Many provinces have enacted substantial reforms of their social assistance regime in the 1990s. However, we know surprisingly little about the ideas that underlie welfare reform in Canada. In particular, few empirical studies have directly examined the ideas of policy actors. This article presents a retrospective case study of a major policy initiative, namely Saskatchewan's Building Independence (BI), and examines its alignment with three paradigms of social assistance. Data come primarily from interviews with policy actors. This study concludes that the policy ideas informing BI align closely with the activation paradigm but also share some similarities with the entitlement and workfare paradigms. The significance of this finding is then discussed in light of three issues: 1) Aboriginal people, 2) the perspective of social assistance clients, and 3) “Third Way” ideology. This article concludes with a research agenda on ideas and policy change.