Ottawa's so-called new deal for cities recognizes the growing clout of large urban centres in a globalized economy, Martin said. "Statistically economic performance when you read about it is compared by country to country," he said. "But the fact is more and more competition is being waged by major metropolitan centres, our cities. "It is Vancouver against San Francisco; it is Montreal and Toronto against Shanghai and Bangalore." British Columbia has a natural advantage because its ports are the closest in North America to Asian markets. Martin's Liberal government has touted its new deal for cities policy as a recognition cities are Canada's economic centres of gravity. He's promised a reliable stream of money for them, as well as smaller communities, to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges, sewer and water systems, as well as bolster public transit.
A city-state is a region controlled exclusively by a city, and usually having sovereignty.
Colonies competing with the mother-land in its production of manufactured goods, such is the factor which will regulate economy in the twentieth centuryAnd why should India not manufacture ? What should be the hindrance ? Capital?--But capital goes wherever there are men, poor enough to be exploited. Knowledge?--But knowledge recognizes no national barriers. Technical skill of the worker?--No. The tendency of trade, as for all else, is toward decentralization.
Peter Kropotkin The Conquest of Bread 1906
CHAPTER XVI The Decentralization of Industry
Paul Martin has put the cart before the horse. In reality Cities in Canada and around the world pre-date the State. The brutal capitalist competition he forecasts between metropols, is the result of the expansion of state captialism world wide, where the hinterlands are being dispossesed of population forcibly emigrated to cities to become proletarians.
This is another aspect of capitalist globalization, the creation of super cities, which began 160 years ago as originally described by Engels in his, The Condition of the Working Class in England. The Metropols are reflections of the State and its Monopoly Capitalist mode of reproduction, they are not the City States of old, which had sovereignty and autonomy. They are the branch plants of the Nation State era of Monopoly Capitalism, transmission belts of power over the citizens, not power of the citizens. This then is the end of the era of colonialism, as national Capitols become Capital, as the City of London and New York once did with their stock exchanges and banking houses (hence the capitalist trade centre in London is known as 'the City' and in NY its 'Wall Street').
Martin is merely revealing the shift in global capitalism from the era of the nation state to the era of the metropolis. As capital has moved Westward through the eras of Imperial colonialism, nation state ( Hobsbawm), and the American Century it now ends up ironically in the Asian Pacific. What was begun 500 years ago with Columbus ends up with Capital now being situated in the newly industrializing nations of the Asian Pacific. Capital will now situate itself as National Capitol with competiton as Martin points out between the old world centres of London, New York, Toronto, against the new world captial(s) Peking, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. What had been the nature of the city in the 19th Century is now writ large across the face of the world. The urban landscape of the working class in London in Engels time is now the urban landscape of Jakarta.
The Great Towns
A town, such as London, where a man may wander for hours together without reaching the beginning of the end, without meeting the slightest hint which could lead to the inference that there is open country within reach, is a strange thing. This colossal centralisation, this heaping together of two and a half millions of human beings at one point, has multiplied the power of this two and a half millions a hundredfold; has raised London to the commercial capital of the world, created the giant docks and assembled the thousand vessels that continually cover the Thames. I know nothing more imposing than the view which the Thames offers during the ascent from the sea to London Bridge. The masses of buildings, the wharves on both sides, especially from Woolwich upwards, the countless ships along both shores, crowding ever closer and closer together, until, at last, only a narrow passage remains in the middle of the river, a passage through which hundreds of steamers shoot by one another; all this is so vast, so impressive, that a man cannot collect himself, but is lost in the marvel of England's greatness before he sets foot upon English soil.
