This Bill is founded on the lines of a law which was passed by this parliament a few years ago to authorize the incorporation of live stock associations. Gentlemen who have followed recent events are aware that a good deal of discussion has occurred in the country in regard to the seeds that are used by our farmers for sowing purposes. A number of persons interested in seed-growing and anxious to bring about a better quality of seed which should be true to name have formed themselves into an association, but there is no law under which this association or subsidiary associations can be legally constituted. I have been asked to introduce this Bill, which would make those associations legally incorporated bodies. The real reason for this is to provide machinery by which a certificate of the purity of the seed can be given. The Bill authorizes the formation of these associations and the confirmation of the by-laws. The association was formed only a couple of months ago at a general meeting, which was held at Ottawa, and the reason of the late introduction of this Bill is because of the but recent action of those interested. I think the measure is in the interests of the farmers of this country, and I hope there will be no opposition to" it, and that it will become law even though introduced at this late period of the session.
Section 9 provides that the liability of each member shall be limited to the amount of his membership dues. If this association can contract debts, there would seem to be no adequate provision for meeting these liabilities.
This is a question of principle. When we incorporate companies with limited liability that is set out on the face of the Bill, and they are so advertised. This association may be necessary, or it may not be necessary, but anyway the proposition on the face of the Bill is that the liability of the members shall be limited to the fees they happen to owe. Gan the minister guarantee to the House that this is satisfactory ?
Mr. FISHER, The by-laws of the association will have to be approved before the association can become incorporated, and these by-laws would be known to any one who is connected with the association. There are a large number of associations in this-country, agricultural societies and live stock societies, which are incorporated in the same way. The members of these associations are not liable for the debts of the association beyond their membership fee ; and yet the association, being a body corporate, has power to deal with the subjects within its control, and all its property would be liable to that extent, but no further. I think that would be a sufficient safeguard to the public dealing with it.
What the minister says is certainly true to some extent, in regard to agricultural associations and other associations of a similar kind. But I cannot see that his reference to the question of bylaws can help him, because by-laws are subordinate to the Act, which determines the liability and the status of the association and the remedy which any person can have against it. I do not want to offer any unfair opposition to the Bill. I merely want to draw attention to these points. If the minister, having looked into the matter, is of opinion that this association can be incorporated without danger to the public, I do not propose to say any more about it at the present stage.
I take it that the annual fee would provide a fund from which all ordinary accounts would be paid. It is not likely that this association would be disposed to engage in anything like commercial transactions. The only expenses incurred would be the carrying out of the objects- of the association, such as keeping a record and publishing that record.
While the hon. Minister of Agriculture has stated that this Bill is on the same principle as an Act already on the statute-book relating to live stock associations, he clearly perceives, I am sure, that the conditions are not quite the same. Without offering any very decided objections to the Bill, I wish to point out that we are incorporating an association, which may be started by five persons, and on which the hon. gentleman proposes to confer very wide powers in the shape of bylaws which are not before this House, and which may be changed from time to time. That may be a menace to persons who are not members of the association. It is said by the minister that they may become
members ; but there is no reason why any man should have to become a member of such an association in order to escape difficulties adverse to his interests that might arise from its operations. The first thing we ought to have from the minister is a copy of the by-laws, which might be made a schedule of this Bill ; otherwise we do not know what powers this association may exercise. The hon. gentleman may answer by saying that the by-laws must be subject to the approval of the minister ; but that is not a sufficient safeguard. I think we ought to know at the beginning just what we are doing. Bet me point out further that all such legislation as this is asked for in the name of the people. I have not quite as much confidence as some may have in that being the real object that impels men to seek extraordinary powers from this parliament. I am not denying that the public receive great advantages from these associations ; but I have always viewed with some suspicion those who seek legislation of this kind in the name of the public interest. There will be to some extent a close corporation, which means that those in the association will have the seal of approval from the Department of Agriculture, and, after following the experiments, may be able to control the sale at very much increased prices of seeds which are the products of these experiments. I would like the hou. minister to consider the point I raise, that we ought to know just what powers are to be given by this parliament to the association, by way of making bylaws to govern it afterwards.
I think it would be impossible for us to put in a schedule of this Act the details of all the by-laws of this association. My hon. friend will notice that in section 5 there is an outline of what these by-laws and rules shall provide for:
(a.) the registration of the history of selected seeds for use in the production of one or more kinds of field or garden crops ;
(6.) the admission, suspension and expulsion of members ;
(c.) the election of officers and their duties ;
(eZ.) the mode of convening annual, general and special meetings ;
(e.) the audit of accounts ;
(f.) the location of the head office and the branch offices, if any.