SIPP Public Policy Papers 52
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Family allowances were one of the few programs shared by all Canadian families from 1945 to 1992, and one of the few means of building social cohesion across Canada. Family allowances became embroiled in the minefield of Canadian intergovernmental relations and the political crisis created by the growing demands from Quebec for greater autonomy from the federal government in the early 1970s. Ottawa initially dismissed Quebec’s demands for control over social programs generally, and family allowances in particular. However, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau reformed the family allowances program as a means of enticing Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa to amend the British North America Act. The government’s priority was constitutional reform, and the prime minister used social policy as a bargaining chip to achieve his policy objectives in that area. This study shows that public policy decisions made with regard to social policy were not motivated by the pressing desire to make more effective policies for children and families, but as a way to deal with other government priorities.