Corporatizing Canada

Corporatizing Canada

Making Business out of Public Service

Edited by Jamie Brownlee, Chris Hurl and Kevin Walby


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From schools to hospitals, from utilities to food banks, over the past thirty years corporatization has transformed the public sector in Canada. Economic elites take control of public institutions and use business metrics to evaluate their performance, transforming public programs into corporate revenue streams.

Senior managers use corporate methodology to set priorities in social services and create “market-friendly” public sector cultures. Even social activist organizations increasingly look and act like multinational corporations while non-governmental organizations pursue partnerships with the same corporations they ostensibly oppose.

Corporatizing Canada critically examines how corporatization has been implemented in different ways across the Canadian public sector and warns us of the threat that neoliberal corporatization poses to democratic decision-making and the public at large.

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This collection brings together the work of activist and academics to chart the increasing domination of business logic to the detriment of access, affordability, accountability, and quality. An excellent read—and a strong call to action.

– Janet Siltanen, professor of sociology and political economy, Carleton University

This exceptional collection reveals the profound influence of neoliberal corporatization on the management, mission, and delivery of public services in contemporary Canada. The essays clearly demonstrate the many subtle ways in which the boundaries between the public and private have become progressively blurred, narrowing the scope of democratic decision-making, and the very idea of the public itself.

– Janine Brodie, Distinguished University Professor and Canada Research Chair, Political Economy and Social Governance, University of Alberta

Corporatization is commonly misunderstood as a dimension of monolithic global forces associated with neoliberalism, advancing marketization while eroding state autonomy and welfare state capacity. Corporatizing Canada highlights several contemporary examples, often framed in a broader historical context, that demonstrate the multifaceted nature of corporatization, while providing insight into alternative approaches that may maintain or revive collective interests, commitments to public oversight of essential services, and approaches oriented to equity and social justice. This is an indispensable offering for anyone seeking to understand the nature of the Canadian state, offering deep insights into the complex, changing dynamics of the intersections between public and private interests.

– Terry Wotherspoon, Department of Sociology,University of Saskatchewan


Jamie Brownlee, Chris Hurl, and Kevin Walby
Chapter 1 Healthy Profit: Private Finance and Public Hospitals
Heather Whiteside
Chapter 2 Three Waves of Health Care Corporatization in Ontario Hospitals
Natalie Mehra
Chapter 3 The Rise of the Corporate Cashroom: Corporatization and the Neoliberal Canadian School
Erika Shaker
Chapter 4 Carbon Capital and Corporate Influence: Mapping Elite Networks of Corporations, Universities, and Research Institutes
William K. Carroll , Nicolas Graham, and Zoë Yunker
Chapter 5 International Students as a Market in Canadian Public Education
Larry Kuehn
Chapter 6 How and Why to Change the Ways We Try to Change the Corporatization of Canada's Universities
Claire Polster
Chapter 7 Police Foundations and the Corporatization of Criminal Justice in Canada
Kevin Walby and Randy K. Lippert
Chapter 8 Do Construction Companies Create Criminal Justice Policy? Reflections on the Nature of Corporate Power in the Canadian State
Greg McElligott
Chapter 9 Corporatizing Therapeutic Justice: The Case of the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court
Kelly S. Gorkoff
Chapter 10 Corporatization and Federal-Provincial Relations
Peter Graefe
Chapter 11 Corporatizing Urban Policy-Making: Management Consultants , Service Reviews , and Municipal Restructuring
Chris Hurl
Chapter 12 Managerialism and Outsourcing: Corporatizing Social Services in Canada’s Non-Profit Sector
Donna Baines
Chapter 13 The Corporatization of Food Charity in Canada: Implications for Domestic Hunger, Poverty Reduction, and Public Policy
Graham Riches
Chapter 14 Pipelines, Regulatory Capture, and Canada’s National Energy Board
Jamie Brownlee
Chapter 15 Murky Waters: When Governments Turn Water Management into a Business
Emma Lui
Chapter 16 Learning from Corporatization: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
David A. McDonald
Contributors’ Biographies