Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Science and Technology
Issue 19 - Evidence, November 4, 1998
OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 4, 1998
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met this
day at 3:30 p.m. to consider the dimensions of social cohesion in Canada in the
context of globalization and other economic and structural forces that
influence trust and reciprocity among Canadians.
Senator Lowell Murray (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: It is our pleasure to welcome the Honourable Ed Broadbent as our
witness this afternoon. Mr. Broadbent has had a distinguished political and
parliamentary career. A member of Parliament from Oshawa, Ontario for 21 years,
he was the Leader of the New Democratic Party from 1975 to 1989, a Privy
Councillor and a member of the Order of Canada.
He has distinguished academic credentials. Prior to entering Parliament, Mr.
Broadbent was for a short time a professor of political science at York
University. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and did post
graduate work at the London School of Economics. Following his public career,
he was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College at Oxford University in 1996-1997,
and he is now the occupant of the J.S. Woodsworth Chair at Simon Fraser
He was from 1990 to 1996 the founding President of the International Centre for
Human Rights and Democratic Development during which time he worked directly
with those involved in the struggle for democracy in Haiti and Burma. In 1993,
he was one of four international judges to sit on the Tribunal on Violations of
Women's Human Rights at the United Nations Conference on Human Rights in
Vienna, and in 1994 he served as a member of the panel of experts on the
International Tribunal on Rights in Haiti and was subsequently named by
President Aristide as the international advisor to Haiti's Truth and Justice
Mr. Broadbent, it is a great pleasure to see you back here on Parliament Hill.
You have lived through so many political experiences; you were one of the most
respected participants in the great economic, social and constitutional debates
that took place over two decades.
It is a great pleasure to see you here again. Please proceed.
The Honourable John Edward Broadbent, P.C., O.C., B.A., M.A., Ph.D., J.S.
Woodsworth Chair, Simon Fraser University: I am delighted to see some old
friends here and I am pleased and honoured to have been asked to be a witness
on this important subject.
Having read with some care the testimony submitted by others during your
hearings and the discussion in that context, I am happy to be here to talk
about social cohesion, which appears to be the principal new social policy
focus of the federal government. Before coming to the government's usage of
this term, as presented by two senior public servants, I want to begin with
another definition, what I would call the "common sense" definition
of this term.
I found it reassuring that the definition in The Canadian Oxford Dictionary
corresponded pretty much entirely with what I thought the term might mean: "Cohesion
is the act or condition of sticking together." If we are talking about
cohesion among citizens in a democratic state, then we would say, perhaps, "the
willingness or sense of trust by citizens to voluntarily stick together."
Put differently, that would mean that there was a positive set of feelings by
most citizens about the major institutions that affect their lives.
It seems to me that that is what Michael Adams was getting at when, in part of
his discussion, he said that social cohesion meant that Canadians had trust in
each other and in their institutions; I believe it is also what a number of the
other witnesses had in mind when they stated that social cohesion, at this
moment in Canada, was under attack or was in a precarious state or more
precarious than it had been in our recent history.
Professor Jane Jenson made an interesting and important point when she said that
it was not accidental that talk about social cohesion in Canada and a number of
other OECD countries is occurring at the end of the 1990s. It is true that it
is not a coincidence, and there were quite particular circumstances that led to
From the point of view of this topic, it was a great advantage to me to get away
from the real world of politics into the real world of the academic in the year
I spent at Oxford a couple years ago. I was totally immersed in the study, in
one sense, of the modern origins of social policy for the North Atlantic
democracies, and what I will be saying flows to a considerable extent from some
of the research and thinking I did at that time, which by happy coincidence
seems to me to be quite pertinent to this topic.
The last time there was a common and serious concern about what we are now
calling "social cohesion" in the North Atlantic democracies was,
interestingly enough, in the middle of World War II. Prime Minister Churchill
and his cabinet and President Roosevelt and his advisors were convinced that
the horrible amalgam of the Great Depression and Naziism had, in good measure,
resulted from the laissez-faire capitalism of the 1930s. They were determined to
do something about that in the post-war order. In their view, for capitalism or
a market economy to survive, major structural reform was indeed necessary.
They resolved to build a new post-war world order, based in part on what came to
be known as "the welfare state," a democratic state committed to
increasing degrees of equality. They were quite explicit about that. They and
their socialist and Labour party colleagues, and subsequently, Christian
democrats from Continental Europe, launched a system of social reforms
guaranteeing a whole set of new social benefits, which they described as "rights
of citizens," not as "a safety net." These were new social
benefits that were to go to citizens as such, not because they were poor or
handicapped or otherwise marginalized, but because they were to give citizens,
whether rich, poor or average, a new set of social rights.
The decision was made in Mr. Churchill's cabinet in 1942, when it was decided to
launch within the U.K. itself, as well as part of the new world order, a set of
social and economic rights parallel to the then established political and civil
rights in our Western democracies. For 35 years after the war, there was an
unstated social contract that cut across class and ideological barriers. There
were two key components of this social contract that existed in the North
Atlantic states. First, capitalists, or Conservative and Liberal parties, on
the one hand, accepted as necessary the ongoing presence of the government in
the economy in order to ensure, on the basis of equality, key social rights.
Those rights -- pensions, health services, universal education -- were to be
taken in a sense out of the marketplace and assured to all citizens. Second, on
the other side of the ideological divide, many working people and parties on
the left accepted the market system with its inherent profits and inherent
market-based differentiation in salaries as the dominant mode of production.
For that whole period of approximately 35 years, that social contract persisted,
with Conservative forces, traditionally on the conservative side of our
socio-economic ledger, on the one hand accepting a whole new set of social
rights that were to be put in place, and socialists or left-wing parties on the
other, accepting a private-sector marketplace as the dominant form of economic
Whether governments were conventionally described as, for instance, the Harold
Macmillan Conservative government of the U.K. or the Social Democratic Party
government in Sweden, there was substantial agreement with the central thrust
of Keynesian economics, which had two key components: First, the state had an
ongoing role in the economy, particularly when there was a downturn, to
stimulate demand and therefore ensure substantially high levels of employment.
