Debating Canada's Future: Views from the Left


312 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55028-344-8
DDC 320.5'31'09971




Edited by Simon Rosenblum and Peter Findlay
Reviewed by Phillip J. Wood

Phillip J. Wood is an associate professor of political studies at
Queen’s University.


Over the long haul, some of the most important challenges to social
democracy have emerged in the context of major social upheavals wrought
by capital and markets. Such is the case in the late 20th century, as a
variety of technological and political developments and the global
mobility of capital have undercut many articles of postwar social
democratic faith and generated intense debate about the best way to

The editors have assembled 19 writers to debate, from a Canadian
perspective, eight problems of contemporary social democratic thinking:
public ownership; the social contract; trade and competition; the
environment; child care; contract motherhood; the Quebec question; and
national defence. Edward Broadbent provides what is, in the overall
context, an upbeat introduction.

The results are mixed. In the first place, if it is true that we need
to understand the contemporary development of our North American
capitalist way of life in order to think sensibly about a social
democratic alternative, only some of the debates, such as the
Bienefeld–Wolfe debate on trade, will help. Others seem curiously
detached from this evolving context. An example is the argument made by
several contributors that Sweden provides a viable model of social
democracy that Canada might follow with profit. Either we need evidence
that such models are capable of being exported (and that “national”
solutions still hold promise) or it must be shown that the Swedish model
of economic organization provides a real defence against the
consequences of global economic and political restructuring. But such
evidence as there was is looking increasingly dated as Sweden moves
toward a North American solution to high unemployment, uncontrollable
deficits, and capital flight. If the Swedish model can only postpone the
crisis rather than short-circuit it, why bother?

Second, in terms of the debates about socialism and social democracy
taking place in Canada and elsewhere, topics are omitted that could
plausibly be argued to be more important than some of those included:
democracy; the state and citizenship; women’s liberation in the broad
sense; education; race; the welfare state; international development and
what used to be called the “Third World”; and the aboriginal

Despite such reservations, this is a useful collection that provides
the general reader with an introduction to some of the problems that are
being discussed by the left in Canada, and to the diversity of socialist
and social democratic thinking. Parts of it will also be useful as
supplementary reading in college and university courses in Canadian
politics and public policy.


“Debating Canada's Future: Views from the Left,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,