Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
Key Players: 1914-1929 Key Players: 1914-1929 Key Players: 1930-1939

J. S. Woodsworth

Born in Ontario but raised in Manitoba, James Shaver Woodsworth (1874–1942), was a Methodist clergyman, social worker, politician, and the first leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Woodsworth started out as a Methodist clergyman in 1896, but had become a social worker in Winnipeg’s North End by 1904. His experience of urban slums convinced him that socialism was the solution to poverty. Despite being fired from his position as a government social researcher in 1917 for being a pacifist and arrested for libel during the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, Woodsworth’s ideals made him a popular Winnipeg politician. His popularity led to his election as the Member of Parliament for Winnipeg North Centre in 1921, a riding that he held until his death. As a Member of Parliament, Woodsworth consistently campaigned for labour rights, improved social welfare measures and democratic socialism. Although he failed to make socialism a reality in Canada, he succeeded, in 1926–1927, in persuading Prime Minister Mackenzie King to introduce an old-age pension plan — Canada’s first social welfare legislation — in exchange for providing the votes Mackenzie King needed to stay in power.

Photo: James  Shaver Woodsworth in 1921

James Shaver Woodsworth in 1921, after he was elected to the House of Commons as the Labour member for Winnipeg North Centre. His campaign slogan was “Human Needs before Property Rights”.
Library and Archives Canada, C-057365

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