Second, there was the exception of the other key Keynesian point at the time,
that while free trade in goods and services was to be welcomed, there should
not be free flow of capital between states. The second point, which was an
important technical consideration for Keynes, was that the free flow of capital
would inevitably, if not dismantle, seriously weaken nation states to deliver on
their other objectives of social policy; in other words, it would seriously
weaken their capacity to control fiscal and monetary policy.
Whether there were Social Democrats or the Labour Party on the left or the
Liberal, Conservative or Christian Democratic Party on the right, there was a
broad consensus about this in our democratic system.
The argument at the time, broadly speaking, was not an argument in principle. If
you look at the 1930s, this was a radical change from the 1930s <#0107>
and certainly Churchill and Roosevelt and others thoroughly understood what
they were doing after the war. However, during that period, there was a broad
consensus on these points, and it was not a matter of debate between political
parties. No matter what they said in partisan debates, it tended to be more
over the speed with which more emphasis was put on expanding equality within
society as opposed to the principle itself.
This ecumenical political movement appeared in distinguished post-war leadership
to set this underway. What they had hoped would happen did in fact happen.
Between 1945 and 1980 there was a remarkable period of cohesion in the North
Atlantic world. The extremist parties on the left, the Communist parties, and
the Fascist or quasi-Fascist parties on the right virtually disappeared in the
North Atlantic world during that period; And workers -- predominantly
blue-collar workers then -- having governments that at last showed concern for
their social well-being, not only ceased the open acts of rebellion that had
occurred before the war, but did not resist specially targeted government
affirmative-action programs aimed at removing systemic inequality for women and
other discriminated groups.
Richard Nixon, interestingly enough, supported affirmative-action programs for
women, which is indicative of the broad range of consensus that existed on many
matters during that period.
Citizens were experiencing during that period within their society a growing
sense of equality and a growing acceptance that their government was committed
to this expansion of equality within society. Having become more equal, Western
society in fact became more tolerant and expansive. Foreign aid programs were
supported by ordinary people during that period in addition to the kinds of
affirmative-action programs I have just alluded to in respect of domestic
It was also during that period that Canadians started to describe themselves as
sharing and caring. They certainly did not do that in the 1930s, when the state
neither shared nor cared. However, during that period, the period when I grew
up, my formative years, Canadians started to describe themselves in that
fashion because they were experiencing a government that also shared and cared.
Then there was an abrupt change. We may come to some of the important nuances of
this change that came in the early 1980s. The catalyst for it was the
accumulating deficit problem of most governments in this region. Most
governments, but by no means all, had accrued large deficits for a mixture of
demographic reasons: higher costs for pensions, higher costs for education,
people living longer -- there was a whole range of reasons that led to a rather
common set of pressures on North Atlantic governments, regardless of whether
they were again governed by left-wing parties or by right-wing parties in terms
of our conventional descriptions.
The major reaction in respect of the shift away from this post-war consensus
came not at all in Continental Europe, but in the Anglo-American countries --
the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Notably, the
ideological leadership for this shift came from Ronald Reagan in the United
States and from Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom.
The shift that I am now about to talk about that came in our part of the world
by and large did not come in Continental Europe at all. Continental Europe had
established by far the world's strongest universal-rights-based welfare states.
I do not think it is an accident that this kind of shift did not occur in those
countries, did not occur in Germany, the leadership of which for most of this
period was divided between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, or
in other parts of Europe. The kind of ideology, and with it serious practical
policy, that affected social cohesion came largely -- not exclusively, but
largely -- in the Anglo-American world which we are part of.
While all regimes or governments tended to respond, starting in the 1980s, to
this deficit problem, in our part of the world the response took on a
particular ideological cast as well. It was not just a matter of dealing in the
short run with fiscal pressures. The response, I would argue and contend, was
also made by some people with utter conviction. I do not want to be
misunderstood in this; there was no hypocrisy involved. Whether one likes
Margaret Thatcher or not, very few have called her hypocritical. She was a
woman who said what she believed. I believe that what these people believed was
utter, negative, social folly, which I will comment on. However, they believed
it with considerable conviction.
There are two parts of this important period in modern Anglo-American
democracies. One was the ideological view, and I am well aware of the great
simplification that I am indulging in here, but it is essentially accurate.
This was a view that, suddenly, "public" activity became bad or not
very good, and "private" activity was good. All that could be
converted into markets should be; the good life should be pursued essentially
apart from government. Pursuit of the common good by political means during
this period in this view is replaced by private activities. Even civil society,
traditionally understood to be a key and important part of any democratic
society, is given a new, exalted status within this particular ideological
framework, so that what takes place again within civil society is good. That
which is taking place in the public domain is at best neutral, but probably
inefficient and bad otherwise.
As Ronald Reagan once said, "Spending for general social programs is
spending of other people's money and should be stopped." Margaret Thatcher
once infamously said, "Society does not exist; only individuals exist."
Both said that, in terms of the welfare state, only safety-net programs were
really justified. That is to say, programs that would in fact keep people above
the destitution level, like perhaps the old "poor laws" in England,
were appropriate, but having universal social programs for all citizens, which
was the basic formulation supported by Churchill and other people in the early
post-war years, was rejected outright by this new version -- whether we call it
neo-conservatism or neo-liberalism -- that soon became quite dominant.
During this period, we also saw the emergence of international trade deals that
were, of course, devoid of any content that referred to human rights or
environmental concerns. It was again applied to the international domain --
laissez-faire in the complete and unfettered way that was the international
equivalent of the same ideology that was being applied at home.
Now my view is that a number of the people who gave testimony talked about the
changing attitudes that were occurring, but did not give or attempt a causal
explanation of what really happened in the 1990s. I believe that what happened
in the 1990s was more or less the direct consequence of the policies pursued in
the 1980s. Increasingly, citizens in Canada and other Anglo-American countries
saw governments as being irrelevant to citizens' goals. I am exaggerating
somewhat. However, polarization in incomes took place, and there was a general
sense of highly diffuse insecurity amongst our populations. There was a
deepening of inequality in almost every regard.
