• In 1930 Canada had 13% unemployment; by 1933 it was 26% (fell back to 13% when WWII broke out)
  • Between 1929 and 1933, 1 in 5 Canadians depended on government relief for survival
  • In Saskatchewan, income dropped by 90% forcing 66% of the rural population onto welfare no severance pay or unemployment insurance to fall back on
  • The great depression affected virtually all aspects of life for most Canadians:
  • but young people, unskilled laborers, small business people, and especially farmers bore the brunt of the economic hardship
  • Women also suffered unemployment – socially unaccepted for a woman to take away a mans job
  • Families had to cut back drastically
  • items bought on credit were repossessed (cars, furniture, appliances)
  • clothes handed mended and handed down rather than replaced’
  • fewer groceries were purchased
  • a hard time paying mortgages, bills, property taxes, utilities – the threat of repossession or eviction


  • In the 1920’s Saskatchewan was one of the most prosperous farming in the world, but in the 1930s it was one of the poorest
  • 1928, – the first sign of drought; rainfall was less than half of what it had been the previous year
  • from 1929 to 1937 – drought continued
  • 7.3 million hectares – or 25% of Canada’s arable land was affected by drought
  • By 1931- winds were blowing up the loose, dry soil dust bowl
  • topsoil, new seeds disappeared
  • dust and dirt penetrated houses, clothes, and skin
  • When the dust cleared, grasshoppers swarmed the land looking for grass or wheat to eat
  • with hot dry springs and no insect sprays, the grasshoppers’ population grew
  • “the grasshoppers came in clouds … in concentrations never before experienced in Canada. Huge swarms appeared over Saskatoon and Regina in late July. They devoured everything in their paths as they ate their way out of sight …”
  • Another problem, fungus known as rust – killed grain crops almost at maturity
  • Many farmers abandoned farms and moved to cities
  • Men out of work resorted to panhandling”
  • The need for relief mind-boggling – by 1933, more than 1.4 million urban workers on municipal relief
  • Public relief called “ the dole” or” pogey” was administered by municipalities
  • The dole was not cash, and not enough to live on
  • Tough qualification rules:
  • live in one area for a year
  • prove you can’t support yourself and that no relative can help
  • be a man supporting a family
  • turn in your automobile, license plates, and driver’s license
  • remove the telephone from your house
  • register at the unemployment office
  • work on municipal projects from time to time
  • allow relief office investigators to come to your home and check on these rules
  • Many who needed it would not go on relief due to their pride
  • There was growing resentment between those who weren’t on the dole and those who were


  • 1926 – After the king- Byng affair, the king won a majority government
  • 1930- Liberal. King against Conservative R.B. Bennett
  • election debate was over unemployment
  • Kings “Five Cent Speech “lost him the election
  • Bennett raised tariffs- which ultimately prolonged the Depression
  • exports dropped 67% from $ 1.4 billion to $ 475 million
  • By 1935 – obvious the Depression was not going away, if anything, it was getting worse
  • Bennett knew he had to do something drastic to save the country and his political career
  • Bennett barnyard = an abandoned prairie farm
  • Bennett blanket = a newspaper
  • Bennett buggy = an engineless automobile drawn by a horse
  • Bennett coffee = roasted wheat
  • Eggs Bennett = broiled chestnuts
  • Surprising, he had gone against everything he stood for as a capitalist and conservative
  • His “New Deal” was modeled after the American New Deal programs design by Franklin D. Roosevelt, USA President
  • The key was SPENDING – federal work projects, low – cost loans, unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, reduced tariffs ( tax)
  • Bennett called for more government involvement and sweeping changes, including:
  • progressive taxation system
  • a maximum wage
  • unemployment insurance
  • old-age pension
  • agricultural support programs
  • established remote work camps for single homeless men (to get them off the streets, and to keep the unemployment out of sight and out of trouble)
  • Despite these programs, Bennett lost the 1935 election to Mackenzie King
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0


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