Is this what it was like during the Second World War?
The comparison has been made more than once, and on April 1 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used wartime language in his morning press conference.
He spoke of the “fight” against the COVID-19 pandemic, and about the “call to duty” to which every Canadian must answer.
Trudeau said the goal is to “defeat” the coronavirus.
He alluded to Canada’s war against Nazi Germany, and said the nation hasn’t “seen this type of civic mobilization since the Second World War.”
Of the measures the federal government has outlined to keep the economy alive, Trudeau said, “This is the largest economic program in Canada’s history.”
The prime minister is correct, but mostly about public spending. Other comparisons to the war on Nazi Germany – either by him or others – don’t quite measure up.
In that war, 1.1 million Canadians served in the armed forces. Yet our population was only 11.2 million in 1939 and 12 million when the war ended in 1945. Federal spending was equally impressive. Up until the First World War, federal spending in Canada was no more than five per cent of GDP. It surged to 17 per cent in 1917 during the war, falling in the 1920s and during the Great Depression.