William Folger NICKLE

NICKLE, William Folger, Q.C., B.A.

Personal Data

Kingston (Ontario)
Birth Date
December 31, 1869
Deceased Date
November 15, 1957

Parliamentary Career

September 21, 1911 - October 6, 1917
  Kingston (Ontario)
December 17, 1917 - July 7, 1919
  Kingston (Ontario)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 119)

July 3, 1919

Mr. W. F. NICKLE (Kingston):

When I came into the House this evening, Mr. Speaker, I must frankly admit, I had no intention of speaking on this matter, but as it has become a sort of free-for-all I should like to express one or two ideas before the Acting Minister of Justice closes the ddbate. In the first place, it seems to me that hon. members are somewhat careless in the way they interchange the expressions "profits" and "prices," and I think it is well we should keep clearly before the country that there is a clear distinction between these terms. I also think that perhaps it would not be unwise if the attention of the House and of the country was directed to the industrial progress, very briefly referred to by the last speaker, that has taken place in Canada during possibly the last twenty-five or thirty years. Prior to that time we had what I might call isolation in manufacturing. There was no place in Ontario of any importance where there was any waterpower that you could not find the small grist mill, which gathered about it other incidental industries. It was the day of small industries and very little machinery,

and most of the labour was by hand. But an industrial centralization took place by which there was the centralization of capital and the centralization of labour incidental to manufacturing. That centralization of capital and labour had a tremendous potential efficiency, due to the fact that highly organized and very delicate and rapid working machinery was introduced for the purpose of decreasing the cost of production. In this country from 1890 on, to be rough in one's dates, there has been a great era of industrial prosperity. Large amounts of capital had been brought into the country by way of borrowing for the purpose of carrying on municipal and other works, we had built two transcontinental railroads, ;to say nothing of the extensions to the third, with the result that we had great prosperity. There are those in this House who will -emember that in the spring of 1913 and from then on until the autumn of 1914 there was a decided industrial reaction, due to_ the fact that there was not the industrial activity that had obtained prior to that date.

By 1913 our two national transcontinental railways had practically reached completion; money was not being spent on them; the people were beginning to say that we were entering a period of bad times-bad times, because as much money was not being put in circulation as had been prior to that time. In August, 1914, the war broke out. At that time supply and demand, so far as the manufacturers of this country went, were pretty evenly balanced. The supply, provided the industries had been worked to the maximum of their capacity, was probably greater than the demand; but keen competition and the fact that each industry had its own customers, made the majority of the industries in this country capable of meeting the demand that was made upon them. [DOT]

When the war broke out, or within a few months following its outbreak, there was a decided slump. Work was slack in this country and there were many who thought that we were closing in on a period of industrial stagnation and severe hard times. In my own riding skilled workers in the steel industry who had up to that time been getting reasonably good wages, found themselves out of employment and were willing to work for labourers' pay because other wages could not be had. But suddenly the whole scene was changed by the demand that was made on Canada for the supply of munitions to meet the wants of the Allies; and the prices of these munitions were not

so much the question as prompt supply, because it was realized that if defeat was to be kept away, munitions had to be supplied in large quantities and promptly. Now, what happened ? All our steel industries within a few months were at the full of their potential efficiency. Steel industries that had been engaged in one type of manufacturing were as promptly as possible changed to another; men who had never worked in the steel industry were suddenly called into demand, with the result that men left other industries to take up the making of munitions. The demand for labour was greater than the supply, with the result that wages increased, and as wages increased prices went up, because a great many men who had been engaged in agricultural pursuits had gone to the war, while others, as I said a moment ago, left those pursuits to enter industry. There were not enough agricultural products to go around; consequently, prices advanced. Then, when the shortage of labour was more acutely felt, competition for labour became keener and there was a steady increase in the wages that were paid. Fifty million men from all parts of the world who had previously been engaged in industry and in agricultural production were taken to the war-not, if the whole truth be told, all at once; they were gradually taken away from productive labour. Canada gave, in the net result, some 500,000 men, but in the early days of the war we had under arms probably

100,000 or 150.000 men, the supply of foodstuffs that should have been kept up gradually became less, owing to the fact that fewer men were engaged in production and the supply available for 'Canada became still less because -the Allies abroad were taking our supplies and our people at home were consuming more than they had previously consumed. It is an economic law that when wages are high and people have spending money, consumption will be great and we have what is commonly called good times. The reason is simple. Money is only a medium of exchange. Those countries that are on a gold standard have practically said that gold, in its relation to the other commodities, bears a fixed ratio; and they have made the dollar the initial value of exchange. "Price" is only the statement in money of the value of an article; "cost" is the value in money of what it takes to produce an article; "profit" is what you can sell an article for in excess of what it costs you. Now, as I said, prices went up. If you ask me why prices went up, I direct

your attention to some figures that appear in the Canada Food Board report. At page 13 the following figures are given: in 1914-15 the total export of foodstuffs from Canada was $187,000,000. In 1915-16 this amount was increased to $332,000,000; in 1916-17 it was increased to $482,000,000 and in 1917-18 it was increased to $710,000,000

Mr. MoMASTER: Has the hon. gentleman the figures before him to show the increase in weight or number of the exports? My feeling is that the increase is rather an increase in the value of the exports than an increase of the exports themselves.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
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July 3, 1919


I propose to continue this argument, as briefly as I can, until I reach my conclusion. I shall not be deterred in

the argument that I am trying to deduce simply because any hon. gentleman on either side of the House calls "Carried."

