The new department was struggling to emerge as the Union government crumbled. The Liberal Party held its first national leadership convention to replace Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who had died in February 1919. William Lyon Mackenzie King was the victor, and in August his party created a campaign platform that reflected the modern urban-industrial world. With typical ambiguity, the Liberals promised
That in so far as may be practicable, having regard for Canada's financial position, an adequate system of insurance against unemployment, sickness, dependence in old age, and other disability, which would include old age pensions, widows' pensions, and maternity benefits, should be instituted by the federal government in conjunction with the governments of the several provinces; and that on matters pertaining to industrial and social legislation an effort should be made to overcome any question of jurisdiction between the Dominion and the provinces by effective cooperation between the several governments. (Canada, House of Commons Debates, Hansard [March 16, 1927], p. 1263 and [May 23, 1929], p. 2774)
In fact, the provinces were moving to develop their own health departments, and in 1919 British Columbia created a Royal Commission to examine health insurance and maternity benefits. When the commission reported two years later, enthusiasm for health insurance had waned, but mother's allowance was introduced.