GOVERNMENT SERVICE—AND YOU
Every time a Canadian buys, by weight or measure, the Department of Trade and Commerce looks over his shoulder to see that he gets his money's worth
NORMAN REILLY RAINE
MR. CITIZEN arose this morning in a warm house. That is, let us assume that the house was warm. He went into the bathroom, switched on the
light and turned the hot water faucet for his shave. After his ablutions, he descended to breakfast, in the course of which he may have muttered once or twice at having to divert his attention from the morning paper to the electric toaster. On the way into town he stopped at a service station and got some gas. “Give me a quart of oil, too,” he added as an after-thought. So to his office, where he embarked upon the purchase of certain carloads of grain.
His wife, at home, was making out a list of groceries and household supplies; sugar, pastry flour, meat, whipping-cream, potatoes and other vegetables. Conning the list, she remembered that she needed an extra quart of milk, so added that. On the way back from the store, she stopped at a confectioner’s.
“How much are those chocolates?” she asked. “Seventy cents a pound? Oh—just give me a quarter’s worth.”
A tricky bit of figuring, but to the merchant, nothing simpler. He put the chocolates on a^computing scale which automatically gave the correct weight and also the price. And so Mrs. Citizen embarked upon the routine
of her day.
The paternal hand of the Department of Trade and Commerce had been first on the job, however, and, although the thought did not occur to them, both husband and wife had been protected in every transaction. The coal which heated the house and the hot water, the groceries ordered by Mrs. Citizen, a'nd her quarter’s worth of candy were weighed upon scales inspected periodically, to ensure accuracy, by the Weights and Measures branch of the Department. The computing scale was checked to see that
it weighed correctly, and also to make sure that the scale of prices corresponded with the proper weights.
The gas which cooked the morning meal, and the
electricity which provided light, and browned the toast, passed through meters similarly inspected and certified. The gasoline pump, the oil measure, and the milk bottle had to pass the government test for accuracy, and the carloads of grain in Mr.
Citizen’s business transaction had, several times before, been the especial concern of the department.
It was brought to the prairie elevators and weighed upon certified scales. It was examined and tested for grade and quality and sold upon a certificate issued by the Department of Trade and Commerce, and the fact of its
sale and transportation was noted by the statistics branch of the Department for use in its annual compilations for the guidance of business men.
One could go on, almost indefinitely, showing the practical application to our daily lives and well-being, of the functions of this branch of the government, but it all can be included in the generality that everything we
buy by weight or measure must come to us by way of scales or measuring devices approved and inspected by government men—a reasonable guarantee that we shall receive as much as we pay for.
No More Pork-Barrel Inspectors
'T'HE old days of political patronage, when inspectors of weights and measures were given their jobs as rewards for activity at the hustings and polling booths has passed. Ig those times, two hundred and twenty men were appointed, some of them (parttimers) being paid from two hundred to six hundred dollars a year to do what
they pleased. Far more work now is accomplished, rigorously and efficiently, by one hundred and eleven inspectors appointed under the civil service. No more will the inspector’s expense account include items such as ‘Supper and bed for me and horse, and medicine for the horse, $1.50’, nor, as happened in an eastern province, the following words be added to a receipt by an inspector to give it a more official flavor ‘Not responsible for the acts of God’.
The inspector of to-day is a trained man, with technical knowledge and skill of a high order, and he is one of the hardest worked men in the government service. He must be familiar with the mechanics of weighing and measuring devices, from a grocer’s simple scales and a pint measure or less, to the most intricate gasoline pump, huge elevator scales and railway track scales. If a scale which takes a load of 120,000 pounds shows an error of more than five pounds, he not only must be able to detect it, but must be able to say what is wrong, and how it may be fixed.
Picture the prairie in harvest time; the mornings with a touch of frost, the long, blazing hot days, and over all the golden countryside the creeping dots of wagons and tank lorries bearing the precious grain to the prairie elevators. Here is a government inspector on his way to test the scales of an elevator. In his car are twenty units of metal, each weighing fifty pounds—a dead weight of one thousand pounds. His car gets stuck in the dust, as a motor car will stick in a snow drift, the wheels whirring around without
gripping. He will have to unload his weights, pull out, and load again, a back-breaking job under the prairie sun. This may happen a half dozen times, before he reaches his destination. There he unloads again, and places his weights to test dump scales, hopper, and loading scales. Perhaps the dump and loading scales are all right but there is something wrong with the hopper. He ties up the elevator until it is remedied—not a popular move, in the height of the season, for until it is fixed not a pound of grain may move. When the fault is rectified he may be forty, fifty, sixty miles away. No matter; back he drives, and makes a re-test, and when he is satisfied, the elevator may carry on. Last year, 4,500 elevators were so visited, in three months, and the hours of labor involved, and the many weary pounds of deadweight metal lifted and replaced by the government men would make a staggering total.
