Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
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Ian A. Mackenzie

Born in Assynt, Scotland, Ian A. Mackenzie (1890–1949) was a lawyer and politician. He graduated from Edinburgh University with an M.A. in 1911 and an LL.B. in 1914. He served in France in the First World War and was called to the bar in British Columbia in 1919. He became a Liberal member of the B.C. legislature in 1920, was re-elected in 1924 and became Provincial Secretary in 1928. In 1930, he became federal Minister of Immigration and Colonization in William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Cabinet. The Liberal Party was defeated in the 1930 election, though Mackenzie won his own seat. When the Liberals returned to power in 1935, Mackenzie was appointed Minister of National Defence.

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

In 1939, he became Minister of Pensions and National Health and immediately urged Prime Minister Mackenzie King to introduce health insurance, stating that “a demand for a national health system is inevitable” (Malcolm G. Taylor, Health Insurance and Canadian Public Policy: The Seven Decisions That Created the Canadian Health Insurance System and Their Outcomes [Montréal and Kingston: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 1987], p. 16). Although he lacked support from his colleagues, Mackenzie worked to make a national system of health insurance a reality by asking Dr. John J. Heagerty, the Dominion Council of Health, and representatives of the medical professions and labour, farmers’ and women’s groups to study health insurance for Canada and make recommendations. Although Mackenzie successfully built consensus among federal, provincial and public interest groups in favour of national health insurance, he was unable to make it a reality. However, the creation of medicare ultimately vindicated his conviction that national health insurance was inevitable

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