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Canada Since 1945

Canada Since 1945

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 508
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  • Book Info
    Canada Since 1945
    Book Description:

    Canada's evolution is presented with remarkable clarity in this first general history of the country's postwar years.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2718-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    RB, ID and JE

    • 1 Beginnings
      (pp. 3-8)

      Canadian history is a success story – an account of coping with troubles and triumphing over adversities. Although the years since 1945 have contained their shares of disappointments, they have been more successful than most. From 1945 to 1975 the nation enjoyed thirty years of unprecedented economic advance. Living standards rose to heights undreamt of at the end of the war. Thanks to those economic achievements, Canadians could afford a social welfare system that few in 1945 had believed possible. It is true that, in the mid-1980s, the national government ran large budget deficits, and so did the provinces. Some...

    • 2 Growth and Change
      (pp. 9-34)

      Demographic developments influenced society profoundly.¹ So did ‘demographic echoes,’ especially from the late 1920s and 1930s. It was births rather than deaths that mattered most. Admittedly there was a general tendency for people to live longer. In 1951, a male baby might expect to live sixty-six years and a female baby seventy-one years. By 1966 life expectancies had increased to sixty-nine years for males and seventy-five years for females. The death rate fell from 8.5 per thousand in the early fifties to 7.3 per thousand in the early seventies. These improvements were noticeable in all parts of the country. In...


    • 3 Canada Adrift
      (pp. 37-43)

      ‘The sequence for sane Canadian thinking,’ a foreign affairs commentator wrote in 1941, ‘is, first, the British Commonwealth, second, the Anglo-Saxon union, and finally a world order, beyond the war, based on co-operation and justice.’ Canadians reading these words nodded sagely. Thus it had always been; thus, once Hitler was disposed of, it would be again. The sentiment stands in poignant contrast to another observation, made about the same time, by Britain’s ambassador in Washington. ‘Boys,’ he told a group of reporters, ‘Britain’s broke.’

      A worried Mackenzie King reflected on what one of his dinner guests had just told him....

    • 4 The End of the War
      (pp. 44-51)

      When General Alfred Jodl stepped out of a French schoolhouse on May 7, 1945, after signing the surrender of Nazi Germany, the Western world went wild with excitement. It hardly mattered to Canadians that their country was still at war with the Japanese and that the bloody battles of the Pacific might have another year to run. ‘The war’ was the war against Hitler, and Hitler was dead, his armies prisoners, his cities smashed, his people beaten, his country occupied.

      Across Canada people celebrated according to their mood. Everyone left work, some heading for taverns to drink, others for the...

    • 5 The Legacy of War
      (pp. 52-60)

      As Canadians struggled to regain their feet in civilian life and as their government endeavoured to inculcate the unfamiliar spirit of optimism in the electorate, certain phenomena remained constant. Among them was the Canadian constitution, the British North America (BNA) Act. That act divided Canadian government into pockets of authority and sovereignty labelled ‘federal’ (or dominion) and ‘provincial.’ Eighty years of interpretation by the courts had fixed clear limits to the ability of the central authority to exercise its powers.

      Such limitation could be a political convenience. During the thirties, Mackenzie King’s Liberal government was only too happy to slough...

    • 6 A Strategy for Economic Survival
      (pp. 61-73)

      In 1939 Canada ranked sixth among the world’s trading nations. In terms of per capita trade, Canada was seventh, and in terms of per capita income also seventh. Canadians knew it well: their country was founded on trade and must trade to survive. ‘It is only,’ the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations warned in 1940, ‘by playing this role that Canada can maintain anything like her present standard of living and can support the great capital investment which has been made to equip her for this role.’ That depended on international cooperation, for as the Commission observed, ‘Canada is one...

    • 7 Making a Better Country
      (pp. 74-84)

      When Prime Minister Mackenzie King rose in his place to open the Dominion-Provincial Conference on Reconstruction on August 6, 1945, he carried a heavy burden – a small green booklet, containing the proposals of the Government of Canada for the economic well-being of the country, a comprehensive plan to restructure Canadian federalism to give the central government the financial power and the legislative authority to guide the economy through the perils of depression, while insuring individual Canadians against disease, old age, and extended unemployment. It was an unusual moment. Never before had the King government laid such a comprehensive and...

