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Continuities and Discontinuities

Continuities and Discontinuities: The Political Economy of Social Welfare and Labour Market Policy in Canada

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Continuities and Discontinuities
    Book Description:

    Globalization and neoconservatism continue to shape change and require constant evaluation. These thought-provoking and informative essays are an important contribution to the ongoing debate on social welfare and labour market policy in Canada.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2311-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    For over thirty years following the Second World War, Canadian public policy was made largely in the context of economic growth and prosperity marred only by periodic and relatively brief fluctuations. Discourse on public policy was dominated by Keynesian economic theory, which promoted an activist, interventionist role for government in the domestic economy and which supported construction of a far more comprehensive and generous welfare state than previously had been countenanced. A variety of labels have been applied to this era – the post-war settlement, the post-war consensus, the Keynesian welfare state era, and so on. All the labels carry the...

  5. Part I Political Economy in Transition:: Implications for the Canadian Welfare State

    • 1 Neo-conservatism and Beyond
      (pp. 25-35)

      It is no secret that during the 198os what is commonly called the new right captured the political and economic agenda in Western countries, especially in the English-speaking world. The coming to power of Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States symbolized this sea change in policy; so, in slightly more muted fashion, did the victory of Brian Mulroney in Canada in 1984 and neo-conservative ventures in provinces from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

      As important as the electoral victories scored by parties of the right and the particular policies that they introduced was the success of...

    • 2 Changing Gears: Democratizing the Welfare State
      (pp. 36-43)

      In the mid-1980s, Michael Mendelson – at the time deputy minister of community services for the NDP government in Manitoba, and today assistant secretary to the cabinet of the NDP government in Ontario – delivered an address with the disturbingly provocative title ‘Is Social Policy Dead’? Drawing an analogy with those who had asked in the 1960s whether God were dead, Mendelson contended that it was necessary in the 1980$ to ask whether social policy could any longer help us decide what kind of society we wanted to live in and motivate us to action.

      Presenting the ideological debate over social policy...

    • 3 Need and Welfare: ‘Thin’ and ‘Thick’ Approaches
      (pp. 44-61)

      This is a time in the short history of the welfare state when discontinuities loom much larger than continuities. Perhaps the most obvious discontinuity is that the Keynesian welfare state – that is, a set of political arrangements that were the subject of an overwhelming consensus – has ceased to exist. Full employment had seemed a policy objective with which all could agree. Now many economists and political figures argue that full employment itself cannot or should not be a policy goal, since it would lead to inefficiencies and fuel inflation. But beyond this controversy, and more devastating, many people rejected Beveridge-style...

    • 4 Challenges for a New Political Economy
      (pp. 62-75)

      What should we be asking of a new political economy? The theoretical perspective that we adopt should be capable of clarifying issues intellectually but also of making understandable the reality in which we live and, further, helping us know how to act. Indeed, as Mahon argues, one of the great virtues of political economy as a perspective has always been the intimate relationship between the theoretical questions posed and the political reality the society.¹ This link continues to be vital – theorization needs to be intimately related to political reality. Therefore the renewal of theory comes about through theoretical reflection but...

    • 5 Social Welfare and the New Right: A Class Mobilization Perspective
      (pp. 76-94)

      Much has been written in the past decade about the crisis of the welfare state. There is by now consensus in the literature that the welfare retrenchment policies of most Western nations including Canada represent an attempt to deal with the stagflation and rising budget deficits brought on by the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Using Canada as a case study, this chapter posits that retrenchment has moved beyond mere concern for reducing the deficit. These policies are now part of a larger, class-based agenda to establish a new dual social order – a dynamic, well-off sector has full-time jobs, good...

  6. Part II Canadian Social Welfare Policy

    • 6 Decentralized Social Services: A Critique of Models of Service Delivery
      (pp. 97-109)

      Over the past decade, a new ideological consensus has emerged about many of the problems of highly centralized and professionalized institutions of the welfare state, particularly as instruments for the delivery of personal social services such as those for children and families. These services have been criticized by some as ineffective and inefficient because they are unresponsive to local needs, inaccessible and hence alienating to users, highly professionalized and overly specialized, and subject to control by senior politicians and managers rather than by local communities and clients and hence undemocratic. It is now widely accepted that centrally organized generic services...

