A review of Keith G. Banting, editor, The Nonprofit Sector in Canada: Roles and Relationships. Kingston, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University, 2000; Thomas J. Courchene, editor, Room to Manoeuvre? Globalization and Policy Convergence, Montreal and Kingston, School of Policy Studies, Queen's University and McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999; David B. Knight and Alun E. Joseph, editors, Restructuring Societies: Insights from the Social Sciences, Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1999.
All three of the edited collections under review here are informed by the idea that the environment of Canadian public policy has changed in important ways. The elements of change are globalization, technology, and the political emergence of something called "the new right." These changes in the environment have led to "restructuring" and may lead to even more. This raises several questions. First, given globalization and changes in technology, do governments have choices with respect to policies? If there is a choice, what policies should be chosen? Finally, might it be sensible to select policies the consequence of which is to limit future choices? This latter issue is often central in discussions with respect to the desirability of free trade treaties.
Room to Manoeuvre? is a set of careful examinations of the effects of globalization and technology on Canadian policy options. It contains the most direct consideration of the issue of constraint on policy. The editors' introduction to Restructuring Societies asserts the importance of globalization. It is followed by a set of essays that vary considerably in their attention to globalization but several of which seem to be unsympathetic to the "new right." The Nonprofit Sector assumes changes in the policy environment that have led both to a growth in importance of the sector and changes in its organization. In what follows I will consider each collection separately and then, briefly, return to the broader questions sketched above.
Writing the introductory essay to their collection must have been something of a challenge to Knight and Joseph. The contents of the essays are all over the place. Bob Rae seeks inspiration in Edmund Burke and George Orwell. Each, it turns out, was opposed to extremism. Neither, he thinks, would have been enthused by the "libertarian excesses" (p. 30) of the new right as embodied in the current Progressive Conservative government of Ontario. Moran attempts to draw lessons for Canada from the new right-inspired changes that began in New Zealand in the 1980s. While "according to most macroeconomic criteria, the reforms would be considered a success" (p. 51), Moran seems to think that this would be less the case in terms of the satisfaction of health care and education employees (p. 53). Barling assembles a set of conventional indicators (working hours, the incidence of involuntary part time work and self-employment, duration of unemployment, a sense of ambient insecurity) to make a case to the effect that there has been a decrease in the quality of employment relations in Canada. He further claims that the rise in insecurity has been bad for profits and productivity. Leach and Winson show that most workers who were laid off when their plants closed were subsequently worse off. The collection finishes with two essays on aboriginals (Dickason, Wolfe-Keddie) that are quite interesting but have little to do with the other essays.
Knight and Joseph are a bit ambiguous on the issue of choice. On one hand they argue that "a new form of capitalism characterized by the increased mobility of capital and the rise of transnational corporations, facilitated by the rapid evolution of world-wide digital communications technology" holds "increasing sway" and "presents a challenge to states" (p. 3) -- which rather suggests increasing constraint. On the other hand, "there is no single path along which states are being forced or led" (p. …