But the sacrifices which all this has cost become apparent later. After roaming the streets of the capital a day or two, making headway with difficulty through the human turmoil and the endless lines of vehicles, after visiting the slums of the metropolis, one realises for the first time that these Londoners have been forced to sacrifice the best qualities of their human nature, to bring to pass all the marvels of civilisation which crowd their city; that a hundred powers which slumbered within them have remained inactive, have been suppressed in order that a few might be developed more fully and multiply through union with those of others. The very turmoil of the streets has something repulsive, something against which human nature rebels. The hundreds of thousands of all classes and ranks crowding past each other, are they not all human beings with the same qualities and powers, and with the same interest in being happy? And have they not, in the end, to seek happiness in the same way, by the same means? And still they crowd by one another as though they had nothing in common, nothing to do with one another, and their only agreement is the tacit one, that each keep to his own side of the pavement, so as not to delay the opposing streams of the crowd, while it occurs to no man to honour another with so much as a glance. The brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation of each in his private interest, becomes the more repellent and offensive, the more these individuals are crowded together, within a limited space. And, however much one may be aware that this isolation of the individual, this narrow self-seeking, is the fundamental principle of our society everywhere, it is nowhere so shamelessly barefaced, so self-conscious as just here in the crowding of the great city. The dissolution of mankind into monads, of which each one has a separate principle, the world of atoms, is here carried out to its utmost extreme.
Hence it comes, too, that the social war, the war of each against all, is here openly declared. Just as in Stirner's recent book, people regard each other only as useful objects; each exploits the other, and the end of it all is that the stronger treads the weaker under foot; and that the powerful few, the capitalists, seize everything for themselves, while to the weak many, the poor, scarcely a bare existence remains.
What is true of London, is true of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, is true of all great towns. Everywhere barbarous indifference, hard egotism on one hand, and nameless misery on the other, everywhere social warfare, every man's house in a state of siege, everywhere reciprocal plundering under the protection of the law, and all so shameless, so openly avowed that one shrinks before the consequences of our social state as they manifest themselves here undisguised, and can only wonder that the whole crazy fabric still hangs together.
Since capital, the direct or indirect control of the means of subsistence and production, is the weapon with which this social warfare is carried on, it is clear that all the disadvantages of such a state must fall upon the poor. For him no man has the slightest concern. Cast into the whirlpool, he must struggle through as well as he can. If he is so happy as to find work, i.e., if the bourgeoisie does him the favour to enrich itself by means of him, wages await him which scarcely suffice to keep body and soul together; if he can get no work he may steal, if he is not afraid of the police, or starve, in which case the police will take care that he does so in a quiet and inoffensive manner. During my residence in England, at least twenty or thirty persons have died of simple starvation under the most revolting circumstances, and a jury has rarely been found possessed of the courage to speak the plain truth in the matter. Let the testimony of the witnesses be never so clear and unequivocal, the bourgeoisie, from which the jury is selected, always finds some backdoor through which to escape the frightful verdict, death from starvation. The bourgeoisie dare not speak the truth in these cases, for it would speak its own condemnation. But indirectly, far more than directly, many have died of starvation, where long-continued want of proper nourishment has called forth fatal illness, when it has produced such debility that causes which might otherwise have remained inoperative brought on severe illness and death. The English working-men call this "social murder", and accuse our whole society of perpetrating this crime perpetually. Are they wrong?
True, it is only individuals who starve, but what security has the working-man that it may not be his turn tomorrow? Who assures him employment, who vouches for it that, if for any reason or no reason his lord and master discharges him tomorrow, he can struggle along with those dependent upon him, until he may find some one else "to give him bread"? Who guarantees that willingness to work shall suffice to obtain work, that uprightness, industry, thrift, and the rest of the virtues recommended by the bourgeoisie, are really his road to happiness? No one. He knows that he has something today and that it does not depend upon himself whether he shall have something tomorrow. He knows that every breeze that blows, every whim of his employer, every bad turn of trade may hurl him back into the fierce whirlpool from which he has temporarily saved himself, and in which it is hard and often impossible to keep his head above water. He knows that, though he may have the means of living today, it is very uncertain whether he shall tomorrow.
Meanwhile, let us proceed to a more detailed investigation of the position in which the social war has placed the non-possessing class. Let us see what pay for his work society does give the working-man in the form of dwelling, clothing, food, what sort of subsistence it grants those who contribute most to the maintenance of society; and, first, let us consider the dwellings.
