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1945: ‘Baby Bonus’ family allowance unveiled

The Story


As the Second World War winds down Canadian families fear economic depression, and wonder how they will provide for their children in the wake of six years at war. To address those fears, Parliament introduces Canada's first universal welfare program: the family allowance. Known as the "baby bonus," the act provides regular monthly payments of $5 to $8 to all parents of children under 16. Nearly a year later, the first cheques are mailed to Canadian parents. As registration for the family allowance opens up, Minister of National Health and Welfare Brooke Claxton visits CBC's Ottawa studios to explain the family allowance process to parents across Canada.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: March 22, 1945
Duration: 2:57
Photo: National Archives of Canada / PA-167671

Did You know?


• The Family Allowance Act was passed unanimously, but was publicly criticized because it was given to all families, not just the most needy. The government felt it would be too expensive to determine who needed the most assistance. The allowance was not taxable, but did reduce income tax deductions for families that paid income tax. It became taxable in 1973.

• 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 was worth about $68 in 2014.

• In 1945 there were 3.5 million Canadian children under 16, living in 1.5 million families. To find out who they were and how much they would get, a registration process was tested in Prince Edward Island in February, and rolled out nationally on May 22. The form had seven questions, and was to be signed by two parents if possible, although many fathers were still overseas serving in the military.

• Regional family allowance registration offices were established across Canada, run by 500 staff and volunteers. In July 1945, $20 million in family allowance payments was mailed out.

• It was hoped the family allowance would help moderate the impact of the wartime wage freeze which was still in effect.

• The Canadian government introduced other social security measures in the early 1940s, including unemployment insurance and a proposal for health insurance.

• Brooke Claxton was a nationalist who lobbied for establishment of the League of Nations and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He became parliamentary assistant to Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1943 and became the first minister of the new Department of National Health and Welfare the following year. In 1946 he moved to the new Department of National Defence, where he unified the armed forces, authorized deep defence budget cuts and led Canada through the Korean War.

• In 1964 the family allowance was extended to 16- and 17-year-olds who were students or disabled; 18-year-olds were included in 1973. The amount was reduced in 1978 when a refundable child tax credit was introduced for lower-income families. In 1993 the Child Tax Benefit was introduced, based on family income and number of children. It was replaced by the Canada Child Tax Benefit in 1998, which included a National Child Benefit supplement for low-income families.


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