The reaction to this situation, both by Canada and by a number of other OECD
countries, although not by all, has been to talk about cohesion. A lot of this
is well motivated, but, as you will see, I seriously disagree with the thrust.
So there is a reaction, in this part of the 1990s, to the social consequences
of these programs that were launched in the 1980s. However, there was not,
coming from Churchill and Roosevelt and others after the war, a reversal of the
economic policies from the 1930s. Instead of paying attention to the economic
policies of the 1980s that were leading to the 1990s, there is a new emphasis
entirely; in fact, I see a shift in focus to something called "social
cohesion." However, in my view, it is principally, but by no means
exclusively, the economic policies that have led to the breakdown of social
Generation X, and the data presented by some people on that, I found very
interesting. Generation X did not, like some new pop song, just appear out of
somebody's mind. Generation X to a considerable extent is a product of post-war
thinking and political policies -- which I am. I grew up in an industrial town
in Southern Ontario in the late 1940s and 1950s, and therefore to a considerable
extent what shapes my values, political and social, came out of that. So, too,
the Generation X people, born since 1960, were just coming into age when the
policies of the 1980s started to kick in. So, it does not strike me as being
entirely surprising that this generation tends to be the "me"
generation, tends to be self-protective, tends to be skeptical about
governments doing things, tends to want, whenever possible, to turn things over
to the private sector as a means of resolving human problems.
Having experienced, in broad terms again, a democratic state that neither shared
nor cared, as evinced by the policies launched in the 1980s, these young people
in growing up turned out to be what one could only expect: self-protective and
self-interested. Notice that I am not saying "selfish," by the way.
They are uncertain, without a feeling that their government is likely to be of
significant assistance to them as human beings either at this stage in their
lives or later on when they will retire.
The motivation of a number of the OECD countries and Canada in talking about
social cohesion is very similar to what it was after the war. You will see from
some of the statements, if you read old OECD documents and some of our own
documents of government, that the motivation is the same. The capitalist
economic system perhaps is being threatened. If these young people are no longer
feeling secure, feeling a sense of commitment to their own societies, then a
challenge to the system itself may not be too far down the road; or, as some
people quite correctly have said, if you want better economic results from a
productivity point of view, it is better to have social cohesion.
It is better to have people with a sense of trust of their fellow workers, a
sense of trust of managers, a sense of trust of their political leaders, if
they are to be economically productive. That is the thinking of a number of the
people in the OECD. In order to preserve a market system of some kind, we must
re-establish a sense of cohesion or a sense of trust.
Professor Jane Jenson, whose testimony I was in substantial agreement with --
perhaps diplomatically; I do not know -- took great care, as a number of people
did, to lay out a number of options. I am more explicit and categorical in my
judgments, as has become evident already, and I welcome the discussion.
Professor Jenson said a number of times that there was a kind of mix of
liberty, equality and solidarity; there were trade-offs involved in these
things, and we had to achieve the right balance. I do not agree with that
argument. Particularly, I do not agree on what is needed at our time.
It seems to me that the evidence is very clear. What is most absent is a concern
about equality. That is what is really missing from the equation right now in
serious policy initiatives, whether at the federal or the provincial level. So
it is not a matter of choosing the right mix. The matter right now is that we
need a much more serious commitment coming from the government. It is by no
means the only institution in our society, I want to emphasize, that will be
instrumental in developing a sense of cohesion, but it is in my view, in
democratic societies, the single most important institution. As it is, every
week we have a new set of statistics with rather alarming pictures of inequality
between groups, between regions, and between genders.
What we need to do is follow, not in detail but in principle, the example laid
down as perhaps the last great moment in the North Atlantic world after the
war; what we need is what was needed then. The 1930s were to be changed in
economic policy according to the people who launched the post-war order, and
they specifically said that what we needed was more equality. I believe the same
thing. We need more equality concerns by our governments, more control over the
controls of capital, which is another technical point in order in part to
achieve the equality. Governments must do things and be seen to be doing them.
They must in short also provide ideological or philosophical leadership.
I could never imagine, if I may say so in this context, the kind of speeches I
have heard in the 1980s coming from a Bob Stanfield or a Pierre Trudeau, or
coming from, say, a Tommy Douglas or a David Lewis. All of these people were
part of a broad consensus that believed in a government's place in a citizen's
life, and believed in it particularly from the point of view of necessarily, on
a continuing basis, involving itself in the economy and in society to ensure
greater degrees of equality, precisely because the inherent thrust of a market
economy is to create deep and pervasive inequalities.
I may be unfair to some of the people who were speaking as senior public
servants here. I am well aware that they take their instructions, as they
should, from their political masters, but the documents that were presented in
talking about social cohesion seem to me to have it backwards. What we should
be talking about in fact is social justice, and what Canada needs from its
political leaders is a commitment to social justice, not social cohesion as
such. If social justice gets underway, then one of the consequences will be
I looked at with care and read a number of times the definition of "social
cohesion," which seems to be guiding social policy in many departments at
the federal level. I would propose an alternative agenda that could have
substantial support from the people of Canada, if not from the current mix of
politicians. Social justice, not social cohesion as such, should be the guiding
I have written the following:
Achieving social justice is an ongoing process: a process of developing a
society of shared values, a society that gives primacy of concern to those
political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights found in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, a society in which all Canadians have an equal
right to their differing individual and collective identities, and an equal
claim to the resources needed for their realization.
Such a goal would have as content that which is consistent with the best of
Canadian traditions. It is based on a document whose first draft was written by
a Canadian, and is one that could inspire a number of young Canadians to see
that the good life should mean more than personal success.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Broadbent, for an opening statement that was
extremely interesting, stimulating and perhaps even provocative.
Senator Kinsella: At the beginning of your presentation a question came to mind
that you have answered at the end of your presentation. I had written down the
words "human rights as a means of achieving social cohesion."
Obviously that is your position and I agree with that view.
A lot of students of Canadian society and a lot of people in this town seem to
have a great deal of difficulty in understanding what some have described as
the different categories of human rights, not to reject the principle of the
unity of human rights.
