Comparing Federal Systems in the 1990s


126 pages
ISBN 0-88911-763-2
DDC 321.02




Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science at Sir
Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University of Newfoundland.


Discussions of the problems of Canada’s federal system often ignore
the experiences of other federal systems. In this concise, fair-minded,
and clearly written book, Ronald Watts does compare Canada’s federal
system to a variety of others. A wide range of topics are covered,
including the distribution of powers and finances, intergovernmental
relations, regional representation within the national government, and
the Constitution. Of particular interest are Watts’s discussions of
whether Canada is the most decentralized federal system in the world,
and of why some federal systems break down.

Although his focus is on comparison rather than prescription, Watts
concludes his book by stressing the importance of public acceptance of
the basic values and processes of federalism, such as “the explicit
recognition and accommodation of multiple identities and loyalties
within an overarching sense of shared purposes and objectives.”

Comparing Federal Systems in the 1990s is highly recommended for
students of Canadian and comparative politics and for readers who would
like to broaden their understanding of Canada’s constitutional


Watts, Ronald., “Comparing Federal Systems in the 1990s,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024,