February 2, 1916

LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I am not disputing what my hon. friend said, but I do not see that it has any bearing upon the point that I have made. The Government has now' taken an entirely different attitude towards the collection of these seed grain liens than ever was before taken by any government in Canada. The minister suggests that the Alberta Government did this or did that. They certainly did not collect as this Government has collected: by demanding that the first load of grain that a man takes to the elevator shall be taken to pay the seed grain lien, and before he has an opportunity of buying an ounce of provisions or a stitch of clothing for his family. Such

action never was taken by the Alberta Government or by any other government. My hon. friend said that the Alberta Government collected by taxation. Certainly they collected by taxation, but that is a very different matter. By that method they gave a man opportunity to get the -money before they took it from him, but this -Government authorizes every elevator company, every railway company, everybody who has the handling of the farmer's grain, to take that grain from him when he offers it for sale.

Topic:   SEED GRAIN INDEBTEDNESS.
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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

The hon. gentleman knows that we have a lien on the grain.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Precisely. The Government has a lien on the grain, and because it has a lien on the grain it has a lien that takes precedence over every other right. This is the very reason why the Government did not need to take the action that it has taken in this case in order to secure its interests. In the case of the homesteader, the Government holds a lien upon his homestead; in the case of the man who has his patent, under provincial legislation this Government holds priority of right over any other judgment against his property. The Government are not, therefore, under any necessity of taking from the farmer the first dollar that he gets and that he needs for the requirements of his family; yet they have done it. And the Minister of the Interior stands up in this House at- this time, when men are freezing to death in the West for lack of fuel, and says that the taking of the whole of the lien from these farmers -is not a matter of urgency. I maintain, Mr. Speaker, that it is a -matter of very great urgency, -and that the Government would -be well advised to accept the suggestion of the hon. member for Moosejaw, and to wire, in terms that will not be misunderstood, that, in the first place, they are not going to require the whole of the payment from the -man who is unfortunate, and, in the next place, that they will not insist that the first load of grain that -comes in shall be used to pay the lien.

Topic:   SEED GRAIN INDEBTEDNESS.
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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROOHE:

Will the hen. gentleman explain what security the Government would have after the farmer sold his grain?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

The Government w'ould

then have no security on the grain, but they would have security on whatever property the farmer had.

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LIB
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

The Governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan have passed legislation giving this Government priority of right over mortgages on farms representing indebtedness on the part of the farmers who have received seed grain. Under these circumstances why should the Government be so insistent on its pound of flesh? I have no fault with the Government making collections as promptly as is reasonable, but, as the hon. member for Moose-jaw pointed out, what was the use of advancing grain to the farmer last summer in order to tide him over the winter and then, when he has the grain, to take it from him? If he was to toe allowed to starve, he might as well have starved last summer as this winter; then it would have been an -act of Providence, hut now it is an. act of this Government.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

By way of explanation I may state that the Government has been -so dreadfully hard on the farmers that out of the $13,000,000 expended upon seed grain for their relief, we have collected only a little over $1,000,000.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. BENNETT:

By the joint action of the Legislatures . of the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and of the Parliament of Canada, some $13,000,000 were advanced to the farmers of these two provinces for the purpose of providing them with seed grain and the necessities of life. This Parliament authorized the advance. The two legislatures made it po-sible that the money so advanced should be a first charge against the property of the person to whom it was lent, whether he be a homesteader or otherwise. That lien w-a>s' embodied in statutes passed by the Legislature of Alberta, and by the Legislature of Saskatchewan. The lien was registered in the proper way in the land titles office. So far as the personal lien was concerned, it gave expression to what the Privy Council has long since held, that a debt due to the Crown has priority over other debts. The hon. member for Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles) cannot possibly be excused for the statement he has just made, because he belongs to the legal profession, and it was necessary for him to pass some sort of an examination before he was allowed to practice law; and no man who has passed an examination that enabled him to practice law could have knowingly made the observations which my friend made this afternoon. He either did

it for the purpose of endeavouring to make political capital against the Government, or else he does not know what he is talking about. He must take either horn of the dilemma, as I shall show conclusively, for there is no middle course open. He complained this afternoon that where property had been seized this Government had directed a sheriff to exercise the prior lien of the Crown and collect the money due for seed grain. It will be observed that he based his remarks upon a seizure having been made by the sheriff. No seizure is necessary to enforce the lien of the Government for the seed grain supplied to the homesteaders. It is only when the farmer finds himself a judgment creditor that the sheriff seizes. It was the unfortunate financial position of the farmer that made possible a seizure by the sheriff, and the question of whether a seizure could or could not be made falls within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Legislature. If my hon. friend has a grievance, his grievance is against the Legislature of Saskatchewan that permits the sheriff to seize from farmers in war time. In the province of Alberta the legislature realized that very fact, and at the last session passed a statute providing that no seizure under execution should be made against any debtor, while this war lasted, without the consent of a judge, given on application made and a summons issued. My learned friend cannot possibly avoid knowledge of the fact that the issue of the execution is a matter over which the Legislature of Saskatchewan has control, and that this Parliament has nothing to do with it. It is a matter affecting property and civil rights within the province, and any attempt to exercise jurisdiction by this Parliament would be ultra vires of it. He must know-at least he should know-that if a judgment has been recovered against a homesteader and a seizure has taken place in consequence of an execution having issued, the whole control of that procedure is in the hands of the Legislature of Saskatchewan, over which my hon. friend exercises a very considerable influence, no doubt; and the representations he could make to them as to the harshness and cruelty of this procedure would, no doubt, have a very considerable effect. But those representations should not be made on the floor of this Parliament; they should be made to the Legislature and the Lieutenant Governor of the province of Saskatchewan.

