Saturday, June 04, 2011

"Restraining the welfare state"

This piece last Sunday in the Star, "Restraining the welfare state," by Stanford Professor Michael Boskin, a former Bush the first adviser, has evoked a fair response in letters to today's Star: "Welfare argument full of holes." Boskin's thesis was that Harper's re-election to a majority government has affirmed that voters are looking to restrain "the growth of the welfare state." He sees this as possibly part of an international trend, along with the Republicans recapturing the House in the U.S., the British Tories' win (albeit through coalition, which he fails to mention). You will hear echoes of his thesis from the Harper Conservatives and their supporters. You heard traces of it in the Rob Ford campaign here in Toronto too.

One response to Boskin questions the premise of the thesis, however, that there has been growth in the Canadian welfare state, then goes on to rhyme off a litany of statistics demonstrating where we're deficient in spending, not over-indulging.

Depending on how Harper goes about deficit reduction, and he will no doubt do it quite cleverly - he's no David Cameron or Paul Ryan after all, evoking a huge backlash by providing big fat targets - there may be ample room for articulation of a "new Canadian deal" as one of the letter writers puts it.

This seemed like a very interesting debate this week and it's likely going to keep our attention as the Conservatives start angling for restraint.