Our country's constitutional framework impacts countless aspects of life in Canada and Nova Scotia. Seemingly academic questions about government authority, or how the country is structured and governed, can easily affect the relative opportunities and quality of life residents of each province or territory enjoy. It is therefore not surprising that constitutional context and policy is also integral to intergovernmental relations.
Constitutional provisions for individual rights, government roles, and distribution of authority, resources and representation impact the future of residents in every province. The Department of Intergovernmental Affairs addresses Nova Scotia's constitutional and national governance policy interests. Examples include defense of jurisdiction over our offshore resources, in vehicles such as the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Accord, or when positioning to enhance the impact of Nova Scotia's voice in federal decision-making with regional implications.
Nova Scotia's territory includes not only the areas of 'dry land' easily recognizable on common maps, but also areas covered by sea water. The Constitution Act, 1867, is clear at Section 7 that the Province of Nova Scotia "shall have the same limits as of the passing of this Act." This means that the historical record prior to Confederation, rather than a modern or specific surveyor's document, has to be considered when reference is made to Nova Scotia's offshore boundary.
Where Federal and Provincial understandings on boundary location may have differed, dialogue and legislative cooperation has produced solutions respectful of both viewpoints. This has secured a clearer regulatory environment, leading to economic and fiscal benefits flowing from the responsible development of Nova Scotia's offshore resources.
The Constitution Act, 1867, makes provision for the House of Commons and Senate within the federal Parliament. Federal statutes further define the make-up of Parliament. These may sound somewhat remote from our daily interest as Nova Scotians. However, one thing is as true now as it was at the time of Confederation: balanced federal government consideration of factors unique to a small province or minority region can be overwhelmed by perspectives from more populous areas. Historically, many regional considerations have been taken into account by federal law and policy makers to produce sound Canada-wide policy. Due to demographic trends, the principle of representation by population continues to reduce the percentage of House of Commons seats assigned to Nova Scotia, as well as its seats at the federal Cabinet table. Constitutional design, the regionally-driven Senate, including its effectiveness and democratization, are examples of national governance policy in which Intergovernmental Affairs is engaged.