Restructuring, Privatisation and the Local Welfare State

Glenda Laws


This thesis examines the local consequences of the restructurlng of Ontario's welfare state. Changes in welfare state policies are shown to have significant impacts upon the Province's urban areas. The thesis argues that to understand the development of the weIfare state it is necessary to examine the structural context in which that development occurs as well as the actions of human agents that seek to influence policy development and to change the structures of social organisatlon. That is, welfare state policy, and the restructuring of the state are not to be seen as imposed by the state; peopIe can infIuence the development of the welfare state. It is within particular localities that we can observe the Interactions between structures and agents.

The thesis proposes that to understand the development of the locaI: weIfare state, we need to investigate the structuraI context in which a locality operates: the processes at work within a locality; and the unique features of the locality itself (e.g., people's experiences of the state and their reactions to state policy). This study incorporates each of these dimensions to provide a comprehensive analysis of the development of the local welfare state in Ontario.

The primary processes at work in Ontario to influence the local development of the welfare state in the last two decades have been the deinstitutionalisation of several previously-institutionalised populations, and the privatisation of services which serve these peopIe. These policies are shown to be the result of pressures external to the state (e.g., the demands for social services), as well as those internal pressures which have received, much greater attention in the literature (e.g., the state's fiscal crisis).

Two case studies (one of Toronto, the other of Hamilton, Ontario) show that these processes have produced several important outcomes for urban areas. First a new focus of care in the inner city areas of Ontario's larger cities has appeared. Concentrations of residential care facilities and the services which the residents consume are now an ingrained feature of the urban landscape. Second, evidence is presented to suggest that, contrary to popular opinion, privatisation is not necessariIy resulting in an erosion of the welfare state. Instead, this thesis argues that we are witnessing the emergence of a shadow state apparatus, as the welfare state extends its control into previously autonomous areas of social service provision.