Ottawa Seeks to Bring UK Conservatives' 'Big Society' Failure to Canada

In an effort to re-brand the bankers as do-gooders, this social financing is front and centre. It is public relations and privatization mixed together and it is dangerous.

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Today, Canada’s federal Conservative government have announce a policy that is a very similar line to the UK Conservatives’ 2010 “Big Society” campaign. The Big Society program is about replacing public sector workers on the front lines with volunteers, retired people and low-wage/subsidized private sector non-profit workers funded by the private banks. The project comes under different headers including social impact bonds, social financing, impact investing, “B” corporations and social ventures capital. The old word for it is philanthropy, but this model has a new twist where the corporation/bank actually gets all its “donation” back with a hefty profit tacked on the top paid for by the public.

This has been very damaging to the public sector in Britain and Australia and is part of the program of eliminating large sections of the public workforce and disassembling publicly funded, accessible welfare state infrastructure. The policy has resulted in massive decreases in quality and accessibility of public services in Britain. It must be challenged and stopped here before it is able to be implemented.

#Some Background Resources

  1. CUPE released a research note on this issue earlier this year that has useful background and links on Social Impact Bonds, which is a similar policy instrument here in Canada.
  2. CUPE has made a submission to HRSDC highlighting the problems with Social Impact Bonds.
  3. John Loxley, Department of Economics, University of Manitoba has done a full analysis of Social Impact Bonds for the CCPA.
  4. Kyle McKay, University of Maryland - College Park produced the report Evaluating Social Impact Bonds as a New Reentry Financing Mechanism: A Case Study on Reentry Programming in Maryland which isa detailed examination of social impact bonds and recommends their rejection.
  5. NUPGE has also published a report on the disaster of Social Impact Bonds entitled Social Impact Bonds: A new way to privatize public services
  6. NUPGE has published a brief note outlining the Top 10 reasons to be worried about Social Impact Bonds
  7. A March, 2012 editorial by Unison on the Big Society project in the UK entitled Beat this big society nonsense
  8. Here is a link to the UK Cabinet Office’s page for their Big Society program.
  9. Here is an analysis from the left-liberal Centre for Policy Development on Big Society.
  10. Here is an announcement that UK Labour is giving up fighting some of the policy proposals in Big Society as they seem to have become integral to the running of the UK state over the previous two years.
  11. Midred Warner at Cornell University has published a paper entitled: Profiting from Public Value? The Case of Social Impact Bonds
  12. David Macdonald explains how the social impact bond is anti-philanthropy: Social Impact Bonds: The anti-philanthropy
  13. Citizens’ Press editorial: Social Impact Bonds: The Next Stage of Casino Capitalism