Walter Frederick KUHL

KUHL, Walter Frederick

Personal Data

Social Credit
Jasper--Edson (Alberta)
Birth Date
June 25, 1905
Deceased Date
January 11, 1991

Parliamentary Career

October 14, 1935 - January 25, 1940
  Jasper--Edson (Alberta)
March 26, 1940 - April 16, 1945
  Jasper--Edson (Alberta)
June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
  Jasper--Edson (Alberta)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 2 of 82)

June 26, 1948


There was no evidence in the committee that it was a common condition.

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June 26, 1948


We are talking about profits, not prices. The hon. member for Cariboo stated that profits were greater, and I am just giving an instance where a retailer said his profits were less after the controls had been taken off. The hon. member for Cariboo said that profits have increased since 1939, but that is only part of the picture. As production

Report oj Prices Committee

increases, it is only natural that profits will increase correspondingly, even though the profit rate is no higher. I have not any figures before me, but I think that is the case. While profits have increased since 1939, I think it is taken for granted that the rate of profit is in conformity with that increase and is certainly no higher.

I have here another statement which I think will be of interest to the consumers of Canada. I know that when I or anyone else makes statements of this kind those who are not actuated by the best of motives may say I am trying to defend big business.

I do not want to see anyone taken advantage of, no matter who he is. The truth and the whole truth should be known about the situation. I think the general public has had the impression that tremendous profits are being made by the packing plants. I have heard that all over the country.

Here is an interesting statement in connection with the profits on meat by Mr. Millard, president and general manager of Swift Canadian Company. He was being questioned by the chairman of the committee, as follows:

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June 26, 1948

Mr. W. F. KUHL (Jasper-Edson):

Mr. Speaker, without wishing to give offence to any of the hon. gentlemen who have preceded me, I wish to say that at no time have I been adept in the art of making a hogshead of lather out of an ounce of soap; so I shall make my remarks as brief and to the point as I can, in view of the general desire to terminate this session as quickly as possible.

It was my pleasure and privilege to be a member of the prices committee, though not from its inception. I commenced my service with it at the end of April, in the position previously occupied by my colleague the hon. member for Bow River (Mr. Johnston).

First I should like to endorse the compliments which have been paid by previous speakers to the chairman of the committee, the counsel and the members as a whole, but in endorsing their remarks, I must say there was a notable omission from the compliments that were extended. I believe the witnesses who appeared before the committee, representing various businesses, also deserve a compliment for the contribution they made to the work of that committee, and I wish them

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to know that, as a member, I certainly appreciate the information I obtained. I believe they should be complimented, not only for the information they gave and the patience with which they submitted to cross-examination, but also for the manner in which they overlooked what in some instances 1 consider were positive insults. Perhaps that language is somewhat strong, but sometimes I felt that if I had been in the place of the witness I would have been tempted to make much stronger replies to the questions asked.

I voted for the setting up of this committee in the first place; not because I felt that anything startling or unusual would be revealed, but because I felt that, information might be brought forward which would dispel some of the false impressions abroad in the country, and also that, as a result of the work of the committee, we might be better able to determine what should be done in the circumstances. I believe a good deal of information was placed on the record which, if the public could become aware of it, would dispel certain false impressions which are abroad.

As has been indicated already by the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming). I opposed the adoption of the report by the committee. Manj' of the reasons for which I felt I was justified in opposing it were advanced by the hon. member for Eglinton. In the main I believe the criticisms he offered were quite justified and I endorse most of them.

But I had an additional reason for opposing adoption of the report. I think my chief reason was the attitude adopted by the government members, which I resented very much. When I spoke on the motion to set up this committee I said I thought one reason the government was glad to take that action was that for the time being it would silence the wrath of the people with respect to the high cost of living. It would enable the government to offer the excuse that a parliamentary committee was investigating the matter, and as long as that committee sat they could transfer the responsibility from themselves to the committee. The committee has now finished its work; certain recommendations have been made, but I agree with those who have suggested that it still remains to be seen how effective those recommendations will be if carried out. Personally I consider them woefully inadequate to meet the situation.

