Canadian Politics

A02(a) - The State of Social Policy in Canada: Part 2

Date: Jun 12 | Time: 10:15am to 11:45am | Location:

Chair/Président/Présidente : Daniel Béland (McGill University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Alison Smith (University of Toronto)

Social policy is a central aspect of Canadian economic, social, and political life. This is especially the case in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which served to highlight the importance of social programs for Canada and the rest of the world. This panel, which is the second of three panels regarding the state of social policy in Canada, will bring together contributors from the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Social Policy in Canada. Together with the other panels in the series, it will provide a comprehensive map of the major components of social policy while identifying the central issues relevant to social protection in Canada.

Race and Racism in Canadian Social Policy: Tari Ajadi (McGill), Debra Thompson (McGill), Nicole Bernhardt (University of Toronto)
Abstract: This paper traces when and how race and racism enter into Canadian social policy. Though racial differentiations and racial inequality are inexorable from Canadian institutional and social structures, Canada’s key postwar era policy regimes have proceeded from an attachment to liberal universalism and a pretense of race-neutrality (Banting & Thompson, 2021). We begin by drawing together existing research on the racially-disparate outcomes of Canadian social policies to make explicit the salience of race in policy design, development, and implementation. We next consider the role of the human rights system and anti-discrimination policy in challenging racist practices, systems, and outcomes. Finally, we discuss the emergence of state anti-racism, with attention to federal and select provincial contexts (including British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Ontario), to explore how racism is framed/addressed by state actors. We scrutinize these initiatives to assess the prospects of a transformative change to entrenched racial inequities.

Education policy (and politics) in Canada: Jennifer Wallner (University of Ottawa)
Abstract: Education is one of the longest and largest areas of state-led activity in social policy in Canada. Focusing on the settler-colonial state, the legacy of formal policies in the education arena pre-dates the formation of contemporary Canada itself in 1867, as colonial administrators in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia had enacted legislation to support rudimentary schooling for the children of colonists. Today, the 13 elementary and secondary education arenas of the provinces and territories constituent the second largest area of spending, provide for the schooling of millions of Canadian students annually, and are also marked by new tides of politicization the type and tenor of which have not been seen for generations. This chapter proceeds as follows: historical background of the sector; a description of contemporary policy arrangements; and, finally, an examination of the evolution and transformation of the politicized debates in the field from the historical contests that centered on identity in terms of religion and language and the deployment of education for assimilation, into the 1960s-1990s, where more technocratic questions over labour politics and governance came into play, and now into the 2000s where new forms of identity politics are taking hold again.

Social policy preferences in Canada – a longitudinal scaling analysis: Sophie Borwein (UBC), Donnelly Michael (University of Toronto)
Abstract: This chapter traces the development of attitudes toward social policy in Canada from the 1970s to the present. Combining a wide range of survey questions from multiple pollsters, we offer two new measures of support for redistributive policies. We show how dramatic changes in economic, social, and demographic contexts led to minor changes in attitudes in the aggregate. Then, using multilevel regression with post-stratification, we examine how the attitudes of various demographic and regional subgroups changed. We show that some of the cleavages that divided Canadians on social policy in the 1970s have disappeared, with others appearing to take their place. We also revisit common arguments about opinion leadership and thermostatic opinion change, using our new measures to examine the conditions under which each is likely to take place.

The End of Indigenous Self-Determination – Why don’t People Care about the Status of Indigenous Politics and Policy?: Réal Carrière (University of Manitoba), Russ Diabo ()
Abstract: On the surface, Canadian Indigenous politics and policy seems supportive of Indigenous nationhood, sovereignty and self-determination; all the things that Indigenous people have fought for and advocated for over the past few decades. Yet, in analyzing recent scholarship and government policy, the underlying message shows much less progress. In fact, in many ways we are witnessing a return to the nadir of Canadian Indigenous politics, the White Paper, as the logic of the White Paper continue to dictate the direction of recent Canadian Indigenous politics and policy. To show this logic, we explore the recent and current government policy and research. We argue that current trends in Indigenous politics and policy signify the end of Indigenous self-determination and the completion of the settler-colonial project. From this lens, it will become clear that Indigenous politics and policy has been developed to undermine Indigenous sovereignty, and self-determination. Yet, this revelation should not come as a complete surprise, considering the scholarship and policy, so in concluding our paper we attempt to address why don’t more people care about the status of Indigenous politics and policy?