Single-Subject Constitutional Amendments

15 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2017 Last revised: 3 Jan 2018

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; Yale University - Law School; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law; Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo; Airlangga University

Date Written: October 16, 2017


What makes a constitution difficult to amend? The answer varies across jurisdictions. In the United States, for example, the threshold problem is getting two-thirds of Congress to initiate an amendment—a virtual impossibility in our present day given that Congress has a hard enough time agreeing by a simple majority to pass a simple law. In Australia and Switzerland, it is largely the combination of subnational approval and referendal ratification that complicates matters. In Canada—the subject of this paper—constitutional amendment difficulty derives from similar challenges associated with initiation and ratification but perhaps even more from the use of omnibus amendment bills that combine the good with the bad and give political actors as much a reason to vote in favour as to vote against. In this paper prepared for a symposium on “Rewriting the Canadian Constitution,” I suggest that amending the Constitution of Canada could become easier under a new single-subject rule that prohibits omnibus amendment bills but permits multiple single-amendment bills only if voted on separately and differentiated by subject-matter. Imposing a single-subject rule for constitutional amendments in Canada is likely to make the Constitution much more flexible in some important ways but perhaps much more rigid in others.

Keywords: Constitutional Amendment, Canadian Constitution, United States Constitution, Single-Subject Rule, One-Subject Rule, Amendment Difficulty, Formal Amendment, Constitutional Rigidity, Meech Lake Accord, Charlottetown Accord, Constitutional Referendum

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, Single-Subject Constitutional Amendments (October 16, 2017). Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 466, Available at SSRN: or

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

727 East Dean Keeton Street
Austin, TX 78705
United States
512.213.1113 (Phone)


Yale University - Law School

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States


University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5


University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5

HOME PAGE: http://

Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

Calle 12 # 1-17 este
Calle 12 0 83
Bogota D.C, Cundinamarca 3456

HOME PAGE: http://

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150

HOME PAGE: http://

Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo ( email )

Facultad de Derecho
Av. Samborondón 5
Samborondón, 092301

HOME PAGE: http://

Airlangga University

Dharmawangsa Dalam Selatan
Surabaya, East Java 60286

HOME PAGE: http://

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics