Canada’s ‘Scandinavian Dreams’

Steven Tufts
Steven Tufts, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Geography at York University.

For some mainstream social democrats in Canada, Scandinavia is often viewed as an ideal of social democratic practice. In terms of economic and social policy, Sweden, Norway and Denmark in particular are often looked to as sources of alternative models ranging from resource development practices to the regulation of employment.

This address reviews a few key political economic developments in Canada over the last decade and their implications for working lives. I will also address how these changes are constructed and debated by progressive commentators in Canada.  

First, I will address Canada’s resource dependency and the re-emergence of debates over the ‘staples’ economy and its environmental challenges. Second, I will address debates around settler-colonial relations in Canada and the changing role of immigration.

Lastly, I will discuss the growth of right-wing populism in Canada, with special attention to its urban formation in Toronto under the Mayoralty of the infamous Rob Ford. Taken together these developments are indicative of a social trajectory that, in some cases, has surpassed the neoliberalism of the United States itself.

I conclude that the social transformation needed to address these challenges must be much more extensive than appeals to an idealized Scandinavian dream, which is itself a changing model.