Jason Kenney empowers the little guy

The big news: The senior minister banks on the power of social enterprise

Chris Wattie/Reuters

“It’s about the recognition of a fundamental principle that government programs and funds alone are not, cannot be the solution to face all of our pressing social issues.” —Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development

Jason Kenney wants to solve social problems, he wants you to know. And the minister for employment and social development is not willing to trust that government can do it all on its own. Kenney wants the private sector to play a role. He wants to empower those benevolent souls within civil society. And he wants social finance to drive all of this positive change.

Yesterday, Kenney addressed the Social Enterprise World Forum in Calgary. He lauded social enterprise, the notion that businesses can operate with the express purpose of achieving a social good. He kept saying the word social, and kept talking about doing good. Kenney announced a modest federal pilot program, worth $6 million, that would, with conditions, fund a pair of privately administered programs aimed at training marginalized Canadians. The condition: if the programs are successful, and the people they’re trying to help achieve certain objectives, the federal money goes through.

Kenney treated the plan as a no-brainer, downplayed any useful role government can play in fixing social problems on its own, and patted on the back anyone in the private sector willing to help out. “For too long, governments have imposed solutions to Canada’s social development challenges, while ignoring the innovative and successful approaches being developed in local communities and the private sector,” he said. “Through social financing, the government can link civil society with those who want to invest in results-oriented projects in local communities to solve social problems.”

We’re talking about the good guys, here, remember—not the greedy guys in the private sector’s luxurious corner offices, but the grassroots folks down the street from your own home.

The wily minister defended social enterprise before his political opponents could criticize it. “Now there are some folks out there, thankfully not too many, but there are some who seem to believe that social finance and social enterprise is just a ruse to cut government social spending or to privatize government programs,” Kenney said, before repeating that government simply can’t solve every “pressing social issue” on its own. Indeed, Kenney’s critics soon emerged. The Globe and Mail quotes the NDP’s Jinny Sims as claiming Kenney’s plan is handing out money to private interests that used to go to provincial skills-training programs.

Kenney’s got a huge fight on his hands, as premiers refuse to play ball on the controversial federal job grant program they say doesn’t work for them. No doubt he’ll suffer many headaches on that file. But if the social development minister keeps talking about fixing social goods and empowering the good guys in that fight, maybe that’s what voters will remember.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail A euthanasia debate has leapt onto the national political agenda.
National Post John Boehner says the United States will not default on its debt.
Toronto Star The head of Toronto’s 2015 Pan Am Games is in line for a huge bonus.
Ottawa Citizen Stephen Harper’s trip to Malaysia was overshadowed by China.
CBC News Republican infighting has fuelled the U.S. government shutdown.
CTV News A woman killed in Washington, D.C. suffered post-partum depression.
National Newswatch Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau are unlikely to form a coalition.

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