George Taylor (Chief Opposition Whip; Whip of the Conservative Party (1867-1942))
Will the hon. minister kindly explain ?
The MINISTER OF RAILWAYS AND CANALS (Hon. A. G. Blair) moved for leave to lay upon the Table of the House copies of certain estimates of the engineers respecting the cost of the Canadian Northern Railway. Motion agreed to. Mr. CLARKE moved that the said estimates be printed and distributed forthwith for the information of this House, notwithstanding rule 94 to the contrary. Motion agreed to.
House in committee on the following proposed resolution Resolved, that it is expedient to pass an Act to prevent the improper marking of butter ; to prevent the manufacture or sale of renovated, adulterated, or process butter, or of oleomargarine, butterine, or other substitute for butter, manufactured wholly or in part from any fat other than that of milk or cream ; providing for the examination of stock or packages ; and providing that one-half of the pecuniary penalties for contraventions of the Act shall he payable to the informant.-Minister of Agriculture.
Will the hon. minister kindly explain ?
Mr. Speaker, this matter comes forward in the shape of a resolution as it deals with trade. The resolution when passed by the House, will be the foundation for the introduction of a Bill. I have in my hand a copy of the proposed Bill which covers mainly these points.
First of all, forbidding the manufacture of wliat is known as process butter. Joined with that is the reiteration of the already well known statute of this country forbidding the manufacture of oleomargarine, butteriue or substitutes for butter. In addition the Bill provides for the proper marking of butter packages so that only butter shall be marked as creamery butter that is really made in a creamery or factory and that any butter made in a private way shall not be marked as creamery butter. Again, the Bill deals with the matter of the adulteration of butter and provides that any butter that contains more than sixteen per cent of water shall be considered adulterated. There is also a provision forbidding the mixture of any acid, alkali or chemical for the purpose of causing the butter to absorb water. It also goes on to provide in general terms for penalties to be imposed upon anybody who offers for sale these things which are thus forbidden and for people who contravene the provisions of the law in regard to marking. I may say, Mr. Chairman, that the necessity for the adoption of some sucli law as this is due to the fact that quite recently, I think, within about a year or so, there has arisen a new condition of affairs in this country in regard to the manufacture of process butter especially. For a long time there has been a manufacture in the United States of process butter, but about a year and a half ago, or perhaps two years ago, the Congress of the United States passed stringent laws regulating and making very difficult the manufacture of this process butter. The result seems to be that certain people who have been doing this in the United States have thought that they could see an opportunity in Canada of transferring their business to this country and certain efforts on the part of certain people to do this have been brought to my attention and to the attention of the officers of the department. We considered that the introduction of this manufacture into Canada would be a very serious hurt and detriment to the dairy interests of the country and to the trade in butter in Canada, which is advancing in a satisfactory way. We wished to obviate the difficulties that have arisen in the United States and by passing a law of this kind at the present time, when this industry is in its infancy, when it is, in fact, hardly established in the country at all, I think we are adopting the best means of securing our great dairy interests from what, if it is allowed to proceed and increase and multiply in the country, will be very difficult to deal with and will be a very serious hurt and damage to these dairy interests.
What is process butter ?
Process butter, in general terms is made according to the foilow'ing system. Cheap ! butter is taken, melted down and dealt with i
under a certain process of manufacture, it is then chilled so as to become granular and then churned up with buttermilk and skimmed milk and packed in the ordinary way. At first sight this may appear to be a perfectly ;inn;ocent procedure, but the fact is, which is well known and established, that this butter, while it may be fairly good in appearance and fairly good in taste when first made, cannot maintain its quality for any length of time. If it were to be put on the market in various localities in our own country and used up at once there might possibly be no great hurt provided it was sold for what it was, but, unfortunately if it is to be kept or mixed up in any way with properly made butter it will be marked with the name of Canada, it will be sent abroad, before it reached any foreign market it would appear very badly and create a bad impression of our Canadian butter, practically in the same way as oleomargarine, or butterine, or any substitute for butter would do.
I would like to ask the hon. minister why he requires this Bill for that purpose ? Because, as I understand, the Bill which prohibits the manufacture, sale, or importation of oleomargarine, butterine, or other substitutes for butter would cover the manufacture and sale of process butter.