On wagon scales, for the weighing of coal, it is necessary to test all four corners and the centre, and then to distribute the test weights, in order to obtain accurate results. If one includes—and one must—the loading and unloading from the car, this means that the inspector
handles his weights nine times—a total of four and one-half tons. He collects, also, the inspection fee, and makes his reports. He may be called upon to dig down in the muck of abattoirs, toil amid the dust and grime of elevators, scrape and scratch through the oil and scum and dirt of industrial plants, in his endeavor to determine the cause of a faulty scale. One man, alone, travelled 9,000 miles, in 1925, and the total distance covered by the inspectors in one year, exclusive of city traveling, exceeds a quarter of a million miles.
No, decidedly the job is not a sinecure, and because of the hard work and high technical requirements it is
most difficult to get suitable men to undertake the job.
Correcting a Giant
COMPLAINT was made some time ago, at a big Atlantic ^ seaboard elevator, that the weights of grain there did not tally with head-of-the-lakes weighing, and an inspector was sent to check up. The scale had a weighing capacity of 60,000 pounds. The inspector put two tons in weights on each corner and added 20,000 pounds of grain. The scale was perfect. Another addition of 10,000 pounds of grain still failed to show fault. But with a total of 60,000 pounds the scale was away out, the cause of the distortion being the spread of the supporting timbers under this great weighty This well illustrates the thoroughness with which inspections are made.
Inspection of the great railway track scales is most important, and is carried out by means of special test cars maintained by the railways. These cars are very short, weigh thirty tons and carry thirty tons more in fifty-pound units, a total of sixty tons. These cars always are attached to the rear of the train taking them to their destination, because of a nasty little habit of jumping the track, and, as they require special running orders, are most unpopular with trainmen.
Tim railways give excellent co-operation to the government in this class of inspection and, because a faulty scale may weigh over, as well as under, and thus cause a
serious loss in the course of a year, everyone concerned is anxious to maintain accuracy. The railway test cars are used, also, to check track scales on the sidings of big industrial plants.
In addition to inspection of scales, the Weights and Measures Branch has other problems to solve. For example, a business concern complained that a certain carload commodity was nine hundred pounds short weight upon arrival at destination, and demanded an examination of the scales at both sending and receiving ends. The discrepancy was accounted for by the fact that when the car was dispatched it carried upon the roof several inches of snow which had melted in transit east.
Lumber loses weight, coming east from the Rocky mountains, and there is shrinkage in the weight of grain and coal, with changing climatic andweather
conditions. Rain-soaked cars dry out, losing weight in the process, and seventy-five gallons of gasoline shipped when the thermometer shows sixty degrees may be two and one-half gallons short with the temperature twenty degrees below zero at destination. The energy of that remaining seventy-two and one-half gallons is equal to the original seventy-five, but the buyer has bought quantity, not potential strength, and the consumer who in turn buys from him will not be satisfied with less than the full measure. The policeman’s lot is not a happy
one, W. S. Gilbert said. What about the lot of the inspector of weights and measures?
Every meter and measuring device, no matter for what— electricity, gas, oils, gasoline, groceries, vegetables, grain, coal and every other commodity thus sold by measure—m u s t be approved as to type at Ottawa before it is placed upon the market. Manufacturers in Canada and abroad are compelled to submit samples, and every unit leaving the
factory or coming in from outside the Dominion must bear the official Canadian stamp. No imported shipment is cleared through the Customs without it, and the Customs Department notifies the Department of Trade and Commerce of every entry, so that prompt inspection may be made. Incessantly, the federal inspectors are on the lookout for illegal or unauthorized apparatus, and swift retributive action is taken.
Many small merchants resent the periodic inspection of their scales, not realizing that they may have been giving over-weight over a period of months—and a half-ounce too much on every pound of tea, sugar or flour sold during that period could mean considerable loss, sufficient to pay the inspection many times over. Inspection is protection to both merchant and customer, and without it the legitimate merchant would be at the mercy of business sharks who would advertise ruinous cut-rate prices and take their profit out of short weight.
