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Mitchell Sharp

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mitchell William Sharp (1911–2004) was a public servant and politician. Despite leaving school at 14, he received his high-school diploma and graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1934 by studying part-time while working full-time as a statistician in the grain trade. After graduation, Sharp continued to write crop and business reports, and was then hired as an economist by James Richardson, a leading Winnipeg grain merchant, who also sent Sharp to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science. On his return, Sharp continued to work as an economist for Richardson until Clifford Clark recruited him into the Department of Finance in 1942. After serving as Associate Deputy Minister of Trade and Commerce from 1951 to 1957, Sharp returned to business in 1958, but entered politics in 1963 as a Liberal Member of Parliament and Minister of Trade and Commerce. As Minister of Finance from 1965 to 1968, Sharp opposed the timing of the introduction of medicare, despite his personal belief in the program, because his advisers believed that the federal–provincial financial and administrative arrangements were incomplete, and that the cost would fuel inflation and undermine investor confidence in the Canadian dollar. Although the one-year delay in the implementation of medicare — from July 1, 1967 to July 1, 1968 — generated conflict within the party, Sharp believed that it proved the Pearson government’s financial prudence and its commitment to social programs, as well as its realism.

Photo:  “Here you are, sir ...  Nobody wants medicare but the people!”
“Here you are, sir ... Nobody wants medicare but the people!”

George Shane’s cartoon from 1966 captures the mood of both the public and the anti-medicare lobby when Finance Minister and Acting Prime Minister Mitchell Sharp declared that medicare would have to be abandoned or delayed because of Canada’s dire financial situation.
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1991-26-239, C-143095. © George Shane.

Medicare Is Communism
— Anti-Medicare Lobby

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