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Reducing Poverty

Daily Life

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Near the end of the Second World War, Canada (and many other countries) experienced a baby boom that lasted into the 1960s. The number of babies born grew sharply in contrast to the Depression years when poverty forced many people to have very small families. Immigration also increased once again, following years of very low rates during the Depression and the Second World War. As a result, the percentage of older people in Canada grew far more slowly than in the 1930s, and even decreased in some years, while the number of young people multiplied.

After the Second World War, the process of industrialization continued in Canada, but at a slower pace. The 1950s and 1960s in Canada were, in large part, years of economic stability and prosperity. Prices leveled out in the early 1950s with the end of the Korean War, and overseas trade grew steadily. The fastest growing part of the economy became the service sector, including many professional and office positions, also known as "white collar" jobs. These tended to pay higher salaries than those in industry, so that more people could now afford to save for retirement.

The strength and influence of unions also continued to grow. In 1956 the Canadian Congress of Labour joined with the Trades and Labour Congress to become the Canadian Labour Congress. The Canadian Labour Congress remained in the forefront of the fight for contributory pensions leading up to the introduction of the Canada Pension Plan.

Despite this prosperity, numerous social problems still plagued the country. As economic growth slowed down in the late 1950s, the issue of social security once again gained prominence and new initiatives were introduced to help Canadians in old age and periods of unemployment and sickness. Unemployment Assistance was enacted in 1956 to supplement the Unemployment Insurance program begun in 1940. Before 1957, no national medical insurance programs existed, and as medical technologies improved, the cost of receiving treatment became increasingly unaffordable for many people. In 1957, the introduction of national hospital insurance improved the situation.

The benefits of these national social programs helped develop a widespread belief among many people that all Canadians could, and should, be provided with a basic, guaranteed level of economic security. As a result, criticism for the programs that existed grew steadily. The funds provided by Old Age Security, the Blind Persons Act of 1951 and the Disabled Persons Act of 1954 gradually came to be seen as insufficient for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Widespread public support for initiatives in these areas helped influence the federal government's decision in the early 1960s to seek a Constitutional amendment to be able to include people with disabilities along with younger survivors of contributors to the Canada Pension Plan. The original draft plan had only covered older survivors due to the old age limitation in the 1951 version of Section 94A of the Canadian Constitution.