"These Principles are very important – they remind us as social democrats not simply where we’ve been, but where we want to go." - Ed Broadbent
Broadbent Principles for Canadian Social Democracy
We believe in building a Canada that is just and equitable. In this, egalitarian social democratic values serve as our guide.
More specifically, we see social democracy as the sum of the values embedded in the United Nations system of human rights as found in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; Covenant on Cultural, Economic and Social Rights; and Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada is signatory to both of these Covenants and has adopted the Declaration, but the promise of all three remains unfulfilled.
All people have equal worth and equal rights – and all benefit from living in an increasingly equal society. To achieve this in a country with a market-based economy requires an ongoing process of decommodification, a process that sees important social and economic benefits taken out of the market and transformed into universal rights, such as in health services, education, social welfare and housing. This means an essential and robust role for governments at all levels in the provision of public goods.
To achieve economic stability, full employment and decent jobs, we support a mixed market economy, with private, public, co-operative and not-for-profit ownership. As evidenced by some of the most exciting economic advances of the last few decades, public sector investment is a key and critical foundation to entrepreneurialism and innovation.
A market-based economy must not be allowed to produce a market-determined society. When there are conflicts between the human rights of people and the property rights of corporations, those of citizens must prevail.
We believe the crises we face—whether unequal economic outcomes, racism and discrimination, climate change and environmental degradation, and declining democratic participation — require for their resolution an activist public sector and a strong civil society.
As such, Canadian social democracy should adhere to the following six principles for ongoing action:
Furthering economic and social rights in addition to political rights.
Social democrats believe that people’s rights are not confined to the traditional, though critically important, civil and political rights but also encompass being able to live a life of dignity, a life free from poverty and with access to essential services. It is for this reason that Canadian social democrats have always been at the forefront of expanding rights to include social and economic rights. We have led the struggle for comprehensive healthcare as a right, with the latest iteration of this multi-generation fight being the campaign for universal Pharmacare.
- Creating a green economy that leaves nobody behind.
Climate change is an existential crisis. As the world’s economy decarbonizes over the next few decades social democrats must ensure that this process results in good new jobs, and that those in polluting industries receive a “just transition.”
- The transformative potential of electing social democratic governments responsive to robust social movements.
Lasting societal change can only come about through harnessing the creativity and power of social movements and ensuring progressives are elected so that they can govern for the common good. Social democrats, therefore, work tirelessly for change in and outside of election periods.
- Workplace democracy including the right to a trade union and the fundamental role of the labour movement.
The trade union movement is one of the few democratic forces with the heft to push back against the excesses of capital. As such, unions are good for our entire society not just for their members. As workplaces change it is more critical than ever that workers have access to basic necessities like paid sick days to make possible a life of dignity. Social democrats should also make room for other forms of economic democracy such as cooperatives.
- The dismantling of structural systems of oppression.
We need to actively dismantle historic and ongoing structural barriers - including but not limited to racism and sexism - that prevent people from having a life of dignity and realizing their full rights. The rise of right-wing populism, and its attendant bigotry, has made the moral case for stamping out white supremacy clearer than ever. The need to address the persistent wage gap and undervaluing of care work and other gendered work was emphasized by the pandemic.
- Fully implementing the rights and title of Indigenous peoples and supporting their goal of achieving self-governance.
Canadian social democrats proudly stood in partnership with Indigenous leadership to insist on the inclusion of s. 35 in the Canadian Constitution Act, to recognize and affirm the inherent and comprehensive rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in this country, including Aboriginal rights, treaty rights, charter rights and human rights. With Canada and some provinces now moving to enshrine the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in law, this is the decade to resolve underfunding of essential services and to finally make good on repeated failed promises.