Devine Intervention? Lessons in Systemic Retrenchment from Canada’s Most Generous Welfare State

Marier, Patrik (2016)
Regional and Federal Studies, 26(2): 221-241.


This article tackles the importance of systemic retrenchment in welfare state research by focusing on two core elements neglected in the literature: the civil service and governmental revenues. Saskatchewan has possessed key ingredients associated with generous welfare states: a dominant left-wing party, a supportive bureaucracy and important non-visible fiscal revenues. According to the comparative welfare state literature, this is also an excellent recipe for maintaining a generous welfare state amid attempts, primarily by right-wing governments, to scale it back. Yet, most social indicators in the post-Devine years demonstrate that Saskatchewan can no longer be considered a leading welfare state in Canada. Reforms to the bureaucracy and a host of financial measures resulting in a near default explain why the Devine government was successful in its efforts to disrupt the CCF/NDP social legacy despite the fact that the NDP regained power for 16 years afterwards.