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The unemployment Assistance Act (1956) : its implications for social security and public welfare administration in Canada Fowler, Douglas Weatherbee


The passage of the Unemployment Assistance Act in July, 1956 represented a significant break with the traditional approach to public assistance in Canada for it brought Dominion government participation into a field always regarded as the exclusive responsibility of the provinces. This study has been undertaken to consider its implications for Social Security in Canada, including the effects of the Act on existing provincial programs. The method of study has been both historical and analytical. In order to identify the political and social factors which lead to this radical change in attitude on the part of the Dominion, Parliamentary debates have been reviewed and the proceedings of Dominion-Provincial conferences studied. In addition, such reports as that of the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations, the National Employment Commission and the various publications of the Canadian Welfare Council were useful sources of information. A study of the legislation itself was essential to analyze its effects on provincial programs and this was done in conjunction with a review of provincial legislation pertinent to the subject. A definitive evaluation of the legislation is limited by the fact that it is of such recent origin that there has been little time to study its total effect. Furthermore, an amendment to the Act which took effect on January 1, 1958 broadened the terms of the legislation to extend the degree of participation by the Dominion. Significant points which do emerge however, are; (a) Those provinces which have developed high standards in their public assistance programs are the principal beneficiaries under the legislation, (b) Those provinces which have relied heavily on Mothers' Allowances to meet the needs of a large segment of dependent persons are at a serious financial disadvantage, (c) The application of the Act is uneven among the provinces because of the wide variations in services offered. An important element in the legislation is the abolition of residence regulations between the participating provinces, a step which may bring an end to one of the most vexing problems in public welfare administration.

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