Equal As Citizens
The Tumultuous and Troubled History of a Great Canadian Idea
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in JournalismNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books Network September 11, 2014 Bruce Wark
“We are not half a dozen provinces. We are one great Dominion,” Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald proudly declared. More than a century later, Canada has 10 provinces and three northern territories making it one of the biggest and richest countries on Earth. In the spirit of optimism that prevailed in the year after the country celebrated its 100th anniversary, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called for the founding of a just society in which every Canadian would enjoy fundamental rights.. But according to a recently published book, the country is retreating from Macdonald’s vision of one great country and from Trudeau’s call for a just society. In Equal As Citizens: The Tumultuous and Troubled History of a Great Canadian Idea (Formac, 2014), authorRichard Starr argues that Canada is losing its commitment to equal opportunity and sharing the country’s wealth. He traces the long history of Canada’s slow evolution toward a more equal society and its gradual retreat from that ideal. He shows that Canadians in richer provinces including Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia, now enjoy higher levels of government services, such as better health care and education, than those who live in poorer provinces such as Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. More than 30 years ago, Canada’s politicians enshrined their commitment to equal opportunity and public services in the Canadian constitution, but Starr writes that those commitments have been forgotten. As a result, citizens in poorer provinces are paying higher taxes for lower levels of public services. In this interview with the New Books Network, Richard Starr says he hopes his book will spark more discussion and debate about inequality in Canada.