The Broadbent Institute's new project, Change the Game, takes a critical look at the history of social democracy in Canada, with the intention of learning from the successes and challenges of the past in order to build the best possible path forward. We invite you to join us in rethinking and renewing social democracy by reading other entries in this series.
It’s common for Canadian social democrats to model themselves after the so-called Nordic countries—Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Those societies have achieved a high degree of social solidarity, economic prosperity and personal freedom. They have strong educational outcomes, lower levels of inequality and good health. They have an internationalist outlook. They are happy.
The run up to the recent Quebec election prompted a revival of the argument that only federal transfers keep that fiscally-challenged province afloat. For example, Mark Milke of the Fraser Institute argued in the National Post that Quebec is “massively subsidized by the rest of Canada.”
This argument is hugely over-done. And it contradicts a more effective and positive argument for federalism, namely that it has been no barrier to the construction of a distinctive and progressive social model in Quebec.
Posted by John Myles and Keith Banting · October 17, 2013 10:58 AM
To mark the launch of ‘Inequality and the Fading of Redistributive Politics’, a seminal new edited volume on inequality in Canada, the Broadbent Institute is featuring a series of posts from the book’s contributors. Today, we present a piece from the book's editors: Keith Banting and Broadbent Fellow John Myles.
The core message of Inequality and the Fading of Redistributive Politics is that democratic politics and income inequality in Canada are deeply linked. The surge in inequality, which occurred primarily in the 1990s but whose effects persist, was only partly the result of globalization and technological change.
Any project for social and economic equality in Canada faces a challenge: our primary collective lever for change, the state, is a confusing and complicated machine of federal-provincial relationships. Most advocates of a more egalitarian Canada are frustrated by this. Reform energies are lost in doing the “federalism foxtrot” of getting the federal and provincial players on side, while provincial desires to do things their own way conflict with the idea of all Canadians sharing the same economic and social rights. Since at least the 1930s, the dominant view of the equality-seekers has been to strengthen the federal government and its capacity to impose its agenda on the provinces. In a more muted form, Towards A More Equal Canada calls for “federal leadership.”