On September 24th, 2013, Broadbent Institute Chair Ed Broadbent gave the 2nd annual Jack Layton Lecture at Ryerson University. In this speech, Ed Broadbent connects the philosophy and historical successes of social democracy with today's social and political challenges.
Over the past fifty years, social democrats — both in government and out — have achieved great progress. The creation of the middle class, the extension of new rights to previously disadvantaged groups like women and gays and lesbians, and an openness to new movements like environmentalism are some of the many advances that social democracy can claim credit for.
But what now? Are the dreams of social democracy and the cherished social programmes of Canadians still affordable? Broadbent's answer is yes. And he urges a confident reassertion of the social democratic values cherished by Canadians and a political leadership that will take us beyond indifference and cynicism to build a better Canada for us all.
Social factors play a significant role in determining whether we will be healthy or ill. Our health care is but one element of what makes the biggest difference in health outcomes. This has been understood for centuries, and empirically validated in recent decades with study after study demonstrating health inequalities between wealthy and disadvantaged populations.
Yet political conversations about health still tend to fall into familiar traps. When we talk about health we return by reflex to doctors and nurses, hospitals and pharmacies. And when we talk about politics — the field of endeavour with the greatest impact on what determines health outcomes — a narrow and economistic outlook seems to trump any attempts to address those social determinants.
On September 16th, Preston Manning published an article on the recent defeat of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) at the hands of the conservative Liberal-National coalition in the Globe and Mail. Left-wing governments destroy healthy economies, he told us, they 'binge' on stimulus spending, are soft on unions, govern badly and can’t manage environmental policy.
The high-profile Toronto Centre federal by-election features two well-known opposition candidates who agree that soaring income inequality, especially the fast-rising income share of the top 1% with all of its well-documented negative effects, is the defining political issue of our times. At issue is what we should be doing about it, through changes to public policy.
In thinking about this question, it is useful to distinguish between policies that affect the distribution of income by the market (called predistribution) and policies that make incomes after taxes and transfers more equal than market incomes (redistribution).