I do not often direct the attention of the House to questions of this character, and having taken the floor, I purpose continuing my argument to its end, even if this House does not adjourn on Saturday. As I said, inflation may be of two characters: You may have inflation because there are too many counters or because the counters are going about .too rapidly, and we had both of these conditions in Canada. The condition that existed in Canada was no different from the condition that existed in the United States. Very illuminating figures are given in the 1918 report of the Food Board in reference to the prices of commodities in the United States and Canada. This is the table:

Retail Prices of Staple Foods in Uanada and the United States, September, 15, 1918.

Tfhe following table of the cost of staple articles of food, averaged in sixty cities in Canada and forty cities in the United States, was compiled from data furnished toy the Labour Departments of both countries, and is revised to terms of quantities consumed by the average family in one week:-


Flour pounds.


Milk. quarts .

Cheese 2 pounds.

Eggs dozen .

Bacon pound .

Beef pounds.


Potatoes pecks .

Beans (dry) pound .

Kice . . . 2 pounds.Tea i pound .Coffee pound .Sugar 4 pounds.pounds.Prunes pound .

In the above comparison five items out of the seventeen are slightly lower in the United States than in Canada-lard, coffee, potatoes, sugar and prunes. Coffee, sugar and prunes are naturally lower in price in the United States than in Canada, which is further from the source of supply. The United States is one of the world's greatest producers of lard.

I give the figures only to show that prices in Canada for many of the things that go to make up the food of the people were, during the same period, slightly higher in the United States than in Canada, and if Ij-Nsmtlemen who are interested in this subject care to look at the returns for other ojpntries overseas they will see that prices trore there, in the main, higher than in Canada.

Canada U.S.

60 cities - 40 cities

$ 1.170 $ 1.4&5

6.80 680

1.486 1.776

744 1.029 (Imperial Measure).

643 720

1.065 1.172

511 562

1.363 1.42*6

403 461

707 702 (Imperial Measure)

169 169

238 274

* 303 332

114 076

472 384

740 672.

183 174

$10,991 $12,094

When you turn to the question of profits-and I might say, in passing, that I am thoroughly in favour of the measure that has been introduced to-night by the Acting Minister of Justice (Mr. Meighen)- you will have to define what you mean by your term. Does the term "reasonable profits" mean the percentage on the individual transactions, or does it mean reasonable profits in relation to the aggregate? In my opening remarks I endeavoured to show how there had been a centralization of capital and labour and machinery in our industries in Canada. Hon.t gentlemen who have read the milling report as prepared by Miss McKenna, will remember that it showed clearly that, while only

twenty-five cents was allowed by the Government on each barrel of flour turned out by the milling company, yet the turnover of the milling industry of this country was so tremendous during the war that their profits rose to fabulous sums.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
Full View Permalink

July 3, 1919


I am confining myself particularly to the argument in relation to the high cost of living and profits. Now, the reason why prices increased-as I understand it, having given some little consideration to the matter-is this: First, as I said a moment ago, the people of Canada were consuming more than they had previously consumed because they had more money with which to buy goods. Less goods were being produced, and as supply fell off and the demand increased prices rose abnormally. The supply was. much less in relation to the demand than it ordinarily would have been, due to the fact that the Allies were bidding against one another be-

cause of the necessity of their having these foodstuffs, and an abnormal price was reached in relation to them. Then there was an inflation. Canada had got off the gold standard and we had an inflated currency. There were not enough counters- because, if one might so describe it, money is nothing hut a counter, and if each man has more than his fair share of the counters in relation to the available products that are to be bought, prices will rise, because each man, being determined to get what he thinks is his proportion of the available supply and having more than a reasonable share of the counters, will bid against the others, and the result will be an enhancement of prices. And you have inflation also, not merely because there were more counters than each should have had, but because these counters were passing very rapidly from one man to another. You had an inflation-

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
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July 3, 1919


My hon. friend really took my remark right out of my mouth. I was just going to say that it is true that the figures that I have given do not actually represent that the amount of the export was proportionate to the increased value of the export. The value of our agricultural products had increased very rapidly between 1914-15 and 1917-18, with the result that the $710,000,000 in 1917-18 as compared with $187,000,000 of the first year probably did not represent an increased ratio of exports in proportion to the value. But what it does represent is that out of Canada during these years,an ever-increasing supply of foodstuffs wasgoing. Take, for instance, fisheries. Fisheries rose from $23,000,000 in the first year to $24,000,000, and again to $33,000,000. Animal products rose from $111,000,000 to $157,000,000 and then to $163,000,000; agricultural products from $396,000,000 to $427,000,000 and to $440,000,000 during the last year. Or taking it in the aggregate, in the first year the exports of fisheries, animal products and agricultural products were $530,000,000, in the next year $630,000,000, and in the last year $638,000,000.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
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July 3, 1919


Let us suppose they took less than twenty-five cents; let us suppose they took twenty cents.

Topic:   SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   BOARD OF COMMERCE ACT, 1919.
Full View Permalink