The Great Depression By Mary Lynn Bushong

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The Great Depression By Mary Lynn Bushong


1      This soup kitchen in Montreal in 1931 fed many unemployment victims.
2     What do you know about the Great Depression? Many people think it started in Canada the same time it started in the United States. Some think it started earlier.
3     For most people, the Great Depression began when the stock market collapsed late in 1929. In some Canadian provinces, signs of depression had begun more than a year before.
4     In the Maritimes, unemployment was already high, and the economy was slow.
5     There was little industry, so the crash didn't make things much worse.
6     In the West, the market for wheat fell sharply. Farmers couldn't even get the cost of growing the grain from the price that was offered. That didn't include having money left over to pay taxes, loans, or to feed families. The Western wheat farmers were hurt worst of all.
7     British Columbia was not hurt so badly. They had some industry, in addition to fishing, mining, timber, and fruit farming, to help employ their people. Even so, times were tough wherever people turned.
8     When the Great Depression began, Mackenzie King was Prime Minister of Canada. People looked to the government for help. King was sure that the economy would level off on its own. He did not think the government should be involved. It was the job of charities to take care of people. Things didn't get better; in fact, they got much worse.
9     It got so bad that one in three people was out of work. Prices dropped, but few people had the money to take advantage of it.
10     Then drought came to the prairies, and farmers who had almost nothing left had to endure four years when little would grow. The bread basket of Canada was empty. Provinces tried to support their needy populations and keep them from starving. Saskatchewan was hardest hit with 66 percent of the people on relief.
11     As early as 1930, it was obvious that things would not get better fast. During the election that year, Richard Bennett offered change and won. After President Roosevelt came out with the New Deal in 1933, Bennett tried to emulate it in Canada. He didn't have much success.
12     Young unmarried men found their way to work camps. This was to ease the burden on families, because relief was only paid until they reached the age of sixteen. There they received food, shelter, and clothes plus a small amount of money (20 cents) for each day's pay.
13     It didn't take long for the men to become frustrated and unionize themselves. Some left the camps and moved to Vancouver to demand real work and better pay. They also demanded a chance to talk to Bennett. The prime minister was not interested in speaking to them.
14     In response, the men began riding trains heading East. Bennett heard about it and ordered the RCMP to stop them. In the end, eight representatives of the "trekkers" were allowed to go East to speak with the prime minister. The talks ended quickly with no resolution. A short time later, though, improvements were made in the camps.
15     Bennett hoped to improve the economy using protective tariffs. It didn't work and actually had the opposite effect. The economy slowed even more.
16     People were completely tired of Bennett by the next election. In 1935, Mackenzie King and his Liberal Party were back in power. King had learned some lessons while he was out of office.
17     He changed the Bank of Canada to a national bank that could offer financial advice to the government. Another change was to the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Company (CRBC). It became the CBC and offered cultural support, news, and entertainment to the people of Canada.
18     The only country hit harder with the Depression was the United States. The countries of Europe were hit less hard. Canada's greatest champion in trade was Britain. Throughout the years of the Depression, the British continued to import more and more goods and raw materials.
19     It wasn't until the start of World War II that the Depression truly ended. Men were needed as soldiers, and raw materials were needed to feed the war machine. The boom times were back.

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