    • 7 Holistic Social and Health Services in Indian Communities
      (pp. 110-125)

      Expansion and development of the Canadian social welfare system since the 1930s have seen practical accommodation between the federal and provincial governments over division of powers, financial arrangements, and delivery mechanisms.¹ The resulting systems – social services, income security, and health care – which were intended primarily to address individual needs, were designed within a federal/provincial political and bureaucratic framework. A notable failure of these arrangements has been marginalization of Indians and Indian communities, resulting in fragmented programs, jurisdictional confusion, and unnecessarily complex funding arrangements. Canadian social welfare policy has never included an effective role for communities, much less Indian communities. The...

    • 8 Neo-conservatism and Social Policy Responses to the AIDS Crisis
      (pp. 126-147)

      Acquired immune-deficiency syndrome – AIDS – has now been recognized as the most serious health epidemic of the latter part of this century. While the first reported cases in 1981 seemed to indicate that gay men in large American urban centres were the only group at risk, this characterization had been abandoned by 1990, when AIDS had been elevated to the status of world pandemic.

      In advanced capitalist societies such as Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, this pandemic coincided with the crisis of the Keynesian welfare state, the rise of the new right, and the election of neo-conservative governments....

    • 9 Poverty: Myths, Misconceptions, and Half-truths
      (pp. 148-173)

      One of the most depressing continuities – and implicit condemnations – of Canadian social policy is the persistence of widespread poverty and equally pervasive misunderstandings about it. Poverty is a stubborn, serious, and deeply rooted problem. Poverty persists because it is tightly woven into Canada’s social and economic fabric yet remains a thin and weak thread of governments’ political agenda.

      One better way of attacking poverty – and I emphasize the word one – is through research and analysis. We have made some noteworthy progress in recent years in charting and explaining the phenomenon, but much remains to be known, particularly regarding the dynamics...

    • 10 Rhetoric and Reality: Health Care Cutbacks in Three Provinces
      (pp. 174-190)

      During the 1980s, several provincial governments in Canada used neo-conservative rhetoric to support dramatic cutbacks to public services. These earlier examples of restraint are more significant today because more recent cutbacks by Brian Mulroney’s neo-conservative federal government have squeezed all the provinces. As Ottawa attempts to reduce its own debt by limiting transfers to the provinces, all the latter, regardless of ideology, face limits to their own spending. In particular, Clyde Wells’s Liberal government faced a fiscal crisis in Newfoundland in 1991, as Mulroney reduced equalization payments and transfers under the Established Programs Financing Act, a crisis that continues with...

    • 11 Social Assistance and ‘Employability’ for Single Mothers in Nova Scotia
      (pp. 191-206)

      Consistent with traditional assumptions about women’s dependent status and proper role as mothers, social assistance jurisdictions tended after the Second World War to treat single mothers as potentially long-term or ‘unemployable’ recipients of social assistance. While this arrangement protected single mothers somewhat from the requirement that ‘able bodied’ recipients seek employment, social assistance authorities exercised other forms of social control, based on prevailing moral assumptions about women’s sexual conduct and child-caring role. The meagre level of assistance and the ‘man in the house’ rule assumed that help from the state was only a substitute for women's financial dependence on male...

    • 12 False Economies in Newfoundland’s Social and Child Welfare Policies
      (pp. 207-217)

      Since joining Confederation in 1949, Newfoundland has experienced steady growth in its health, education, and social welfare programs. Under the umbrella of the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP), the province has maintained a continuity of social welfare services, but perhaps at the expense of congruency. Like other provinces, Newfoundland has recently followed Ottawa’s lead and reduced and ‘clawed back’ social programs in health, education, and social welfare. Although the province has the highest unemployment rate in Canada, these reductions have resulted in the lowest per capita social assistance payments in the Atlantic region. Because children and women comprise the majority of...

    • 13 Mothers and Children: Ensuring Acceptable Standards of Living
      (pp. 218-232)

      The causes of poverty and the ways of alleviating its harmful consequences are constant themes for social scientists, policy-makers, and practitioners. Despite the continuity of the topics, however, there are discernible trends and cycles in analyses of these issues and in proposed solutions. The idea of integrating separate policies into a more considered and consistent approach to assisting families in need is certainly not new. Significant changes in our economic system, in our views on individuals rights, and in the social context in which we are living are showing us how all these dimensions are interrelated. We cannot improve the...

  7. Part III Canadian Labour Market Policy

    • 14 Regional Development Policy and Labour Markets in Atlantic Canada
      (pp. 235-252)

      Canadian governments have seldom if ever declared themselves to be pursuing any particular national ‘labour market policy.’ but they have all formulated and implemented policies that directly or indirectly affect the labour market. Indeed, one of the difficulties in assessing such policies is designating exactly which policies are pertinent and which are not, given the wide variety of government actions that affect the labour market. Policies affect the quantity and/or quality of labour activity, by influencing variously the level and range of labour skills, through education and training policies; incomes, through tax measures, minimum wages, unemployment insurance, or disability and...

