Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
History: 1948-1958 NATIONAL SYSTEM, NATIONAL FAILURE? : WAR, RECONSTRUCTION AND HEALTH SECURITY FOR CANADIANS, 1939–1948 PUBLIC OR PRIVATE? VOLUNTARY OR COMPULSORY? : HOSPITAL CARE FOR CANADIANS, 19481958 CONFLICT AND COMPROMISE: CREATING THE MEDICAL CARE AC, 1958–1968



The Federal Government and Hospital Insurance

From 1946 to 1957, Paul Martin and his deputy ministers at the Department of National Health and Welfare, George Davidson and G. Donald W. Cameron, worked to develop a national hospital insurance plan. Through the 1950s, Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent was concerned about infringing upon provincial jurisdiction, particularly since Duplessis had been re-elected as Premier of Quebec in 1944 and would remain in office until 1959. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 provided a convenient reason to slow progress on the proposal, but criticism from Stanley Knowles of the CCF kept the issue alive in the House of Commons. Within the Department of National Health and Welfare, Dr. Fred W. Jackson had been appointed head of the Health Insurance Studies division and he left Canada in the fall of 1951 to study sickness insurance plans and the role of the general practitioner in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Great Britain. While he was away, health economists in the department were working with the Dominion Bureau of Statistics to analyze the data collected by the Canadian Sickness Survey carried out in 1950–1951. As the results of the survey were released, it became apparent that Canadians suffered a significant amount of illness on an annual basis and that this was not only costly to the individual but a great loss to the national economy. What could or should the federal government do?

Photo: Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent’s three-way handshake with premiers Leslie Frost (Ontario) and  Maurice Duplessis (Quebec) at the Dominion-Provincial Conference in 1950

This cheerful image of Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent’s three-way handshake with premiers Leslie Frost (Ontario) and Maurice Duplessis (Quebec) at the Dominion-Provincial Conference in 1950 gives no hint of the difficulties that lay ahead in the negotiation of the national hospital insurance plan.
Archives of Ontario, RG 3-38-3-1-2.8

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