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How to revive Canadas dream of social democracy

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CHIMO Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-27-11 09:40 AM
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The following is a condensed version of a longer paper that Tom Kent, who died at age 89 on Nov. 15, wrote for the Broadbent Institute. The full text, with detailed policy proposals, can be found at While the views expressed are Tom Kents own, the Broadbent Institute is grateful for the support of this great Canadian social democrat and pleased to release his essay for publication. Ed Broadbent

Social democracy, as I understand it, is a society where the enterprise of productive employment in a market economy is joined with active government to secure the public interest in equality of opportunities and fairness of outcomes.

Our unusually decentralized federalism creates a distinctively Canadian obstacle to social democracy. The delivery of services crucial to it notably health care, education, social assistance is, for most recipients, in exclusively provincial jurisdiction. That is why we were laggards in the postwar development of the welfare state. It was not until the 1960s that we contrived the instruments of cooperative federalism required to catch up with more centralized political systems.

They were effective instruments, for their time. But that time was short. Our social transformation of the 1960s has been followed by decades of little further advance. The political cooperation essential for it has been replaced by confused conflict in the relations between Ottawa and the provinces. This paper suggests a new initiative that could break the deadlock.
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