During debate over estimates for the War Appropriation Bill in 1945, Howe, who was the minister responsible, told an opposition member: “I daresay my honourable friend could cut a million dollars from that amount, but a million dollars from the War Appropriations Bill (of more than $1.35 billion) would not be a very important matter.” John Diefenbaker, then an opposition MP from Saskatchewan, quickly rephrased Howe’s words2 to the pithier – if not exactly accurate – “What’s a million?”
The term – to the Liberals’ chagrin – took on a life of its own. It can still be heard tossed around in political debate today (though, taking account for inflation, the “million” is sometime updated to a “billion”) – a lasting and evocative testament to the penny-pinching of Canadians and their ever-abiding suspicion of rampant waste.
Image Source: Vancouver City Archives
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