Changes in the Canadian economy after wwi: it goes from a wartime economy to an economy of peace

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Changes in the Canadian economy after WWI:

  • it goes from a wartime economy to an economy of peace

  • a drop in the European demand for Canadian goods, such as food, weapons and munitions

  • a drop in the production of common consumption goods

  • prices doubled during the war, however salaries did not increase

  • sales drop

  • unemployment levels rise, especially for veterans and women




Central Canada, British Columbia and the Prairies

The Maritimes and Newfoundland

natural resources:

- agricultural production increases (ie, wheat)

- mining production increases (ie, iron, nickel, zinc, copper)

- all fueled by wartime demand

naval construction:

- reduction in this industry due to reductions in the fishing industry

- at the end of WW1, less warships are needed

- the ports of Saint John and Halifax become less modernized (unlike the port of Montreal)


- an economic boom created by:

* pulp and paper increase production because of increased Amercian sales

* American companies establish branches in Canada (Ford, GE) in order to reduce the amount of taxes Canada demands for their goods

- manufacturing production increases

freight tarifs:

- after the end of WW1, the gov’t increases freight tariffs on iron ore products

- the Maritimes are farther from the US than ON and Que, which translates into higher transportation costs to export their goods, which increases the cost of these goods and lowers its demand.

- these industries lose clients and therefore they are laying off workers

- migration begins

new technologies:

- electricity is installed across the country

- electric and gas-powered equipment increases

- introduction of assembly line production in factories

- new inventions: electric oven, washing machine, toaster

- we become a society of consumption


- develops less quickly in this area

- lack of electricity prevents industries from expanding and using new electric technologies

installment payments:

- salaries increase, and therefore people have more disposable income to purchase more luxury items

- Buy now! Pay later!

- beginning of buying on credit

- accumulation of personal debt

import tarifs:

- The US increases its import tarifs on agricultural goods and fish from the Maritimes

- again, a loss of clients

- coal is replaced by oil and electricity as a source of energy in the manufacturing industry (Nova Scotia)


- the symbol of wealth and luxury

- a new Ford cost $440, bought for a dollar down and a dollar a week

- makes leisure travel easier

- beginning of travelling for leisure, either in the country or in town

fishery :

- more than half of the workforce in NL work in the fishing industry, which is beginning to collapse (cod)


- becomes very popular

- allows communication between isolated communities

- each call is expensive

- in 1920, 1/4 of families have a telephone; in 1929, 3/4 families

newsprint industry

- in NL, this industry does not generate profits locally, because the investors are from outside the area.

- the price of paper drops after WW1

new electric appliances:

- bought on credit

- beginning of persuasive advertising

- iron, sewing machine, radio, etc

low-salaried workers:

- rural regions did not experience the economic boom created by WW1

- rural workers are paid lower salaries, or they are using the merchant system to exchange their goods for credit in the local store

- the poor (often African or Asian immigrants) living in urban areas do not earn enough money to purchase the luxury items

leisure activities

- invention of the radio and movie theatres

- 1925: invention of the electric radio

- broadcasting information and entertainment easily to a vast public

- popularises music

- silent films starring actors such as Mary Pickford (Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton)

women in the workplace:

- during WWI, men were sent overseas for combat in the military, and therefore women replaced the men in the workforce

- once the war ended, unemployment rose and women were forced to leave the workplace to allow men to take the remaining jobs

- this is the first time that women are working in paid positions outside the home


- known as the golden age of sports in Canada

- basketball

- hockey games are broadcast by radio

- Foster Hewitt shouts « He shoots! He scores!”

- women play a role in sports for the 1st time, ex, the Olympic Games of 1920

- women’s rules in sports are different than those for male sports because it was considered unhealthy for women to exert themselves.

education for girls:

- most girls quit school by Grade 8

- they get married and start a family

- some become teachers, nurses, secretaries, housekeepers, waitresses or store clerks

dance clubs:

- beginning of leisure activities in public, which is a reflection of the changes in society’s values

- rebellion against society’s « norms »

- first time that women can drink alcohol in public places, smoke cigarettes and go out in the evening, all activities that were usually restricted to men

- dance competitions became very popular

women at university:

- few women attend university

- 16,3% of students in university are women in 1920

- women with university degrees are paid less than men in the same jobs


- represents the newfound freedom for women

- the 1st time women are wearing pants, mini-skirts, and short hair styles

- men are wearing more dressy clothing, and not always “work clothes@ - suits, bowties

child labour

-beginning of child labour laws in Canada

- many children work at family businesses which these laws cannot apply

- many children quit school to go to work

- by 1929, children under the age of 14 are not permitted to work in factories or mines

First Nations Peoples

  • the Inuits and the Métis of Canada do not profit from the prosperity of the 1920’s

  • they are displaced to areas of land that are less fertile with few government resources (reserves)

  • gov=t wants to assimilate First Nations People into the white man’s culture

  • ethnocentric: First nations People would be better off if they abandon their culture and accept the superior white culture

  • it is the gov’t responsibility to “civilize the savages”

  • in 1920: attending white schools were mandatory for all aboriginal children ages 7-15

  • children are taken from their families, parents, communities and placed in boarding schools – “residential schools”

  • they are not permitted to speak their Native language, wear their traditional clothing or celebrate their traditions or customs

  • First Nations People protest against their treatment by the Canadian gov’t

  • Fred Loft founded The League of Indians of Canada in December 1918

  • He fought for a better education system for aboriginal youth

  • Members of all First Nations People join this League

  • The gov=t opposed this League, saying that the Indians were going against gov’t authority

  • in 1927, the Canadian government amended the Indian Act which prohibited First Nations People to organize politically or to hire lawyers to represent them in any claims against the gov’t, a law which remained in place until 1951


  • Newfoundland’s aboriginals did not sign any treaties with the English nor the French. Therefore, there is no assimilation policy that applies to them

  • However, contact with Europeans over hundreds of years (Moravian missionaries, fur traders, European fishers) contributed to the elimination of aboriginal traditions culture.

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