In deciding the merits of devices submitted for approval, particularly in the case of hydraulic or other pumps and apparatus involving mechanical operation, the greatest caution is observed, to make certain that during the operation of measuring, the consumer cannot be cheated, involuntarily or otherwise. Adaptations and modifications are insisted upon which will make it impossible, for instance, for the
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liquid in a gasoline pump to be retained in the hose or drained back into the tank before the customer has received the full quantity. In some towns and cities, the bylaws forbid the placing of gasoline pumps on the curb, a practice which makes it difficult for the motorist to see the gauge. This is overcome by permitting in filling stations only a certain type of pump, the gauge of which clearly is visible from the curb.
While covering this story I was given a demonstration of the extreme care taken to protect the public. A certain United States manufacturer applied for Canadian government approval of a measure for motor oils, which he wished to introduce into this country. The device had been approved by the Bureau of Standards at Washington. It was designed to prevent cheating and holding out on the part of the oil dispenser, by means of a specially built and located spout.
Mr. Way, the head of the Weights and Measures Branch at Ottawa, half-filled the measure with water, then poured the contents into another vessel. He tilted the measure to the utmost in strenuous endeavor to drain it absolutely dry, and held it so until not another drop came forth.
“What do you think of that?” he asked. “Excellent, you say? Well, I turned down the application and seeing my amazement handed the measure over. Because of the way it was made, the very earnestness of the effort to empty it had defeated its main purpose, and there remained nearly a gill of liquid in the bottom of the measure.
The Vanishing Peck
BECAUSE of federal legislation requiring that root vegetables be sold by weight the old-time measure rapidly is becoming a thing of the past. There is little complaint regarding false bottoms on such devices, but, lest ye of Toronto and Montreal become too large with virtue, these two cities are the worst offenders when complaints are laid. Human nature in the raw—very raw, sometimes—is exhibited, when inspectors of weights and measures make their appearance in some rural communities. Many people attempt to pay off personal scores by whispered ‘tips’, most of which prove unfounded, for the informers do their checking against the merchant’s modern scales by means of cheap affairs for home use, bought before legislation came into effect compelling all scales to carry the government stamp for accuracy. Humor, too, creeps in, now and then, as, for instance, the gentleman whose ingeniousness cost him a fine of twenty dollars. Having been arrested for giving less than the ninety pounds required by law in a bag of potatoes, he explained to the bench that, having broken his
arm cranking his car, he could not lift more than eighty-four pounds.
Are you uncertain as to the accuracy of the gas or electric meter in your home or place of business? A message to the nearest Federal inspector will bring a prompt test. If the meter is registering correctly, you pay the inspection fee— a nominal sum, which commences at sixty cents for house meters. If the meter is inaccurate you are not charged and it is rectified or replaced. Meters registering within three per cent, error for electricity, and two per cent for gas are considered good. Periodically, the testing instruments or working standards used by the inspectors, are recalled to the federal laboratory in Ottawa, for calibration by means of the primary standards maintained there, and this service of calibration also is available, at a moderate fee to citizens, generally, who wish to check thermometers and electrical instruments..
In this efficiently equipped laboratory is a variety of equipment of the most modern type. If you have bought a consignment of electric bulbs, or are planning to buy, you may have samples tested on the photometer at a cost of six for a dollar. Apparatus for many other tests is also available. The chief complaint of those in charge is that not sufficient people take advantage of the facilities provided.
Along the hall of the same building, in the offices of the Weights and Measure branch may be seen scales so delicate that they will weigh a signature with ease, another capable of weighing from 1,000 ounces to one tenth of a gram, and another the maximum capacity of which is onefourteenth of an ounce. Here, also, is kept one of three sets the absolute standards of weight, mass and capacity for the Dominion. The standard one-pound weight, of platinum, is a beautiful thing. Always carefully guarded. Another set rests in the keeping of the Speaker of the Senate. The third, or House of Commons set, was lost some years ago.
It is the reasonable aim of those functions of the government which directly benefit specific groups of the public to become self-supporting through the receipt of nominal fees for service rendered. Thanks to this, the weights and measures, and gas and electricity inspection service are self-sustaining.
This applies, too, to the administration of the Canada Grain Act, which comes under the versatile jurisdiction of the Department of Trade and Commerce. It is well recognized that the grain certificate issued by this department is the highest in the world, and that it is as good as any negotiable bank note. There is not space here to go into the reasons why the Canadian system of grain inspection and grading is unparalleled anywhere. Suffice to say, the Canadian system serves as a model for all other large grain producing nations.
