1: Telephone Quizzes (worth 5% each) 10%
Assignment 2: Two Short Essays (worth 10% each) 20%
Assignment 3: Annotated Bibliography 10%
Assignment 4: Major Research Essay 30%
Final Exam 30%
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


Béland, D., Lecours, A., Marchildon, G., Mou, H., & Olfert, M. R. (2017). Fiscal federalism and equalization policy in Canada: Political and economic dimensions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Brown, D., Bakvis, H., & Baier, G. (2019). Contested federalism: Certainty and ambiguity in the Canadian federation (2nd ed.). Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Watts, R. L. (2008). Comparing federal systems (3rd ed.). Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Other Materials

All other materials for this course can be found online.

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 6, August 19, 2019.

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