The Great Depression in Canada

The Great Depression in Canada

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Canada suffered its longest and most terrible economic depression in its history between 1929 and 1939. It is now known as the Great Depression. This essay will demonstrate the major causes, political, economic and social consequences, and the government’s solutions from the Great Depression. The Great Depression affected all of Canada and is a key part of our history. It is important that we learn from it so we can prevent it from happening again.

There were many causes for the Great Depression. The first and one of the largest was the stock market crash. Before 1929 the stock market was flourishing and everyone wanted to buy stocks. People were so confident in the stock market that they were buying “on margin”, which meant that brokers would lend them 10% of the money they invested (D1). The problems began when stocks were being over speculated. When people began to realize this, they began selling there shares. On October 29, 1929, 16 million shares were sold (D9). This day became known as “Black Thursday”, the day the stock market crashed (D12). The second reason was the overproduction of goods. Factories had already produced too many goods and now there was no demand for them. The government began to raise tariffs to protect Canadian industries but things only led downhill from there.

There were two major political consequences of the Great Depression. The first was that new political parties were formed in Canada. The new political parties were the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the Social Credit Party, and the Union Nationale (UN). The CCF was founded by J.S. Woodsworth and believed in the establishment of minimum wage, accident and sickness insurance, old age pensions and unemployment insurance. The Social Credit Party was founded by William Aberhart. He believed that governments should issue money to everyone so that they could buy goods in a form of “social credits”. In the 1935 provincial elections he took 56 of 63 seats giving him a total victory. The UN was founded by Maurice Duplessis due to the union of Action Liberale Nationale and the Conservative Party. They promoted the traditional values of the Catholic Church and believed in a rural lifestyle. The second political consequence was a conflicted relationship between the federal and the provincial governments. The depression showed the federal government that provincial governments did not have enough money to carry out significant projects.

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The federal government wanted to have total control over taxes and give grants to the provinces. The provincial governments were not pleased with this proposal and therefore rejected it in 1940.

Along with the political consequences there were also some major economic consequences. One of them was that Canada’s natural resource industries began to export less and less because of shrinking markets and an extreme drop in prices. Copper export value went from 30,405,000 in 1929 to 3,405,000 in 1932, that’s almost a 90% decrease. Newsprint export value went from 150,000,000 to 85,540,000 and Nickel went from 7,991,000 to 3,261,000. Another was that World Trade dropped around 33% from 1929 to 1933. This means that not only did the depression affect Canada but it also affected the rest of the world. The last economic consequence was the decline in exports to the United States. This happened for a few reasons but the main one was the tariffs that the government set up to protect the Canadian Industries. Since it was so expensive for the US to import Canadian products they stopped because it wasn’t worth it.

The depression also had major social consequences. The first was an enormous increase in unemployment. Since companies weren’t making as much money and there weren’t any large markets any more, companies either fired many of there employees or shut down completely. This meant that many people were unemployed and had no money, and this led to the second consequence. Since many people had no money they were unable to buy food, clothes, and even unable to pay their rent or mortgages. This caused many people to be evicted from there homes and forced them to rely on there relatives or friends. This in turn decreased their spending habits because they were forced to help their families. The entire cycle slowed down.

At the beginning of the depression the government under William Lyon Mackenzie King believe in a “Laissez-Faire” approach. This meant that they wanted no government involvement and that business would fix itself. When King is replaced with R.B. Bennett all of that changed. Bennett’s “New Deal” meant the implementation of unemployment and social insurance, the introduction of minimum wage, an eight hours work day and a 48 hours work week. Another solution the government had was to create soup kitchens and food vouchers. These made sure that everyone was fed. Next they created Public work projects. These were projects like building new roads, parks and playgrounds, and cleaning the streets. These gave people a job and money to support themselves and their families.

The great depression truly did affect everyone. It was the lowest point in Canada’s history and must therefore be remembered. Even though Canada made it through the political, economic and social consequences of the depression, it has still affected Canada today. We must remember why it happened so that we can prevent it from happening again.
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