From the moment that the kernels are driven on to the platform of a grain elevator the process of inspection begins, under the supervision of the Board of Grain Commissioners, an executive body appointed by the federal government and consisting of a chief commissioner and two commissioners with headquarters at Fort William, Ontario.
The commissioners, permanently appointed and salaried, give their entire timeAo the work, which is divided into the functions of the secretary’s staff, which does administration and clerical work, gathering of statistics, licensing and bonding of elevators and so on; the Inspection and Registration department which carries on at Winnipeg, Fort William Port Arthur and about ten outside points throughout Canada, obtaining and inspecting samples of grain and determining grade and issuing certificates; the Weighing Department, under which comes the inspection of scales and adjustment of weighing complaints; and the Government Elevator System.
There are many other duties, such as those performed by the grain research laboratory; the Grain Appeal Board, established to hear appeals from the decisions of grain inspectors and render final decision; the Grain Standards Board which establishes, from time to time, commercial grades of grain; and the Board of Grain Examiners who examine and test the ability of persons applying for positions as chief inspector or deputy inspector of grain. In addition, the Board of Grain Commissioners supervises the administration of the Inland Water Freight Rates Act, so you may conclude that these gentlemen and their staffs have few idle moments.
Guarding Our Granaries
'T'HE pivot about which the whole organization swings, of course, is the inspection and grading of the grain. In the words of a high government official, the inspectors of grain of Western Canada have no easy task. They stand between two opposing interests, the farmers and the millers, the farmers damning them for severity and the millers deploring their leniency. Nipping them on the flanks are the dealers, whose angles of complaint vary according to their positions as buyers or sellers.
They have few mechanical aids. They must be alert and of sound judgment, for one error is sufficient to weigh, in the eyes of the public, against years of efficient service. In certain seasons they work rapidly and incessantly throughout daylight, inspecting a tremendous volume of grain per car unit, and must remain cool and unbewildered amid a welter of protests, many varieties of grain, and multiplicity of grades not always clearly defined. Their responsibility is great and its demands exacting, for upon their decision rests the rate per bushel, out of several on the market, which the grain will receive, and the grain is stored, transported, and sold both at home and in foreign countries, on their certificate.
The grain for inspection is secured by samplers who, working in gangs, sink probes into several points in a car of grain, the samples thus obtained being mixed to secure the average of the car. The grain then is placed in a clean bag, which is ticketed for identification, collected and sent to the inspectors, and the car issealed. The samplers, working in the limited space between the top of the grain and the roof of the car, keep a look-out for overloaded cars—those whose cargo exceeds the load-line marking the proper depth on the inside of the car. If the car is so full that a proper sample cannot be taken, the fact is noted on the identification ticket by the sign T.H.’—held for inspection. Instructions then are sent to the destination point to inspect while unloading. Occasionally cars are ‘plugged’ or loaded in such a manner as to slip some
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sell it on a first-class certificate. If the sampler does not discover the fraud, however, the inspector at the terminal point does. Plugging is a stupid game for the shipper, because, when detected, the whole car is graded on the quality of the worst grain found in it.
An effective check system is in force to guarantee proper identification of samples with the car from which they were taken, and no time is lost in making the examination. Grading is always done at a north light window, as being the best, the inspection beginning at nine a.m., and ending at three p.m. The grade is determined by quality, which means soundness, color, weight, and percentage of hard wheat; on condition, which means moisture content (sometimes tested mechanically) heat, and so on; and admixtures, which are tested by screening and weighing to determine their proportion in the whole. After grading, the samples are put into tins properly marked, and later sold.
In addition to the above, grain is inspected entering and leaving elevators
the last inspection being made while the grain is being loaded into ships. At this time it is inspected in the tunnel as the grain runs from the bins to the working house, on the floor of the working house, and on the vessel as it pours into the hold. If grain is found at any of these points which falls below grade the stream instantly is stopped. The government has a number of nationally owned elevators stretching from coast to coast, and the administration of these also comes within the jurisdiction of the Board of Grain Commissioners. One of the most stirring sights that Canada can show is the activity of her terminals when her colossal grain crop is on the move—long trains rumbling in endless procession across the prairies toward the east, and westward across the Rockies to the Pacific seaboard, huge nineteen hatch freighters with booming sirens gliding up to the lake port terminals, salt-rimed ocean tramps with yawning hatches in Atlantic tide-water ports, and all the tremendous supernumerary traffic ramifications when Canada’s grain goes forth to feed the nations of the globe.