Manitoba's 1920 general election was not just an election; it was one of the first elections to have more political parties than just the standard Liberals and Conservatives. This was also an important date because it lead to one of the leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike to run and win.
1920: Manitoba's Election
When previous Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden resigned in 1920, Arthur Meighen was called in to finish Prime Minister Borden's term. Arthur Meighen was the leader of both the Conservative Party and the Unionist Party. He was sworn into office on July 10, 1920. The country that Prime Minister Borden left behind wasn't one that was plagued by war, but rather in chaos due to labor strikes and protests.
As I mentioned earlier, since Prime Minister Meighen wasn't officially elected into office, his term only lasted for a little more than a year.
The Liberals won the federal election of 1921, and as the head of the Liberal party, William Lyon Mackenzie King became the Prime Minister of Canada.
The federal election of 1921 was unique; it was actually the first minority government. The Liberals won many seats; almost double the seats of the official opposition. However, they still were one seat short of becoming a majority government.
This election holds importance not only because it's the first minority government in history, but it's also because it is when the new Prime Minister Mackenzie King's extremely successful 21-year term in office started. He had the longest time in office of any Prime Minister.
The Chanak Crisis in 1922 was one of the first steps to Canada's growing independance. Britain had requested Canada's aid in the event of war against Turkey at Chanak, but since Canada was still rebuilding and adjusting to the effects of WW1, Prime Minister Mackenzie King declined on behalf of Canada. Canada's refusal demonstrated differences in our foreign policies. showing that Canada was becoming more independent.
The Halibut Treaty was another big step towards Canada's growing independence. Previously, Britain had signed all of Canada's treaties and agreements. The Halibut Treaty was the first agreement that Canada signed with the US on its own. This gave Canada the right to sign treaties with foreign countries on its own, which was another step towards full independence.
After WW1, many Canadians became suspicious and developed dislike of non-British foreigners. Many expressed xenophobia, and this was evident in the Chinese Exclusion Act. This act banned all Chinese immigrants with the exception of students, merchants and diplomats. This act lasted 24 years, and during that time, only eight Chinese people were allowed into Canada.
Prime Minister Mackenzie King wanted to hold another election, but Governor-General Julian Byng refused his request. Typically, Governor-Generals are supposed to accept requests of the Prime Minister, but this was not the case. It was the first time a Governor-General refused the Prime Minister, and as a result of this, Prime Minister Mackenzie King had to redefine the roles of the Governor-General in Canada. During the crisis, Byng appointed Arthur Meighen as a temporary standing Prime Minister in place of King, but only for three months.
At the Imperial Conference, Prime Minister King wanted to discuss Britain's power over its dominions, with the intention of making our own decisions without British interference.
King's efforts were successful, and all of Britain's previous nations became independent and self-governing, no longer part of the "British Empire". They remained in the "Commonwealth of Nations", showing their allegiance with Britain.
This also affected the duties of the Governor-General of Canada, and it provided Canada with nearly full independance.
Commonwealth of Nations Flag
In 1927, Canada opened its first embassy in the United States, followed by France and Belgium.
Also Canada passed the Pension Act, granting Canadians who were over the age of 70 to have conditional financial support.
The day on October 29, 1929 when the stock market drastically crashed, and signified the start of the Great Depression will be forever known as Black Tuesday.
Most of the 1920's were full of wealth and prosperity, and many Canadians decided to invest in stocks. It was becoming more and more popular, since the stock market was doing extremely well.
Many bought stocks with credit, also known as "buying on margin". Buying on margin requires nothing more than a simple down payment, and the rest of your debt follows when you received your [assumed] earnings.
Because of this, many Canadians risked their savings and funds into the stock market, and they lost it all on Black Tuesday. It wreaked chaos, with panicked investors trying to get out of the market, and it marked the beginning of the Great Depression.
It's a historical event that is widely known, especially because Black Tuesday didn't occur solely in Canada. It was widespread across industrial nations, especially Canada and the United States. It put a lot of families in debt and left them with large losses, and the road to the stock market's recovery was long and difficult. The scale and effect of Black Tuesday was considered by many to be the biggest financial disaster in the 20th century.