Every great city has one or more slums, where the working-class is crowded together. True, poverty often dwells in hidden alleys close to the palaces of the rich; but, in general, a separate territory has been assigned to it, where, removed from the sight of the happier classes, it may struggle along as it can. These slums are pretty equally arranged in all the great towns of England, the worst houses in the worst quarters of the towns; usually one- or two-storied cottages in long rows, perhaps with cellars used as dwellings, almost always irregularly built. These houses of three or four rooms and a kitchens form, throughout England, some parts of London excepted, the general dwellings of the working-class. The streets are generally unpaved, rough, dirty, filled with vegetable and animal refuse, without sewers or gutters, but supplied with foul, stagnant pools instead. Moreover, ventilation is impeded by the bad, confused method of building of the whole quarter, and since many human beings here live crowded into a small space, the atmosphere that prevails in these working-men's quarters may readily be imagined. Further, the streets serve as drying grounds in fine weather; lines are stretched across from house to house, and hung with wet clothing.
PLANET OF SLUMS
Future history of the Third World’s post-industrial megacities. A billion-strong global proletariat ejected from the formal economy, with Islam and Pentecostalism as songs of the dispossessed.Sometime in the next year, a woman will give birth in the Lagos slum of Ajegunle, a young man will flee his village in west Java for the bright lights of Jakarta, or a farmer will move his impoverished family into one of Lima’s innumerable pueblos jovenes. The exact event is unimportant and it will pass entirely unnoticed. Nonetheless it will constitute a watershed in human history. For the first time the urban population of the earth will outnumber the rural. Indeed, given the imprecisions of Third World censuses, this epochal transition may already have occurred.
The earth has urbanized even faster than originally predicted by the Club of Rome in its notoriously Malthusian 1972 report, Limits of Growth. In 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population over one million; today there are 400, and by 2015, there will be at least 550. Cities, indeed, have absorbed nearly two-thirds of the global population explosion since 1950 and are currently growing by a million babies and migrants each week. The present urban population (3.2 billion) is larger than the total population of the world in 1960. The global countryside, meanwhile, has reached its maximum population (3.2 billion) and will begin to shrink after 2020. As a result, cities will account for all future world population growth, which is expected to peak at about 10 billion in 2050.
Does the Road to the Future End at Dubai?
By Mike Davis
Welcome to paradise. But where are you? Is this a new science-fiction novel from Margaret Atwood, the sequel to Blade Runner, or Donald Trump tripping on acid?
No, it is the Persian Gulf city-state of Dubai in 2010.
After Shanghai (current population: 15 million), Dubai (current population: 1.5 million) is the world's biggest building site: an emerging dreamworld of conspicuous consumption and what locals dub "supreme lifestyles."
Dozens of outlandish mega-projects -- including "The World" (an artificial archipelago), Burj Dubai (the Earth's tallest building), the Hydropolis (that underwater luxury hotel, the Restless Planet theme park, a domed ski resort perpetually maintained in 40C heat, and The Mall of Arabia, a hyper-mall -- are actually under construction or will soon leave the drawing boards.
Under the enlightened despotism of its Crown Prince and CEO, 56-year-old Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Rhode-Island-sized Emirate of Dubai has become the new global icon of imagineered urbanism. Although often compared to Las Vegas, Orlando, Hong Kong or Singapore, the sheikhdom is more like their collective summation: a pastiche of the big, the bad, and the ugly. It is not just a hybrid but a chimera: the offspring of the lascivious coupling of the cyclopean fantasies of Barnum, Eiffel, Disney, Spielberg, Jerde, Wynn, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Cities should be given wider tax powers, more autonomy:Canada West report
EDMONTON (CP) - With Western Canada's resource-rich economy firing on all cylinders, a report released Thursday suggests large cities should be given wider powers to tax residents and a louder voice at the table on provincial issues.
The Alberta-based Canada West Foundation suggests the West's six largest cities - Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg - have become engines of economic growth and should therefore be given more autonomy and wider taxing powers to help fix crumbling infrastructure and provide a better standard of living to residents.