You alluded to civil and political rights, the classical freedoms, which really
is a case of "Government, do not interfere." The struggle was always
against government: "Government, don't act; don't interfere with our
freedoms." However, the second category of rights, the social, economic
and cultural rights like the right to work or the right to education or the
right to health -- those rights have very little meaning, if you do not have,
for example, a school system. The right to health means nothing, if you do not
have a health delivery system. Those rights by nature are programmatic. They
require the programs of society.
To use that old division in society between the governmental sector and the
non-governmental, I do not see how, in the late 1990s, any voluntary
organization in our society could deliver a health delivery system. It cannot.
Even the nuns, considering what they were able to do in years gone by, could
not do it today. Therefore, the social, economic and cultural rights by
definition require the programs of state, the programs of government.
I am sure you recall the discussions around a social charter in the
Constitution, and the Beaudoin-Dobbie report of the Special Joint Committee on
a renewed Canada. Page 81 of that report states that social, economic and
culture rights are not justiciable and therefore are not really human rights.
That is wrong, because they are rights, as you said; not only are they in the
Universal Declaration, but they are in the covenants that are part of the
Mr. Broadbent: That is a typical lawyer's view. We are in agreement. It is so
typical of lawyers, who are wrong about so many things, to say that a right is
only a right if it is justiciable.
Senator Kinsella: There are different models of how we judge things, including
the social audit, and the UN system is based upon a social audit. Within the
Canadian context, as we explore how Canadians must come together better, do you
think that we should be exploring a Canadian social charter, which would be
enforced by a social auditing mechanism? In other words, just as we have a
fiscal auditor, we would have a social auditor.
Mr. Broadbent: I agree with you that the social rights, in distinction from
political and civil rights, by and large are what are called "positive
rights." That is to say that -- and it is convenient language -- they
require positive action by the state or by government of significantly more
economic resources to make them feasible than do political and civil rights.
This was the point I was coming to and, if I may say so, it was to my surprise
to discover that Winston Churchill's cabinet in 1942 launched a campaign and
said, after the war, that there should be social and economic rights, not just
political and civil rights. It was indeed a coalition government, as senators
will know, but that was a decision taken.
One of the things that gives me hope, frankly, as a Canadian and as a citizen in
this sense of the North Atlantic democracies, is that there was indeed a broad
consensus that transcended a particular ideological focus, which our parties
have and should continue to have, that will emphasize certain differences.
I believe strongly that part of what I tried to sketch in there as an
alternative agenda for Canada, compared to the social cohesion one, is grounded
on the range of rights, in part because we as a country have adopted the two
covenants; in addition to the Universal Declaration to which we are all
obligated as members of the UN, specifically, Canada has adopted the Covenant on
Political and Civil Rights and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights. So this is something that transcended party differences, but it has
social implications. That is why I welcome so much, if I may say so, your
initiative, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, to get at this discussion in
a serious way.
What it does mean is that the distributional struggle, if I can put it that way,
is partially taken out of the marketplace. That is what that decision after the
war was all about. They were saying that there were certain rights that we
ought to have as citizens -- not safety nets; rights: decent pensions; good
university access; good health services for all citizens, not as handouts to the
poor. That consensus, I believe, was there at one time. It was a matter of
degree: "How fast do we expand it?" I see its potential and I see it
as very serious, frankly. I try to separate my partisan proclivities, if you
like, but these are convictions that I have. We are in a serious situation in
our country of growing inequality that is not only morally unacceptable, but,
for reasons that the post-war leaders saw, leads to instability, too, which is
a different value.
I realize I am taking a long time to answer your question, senator, but I would
love to see our Parliament committed to this, which I think has pragmatic
implications. You could have a debate about the speed of implementation, but it
is the principle that I would like to see adopted. Whether the social audit
timing is right for Parliament, I do not know; I have not given enough thought
to it. However, I should like to see public engagement by the Parliament of
Canada and commitment -- not simply the formal commitment we have to the
Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but a serious commitment such
that we begin to take it seriously in terms of a programmatic agenda as part of
our national politics.
You talked about a social audit. I would like to see that for our private-sector
companies. A change in the Companies Act, for example, through federal
legislation could require all our companies to have not only a financial audit
but a social audit as well. That is another matter for real discussion and it is
another way of preserving -- because I am in principle for that -- a
private-sector economy, but one that becomes increasingly democratized and
accountable to more people. So a social audit is doable, feasible and desirable
for companies within Canada. However, because I have not thought enough about
it, I am not sure that it is doable in the political system.
Senator Kinsella: Theoretically at least, would you agree that we have the
criterion in the articulated rights that we recognize? With that measure,
social justice is mediated; the means to achieve it is through rights. In other
words, it is not justice that creates rights but rather it is rights that
provide the medium for which we achieve social justice.
Mr. Broadbent: And subsequently social cohesion.
Senator Kinsella: Exactly, and so the students that, for instance, I teach, many
of whom you have described very well in your comments, are not enjoying a lot
of human rights. They are experiencing the absence of the right to equality and
therefore they feel no cohesiveness. There is no cohesiveness for them. A
further example for our university-level Canadians is our failure to comply with
Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights. In 1976, when we ratified that covenant, we said we would take steps
progressively to make post-secondary education freer; well, the opposite is the
case. That is why it is no surprise to me that we find university students not
caring. It is not because they are selfish. They have nothing to be selfish
Senator Johnstone: I have written down two statements here. Margaret Thatcher
said, "Society does not exist; only individuals exist." Does that in
any way conflict with your statement about "utter, negative, social folly"?
Mr. Broadbent: That is my reaction to Margaret Thatcher; and I deeply believe
that, while respecting her -- as I have already indicated, she had great
integrity as a politician -- I just thought she was crazy. That is another
matter. I am equally candid.
Senator Johnstone: You do not want to say anymore on the subject.
Mr. Broadbent: I do not want to make the whole speech again. I am a social
democrat as you know, but what Margaret Thatcher did was turn Harold Macmillan
upside down. At one point he made a speech accusing her of selling the Crown
jewels. There is a Tory tradition, as we well know in this country, as well as
a Liberal tradition, that coincides with a good part of the main thrust of my
party's tradition that sees individuals as inescapably part of society. Just as
we have a right to pursue our own good and interests in many domains, we have
an obligation, as part of a society, to work with our fellow citizens in
certain communal or collective activities as well.
