March 17, 1922 (14th Parliament, 1st Session)


Alan Webster Neill



So far as my memory goes, I think it expires some time this year-in June or July; and I earnestly hope the Government will take such steps as not to perpetuate it.
We now come to that much vexed and-wearisome subject of the tariff. I will, however, promise hon. members that I will try to attack it from a somewhat different angle. I have in my hand, I think, a whole compendium of a great deal of wisdom on the tariff, comprised in two short sentences, which, I think, ought to be printed and hung up in every hall, committee room and office in this building. This is not my own composition:
1. That free trade and protection offer an interminable case for counsel on both sides.
That is one postulate.
2. That it is perfectly easy for anyone who takes the trouble to study both sides to make out a good case for either.
If hon. members appreciated those two axiomatic propositions, what a lot of trouble and discussion would be saved! I heartily agree with the first proposition, and for that reason I do not, for one moment, propose to endeavour to convert any hon. member to my way of thinking on the tariff question. When hon. members from the prairies say that they are in favour of free trade, I am perfectly willing to accept their word;
I do not need to be convinced about the matter. I am willing to believe they know their business best and what would be best for that section. The tariff question is not a political one, but a geographical one, and you cannot change a man's belief, supposing you talked to him from now to Doomsday. The only way to change his belief would be to change his environment. If you take an Ontario manufacturer and transplant him into the district which these hon. gentlemen represent, you will see how soon he too will become a free trader. The converse holds good; put a man from the prairies into British Columbia or Quebec, and he will very soon have a change of tariff belief. But until that is done it is useless to try to convert hon. members, because they are most familiar with conditions in their part of the country, and surely they know best. Even if we could find some weakling who

allowed his opinion to be changed by any poor argument that might be advanced, that would not amount to much, because every hon. member is, I am sure, pledged to his constituents in some measure on the tariff, and he would be bound to vote in accordance with the wishes of those who elected him. I will not, therefore, give my own opinion on this question: I will only state what we in British Columbia, or at least, the section which I represent, want and as to that I will quote, if you will permit me, a very few words from a manifesto which I issued at the time of my election. It comprises my sentiments in a very few words:
The Tariff will not be settled on political but on geographical lines as each section of the country wants a different tariff. The result will be a compromise.
Will it not be that? It always has been; indeed, it always will be. The result will be a compromise and therefore:
I will join heartily with the other British Columbia members in endeavouring to get as good terms as possible for British Columbia, that is a somewhat lower tariff on the manufactured goods we buy and such a duty on live materials we sell as will enable us to live and maintain B.C. as a White Man's country.
I was speaking then to the electors of the Comox-Alberni district, and of course I had their interests at heart. We want a tariff, as the hon. member for Yale (Mr. MacKelvie) said yesterday, on fruit. I will leave him to deal with that. We want not so much a tariff as protection-I would almost call it common honesty

on eggs. I would like to explain that. There is a small tariff on eggs, and the farmers do not ask that that tariff be increased. They are making a simple, modest request that imported eggs be subject to the same laws as our eggs are subjected to. Is that an extravagant demand-free trade or protection? Surely it is protection of the right kind. Hon. gentlemen who do not understand the situation will hardly believe that the situation is this. In Canada, there is a strict Egg Inspection Act. If I ship a carload of eggs from British Columbia to Montreal, they are not allowed to leave my station until they are inspected by an inspector of the Dominion Government and passed according to a strict standard. I know a case where a carload of eggs was being shipped to Montreal. It did not come up to the Government grade and was therefore rejected. The sale fell through and the man at the other end, in Montreal, bought American eggs, ungraded and un-

