Mr. GUSTAVE BOYER (Vaudreuil) (translation) :
Mr. Speaker, two years ago, it was any privilege to lay on the Table a petition signed by 29,000 farmers of the province of Quebec, protesting against the importation, .sale and manufacture of oleomargarine in *this country. At the time, it was represented in this House that the importation of oleomargarine would be allowed only temporarily, to carry through the hard times of the war. Several agricultural associations in Ontario and Quebec agreed to withdraw their opposition, in views of the circumstances and the promise that was made at the time: That measure was to be in force for one year only. The time has now expir-60} 1
ed and the Government, instead of redeeming their pledge, are now trying to further extend the delay.
I do not concur in the views expressed by the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Clark) when lie insinuated, a few minutes ago that the farming community was actuated by selfish motives.
Why, for the last few years has the Dominion government, as well as the provincial, asked the farmers to speed up production, to put more land under cultivation, to raise more stock and to increase their output :n every way? To help the people of Europe. The farmers responded to that appeal frcm their leaders and the result was that all over the country of late years production increased by leaps and bounds. The position taken by the farmers to-day is altogether justified. They say: " You urged us to promote the dairying industry, to enlarge our dairy herds, to turn out more butter and more cheese. We complied with that request, and now that we have made the n -cessaiy preparations, you are allowing the s.i'e on our maket of a counterfeit article, which is being .sold in competition with that same product in the manufacture of whieft we have invested an enormous amount of labour, skill and capital".
Mr. Speaker, considerable capital is invested in the dairying industry of this country. Our dairy herds represent many millions of dollars. To feed that stock, extensive pastures are required in summer, and enormous quantities of feed and hay in winter. The value of that pasturage and of those feeding .stuffs is also very large. The production of butter and cheese represents a heavy investment on the part of those engaged in the business. The statement is sometimes made that butter is too high, that cheese is too dear. Butter is not selling too high; its price is in keeping with that of all other staple commodities. If the price of agricultural products is higher today, it is because the farmers are paying three times more for everything they have to buy.
We are called upon to fix the price of butter, the price of cheese, the price of all agricultural products, and yet no one suggests that the prices of manufactured articles *should be fixed. Why such discrimination? Why do you confine yourself to addressing the farmers and telling them: " You shall produce this and that commodity, but you shall not exact for it more than such and such price." We want you to increase your production, but we propose fixing the price at which you shall have to sell your goods."
Oleomargarine, strickly speaking is not unwholesome, and I am not prepared to deny its value as a food; I am free to admit that its consumption may be found beneficial in the household.
But the consumer should understand that when he buys a pound of butter, he is really buying a pound of butter, but when he buys a pound of margarine, oleomargarine or butterine or any other similar products, he never can tell what he is buying. To make a pound of butter, money and time are required, but in the manufacture of oleomargarine, which is mixed with various ingredients, adulteration enters to a large degree. Butter is selling now at the price it is worth, hut oleomargarine is selling for more than it is worth, .so .that the consuming public is cheated to that extent.
Farmers are appealed to and asked to increase their dairy output. I know whereof I speak, having devoted my attention to the dairy industries for several years past and I know what it costs to manufacture good butter and good cheese. We have had to conduct many a campaign, we have carried on a considerable propaganda, through the press, by means of lectures, meetings, conventions and in every possible way, in order to impress upon the minds of our farmers the benefit accruing to them from keeping on their farms more cattle and improving their dairy herds, because it has been proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that without good stock, farming would be a failure. It took us four or five years to educate the farmer; we have impressed on his mind the importance of keeping the best breeds of cattle, keeping only select animals, from a well known breed and the best milk producers. In short, we have encouraged the farmer, we have induced him to tread that path, and now you are barring his progress, by putting hampering restrictions on the dairy industry, you are thwarting his hopes, his projects, in allowing those butter substitutes to be palmed off on the public. I cannot coincide in the opinion of the Government in introducing this measure. If you want to handicap the farmer, instead of giving him all the latitude required, you should make a clean breast of it.
The farmer has to pay abnormal prices for the feedstuffs which he has to buy for his stock, and for his fertilizers; the food bill of his family is growing, on account of the war having .pushed up food prices, and now you come and tell farmers "We are going to allow that butter substitute which is styled oleomargarine to enter into an unfair competition with your products.''
Not only have you allowed oleomargarine to be imported into the country, but the people who manufacture and sell this product have taken advantage of this in adulterating it by the addition of several ingredients, the result of which is that the consumer is being cheated. It has been ascertained that a mixture of butter and oleomargarine in equal proportion had been palmed off on the public as butter, so that the consumer was under the impression that he was buying butter at 60 cents or 55 cents a pound, when as a matter of fact he was only getting oleomargarine which could easily have been obtained retail on the market at from 25 to 30 cents a pound.
Margarine which is now selling on the market is waging an unjust war on butter in the matter of prices, because it is fetching just as high prices as butter, so that the consuming public who most should benefit from it are the least benefited, and here again the public is being cheated.
The Government, when they introduced this measure, two years ago, I believe, had undertaken to keep it under a strict control, and among several other regulations, it had been provided that no body could sell oleomargarine without obtaining a certificate from the Minister of Agriculture. Had those regulations been enforced, I might perhaps say that it would not have proved so injurious to the country; but when I bear in mind that, in the city of Montreal, scarcely two weeks ago, several thousand pounds of oleomargarine were seized which were being sold in the guise of butter, I wonder whether, under such circumstances, it would not he better for the consumer to pay a higher price for good butter than a little less for margarine or adulterated butter..
These are the grounds on which I oppose this measure and I intend to fight it. I will combat it on behalf of my electors, on behalf of the eight hundred agricultural societies and the 29,000 farmers of the province of Quebec who have protested, by way of petitions, against this measure being introduced. The Government then asked us to be forbearing. We have exercised forbearance. Now, the war is over, the world is making a fresh start in the various branches of industry; activity is renascent, and it is high time that the interests of the farmers should be taken into consideration and that they should not be the only class whose activities this House aims at controlling.
Topic: MANUFACTURE AND IMPORTATION OF OLEOMARGARINE.