Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
History: 1914-1929 ORIGINS, 19141929 DEPRESSION DEVELOPMENTS, 19301939



The Medical Profession and Social Policy

Through the 1920s, as the Canadian population grew from 8.7 to 10.3 million and more people settled in cities, the demand for hospital and medical care increased at the same time as the middle class's ability to pay for them was eroded. The CMA held three conferences to discuss these matters. At the first, in 1924, and at the third, in 1929, delegates heard about British Columbia's plan to create a contributory health insurance scheme, based on payments from employees, employers and the government, to fund hospital and medical costs. Many of the speakers at the 1929 conference agreed with Dr. Henry Easson Young, British Columbia's Deputy Minister of Health, who argued that health insurance

will make for the peace of mind of the man with a family, for he will know that sickness will not necessitate the mortgaging of his whole future. It will put that fear out of his mind. He will get the benefit of every advance in medical science; he will have the services of men who have fitted themselves thoroughly for their profession; and as a free and independent citizen he will take advantage of a situation which he himself is helping to make possible. He will feel that he is not the recipient of mere charity, but that he is getting something for which he is paying. (Third Conference on Medical Services in Canada, p. 23)

Young's views were echoed by Saskatchewan's Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. F. C. Middleton. He noted that Saskatchewan farmers were greatly interested in health insurance, and he argued that it should not be restricted to people below a certain income level and that it should include preventive as well as curative services. But it was Dr. George Ramsay of London, Ontario who made the boldest statement at the 1929 conference when he said: “Nationalizing medical practice would rationalize therapeutics” because it would enable a team approach to all aspects of health care, and by pooling individual, employer and government contributions it would create “a commonwealth of attainable health for the Nation” (Third Conference on Medical Services in Canada, pp. 39 and 42).

Photo: Well-baby clinics, No. 1724

Well-baby clinics staffed by the Red Cross Society provided health care to the most vulnerable, in this case babies in Kamloops, British Columbia, in the 1920s. High infant mortality was a concern throughout Canada.
Kamloops Museum and Archives, No. 1724

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