Under the interpretation of the law we believe that this process butter could not be called a substitute for butter. It might come under the actual meaning of the word ' butter.' That difficulty has occurred in the United States and they have had to provide special legislation there dealing with it. The history of dairy legislation in the United States may be a warning to us and a guide as to what we have to do here. In the United States they did not prohibit the manufacture of oleomargarine and butterine, and no doubt that fact has contributed very largely to the discredit which the foreign market has always attached to the dairy products of the United States in comparison with the high reputation which Canadian dairy products have had. I have no hesitation in saying most emphatically, that the course of the United States people in permitting various substitutes for butter to be manufactured in that country, and their system of tinkering with their dairy products, has tended materially to keep down the reputation of these products in the markets of the world. The action of this parliament long ago in prohibiting the manufacture, importation, and sale of oleomargarine has helped materially to keep up the reputation of our butter in foreign markets as well as at home. This is a new thing that has come up in connection with the butter business of this country, and it is wise for us to nip it in the bud before it has assumed proportions that will hurt our trade. The vested interests in the United
States have become so great that they do not seem to be able to prohibit the manufacture and sale of adulterated butter as we have done, but they have provided a licensing system which no doubt will protect the public to some extent from being deceived. We could do that, but I think our best course is to forbid the manufacture of this butter at once. If we allow it to go on for even another year we will find established industries here, and we may be confronted with the same difficulties that confront our neighbours on the other side of the line. It is I believe the part of wisdom and prudence to take the thing in hand at the very beginning and to proceed against it drastically. We have been very fortunate in Canada in the general purity, and I may call it, the immaculate reputation of our dairy products. Filled cheese and imitation butter are unknown in Canada while they are common in the United States, and the result is that our dairy products have a higher reputation than theirs. Let us take immediate steps to conserve the interests of our dairy products and to ensure that this process butter is not allowed to be manufactured here so as to hurt them. This is the main feature of the Bill, and the other details of it are to secure a proper marking of butter. We have dairy butter and creamery butter. Coming from certain people dairy butter is quite good, but at the same time the creamery butter lias a standing on the market which dairy butter has not. I am sorry to say we have a number of complaints that dairy butter is being sold as creamery, with the risk of hurting the reputation of creamery butter. Let me say most emphatically that there is a large amount of dairy butter which is just as good as creamery butter, but under the heading of dairy butter there is a large quantity of butter accumulated at country stores in rolls and small packages which is afterwards re-packed and sold. Under this Bill that could not come under the definition of creamery butter.
What is this process butter made of ?
It is made of butter, but the process through which it goes is such that dairy experts find that it deteriorates very rapidly ns the process destroys certain characteristics of the butter fat globules in the butter. I have given careful consideration to this resolution, and I have introduced it on the representation of those who are interested in dairying and on the best export information which I can get in the country.
It takes a long while to get anything through the head of the Minister of Agriculture. If he will turn to 1 Hansard ' of 1886 he will find that I then moved the following resolution :
Hon. Mr. FISHER.
That it is expedient to bring in a Bill to regulate the manufacture and sale of oleomargarine. butterine or other substitutes for butter.
That resolution was broad enough to take in this new idea that the minister has got into his head about process butter. I spoke strongly in support of my motion and I produced statistics to show that oleomargarine was then being manufactured largely in the United States, was being imported into Canada and that a factory was about being started for the manufacture of it in Canada. After this motion, the then Conservative government came down with a resolution to prohibit the importation, manufacture, and sale into Canada of oleomargarine. The present Minister of Agriculture then rose in his place to oppose the passage of my resolution and he spoke as follows :
But, Mr. Speaker, anxious as I am to see the agricultural interests, and especially the dairy interests of the country carefully guarded-and I say this as representing one of the greatest dairy counties in this Dominion, the county, according to the last census, which made the greatest amount of butter of any county in the Dominion-still I do not wish to see the dairy interest guarded at the expense of any other interest in the Dominion. If any person chooses to put upon the market an article which is not hurtful in itself, and which is properly stamped and shown to be such an article, if it does compete with the producers of butter it will be merely an extra stimulus to them to make a better article with which this spurious article cannot compete. But I do not believe it would be right or wise for this parliament absolutely to prevent all the people in this country from producing an article which in itself is not hurtful, and which, at the same time would be stamped so as to show its true nature.
The scales have fallen off his eyes.
