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The 'baby bonus'

War is over, victory savoured. Now what to do with jobless soldiers streaming home? And how to get women out of the factory and back to the hearth? Such postwar fears evaporated as the economy boomed, a surge of immigrants transformed an increasingly confident nation and the social safety net began to take shape. In what's now viewed as a golden age, modern Canada was born.

The baby boom is starting. Families are expanding and everyone in the Dominion is going to help shoulder some of the cost. Prince Edward Island is leading the way, registering families so that each and every child under the age of 16 can receive a monthly allowance from the government. As we see in this television clip, returning soldiers will be glad of a cheque for "each one of Johnny Canuck's juniors."
• A national family allowance was suggested by the National War Labour Board in 1943. It was intended to give families a financial boost in case the government extended a wartime wage freeze. Cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Mackenzie King's Liberal government hoped the "baby bonuses" would help ward off a postwar economic slump.

• For children under age six, parents or guardians received $5 per month. For ages six to nine they received $6 per month; ages 10 to 12 got $7 per month and 13 to 15 got $8 per month. Families with five or more children received less for the fifth and additional children.

• Five dollars in 1945 would be worth about $66 in 2012.

• The family allowance program cost the federal government $264 million in 1947.

• While popular with the public, the baby bonus drew the scorn of some federal Conservatives. They branded it a bribe for Quebec, where families were on average the biggest.

• Ontario MPP Dr. R. Hobbs Taylor, a Conservative, warned the province's legislature in March 1945 that "indiscriminate bonusing" of families would increase the number of "moronic" children in Canada. He argued it was against society's interests to make it easier for citizens of low mental calibre to raise large families.

• Canada's postwar baby boom started soon after the baby bonus was introduced. The explosion in the birth rate, however, had more to do with demographic factors, such as a drop in the average marrying age, than with couples trying to cash in.

• The universal baby bonus was replaced with the Child Tax Benefit in 1993 that was based on family income and the number of children. It in turn was replaced in 1998 by the Canada Child Tax Benefit providing a monthly payment to low-income families with children.

• The introduction of the baby bonus was one part of a general swing, during and after the war, toward government-supplied social programs -- touted as "womb to tomb" security. The public mood was signaled in 1944 by the election of Canada's first Co-operative Commonwealth Federation government, headed by Tommy Douglas, in Saskatchewan. CCF fortunes were also rising in Ontario and B.C.

• King introduced an unemployment insurance scheme in 1941, followed by the baby bonus. King's successor Louis St-Laurent introduced universal old-age pensions in 1951. In 1957, the Liberal government agreed to share in the cost of provincial hospital insurance plans.
Medium: Television
Program: Canadian Army Newsreel
Broadcast Date: March 15, 1945
Duration: 1:13

Last updated: February 26, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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