Then at the lunchtime panel (yup, they kept talking even while we ate lunch - no time wasted at this event) Seth Kline of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives spoke. This turned my doubts around. Here's what Seth said, in a nutshell:
- While he agrees with many of the things that the asset-building people are saying, he is concerned that some governments will see asset-building as a substitute for social welfare systems and income support.
- The asset-building model is helpful only to a subset of those in need of assistance.
- Current social policies are in conflict with the asset-building approach and penalize people for saving money for a small business or education.
- He is skeptical about programs geared to fix policy mistakes. He sees some asset-building initiatives as less comprehensive and administratively more expensive replacements for good programs that have been eliminated. For example, learning bonds and RESPs are good, but don't replace accessible, affordable post-secondary education.
I also ate lunch with VanCity and Western Economic Diversity representatives, and talked to them about the kinds of criteria their organizations consider in choosing which projects to support. What I heard was a sincere commitment to programs that initiatives that build strength in communities and strengthen the economy at the same time. Sure, they're doing it because it's good for the corporation, and good for the government, but it's good for the people too, which gives me a nauseous and disoriented feeling because I think if I look in the mirror there will be Gordon Campbell's head stuck on my body and it's still a week before Halloween. But maybe this can work, to some degree, and with some degree of real goodness.
I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, with a stuffed and stretched brain. I will sleep and go back for 4 more hours tomorrow, then it's over, but it's never over, really....
Question: Sincere good intention or slickety-smart PR move?
mompoet - not quite ready to buy the Brooklyn Bridge but willing to have a look