    • 15 Towards a Neo-corporatist Labour Market Policy in Quebec
      (pp. 253-267)

      The popular epithet ‘Quebec Inc’ aptly depicts the close alliance between business and the province in the management of economic development policy since the early 1980s. Thus, according to Courchene, the ‘business-oriented’ Parti québécois (PQ or Péquiste) government inaugurated a ‘dramatic shift toward markets and entrepreneurship in Quebec’s socio-economic policies’ in the aftermath of the 1980 referendum, with ‘an integrated strategy for economic development and for the control of economic institutions by Quebecois.’¹ Quebec Inc. has been strengthened for over a decade, and its strategy -an industrial policy made with business and for business -has persisted. Recently, however, Quebec Inc/s...

    • 16 The Political Economy of Ontario’s Labour Market Policy
      (pp. 268-290)

      In recent years, economic globalization and competitive pressures have rendered nation–states less able to ensure satisfactory economic performance. Labour market policy, particularly training of and upgrading the skills of the labour force, has assumed greater conceptual importance as a potential solution to economic difficulties.¹

      In Canada, jurisdiction over training is divided. The provinces have explicit responsibility for education, and this can be extended logically to cover training for employment. The federal government is responsible for the general state of the economy. Since the quality and skills of the labour force are an important ingredient of economic performance, Ottawa also...

    • 17 Labour Markets and Neo-conservative Policy in British Columbia, 1986-1991
      (pp. 291-305)

      On 22 October 1986,¹ William Vander Zalm won his first election as premier of British Columbia.² He won on style (in response to criticism of lack of policy content, his campaign motto became ‘style is substance’) and on a promise of open and accessible government (an obvious rejection of the closed, bunker mentality of Bill Bennett, his predecessor).³ The intended shift was significant: in the vernacular of the new government, the policy climate was ‘faaan – taas – tic’ and represented a ‘fresh start.’ Press releases contained none of the harsh ‘new reality’ or negative rhetoric of the ‘restraint’ era of Bennett’s...

    • 18 Defending the Welfare State and Labour Market Policy
      (pp. 306-326)

      Labour markets and welfare states are inextricably linked. The business, right-wing view is that if they are not inimical, they at least abide in uncomfortable relationships, where greater security for workers and social equity have to be traded off against economic growth and efficiency. From this perspective, the welfare state, particularly as it has evolved in Canada over the past four decades, undermines the labour market’s flexibility, thereby inhibiting productivity improvements and international competition. Pursuit of such reasoning has led to substantial erosion of welfare state protection in Canada and to greater levels of labour market-related poverty and inequality.


    • 19 Part-time Workers, the Welfare State, and Labour Market Relations
      (pp. 327-349)

      To appreciate the current situation of the welfare state and its future prospects one must look at it within the broader set of social relationships that give it purpose – particularly changing employment relations. Our argument follows directly from this connection and builds on the theme of this volume – continuities and discontinuities in the welfare state. The welfare state as we know it today was premissed upon a certain, dominant form of employment. As long as this continued as the normative pattern, the welfare state functioned relatively efficiently in terms of the objectives established for it. Shifts in this norm, however,...

    • 20 Canadian Organized Labour and the Guaranteed Annual Income
      (pp. 350-366)

      Since the mid-1960s, the guaranteed annual income (GAI) has frequently been discussed as a possible solution to the problem of poverty in North America. Its salience in contemporary Canadian debates reflects both continuities and discontinuities with existing social policy. Selective social security measures (targeted at the least advantaged citizens) have always been more important in Canada’s welfare state than in those of much of western Europe.¹ The GAI, a selective policy, reflected this heritage. But the Canadian welfare state nevertheless developed a number of universal and contributory programmes during and after the Second World War, although these remained modest by...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 367-372)

    Major architects of the neo-conservative consensus, such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Brian Mulroney, have left, or been forced, from office, but the principles that they applied to social welfare and labour market policy were not changed by their immediate successors (John Major, George Bush, and Kim Campbell, respectively), or even by some of those who won office by campaigning against these principles. For example, in three Canadian provinces – Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia – the challenges mounted by New Democrat (NDP) governments have not yet resulted in significant disruption to this neo-conservative policy paradigm.

    So the central question of...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 373-374)