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Political Science General

Old Age Pensions and Policy-Making in Canada

by (author) Kenneth Bryden

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
May 1974
General, Human Resources & Personnel Management
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 1974
    List Price

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Old age pensions have been a recurring issue in Canadian politics since the beginning of the twentieth century and now have more government resources devoted to them than to any other single public program. For these reasons the author has selected old age pensions as a case study on the politics of income redistribution. Professor Bryden analyses the development of public pension policy against the background of two opposing forces: the social and economic needs of an emerging urban-industrial society and the influence of a deep-rooted set of cultural values referred to as the market ethos which reinforces dominant economic interests. In particular he shows how the impact of the two forces - the one demanding the other resisting, income redistribution - affected the choice and later revisions of means test pensions in 1927, universal pensions in 1951, and contributory pensions in 1965. The features of these three pension plans are examined in detail, as are the conditions which brought the pension Issue to the top of the government agenda in each case; the alternative plans which were discussed; and the influence of individual members of parliament, political parties, the trade union movement, other interest groups, and provincial governments on the shape or revision of each new program. The expansion of pension programs brought about large increases in public expenditure. Regressive taxes and "contributions" were built into the policy designs and were justified in terms of the market ethos-prospective beneficiaries, it was argued, should be required to contribute to their own pensions. Professor Bryden examines the reality of the taxes and concludes that those in the lower middle income range and below have been required to assume a disproportionate share of the burden of providing income maintenance for the aged. In short, accommodations to the market ethos were an integral part of public pension policy.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Kenneth Bryden is Associate Professor of Political Science at the Department of Political Economy, University of Toronto.