Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
Key Players: 1914-1929 Key Players: 1914-1929 Key Players: 1930-1939


Sir Robert Borden

Born in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, Robert Laird Borden (1854–1937) began his working life as a teacher, but transferred to law in 1874 and was head of a prestigious law firm by 1890. He began his political career in 1896, when he was elected to Parliament. Borden became the leader of the Conservative Party in 1901, and was Prime Minister of Canada from 1911 to 1920. During the First World War, Borden’s government broadened the federal government’s tax base by introducing direct taxation of corporate profits, as well as income tax. Although these taxes were intended to be temporary measures, they were continued after the war to finance the expansion of the federal government’s activities. Although Borden and many of his contemporaries believed in individual responsibility, he contributed to the development of medicare by establishing the first federal Department of Health in 1919.

Photo: Prime Minister Robert Borden

Prime Minister Robert Borden visits a wounded soldier just before his Union government was formed in 1917. Medical care for veterans and the establishment of a federal health department were among the conditions of the alliance with former Liberals.
Library and Archives Canada, Department of National Defence, PA-000880

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