By 1940, the economic context had already changed, for Canada was now at war.
Montréal factories were soon running at full capacity. Munitions factories and an airplane manufacturing plant were built. Ship and rail yards began intensive production of military equipment.
Light industry prioritized the production of khaki cloth, boots and military uniforms. Montréal now enjoyed full employment and income levels rose, stimulating civilian production. Women’s participation in the workforce increased, as the war industry offered better-paying jobs than those they traditionally occupied.
French Canadians enlisted, but their participation remained inferior to that of English Canadians, a situation that fuelled strong tensions between the two groups. Conscription once again became the central subject of debate. A plebiscite on the issue was held in 1942. Massively rejected by the French-speaking population, this federal proposal was regarded favourably in the rest of Canada. The draft was imposed in 1944.
Intensive government propaganda probably convinced many citizens of the importance of Canada’s participation in the conflict. Radio, by now a bona fide mass medium, was the instrument of choice for such propaganda.
The war brought rationing of many products, especially durable goods. Unable to spend all their income, Montrealers began to save. The City’s finances quickly recovered once unemployment aid programs were eliminated and citizens were able to begin paying taxes again.
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