When did the hon. gentleman (Hon. Mr. Fisher) get new light ? I proved then that this oleomargarine which Hon. Mr. Fisher would not prohibit from coming into Canada was made out of products of dead hogs brought into the Chicago market, and some of which were dead and buried before they started to make oleomargarine out of them. Yet the hon. gentleman at that time was willing to allow oleomargarine made in these Chicago factories to be brought in here and sold, so long as it was sold as oleomargarine, to the poorer classes of this country in competition with our butter. He not only voted against the resolution I then introduced, but he gave it all the opposition he could. Later, the government came down with a proposition in the tariff prohibiting the importation of oleomargarine into Canada. And now, seventeen years afterwards, the hon. gentleman wakes up to the fact that it would be injurious to the dair$ interests of Canada to have oleomargarine made in the country. There is no necessity for this Bill, as oleomargarine is prohibited to-day. The hon. gentleman only introduces it in
order that he may go to the farmers and claim credit for having introduced and passed a Bill prohibiting the importation and manufacture of oleomargarine, butterine, or other substitute for butter. Surely the hon. gentleman does not want to take up the time of the House with a Bill for which there is no necessity, because the laws put .on the statute-book by the Conservative government, who had the true interests of the farmers at heart, amply meet the case. Surely the hon. gentleman does not expect in this way to make amends for the speech which I have quoted, and which was properly understood by the farmers of his county, because they left him at home in the next election after he had made it. It is nothing but a bit of buncombe, this legislation which the hon. gentleman is introducing after seventeen years of opposition to the Bill which I introduced, having the same object.
It seems to me that this Bill is entirely unnecessary, because it is the same as the old Act, which is as follows :
No oleomargarine, butterine, or other substitute for butter, manufactured from any animal substance other than milk, shall be manufactured in Canada, or sold therein, and every person who contravenes the provisions cf this Act in any manner whatsoever, shall incur a penalty not exceeding $400 and not less than $200, and in default of payment shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months and not less than three months.
Where is the difference between the two Acts ? There is simply none, so far as I can see, beyond the fact that the hon. minister attaches the name of process butter. If this is a substitute for butter which is destroying the dairy products of the farmers, it can be attached under the old law as a substitute for butter. If It is some harmless preparation which is made out of butter-fat, I do not think that even the Act the minister is passing would attach it. It is only a change of name, and you cannot sell an adulterated article under a changed name any more than under the original name ; it can be stopped under the Adulteration of Foods Act. I am afraid the hon. gentleman is introducing this measure for the purpose of leaving on record the fact that the present Minister of Agriculture has stopped the importation and sale of these spurious articles. He opposed the old Act, but now it seems that in order to make amends for his shortcomings of the past, and to leave on record something that he can hold up as evidence of the great interest he takes in the farmers of the country, he introduces this Bill. In his speech in opposition to the old Act, the hon. gentleman, referring to the proposition that an excise duty and a customs duty of 10 cents a pound should be placed on these spurious articles, said :
But if these articles are stamped, so that the public know what they are buying, 159
aDd if the oleomargarine or the butterine are composed of materials which are not injurious to the health of the consumer, I do not see why the production of these articles should be forbidden in this country.
He admits that this process butter is not injurious to the health of the consumer, and yet to-day he is endeavouring to pass a law to prohibit it. He went on to say :
And if it does work any inconvenience to the dairymen of the country, their true remedy would be to manufacture a still better article of butter.
Is that not what they are doing to-day ? The hon. gentleman says that this article does not keep like prime dairy butter, therefore, he is going to prohibit it; but a few years ago it would only stimulate the farmers to manufacture a. still better article of butter.
Let the dairymen of the country see to it that they make the very best butter possible, and no butterine or oleomargarine can compete with that article. As a matter of fact, we know that in the United States, where these articles have been very largely put upon the market, they have competed with and injured the sale of lower grades of butter, but I think they have not at all interfered with the sale of the higher classes of butter.
Is that the hon. gentleman's experience to-day ? He admits that the article is not injurious to health, that it is made out of butter ; but it has not stimulated the farmers to such an extent sis to prevent it interfering with the sale of the higher grades of butter.
That being the case, and seeing that the government have proposed this resolution, I am not quite prepared, without further explanation at all events, to support the motion of the hon. gentleman. However, it might be well for us to go into committee and see the details of this Bill.
That is what the hon. member thought then; but to-day, as Minister of Agriculture, he has evidently acquired additional light. But I respectfully submit that if the article which he seeks to prohibit the importation, manufacture, and sale of in Canada, is either a substitute for butter or is injurious to health, it can be prohibited under the present law.
I *ill just read to the hon. gentleman the present law, and point out to him how it is that this article cannot be prohibited under it.
I have just read the present law.
The hon. gentleman does not seem to have read it understanding^.