Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


The Canadian government formed the Wartime Prices and Trade Board (WPTB) on September 3, 1939. The board was given a critical and massive mandate: to control all supply, manufacture, distribution, and pricing of consumer goods and services. Donald Gordon, appointed in 1941 as WPTB director, reported directly to finance minister J. L. Ilsey, who was a member of Prime Minister Mackenzie King's cabinet. Gordon was responsible for the work of five coordinations and fiftyseven separate commodity administrations. The scope of concerns that fell under the purview of the operations of the WPTB were as varied as sugar rationing, complaints of shortages of baby diapers, price ceiling of consumer goods, garment design restrictions, limitations on distances traveled by commercial vehicles, black market operations, distribution of import quotas to manufacturers, and control of the cost of living. To deal with these issues, the WPTB had the power to promulgate its own orders to ensure equitable and economically sound distribution and sale of the necessaries of life.

Eventually, the wpbt employed nearly 6,000 Canadians; many of the public service administrators worked for the board for $1 per year. Each province had a regional office and several local offices in smaller centers. In the Canadian Prairies, the capitals of Winnipeg, Regina, and Edmonton were supported by a total of twenty additional offices in such locations as Flin Flon, Manitoba; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; and Medicine Hat, Alberta.

There was an additional volunteer corps of more than 16,000 women across the nation. They played a crucial role in the work of the board's consumer branch under the direction of fourteen Women's Regional Advisory Committees. In the Winnipeg region alone, which covered the area from the Saskatchewan border through Manitoba to western Ontario, more than 900 volunteers worked for thirtytwo English- and French-speaking subcommittees to monitor and collect information on such activities as rationing, labeling, clothing conservation, housing shortages, and price checking. In their work we find the origins of the Consumers Association of Canada.

Susan G. Turnbull Caton University of Manitoba

Taylor, K. S. "Canadian Wartime Price Controls 1941–1946." Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 13 (1947): 81–98.

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