    • 8 Making a Better World
      (pp. 85-91)

      Word of Germany’s surrender reached Mackenzie King at a hotel in San Francisco. The California city had been chosen to host the founding conference of the new international organization that would replace the failed League of Nations. This time, nothing was left to the imagination: the new world body would be called the United Nations.

      As King heard the news, he uttered ‘a prayer of thanksgiving.’ Then he added, ‘and of rededication to the service of my fellow-men.’ Most international bodies had need of rededication and renewal that spring. Few had managed to survive the war, and those that had...

    • 9 Popular Culture
      (pp. 92-104)

      In 1948 Canada was still a relatively pious country compared with Britain, France, or other European states. In this respect, as in so many others, its residents resembled the Americans with whom they had such close connections. Whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Anglican, Canadians went to church on Sunday. Unless they were Catholic, they met a sermon-dominated liturgy that had much to say about piety and obligations, and not much to say about anything else. For Catholics, whose liturgical tradition centred on the mass and on Mariological devotional exercises, the experience was rather different. But this difference was less important...

    • 10 Education
      (pp. 105-112)

      For many years, enrolments in elementary and secondary schools had been growing very slowly or declining in most provinces. In Ontario, between 1934 and 1946 enrolments fell by nearly 30,000, or 4 per cent. In the prairie provinces the declines were more dramatic – 18 per cent in Manitoba, 22 per cent in Saskatchewan, and 9.5 per cent in Alberta. In British Columbia, enrolments rose by 13 per cent in twelve years, and in Newfoundland and the Maritimes by 7.2 per cent; but Quebec enrolments, having risen in the 1930s, then declined by 11.6 per cent from a 1938 peak....


    • 11 A New Cabinet and Its Foreign Policy
      (pp. 115-131)

      The new Prime Minister, Louis St Laurent, was a late-comer to politics, but no stranger to public life. Sixty-six when he took office in November 1948, he had been a practising politician for not quite seven years. In his cabinet he was dwarfed in seniority by C.D. Howe and James G. (Jimmy) Gardiner, the Ministers of Trade and Commerce and of Agriculture, respectively, and by James MacKinnon, Alberta’s representative in the government. MacKinnon, an amiable and respectable lightweight, would soon shuffle out of active politics into the Senate. Howe and Gardiner, however, were the St Laurent government’s heavy artillery, as...

    • 12 Liberal Centralization
      (pp. 132-138)

      External relations are only a part of the diplomatic life of a Canadian government. Canada, as a country, is fully equipped with a collection of jealous provincial jurisdictions: four in 1867, nine in 1905, and ten in 1949.

      The tenth was the island of Newfoundland, Britain’s oldest colony, which had stood out against the Confederation tide in 1867 and ever since had viewed the possibility of union with Canada with the deepest suspicion. Newfoundland’s fish- and forest-based economy had collapsed completely during the depression of the 1930s, so completely that its government had to be bailed out by the British,...

    • 13 Roads and Resources
      (pp. 139-145)

      The St Laurent years were a time of high employment, a high birth rate, and high immigration. From an estimated 12,823,000 in 1948, the population grew to an estimated 16,610,000 in 1957. Some of the increase derived from more than 1.5 million immigrants; the rest from more than 4.1 million births. Few Canadians left; of those who did, most went to the United States. These tended to come from the better-educated technical and professional classes. There were 46,000 emigrants from Canada to the United States in 1957; of these, some 32,000 were Canadian-born.

      But there were plenty of Canadians to...

    • 14 Building the Welfare State
      (pp. 146-150)

      While C.D. Howe was preoccupying himself with industrial stratagems, worrying over fuel supplies, and weighing the reports his economists gave him for signs of boom or bust, other Liberals worried about a very different problem.

