February 2, 1916

REPORTS AND PAPERS.


Eleventh Annual Report of the Commissioners of the Transcontinental railway for the year ended March 31, 1915.-Hon. J. D. Reid. Report of the Department of Railways and Canals for the year ended March 31, 1915.-Hon. J. D. Reid. Tenth Annual Report of the Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada, for the year ended March 31, 1915.-Hon. J. D. Reid. Detailed Statement of the Remissions of customs duties and the rebate thereof, under section 92, Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act, through the Department of Customs, for the year ended -March 31, 1915-Hon. Mr. Blondin.


SEED GRAIN INDEBTEDNESS.


Mr. W. E. KNOWLES (Moosejaw) asked for leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the desirability of immediately withdrawing the order for the collection of certain debts due to the Government by certain western homesteaders.


CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

We are in the

last stage of a long debate upon the Address which has lasted now for nearly three weeks, and the intervention of a motion of this kind, unless it be of paramount importance, will not contribute towards getting through with the business of the House economically and rapidly. It does not seem to me that, whether we discuss this question now or next week, it will make any difference to the intrinsic merits of the case, nor will it make any difference to its progress. Until the -debate on the Address is concluded, we are precluded from doing any other business. I would therefore counsel my hon. friend to,allow this matter to lie over until we havfe finished the debate on the Address, and when business will become more normal. I say this simply in the interest of the despatch of the business of the House.

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LIB

Wilfrid Laurier (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Sir WILFRID LAURIER:

The matter is one of urgent importance, and it is for my hon. friend to decide whether or not he should wait a day or two days more. It may be that the urgency of the matter is such that my hon. friend feels he is justified in interfering with the course of the present debate.

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CON

George Eulas Foster (Minister of Trade and Commerce)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir GEORGE FOSTER:

If any real progress could be made, I would have no objection, but I do not see that there can. As the matter will simply have to come up at another time, the discussion will be duplicated.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

When the matter is proceeded with, the onus will be on myself to show that it is urgent. I was asked by telegraph to take this matter up. I accept the counsel of the hon. Minister of Trade and Commerce in a very kindly spirit, but in view of the urgency of the matter, and in view of the very short time that I purpose taking, I would like to avail myself of the privilege of Rule 39, which says:

. If objection is taken, the Speaker requests those members who support the motion to rise in their places.

I am sorry that my hon. friend does not have sufficient confidence in me to think that I would not first be assured that it is necessary to bring this matter up now. I realize, as he says, that we are nearing the end of the debate, but this discussion will take only a very short time and the matter is one of most urgent importance.

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CON
LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

On Monday of this

week I made some remarks on this subject, as reported in Hansard, page 449, and possibly if I read that part of my speech it will be the most expeditious way of treating the matter in hand. My remarks were:

After having got that wire of mine-I do not say that it influenced their decision-but having got that wire, they decided that they would only take half of it this year. But, you will be sorry to know that a man who is so unfortunate as to have a judgment against him, and the sheriff goes after him, must submit to having it all taken from him.

This being, of course, in regard to a seed lien debt. (Reading):

The poor chap who is in difficulties, and whose possessions the sheriff is seizing, is placed in a most unfortunate position; ' the Government is taking every cent that is due by him, they are exacting their pound of flesh from him. I am going to prove it. Here is a letter from Mr. Charles H. Beddoe, superintending accountant, Department of the Interior, addressed to the sheriff, saying, that if a seizure has been made this concession to lelt half of the thing go until next year does not apply, but that he must take every cent out of the poor fellow who has a judgment against him. The letter is as follows:

"Ottawa, Jan. 8, 1916.

" J. Rutherford, Sheriff,

" Moosejaw, Sask.

" Re Dominion Seed Liens and Liens for relief.

" Dear Sir,-In reply to your favour of December 30, regarding the above, I beg to advise you that the ruling of the department in regard to seizures, is, that the full amount of [DOT]the Government's indebtedness must be provided for in full."

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CON

Auguste-Charles-Philippe-Robert Landry (Speaker of the Senate)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. I wish to call

the attention of the hon. member to rule 39, paragraph C:

The motion must not revive discussion on a matter which has been discussed in the same session.

The hon. member is discussing what he himself said the other day in the debate on the Address, and consequently I would ask him to conform his remarks to the rule.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I will endeavour to conform to that rule. I will read therefore from a copy which I have, and not from Hansard:

"While the Government is satisfied to collect one-half of the seed grain account in all cases where the security is in no way impaired, and the crop not interfered with, this does not apply where seizure has been made. Therefore, I would like your office to see that the total amount of indebtedness is collected. Unless in cases where half or part has been paid I will then advise you of the balance owing, which must be collected and remitted to this office.

" I trust that you will regard the above instructions as being specific and entirely satisfactory to your offlce. Thanking you for your co-operation, I am,

" Tour obedient servant.

