Mr. J. W. KENNEDY (Glengarry and Stormont) :
The question now under discussion is of considerable importance to the people of this country, both consumers and producers, and I am inclined to think it affects the consumers to a much greater extent than it affects the producers. It has been argued that to allow the importation, manufacture and sale of oleo in Canada is a menace to the dairy interests of this country. With that view I cannot agree. I do not think that the permission to sell oleo in Canada, or to manufacture it, is a very serious menace, or in fact a menace at all, to the dairy business. The matter works out in this way: Ever since 1917
Canada has been exporting large quantities of butter, principally to the British market. The price of that exportable surplus has been determined on the British market where it has to go into competition with the butter of all other countries, and also with oleomargarine. The price of butter in Canada is, to a very large extent, determined by the price received for our exportable surplus. If the price in Canada falls below the price received for the exportable surplus, then the supplies of butter will be drawn away from our Canadian markets to go into our export trade occasioning a shortage which will enhance the home price to meet the price of the export trade. In the same manner, if the price on the Canadian markets rises above the export price, then the butter will be drawn away from our export trade until we will have no exportable surplus whatever. But as long as Canada has an exportable surplus of butter the price on our home markets will be largely determined by the price received on the British market, and the butter which is sold there is sold, and has always been sold, in competition with oleo. Therefore it is quite inconceivable that the admission of oleo into this country is going to affect the price received on the British market for our butter, and that price largely determines the price of Canadian butter on our Canadian markets. There may be slight variations, due to local causes which are of a more or less temporary character, but in the main that argument holds good. So that while we are now selling our butter in competition with oleo, it would not be any benefit to the dairymen of this country to have oleo excluded from our markets. In brief, my argument
is, that to admit oleo into Canada for sale on the Canadian markets is not going to depress the price we receive for our Canadian butter; and to exclude it from our markets is not going to enhance the price in the Canadian markets, because the price paid for butter is in no way determined by the cost of production plus a reasonable profit. As I say, the price is determined by market conditions the world over, and the cost of production in Canada is not taken into account. I therefore think that much of the argument advanced against the measure which the Minister of Agriculture proposes is wide of the mark.
It has been said that oleo during the last two years has been displacing a large quantity of Canadian butter in the Canadian home. That is quite true, but it is unfortunate more from the standpoint of the Canadian consumer than from the standpoint of the Canadian producer, because the consumer is made to believe he is buying and using a substitute for butter, something which will give him an equivalent food value for butter, which contention I, of course, dispute. Very extensive investigations have been carried on by nutrition experts throughout Canada and the United States, as well as in Europe, and, although opinions differ, I am inclined to think the result of their conclusions would be that there are certain elements of nutrition- very essential to the growth of the human body and the maintenance of human vigour -present in butter and dairy products which is entirely absent from oleomargarine. So that the continued use of oleo instead of butter might, over a long course of years, be considered more or less of a detriment to the public health. That is a question which I commended to the consideration of the minister last year, and, I think he might well investigate that question more fully in the next twelve months during which he proposes to permit the importation of oleomargarine into Canada.
The statement has been spread broadcast throughout this country, and it has I think been repeated in this House on several occasions, that the sale of oleo is going to be a great boon to the Canadian people. Now I think that argument has been altogether over-estimated. Oleomargarine may be an advantage in certain times when the price of butter is very high, but when you figure out the amount of butter used by the average family, and figure out the difference in price between butter and oleo, and the actual financial advantage, I think
the real advantage is very small indeed and has been very much over-estimated. Now while the dairymen of this country are quite ready to accept the competition of the manufacturers of oleo at any time, they do expect that that competition will be fair and above board, and that such manufacturers will pot be permitted to impose something on the Canadian people as a substitute for butter which is not butter and which is not as good as butter. In view of this fact I would like to draw the attention of the minister to some of the restrictions the dairymen of this country would like to have imposed on this article, and in doing so I would suggest that those restrictions be embodied in this Bill. They should be covered by statute and not left to be a matter of regulation by the department. I think we should recognize the responsibility of Parliament in this matter, and insist that these restrictions be incorporated in the statute and not left altogether to the department. In the first place everybody knows that butter has a well recognized standard colour, although certain markets, of course, demand certain variations in that colour. Oleo is placed in the market largely with the view of taking the place of butter, and the manufacturers of the product have done all they can to imitate butter as to colour. It is true that they are prohibited by regulation from placing any colouring matter in the materials they put into oleo, but they get around that by including in their oleomargarine articles which in themselves are coloured and which give the product practically the same colour as butter.
The dairymen and consumers of this country have every right to expect that the minister will provide in his Bill that the manufacturers of oleomargarine shall not imitate the colour of butter in their product so that at a glance oleomargarine may be distinguished from butter. They might also rightly expect the minister to provide that on every package of oleomargarine its ingredients shall be printed or stencilled. This is not an unreasonable request, because it is already required in regard to commercial feeding stuffs. It will be remembered that in the Act passed last session providing for the regulation of the sale of certain commercial feeding stuffs, manufacturers were required to stencil their packages not only with an analysis of the chemical contents but with the proportions of the various ingredients. If the department is so solicitous for the welfare of our
animals, surely they should be equally solicitous for the welfare of our people.
Then another thing which we have always considered more or less unfair is that although the Dairy Standards Act requires that nothing but butter fat shall be allowed to enter into the manufacture of butter, yet in the manufacture of oleomargarine it is permissible to use large quantities of butter and milk, these products of the dairy being mixed with other fats or oil's. This practice, I think, is rather unfair to our dairymen, and they are quite justified in asking that no dairy product whatever be allowed to be used in the manufacture of oleomargarine. If the people of Canada want to use oleomargarine on their table, we are prepared to meet the competition of the manufacturers of oleomargarine, but we do object to meeting unfair competition by reason of their being able to use some of our products in the manufacture of oleomargarine, whereas we are prohibited-and quite rightly so- from using anything hut butter-fat in the manufacture of butter.
These few suggestions I commend to the consideration of the minister during the next twelve months, so that before he decides to make this measure permanent he may consider the advisability of prohibiting by statute the practices that I have alluded to.
Subtopic: REVISED EDITION. COMMONS