Canada. Dept. of Reconstruction and Supply : During the Second World War, C. D. Howe and his Department of Munitions and Supply converted the Canadian economy to full production of military materiel and strategic goods. By early 1944, with the end of the war in sight, the government began to plan the conversion of the economy to a peacetime basis so as to maintain output and minimize unemployment. New ministries would oversee individual programmes, while a Department of Reconstruction would provide overall coordination. Cabinet was divided over the form this should take. Howe argued for a strong, interventionist department of businessmen and economists, modelled on Munitions and Supply. However, the prevailing view was for a central planning office which would not require a large budget or coercive powers. The resulting Department of Reconstruction Act was passed on 30 June 1944 (8 Geo. VI, ch. 18.)
Prime Minister Mackenzie King was convinced that Howe was the most qualified to head the new department, but the latter was reluctant to relinquish his powerful wartime rôle to lead a planning agency. Proclamation of the Act was delayed until 14 October 1944 while King negotiated with Howe. Howe accepted the new ministry on condition that the powers he held at Munitions and Supply - coercive authority and fiscal autonomy - be transferred eventually to the new department, along with the National Research Council and control of civil aviation policy, which Howe had championed for years [Robert Bothwell and William Kilbourn, C.D. Howe; a Biography, p. 182-185].
Because of Howe's dual responsibilities, the Department of Reconstruction was initially in effect a section of Munitions and Supply, which was itself slowly shutting down. Orders-in-council transferred to the new Department responsibility for the National Research Council, Trans-Canada Air Lines and the radio and meteorological services formerly of the Department of Transport; as well as for the disposal of Crown assets (P.C. 7995, 8207, 24 October 1944, and 8368, 30 October 1944).
On 31 December 1945 the Department of Reconstruction and the Department of Munitions and Supply merged to become the Department of Reconstruction and Supply (9-10 Geo. VI, ch. 16). Howe continued as the new Minister. Like its predecessors, the new Department was not intended to be a permanent part of government. Reconstruction and Supply greatly reduced its staff, from about 4,000 in June 1946 to 538 in March 1947 in its transition to peace as government assets were sold off and control of the economy reduced. Howe intervened in the economy when he thought it necessary. In order to coordinate the building of adequate housing for veterans, the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation was established on 1 January 1946 under his control (9-10 Geo. VI, ch. 15). In November of the same year the Minister was given wide powers to prevent the import of American goods into Canada in order to stem the trade deficit with the United States [Bothwell and Kilbourn, p. 217-218]. Nonetheless, Howe sensed the waning importance of his department in cabinet, and asked for another portfolio. On 19 January 1948 he became Minister of Trade and Commerce, transferring some of his ministerial functions with him.
The new government of Louis St. Laurent revised the Department's mandate to emphasize assisting in the formulation and control of the federal government's public construction and natural resources development and conservation programmes, and public investment planning and coordination. The Canadian Government Travel Bureau and National Film Board were transferred from the Department of Trade and Commerce (P.C. 5307, 15 November 1948). The Department of Reconstruction and Supply fulfilled its new rôle for little more than a year before being superseded by the Department of Resources and Development on 18 January 1950.
The Hon. Clarence Decatur Howe was the only Minister of the Department of Reconstruction, October 1944 - December 1945. As the Rt. Hon. C.D. Howe, he continued as Minister of Reconstruction and Supply, January 1946 - November 1948. He was succeeded by Hon. Robert Henry Winters (subsequently Minister of Resources and Development), November 1948 - January 1950.
The Deputy Ministers of Reconstruction were Robert Alexander Cecil Henry, October 1944 - October 1945 and Vincent William Thomas Scully, October-December 1945. The Deputy Ministers of Reconstruction and Supply were V.W. Scully, December 1945 - January 1948; Commander (Ret'd.) Charles Peter Edwards, January-May 1948; Maxwell Weir "Max" MacKenzie, May 1948 - February 1949; and Marc Boyer, February 1949 - January 1950.