In 1949, a Gallup poll survey immediately after the federal election asked Canadians if they supported a government-funded health plan to which they would make monthly contributions. As in the 1944 survey, 80 per cent said “yes,” and only 16 per cent said “no.” Did this mean that Canadians now regarded medical and hospital services as a social necessity rather than a purchasable commodity? Were they willing to see Canada copy the new British National Health Service, which offered comprehensive care to all citizens? Or would the American model, which embraced third party payment, prevail? These were the questions that concerned federal and provincial politicians and bureaucrats as they responded to the rapid changes of the 1950s.
But with such strong public approval of a national health insurance program, why was the federal government so reluctant to fulfill its earlier promises? Indeed, during the 1949 election campaign, the Progressive Conservatives, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Social Credit Party all supported a national health insurance program. But such election-based unanimity declined markedly as Canadians experienced unprecedented economic and population growth in the following decade. The feared post-war recession did not occur and, with the start of the baby boom in 1946–1947, as well as extensive immigration during the 1950s, the federal and provincial governments had other needs to fulfill, as Canada’s population grew from 14 to 18 million between 1951 and 1961.