UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Implementing welfare-to-work schemes in British Columbia Spence, Robin Kirsten


The successful implementation of the Canada/British Columbia Agreement to Enhance the Employability of Social Assistance Recipients (the “SAR”, or Four Corner” Agreement) can be explained by a revised version of Mazmanian and Sabatier’s 1983 theory of implementation. This framework is also able to account for some of the limitations that the initiative faced. The analysis of the SAR Agreement is placed in the context of the on-going dilemma of work and welfare and in the evolving ideological climate in the B.C. welfare system from an ideology of redistribution, to one of liberal developmentalism, emphasizing opportunity before work. The case-study provides a history of the implementation of the SAR Agreement in B.C. at both the policy-formulation and field levels of government, and gives an overview of the agreement and its results. This information is gained through reports, government documents and interviews with officials involved in the SAR Agreement. Application of the revised theory of implementation to the agreement illuminates the ingredients critical to the success of the SAR initiative in British Columbia. Among the most important determinants of success were the intensive cooperation between federal and provincial agencies, the amount of discretion given to local officials when combined with the expertise and resources of those officials, the correct causal theory underlying most project designs, and the flexibility of the agreement respond to past successes and failures. The agreement was limited by the lack of general guidelines to provide officials with a sense of direction, by the possibility of conflicting goals of outside agencies, and by problems with the invalid causal theory underlying a few programs.

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