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What kind of Canada?

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Canadian Council on Social Development
Fact sheet
Publication Date: 
8 Apr 2004

Excerpts from the brief: So why is the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) urging citizens, communities and leaders across the country to pay attention? Because creation of the Canada Social Transfer is one of those historic opportunities that come along from time to time and challenge us to step back and consider what kind of Canada we want to live in. We have had, and continue to have, a long and lively dialogue on the future of our health care system. The future of Canada's social programs has not received the same kind of thoughtful scrutiny by Canadians. And it should. The CCSD is issuing a call for a national debate on the Canada Social Transfer and has drafted a four-point agenda to get the ball rolling. But before presenting our agenda, let us look at how and why we came to this point... The last time the federal government changed the structure of these transfers to provincial and territorial governments was in 1995, when the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) and Established Programs Financing (EFP) were eliminated and the new Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) was created. The CHST was a block fund for health care, post-secondary education, and social transfers, which included social assistance and other social services, such as child welfare. The Canada Social Transfer, as it is currently configured, perpetuates the same problem, albeit on a smaller scale, as the now-defunct CHST. It lumps social programs and post-secondary education together in a block fund. There is a relationship between social programs and education, but blurring transfers does not build links across sectors. It simply obscures how much funding is going where. The Romanow Commission recommended a separate Health Transfer both to ensure predictability and stability of funding for health care and to increase accountability and transparency for expenditures. We would argue for the same good reasons that social programs should have their own transfer fund. A separate transfer for social programs will still encompass a wide range of activities, including social assistance, related training, child welfare, civil legal aid, early childhood development programs and child care. But splitting these social programs from post-secondary education is at least some progress towards recognizing the distinct character of each policy area, their unique approaches to the assessment of need, and potential conditions for the transfer of funds. A FOUR-POINT AGENDA TO RENEW THE CANADA SOCIAL TRANSFER The CCSD is aware that the Canada Social Transfer, in and of itself, will not resolve all Canada's social challenges. But it can, and should, be a key instrument in our collective hands to help us address at least some of these challenges. It is a useful starting point to get a healthy debate going. A four-point agenda to renew the Canada Social Transfer is proposed: 1. The Canada Social Transfer should be split into two parts: one for social programs and the other for post-secondary education. 2. Funding for the Canada Social Transfer should be restored to 1994-95 levels, and predictability and stability of funding should be guaranteed. 3. Common principles and objectives for the social transfer should be agreed to by all parties through a broad engagement with Canadians. 4. A pan-Canadian body should be established to measure outcomes, share innovation and foster citizen involvement. The rationale for each of these points is discussed briefly.