Racial Politics and Social Policy in Urban Canada
Livingstone, Anne-marie Louise
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The dissertation presents findings from a comparative study of urban policies the provincial governments of Quebec and Ontario introduced simultaneously, yet independently, in the year of 2006. Its central purpose is to resolve an unexpected paradox between the two cases. In 2006, the two provinces launched new policies in direct response to crises of urban violence that were steeped in racial stereotypes of deviant young black males. In defiance of its reputation for progressive social policy, Quebec embarked on a disciplinary strategy of law enforcement and detention. In Ontario, the government broke from the history of neo-liberal cuts and injected new funds into social provision for low-income youth. To answer the puzzle, the study combines data from interviews with respondents who participated in the policy process in each province and archival material. Findings show that the causes of the policy change were roughly the same across the two provinces, and reflected a convergence between exogenous pressures and the interests of political institutions. In each case, well-publicized incidents of gun violence became “focusing events” that created a window of opportunity for advocates to push through their preferred policy. In Quebec, those advocates were police chiefs, who lobbied successfully for a crime-fighting strategy against “street gangs.” In Ontario, black Liberal politicians and black community organizations in Toronto were instrumental in framing the policy agenda around the need to tackle poverty, inequality, and racial discrimination. To explain the source of these discrepancies, the dissertation develops an explanatory frame that centers on the interaction between political institutions and black political incorporation. It argues that the history of multiculturalism, decentralization, black political mobilization, and multi-racial coalitions in Toronto created the context for black political actors to be represented in the policy process in 2005. In Quebec, black political mobilization remains low due to sub-state nationalism, centralization, and a politics of culture and ethnic identity that overrides race. The dissertation further concludes that Ontario’s policy of youth development has been more conducive to solving problems of urban distress and racial inequality; in contrast, Quebec’s policy of “street gangs” has reinforced negative racial stereotypes of black youth and racial inequality.