I believe the Canadian government could have done more to ease the suffering of Canadians during the great depression. Athough most of the issues were beyond its control there were more that they could have done. This paper will not only look at what the Canadian government did not do to alleviate the people’s sufferings, we will also look at the background information of the Great Depression, its causes and effects as well as looking at how other countries coped with the depression. An example of these countries are Germany, United States of America, France and the United Kingdom.
Some of them however were not as badly hit as Canada. The Great Depression occurred in the 1930’s (between 1929 and 1939). Of all the countries affected by the depression, Canada was the worst hit both politically, economically and socially. It affected everyone in some way and there was basically no way to escape it (www.
yesnet. yk. ca ). Depression in Canada was a bit worse with its gross national product falling by 40% (compared 37% in US), unemployment at 27%, business closed and family assets disappeared.Before the great depression, Canada was the fastest growing economy in the world with improved standards of living for its people.
Reason for this maybe because it did not engage in the First World War as other countries in Europe did. Depression crept in abruptly in the US but was to explode to the rest of the world with the US stock Market crash in the October of 1929 (Pierre Berton, 200). This affected Canada greatly due to the close economic links enjoyed by the two countries.These two countries were the leading in the world in terms of sharpness in economic decline iediately after the depression, commodity prices were falling faster than the wages, even with the 15% wage cut in 1933 (www.
yesnet. yk. ca ). Canada had some strong bank that survived the entire depression onslaught but the reason why it became so badly hit was its reliance on primary exports. Estimation has it that 33% of its GNP was primary from exports. Its four western praire provinces greatly depended on wheat whose little revenue could not cover the costs of production and taxes (www.
yesnet. yk. ca).The primary products were recording a decline in price throughout the whole period. Only those provinces that had a diversified economy were able to absorb some of the hit. Canada had been over-relying on export trade, depending on wheat, wood, paper and pulp which accounted for almost all its entire foreign earnings.
Unemployment aspect was the worst hit with over 30% of the entire workforce losing their jobs and 20% of all the entire population partially or entirely dependent on government relief and help. The situation was worse in the rural areas where majority of the population was relying on government handouts and relief.Big corporations and companies reduced their investments or pulled out altogether, they could not afford to make a meaningful investment in a failing economy, the United States raised its tarrifs and the Canada government had to turn to other grounds for an economic reprieve as well as contemplating raising its own tariff rates to the disfavor of the united states (Pedro et al, 2002). The depression had greater negative effects on the social aspect of Canadian population. No immigrants were accepted, Jew fleeing Germany could not secure homage in Canada, all this in addition to forceful deportation of both legal and illegal immigrants.
Birth rate declined at an alarming rate and the unemployed preferred to go to the rural areas due to diminishing opportunities in the urban areas. The government reacted to the crisis by establishing unemployment relief camps. Entry to the camps was voluntary and so was leaving. They were supposed to provide work and housing to the homeless and unemployment males.
These camps however were met later with protests and demonstrating over their deplorable state and conditions. Students were also largely affected as many could not meet the rising costs of tuition and opted to go back home or find ways to make ends meet.The great depression brought with it a new yearning for a political and economic restructuring where there were agitated calls for more government involvement to try and revive the economy and aleviate suffering. The government was being faced with stiff opposition from its disgruntled and unemployed citizenry, characterized by street demonstrations and protests.
It led to the formation of two crucial political parties, the cooperative commonwealth federation (CCF) and the social credit party in 1932. They were a number of protests and labor groups who sought to initiate economic and societal democracy.Immediately after the depression, the government reacted in a lackluster manner. The then prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, treated it passively believing it was a temporary crisis that would pass and denied aid to the provinces (J.
Granatstein et, al. 1999). He had to respond to the demanding population who saw the relief as a social right and not some form of charity. They believed that the state had a social responsibility to protect them form poverty and also from the rampart joblessness, these calls were fuelled mostly by the veteran citizens who were also calling for a proper reward to their sacrifices during the war.Consequently King’s liberal leadership was ousted by the conservatives with the majority seats led by Richard Bedfort Bennet (Natby, 1972).
He opened more welfare and relief programs initially believing in high spending but later after a budget shortfall in 1932, he had to reduce federal spending. This greatly aggravated the situation leading to more job cuts and cancelled public projects. After failing to recuperate the failing economy his government was defeated and the liberals took over again under King Mackenzie who too again initiated tentative relief programs and reforms that he wished would see Canada survive through the depression.How US Coped With the Depression. The US was equally hit as their Canadian counterparts with its logging and mining industries being the worst hit. This depression caused major economic and political changes.
The then president, Hoover thought that he could allow the depression to take its course believing things would sort themselves out. Later however he changed that, although he believed that he would not simply provide aid directly to the people but was looking into ways that the businesses could cooperate with the government in overcoming the stock market in such an unpredictable economy.In the end however, Hoover’s strategy did not work and the US went on to face the depression. Farmers were the worst hit, with the drought later dealing them a hard blow. After taking over the mantle, Roosevelt initiated stringent reforms that would possibly see reducing the effects of the depression.
