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


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.
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July 3, 1919


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


No person would contend that in peace times a profit of less than twenty cents on a barrel of flour was an unreasonable profit. If the aggregate war profit was taken into account, and the profit on the individual transaction was so small that it cannot very well be reduced without turning an aggregate profit into a substantial loss, it was only fair that that initial profit should continue, but the State then should take a very substantial proportion of the large aggregate profit made by these industries. It is unreasonable to argue that, because the potential efficiency of a great organization enables it to make a tremendous profit on small initial transaction profits a most substantial portion of the profits should be left to the industry. In abnormal times it is reasonable to contend that the industry should be allowed to retain reasonable profits on its efforts, but the effort of the people which led to the great aggregate profit being made should be taken into account by the great proportion of that profit being taken for the benefit of the State.

A gentleman interested in the manufacture of munitions informed me that by the cheapening of the process by which a cartridge case was reduced in cost by three cents, his profits were tremendously increased. His profit on the individual transaction was only triflingly increased by the three-cent reduction but it was tremendously increased by the percentage computation. Applying those small initial profits to a tremendous output he made a tremendous profit, a profit beyond all conception when compared with that which he hoped to make when he entered into the contract that gave him such a substantial return.

When you come to consider the high cost of living, there is another factor which is sometimes left out. It is the profit made by the merchants in this country as distinct from the manufacturer. When the war broke out our wholesalers had substantial

stocks on their shelves and the stocks of the retailers were, generally speaking, in a fair state. No sooner had war broken out than there was a steady increase in the value of those stocks and I suppose, so long as human nature is human nature a man will take all the traffic will bear. That is, if an ever-increasing cost makes the wholesaler demand more from the retailer than the amount that the retailer originally paid for the commodities, the retailer who has the goods on his shelves and the wholesaler who also has his shelves well stocked, will endeavour to take from the people all the traflfic will bear. In other words he will ask what he could get for the new goods supposing he had to buy them from the manufacturer or the jobber. That is exactly what took place in this country. The .stocks of the wholesalers were sold at much more than they cost and the stocks of the retailers brought substantial profits to them.

There are some very interesting paragraphs in the fuel controller's report issued this year. The fuel controller was interested in showing that the price of coal had not increased in proportion to the price of other commodities. I have directed the attention of the House to the fact of the tremendous increase there was in the export of natural products of this country, and I should like now to put on record the great increase there was in value of various articles in Canada. For instance, anthracite coal, taking 100 as being the initial price in 1900, went up from a price in 1914 of 140 to a price in 1918 of 195 or thereabouts. Lumber from an initial price of lt)0 in 1900 and, about 180 in 1913 went to 265 in 1918. Leather -a natural product, the production of which could not rapidly be increased because it takes a certain number of years for the animals to reach maturity, went up from 150 in 1914 to 267 in 1918; drugs and chemicals went up from 135 in 1914 to 287 in 1918; animals and meats from 190 in 1914 to 350 in 1918; dairy products from 155 in 1914 to 262 in 1918; grains and fodders from 160 in 1914 to. 317 in 1918; fish from 160 in 1914 to 250 in 1918; miscellaneous groceries from 130 in 1914 to 262 in 1918; woollens from 140 in 1914 to 410 in 1918! Now if you will turn to page 107 of the Fuel Commissioners's Report you will find a very interesting graph prepared by an American lady showing the prices' of commodities in America during the Civil and Franco-Prussian Wars. You will see that during all wars that lasted for any period prices of natural products and other goods inevitably rose in the affected countries.

From 1862 to 1864 during the American War prices there reached an abnormal level; then there was a very rapid slump at the cessation of hostilities, and a steady decline, with one rise, until 1897, when the lowest price was reached. Then there was an increase, practically a steady although a varying increase until 1914, due to the industrial prosperity of the United States and Canada and the entire world.

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.
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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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