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



Planning for the Future

The first Minister of National Health and Welfare was Brooke Claxton, a Montréal businessman with a keen interest in reform. One of his first tasks was to prepare the new department for the Dominion–Provincial Conference on Reconstruction that was expected to discuss health insurance. Drawing on the work of their predecessors, Claxton and Chisholm attempted to respond to the political and ideological criticisms that were being levied against the Heagerty health insurance plan. As they both recognized, public support for the proposal was strong, as Gallup polls taken in April 1942, 1943 and 1944 indicated that 75 per cent, 69 per cent and 80 per cent of Canadians, respectively, would be willing to pay a portion of their annual income for such a plan. Nevertheless, the health insurance section in the Green Book proposals of August 1945 reflected the growing caution with which the federal government was approaching the provinces after its slim victory in the general election in June. But, in spite of the care with which the plan was described, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec all objected to the federal requirement that they surrender their taxation power in return for partial federal funding of medical, hospital, dental, pharmaceutical and home nursing services. Saskatchewan was already well advanced in planning its hospital insurance plan, and in April 1945 Manitoba had passed a provincial health services act that combined preventive and curative services. But, although Claxton and his colleagues worked with some of their provincial counterparts to develop a more acceptable approach to federal–provincial roles and responsibilities in the post-war world, by April 1946 it was clear that no national health insurance plan was possible.

Photo: Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and his Cabinet, June 1945. Brooke Claxton, the first minister of the new Department of National Health and Welfare, is standing in the back row, fifth from the left.

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and his Cabinet, June 1945. Brooke Claxton, the first minister of the new Department of National Health and Welfare, is standing in the back row, fifth from the left.
Library and Archives Canada, C-026988. Photographer: Paul Horsdal.

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