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Margarine Ban on Trial


[For the source of this document, see the end of the article.]

In submitting the legality of the 60 year-old ban on margarine to the Supreme Court, the federal government is taking the easiest way out of an embarrassing situation.

In many quarters the ban is regarded as unconstitutional on the ground that it infringes on provincial jurisdiction, affecting the "civil rights" of Canadians to manufacture a foodstuff. In 1886 margarine was not infrequently dangerous to eat. It was often sold fraudulently as butter. The ban was justified at the time, no doubt, in the same way the federal power is justified in banning the traffic of narcotic drugs. But those times have passed away.

Political expediency, largely, has motivated retention of the ban this long. Its removal would have enraged a lot of farmers. However, its retention any longer is enraging more and more of the non-agricultural people. The government was on the horns of a dilemma here, for though pleasing one section of the people it would be angering another, were it to remove the ban by legislation. However, if the Supreme Court rules that the ban has been invalid all along, then the government escapes the onus.

What makes it more expedient than ever for Ottawa to escape from the dilemma at this time is the pending admission of Newfoundland into Confederation. The Newfoundlanders use a lot of margarine. When their delegation was in Ottawa last year negotiating with the government on terms of union, it asked for and got a written undertaking that the margarine ban would not apply to Newfoundland.

The stipulation was made, however, that Newfoundland's margarine would not be exported to other provinces, but this stipulation clearly could have no effect as it would be an interference with provincial trade.

All praise is due to Senator Euler and James Sinclair, MP, for the strenuous fight they put up for margarine in the 1948 session of Parliament. Their efforts and those of the MP's and Senators who fought alongside of them were the chief instruments in bringing the issue to its climax. It was at Senator's Eulor's suggestion that a somewhat shame-faced Senate, after discarding his bill, moved to ask government for the reference to the Supreme Court.

Source: "Margarine Ban on Trial", editorial, Vancouver Sun, July 30, 1948, p. 4. Article transcribed by Claude Bélanger.


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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College