Contested Federalism: Certainty and Ambivalence in the Canadian Federation examines the relations between and within the two main orders of government in Canadathe federal government and the provincial and territorial governments, the two central players in the intergovernmental system. The text also examines other orders of government, or would-be governments, which can be considered part of the broader federal and intergovernmental framework, even if these governments or proto-governments lack explicit constitutional recognitionthat is, municipalities and First Nations, and other Aboriginal peoples' governments. In doing so, the book focuses on three areas: basic federal and intergovernmental structure, the constitutional and institutional framework, and what can be termed 'federal governance'.
Federalism, and particularly the Canadian variant, involves an ongoing contestation of interests, ideas, and identities. It is a contestation that sometimes clarifies but often obscures the nature of conflicts and the manner in which they are resolved. Because of the great degree of ambivalence associated with federalism, the authors provide students with the conceptual tools and basic knowledge of various governmental processes that will allow them to analyze and, if necessary, critique intergovernmental relations.