Unions in the Time of Revolution: Government Restructuring in Alberta and Ontario


279 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8753-1
DDC 331'.0413517123




Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the former editor of the journal, Ontario History. He is the author
of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality and Canadian History to
1967, and the co-author of The College o


Some wept and some walked out from work during radical government
downsizing at both federal and provincial levels in the 1990s, but more
taxpayers welcomed a lowering of personal income taxes or more efficient
use of their money. This study by Calgary business professor Yonatan
Reshef and sociologist Sandra Rastin examines a part of this process of
restructuring in the provinces of Alberta and Ontario. The comparisons
and contrasts that the authors show are revealing, but at times the
elaboration of their theoretical superstructure and statements about the
obvious make the book a tough read.

The authors use a variety of earlier studies to portray the milder and
more pragmatic character of Ralph Klein’s reforms in Alberta in
contrast to the more ideological and confrontational approach taken by
Mike Harris’s Commonsense Revolution in Ontario. At root, the process
began in Margaret Thatcher’s England and Ronald Reagan’s America,
but provincial action was unavoidable after Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin,
and the federal Liberals slashed transfers to the provinces. As health
and education costs are nearly everything to provincial budgets, those
areas were slammed the hardest.

In this book, the authors concentrate on trade union responses to
changes in legislation and to downsizing and outsourcing. Reshef and
Rastin are interested in government and education workers rather than
the health sector. They do not really get to the core of their findings
until page 194 when they examine in detail the results of their oral
interviews with dozens of union officials. They argue that governments
provoke negative responses from unions not through simple changes, but
rather in trying to alter boundaries and traditional territories in
which the two sides operate.

In the end, Reshef and Rastin provide a thorough analysis about a
mini-revolution in government, but they are unable to elucidate the
tidal effects of downsizing on human lives in this generation or the


Reshef, Yonatan, and Sandra Rastin., “Unions in the Time of Revolution: Government Restructuring in Alberta and Ontario,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/15642.