The foundation says property taxes are no longer enough to fund pot-hole filled roads and creaky old sewer systems, noting that, in 2003, all six cities were forced to postpone $500 million in infrastructure improvements due to a lack of cash.
"Evidence is mounting that our big cities are slowly starving for want of adequate revenues," the report states.
"To compete internationally, Canada needs a high quality of life in its biggest cities to both attract and retain those who work in . . . industries that can locate virtually anywhere in the world to do almost anything," it says.
Calgary Mayor David Bronconnier and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel agreed it is unfair that other levels of government are rolling in multibillion-dollar surpluses, yet municipalities have to raise taxes to fix roads and pay for transit.
"You have two other orders of government that are sitting there with major, multibillion-dollar surpluses, (and) you have two local governments that are starved for cash," said Bronconnier of the situation in Alberta's two largest cities.
Bronconnier has called on the province to cap the education portion of property taxes. Mandel said that would inject another $260 million into his city's coffers and $470 million into Calgary's.
But Bronconnier said he doesn't think that Calgary can wait for Premier Ralph to retire to have its problems fixed.
Klein has been critical of the cities' repeated calls for more cash.
"We're not here to take advantage of the province and say to them, 'look, we want all your money,' " said Mandel. "We're willing to take responsibility for it, but we have to have the opportunity to fix the problems. We have affordable housing problems in Edmonton, we have homeless problems in Edmonton. We understand them. We can fix them much quicker. We can get to the root of it much faster."
The foundation also urged provincial governments to consult more with large urban centres when drafting provincial policy and calls for a new fiscal framework that would give cities more power to deal with local concerns.
The report details that while many provincial governments in Western Canada have taken steps to improve revenue sharing, only Manitoba municipalities are allowed to impose their own taxes on lodging, restaurant meals, liquor and a land transfer tax.
Cities in Sweden and Germany are allowed to levy local income or corporate taxes, while U.S. cities tend to rely more heavily on sales taxes to generate revenues, the report points out.
"A new fiscal framework would help big cities build greater self-reliance, increase electoral accountability and allow more community control," it says.
The think tank's latest report argues the federal government, "realizing that national political borders are becoming less and less relevant," is already "courting" large urban centres with federal dollars and the provinces should do the same.
It warns provinces could be seen as out of touch if they don't build new partnerships with urban centres, adding provincial governments should lead or "get out of the way" on the issue.
© The Canadian Press, 2005
The State in Canada, both Federal and Provincial are tyrannys of power over cities that they have emasculated since the founding of the great Con of Federation in 1867. To now bequeath some small tax break or funding grant back to the cities is to maintain the economic and political servitude of the cities.
Cities were constituted in Canada before the Federal state was. Based on the British law of municipal independence, a hold over from the ancient Guild days, the incorporation of the city pre dates the State.
It is changed by the English state under Elizabeth as she reigns over the independent Aldermen and Mayors elected by the Guilds, and imposes taxation and wage laws as well as reducing the municipal autonomy as zones of free trade.
Kropotkin The State It's Historic Role
With these elements - liberty, organization from the simple to the complex, production and exchange by the Trades (guilds), foreign trade handled by the whole city and not by individuals, and the purchase of provisions by the city for resale to the citizens at cost price - with such elements, the towns of the Middle Ages for the first two centuries of their free existences became centers of well-being for all the inhabitants, centers of wealth and culture, such as we have not seen since. One has but to consult the documents which made it possible to compare the rates at which work was remunerated and the cost of provisions - Rogers has done this for England and a great number of German writers for Germany - to learn that the labour of an artisan and even of a simple day-laborer was paid at a rate not attained in our time, not even by the elite among workers. The account books of colleges of the University of Oxford (which cover seven centuries beginning at the twelfth) and of some English landed estates, as well as those of a large number of German and Swiss towns, are there to bear witness. In those cities, sheltered by their conquered liberties, inspired by the spirit of free agreement and of free initiative, a whole new civilization grew up and flourished in a way unparalleled to this day. All modern industry comes to us from these cities.
