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Relentless Incrementalism: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Canadian Income Security Policy

In: The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2001: The Longest Decade: Canada in the 1990s

  • Ken Battle

    (President of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy)

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    One of the most (if not the most) highly charged public debates in this country over the past decade has been about the role of economic imperatives in dismantling the foundations of the welfare state set out in the universalist model adopted in the post-war years. Ken Battle in his chapter is critical of the ongoing public discourse on this issue, which he considers as lacking both in substance and subtlety. He argues that this has led to a polarization of views and produced persistent mythologies which in his estimation have served to insulate government from effective criticism and prevented the occurrence of a truly needed, open and informed public debate on the present and future course of social policy. Battle describes the overall process of reform and developments in social policy in the last two decades as one of "relentless incrementalism" where cumulative, purposeful and patterned change has produced a substantial shift in the structure of the Canadian income security system. He concludes that on the whole the emerging post-welfare state will better serve Canada's evolving social, economic and political needs and sees little cause for continuing nostalgia over the fading universalist welfare state, which in his estimation never worked all that well.

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