February 28, 1962 (24th Parliament, 5th Session)


John Chester MacRae

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. C. MacRae (York-Sunbury) moved:

That a special committee be appointed to carry out a survey of all aspects of commercial advertising on Canadian television and radio, in certain newspapers and other fields of mass communication, for the purpose of recommending what steps, if any, should be taken to prevent the distribution of fraudulent and misleading advertising to Canadian consumers;
That the said committee consist of fifteen members to be named at a later date, nine of whom shall constitute a quorum;
That the said committee be empowered to send for persons, papers and records; to sit while the house is sitting; to report from time to time; and to print such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee and that standing order 66 be suspended in relation thereto.
He said: Mr. Speaker, while the majority of advertisers, manufacturers and retailers are completely and entirely ethical in this country,

there are still far too many who are selling rubbish by false suggestion, by half-truths, and by words carefully chosen to mean nothing when they are challenged in a court of law. If, for example, we take an old magazine, let us say one of 50 years or so ago, the advertisements in them seem ridiculous to us; I refer to the advertisements and the claims that are made therein. However, somehow or other, we do not seem to feel this way about a current magazine, a television commercial or a radio spot. Many of them are just an insult to our intelligence.
In the dark ages of the art, advertising literally got away with murder. According to history, it was not unknown for an advertiser to exploit a nostrum offering to stop a baby's crying. Apparently that claim was valid for, after swallowing certain of these concoctions, some babies never cried again. Various rugged individuals were induced by advertising to search for symptoms of dire diseases. Sick folks were persuaded to trifle with major maladies. Consumers were educated to consume nonsensical compounds or deadly poisons or habit forming drugs.
Then, as now, the bulk of Canadian business was sound and reputable. Interspersed were the pirates. Some of these freebooters used advertising to further outrageous exploitation of their victims. Such advertising ran all the way from murder, manslaughter and other crimes through felony and misdemeanor to misrepresentation and misleading tricks. However, actually these old ruffians became playful at times. There is the legendary figure of the advertiser who offered at some alluring price "complete sewing machine, all charges prepaid" for $3.95. When the victim received an envelope in return for his money, if he did not open it very carefully he got stuck a second time, for in the envelope was a needle. That was the complete sewing machine.
When business became slack, it was stimulated by fresh offers. If legend is correct, there was the advertising of "Beautifully framed: Genuine steel engraving of Queen Victoria for only a dollar." What the sucker in this case received was a postage stamp. It was a steel engraving; it was Queen Victoria, but the one who got beautifully framed was the purchaser himself. I think perhaps I may be pardoned if I mention another illustration. We all know the old story. Years ago there was advertised a complete killer of potato bugs for $1. It was stated that if you sent $1 in you would get the necessary ingredients to kill all the potato bugs in a 10-acre field. What you received when the parcel came were two blocks of wood with the instructions that, of course, if you placed a potato bug between the two blocks, they
Request jor Commercial Advertising Survey certainly would kill that potato bug and all the rest, as well. That is an old story and it is supposedly true.
Today the majority of advertisers-and I cannot stress this enough-are high grade organizations of responsibility and integrity. In its lower fringes, however, advertising is still smeared with much that is definitely unfriendly to consumers. Periodically the shysters get too bold. There are "crime waves" in advertising as there are in other activities. Fraudulent and misleading advertising shatters the public's confidence in publicity. Consumers then become less responsive to all advertising. Apparently there will long be a continued need for clean-up campaigns to give the truth-in-advertising movement another forward surge. Fortunately, much of the ground thus gained is held. The long pull trend of advertising honesty appears to be gradually upward. Therefore, a discussion of misrepresentation in advertising should not -and I hope that my remarks will make this clear-smear advertising as a whole. Consumers can help both themselves and reputable business by continuing to use their influence against shysters.
Today in this country one of the most active groups is the Canadian association of consumers, a group of women who are banded together across all of Canada, and who are trying to protect the consumer in so many different ways. I have had a number of discussions with their president, Mrs. Plumptre, here in Ottawa, and others who have pointed out various attempts by advertisers to mislead.

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