In three centuries, industries and the arts attained such perfection that our century has only been able to surpass them in speed of production, but rarely in quality, and very rarely in the intrinsic beauty of the product. All the arts we seek in vain to revive now - the beauty of a Raphael, the strength and boldness of a Michelangelo, the art and science of a Leonardo da Vinci, the poetry and language of a Dante, and not least, the architecture to which we owe the cathedrals of Laon, Rheims, Cologne, Pisa, Florence - as Victor Hugo so well put it “le peuple en fut le maçon” (they were built by the people) - the treasures of sheer beauty of Florence and Venice, the town halls of Bremen and Prague, the towers of Nuremberg and Pisa, and so on ad infinitum, all was the product of that age.
The role of the nascent State in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in relation to the urban centers was to destroy the independence of the cities; to pillage the rich guilds of merchants and artisans; to concentrate in its hands the external commerce of the cities and ruin it; to lay hands on the internal administration of the guilds and subject internal commerce as well as all manufactures, in every detail to the control of a host of officials - and in this way to kill industry and the arts; by taking over the local militias and the whole municipal administration, crushing the weak in the interest of the strong by taxation, and ruining the countries by wars.
In Canada the municipal corporation, the City, pre-dates provincial governments and even the Federal State. However their corporate power (sovereignty) is reduced after confederation. The Candian State imposes provincial governments on city corporations, without any recognition of their role in Confederation. Confederation is a con imposed on the corporate city's without their input.
Thus the Federalist system in Canada is a parlimentary system from England imposed on us, and in no way is a true confederation of peoples. What had been a form of independent self government, cities in Canada are now merely a 'third level of government' the beggar at the bottom of the tax hierarchy of the Canadian Federal/Provincial State.
The Anarchist Sociology of Federalism
In the great tide of nationalism in the nineteenth century, there was a handful of prophetic and dissenting voices, urging a different style of federalism. It is interesting, at the least, that the ones whose names survive were the three best known anarchist thinkers of that century: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Michael Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin. Proudhon, who devoted two of his voluminous works to the idea of federation in opposition to that of the nation state. They were La Federation et l'Unite en Italie of 1862, and in the following year, his book Du Principe Federatif. And beyond this, he profoundly mistrusted the liberal anti-clericalism of Mazzini, not through any love of the Papacy but because he recognised that Mazzini's slogan, 'Dio e popolo', could be exploited by any demagogue who could seize the machinery of a centralised state. He claimed that the existence of this administrative machinery was an absolute threat to personal and local liberty. Proudhon was almost alone among nineteenth century political theorists to perceive this:
"Liberal today under a liberal govermnent, it will tomorrow become the formidable engine of a usurping despoL It is a perpetual temptation to the executive power, a perpetual threat to the people's liberties. No rights, individual or collective, can be sure of a future. Centralisation might, then, be called the disarming of a nation for the profit of its governrnent ..."
Everything we now know about the twentieth century history of Europe, Asia, Latin America or Africa supports this perception. Nor does the North American style of federalism, so lovingly conceived by Thomas Jefferson, guarantee the removal of this threat. One of Proudhon's English biographers, Edward Hyams, comments that: "It has become apparent since the Second World War that United States Presidents can and do make use of the Federal administrative machine in a way which makes a mockery of democracy". And his Canadian translator paraphrases Proudhon's conclusion thus:
"Solicit men's view in the mass, and they will return stupid, fickle and violent answers; solicit their views as members of definite groups with real solidarity and a distinctive character, and their answers will be responsible and wise. Expose them to the political 'language' of mass democracy, which represents 'the people' as unitary and undivided and minorities as traitors, and they will give birth to tyranny; expose them to the political language of federalism, in which the people figures as a diversified aggregate of real associations, and they will resist tyranny to the end."
An excellent work on the City as autonomous corporate political entity and its devloution into municipal corporatist arm of the Federal/Provincial State in Canada is Cities Without Citizens. The Modernity of the City as a Corporation, Engin F. Isin.
