Politics and Public Debt: The Dominion, the Banks, and Alberta's Social Credit

By Robert L. Ascah | Go to book overview

7
ATTEMPTS TO KEEP FAITH WITH BONDHOLDERS, 1946-1952

THE ECONOMY AND ECONOMIC POLICY

The main problems that plagued the Canadian economy during the early postwar period were inflation and the threat, or perceived threat, of unemployment. In Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom plans were well advanced before the surrender to create a viable international monetary order and to promote the necessary business confidence through the introduction of "full employment" policies. The bias towards full employment was obviously premised on the fear that a return to the economic chaos and social turmoil of the 1930s would lead to the undermining of western political institutions. This bias was reflected in a talk given by W.C. Clark to businessmen at the Chateau Montebello in Quebec in October 1942. Clark gave his audience the following preview of what postwar economic policy might be:

What will be needed is to safeguard against deflation, not prevent inflation. If we are to avoid a long depression and mass unemployment, the policy required will be one of stimulation of the economy, one that will create expansionist tendencies, one that will provide incentives to expansion, one that will encourage the consumer to spend and expand his purchasing power, in short, one which will keep the national income from falling to abnormally low levels. 1

This palpable fear amongst politicians, their policy-makers, and the public of a return to the high prewar levels of unemployment was to inform government policy over the next four decades. The lowering of the Bank Rate in February 1944 was a signal the Bank was prepared to continue its cheap money policy that was also designed to make the servicing of the national debt more manageable. 2

The "White Paper" on Employment in April 1945 provided a general framework with respect to surplus and deficit budgeting. While no explicit

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