The Situation in Canada

In the early 1980s there were several government documents in circulation that contained statements addressing the federal government’s belief in and support of contracting to the voluntary sector. Unfortunately, we were unable to locate a similar statement in more recent government literature.

The 1990s have seen a decentralization of authority in the decisions about awarding contracts and services. While decisions about contracting used to be made in Ottawa or regional headquarters, they are now made at local institutions or local corrections offices. With more people involved in deciding whether programs will be carried out by government staff or contracted out to various community based organizations, our research has suggested that there is likely no one statement summarizing overall federal government support for services delivered by the voluntary sector. However, the voluntary sector together constitutes a very large component of the federal correctional scene, accounting for expenditures that likely exceed the entire community corrections activities of Correctional Service of Canada (John Howard Society of Canada, 1997). Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has over 150 halfway houses that are operated under contract to CSC by voluntary and non-profit organizations.

Recent initiatives of the Alberta government show support for privatized human service delivery. In 1993, the government of Alberta appointed a Commissioner of Services for Children and Families. The Commissioner’s mandate was to design a newly integrated, more effective, community-based system of support to children and families. The government will gradually move out of the direct delivery of children’s services and communities are expected to assume this role. Private agencies are to be the main deliverers of services to children and families in the new structure.

In the 1997 Alberta provincial budget, the Department of Family and Social Services stated that it was continuing to work with communities, individuals and families to implement a new system that will be more community-based, more preventive in nature and characterized by the integration of selected services that have been traditionally provided by different government departments such as Family and Social Services, Health, Justice and Education (Government of Alberta, 1997). Supporters of privatization argue that this will lead to better services for children. Also in the 1997 Alberta provincial budget, the Minister of Family and Social Services’ Business Plan 1997-1998 to 1999-2000 indicated a transfer of the management of services for adults with developmental disabilities to community management boards. These two new privatization initiatives demonstrate the Alberta government’s intent to move to community-based service delivery.

The following discussion deals with the privatization of correctional services in Alberta. Sandra H. Harrison, Director of Division Support Services at Alberta Justice, explained how Alberta Justice out- sources many services for offenders both in the community and in correctional centres. For example, in correctional centres, contracted services include: dental care, physicians, some mental health services, food services, laundry services, chaplaincy, Aboriginal Elders, several camp operations and one minimum security Aboriginal correctional centre. In the community, Alberta Justice continues to out-source some psychological services, various types of community supervision programs, life-skill programs, treatment beds, offender visitation programs, beds in community residential centres and various other services for offenders. In total, Alberta Justice contracts out approximately $18 million in services and programs, of which about $7.7 million is for Aboriginal programs (S. Harrison, personal communication, May 22, 1998). Danylchuk (1994) stated that over the past decade, private suppliers have built up $26 million in contracts with Alberta jails for food, medical, dental, counselling services, chaplaincy, laundry and maintenance.