Cross Country Checkup

Is it time to repair Canada's social safety net?

The social safety net: A new study says the structures that support Canada's social safety net are crumbling. The aging programs that deliver health care, pensions, and employment insurance etc. no longer fit the needs of Canadians.

The social safety net: A new study says the structures that support Canada's social safety net are crumbling. The aging programs that deliver health care, pensions, and employment insurance no longer fit the needs. What do you think? Is it time for a rebuild?



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The immortal Samual Johnson said it well : "A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization." 

Or to put the same idea more broadly, in the words of  Mahatma Ghandi: "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." 

How we care and provide for the weakest members of our society is our topic today.

The grand dame of Canada's social policies is the provision for universal healthcare. But we have many other benefits and programs whhich provide a social safety net. They include such things as unemployment insurance and the Canada Pension Plan, as well as the disability allowance, and provisions for affordable housing, education and skills training.

A new report from the Mowat Centre, a University of Toronto think-tank, argues that many of these policies came into place decades ago and were intended to meet the needs of a population - and an economy -  very different from the one we have today. The report lays out that Canada's social safety net is outdated. That there are too many gaps and inconsistencies. That the existing policies are simply not meeting the needs of Canadians today.

Over the years on Cross Country Checkup we have had discussions about many of these policies individually - as they come into the public spotlight or news for one reason or another. One such occasion was two years ago when provincial finance ministers unsuccessfully lobbied the federal government to reform the Canada Pension Plan. 

Today we'd like the hear what you think about the whole range of social policies serving Canadians. 
And to ask if you think those policies and programs are meeting the needs of Canadians today?

Does our social safety net - or what some are calling our social architecture - need mending, or adjusting?
And if so, in what ways?

We would particularly like to hear of any experiences you might have with social policies.
Maybe you or someone close to you has experienced the grind of unemployment, or the difficulty in finding affordable housing? Or you've had problems with disability or caring for an elderly relative.

Have you been able to access the help and services you need?
Has the support been provided in a timely and efficient manner?

Should government be the main provider of these supports? Are there other institutions and networks, formal and informal to provide for those in need?

Are there ways that red tape, form filling and bureacracy can be reduced in the delivery of these services? And how do we decide the breadth of services that should be available

Our question today:  "Is it time to repair Canada's social safety net?"

I'm Rex Murphy  ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius XM, satellite radio channel 169 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


Sunil Johal​
Policy Director at the Mowat Centre, a think tank at the University of Toronto which has released a new report on social architecture. 
Twitter: @MowatCentre, @johalsunil

Charles Lammam
Director of fiscal studies at the Fraser Institute. 
Twitter: @CharlesLammam

Michael Van Pelt 
President of the think tank Cardus
Twitter: @cardusca, @MichaelHVanPelt 


Mowat Centre

National Post

Globe and Mail


Fraser Institute

Caledon Institute