Social security programs helped to define Canada in the twentieth century and, for the generation that came of age during the Cold War, family allowances more than any other social program embodied the new national ideal. But was this program, which gave all mothers a monthly stipend to raise the nation’s babies, driven by a desire to create a kinder, gentler nation or was it more influenced by economics, constitution-making, and international trends in public policy?
This book explores the family allowance phenomenon from the idea's debut in the House of Commons in 1929 to the program's demise as a universal program under the Mulroney government in 1992. Although successive federal governments remained committed to its underlying principle of universality, party politics, the bureaucracy, federal-provincial wrangling, and the shifting priorities of citizens eroded the rights-based approach to social security and replaced it with one based on need. By tracing the evolution of one social security program within a national perspective, From Rights to Needs sheds new light on the process by which Canada’s welfare state and social policy has been transformed over the past half century.
From Rights to Needs is a nuanced and comprehensive exploration of the origins and development of family allowances. It will appeal to readers in the public policy community; students and scholars in political science, history, social work, and sociology; and general readers interested in the history and politics of Canadian welfare.