The serious damage that Margaret Thatcher did was to give an ideological
justification for selfishness: "I can just look after myself."
Indeed, that is a kind of moral position: "I am all right in doing that
and ignoring the concerns of my fellow human beings." That has done serious
political damage, particularly in the Anglo-American world.
What was dangerous was that that was the first time -- that was 1980, and she
did not do that to get elected. That came after she was elected. It was the
first time since 1945 that we had the head of a government take such a
position. Many, not all, by any means, but many corporate heads might well have
said something like that, but no serious politician in the Western world in the
post-war period, until Margaret Thatcher, had denigrated the state, had
denigrated the public sector in such a way, and that has done us considerable
damage, because Generation X grew up in part with that thinking.
The Chairman: May I just interject here? Earlier, you drew a distinction between
the policies followed in the Anglo-American world and those followed in
continental Europe; 15 or 16 years on are people better off on the continent of
Europe? Are social conditions better on the continent of Europe for having
followed those particular sets of policies?
Mr. Broadbent: Unequivocally, yes. I would rather be an unemployed German than a
low-wage American, to take the two models. We now have 41 million Americans
without health insurance. I could give you other figures about the number
living in poverty. Western Europeans will not tolerate that. I commend them.
I grew up with serious anti-German biases, understandably coming out of my
boyhood experience from World War II. I now look to Germany for leadership, and
I mean that profoundly.
The Chairman: Since the election or prior?
Mr. Broadbent: It has been since the election, but it is not just that. The
Christian Democrats under Kohl categorically rejected Thatcherism and said so.
They called for a social market economy. The German state maintained one of the
strongest welfare states in the world. As public opinion surveys show, German
citizens are deeply committed to peace, and so on. There has been a significant
change, to say the least, in Germany. Germany is now unquestionably the dominant
economic and political power in Europe.
I was so pleased, not simply that my party had won the election, but at the
remarkable ease with which that had taken place; after all, Mr. Kohl had been
there for 17 years. One might have thought it was time for a change.
Incidentally, the campaign was not a Blair-right campaign, if I can put it that
way, but a campaign to link rights and trade policy, a campaign to increase
pensions, not get rid of them. So there is still a strong commitment,
particularly on the continent, to the "universal rights-welfare
state-citizenship" notion that I think is good.
Senator Johnstone: If I may ask a supplementary, which predates Thatcher, we
used to have a saying in the Royal Air Force, "To hell with you Jack. I'm
all right." Does that sound like your view of Thatcher?
Mr. Broadbent: I have said enough about that, but it is sort of that.
Senator Cohen: I started to question my own political background, because I was
agreeing with you so much. You said that from 1945 to 1980 we had developed a
sharing and caring society.
I grew up in the 1930s, after the depression, when we may not have had the
social programs, but we had a lot of caring and sharing. When the people from
the depression would knock on our doors asking for help, we were there to give
it to them. Social justice was a natural area for us to be in. Then, when
Churchill's government changed the rules and brought in the rights and pursued
them, we were in a world crisis then with the Second World War.
Do you think that having 1,500,000 people in poverty today, with the gap between
the rich and the poor growing, is enough of a social crisis in Canada, not to
equate it with World War II, but to move the government forward to take a look?
According to yesterday's paper, the Toronto council says homelessness is now a
national crisis, and then in today's paper I see that the government is taking
a strong look at doing something about homelessness across the country. Then
Mr. Pratt, of Courtney Pratt, speaks to us about how business is now listening,
and really hearing. Business is looking to become involved in this whole area of
social justice and helping the poor.
Does a crisis in society move governments, or should it move governments? Could
I have your comment on that, please, and I would also like to hear a little bit
more about the "social audit" concept, because I think that is a very
powerful area that you touched on.
Mr. Broadbent: I touched on many things, of course, senator. If you agree that
there is some shift towards the idea that we need to reinstitute the legitimacy
of government in our lives, including, without taking it over, an ongoing role
within the economy, is there a sufficient crisis? I doubt it. I am afraid I am
I remember that, when the G-7 met in Halifax three years ago, our government
took the initiative to have "capital flows" put on the agenda. I
understand it was on the agenda for about 30 seconds, or maybe a little longer,
because there was also the crisis in Mexico shortly before that. Now we have
fully half of the world's economies in recession, with over 150 million
The Chairman: You have noticed that they are looking at the Tobin tax again as a
means of slowing things down.
Mr. Broadbent: I was just coming to that. Look at the devastation in Asia.
The Chairman: Can you explain why that is?
Mr. Broadbent: In part they are saying, "Well, look at what happened in
Asia." We did not get into "globalization" much, which is a
serious and vague notion that has to be broken down, too, but one of the
legitimate points about globalization is the effect of the flow of capital. I
referred to Keynes strongly opposing that because it would be destabilizing --
and for exactly the reasons we have seen, an overnight run on somebody's
currency. In the total absence of international or national control mechanisms,
you can devastate a whole people's standard of living overnight.
I have not heard a serious counter-argument to that. That is why I come back to
this pervasive notion. We all do it. I happen to be on the left; I am a social
democrat; value systems count. It seems to me that heads of government are
wedded to this neo-liberal, neo-conservative market viewed too strongly.
A few years ago, 35 Nobel laureates in economics called for the Tobin tax.
Surely they knew something about economics, but we still seem to be wedded to
this view that you should just allow the corporate sector to do what is in
their interests and eventually it will be good for us. As Keynes also said,
eventually we are all dead, but it may be sooner than later.
It is a serious question whether there is the sense in the political minds of
our leaders that something must be done in an updated version. No one wants to
go back. I am not saying that we should go back to the details of 1945, but by
all means go back to the principle involved, which is that the government must
be involved to protect the public interest. The details should be a fleshed-out
version. In this case, it seems to me, it should be some version of the Tobin
tax or some version of what the Chileans have done, or other countries have
done, which is related to that on capital flows.
I cannot assess whether the political timing is right, whether there is a
sufficient sense of urgency or not in our political leaders.
