In 1914, Canada was a colony in the British Empire with a population of roughly 7.5 million people, many of whom were recent immigrants from Great Britain, the United States and Central Europe. Alberta and Saskatchewan were the newest provinces, having been created in 1905, and Newfoundland was still a separate colony. Agriculture and resource extraction were the dominant economic activities, but industrial expansion in Central and Eastern Canada and service delivery and nascent industrial growth in Western cities marked an important shift to modern life. This change was accentuated during the First World War
when Canadian factories expanded to meet wartime demands for munitions, equipment and supplies. The war also contributed to the success of late nineteenth-century reform movements, as Prohibition was introduced and women won the right to vote. But the growing conflict between urban and rural needs resulted in the formation of new political parties, such as the United Farmers of Alberta and the National Progressive Party. At the provincial level, several of these new parties supported public health measures intended to improve access to curative services and to expand preventive activities. This brought health issues into the political arena.