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October 18, 2010

Equality or Barbarism?

Ed Broadbent, former leader of the federal New Democratic Party and sponsor of the unanimous 1989 parliamentary resolution to eliminate child poverty in Canada by 2000, gave the Charles Bronfman Lecture in Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa on October 14. The Star published his speech entitled Equality or Barbarism?

In the speech, Broadbent reflects on the radical shift in political perspectives and public policy between the post-World War II era and current days.
"Writing in The New Yorker magazine two years ago," Broadbent explains, "David Frum, the Canadian born speech-writer for George Bush, asserted that the conservative revolution launched by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s had as its specific purpose the rolling back of “social democracy” in the Anglo-American world."
Broadbent traces the roots of the "social democratic" perspectives that shaped Canadian politics during the 1950s, '60s, and '70s and the gradual unraveling wrought by recent governments of the social and economic fabric created during those earlier decades.

Persistent poverty and growing inequality are some of the fruits of the recent changes in Canada's public policies. Broadbent points to recent research on the ill-effects of growing inequality.

Broadbent then asks whether we will choose business as usual for as we emerge from the recent recession or whether we will seek to fashion policies that begin to close the gap in incomes and opportunities.

It is worth the time to read and reflect on what Mr. Broadbent has to say.

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