Family Allowances: Improving Children’s Welfare
This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
During the Second World War, many families had suffered because their wages had not matched wartime inflation. By introducing family allowances, the government directly improved both the purchasing power of families with children and their standard of living. The family allowance program gave many Canadians their first experience of the benefits of the welfare state.
Introduced in Parliament by William Lyon Mackenzie King’s Liberals on 25 July 1944, family allowances were paid by monthly cheque directly to mothers of children under 16 beginning in 1945. This was Canada’s first universal social welfare program. The legislation was not without controversy, and there is ongoing debate about the program’s merits and the form payments should take.