What Was Mackenzie King’s “5-Cent Speech” About?

Mackenzie King’s “Five Cent Speech” was about King’s belief that the Canadian government should not give unemployment benefits to provincial governments in Canada with Conservative leadership. The speech made King seem out of touch with the hardships of ordinary people and helped the Conservative opposition gain support.

Mackenzie King was the Prime Minister of Canada during the beginning of the Great Depression. By 1930, hundreds of thousands of Canadians were out of work, but King had done nothing about it. He believed the unemployment problems were seasonal and did not require any action from the government.

King began to face scrutiny from both the public and the Conservative opposition. On April 3, 1930, King gave what would be known as his “Five Cent Speech” in front of the Canadian Parliament. King adamantly stated he would refuse to give federal unemployment benefits to provincial governments that were opposed to the Canadian government. He ended his speech by saying he would not even give them a five-cent piece.

King’s speech was used against him by the Conservative opposition, who portrayed him as incapable of running the Canadian government. The Conservatives benefited greatly from King’s political mistake, as they easily won the election of 1930, assuming control of the Canadian government.