An example of this is Edmonton. Edmonton as a corporate entity existed prior to even the creation of the North West Territories, by the CPR and the Mercantilist State in Ottawa. Edmonton was a corporate entity created as a fur trading post for both the Crown Monopoly Hudson Bay Company and the free trade share capitalist Northwest Company. (See Appendix on Edmonton, all references below are to data in the appendix )
Edmonton predates the historical State in Canada. Founded by the Crown monopoly HBC it becomes a free market Fort. Pitched canon battles occured across the North Saskatchewan river between the rival fur trading companies, with the NW Company unable to defeat the mercantilist HBC.
Instead they come to a common agreement to share Fort Edmonton and its economic base, with the free market capitalist NW Company becoming the dominant company .
As the history of the Indian territories shows the expansion westward created a new culture in Western Canada, the Metis, as the fur traders brought with them other non-indigenous native trappers, and married into local and regional native families. It is this culture of independence, autonomy, and adaptation that would prevail through out the West, and clash with the Imperial Mercantilist culture of Toronto and Ottawa. It is in this new culture that the origins of the Metis rebellion of Gabriel Dumont and Louis Riel would lay. The Fur Trade in Western Canada created a unique culture of integration of Western Europeans with Indians, a culture that was NOT white.
Like the later CPR the Hudsons Bay Co. would be the very model (as Gilbert and Sullivan would say) of a Crown Mercantile Monopoly. The NW Company as a share capitalist enerprize would be forced to merge with HBC due to the State refusing to recognize their land claims, in favour of its own Monopoly of course.
This is the history of Edmonton, Alberta and the Western Expansion of the British Colonial State and its monopoly corporation the HBC. It is the model that would influence future of the Canadian Mercantilist State and its Crown Corporations, especially the railways.
While the HBC had a monopoly on lands in the Edmonton area they sold it to the Federal Government who in turn sold these lands to the CPR. The government offered the land to immigrants in order to facilitate the expansion of the railroad westward. This was essential to the development of the West as a source of 'hewers of wood and drawers of water' for the Mercantilist Canadian state. The CPR would continue to dominate the West with its monopoly on land granted by the Canadian State. It would be the railroad, not the Candian State, that opened the west to further Central and Eastern European immigrants at the turn of last century.
A free market share capital Capitalist political economy was stillborn in Canada. Instead Canada was the model of State Monopoly Capitalism from its birth.
On the Concept of State-Monopoly Capitalism
In the first instance the term monopoly capitalism is no more than a correct description of existing society. Capitalism is pleaded by monopolies and in large part determined by them. The state, whose function is to protect the social structure, is thus tile state of monopoly capital. This is by no means a new phenomenon in capitalist society: it has always been a feature of capitalism, if not as pronounced in the past. According to Marx, who has given us the best analysis of capitalism, capitalist competition presumes monopoly, i.e., capitalist monopoly over the forces of production. The antagonistic class relations that result from this require control of the state, which at the same time represents the national interests of capital at the level of international competition.
A capitalism of pure competition exists only in the imagination and in the models of bourgeois economics. But even bourgeois economists speak of natural monopolies and monopolistic prices. Although, granted, monopolies are not subject to the laws of the market, they are still held to be unable to shake these laws to any notable extent. Only in recent times, with whole branches of industry monopolized, has bourgeois economics been forced to deal with imperfect or monopolistic competition in its theories and to go into the changes monopoly has wrought in the market. What for bourgeois economics marked a theoretical turn had in Marx’s analysis of capital always been seen as an inherent tendency in capitalist accumulation. Capitalist competition leads to capital concentration and centralization. Monopoly was born of competition, and out of it grew monopolistic competition. Marxist theory has also always ascribed a more important role to the state than the bourgeois world was willing to acknowledge, not only as an instrument of repression but also as the organized powered mainstay of capitalist expansion.If a form of monopoly capitalism was always present within the Canadian State as Mattick points out, then the modern form of State Monopoly Capitalism of the 2oth Century was already embryonic in the Canadian Federal Mercantilist State since the advent of the HBC and the later CPR.
