Holding down living cost/price rises since the outbreak of war
in Canada and some other countries
The War Economy and Controls: Wage and Price Controls
Prime Minister Mackenzie King was determined to avoid the problems
of greed and inflation which had plagued Canada during the First
World War. Using the powers of the War Measures Act, he established
the Wartime Prices and Trade Board, with the aim of stopping prices
and wages from spiralling out of control.
Initially, the Board did relatively little, putting on partial
limits on rents, coal, sugar, timber, steel, milk and a few other
goods. But in 1941 the cost of living began to rise sharply. In a
radio broadcast, King announced a freeze on prices and the setting
of levels for wages and salaries. The Chairman of the Wartime Prices
and Trade Board, Donald Gordon, became one of the most recognizable
and powerful figures in wartime Canada. He used the radio himself to
put his blunt message in front of Canadians: if their money was to
keep its value, they must accept tight controls.
The Board built up a huge structure of 13 regional offices and 100
local offices, whose staffs were not always popular. Controls
resulted in the shortage of certain goods and some poorly-made
products reaching Canadians. But the cost of living, which had risen
17.8% from 1939 to 1941, increased only 2.8% from 1941 to 1945, the
most successful record among all the major nations in the war.
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