In Saskatchewan, a province-led effort leads to a change in Canada’s Constitution

May 18, 2022

On most matters, a fairly high bar is set to change Canada’s Constitution: approval by the House of Commons and the Senate, followed by votes in favor of the amendment by at least two-thirds of the provincial legislatures. Combined, these legislatures must represent at least 50 percent of the country’s population. But there is a simpler path for constitutional provisions that apply only to a single province.

One such provision dated back more than a century, when language was included in The Saskatchewan Act of 1905 (part of the federal Constitution) limiting the province’s power to tax the Canadian Pacific Railway, in recognition of the investment that the company had made in building the trans-Canadian rail line. The Saskatchewan Act had never been changed, until May of this year.

In late 2021, the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan unanimously adopted a resolution requesting a repeal of the tax-exemption language. Canada’s House of Commons and Senate approved the province-led amendment earlier this year, followed in May by royal assent from the Governor General. Saskatchewan Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant says the province-led constitutional change “will ensure that all Saskatchewan taxpayers, both citizens and businesses alike, continue to be fairly treated.”