Senator Lavoie-Roux: Thank you, Mr. Broadbent. It is quite a unique occasion to
have you here among our guests. Do you speak French?
Mr. Broadbent: A little, I am not perfectly bilingual, but I can understand your
observations and your questions.
Senator Lavoie-Roux: I do not agree with you completely when you say that the "caring
and loving society" came into being in the 1980s. I do not know how old
you are, but I know how old I am. I can tell you that, in the 1930s, I was not
very old, but citizens already had this feeling of love and compassion for
their neighbours. Maybe that was more due to the church than government. I
remember my neighbour who was having some trouble, we had to take care of him as
best we could. So this feeling was not just born in 1980. Apparently, it is not
what you said.
Mr. Broadbent: I would like to clarify my observations.
I totally agree with you about individual Canadians in the 1930s; there were
remarkable illustrations in the depression years of Canadians helping each
other. We did not have public opinion surveys done then. I am not aware of any
in the history, and I know a fair bit about it. I am talking about when
Canadians, as citizens, started to describe themselves as a way of
distinguishing themselves. Very often in public opinion polls, to distinguish
ourselves from Americans, we frequently say that Canada is a sharing and caring
nation. It is the point of when we started to describe ourselves that way. I
certainly did not imply or mean to imply that people in the 1930s did not care,
but I am making the argument, whether you agree or not, that we started to
describe ourselves that way after we put in place these universal social
programs, which in fact illustrated the point that we did share and care.
Senator Lavoie-Roux: You define the rights of the citizen as being social,
economic and cultural. How can we respect the cultural rights of every
individual in this country, when there are probably at least 80 to 100 sects
with different backgrounds? How can we make sure that the cultural rights are
there for all of them, as well as the economic and social rights, and that we
know what we are talking about? In terms of cultural rights, is it a feasible
thing when you have so many different backgrounds?
Mr. Broadbent: Is it feasible in principle? Yes. Let me try to say what I mean
by that. Take our three principal or dominant cultural linguistic groupings,
the Aboriginals, French-speaking and English-speaking Canadians, those three
large categories; we have taken steps as a country, constitutionally, and we
are fleshing that out in greater detail all the time, to ensure the preservation
of these categories, and the Aboriginals are a broad category. I hesitate to
use the term "First Nations," because they are First Nations plural.
There are many groupings within that.
As a Canadian of European ancestry, I can now say that we are coming to grips
with our Aboriginal injustices and moving towards undoing them. I live in
British Columbia, where there was recently a major settlement between the
federal government and British Columbia and the Nisga'a to deal with that.
Within the great Canadian family, there are many other Canadians, maybe even a
plurality of Canadians, who are of neither French nor English ancestry.
Certainly there are a number of non-aboriginal Canadians who do not come from
the roots of English-speaking or French-speaking people, and although we have
not carved out very special constitutional protections for their minority
cultures within this family, in the way we have for the French, English and
Aboriginals, nevertheless, we have created, through multicultural programs,
initiated both federally and provincially, many initiatives that make Canadians
from other backgrounds more at home and more at ease, with total
self-acceptance of their original cultural heritage; within the practical
limitations to which you are alluding, they are free to practice their
traditions, including their language, within the broader Canadian family.
I do not have any illusion that over the long haul, while we must always cherish
that and protect the right of these individual collectivities to live and
organize within Canada to enhance their cultural traditions, we will eventually
evolve with a strong English language, which is amalgam of all these people
too, and a strong French language, with again increasing immigrant role within
French language traditions in Quebec and outside, and strong Aboriginals. They
will remain dominant.
Senator Lavoie-Roux: When you talk about social, economic and cultural rights,
particularly cultural, there are limits. There are other large, considerable
communities, whether Italians, Greeks, Armenians or Chinese. You limit your
comments to the three groups recognized by the Constitution, those you referred
to, namely people of English, French or Native origin. We cannot talk about
respect for the cultural rights of all groups here. We can certainly encourage
them to maintain their contacts with their roots, but there are limits. We
cannot talk about respect for cultural rights in the same way we talk about
social and economic rights.
Mr. Broadbent: I agree that there are limits in a real society, and I do not
think I can add anything to what I have already said.
Senator Wilson: I appreciated your distinction between rights and a social
safety net, partly because the rhetoric about a social safety net is so high
these days. I also appreciated your reference to the UN Declaration of Human
Rights and its implications. I remember a short conversation I had with Stephen
Lewis once, when I said, "What is the point of all these covenants and
conventions, because nobody abides by them." He said, "They do, and I
use them as a tool for children, so don't abandon them." However, it is
You also said that there was an unstated social contract that was beyond parties
in the 1960s and 1970s. If we are moving towards such a social contract through
the observance of human rights and social justice, it seems to me that the
whole issue of power is involved.
I would like you to address the whole issue of civil society, those who, in many
sectors that I am in touch with, see themselves in conflict with the prevailing
philosophy right now. Is there sufficient institutional space for civil society
to have any effect on policy? Are there any public institutions that could help
to mediate the conflict that is inevitable?
Mr. Broadbent: Just picking up on your last observation, some conflict is
inevitable -- and desirable. Right? That is free debate. That kind of debate is
what a free society is all about. One way of defining it is that it
institutionalizes conflict in the sense that it makes it a debate and we do not
shoot each other, and so on. So some level of debate and conflict is inevitable
With respect to your notion of civil society, I have just had the pleasure of
heading a national panel on the voluntary sector in Canada. We are preparing
our final report. There are some 175,000 voluntary organizations in Canada,
75,000 of which are charitable. This sector plays, and has played since before
Confederation, a very important role in our democracy. A very high percentage of
Canadians -- one of the highest percentages in the world, if not the highest --
participate in the voluntary sector, which I will define for our purposes as "civil
society" in this discussion. On the one hand there is government, in all
the governmental institutions, and the private sector, the profit-making sector,
and on the other there is the voluntary, non-profit sector, which I will define
as "civil society."
