Mr. Raoul Poulin (Beauce):
Mr. Speaker, in the course of my remarks, yesterday, I showed that butter consumption in Canada had considerably declined since margarine was put on the market, and that available butter stocks are now the largest in our history; this jeopardizes to a considerable extent the position of our farmers, and in consequence, that of our working people, because the rural classes are the main consumers of manufactured goods.
I stated moreover that in 1952 and 1953, the farm income decreased by approximately 25 per cent, while the income of wage earners increased by about 13J per cent. I also said that the decline in farm income generally raises the depressing ghost of unemployment. It therefore seems hardly an overstatement to say that the surest means of maintaining employment at a reasonable level would be to bolster the purchasing power of our farming people, even if the workmen had to make certain sacrifices to this end; it would, indeed, be better for a workman to eat butter-even costly butter- and work, than to consume cheaper margarine while unemployed.
Let us not, besides, labour under any delusion. If ever the day comes when margarine producing companies no longer have to fear any competition from butter, we will see the price of their product rise to fantastic heights. I am sure in my own mind that our good working people will have already understood the essential difference between those methods which are used to fix the price of butter and those used to fix that of margarine. In the first case we have 450,000 small producers who will never be in a position to unite closely enough to have any serious influence or any measure of control over the market, whereas in the second case, we have a few large and powerful companies which will always find some way, in spite of anti-combines legislation, of doing away with competition and of selling at exorbitant prices. Workers will then realize, though a little too late, that they have been victimized on two levels at once.
That is why I wish to state quite plainly that in defending the vital interests of the dairy producers, I am at the same time defending the higher interests of the working class. One way, to my mind, of protecting the dairy industry against the flood of margarine would be to levy an excise tax on the sale of the latter product. It is a rare event, 83276-262J
The Budget-Mr. Poulin indeed, to see members of parliament suggesting the imposition of a new tax. But, at the present session, we will have seen and heard everything. I would like to mention in this connection that several agricultural organizations in the county of Beauce have advocated such a measure. I have been the recipient of a number of resolutions adopted at meetings of co-operative unions.
Other groups have sent me delegations of their officers. And here are the names of some parishes whose professional farm groups have deemed it appropriate to take a definite stand on the matter: St. Gedeon, St. Martin, St. Pierre, St. Honore, Ste. Marie, St. Ephrem, St. Victor, St. Benoit, and a few others, the names of which I have not here-
If I add to that the hundreds of representations I have been receiving for some years, concerning that same problem considered from a different angle, I do not hesitate to state that the farming class as a whole, in the riding I represent here, urges the government to rid the market of a product which, as I said, constitutes a serious danger to the welfare not only of the farming class but of the working class as well.
Since I am dealing with the problem of butter and margarine, I would be unfair if I did not pay tribute to the government and to the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) for the general policies they have put forward in the past few years in that respect. I believe that the butter price support program has been an excellent thing. It has protected the dairy producer and enabled him to sell his product at a reasonable price, even if that price is still lower than it should be. The main result however has been to prevent the scandalous state of affairs that prevailed during the winter of 1951-52 when urban workers, for instance, had to pay 80 cents, 90 cents, or even $1 for a pound of butter. I remember very well mentioning the fact in the house and urging the government to take the necessary measures in order to prevent a repetition of such a scandal. Once more I declare I would be unfair if today I did not express my humble thanks to the Minister of Agriculture and to the government. However, it may also be my duty, since I had some congratulations to offer, to take that same government to task in respect to a certain aspect of the problem of margarine, which I raised a few moments ago. During the past few months, on three or four occasions, I have asked the government a few questions in the house in an endeavour to
The Budget-Mr. Poulin establish if the government and its experts really believed that margarine is a product comparable in quality to butter.
Unfortunately, I must say that I did not receive a satisfactory answer. The last question I asked was as follows:
1. In taking as a basis of comparison butter and margarine sold by dealers in Canada, is the nutrition division of the Department of National Health and Welfare in a position to state which of these two products has the greater food value?
2. If so, which product?
I thought that my question was clear enough, well enough put, for our offsprings are always dear to us, but I did not receive a satisfactory answer. I have here the answer and I quote from page 4070 of the Hansard of April 14, 1954:
1. No, because sufficient analyses of butter and margarine as sold in Canada are not available in .the files of the nutrition division.
.2. See answer to No. 1 above.
That means-it is at least the conclusion I am drawing-that the government does not hold on this subject a clear, definite opinion. I wonder then how it happened that the nutrition division of the Department of National Health and Welfare published, during 1953, what I would call a book of recipes for cooks having to serve meals to large groups of people.
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE