The Great Depression The Government Responds
Goodbye, Arthur! • In 1927, Arthur Meighen stepped down as the leader of the Conservative party. • He was replaced by Richard Bedford Bennett, or R.B. Bennett. • In 1930, with the Great Depression beginning to take its toll on Canada, King called a general election.
R.B. Bennett • Richard Bedford Bennett, 1st Viscount Bennett, July 3, 1870 – June 26, 1947
Bennett’s Early Life • Bennett was born in New Brunswick and grew up under poor conditions. • His mother instilled in him the following ethic: • “Work as hard as you can, earn all you can, save all you can, and then give all you can.” • After school, Bennett enrolled in teacher training school in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
R.B. Bennett with his sister, Mildred, on whom he relied as hostess.
Bennett’s Early Life (cont’d) • In 1888, after finishing school, Bennett became an elementary teacher. • He was considered a successful teacher. • In 1893, Bennett achieved a Law degree, and in 1897, he moved to Calgary to become a partner in a law firm. • Bennett never married.
The 1930 Election • Bennett was a ‘capitalist’ and a conservative. • Capitalism (definition): An economic system where products are mostly privately owned and sold on a free market, and prices are determined through supply and demand. • Bennett believed in law and order, a balanced budget, and a job for everyone.
The 1930 Election (cont’d) • The main issue of the 1930 election was unemployment. • Bennett argued that higher tariffs were needed to preserve the Canadian market. • Bennett stated that tariffs would “blast a way” for Canadian goods onto the world market.
The 1930 Election (cont’d) • During the election, King made a mistake. • In the House of Commons, King stated he would not give a “five cent piece” to assist a conservative provincial government with the “alleged unemployment” problem. • This enraged people and, at campaign appearances, King was often pelted by wooden nickels hurled by the unemployed.
The 1930 Election (cont’d) • Astoundingly, Bennett’s Conservatives swept the election! • Results: • Conservatives – 137 seats • Liberals – 91 seats • Despite this, King’s defeat later turned out to be a blessing in disguise…
Bennett’s Ineffective Policies • Bennett had the misfortune of being elected during the worst depression of the century for the entire world. • As promised Bennett enforced protective tariffs. • This helped some manufacturers, but it ignored Canada’s reliance on export.
Canada relied on many exports such as wheat, fish, forestry products and minerals. • Bennett ignored the fact that Canada’s economy was tied to international demand for these goods.
“I cannot make up my mind why this country between the lakes and the mountains should experience the Depression.” • Bennett, 1931
Impact of Protective Tariffs • Drop in export trade: • Dropped by 67% • From $1.4 billion in 1929 to $475 million in 1933 • Annual deficit of CNR alone was $60 million • Massive unemployment • By 1933, 826 000 people out of 10 million (and this doesn’t count farmers and fishers!) were unemployed.
Rise of New Parties • Dissatisfaction with the government led to the creation of a number of new political parties. • Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (1932) • Social Credit Party of Alberta (1935) • Communist Party of Canada (although created in 1921, it gained popularity in the 30s)
CCF • The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was founded in 1932 in Calgary, Alberta, by a number of socialist, farm, co-operative and labour groups. • It was disbanded in 1961, and was re-formed as the New Democratic Party (NDP!)
J.S. Woodsworth addresses the first federal CCF caucus in 1935.
Bennett Jokes • Bennett became known as “Iron Heel Bennett” for the following quote: • “What do they offer you in exchange for the present order? Socialism, Communism, dictatorship. They are sowing the seeds of unrest everywhere. Right in this city such propaganda is being carried on and in the little out of the way places as well. And we know that throughout Canada this propaganda is being put forward by organizations from foreign lands that seek to destroy our institutions. And we ask that every man and woman put the iron heel of ruthlessness against a thing of that kind.”
Bennett Jokes (cont’d) • Depression-era humour could be bitter, as reflected in these definitions: • Bennett barnyard • An abandoned prairie farm • Bennett blanket • A newspaper
Bennett buggy • An engineless automobile pulled by horses or oxen • Bennett coffee • Roasted wheat • Eggs Bennett • Broiled chestnuts
Unemployment Relief • Public relief is a form of support for the unemployed. • Relief was administered by the municipal (local) government. • Nicknames for relief were “on the dole” or “pogey”. • Relief was never cash, and it was never regular nor enough to live on.
By April 1, 1933, more than 1.4 million urban Canadian workers were collecting some form of relief. • Amounts varied from place to place. • In 1932, a family of five living in Ontario required at least $6 - $7 a week for food. • In Toronto, a family of 7 received a $6.93 food allowance.
To most Canadians, relief was humiliating. • To qualify for relief, a person had to have lived in one place for 6 months to a year. • Therefore, the large number of unemployed men who travelled looking for work were disqualified from receiving relief.
Even if a person had lived in one area for the required time, relief assistance was not easy to obtain. In Ontario, these were the typical requirements: • Prove that you are not able to support yourself, and no relative can help • Be a man supporting a family • Have been a resident of the municipality for at least one year before applying • Turn in your liquor permit • Turn in your automobile licence plates and driver’s licence • Remove the telephone from your house