CUPE is raising serious concerns about the future of social programs in Canada as the Harper Conservative government pushes for more private sector involvement. The union is calling for an open public discussion on the use of for-profit business models to finance and deliver public social services.
In November 2012, Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), announced that the Conservative government was looking for ideas which use for-profit private financing to address social and environmental initiatives. This approach - known as the social financing model or a social impact bond - allows corporations to profit from financing privatized social programs at public expense. To solicit ideas, Finley invited proponents of social finance projects to submit concepts through an online questionnaire.
The process outlined by the government, however, does not allow for a critique of the social financing model or the ability to present alternatives. CUPE opted to submit comments in a briefing to HRSDC, rather than through the limited on-line questionnaire.
In its submission, CUPE points out several major issues with the social financing model that have been experienced throughout the world, including concerns about the economic sustainability, fairness and risks associated with this model.
Other issues raised include: using for-profit business models to deliver social programs to those who need them most; promoting profits from social ills; and the danger of stable, long-term publicly funded programs being displaced by short-term, profitable initiatives.
CUPE believes these concerns warrant a fuller, more open consultation, and CUPE members – many of whom are front-line workers dealing with social problems every day – can offer governments valuable help to improve social program delivery.