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This article examines the ideational dimension of federalism and its consequences for the analysis of policy development. With this objective in mind, the article offers an explanation for Canada's rejection of the two main aspects of the ‘Australian model’ of equalisation:
the assessment of expenditure needs and the existence of an arms-length commission to determine payments. As argued, the ideological prevalence of provincial autonomy in Canada explains why federal officials opted to reject the ‘Australian model’ as they prepared to establish the
country's program and why subsequent reforms never introduced a needs-assessment dimension or created an arms-length agency to administer equalisation. At the theoretical level, this article shows how ideational factors can shape policy outcomes.