It has a very important role, not only in providing a whole range of initiatives
and services -- everything from cultural matters to programs for the aged --
but also in initiating very often things that governments later take up. They
have a very positive and creative role there. Any government would be insane
that does not consult them when developing a new policy. If you are working with
the policy for pensioners, for instance, you should be consulting pensioner
groups. It should go without question.
There is a very interesting initiative that the Blair government took which I
think our government should have a look at. Through a series of discussions,
which has resulted in a paper, there was serious consultation with the
voluntary sector in the U.K. to set up procedures to enable the voluntary or
civil society sector to have a real impact, not simply to be consulted, but on
the outcomes of government policy. They had a hard look at that.
I am afraid I have not seen the document yet, but the government and the
voluntary sector have produced a kind of working document to show how there
could be a positive interrelationship between the civil society and the
government of the day, whatever the party is, so that, in addition to where
there will always be some disagreement and conflict, which is part of what
democracy is all about, they may be able to determine how that sector can have
a positive role in influencing the government.
It should be something that we look at ourselves to see if some broad-ranging
conclusions could be reached on that between the government, say the federal
government in this instance, and the voluntary sector.
Senator Wilson: Do you have any comments on my question about powers, since it
is heavily involved in this?
Mr. Broadbent: They are about rights. They are about giving citizens power, or
if we have international trade agreements they are about giving corporations
power and maybe reducing the state's power. Any serious rights discussion is of
course a discussion of power relations. Power is crucial and we should not
hesitate to talk about it in a democracy.
One of the important agendas that we ought to be looking at as a country is
increasing the accountability of our democratic state institutions. Parliaments
and legislatures must be more transparent and accountable. With elections and
access to information, by and large we have a strong democratic state
Part of what I learned in the past year looking at the voluntary sector is that
it is quite accountable. It is out there and open, transparent in most of its
activities. However, there are a number of things that should be done. We are
making recommendations to make it more accountable and transparent.
The key thing in the future of not only our society but others is the corporate
sector. One of the great interesting developments in the old left-right debates
is what has been put aside -- we will see for how long. This whole question of
nationalization has been put aside, for example. Unfortunately, power relations
are still on the table, which is what should be the case. That is why I eluded
before to the fact that I would like to see our country pay increasing
attention to having a dynamic private sector. Their mandates should be
broadened so that CEOs and boards of directors take into account social
obligations, not just the bottom line. For example, certain minimal human rights
conditions and certain environmental considerations would be part of it.
This comes back to the power question you are raising. Right now corporations
have largely unaccountable power. This is not because they are evil or wicked;
this has happened through our own laws. In the world, 51 of the largest
economies today are not countries; they are corporations largely accountable to
no one except their shareholders. Their mandate is profit maximization.
Do not take away profit maximization. That is the way the private sector
functions. However, for future democratic concern, add certain other
obligations. Just as we change state structures when they became democratic,
they take on different sets of responsibilities.
This is a power question. The big power question is: "How do we maintain
the vitality and creativity of a private sector, and at the same time make it
more accountable in a broad-ranging way to society as a whole beyond the simple
maximization of profits?"
It will not happen. Some companies are doing that. If you look at Levi-Strauss,
The Body Shop, and other companies around the world, they are self-imposing
social audits themselves. They are doing it. However, I do not think it will
become a common practice until Parliament makes it one.
Senator LeBreton: I was rather taken by the very simple dictionary definition of
cohesion as an act of sticking together. You did a good job of describing,
almost by decade, the post-war period and the 1950s and 1960s. You talked about
the remarkable cohesion in the North Atlantic world between 1945 and 1980. I
agree with that. Having become more equal, people became more tolerant. You
used the example of foreign aid, which is supported by Canadian citizens.
Mr. Broadbent: And affirmative action programs.
Senator LeBreton: I have the sense that people are not as willing to listen to
the other person's point of view. Perhaps it is because of the condition that
we are in and perhaps it is Generation X. Perhaps it is the influence in this
shrinking world and the fact that we hear that we are not as tolerant. The
political make-up of Parliament reflects that. I see it in communities. I have
the sense that we Canadians sit here believing we are tolerant, believing we
are special and different from the Americans, but I am not so sure that is the
case. Do you have a comment on that?
Mr. Broadbent: I am not an expert on public opinion. Mr. Adams was here before.
His work and that of others show what you have just said. We have become less
tolerant, less sharing and caring than we once were, rightly or wrongly. Causal
explanation is notoriously difficult. However, I do believe the Generation Xers
are that way because in large measure we abandon them. Beginning in the 1980s we
told them to look after themselves. We started the cutbacks in social programs.
We started to say that the state is not a legitimate way of expressing your
humanity for the public good. You are much better to head out and look after
yourself or even do charity work, which I do not denigrate at all, but do it
exclusively there as opposed to through public action, whether in Parliament or
the provincial legislature.
I come back to the role of politicians in this. What was new in the 1980s was
that we had politicians, such as Bill Davis in Ontario, saying this. Mr.
Robichaud in New Brunswick would not have said this.
You know my own party, almost by definition. There was a generation of political
leadership that believed in the legitimacy and the necessity of the social
interaction of the state with the economy to ensure a good, common, social
level of citizenship, not safety nets. I grew up with that. I took it as what
the world should be all about, but the Generation Xers did not, so how can I
criticize them? They are not selfish, but they are self-interested. They sense
that the state has abandoned them so there they are out pursuing what is kind
of superficially described maybe as "me-ism."
There has been some change, and that is well documented. A good reason for that
change is the political policies that we put in place.
Senator LeBreton: On the issue of people becoming more equal, of course women
entered the workforce in great numbers. I remember the 1970s with the "Why
not?" campaign and women taking their proper place in the workplace.
However, I sense that younger women do not appreciate or understand perhaps
that things have not always been this way. Women have fallen back, as far as I
can see. There might be more of us in the Senate, thank goodness, but in terms
of their influence in politics, witness right now what is occurring federally
here. There are issues that women traditionally bring to the table in politics
and in business. Have you any thoughts on that?
Mr. Broadbent: I am not sure. Do you mean on the increasing role of women?