      Abandoned in the wreckage of the dominion-provincial disputation in 1946 were the government’s plans for an expanded and comprehensive welfare system to ensure Canadians against want. As far as most members of the Liberal cabinet were concerned, those plans were now museum pieces, relics of bygone hopes that were now, because of the economic boom, fortunately outdated. But not everyone took that view. The flame...

    • 15 Stratford, Elvis, and the Happy Gang
      (pp. 151-162)

      The effects of prosperity were most evident in a sector where Canada had little past to live down – culture. Culture was a matter of bookstores, a couple of theatres (some professional, but many more amateur), and literary salons. The state, whether federal or provincial, had little business there.

      Indirectly, the Canadian government had slowly and almost accidentally acquired a galaxy of cultural institutions. Out of the Department of Agriculture, for example, there had sprung the National Gallery – housed, it is true, behind the dinosaur collection in the National Museum. There was the National Film Board (nfb) and, above...

    • 16 Crosscurrents in Economic Affairs and Policy
      (pp. 163-176)

      The heart of the St Laurent government’s policy structure lay far from the rhythms of ‘ballet dancing’ and closer to cycles of a different sort. Down Parliament Hill from the House of Commons, in a Gothic office tower, dwelt the Department of Finance, the focus of the capital’s mandarinate, the conduit through which all other departments’ spending projects must travel. Many of Finance’s proceedings were classed as secret and jealously guarded: the making of the budget was the most secret process of all, revealed only to the Prime Minister himself, and that at a late date. If some of Finance’s...

    • 17 The Twilight of the Grits
      (pp. 177-180)

      It is an axiom of politics that oppositions do not win elections; governments lose them. Most observers did not expect the Liberals to lose the general election of June 10, 1957; when they did, by a margin of seven seats (112 Conservatives, 105 Liberals, and 48 mps from the minor parties), it seemed as if the foundations of the earth had shifted.

      For three decades since 1957 commentators and political scientists have laboured to explain the inexplicable. Why did a government that had ruled for so long, and generally so well, with such a minimum of fuss and bother, suddenly...


    • 18 The Shape of Things
      (pp. 183-185)

      On June 21, 1957, John Diefenbaker became Prime Minister of Canada. He was the first Conservative to have led the country since 1935, when R.B. Bennett’s five-year rule had ended. Canada had grown accustomed to Liberal rule. So had Ottawa. Eventually there were fourteen members in the new cabinet, including the Prime Minister himself. In forming a cabinet there were special problems about Quebec because the Tories had won so few seats there. An anglophone prime minister is expected to have a francophone lieutenant, but Quebec had supplied only nine Tory mps, of whom few were distinguished and some were...

    • 19 Delusions Complete or Partial
      (pp. 186-197)

      In the 1957 election campaign, and much more forcefully in 1958, Diefenbaker and the Conservatives spoke of a national ‘vision.’ Some of this related to social welfare measures and to the equalization of opportunity and development throughout the dominion. But most related to the North, and it was Diefenbaker’s northern vision that captured the national imagination. Reminding us that he had already thought of this in 1956, Diefenbaker has written, ‘In emphasizing the question of northern development and northern vision, I advocated a twentieth-century equivalent of Sir John Macdonald’s national policy, a uniquely Canadian economic dream.’¹ Thanks to the intervention...

    • 20 Managing the Economy: Budgets, the Bank, and the Diefenbuck
      (pp. 198-219)

      Like most Canadian prime ministers, Diefenbaker was not particularly interested in economic affairs except in so far as they might affect his fate at the polling stations. But like most of his Liberal predecessors he was genuinely anxious to apply the power of the state to help the downtrodden and the disadvantaged. He was, in other words, a populist or a Red Tory, not a neo-conservative of the sort that surfaced in the late seventies. Coming as he did from Saskatchewan, the Prime Minister was especially interested in the fate of the farmers, the one group that seemed to have...

    • 21 Bad Luck and Bad Management: Dominion-Provincial Perplexities
      (pp. 220-237)

      Like every Canadian government, John Diefenbaker’s had troubles with the provinces. Unlike its immediate predecessors it also had trouble with defence policy, and therefore its relations with the United States became very disturbed. This chapter treats first the internal perplexities and then the international ones, where bad luck and bad judgment are inextricably intertwined.

