Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
History: 1930-1939 ORIGINS, 19141929 DEPRESSION DEVELOPMENTS, 19301939 NATIONAL SYSTEM, NATIONAL FAILURE? : WAR, RECONSTRUCTION AND HEALTH SECURITY FOR CANADIANS, 1939–1948



Socialized Medicine or Health Insurance?

One solution was the adoption of state-sponsored health insurance but, as the conflicted debate during the 1920s had indicated, opinions varied widely on the appropriate type and extent of government involvement in health care. On the left, farmers, workers and members of the League for Social Reconstruction united to form the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation in 1932. Led by J. S. Woodsworth, the new party advocated the nationalization of medical services, as well as a planned economy and effective social welfare policies. In contrast, after R. B. Bennett and the Conservatives won the federal election in 1930, the new prime minister offered the provinces $20 million for direct relief only, and no funding for medical and hospital costs. Farmer and medical Members of Parliament like H. E. Spencer of Alberta and J. P. Howden from Manitoba frequently raised the issue in the House of Commons, but the government evaded the problem by claiming that health was a provincial responsibility. As the Chief Executive Assistant in the Department of Pensions and National Health, Dr. John J. Heagerty, pointed out to his political masters, the provinces were indeed actively developing health insurance plans.

Photo: Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF)

The founding meeting of a new political party, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), Calgary, Alberta, 1932. Women are well represented in the party that advocated nationalized health care.
Library and Archives Canada, C-029313

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010