In preverse tribute to Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent we can say that the 20th Century was Canada's Century, in that the rest of the post depression world adopted the poltical economic model that Canada had practices since confederation.
A Neo-Conservative State is Still the State
In Alberta school boards as an arm of the municipal corporation existed prior to the founding of the Province a hundred years ago. During the 1995 Ralph Revolution in Alberta, the state under a neo-liberal right wing government consolidated it's control over these independent democratically elected bodies by taking away their independent ability to tax. An ability that was theirs since their founding by the citizens of Edmonton and Strathcona in 1881.
The changes in education that were introduced by the State in Alberta, a neo con state were all based on the latest attempts to marketize public education, vouchers, school based management, increased funding to private schools, charter schools. Along with these mandated changes, funding control was stripped from the school boards and placed in the hands of the State. The state also eliminated school boards in a centralizing attempt at consolidation.
This was challenged in the courts by the Public School Board Association of Alberta. The court in Alberta upheld the Provinces right to overturn the rights of school boards. The PSBAA and other school boards appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada claiming that this was one of the most 'It will come to be known as one of the three or four most important constitutional cases since 1867'. The court ruled in 2000 against them in favour of the State. No surprize there, as the court is the judicial arm of the State. It is worth quoting their decision and reasons for it at length:
The School Amendment Act, 1994 and the Government Organization Act, together with the Framework for Funding School Boards in the 1995-96 School Year, introduced a new school funding scheme. The Alberta Government chose to pool all revenues in a central fund and to distribute funding to school boards in a provincially stipulated per-student amount multiplied by the number of students enrolled within each board's jurisdiction. With one exception, public school boards may no longer retain money raised through direct taxation. As a result of their constitutional status, separate school boards could and did opt out of the fund and continue to requisition taxes directly from ratepayers. Separate school boards, however, may not retain an amount less than or greater than the allotment they would have received from the fund. In the event of a deficiency, an opted-out board receives a payment from the fund and, in the event of a surplus, opted-out boards must remit to the fund any amount in excess of the allotment they would have received had they participated in the fund. All boards also receive provincial grants determined by the Framework based upon three blocks: instruction, support and capital. Each school receives the same allotment per student for basic instruction. Additional funding is provided to equalize the effect of school-specific factors. Several school board associations and others challenged the constitutionality of the scheme arguing that school boards had a constitutional right to reasonable autonomy, that the new scheme discriminated against public school boards, and that it violated a constitutional principle of mirror equality that guarantees equivalent rights to public and separate school boards. The trial judge rejected the reasonable autonomy and discrimination arguments but accepted the mirror equality argument, finding the scheme invalid to the extent that it does not allow public school boards to opt out of the funding scheme. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge's decision on the reasonable autonomy and discrimination issues but held that s. 17(1) did not import a principle of mirror equality and found the new scheme constitutional.
Held: The appeal should be dismissed. The new school funding scheme is constitutional.
School boards do not enjoy reasonable autonomy from provincial control. School boards are a form of municipal institution and are delegates of provincial jurisdiction under s. 92(8) of the Constitution Act, 1867. Municipal institutions do not have an independent constitutional status. School boards are subject to legislative reform even though they are unique vehicles through which denominational rights are realized. Under s. 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, the provinces have a plenary jurisdiction over education. A claim to an institutional sphere of reasonable autonomy is inconsistent with, and would impair, this plenary power. Section 17 of the Alberta Act does not alter this position. Alberta may alter educational institutions within its borders, subject only to those rights afforded through the combined effect of s. 93 and s. 17. Moreover, no constitutional convention demonstrates reasonable autonomy. The historical evidence indicates that significant centralized control existed when Alberta joined Confederation and the grant to the provinces of plenary jurisdiction over education suggests that the framers of the Constitution did not feel bound by convention to restrict the provinces to historic structures or models. Legislative reform since Alberta joined Confederation denies the existence of a belief in binding models of education. The new scheme therefore does not violate a constitutional principle or convention of reasonable autonomy.