Sample Essay on Comparative Federalism

Comparative Federalism

Federalism is the system of government that divides power into small units and allows states to govern and regulate themselves by dealing with their own issues internally. This system allows the states to regulate their own issues and is achieved by delegating power to smaller government entities thus allowing the needs of specific groups and local representation to be more accessible to the people. This paper compares federalism in the US and Canada by looking at the similarities and differences, obstacles that exist in implanting federalist reforms, what other nation can learn from the US on federalism and the public sentiment on each country on current state of affairs.

Canada is one of the countries in the world that has embraced the federalism just like the USA. “The Canadian federal system is distinctive in that the national government maintains tax collection agreements with most of the provinces” (Blake 43).  The government of Canada is committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide basic necessities to the people (McLean and Alistair 3). The country is currently in an era of what is referred to as collaborative federalism” which implies that the federal and provincial levels of government work together more closely to enact and make policy changes. The government of Canada is committed to the principle of making equalization payments to ensure that provincial governments have sufficient revenues to provide basic necessities to citizens (LeRoy and Burton 12).

Great similarities exist between the Canadian federal systems of government with that of USA. First, in both type of government power and resources have been devolved to lower levels of states in the US and provinces in Canada. The federal system in both countries have allowed the lower units to regulate their own issues to a certain extend. The provinces that are the lower units of government are given direct powers to carry out their issues internally, for instance, levying taxes. The federal system of the US also gives powers to the different states to handle their own issues. In both US and the Canadian federal system, the constitution of the two countries allow the lower units of government some power to handle their own issues while staying connected to each other through the central government. In both system of government a certain percentage of the national budget is set aside for the lower units to be used in development projects.

There are many differences between the US and Canada, for instance, Canada represents a very distinct federal configuration that divides small units into provinces unlike the US which divides them into states. The Canadian constitution stipulates that the federal government has unlimited taxing powers while provinces are limited to levying direct taxes unlike that one of the US as it relates to different states.  The constitution of Canada gives more powers to the central government unlike that US system where the central government is given far less powers as it relates to certain aspects. The lower levels of government in US are referred to as states whereas those in Canada are called provinces. The states in the US are sovereign and the constitution of the county limits the powers of the national government whereas in Canada it limits the powers of the provinces. The provinces of Canada are not sovereign and they are both given much power as the states of the USN are allowed much power. The residual power in the Canada federal system lies with the central government whereas in the US the government has no such powers.

The US can draw many lessons from the Canadian federal type of government. The US can emulate the equalization payments which allow payments to be made to “less prosperous provinces to ensure their public services are comparable with those in more prosperous provinces unlike in the US where the practice is not so common. The equalization payments do not take into account the expenditure requirements and are about horizontal fiscal redistribution; as such, they structure the dynamics of the relationships between federal and constituent unit governments, as well as between constituent unit governments themselves (Béland and Lecours, 338).  The US can also emulate the Canadian external territories which have a separate program which recognizes both their revenue raising capacities and expenditure needs.  Many obstacles exist so that to effectively implement the reforms, first the US constitution gives the power to the people and if such reforms are to be implemented then a referendum should be carried out which requires resources. The resources that are needed to implement such reforms is one of the obstacles because it will have a negative effect on the budgeting process and affect other sectors of the country.

Canada can learn a lot from the federal system of government of the US, first the sovereignty of the US states is one of the aspects that Canada can emulate. The provinces in Canada are not autonomous and sovereign and thus they do not have certain powers as those enjoyed by the states of the US. The Canadian government can borrow the aspect of state sovereignty from the US and make their states more powerful so that the power is close to the people. The success of the US in limiting the power of the central government and giving states more power is an aspect that can be emulated by Canada so as to ensure that power is brought close to the people. There are many obstacles that exist so that to implement the reforms, first the constitution of the country must be changed so as to allow the reforms. The resources that are needed in the implementation of such reforms can affect other sectors of the economy of the country.

The public sentiments in the two countries as it relates to the system are different, for example, citizens of the USA feel that the sovereignty of the states is the best because it brings powers closer to the people. They feel contended with the current system of government because they feel the authority and resources are brought close to the people. Most Canadians feel that the provinces should be given more powers so that they can effectively perform their duties. They feel that the central government has more powers which have had a negative effect on the development of the country.

The US federal system of government is the best based on the public opinion of people from the two countries. It is clear that the Canadian government has not embraced full federalism due to the limitations that are placed on the lower units of government unlike the US government. Canada should draw lessons from the US and embrace aspects from their system of government because it will help provide an obstacle for absolutism and provides firewalls against the rapid spread of extremism and radical political mutatio


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Béland, Daniel, and André Lecours. “Accommodation and the Politics of Fiscal Equalization in Multinational States: The Case of Canada.” Nations & Nationalism 20.2 (2014): 337-354. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 July 2016.

LeRoy, Sylvia, and Burton Kellock. “Questioning the Legality of Equalization.” Fraser Forum (2007): 13-15. Business Source Complete. Web. 13 July 2016.

Blake, Raymond. “Politics And The Federal Principle In Canada: Newfoundland Offshore Oil Development And The Quest For Political Stability And Economic Justice.” Canadian Historical Review 96.1 (2015): 32-60. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 July 2016.