The Politics of Fiscal Equalization in Canada and Australia: Contemporary Responses and Practical Reforms

The Australian Centre for Federalism (ACF) presents:

"The Politics of Fiscal Equalization in Canada and Australia: Contemporary Responses and Practical Reforms"

Australia is a well-known pioneer in the field of fiscal federalism and equalization policy. Created in 1933, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has long featured prominently in debates about equalization policy in other federal countries, including Canada. Yet, when it created its federal equalization programme in 1957, Canada explicitly rejected the Australian approach to equalization based on an analysis of both fiscal capacity and service needs, instead opting to focus entirely on fiscal capacity.

Since then, in Canada, a number of experts have advocated the inclusion of service needs into the equalization formula but this idea has never been implemented. The same remark applies to the idea of creating an arms-length body similar to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has been rejected by politicians in both Ottawa and the provinces. Despite these key institutional differences between the two countries, both Australia and Canada face similar policy challenges when the time comes to assess and address horizontal fiscal inequality in the broader, contentious context of fiscal federalism. One of these challenges concerns changing commodity prices, which can exacerbate both regional inequalities and political tensions over equalization. Overall, in Australia and in Canada, reforming equalization programmes is challenging, partly because of the sheer size of equalization transfers and the vested interests attached to them.
These two talks by Professor Daniel Béland of the University of Saskatchewan and Professor Brian Galligan of the University of Melbourne will explore the challenging politics of equalization through a comparative analysis of the Australian and Canadian cases. To further explore these issues with audience discussion, a thirty-minute participatory discussion will follow the talks.
Professor Brian Galligan is Professor of Political Science Department at the University of Melbourne. Brian specialises in Australian politics and political economy, particularly: constitutional politics and judicial review, federalism and intergovernmental relations, citizenship and rights protection, including for Aboriginal people, and business-government relations. He has comparative interests in constitutional systems, decentralised governance and rights protection, including in Asian countries. Professor Galligan is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and recognized as one of Australia’s foremost scholars of federalism and Australian federal studies. He is currently formally involved with the Commonwealth Government’s “Renewing Australian Federalism” project. Previously, Brian was a professor in the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU and the Professor and Director of the Federalism Research Centre, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, from 1992 to 1994, succeeded by Professor John Uhr.
Professor Daniel Béland holds the Canada Research Chair in Public Policy (Tier 1) at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (University of Saskatchewan campus). A specialist of fiscal and social policy, he has published 14 books and more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Comparative Political Studies, Governance, Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Public Policy, Journal of Social Policy, and Social Science Quarterly. To know more about his work please visit

Registration can be made on-line before COB Friday 13th November at Eventbrite.

Discussion will be conducted under the Chatham House Rule. A light reception will follow the presentation.

For further information please contact Tracy B Fenwick E: or visit:

Date & time

Wed 18 Nov 2015, 12am


The Drawing Room University House 1 Balmain Cres Acton, ACT


Professor Brian Galligan
Professor Daniel Béland


Claudia Villegas


Updated:  22 December 2015/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications