Home About LEARN Services and publications Contact us Help Site map Français
Learn Logo

Political changes and government influence (over three periods)

The following is a list of events, ordered in a timeline fashion.  These events demonstrate the government's changing role  in various spheres of influence (Social, Economic, Cultural).
 
An effective interpretation of these "social phenomena" can help students to explain "the dynamic between that changing mindset and the role of the state" (Focus of Competency 2 Interpretation in this section of the QEP).


UNDER CONSTRUCTION. 
These pages are under development.  Feel free to browse or contribute your ideas or link suggestions.


1930 to 1945 : The Depression Era, and the Second World War

During this period economic transformations in technology and communications had an effect on the way individual Canadians lived, worked and thought.  But equally true is the way external economic trends and political events.

"Canada's involvement in the First World War raised issues that threatened the unity of the nation. The conscription issue bitterly strained relations between English-speaking Canada and francophone Quebec. Involvement also raised the issue of Canada's relationship with Britain and the continuing influence of Britain on Canadian foreign policy.

The Depression of the 1930s called into question existing assumptions and practices concerning the role of government, and in particular, government's role in securing the well-being of the citizenry. New political paradigms and movements arose to challenge the political and economic status quos." 
Source and good overview of this period:  Overview of Unit Three: External Forces and Domestic Realities

"The economic crisis of the 1930s urgently brought the issue of poverty into the national political arena. As the Depression deepened, provincial and local governments called on the federal government to help fund relief programs for the unemployed. More assistance was also given to war veterans in 1930 through the War Veterans Allowance Act. The majority of Canadians readily accepted the increased involvement of the federal government in social welfare issues."
Source and overview of a political change in response to the times:  1928-1951 Demanding More (History of Canada's Public Pensions)


Key events:

1931 Statue of Westminster

The Statue of Westminster gave Canada and other former British colonies official control over  their international affairs.
Overview at  Statute of Westminster 1931 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"It is hereby declared and enacted that the Parliament of a Dominion has full power to make laws having extra-territorial operation."
Statute of Westminster, 1931 (Text of act from solon.org)

" As in most advances in British constitutional practices, the Statute of Westminster did not constitute a clear break with the past. It merely only consecrated practices that were already firmly established."
The Statute of Westminster (1931) - (From  Marianopolis College Studies on Canadian Constitution course)


1930s  The Depression and Government Response in Canada

"Canada was hard hit by the Great Depression. Between 1929 and 1933, the gross national product dropped 40% (compared to 37% in the US). Unemployment reached 27% at the depth of the Depression in 1933. Many businesses closed, as fat corporate profits of $396 million in 1929 turned into losses of $98 million in 1933. Families saw most or all of their assets disappear, and their debts become heavier as prices fell. Canadian exports shrank by 50% from 1929 to 1933. Worst hit were areas dependent on primary industries such as farming, mining and logging, as prices fell and there were few alternative jobs."  Source for this quote and for a quick overview of the "Government reaction" to the sudden hardships of the depression:  Wikipedia: Great Depression in Canada

C-029399 Various history texts are collected in the McCord Museum page of "history texts" entitled 1919-1945: DEPRESSION AND WAR   And "Images of the Great Depression in Canada include breadlines, relief camps, protest marches and dust storms sweeping over the western plains" are also available in their thematic tour entitled " The Dirty Thirties".  The McCord Museum's site can provide a number of perspectives from which to view the events of the depression and government involvement simply by searching different key words on their site.  (Example search for government, unemployed and depression photos in the 1930 era  turns up some interesting results.)

Various political responses to the national issue of poverty are outlined in Civilization.ca's " 1928-1951: Demanding More" section of " The History of Canada's Public Pensions". This timeline-structured web site can also help make connections between trends in government influence in the early part of the century and in the later.

The Parks Canada web site offers a learning unit called THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL PROGRAMS BY THE GOVERNMENT OF MACKENZIE KING.  As part of the  Laurier House National Historic Site of Canada collection of  " Learning Experiences"  it manages to bring together a number of overview texts along with primary documents that help describe the role of government during the depression.


1932 Quebec government offers "direct relief" to unemployed
The depression drastically affected international trade, and the natural resources sector  was one of the hardest hit, especially in Quebec.  The Liberal government in Quebec had to address the issue quickly.  Public works projects were not enough to support the thousands of families affected.  A good description of the measures taken by Quebec (and other) governments of the times can be found in the book Quebec Since 1930 by Paul-André Linteau.  Thanks to Google Books this text is now accessible (for reading and small quotations) online here

1934 Union Nationale formed
"The Union Nationale was a political party in Quebec, Canada, that identified with conservative French-Canadian nationalism." [...] "The party was created when a group of nationalist Liberals who had quit the Parti libéral du Québec in 1934 to form the Action libérale nationale (ALN) joined with the Parti conservateur du Québec (Conservative Party, led by Duplessis), to form the Union Nationale."  Source:  Wikipedia overview  This new party's appearance on the political scene demonstrates Quebeckers' frustration with the difficult times, and in particular with the way the federal government may have been handling economic and social problems arising out of the depression.  It also implies either a fostering of or a reaction to the new ideas entering the province through new means of communication.
 

1940  Unemployment insurance responsibility transferred to federal control
"When the Great Depression threw millions of Canadians out of work, there were calls for government intervention to provide income security. (See 1929 - 1939 —Great Depression.) As early as 1934, the Government of Canada began creating an insurance scheme to guarantee Canadians a partial income if they ever found themselves without a job." 
Unemployment Insurance Act (1941): historical context, economic ...


" The economic crisis of the 1930s urgently brought the issue of poverty into the national political arena. As the Depression deepened, provincial and local governments called on the federal government to help fund relief programs for the unemployed. [...] The 1930s and 1940s also saw the emergence of new political parties and interest groups that supported social reform. In the 1930s, the newly formed Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) became an especially outspoken advocate of fundamental social reform, but by the early 1940s all the national political parties included social security issues in their platforms."
Civilization.ca - The History of Canada's Public Pensions


1942 Federal income tax agreements with provinces

"The Canadian tax structure changed profoundly during WWII. To distribute the enormous financial burden of the war equitably, to raise funds efficiently and to minimize the impact of inflation, the major tax sources were gathered under a central fiscal authority. In 1941 the provinces agreed to surrender the personal and corporate income tax fields to the federal government for the duration of the war and for one year thereafter; in exchange they received fixed annual payments."
Canadian Encyclopedia on Taxation


1944 Conscription Crisis   (Plebiscite in 1942)

Mackenzie King had promised in 1939 that there would be no conscription of soldiers for the war efforts in Europe.  But as the war with Germany dragged on, and as a new front opened in the east against Japan, pressure was on King to enlist new soldiers and to send them overseas.  In 1942 he asked Canadians to free him from the promise he had made and give the government a free hand to do what needed to be done.  Many Canadians voted to allow the government these measures, but Quebeckers did not.   In 1944 King was eventually required to conscript soldiers, confirming this new power for the federal government in times of war, and creating political repercussions in the provinces.  (See Godbout below)


Adélard Godbout

As Quebec premier during WWII, Adélard Godbout was progressive in terms of women's and workers rights, and even brought much in the way of provincial control over the hydroelectricity industry by nationalizing Montreal companies, but his position in support of King during the 1942 plebiscite was how he was remembered in the 1944 election.  Ironically, losing to Duplessis because of his perceived "weak stance in the matters of Quebec autonomy and nationalism" may have been his lasting legacy.   (Source: Wikipedia overview on Godbout)

Other resources:

  • Traite ou patriote - film by his nephew Jacques Godbout.  Interesting summary of film is here. NFB ordering page with clips is here.
  • Biography at Marianopolis College site here.
  • Townships history site summary of life and accomplishments  Belanger's biography information on Godbout was republished here as well.


1943 School obligatory in Quebec
Godbout's educational policies including compulsory education until 14 years of age and free education and books is described in more detail in Belanger's biography here.
School Reform in Quebec, Canada (p.7) also describes how the church fought against this secularization of education.


1944 Hydro Quebec created
An excellent example of government involvement in the economy and in the lives of individual Quebeckers was the takeover of  Montreal electrical companies by the provincial government, after various commissions recommended a 1937 bill that "favored municipal control of electrical service".  Wikipedia provides a summary of the event  while the clip Hydro chez nous from the CBC archives site also includes a description of its origins and discusses the significance of Hydro Quebec.  The process of taking over Montreal LIght, Heat and Power is describe at Answers.com. To be sure, the pattern was repeated in other provinces, as this short article on Gas and Electricity Monopolies demonstrates.


This Hydro Quebec web site offers a history tour that provides more information on the development and nationalization of hydroelectric power in Quebec.  A good place to start your research or for a summary listing of key events.    See also their Milestones page for a timeline of events.

1945 World War II:  From Crown Corporations to High Government Spending
To support the war effort and help to maintain and control an economy that was rapidly changing and expanding, governments during this period took on new roles and gained new influence over our lives.  The Federal government created almost 30 new crown corporations, during this period, and government spending increase such that the deficit as compared to the GNP rose from 12% in 1939 to 42% in 1945.  (Source:  1939–n n n n n n 1945 –n n World War II Transformed the Canadian Economy)



 

1945 à 1960 :  Duplessis period


Duplessis as chief, leader and political force
Viewed as corrupt and associated with a "large scale system of patronage," Duplessis's government was, if anything, powerful.  Ironically, the same liberal economic policies (low taxes, etc.) favouring businesses also gained him their massive support at election time, thereby further centralizing his control and the acceptance of an increased role for government.

Le chef:  Maurice Duplessis - "Duplessis skewers his opponents and charms his supporters effortlessly as heard in this speech on provincial autonomy."  CBC archives section on the man and some of his accomplishments.  Includes video clip.

The Negro-King Theory - First enunciated by Le Devoir journalist André Laurendeau, this theory re-told here by Claude Bélanger of Marianopolis College, sheds an alternative light on Duplessis' career.  It paints him as basically allowing the control of the people by big business and external authorities (Ottawa?), in effect, says the theory, by the English Canadians.  His government benefits by letting federal intervention increase, in areas such as maritime  to name an example.


Key events:


1948 Quebec Flag with the fleur de lys
To help affirm the autonomy of Quebec, the Fleur de lys was chosen and made the official flag of Quebec, a powerful symbol often associated with nationalism.
Wikipedia overview - "The desire of French Canadians in the province for a distinctive flag is an old one."
Flag proposals - What the flag could have looked like!

1954  Provincial Income Tax Act
One of many nationalist policies which point to the growing acceptance of government control in Quebec, especially when it was ostensibly at the expense of government control from outside of Quebec.  The " tax rental agreements" reached between federal and provincial governments were not simple, but they did result in another shift,  both in terms of way governments throughout Canada redefined their fiscal roles, and also in terms of the way Quebec politic forces were increasingly willing to assert their own notions of how things were to be done.

1959 - Saint Lawrence Seaway project, a Federal Project
The enormous amount of public funds spent on the seaway was "not without opposition", but it did confirm a new role for government in financing and legislating around massive public projects.  See Saint Lawrence Seaway project See also:  CBC Archives collection on the Seaway.


1960 à 1980 :  The Quiet Revolution

"The Quiet Revolution is the name given to a period of Quebec history extending from 1960 to 1966 and corresponding to the tenure of office of the Liberal Party of Jean Lesage. The term appears to have been coined by a Toronto journalist who, upon witnessing the many and far reaching changes taking place in Quebec, declared that what was happening was nothing short of a revolution, albeit a quiet one."  Source:  The Quiet Revolution by Claude Bélanger

The period was characterized by a more articulated and active nationalism, a concern for language issues (and language rights), and by a shift in economic control towards the French speaking, urban elite.  The language issues were not new (See Rise of Language Issue.), nor in fact were nationalist sentiments in Quebec, but the shift away from  church influence in the areas of education and health, combined with a new cultural awareness and pride reinforced by new means of communication, meant the changes were radical and everlasting.  A political voice for women and youth contributed to these changes.  Eventually immigrants and workers fighting for their rights would offer new perspectives that would also contribute to the modern Quebecois identity. 

Other general References summarizing social and cultural changes as well as the political events of the times:

Key events:


1961 – First Woman Deputy in Quebec
"For Kirkland-Casgrain, the 1961 by-election marked the beginning of an accomplished political career. She played an outstanding role in the defence of women's issues and the adoption of several laws." Source: http://www.collectionscanada.ca/women/002026-846-e.html
 
1964 – Lesage government lowers voting age from 21 to 18
A younger population can now vote in Quebec, potentially changing the political climate and allowing for greater youth participation and a greater incentive for political parties to consider their needs and wishes .  Lesage's accomplishment in context. Think about the issue in today's terms.  Article here for arguments about voting at 16?!


1963 Hydro Quebec is nationalized by Lesage's government
"On May 1, 1963, when the government authorized it to proceed with the gradual acquisition of private electricity distributors, Hydro-Québec finally achieved Québec-wide scope. The second stage of nationalization had begun."  click on 1960-1979 Nationalization, Part 2   Not only an event of economic significance, Lesage's decision to promote nationalization in his winning 1962 campaign indicates the new political climate in which the government was operating.

1977 Bill 101
The Charter of the French Language, Bill 101, becomes the law in Quebec. This law requires all signs to be in French and restricts the right of non-English parents to send their children to English schools.  A cultural and social event, but one that has political consequences.
  (Similar bills that preceded 101 are summarized here.)