The attitude on the part of the government members of the committee which I resented so much was expressed in the manner in which many of the witnesses who appeared before the committee were dealt with. I resented

the suggestion that, instead of being regarded as public benefactors, most of the witnesses who appeared there seemed to find the atmosphere like that of a sort of inquisition. They were looked upon as public enemies, who had to account for some wrongdoing. That was the impression I received from the manner in which many of the questions were asked; and I am going to read a few excerpts from the records of the committee to substantiate what I have said. I would not say that applied in every instance; nevertheless in many cases it was true.

Naturally I tried to discover a motive, and the only motive I could arrive at was that up to that time-and it is still the case-the government were not prepared to meet their responsibility in the way I at least think they should. The government have not met their responsibility because they have not done those things I believe they should do for the people of Canada, and therefore the government must look for a scapegoat. I considered the attitude they took toward many of these businessmen was because they were looking for a scapegoat for their own sins. They were attempting to make private business the scapegoat for their sins. In my view it was most unfair for the committee, and furthermore I believe it is a dangerous attitude to take.

From all sides of the house we have heard expressions of fear of the communist menace with its danger to the private enterprise system and freedom in general. The government, the Liberal party and the Progressive Conservative party nominally at least represent themselves as being the champions of the private enterprise system. Yet if one goes over the evidence somewhat carefully he will find that a concerted effort was made in the committee to discredit private business-or at least it had that effect. I am satisfied, from the newspaper reports which went out in consequence of some of the questions asked in committee, that many of the public are under the impression that a large number of businessmen are just a lot of bloated profiteers and chiselers. I believe there is too much of that impression abroad. There has been too much of it abroad for too long a time, without those wiho claim to be the champions of private enterprise lending any more emphasis to it.

Just to indicate a little more specifically what I mean, I should like to refer to one instance of this. While I think of it, perhaps I should say at this juncture that I can understand hon. members of the C.C.F. party doing that, because they have come out flat-footed and have said they are opposed to the private

Report oj Prices Committee

enterprise system and opposed to profit. Therefore it is in their political interest to discredit private business as much as they can so as to give them an excuse for nationalizing industry.

However I cannot understand that attitude on the part of those who pretend to be the champions of private enterprise. Therefore I resented the attitude taken by some of the Liberal members on the committee when dealing with some of these matters. The case to which I shall refer is one where possibly we cannot altogether excuse the people involved. But again, as has already been pointed out, I think the .circumstances are attributable to government policy. It was the government which was really responsible. They made possible the circumstances under which these things could happen. Then government members have the gall to turn around and blame someone for taking advantage of those circumstances.

Here is one instance of it-and in this particular instance I think the general public would get the impression that most of the fruit and vegetable business was carried on in this manner, and that profits of this kind, were made regularly in that business. This is the case of Mr. Ruben Marlow, general manager of Marlow and Company Limited of Toronto. It is the case of the famous four carloads of potatoes. I should like to indicate here the way in which this man was spoken to and in which he was treated, which I thought was unfair and uncalled for, in view of the conditions for which the government itself was responsible.

The hon. member for Victoria (Mr. May-hew) was in the chair at the time, and it is his remarks I am going to quote. This/is what he said to Mr. Marlow:

I want to say this; it is my opinion, and it is a little more than an opinion that, in this particular transaction, both the government and its departments were trying to see that there was a supply of new potatoes on the market. The foreign exchange control board released American funds for this purpose. It would appear to me you took advantage of the situation and you prevented potatoes from getting to the public at a reasonable price. In other words, you did not live up to the spirit of the regulations which existed at that time. You took an exceedingly high mark-up. I certainly will draw this to the attention of those writing the report because I think you are doing a disservice, not only to yourself and to the people of Canada, but to the other people in your own business.