Senator LeBreton: I find that people are not as tolerant now of women because
some segments of society tend to blame women for the economic fact. There are
more women in the workplace. There are men, and some people in society, that
tend to blame women. People make statements that more young men are
disenfranchised and are committing suicide, and they tend to blame it on the
fact that they have had to share the workplace more.
Mr. Broadbent: In my generation immigrants were blamed. People single out
targets. If there is an unemployment problem, then there are too many
immigrants or something. Now, if a young man has difficulty getting a job, and
a significant number do, although I do not know the actual number -- many would
say that it is because of women. In either case, as a generalization, it is a
reflection of their own insecurities.
Living in the North Atlantic world between 1945 and 1980 was the greatest time
to live for the greatest number of human beings ever in history. Of all the
times, that was the time in history to live. It was an expansive, increasingly
egalitarian time that embodied the sense that we are all in this together. By
that I do not mean that we had totally equal incomes. We took certain things out
of the marketplace and they got them. We have this tolerance; we come back to
I represented an industrial riding of Oshawa in my formative days and early in
my political life. When affirmative action programs came in, I heard very few
objections about women getting preferential treatment in large measure, I
believe, because those same workers were receiving the benefits of a decent
state that cared about their well-being, so they were more prepared to be
I am in British Columbia right now. Anyone who knows modern Vancouver knows that
it, like modern Toronto, is anything but a white town. We are rich and vibrant
because of that. I have no idea if racist comments are on the increase. I
suspect that compared to where we were 10 years ago, there is probably a
growing incivility. There are probably more racist comments than there would
have been a decade ago. I do not know that. If that is the case, it is a
reflection in general of this unequal insecurity about global markets and that
kind of thing.
Senator LeBreton: When you summed all this up, after we talked about the period
from 1945 to 1980, you said that there was an abrupt change in the early 1980s.
The catalyst was the accumulative deficit problem. In hindsight, what could we
have done then in the early 1980s?
Mr. Broadbent: I will not name the former prime minister, but I had a
conversation with one about this, and we both acknowledged we were both wrong.
In this period we expected growth rates that were roughly twice the level than
turned out to be the case. When the economic cycle turned down, both I in the
opposition and a certain prime minister who will go unnamed anticipated that the
turnaround in growth would be jacked back up to the kind of growth rates we had
before. So there were miscalculations.
The Chairman: In this discussion, are we focusing too much on the certain
circumstances on social policy traditionally understood? What about economic
policy? I know what your position was on free trade, although I note today that
the main point you made about the free trade agreements was that they lacked a
social and human rights component. However, as to the whole question of
economic policy, is it time for Keynes to come back or is there a whole new
economic policy out there somewhere that should be introduced and that will
have the same revolutionary impact on society that Keynesian economics had in
its day? At some point we must open that discussion. You may have to come back.
Senator Ferretti Barth: Mr. Broadbent, I speak French, it is the language I
speak best next to Italian. You have done some research, you have looked up the
meaning of social cohesion in the dictionaries. I have been asking myself this
question ever since we started talking about the issue. Do you believe in
social cohesion? And if so, in the context of globalization, how do you envisage
it for Canadians? Will it be possible or not? Will social cohesion cause the
disappearance of volunteer work, charities and community centres? These
agencies do outstanding work.
Mr. Broadbent: When I began my studies in Oxford two years ago, I was more
pessimistic than I am now. I had believed that something called globalization
was rolling right over us and that there was almost nothing we could do. I now
do not believe that at all. We made political decisions. I go back to the
observations about the free trade agreement. Certain parts of that were good and
certain parts not so good. The part that is a real problem for any nation state
is this flow of capital and how it affects their capacity to have their own
interest rates, to have indeed a fixed fiscal policy. That is government action
and leadership on a collaborative basis by all states. Just as we put old
Bretton Woods insitutions in place after the war, a new formulation of them can
deal with that part of the problem.
Second, my research led me to realize that there were remarkable differences on
how states were coping in this great world of globalization, that they are not
all forcing the disintegration of their welfare systems. Some of them were
building them up. There was considerable variation in terms of domestic
political policy in what they decided to do or not do. Globalization was having
domestic effects and I think that is important.
If you look at the domestic policies of three different states, the Netherlands,
Great Britain and Germany, there are considerable variations in these
countries. They are all within the European family of nations. There are
variations on how they have coped with globalization, especially on social
equity, burden sharing and so on. I am more convinced now than I was before I
looked at actual history that there is still a lot of scope for political
activity in the nation state if you want to do it.
Collectively, the Government of Canada is in a position that is beyond the
deficit. They are now talking about, or they were a few months ago anyway,
about the options that are before us. Do we deepen or strengthen social
programs, for example, or do we have tax cuts? These are very serious
implications for this issue.
For example, I was in the U.K. for the election. It will not surprise any of you
that I, as a resident Canadian citizen, could vote. It will not surprise you
who I voted for. Both the Labour and the Conservative parties admitted the
British health services and education were in serious difficulty, and that is
to put it euphemistically because they were seriously underfunded. However,
neither major party told the British electorate that if the citizens in Great
Britain paid the same level of taxes as the French and the Germans, they could
double their expenditure on health services and education.
Senator Lavoie-Roux: They are not all that good in France, either.
Mr. Broadbent: Things are relative. It illustrates the differences in options.
It is up to the British citizens. If they want to have what I regard as
grotesquely underfunded public education and health care systems, that is their
right. If they want to rebuild it, then they must increase taxes.
The Germans, the French and the Swedes are three entirely different political
cultures. The rich in all of those countries send their kids to the public
education system, not to private schools. Why? Because they keep them well
funded and they are very good. They also use the same hospitals. England to
this day has a differentiated health care system, one for the rich and one for
everybody else. As for the schools, there is one for the rich and the others
are for everyone else. It is up to the British to change that.
No matter what is happening in globalization, it has something to do with the
political values of the British. If they want to have lower taxes, if they want
to have more money to spend on gadgets instead of spending their money on
health care or parks, that is a political choice.
Whatever the problems are in globalization, the major response is that it is
within our own power politically in our own countries.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. The students and professors at Simon Fraser
are very fortune to have had you for the last couple of years.
The committee adjourned.