The 'Great West' Experiment: Neo-Liberal Convergence and Transforming Citizenship in Canada


  • Amber Gazso
  • Susan McDaniel


Over the period 1993-2004, the western Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, with governing political parties ranging from left to right, experimented with the restructuring of their social assistance policies and programs. By 2004, benefits were no longer provided on the basis of social rights of citizenship but conditional on the recipient's actual or potential employability. Analysis of the annual reports of the provincial ministries responsible for social assistance over this time period reveals that the specific policy assumptions and strategies that create benefits conditional on employability fall into four inter-related dimensions: restriction; enforcement; surveillance; and sharing responsibility. Qualitative differences were found in the provinces' restructuring trajectories across these dimensions. In this paper, based on our findings, we advance the argument that these dimensions of restructuring ultimately converge into a larger project of solidifying market citizenship through the conditioning of employability, and where neo-liberal market logic is superimposed on non-market facets of everyday lives (including parenting and care-giving) with problematic societal consequences. Key Words: neo-liberalism, western Canada, social assistance reform, employability, citizenship.




How to Cite

Gazso, A., & McDaniel, S. (1996). The ’Great West’ Experiment: Neo-Liberal Convergence and Transforming Citizenship in Canada. Canadian Review of Social Policy Revue Canadienne De Politique Sociale, (63-64). Retrieved from