The Great War seemed to many to be an opportunity for change.
“The war has served to arouse communities to the need of improvement in social
conditions. A ‘revitalized citizenry’ is now seen to be part of the problem of
preparedness and defense.”
A Home Fit for Heros?
-population increased from 8 million to 11 million
-soldier and citizen discontent followed the war
-government little prepared to provide for people
Memory vs. History
Canadians constructed a specific, official memory of the war which prized noble
sacrifice and gave soldier’s death meaning.
Yet in reality, the seeds of discontent planted during the war lingered on as
labour, farmers, and veterans clashed with the government.
Industrial workers were angry at a lack of job security and low wages. In the
autumn of 1918 they founded the One Big Union (OBU) which aimed to unite all
unions under one leadership for the purposes of pressing the government and
industry for their demands.
On May 1 1919, metal workers and builders went on strike in Winnipeg and
30,000 other workers joined them in a sympathy strike which closed down the
The Winnepeg General Strike
-To deal with the unrest civic and business leaders formed the Committee of
1,000- and organization dedicated to breaking the strike.
-At the same time, sympathy strikes broke out across he country from Vancouver
Island to Cape Breton.
-The government feared a general ‘Bolshevik’ uprising and intervened in the
On June 16 , Arthur Meighen ordered the RNWMP to arrest 10 of the strike’s
leaders in the interest of preserving Canadian security, including J.S.
Roots of the Strike
1. Increased unionization: war- related labour shortages.
2. Labour demands: “Conscript wealth before men;” increasing militancy,
especially in the west.
3. Ethnic tensions: immigration
4. 5,000 farmers protest in Ottawa
5. Veterans/ citizen angry at dismal conditions
6. Ideas of coordinated action, large number of British workers in Winnipeg
7. Industrial and government fears about Communism Arthur Meighen
-forceful suppression of WGS
-Alienated: big business, the west, labour, Quebec, other conservatives
-WLM King’s bitterest rival
-creation of a domestic and foreign security apparatus
The 1920’s sees a new era in politics: Meighen took over the Conservative party
from Borden. Mackenzie King was elected Liberal leader after Laurier’s death.
War and the Economy
-diversified workforce (in central Canada)
New role for the government in industry. Shell Committee (IMB).
Increased Regionalization and “staple” reliance= fragility.
But the end of the war brought recession: In the east declining demand for coal
and ships led to economic decline and a campaign for Maritime rights which
meant increased federal subsides and tariff protections.
In the west, discontent centered on Ottawa. Farmers wanted a reduction in
freight rates, an end to the monopoly of eastern owned grain elevator companies,
a railway to Hudson’s Bay to rival the CPR, and, most of all, a reduction in the
Out of protest against the two party system and the failure of Union government,
the Progressive Party was formed which ran farmer candidates in provincial and
federal elections under Thomas Crerar.
In Ontario and Alberta, the United Farmer’s Movement (the provincial equivalent
of the federal Progressive party) won provincial elections under E.C. Drury in
1919 and in Alberta in 1921.
-The first minority government
-Most women allowed to vote
- foreign born executed until 1922
-Evidence of war trauma; rise of Progressivism
-The roots of the Conservative trouncing in Quebec
-conscription, opposition to the war generally, increasing isolationism The Leaders
-a thoroughly “Canadian” PM
-William Lyon Mackenzie
-A very travelled PM
-Education: UofT, Harvard
Effect of Spiritualism
-point of ridicule
-insight into his “subconscious”
-dominance of Canadian and British Liberals
-frequency of Mackenzie and Laurier
-Asquith, Haldane, Grey (not Churchill)
-No Americans (save FDR)
-Absence of tories
King’s General Political Beliefs
-tools of big business
-blood ties joined British and Canadian tories
-opposed imperial centralization
-ipso facto a friend to the people
-blood ties joined British and Canadian liberals
The Liberal Agenda
-King: a Liberal through and through
-100% control of foreign affairs
-external record: “doors closed, adventures rejected, expenses cut”
-King blends two Liberal traditions: English Liberal slogan: “Peace,
retrenchment, and Reform” (minus reform), and Laurier’s rejection of European
-Canadians “accept” th