Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
History: 1939-1948 DEPRESSION DEVELOPMENTS, 19301939 NATIONAL SYSTEM, NATIONAL FAILURE? : WAR, RECONSTRUCTION AND HEALTH SECURITY FOR CANADIANS, 1939–1948 PUBLIC OR PRIVATE? VOLUNTARY OR COMPULSORY? : HOSPITAL CARE FOR CANADIANS, 1948–1958


Health Insurance and Its Champions

In September 1939, Mackenzie King had reorganized his Cabinet to ensure maximum efficiency in fighting the war. Ian A. Mackenzie, the popular but bibulous British Columbia member who had been Minister of National Defence, was demoted to Minister of Pensions and National Health. In spite of this loss of status, Mackenzie quickly became interested in expanding the reach of his portfolio. Aided by Dr. John J. Heagerty, the department’s Director of Public Health Services, he began to push the Cabinet to support the development of a national health insurance program. Mackenzie justified his request on the grounds that Canadians needed positive benefits in return for their support of the war effort. He also pointed out that other political parties were offering similar social welfare programs in their platforms and that the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), in particular, was gaining ground in public opinion. What did the public want? Security from poverty, the high costs of health care and the threat of unemployment.

Photo: Ian Mackenzie, proudly wearing the Mackenzie tartan

When Ian Mackenzie became Minister of Pensions and National Health, he gave this photograph of himself, proudly wearing the Mackenzie tartan, to Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.
Library and Archives Canada, C-016784

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