Research Paper Number


Document Type


Publication Date



Labour Law; Collective Bargaining; Wagner Act Model; Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Canadian law; Employment law


The Wagner Act Model has formed the basis of Canada’s collective bargaining regime since World War II but has come under intense scrutiny in recent years because of legislative weakening of collective bargaining rights, constitutional litigation defending collective bargaining rights and declining union density. This article examines and assesses these developments, arguing that legislatively we have not witnessed a wholesale attack on Wagnerism, but rather a selective weakening of some of its elements. In the courts, it briefly appeared as if the judiciary might constitutionalize meaningful labour rights and impede the erosion of Wagnerism, but recent judicial case law suggests the prospects for this outcome are fading. While the political defence of Wagnerism may be necessary when the alternatives to it are likely worse, holding on to what we’ve got will not reverse the long-term decline in union density. The article concludes that at present there are no legal solutions to the labour movement’s problems and that innovative efforts to represent workers’ collective interests outside of formal collective bargaining provide a more promising alternative.