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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)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ken Battle, 2001. "Relentless Incrementalism: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Canadian Income Security Policy," The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress,in: Andrew Sharpe, Executive Director & France St-Hilaire, Vice-President , Research & Keith Banting, Di (ed.), The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2001: The Longest Decade: Canada in the 1990s, volume 1 Centre for the Study of Living Standards;The Institutute for Research on Public Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:sls:repsls:v:1:y:2001:kb

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    Cited by:

    1. GĂ©rard Boismenu & Peter Graefe, 2004. "The New Federal Tool Belt: Attempts to Rebuild Social Policy Leadership," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 30(1), pages 71-89, March.

    More about this item


    Social Policy; Income Support; Income Security; Economic Security; Welfare State; Welfare System; Social Safet Net; Welfare Policy; Social Security; Canada;

    JEL classification:

    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • E64 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Incomes Policy; Price Policy
    • O51 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - U.S.; Canada


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