      Compared with what it became during the Pearson and Trudeau years, the dominion-provincial scene was still relatively tranquil. The oil-pumpers of Alberta had little leverage. Indeed, the dominion had to protect them by giving them a guaranteed Ontario market for their expensive crude and by holding...

    • 22 From the Old Ways to the New: The Changing Atmosphere of the Early Sixties
      (pp. 238-252)

      In 1960, as John Kennedy hailed the passing of the torch to a new generation in the United States, the sixty-three-year-old John Diefenbaker still held a torch lit three years before, a torch whose flame now flickered weakly. Canadians were thus diverted by the brilliance of the American blaze, of that new Camelot in Washington that had finally lifted the Republican pall from the American capital. There was something symbolic when Beverly Baxter wrote his last London Letter forMaclean’son July 30, 1960, declaring that he hoped he had made Britain more understandable for Canadians ‘far across the sea.’...


    • 23 Coming Apart and Changing Together
      (pp. 255-286)

      ‘Even citizens of a South American republic might have envied Canadians in 1963.’ The usually dourCanadian Annual Reviewthus began its 1963 issue with this unfamiliar comparison of Canada to a banana republic. The new prime minister, Lester Pearson, might, theReview’s editor declared, respond as Franklin Roosevelt had when told he would be the greatest American president: ‘Either the greatest or the last.’ He was neither; but perhaps he was closer to both than we have realized.

      In the eighties, we forget how serious the strains upon Confederation seemed in the mid-sixties. Canada had outgrown its old political...

    • 24 The Economy and the Flowering of the Social Service State
      (pp. 287-306)

      The tension between Quebec and Ottawa derived in part from the claims that both capitals were staking in the area of social reform. The sixties finally brought to Canada that social service state whose first glimmerings had been seen during the First World War but whose form had remained inchoate so long. During the decade many streams merged to create a torrent of legislation that surprised even the optimistic reformers of the 1950s. Prosperity, the sense of security arising from the stability of post-war society, and the general reformist orientation of the media made this full measure of reform possible....

    • 25 The Sixties: Nationalism and Culture
      (pp. 307-312)

      In another day, Walter Gordon’s fumblings as finance minister, his unpopularity with the business community, with American investors, and with nearly all economists, would have doomed him to political obscurity and disgrace. This was not so in the sixties. This tweedy scion of the Canadian ‘establishment’ became a patron to an economic-nationalist movement, which was itself a part of a rambunctious ferment that disrupted what many Canadians thought of economics and society. In a period in which traditional standards and ideas stood condemned because they were traditional, Gordon’s visionary quality and his rejection of the economics of the academy became...


    • 26 The Centennial and the Early Trudeau Governments
      (pp. 315-337)

      Canada’s centennial was more than anyone expected. Coming so soon after the scandals that soured Canadian politics and after the first clear threats to the future of Confederation, Centennial year seemed to promise little. In 1966 the preparations occasioned mostly derision. Expo ’67, the first Canadian World’s Fair, was still a muddy, incomplete site, and its projected deficit rose ever higher. Ottawa’s plans appeared similarly troubled; cynics also thought them mawkish and redolent of small-town boosterism. Nor did Canadian leaders inspire excitement or confidence. Both the Liberal and Conservative parties were clearly waiting for a change, for the appearance of...

    • 27 Economic Developments, 1968-79
      (pp. 338-358)

      Trudeau carried Quebec in the 1980 election because Quebec’s concerns were not only emotional but economic. In the seventies the economic fabric of the country was transformed and the part played by government in that transformation was great. Longer-term trends were naturally at work – rising employment, rising real income, rising living standards, increasing economic involvement with the United States. As we argued in Part I, such developments should not be credited to any particular government or blamed upon it. But the seventies saw profound changes in many directions that made the whole structure different. Ottawa might seem increasingly impotent,...