" (Sgd.) Chas. A. Beddoe,

" Superintending Accountant."

I will endeavour, both in letter and in spirit, to observe the rule that I shall not renew the subject of a formed debate, although I have not noticed that rule observed very closely in this House in former years.

In the course of that occasion the Solicitor-General (Mr. Meighen) rose in his place, and, while I am not permitted to read his exact words, I may say generally that he stated that I was in error in believing that that was the condition; that there had been a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of instructions, and that no difference was being made between the man whose crops were seized, and the man whose crops were not under seizure. I told the Solicitor General, at the time, that I took his statement with a grain of salt- but that is not in Hansard, and so I could not read it even if the rule did not forbid. However, I took it with such a large grain of salt that I spent some money telegraphing to ascertain whether the statement thus volunteered by him was based on facts, or was simply a statement volunteered for the purpose of glossing over, in a more or less fair way, the charge made against the department. I sent the following telegram:

Ottawa, February 1, 1916.

John Rutherford,

Sheriff, Moosejaw.

Did Dominion Government countermand Bed-doe's instructions requiring full payment where seizures made?' Reply.

W. E. Knowles.

I received the following answer last night:

Moosejaw, February 1, 1916.

W. E. Knowles,

House of Ccmmons,

Ottawa.

Beddoe's instructions to of liens where seizure manded.

collect full payment made not courJter-

J. Rutherford,

Sheriff.

I look upon that, as requiring two observations, the first of which I shall merely make and not elaborate upon. It is unfortunate that statements by a Minister of the Crown should he found on investigation to be not worthy of the reliance that we should like to place upon a minister s statement when he undertakes to correct an ordinary, everyday member of the House, like myself. But it will be useful for Us, as a means of estimating in future the value of the statements volunteered by the Solicitor General.

My second observation is that this is a matter of the greatest public importance and of the greatest urgency. I represent a district 240 miles east and west on the main line of the C.P.R., and 175 miles north and south, from the international boundary to the middle of the province of Saskatchewan. In that territory there are thousands upon thousands of settlers. I am the representative here of a hundred thousand people. It is of the utmost urgency that these homesteaders, who were assisted by the Dominion of Canada a year ago, should not now have such pressure brought to bear upon them as is brought to beaT by this order of which I complain. I rise to urge the Government to countermand its drastic instructions by telegraph, and also in the most speedy manner possible to restore to the unfortunate homesteaders any money that has been taken from them by reason of those instructions. The Solicitor General has admitted that this is quite in order. He rose in his place, and he said that the department disapproved of the action taken, and he said also- though he was inaccurate in that-that instructions had been given to the contrary. Having agreed with me, that to require the re-payment of 100 per cent of the seed grain debt on the part of those who had executions against them, is unjust, it is the duty of the Government, without the loss of an hour, to relieve the people of the drastic measures brought to bear upon them.

The majority of these people are beginning in that western country; they are the pioneers of homesteading. In 1914 they had no crop; practically no crop at all. In 1915 they had a crop. The debt of a homesteader to the Government may run from $200 to $400. When the Government collects a seed grain debt, there is no exemption, and the sheriff cleans up as clean as possible. The consequence is that many will be left to face the cruel winter weather without a dollar to buy fuel. It is all very well for hon. members of this House, in this well-heated place, and with lots to eat and lots to wear, but it is vastly different in a homesteader's home, where a dollar means more than a hundred dollars does to a member of the Government, or probably to the average member of this House. If it was wise for the Government to make advances to these men; if it was wise for the Government, under the legislation passed, practically to go into partnership in order to furnish them the necessary seed, and to afford them relief in relation to fuel and provisions, it is a fortiori desirable and wise that the Government should now refrain from squeezing them, and that it should rather seek to afford them opportunity to continue as desirable homesteaders. The weather in the West, as hon. members no doubt are aware, has been extremely cold. Following the daily telegraphic weather reports, I notice that in my own town for two weeks past the thermometer has been at from twenty to thirty, and even to thirty-five degrees below zero; and during that time it has not once been above zero. Under these conditions, it is of the utmost importance that the Government should act wisely and reasonably in regard to these seed grain loans. If it is well to give a twelve months' extension to the wealthier farmers, who have no executions against them, a fortiori it is well to give an extension on half of the amount due by the poor men who have executions against them. I urge that the Government should telegraph countermanding these drastic instructions, and, as speedily as they can get the cheques written, refund to the homesteaders anything they may have taken from them over and above one-half of the seed grain loans. I move that this House do now adjourn.

