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Political Science Economic Policy

Equal as Citizens

The tumultuous and troubled history of a great Canadian idea

by (author) Richard Starr

Formac Publishing Company Limited
Initial publish date
May 2014
Economic Policy, Civics & Citizenship, Social Services & Welfare
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2014
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2014
    List Price

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No matter where they live, Canadians expect and receive equal benefits from their government when it comes to old age pensions, consular services when travelling abroad, and airline safety. Canadians also expect the same quality of education, medical care, and social benefits anywhere in the country. But when government services come from provinces and not Ottawa, differences in the quality of services can be enormous. Canada's provinces have equal responsibilities but very unequal means to pay for those responsibilities.

Equal citizenship for all Canadians is an idea that has a long and distinguished pedigree in Canadian life. When differences between the provinces grew dramatically in the early twentieth century, politicians crafted a response that sought to equalize services across the country. They called these measures "equalization," and the idea was deemed so fundamental that it was embodied in the 1982 Canadian constitution.

But Canada has changed. The centre of wealth has been shifting from Ontario toward the resource-rich provinces. The wealth gap between provinces has grown -- and with it disparities in taxes and services available to citizens. Regionalism and neoconservative ideas have undermined support for equal citizenship.

In this compelling new book, Richard Starr traces the history of this idea. He tracks how it has been undermined and attacked, and proposes how it can be reframed in a twenty-first century context to attract the support of most Canadians.

About the author

RICHARD STARR has had careers as a journalist, public servant, broadcaster, political staffer and freelance policy adviser. He is author of numerous newspaper and magazine articles, appearing in everything from Atlantic Insight to Atlantic Progress. A lifelong student of Maritime history, Starr is married to playwright and former MP Wendy Lill. They live in Dartmouth.

Richard Starr's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"In this compelling new book, Ruichard Starr traces the history of...equalization. He tracks how it has been undermined and attacked, and proposes how it can be reframed to suit today's political context."

Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing, 2015