Then, when I myself pressed the witness to make a comment upon that statement, the acting chairman said this further:

I fully understand the explanation you make. As far as I am concerned there is no explanar\Ir. Kuhl.]

tion at all, there is no justification for it. There is no justification in your having taken the mark-up on the potatoes which you did at that time. That is my opinion. Those who are writing the report -will have to deal with it in their own way. I feel it is my duty to make that quite plain. As I see it, I consider it one of the most outstanding cases of its kind that has yet been brought to the attention of this committee.

So far as I recall, it was shown that this particular wholesaler had made 43 per cent on the sales of two carloads of potatoes. That is undoubtedly a very high profit. He justified it himself. He considered that it was fair, in the light of prices of vegetables at that time. I considered these statements of the vicechairman a most unwarranted censure of a businessman. In any event, I think the committee could have made statements of that kind among themselves, without saying it to the man personally.

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June 26, 1948


Whom do they blame?

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June 26, 1948


I could understand that attitude on the part of members of the C.'C.F. party, because a't all times they are attempting to show up business in the most unfavourable light possible. That, was possibly one of the strongest remarks made by the C.C.F. members on the committee, and it was quite unwarranted considering the evidence 'that was given later. Here are the words of the hon. member for Moose Jaw in addressing one of the witnesses, as reported on page 3713 of the proceedings:

Would it not look to this committee that this is one of the most shocking examples of a company not showing their strength in order to keep these prices down? There is no sense of public responsibility there because if every company in Canada took the view that you have been taking we would have uncontrolled inflation in this country andi an inevitable depression. I do not know what your justification is for that time taking such a terrific and abnormal profit.

That is typical of the questions asked and the inferences drawm by the C.C.F. members of the committee. I can, well expect that, because it is their ambition and objective to substitute nationalized industry for private industry and they will do anything they can to discredit private industry.

I should like to make one more reference to the criticisms of the hon. member for Moose Jaw. I have often said that if the truth were known members of the C.C.F., socialists and others who subscribe to a like philosophy are not as much opposed to profit as they are envious because they are not making the profits themselves. Actually I think they believe in the profit motive for themselves, and I have a little quotation which will substantiate that. This is our good friend, the hon. member for Moose Jaw, speaking to Mr. Wolfe, general manager of the Ontario Produce Company. Mr. Wolfe said:

Let me put it this way. If we were able to get the Toronto trade together to maintain a lower level on the price of our produce could we not likewise get them together to hold prices up at some time when supply and demand could bring lower prices?

Mr. Thatcher: I am not suggesting you

should have got together, but I think possibly you could have set an example. It looks like the example you set was a bad one. You took all you could get. Maybe I would do the same thing if I were in your spot.

When C.C.F. members are off-guard they really reveal what they feel inside. As I say,

I can understand that type of criticism emanating from C.C.F. members, because they claim they' are opposed to the private enterprise system. It seems to make no difference what is discussed in this house or in the committees, the discussion always resolves itself eventually into a debate on the principles espoused by the various political parties. The questions asked in the committee were coloured by the particular philosophy subscribed to by the hon. member asking them. That is quite natural.

As I said in the beginning, innuendoes that the private enterprise system is responsible for the high cost of living should not emanate from members on the government side. They represent themselves as being the champions of private enterprise and they should so conduct themselves. There was altogether too much time taken up in the committee in an effort to blame private business for the high cost of living.

The hon. member for Cariboo (Mr. Irvine), who just preceded me, made some statement, about profits being high. I think I followed fairly closely all the evidence that was given and outside of the potato case and one or two others there were few instances where there were what one could call high profits. In most instances the profits were quite modest and in some cases there were none at all. There were times when the profits were less than they were under controls.

I should like to refer to a statement with regard to mark-up and controls by Mr. Steinberg of the Steinberg groceterias. He was being questioned by the hon. member for Moose Jaw as follows:

Q. You are telling us the retailer has not benefited particularly or has not made any greater profits with controls off than he did when they were on?

A. No, I would think the retailer has made less.

Q. Has made less?

A. Yes.

Q. Then he has not benefited by the fact controls were removed?

By Mr. Kuhl:

Q. Therefore the consumer has benefited as a consequence of the controls coming off?

A. I would say yes.

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