The hon. member has based his remarks upon the further fact that, under these ex-

ecutions, the sheriff has seized and sold to guard the interests of all concerned. Then, *when the results of a husbandman's labours have been gathered in and the sheriff has gone out and sold the property, both provinces, Saskatchewan and Alberta, have passed the Creditors' Relief Act. Under that Act, the machine man and the mortgagee, and all persons who have judgments against the unfortunate farmer have to divide, pro rata, the money that is realized from the sale of his grain. In other words, the execution in the hands of the sheriff, which is directed against all the executable property held by the homesteader, realizes a certain sum of money; that money the sheriff puts in the bank, and he cannot distribute it until a certain period of time has elapsed, in order that all creditors may rank equally and get their rateable share of the money so realized from the sale of the goods seized under the sheriff's execution. Up to this point this Government has as little to do with it as the Government of Germany. Surely my hon. friend knows that. I must assume that he has forgotten, at the moment. Then, when the money is in the hands of the sheriff and notice has been given and the various judgment creditors have filed all their claims and are entitled to their ratable distribution of this money, what further have we? We have notice given to the sheriff that there is a Crown debt, and that Crown debt takes priority over all other claims and must be paid in full, and thus prevents a rateable distribution among these other creditors. There is no hardship to the farmer in that except that the Crown is getting paid in full for having supplied the homesteader with that wherewith he can pay part of his creditors, half,of the amounts due to them, and the Crown all.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

Since my hon. friend has such a preponderating knowledge of the law, could he say whether the Exemptions Act would apply against the Crown? No doubt it would against other execution creditors.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

The question whether the Exemptions Act would apply cannot be an issue in this case, because the sale has been made by the sheriff, and the exemptions have been claimed by the homesteader before the money has been realized. That must be apparent to anybody who knows the rudiments of law. Of course, after the exhibition given here this afternoon, I cannot expect my hon. friend to do more than shake his head. Not only is

this a fair thing, but it is one that the farmer would like to have put in force. Why? Because he complains bitterly against the machine company, against the mortgagee, against all his creditors who have sold his property under execution. He complained, and properly so, that they were permitted to do this in war time. Now he says: because you have done that, you are not going to get your money; but the people who supplied me with the seed are going to be paid in full, and you people who brought about my misfortune and distress can take your chance of ever being paid. That is the position in a nutshell. Not only did our legislature contemplate the possibility of this arising, but they passed a statute in which they said: Yrou cannot issue an execution

against any man under these circumstances unless you first go to a judge and get an order to do so.

I should like once more to summarize this position by saying that the facts that have been brought to the attention of the House by the hon. member for Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles) are such as,to warrant the closest scrutiny and attention by the authorities having power to deal with the matter; and I trust that, as a result of the attention directed to it to-day, legislation will be adopted in Saskatchewan to prevent executions being issued against these poor starving settlers in Saskatchewan, as has been done by a Liberal Government in the province of Alberta, in which I live.

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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. J. G. TURRIFF:

I am not going to follow the hon- gentleman in his learned dissertation upon the law. But neither he nor the Minister of the Interior has so far answered the question asked by the hon. member for Moosejaw (Mr. Knowles) as to why the Government has discriminated against the poor unfortunate farmer who has a judgment against him. The well-to-do farmer gets off with one-half his liabilities ; but in the case of the man who has been unfortunate and against whom there is a judgment, this Government steps in and says: "You can not get off with one-half your liabilities; you must pay the whole liability"; and my hon. friends on the Government benches think they have given an answer to this question when the hon. member for Calgary (Mr. R. B. Bennett) gets up and gives a learned dissertation on the law! It is not the law we want at the present time, for the poor farmer; it is some fair play, it is some

justice and some reasonableness, as my hon. friend from Edmopton (Mr. Oliver) has pointed out. Never in the history of the past did any Government of Canada take such drastic action as has been taken by this Government on this occasion.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. R. B. BENNETT:

Does my hon. friend say that this Parliament has power to prevent executions being issued or a levy made by the sheriff?

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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

My hon. friend knows as well as any hon. gentleman in this House that this Government has the right, if they wish, to say that only one-half of the seed grain indebtedness shall be collected. I never heard' of a case in the past where the repayment of one-half of the amount of the indebtedness for seed grain was insisted on in the first year.

But I am not here to argue the legal aspects of the case at all. What I want to get from my hon. friend the Minister of the Interior is a promise. It appears that the sheriff of Moosejaw did not get the instructions which the Minister of the Interior says were sent. What I want to ask is, will the minister repeat those instructions to the sheriff at Moosejaw to-day by telegram?

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

I will make inquiries as to the hour when the instructions were sent and as to whether the sheriff would receive a message in time to-night.

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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

Why not send another telegram? Surely the Government are not so hard up that they cannot afford to send another message.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

I am not objecting to sending another telegram. These instructions have been sent out, and they have not yet reached the sheriff. I will see if they can reach him to-night.

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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

I would like an assurance from the hon. minister that a message will be sent to Moosejaw to-day in order to relieve these settlers. My hon. friend the Minister of the Interior has also neglected to answer the question as to whether the full amount has been taken in the past, or at all events since those instructions were sent, or whether lie would be prepared to take half or make a refund in those cases of settlers who, unfortunately, had not made their collection.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

We will deal with these cases on their merits, and see that justice is done in every case.

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LIB

John Gillanders Turriff

Liberal

Mr. TURRIFF:

I am afraid that that is the way my hon. friend has been dealing with the matter up to the present, and it has not been very satisfactory to the farmers who are not in the position to pay for seed grain. However, the matter has been brought to the attention of the Government, and if they fail to deal with it the responsibility will be on them.

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February 2, 1916