Canada is a fantastic country with one of the highest standards of living in the world. Residents enjoy access to certain benefits which citizens of capitalist countries don’t enjoy. This has made many question the political leanings of the country. So, is Canada socialist?
Canada isn’t a socialist country. Instead, it’s a social democracy. Qualities that prove it’s not socialist include elections, economic control, strong private sector and commercialized education sector. But its welfare programs, taxes, and healthcare are also evidence of its socialist leanings.
Before one can conclude whether Canada is socialist or not, it’s important to know what socialism truly means and its alternatives. This article looks at the factors on both sides of the argument to determine whether Canada is truly a socialist state.
What is Socialism
Socialism is a socio-economic and political system in which the state encourages the system of production, exchange, and distribution controlled by the community. Thus, socialism believes that the community should control wealth creation and production instead of corporations or individuals. In such a situation, the distribution of resources will be based on needs rather than ability.
Factors Showing Canada is Socialist
Certain attributes of Canada make the state appear like a socialist. They include
1. Welfare Programs
The welfare programs in Canada make many people see it as a socialist country. Social welfare programs in the country are available at all stages of government, from the federal to the municipal level. Moreover, these welfare programs are available for both permanent residents and, in some cases, the refugees too.
Canadian welfare programs are of two categories. They are service-based social programs and income assistance programs. Common examples of income assistance programs include Employment insurance benefits, workers compensation, Canada Child benefits, and many others. On the other hand, service-based programs focus on providing essential services for citizens and residents at a subsidized or free cost.
2. Healthcare Programs
There’s no way we can talk about seemingly socialist policies without mentioning healthcare. Free healthcare is one of the most laudable things about the country. Health Canada is the federal institution responsible for providing and managing these healthcare programs.
In addition, the country has Medicare, which is a publicly funded health insurance program that ensures everyone has access to healthcare services and physicians regardless of their economic status. A policy like this is a populist policy which is what socialism is all about. It evens the playing field, providing access to medical services for everyone. In Canada, there is also health support for specific members of the society, such as members of the Canadian armed forces.
This is also one of the factors that could be considered when deciding whether a country is socialist or not. Generally, socialist countries use taxes as one of the ways to redistribute income and ensure that everyone contributes to the state. For example, in the United States, the net average tax rate was 22.4% in 2020. but when other tax provisions, deductions, and child benefits are considered, the average tax rate for a married worker with two kids was 7.0%. In the same year, the net average tax rate for a worker in Canada was 23.2%, slightly higher than the national average. But when tax provisions and all related tax benefits are considered, it drops to 0.7%.
Why Canada Isn’t Socialist
1. Elections and Constant Change in Government
Canada operates a multiparty system with free and fair elections every four years. As a result, each party in the country has their guiding principles that influence its policy when in power. For instance, the Liberal Party of Canada, which is the longest-serving party in the country, believes in universal healthcare, student loans, pension plans, gun control, and other liberal ideals. On the other hand, the Conservative party believes in lower sales and business taxes, universal child care benefits, eliminating the long-gun registry, etc.
Thus, it’s usually the party in power that determines policies. This means the country isn’t a true socialist state like Russia, as the policies are not always socialist.
2. Economic Control
Another thing that proves that the state isn’t socialist is its economy. Despite the welfare programs that the country offers, it remains a free market. This goes against the fundamental principle of socialism, which is that the community/people rather than individuals or corporations will control production and enterprise.
The private sector dominates the economy even though the government regulates several aspects of this economy. Thus, Canada has a mixed economic system rather than socialism. About 10.5% of the country’s economy is subject to government regulatory control.
3. Strong Private Sector
Beyond the economic control, another thing that proves that Canada isn’t a socialist country is the vibrant private sector. As of 2019, There are 1.2 million businesses in the country. Small and medium-sized enterprises account for most businesses in the private sector at 98.8%, while large businesses were only 2,978.
The private sector is also a major employer of labour, employing 12.2 million people back in 2019. Unsurprisingly, this sector contributes massively to Canada’s GDP. Since Private ownership isn’t tenable in a socialist economy, Canada isn’t socialist.
Another factor that shows that Canada isn’t socialist is education. Generally, socialism encourages free education at all levels to guide against discrimination. But in Canada, free public education is only available till Grade 12. Higher education isn’t free. Even though the education system is regulated, it remains capitalist and for-profit in many areas. Private schools exist alongside public schools even at levels where free education is available.
Is Canada Socialist?
From the foregoing, it’s clear that Canada isn’t a socialist state even though it has certain characteristics that can be found in true socialist states. Even though there are very few true socialist countries in the world – China is the only one – Canada is still very different from countries that claim to be socialist. At best, the country is a social democracy that combines capitalist and socialist policies. This way, it enables free trade while also making protective regulations and providing beneficial programs for residents. So far, Canada appears to have found the perfect balance.