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CON

William James Roche (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of the Interior)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Hon. W. J. ROCHE (Minister of the Interior) :

I am surprised at the hon. member for Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles) bringing this matter up on a motion to adjourn the

House, on the ground that it is a question of urgency. The question has already been dealt with by the department. The hon. gentleman is absolutely wrong in stating that the Government are imposing a hardship upon these people whose grain and chattels have been seized by their creditors. The Government has nothing to do with these seizures. Originally, as I am informed by the seed grain branch of my department, it was the practice of the Government to collect half of the indebtedness to it from those whose goods were under seizure by their creditors for other debts. Under legislation which the provincial governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta placed upon the statute book, our loans were made a prior claim, and when seizures were made under the provincial Act by other creditors, of course the Government had to take some steps to protect the treasury. Therefore, while we could justly have claimed the right to enforce payment of the total amount of our lien, we only collected one-half the amount from those under seizure. But the Solicitor General explained the matter the other day-I was not in the House at the time-and his explanation was absolutely correct. Owing to misinterpretation by Mr. Bruce Walker of the instructions he had received, they reversed the original policy and were collecting the full amount of seed grain indebtedness where seizures were made by other creditors. This having been brought to our attention, I asked the seed grain branch this morning to furnish me with a memorandum in reply to the remarks of the hon. gentleman the other day. The hon. gentleman had not the courtesy to send me notice that he was going to bring this matter up to-day, and so I am not able to reply to him with all the information I might have brought down. However, I desire to tell him that his fears have no justification whatever. This is the information I received:

The practice was to collect one-half of the seed grain indebtedness where seizures were made. In the early part of September, on instructions from Ottawa,

" Whenever it is brought *to the knowledge of the department that seed grain subject to lien is seized, an officer should then at once notify the sheriff or bailiff seizing and the execution creditor, if possible, or his solicitor, of the Government's claim, and the notice should state not only that the Government had a claim and the amount of the claim and wha*t

it is for, but should set out explicitly that the grain should not be interfered with until the Governmer,*t's claim was paid."

I understand that, owing to the representations made, the original practice of collecting only one-half has been reverted to. The Solicitor General was, therefore, absolutely correct in the statement he made the other day. (Beading):

Where full payment was insisted upon, the hardship to the farmer on account of the Government's action would in many cases be more imaginary tthan real; in fact, in some cases the farmers have expressed their thanks for the Government insisting on getting full payment. Suppose a farmer's crop was valued, for ?200 and it was seized for a claim of $200 due to a machine firm, the department having a lien for $200 for seed grain and provisions; when the seizure was made, departmental officers would step in and take the full amount of its claim, leaving the machine company noth-^ ing. In the general course of events, the de-' partment would likely render some assistance to >the farmer until his next crop was gathered, so that he would in that way he in a, much better position than if the machine firm's claim had been satisfied, and the department did nothing in connection wiith his unpaid obligation to the Government.

That is the view the department has taken. As this memorandum states, we have received thanks from some of the men who were seized upon, for the Government's insisting upon its claim. But it was only in a few instances that the claim was satisfied in full before the machine or other creditors came in. The hon. gentleman asks that a telegram be despatched to-day countermanding these orders. I may say that these orders have been countermanded some days ago. If the gentleman who has informed the hon. member for Moosejaw was not in possession of that information when he sent the wire to which the hon. gentleman has referred, I do not know why he was not. At any rate, those instructions were sent out from Ottawa several days ago.

Mr. McCRANEY; May I ask the hon. minister, on whose representation was the extension of time given for the payment; one-half this year and one-half next year, of the seed grain lien, was it on the representation of farmers, of boards of trade, or of machine men, and wholesale houses.

Mr. ROCHE; It was upon representation made by different interests, largely by farmers, who stated that owing .to their other indebtedness they were not in a position to meet all their liabilities, and they asked the Government to be more lenient with them and to extend the time for payment.

I think we received requests of a similar

character from boards of trade. Having received these representations, the Government came to the conclusion that, in view of all the circumstances, it would be well to collect only one-half this year.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Hon. FRANK OLIVER:

If I gather correctly what the Minister of the Interior said, he intimated that, in his method of collecting for seed advances, his department was following a precedent established by the Department of the Interior on a former occasion.

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CON

William James Roche (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of the Interior)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

I said nothing about that.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I am glad to be corrected, but I want to say that the department was not following a precedent set on a former occasion.

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CON

William James Roche (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of the Interior)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

I did not refer at all to any occasion prior to this year.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Very well, then; I will

take the liberty of referring to it. Never on any former occasion did any government of Canada take the position that this Government has taken: that of demanding that the first grain the settlers sold out of their new crops should be taken as payment of the Government's lien.

Mr. ROC'HE: Would the hon. gentleman inform me what method of collection was resorted to by the province of Alberta in 1908, when advances were made in that province?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I am not aware of what

was done by the province of Alberta; I am talking only about what was done by the Dominion of Canada.

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CON

William James Roche (Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs; Minister of the Interior)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

I may inform the hon.

gentleman that they collected by way of levying taxes, and that they collected nearly all during the first year.

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February 2, 1916