    • 28 Quebec and the Constitution: Phase One
      (pp. 359-387)

      The constitution, Pierre Trudeau told the House of Commons in January 1968, was ‘not very high on the list of priorities as things that this country must do.’ Yet under Trudeau the Canadian constitution changed as much as it had in the previous century; to many of his supporters, it was his principal monument.

      The paradox was present from the beginning. Trudeau had given considerable thought to constitutional questions before he became prime minister. His interest was not restricted to any special area: questions of the division and balance of powers, of individual political rights, and of language had all...

    • 29 Quebec and the Constitution: The Canadian Constitutional Revolution
      (pp. 388-399)

      The origins of what came to be Canada’s ‘renewed federalism’ dated back to the constitutional imbroglio of the late 1970s. At that time the several provinces had confronted Ottawa with a series of demands for ‘reform,’ a reform that invariably pointed to a devolution of powers from the central government toward the provinces.

      At the end of 1978 the Trudeau government appeared to incline toward the provincial position. ‘Positions’ would probably be a more accurate description, for each province had its own shopping list: British Columbia wanted control of off-shore resources, as did Newfoundland, but also wanted a radically reformed...

    • 30 Living after 1970: Culture, Education, and Social Trends
      (pp. 400-420)

      In 1974 Pierre Trudeau reportedly decided not to make a speech on his government’s cultural policy because the topic was deemed politically too sensitive. Twenty-five years before it would have been simply ludicrous. In the quarter-century since the Massey Commission, the state had become the major supporter of cultural activity in Canada, and an articulate pressure group had appeared to assure that the source that had brought life continued to nurture what it had created. Through content quotas, direct subsidies, and tax relief, the state recognized that culture was a legitimage area for large-scale operations. Sometimes the contrasts with the...

    • 31 Canada and the World Beyond
      (pp. 421-428)

      No previous Canadian prime minister attracted so much international attention as Pierre Elliott Trudeau: none seemed so well prepared by academic training and breadth of interests to play a large part in international affairs, and certainly none was so cosmopolitan in style. Yet Pierre Trudeau’s time in office was marked by alternating spasms of domestic concentration and international flourishes; and the internationalism that Trudeau displayed was markedly different from that of his predecessors. It was true that, like Pearson, Trudeau had spent time in the United States and in England; unlike Pearson he had gone beyond, to the Sorbonne, as...

    • 32 Encounters of the Strangest Kind: Politics in the 1980s
      (pp. 429-444)

      In the eighties Canadians came to prefer brief affairs to long-term political relationships. Old attachments to party which had weakened during the 1970s eroded almost completely as the Liberal and the Conservative parties changed leaders with little regard to past attitudes and actions. What occurred at the leadership conventions of the Conservative and Liberal parties in 1983 and 1984 respectively would have horrified partisans of an earlier day. The Tories in 1983 chose as leader a young Quebec businessman who had never run for elective office and who had embraced many policies, notably bilingualism and bilculturalism, which many Tories believed...

    • 33 The Economy in the 1980s: Disenchantment, Deregulation, and Deficits
      (pp. 445-474)

      In the eighties Canada experienced some painful economic shocks. Both inflation and interest rates rose to unprecedented heights, and then fell away. In 1981-2 the economy experienced its first genuine recession since the 1930s. The slump was mild by comparison with that earlier disaster, and especially in central Canada recovery was swift, but the shock to confidence was profound. Unemployment rates, moreover, remained high, especially in the west and in Atlantic Canada, while for many people living standards declined, stagnated, or rose only slowly – the natural result of stagnating labour productivity, unemployment, and weakening world markets for the nation’s...


    • 34 Conclusion
      (pp. 477-480)

      In 1944 the Canadian Chamber of Commerce undertook to look into the future. It polled Canadians in Kitchener and Vancouver to discover what they hoped for and expected at war’s end. The responses indicated a desire for a richer material life: refrigerators, cars, and a house in the suburbs. Possibly because they were not asked, they did not express a desire for a new constitution, world government, or international workers’ solidarity. They did not get any of these latter things, but they did get a patriated constitution, as well as refrigerators, cars, and a house in the suburbs, not to...

  11. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 481-488)
  12. Index
    (pp. 489-508)