Partisanship, Globalization, and Canadian Labour Market Policy: Four Provinces in Comparative Perspectives.
Contains Bibliography, Index
Graeme S. Mount is a history professor at Laurentian University and
author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable Kingdom.
Haddow and Klassen offer case studies of the ways in which globalization has affected Canadian Labour Market Policy in the four largest provinces. The authors examine industrial relations, workers’ compensation, training, and social assistance from 1990 to 2003. Steffen Schneider contributes a chapter on the results of globalization in Germany, which also has a federal system of government.
Ontario exemplifies the problem of determining globalization’s impact. In 1990, its voters elected an NDP government. In 1995, they replaced that government with the most rabidly, ideologically right-of-centre government in the province’s history. That Conservative government, led by Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, held office until 2003, slashing public services and reversing the labour laws and social policies of its immediate predecessor. The U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1989, NAFTA in 1994. To what extent, then, were changes in Ontario the result of globalization, and to what extent were they attributable to the policies of Harris and Eves?
Data from other provinces helps provide an answer. In contrast to Ontario, Alberta experienced political stability, governed by Conservatives for the entire 13 years, led personally by Ralph Klein for 12 of them. British Columbia had NDP government from 1991 until 2001, a right-of-centre Liberal government thereafter. Quebec was the antithesis of Ontario and British Columbia, moving from the centrist Liberals to the left-of-centre Parti Québecois in 1994. If globalization was the major deciding factor, all four provinces should have changed their laws in a similar direction. If the biases of the provincial governments were paramount, the reverse should have been true.
The authors conclude that there were major changes in Ontario and British Columbia, and less significant ones in Quebec, as the government ideology changed. Alberta, not surprisingly, was most stable. Hence, despite globalization, elected governments retain an element of choice. Evidence from Germany confirms that conclusion.
As a historian, the present reviewer would have preferred comparisons limited to what actually happened in the four provinces, with less emphasis on comparisons between what the authors had anticipated and the actual results. Obviously, others disagree. The evidence, nevertheless, is persuasive.