The Address
standardized, and at a lower price, with which he filled the order. All that the egg producers, those of the West at least, are asking, is that imported eggs shall be standardized the same as our eggs are. Surely that is not unreasonable. There was a meeting of egg producers and wholesale men the other day, at which, I thought, the wholesale men took a most selfish attitude. It was going to cause them some little trouble to change their system of handling eggs, and one of the arguments brought forward was the old time-honoured one that the Americans would not ship any eggs to this country if we put such horrible restrictions upon them,-horrible restrictions to which we ourselves have been subject for years. Well, we need not worry about that. Inside of four days after notice goes to the American importer here that he is to have his eggs standardized in accordance with the Canadian grade system, the regulations will be put into effect, and the eggs that enter this country will be standardized according to Canadian regulation. I do not think that this is at all unreasonable; we have a right to ask that the imported eggs should be subject to the same conditions as are imposed upon the local product.
Then we come to another brand of imported eggs, namely, Chinese eggs, from fowls fed on garbage under conditions such as I could not even mention in this House, although the records are there to be ascertained. The eggs are shipped here and consumed in this country. Some five thousand cases were imported into Montreal the other day, and it is satisfactory to me to know-seeing that we in British Columbia are suffering from the inroads of the Asiatics-that some of these eggs were consumed in Ottawa and were bought at prices paid for the best local eggs. That is a proven fact. In connection with Chinese eggs, we are not asking, as we might very well, with justification, demand, that these be prohibited as a menace to the health of the people of Canada. We simply ask that when Mrs. Housewife chooses to buy eggs,- if she wants to get Chinese eggs she shall have an opportunity of seeing just what she is getting. We can then leave it to the good sense, and, perhaps, the patriotism, of the Canadian woman to make her choice between the best fresh eggs and Chinese eggs. To come back to the question of standardization of American eggs, is it not, as one man expressed it, a matter of protection in reverse gear?
We are protecting the importer at the expense of the local man.
Now I come to the question of butter. I do not know whether there is a tariff on butter; perhaps the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Motherwell) can tell me whether there is or not. If there is, it is a comparatively small one, and the farmer is not asking for any increase on that. What he is asking for is protection against oleomargarine. Oleomargarine was for many years prohibited in Canada because it was felt to be unfit for invalids and children. During the stressful times of the war, however, when butter was scarce and it was necessary to export as much as possible to Prance, the importation of oleomargarine was allowed. But it was never suggested that it was to be permitted to be used as a substitute for butter, for it is not such, it is only an imitation, and as that it was allowed to come in for consumption during that time. It is made from vegetable oils grown under tropical or semitropical conditions by cheap negro labour. When the war was over, the farmer in Canada naturally expected to be relieved of that competition. I saw a notice in the paper the other day that some one had said that oleomargarine ought to be allowed to be sold for the benefit of the poor; and by way of proof-a most inadequate proof I thought-it was contended that it was not hurting the butter industry in view of the fact that since 1919 more butter was being shipped to Europe than before. That only goes to. prove, if it proves anything at all, that the producers of butter in Canada are being forced to seek outside markets by reason of the unfair competition from oleomargarine in the home market. But apart altogether from the question of protecting home industries, I say that, on purely humanitarian grounds, for the safeguarding of the health of the people, the use of oleomargarine should be prohibited. And I may say, Sir, that it is a well known fact that it is not the poor people at large who use oleomargarine; they have too little money to spend on such stuff as that, they have to buy butter simply because it is the most economical. No; it is the profiteers who use it,-they feed it to their servants and dependents. In the city of Rochester-a city which, I understand, is rather prominent in the promotion of sanitary and allied questions-there is an orphan home where, during the war, they were driven, like ourselves, to use oleomargarine. It

The Address

is the custom there to weigh the children regularly, and I have the record of one experiment. This is not an experiment that was made by the cow keepers in British Columbia or anywhere else in Canada; it was made by the city of Rochester, in the state of New York, where the people do not care two pins about our problems. They took seven children as a trial batch for experimental purposes. In the first six months these children were fed butter and1 they gained twenty-three pounds-I leave out the decimal points. During the next six months they were still fed on butter and the gain had increased to forty-four pounds. For the next six months they were fed on oleomargarine, the diet being otherwise the same. The result was a loss of nine pounds. In the next period butter was again used and the children made a gain of fifty-eight pounds. Now, that is an official report from the city of Rochester, and in view of it I say it would be only fair if we prohibited the use of oleomargarine. We believe it is detrimental to the health of young children. But apart from that important ground, I contend that, from the standpoint of the unfair competition it involves, the Minister of Agriculture should put his foot down on this manufacture and stop it. It may be said that Canadian dairymen ought to be able to compete in the markets of the world. Well, we are willing to compete in those markets, and we are prepared to pit our Canadian cow against her cousin in the United States or in New Zealand; but we do not think it is fair to compel the Canadian cow-I had almost said the Christian Canadian cow- to compete against a heathen nigger in the Central American republics or Southern states.
Now we come to another subject in connection with the tariff, and that is our coal mines. There are on Vancouver Island some five thousand men engaged in the coal mining industry, and with their dependents we must multiply this number by at least five to ascertain the total number dependent on this industry. Two of the mines are in the district represented by the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Dickie) and he will no doubt deal with those. The mines in which I am interested are situated in Cumberland, where there is a population of 3,000 to 4,000. All last winter and most of last summer they were working only three days a week, and with the reduced pay now given to coal miners, and in view of the high cost of living, these men need not

worry about the price of gilt-edged securities for the investment of any surplus funds. Their situation indeed closely approximates want. If there is any extra call upon their purse for sickness or anything of that kind it means that they must go into debt. It is important therefore to know why they are working only three days a week. The reason is very obvious and cannot be denied; it is because of the competition from fuel oil. That oil is imported al most entirely from the United States Some people think that fuel oil and crude oil are synonymous terms, but they are not. Crude oil is the natural product as it comes out of the well; fuel oil is the crude oil after certain valuable elements, such as gasoline, benzine and distillate, have been extracted. There is some fuel oil made at the loco refinery, but it is a comparatively small amount and is readily absorbed in the neighbourhood. The great bulk of commercial fuel oil used in British Columbia is directly imported as such from the States, and if a sufficient duty were imposed to make it more costly to use that oil, it would give a tremendous stimulus to the coal mines of British Columbia and Vancouver Island generally. We ask that a duty of two cents a gallon be imposed on fuel oil. It is not a very heavy duty, surely, and would be amply sufficient to meet the situation. It would mean six days' work a week to these thousands of coal miners, it would mean prosperity for those depending on the mines and for the industries associated with them, and it would constitute a great measure of relief from the unemployment under which the province of British Columbia is now suffering.

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