Back in the 1960s, Lester B. Pearson instituted Canada's 40-hour work week as well as 2 weeks vacation and a new minimum wage. However, his motivations for doing so at that time are not clear to me. What were the current events of the time that may have motivated Pearson to make this change?

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    Why do you think he needed to be motivated by events? Is his political ideology not enough?
    – user5001
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 6:54

2 Answers 2


There's a general thesis, called "Fordism" which contains a two pronged argument on a global phenomena in the advanced capitalist societies:

Employers in specific wanted higher quality and stable labour supplies, and so voluntarily offered permanent work; and, generally wanted educated and healthy workers. But they wouldn't use pay signals to get these.

Which meant that capital-in-general, usually in the form of the more "progressive" of the standard parties would need to force all of the capitals-in-specific to behave in certain ways. This accounts for the introduction of OHS, hours, retirement, health access, free education to year 11/12, etc.

Following this thesis, the Canadian Liberals would have been pushed by specific (more progressive) capitals, and by labour to modify capitalism to meet this urge for quality labour. The question specific to Canada, in this frame, would be why it took until, or was achieved so early, in 1960. In societies similar to Canadian society, the 40 hour week was achieved between 20 years earlier and 20 years later than 1960.

  • I don't understand your last sentence. What do you mean by "the period these measures were implemented as +/- 20 years in equivalent societies"? Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:36

Pearson was the leader of the Canadian Liberal Party. Since WW2 the Liberals had been pushing a progressive platform. Actually the whole nation's mood had become more progressive, which was why the Conservative Party was renamed Progressive Conservatives. So when Pearson got into power, he created these socialist measures because its what the party wanted and what the voters wanted. It's no mystery.

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    That's is not at all why the Conservative Party of Canada became the Progressive Conservative Party - The name change arose form the merger of the Conservative Party with the Progressive Party, a Western party of the 1920's that very much resembled the Reform Party and derived it's name from a desire to reform, or progress, the Canadian political system by increasing Western influence and restore traditional conservative values. It was very much Libertarian in it's outlook, and not at all progressive politically: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_of_Canada Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 0:15
  • "socialist measures" ??? I don't think Crème Caramelita has the same definition of socialist as I do. One of the reasons for the Liberal Party to institute social (not socialist) measures may be to counteract the action of a social democrat party to the left of the Liberals, the CCF which would become the NDP in 1961.
    – MasB
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 3:42

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