ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED | OCTOBER 19, 1940 | CANADIAN COUNTRYMAN
This cartoon first appeared in the October 19, 1940 edition of Canadian Countryman. It depicts a goose representing “Canadian employment figures” soaring skywards, while a duck representing “farm prices” looks upward followed by the caption “Will they go up together?” It essentially asks the question of whether rising employment among Canadians will be followed by a similar increase in the price of agricultural produce. This was an important question considering the context of the Great Depression from which Canada was finally beginning to emerge by 1940.
As a result of the great Stock Market Crash of 1929, the world was thrust into the worst economic depression in modern history. As a primarily export-based economy, Canada was hit particularly hard, with nationwide unemployment figures reaching as high as 33% in 1933. This figure did not, however, take into account the suffering of farmers who were considered employed if they remained on their farms. In the prairies, many were in fact driven off their farms as Dust Bowl conditions combined with the economic downturn made agriculture impossible. Where they were able to remain on their farms, farmers were beset by low prices and reduced access to credit.
The economy and employment figures began to improve in 1939-40 with the outbreak of the Second World War. Canadian farmers were hopeful but cautious that their fortunes would also improve, as demonstrated by this cartoon. At the outbreak of the War, the federal government established the Agricultural Supplies Board to ensure that Canadian soldiers and their allies overseas were adequately fed. This proved to be critical as Canada became an agricultural lifeline for Great Britain following the Fall of France in the summer of 1940. These conditions had the effect of improving farm prices and delivering a measure of renewed prosperity to Canadian farmers.