Programs aimed at creating jobs and aid relief to the impoverished masses saw increased spending by the federal governments. Financial reforms were to be carried out, minimum prices and wages were set.These reforms were referred to as the First New Deal (Mc Elvaine, R. S. 1993). It is these measures that would see a decrease in the depression and its negative impacts except for unemployment which would pick later after the way.
Although the United States was not as worse hit as Canada, its financial sector was the worst hit. Its banking and financial system had literally disintegrated, with its industries and agriculture recording zero growths. Unemployment was at its peak level with millions being faced by widespread drought and starvation.There was a feeling of despair and helplessness with calls that the government had to cope with the ever rising inflation rates.
It is Roosevelt who took strict and bold measures to tame the banking industry by vowing to rid America with all unhealthy banks through the Emergency Banking Act that authorized the government to examine the financial strengths of all banks. These measures bore a lot of fruits in containing the adverse effects of the depression. Unemployment dropped significantly and the economy was able to pick.Causes of the Depression Speculations are rife that the Great Depression was caused primarily by the Wall Street crash of 1929, followed by the high costs of financing the First World War which greatly impacted with Canadians ability to deal with a crisis of such a magnitude.
Investor’s future expectations altered their investing patterns and plans. This led to shifting tendencies in international trade with consumers drastically cutting on their spending habits.This is why Canadian export revenue was the worst casualty (Rooth et, at. 2001). The great depression started in the United States rapidly spreading to other countries in Europe and the rest of the world. The United Kingdom was hit at a time when it had accumulated a lot of debt for financing the war.
The depression also had devastating effects on its industries and citizenry. The government responded by initiating tax reforms, wage cuts, and reducing interest rates.There were however no political and social upheavals as those experienced by other European countries, but still political and economic restructuring took place as was the case for all other countries, with the tussle of war being between the Britains major blocs: The Conservatives and the Labor party. France’s economy was a bit self sufficient and the depression did not create as much damage as it did in Germany, USA and Canada. There were still cases of dissatisfied citizenry exhibited by the constant noting and demonstration.
Unemployment was also considerably high but not as high as in Canada. It is understandable as it was still trying to recover from the effects of war with Germany. Social reform were carried out by the socialist popular front who carried out stringent social, political, and economic reforms aimed at reducing or coping with the effects of the depression that was threatening to rock the relatively strong and self reliable economy. Germany too was also hard hit by the great depression.It happened at a time that they were still receiving loans from America to help in rebuilding their dilapidated country after their first world war, like was the case in many other countries, unemployment was soaring to a record high. The depression saw the rise of the Hitler’s Nazi party which was seen as a messiah to the frustrated lot.
The economy was not strong and the repariations being paid to the other European countries (U. K. and France) were quickly draining its resources.However, it was able to cope rather well compared to Canada with the introduction of social reforms by the Nazi party even considering that the Americans had stopped their loans as they also were struggling to deal with the devastating blows caused by the depression. And back to Canada, The government was under intense criticism with how it handled the great depression, lacking a concrete and solid plan of dealing with the economic crisis.
Undeniably the low income class of people was the worst hit especially those who depended on primary goods like wheat.The government before had accumulated a lot of debts resulting from the infrastructural expansion going on, that is why Mackenzie was reluctant to release any aids to the affected in a naive believe that the wind would come to pass. This initial reluctance led to a lot of suffering to the population who had by then started to come to terms with the effects of depression. Unlike their counterparts across the border, “Canadian states response to the depression was pitiful” (Pierre Berton, 2001).
Roosevelt introduced trend changing reforms in America while the Canadian authority chose to turn a blind eye to the unfolding events concentrating instead on political survival and bashing of the left wing dissidents. The communist party was advocating for introduction of social-political reforms that would see more government involvement in people’s affairs, and for that it was outlawed. The Canadian government was over relying more on the US market than in any other European market like Britain, this over reliance was to hurt Canada greatly after the US increased its tariffs on Canadian exports.Both political leaderships exhibited lack of a well thought out reform plan and believed that their economic wellbeing would only survive if they gained access to the American market.
They neglected social reforms and were slow in responding to the masses plight. Reliance on the American market was fool handy as each country was seeking to protect its internal market by limiting imports. Canada suffered greatly as this was to be followed in decrease of international trade and prices. Many people believe and still believe that the government could have done more to alleviate the masses suffering.People lost faith in the government accusing it of not taking enough intervention measures. All along the government had believed that laisser faire government and free market would see it through but now it was becoming seriously challenged.
The leadership was assuming too much while doing too little to control the situation. While Americans were facing the depression head on and introducing fiscal and monetary reforms, especially in the banking sector,while still providing the poor lot with relief aid, the then Prime Minister Mackenzie could not part with any additional funds to alleviate suffering provinces.Consequently his government was defeated in the elections. The incoming prime minister Bennett also turned a blind eye especially in giving relief to the masses refusing to introduce any meaningful social-economic interventions, he did not want to spend money on relief shifting responsibility instead to the provincial and municipal governments (www.
sasked. gov. sk. ca ).