In this paper, we will be talking a great deal about the democratization of public policy in Canada. But we will be doing so in the concern to establish bridges to the theme of democratization of public policy in Latin America. While our deliberations on public policy certainly build on the expertise we have developed concerning historical trends and recent reforms in social policy in Canada and Quebec, these deliberations are enriched by the fact that, for the past 15 years or so, to analyse the changes in the state and in public policy in our country more accurately, we have felt the need to monitor closely similar changes that are under way in a number of European and Latin American countries.
The core of our thesis in the following pages will be to report on a number of our research findings, both theoretical and empirical, concerning the “democratizing” impact of the participation by the social economy in the application and definition of public policy. In that regard, we will be prompted to differentiate clearly between two concepts that are often treated as synonymous, that of the co-construction of public policy, and that of its co-production.
The paper comprises four main sections. In the first, we clarify some concepts, in particular public policy, civil society and social economy. In the second, we look at the co-production of public policy. In the third, we examine the co-construction of public policy, with a view to identifying the features of a configuration model that is more democratic and solidarity-based, imbued with the contribution from the social economy. Finally, in the fourth section, we use the findings of our research on tangible cases of social policy reform, particularly in the field of social housing, to show that the democratic, solidarity-based model of co-construction and co-production of public policy, far from being solely a conceptual model, is to be found in certain social policy reforms that have occurred in Quebec and Canada over the past 20 years.