During the 1920's, there was some debate amongst Canadians about what a "person" is in the eyes of the law. The Famous Five was a group of women, started and lead by Judge Emily Murphy.
It was made clear by the Supreme Court of Canada that women were not considered "persons" and could not be appointed to the Senate. However, the Famous Five were determined to overturn this ruling, and they approached Britain's Privy Council (which had higher authority than the Supreme Court of Canada in 1929).
In 1929, the Famous Five won their case; the Privy Council declared that the word "persons" refers to both men and women, and women could certainly be appointed to the Senate. The determination of these five women and the changes they made to the government and law was incredible, and without the Persons Case, Canada wouldn't become the free and equal country it is today.
When the Great Depression hit Canada, Prime Minister King was convinced that it would pass if we "waited it out".
He insisted that relief and welfare were a provinces' responsibility, and many Canadians didn't think too kindly of that. They called it his "five-cent piece speech", and brought it up during the election.
The Conservatives ended up winning the election, and the leader of the Conservative Party was R.B Bennett: Canada's newest Prime Minister.
His methods of dealing with the Great Depression in terms of money were somewhat effective in the beginning, but they were worthless in the long run. It was a quick fix to a huge problem, and he quickly found out it wouldn't be enough.
The result of this election would later on be regretted by many, (as they blamed Bennett) and the change in leader of the country, in its own way, changed the country itself as well.
The CCF, also known as the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, was a new political party formed in 1932. It was formed by farmers, labor groups, university teachers and Members of Parliament. Their platform outlined social and economical reforms, ending the economic difficulties Canadians faced during the Great Depression.
The name, CCF, stood for their goals and ideas: Co-operative referred to the farmer's belief in joint action, Commonwealth is linked with the idea where a society is more left-wing with shared wealth, the socioeconomic where gaps aren't as wide, and Federation signified the unity of the CCF amongst various economic and social groups.
The CCF's first leader was James Woodsworth, a passionate leader who had also participated (and was arrested) in the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.
The CCF created a document called the Regina Manifesto which outlined the CCF's policy and platform. It would allow the public to own banks and other major services, improve social services, and emphasize agricultural needs and rural areas. It was a prime example of left-wing politics, and it intended to turn Canada's capitalism into socialism.
The CCF had a huge impact in the 1930's, and even continues to do so today. Of course, they changed the name to the New Democratic Party, but it's impressive nevertheless. Although they haven't won a federal election yet, they became the Official Opposition for the first time in 2011.
This political party was more than just that: it provided a new set of ideas that differed from the standard Liberals and Conservatives. They were socialists, and they made a huge impact after entering the world of politics. They have won many, many seats over 80 years, and they will continue to make a big impact on Canada.
Due to the rapid increase in unemployment, many Canadians were struggling to provide for themselves, and on occasion, their families. One of the methods to deal with the lack of employment was a relief camp, introduced by the Canadian Government in 1932. It was run by the Department of National Defense, and it provided many Canadian men with the basics: food, shelter, clothing and $0.20 a day, which even back then, wasn't much. This position was only available to single unemployed men, and their jobs were often laborious (moving rocks, building roads, etc). Many men at these "relief camps" were unsatisfied and even attempted a protest widely known as the "On to Ottawa Trek" three years later, demanding minimum wages, as well as social/unemployment insurance. Needless to say, they didn't get what they asked for, and were stopped in Regina, Saskatchewan where a riot broke out. Despite the protests, it did help many unemployed men, and in the end, it was a good choice on behalf of the government to present this opportunities to those who are suffering from the effects of the Great Depression.
By 1935, the Depression was still hitting Canada hard, and many Canadians blamed Prime Minister Bennett for it. The new contraptions they used as a result of the depression were named after him, such as the Bennett Buggy and the Bennett Blankets. The federal election in 1935 came just in time: many Canadians were upset with Prime Minister Bennett and wanted a change: someone who could bring Canada out of the great Depression.