I am not considering the question whether there is too much protection or not enough protection. I am not arguing from that standpoint. Now, if the people of the country do not wish to eat oleomargarine there is no duty whatever imposed upon them to eat it. If they can pay for butter they will certainly not buy oleomargarine; but if they are unable to buy butter and are perfectly satisfied with a substitute, why should they be hindered from procuring it? I do not see how they can possibly injure the dairy interests by buying oleomargarine when they could not buy butter in any case. I am not speaking for my own constituency in this matter. For once, in my life, at all events, I may speak from the broader and more national point of view. I do not think that there are ten pounds of oleomargarine used in the constituency I represent, although it is one of the largest industrial constituencies in Canada. But if there are people in this country who desire to use oleomargarine as a substitute for butter or for cooking purposes, I do not think that this Parliament should deprive them of that right which they should enjoy as free-born Canadians. I shall vote against the resolution for these reasons and for many more which I could state.
Mr. AIME M. DECHENE (Mont-magny) (Translation) : Mr. Speaker, on every occasion when this question was discussed in this House I had the honour to take part in the debate, and my firm attitude of the past, on this question is the one which I intend to maintain this evening, in other words, to oppose the manufacture and sale of oleomargarine. It is therefore a pleasant duty for me to support the resolution of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill) and to ask all our colleagues to join us in our effort to remove from the market of this country, a certainly inferior product which has not the value attributed to it; for after all, oleomargarine and other products of the same nature have but a very small value. It may be eaten with bread, as for instance on a slice of bread which we give to children, though devoid of the most nutritious constituents found in butter; but it cannot be used in a very palatable way to cook food. We all know that when oleomargarine comes in contact with heat it disintegrates immediately and a tallow smell is given out which is very disagreeable; this explains why no one likes to consume hot food prepared with oleomargarine. It however finds a ready sale, under the disguise of cheapness, with the people who think they are economizing by using, instead of butter, oleomargarine, an article of inferior quality.
During the war, we were forced to allow the use of a substitute owing to the 'high cost of the dairy products such as butter and cheese. This was a war measure, one which should have been repealed immediately after the armistice; but, in order to meet the wish of everybody, the government of that day thought it prudent and wise to continue this legislation for a few months more. Last year it seemed absolutely decided that we would, this year, see the end of such legislation; however rumours are spreading which forecast a further continuation of this legislation for some time to come. This would certainly cause considerable harm to the dairy industry of this country. Some twenty years ago, dairying was very little thought of, not only in this country but in the foreign markets. The problem was solved by encouraging the dairy industry and prohibiting the importation and manufacture of oleomargarine and other such products. Ever since the dairy industry has had full scope, it has progressed considerably. Our products have acquired a great value. In the past they were considered of inferior quality in the market, however, to-day they are highly appreciated, not only in Canada but in foreign markets. The Department of Agriculture observing that the greater part of the population was interested in the success of the dairy industry, established these past years, competitive examinations following courses of instruction in butter-making. The result of these competitions is published yearly. That of last year showed that we had made considerable progress in the manufacture of butter. Every year, since this co-operation has been established, there is a marked improvement. Now, that we are in a position to meet competition from Denmark and New Zealand, and to compete against them on an equal footing in the British, French and Belgian markets, we seek to obtain permission, in Canada, to sell substitutes. Having laboured for twenty years to improve his herd, having faithfully followed the advice of the Department of Agriculture, at Ottawa, and of the provincial agricultural departments, the farmer will behold all his work reduced to nought; now that he is on the eve of securing a market
and establishing a good reputation, while his industry is becoming remunerative, he will find that we allow the sale of products which are substitutes, simply imitations, and therefore bound to be a very unfair competitor.
