The Great Depression following the First World War was a universal devastation of every country it could possibly reach, whether it was directly or indirectly. The objects of our scrutiny Being so close in vicinity and having such similar downfalls, these countries are particularly interesting to watch to see what was more successful against the dilemma.
Despite initial similarities in cause and implemented combatants to the economic fallout, the United States and Canada diversified and diverged from each other in the severity of approaches to the problem of the Great Depression – the United States leading to a fast-paced recovery with its direct and more radical risks that the country needed, and Canada flopping due to unwillingness to put in as much. The devastating ecological and economic effects of the Dust Bowl cause the Great Depression in Canada and the U. S. to progress with great similarity.
The Dust Bowl was a period in the 1930s when the prairies of both the United States and Canada suffered environmental damage from intense dust storms caused by severe drought (“About the Dust Bowl”). The nutrient topsoil, that was essential for a successful harvest, was eroded away by the wind causing farmers to be unsuccessful in yielding a crop, in turn decreasing their incomes to nearly nothing (“The Dust Bowl”) Unable to make profit, farmers were faces with severe debt as they were incapable of paying off the money they were loaned to purchase seed and various machinery.
With upwards of one hundred million acres of prairie now a wasteland, large numbers of farmers faced bankruptcy and the banks of rural communities declined (“The Dust Bowl”). Caroline Henderson, the wife of a prairie farmer wrote the following in a letter to a friend in Maryland regarding the devastating effects of the Dust Bowl: “With no more grass or even or even weeds on out 640 acres than on your kitchen floor, and even the scanty remnants of dried grasses from last year cut off and blown away…All hope of a wheat crop had been abandoned” (Henderson).
The negative impact of the drought on agriculture resulted in a cease in crop production leaving farmers across both countries hopeless and poor as they were unable to yield and type of profit. Both countries experiences experienced a massive drop in money flow as well. Within the United States, decreased monetary circulation was caused by the halt of domestic purchases (“Causes of the Great Depression”). The halt in consumer demand caused a decrease in production and a decrease in the need for employees—unemployment soared as a result and spending decreased even further.
Conversely, in Canada, decreased monetary circulation was caused by an over-dependence on profits from exports—international trade was crucial to the upholding of its economy, and when the demand from other countries for Canadian products fell due to their own internalizations of government in response to the Great Depression, sales and profits plummeted (Martin). Increased tariff in both the United States and Canada caused a decline in international trade and aided in the facilitation of the Great Depression.
Under Hoover in the US and Bennett in Canada, both countries raised taxes on imports in an attempt “to protect domestic industry from foreign competition” an economic theory known as protectionism (“Protectionism”). Raising taxes on foreign exports had an overall negative impact due to the fact it caused a decrease in international trade by 66% between the year 1929 & 1934 (“Smoot-Hawley Tariff”). This decline in trade slowed the circulation of money causing economic downfall in both countries to continue. Herbert Hoover and W. L.
MacKenzie King both ha a laissez faire approach to the Great Depression meaning minimal government involvement. Hoover believed that provided direct monetary aid would make Americans overly dependent on the federal government and end the fight for improvement. In a radio address on February 12 1932 Hoover established his laissez faire attitude by stating “I am convinced that where Federal action is essential…it should limit its responsibilities to supplement the States and local communities, and that it should not assume the major role or the entire responsibility” (Hoover).
Hoover was in support of limiting the involvement of federal government and letting the issues work themselves out naturally. King believed in the same mentality as demonstrated by him leaving provincial governments to provide relief just as Hoover left relief to smaller American organizations, such as the Red Cross. In a speech made by King to the House of Commons April 3 1930 he expressed his disapproval of strong federal involvement in the issue “With respect to giving moneys out of the federal treasury…for these alleged unemployment purposes…I would not give them a ‘five-cent piece’” (King).
King is against providing direct relief from the national government to the unemployed and believes the smaller provincial governments should be handling the diminishing economy. King and Hoover are very supportive of the notion that issues will work themselves out—while King and Hoover were very similar, the successive leaders FDR and R. B. Bennett must also be considered; the two are similar in their implementation of relief programs, however this is where the two countries begin to exhibit major differences.
R. B. Bennett and FDR both developed similar relief programs in response to the Great Depression. R. B. Bennett developed relief camps which provided the unemployed with housing, food, and medical care in exchange for their work which generally revolved around public work projects, such as building roads and planting trees (“Unemployment Relief Camps”). FDR similarly developed programs through the New Deal that gave the unemployed a source of income through providing them with public work project jobs as well.
Work Progress Administration employed Americans to build bridges, construct roads, and build public buildings, (“W. P. A”). Civilian Conservation Corps provided employment and shelter to young men in exchange for their work in improving the environment through tasks such as planting trees (“The Civilian Conservation Corps”). Both FDR & Bennett developed similar programs essentially covering basic needs. Even though Bennett and FDR developed similar relief programs, Roosevelt was more successful due to the fact that he was willing to make more sacrifices and be more extreme in his policies.
Roosevelt developed the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps as large-scale employment programs to aid the unemployed. The WPA employed over 3. 3 million Americans at its heighter and provided families with a reasonable income of about $50 a month (“W. P. A”). The purpose of the WPA was directly asserted by FDR in a radio address on May 7 1933: “We are planning…for legistlation to enable the Government to undertake public works, thus stimulating directly the employment of many others in well-considered projects” (Roosevelt).
Similarly, the CCC provided over 300,000 men with employment with a wage of $30 a month that was supplemented by free housing, food, and clothing (“The Civilian Conservation Corps”). Both programs were very successful in providing the unemployment of America with a consistent monthly pay; both programs boosted American morale and were strongly supported by the people. Bennett developed a similar relief program, known as Unemployment Relief Camps, which had a few crucial differences from FDR’s relief programs that cause it to flop.
The Relief Camps only provided the workers with a wage of 20 cents a day or about $6. 00 a month, a much smaller wage than those working for the WPA or the CCC in America (“Unemployment Relief Camps”). The literal stinginess of the Canadian government and their unwillingness to implement more risks upon the government in its monetary fragility to support its people made their efforts more or less futile in providing relief, prolonging the time it took to recover from the Great Depression.
The minimum wage did little to aid the unemployed in escaping from the shackles of their debts and was an unreasonable pay for the hard 44 hours’ worth of labor they were putting in weekly. Even though the Relief Camps provided shelter, food, and medical care, the conditions of the camps were terrible—the food was low quality, men were separated from their families, and military discipline was commonly used (“Unemployment Relief Camps”) The relief program was strongly criticized by Canadians due to the face it was unsuccessful in providing the unemployed with reasonable wages and work.
The program was heavily protested and eventually shut down after a violent outbreak in Regina. At the conclusion of the program, only about 170,000 men were impacted positively, a much smaller amount that FDR’s relief programs (“Unemployment Relief Camps”). Although the governments of both Canada and the United States had similar plan scopes, FDR was infinitely more successful than Bennett in its implementation: “Roosevelt acted quickly to reform a broken system, providing a foundation for recovery, and much-needed relief for those most affected by the Great Depression in the United States…”(Fellows).
Bennett did little to bring economic relief with his experimentation dabbling in labor camps and raised tariffs, all which flopped. By contrast, FDR’s New Deal enjoyed immense popularity as major laws he implemented “restructured the American economy, a fulfillment of the president’s campaign promise to take ‘bold, decisive action. ’”