Turning Point – 1943

The Home Front

Government Run Rampant

The war placed immense power in the hands of a federal government that would be reluctant to relinquish it afterwards. The War Measures Act, invoked once again in 1939, made it possible to govern largely by decree: During the war 6,414 orders in council would be implemented by a public service that grew from 46,000 to 116,000 employees. Nearly everything was controlled, especially after June 1940: rents, labour relations, prices, rationing. Halfway through the war the government began to move towards social democracy - for example, with family allowances.

Externally, Canada was seeing rapid change as well. On 18 August 1940, when all seemed lost in Europe, the American president invited the Canadian prime minister to Ogdensburg, a New York State border town, to discuss the mutual defence of North America. To this end, the still existing Permanent Joint Board on Defence was established. In April 1941 the Board accepted joint decision-making on defence as an operating rule. This political rapprochement had its limits, however: That same month Churchill and Roosevelt held a meeting off the coast of Newfoundland in the absence of Mackenzie King.

In any case, at virtually the same moment Canada and the United States signed the Hyde Park Declaration, whose purpose was to enable Canada to balance its negative wartime accounts with the U.S. Each country would, for their mutual benefit, produce the equipment in which it had manufacturing expertise. Balances and even surpluses quickly developed in Canada's favour. A Crown corporation was formed to accept and negotiate orders for military supplies made in Canada.