Some of the hon. members who spoke this afternoon or this evening said: "You will ruin an industry and the capital invested will prove a loss." According to the manufacturers' own figures, there has been manufactured, during the year 1921, 3,780,392 pounds of oleomargarine in Canada, and according to the same source, 2,057,035 pounds were imported. On the other hand, there was more than $199,000,000 worth of butter and cheese produced amongst 3,258 factories. Should we, by continuing this year this legislation help to develop an industry which would compete and ruin the one we already have? It is all very well to allow, in this country, the development of as many industries as possible, however, on the other hand, we should take the necessary steps, not to ruin those which our rural population have established within the past twenty or twenty-five years, on a basis which does credit to Canada. We had in the year 1920, about 3,258 factories making butter and cheese. How many oleomargarine factories are there? I think, we could say, without fear of contradiction, that they are no more nor less, but side lines of the large packing establishments of this country and that they alone really benefit by them. They tell us, on the other hand, that if they are not allowed to manufacture oleomargarine, they will be at a loss to dispose of the by-products of the steer. I see, by their own figures, that they have imported from the United States a quantity of vegetable, mineral and even animal oils in a greater proportion than what is manufactured in this country.
So as to enable them to import a few thousand pounds of mineral or animal oils, that can be produced in their present industry which is deserving of encouragement, should we also allow them to create a monopoly and jeopardize the industries already established? I contend, Mr. Speaker, that we would then be working towards demolishing what we have built with so much perseverance upset the calculations of the farming community. Do you not 'believe that, if one of these days, the farmer realized that the sale of oleomargarine and its by-products, or any kind1 of oil mixed with butter, proved a serious competitor in the market, that he
would do as many others have already done and say: "Well, there is already very little money in farming, I shall give up the dairy industry. I shall discontinue rising at half past three or four o'clock in the morning to milk the cows, I shall not retire to bed at eight or nine o'clock, at night, after having again milked the cows and given the necessary care to the herd, thus I shall give up competing against the sale of all those vegetable and other oils, which are imported from the United States. Why so much worry to supply certain privileged ones, with a few pounds of butter, when the large manufacturers of this country, themselves, favour American industries by importing hundreds of thousands of, dollars worth, nay, several millions, of their products in preference to our own.
A young man brought up on the farm with his father would naturally come to this conclusion: "Conditions on the farm are so bad, the farmer is so poorly encouraged that he is not even allowed to retain what he has to-day, moreover unfair competition is 'being brought to bear to annoy him, I shall therefore follow the example of other young men, go and live in the city." Thus we shall again be working to depopulate the rural districts in the interest of large cities. If you wish to keep our young men on the farm, give them a chance to lay something aside for themselves. Otherwise they can not be blamed if they move to large centres, to work as labourers, and walk the streets at half past seven or eight o'clock at night.
Some one said, a few minutes ago: "That there was a market for oleomargarine therefore we should produce some for sale". This reasoning struck me as being false, because any dealer, any man who is acquainted with the ways and means of selling a product to others, can sell them any thing whatever. We know to-day that it is not the value of the goods themselves which render them marketable, but rather that man who is a hustler who sells them. Place the best article in the hands of an ordinary commercial traveller he may have very little success but place an article of little value in the hands of a man of experience, and you will see how quickly he will dispose of it. Why? because all depends on the salesman, the article itself plays no part in the. transaction. Because a product is saleable, is that a sufficient reason to allow its sale to the detriment of good products which should have the first place on the market?
The price of butter and cheese, at the present time, is very nearly what it was before the war. Any labourer or salaried man whatever could at that time purchase butter. He had enough money to do so. Yet, his salary was rather less than it is to-day. If he earns more money now, if his income is greater, should he not therefore have the means to purchase the butter which his fellow-countrymen are manufacturing and which would help the farmers to hold their farms, since the latter are obliged to pay the high prices demanded by labour.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the great majority of the agricultural population of this country understand, as we do, that 't is necessary to immediately suppress such an industry before we allow it to develop. Those who have invested capital in the manufacture of oleomargarine, of butterine or other substitutes for butter, knew what they were doing. They knew that it was an industry bound to disappear with the war, just like that of ammunitions. To-day, then before this industry develops, why not prevent any further expense, but immediately prohibit the manufacture and sale of oleomargarine. I believe that in this manner, we shall prove to the country that we really wish to do something to help farmers to improve their present condition. Let us give everybody a chance, and we shall never regret having done our full duty in this as in many other circumstances. Let us pluck out the thorn before it causes any serious injury.