February 2, 1916

LIB

William Melville Martin

Liberal

Mr. W. M. MARTIN:

I have just a word to say. I was unfortunately unable to be present when the question first came up. My hon. friend from Calgary (Mr. R. B. Bennett) attempted to deal with it by referring to the law as it exists in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. My hon. friend from Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff) has just pointed out that he has not touched the real point at all. The point we have been trying to make in this House in two or three speeches that have been delivered has been that the farmers of Western Canada are not getting fair treatment from this Government, and in so far as my observation goes I am prepared to repeat that statement. I go further and say that the farmer in Western Canada has never got a square deal from the present Government. My hon. friend from Calgary referred to the fact that under certain orders in council, or certain provincial statutes passed in the province of Alberta, no one can have an execution issued against a debtor without first going to the judge for the district or to a judge of the Supreme Court. I am surprised to hear that the law of the province of Alberta goes so far. I must confess that, although I am a member of the legal profession, I was not aware that the law of the province of Alberta went so far. However, my hon. friend has made the statement, and no doubt we must take it for what it is worth; no doubt the hon. member knows. In the province of Saskatchewan, from where I come, they did not pass any such moratorium legislation when the war broke out. We did, however, have certain moratorium legislation designed to protect the volunteers and reservists who went to the front to fight the battles of the Empire. I think my hon. friend from Calgary-and I think I know him pretty well-would be the first to object to any such legislation. I believe that the less you interfere in the ordinary course between debtor and creditor the better. In the province of Saskatchewan since the war began a good deal of assistance* has been given by financial institutions, and mortgage institutions, to men in straitened

circumstances. What I do object to is the bungling -of the Administration that has gone on during the past three or four years.

I took occasion last year to discuss the matter of the distribution of seed grain. In the fall of 1914 circular letters were distributed all through that country stating that every man there, no matter whether he was on patented or unpatented land, could get a supply of seed grain. I know now why it was sent out, I know it was sent out as a precursor to a general election which it was designed to hold in 1914; but in January, 1915, there was a change of mind and for weeks nobody knew who would get the seed grain. That is the effect of bungling administration in some department of the Government.

I have noticed that when a member on this side gets up to champion the cause of the farmer, there is a certain amount of sneering and grinning on the part of hon. members opposite. Now, I come from an agricultural province and one to which I am proud to belong, a province which I think is just as good as the province of Ontario in which I was born. I believe that in years to come the great province of Saskatchewan, considering its area, will produce as much No. 1 hard wheat as any similar area in the world. The province of Saskatchewan is not a manufacturing province; we have our likes and dislikes; we are creatures of circumstance just as are the men who live in the manufacturing cities of Ontario. But I claim that the farmer does not get the sympathy that he is entitled to. The province of Saskatchewan is not >a manufacturing province. I do not expect to see the conditions for manufacturing in that province established for many years to come, perhaps not in my lifetime. Probably we could not manufacture at a profit. But I repeat that since this Government came into power the western farmer has not got a square deal. I could give many instances, perhaps not designed, of their bungling administration in Western Canada. Take the dirty seed grain of last year. There are more weeds in the province of Saskatchewan to-day than there ever were in the history of that province, and that condition is largely due to the dirty seed grain that was distributed-I saw it in three different places. I saw bags of seeds with tickets attached to them with the words, " noxious weeds and wild oats." I have been informed that wild oats cannot be removed from .seed grain. What was the use of sending out seed grain filled with 33-R-16

dirty weeds? From the date of the distribution of seed grain down to the time of collection there has been nothing but bungling in connection with seed grain distribution. My hon. friend from Calgary gives us a dissertation on the law, which* every lawyer in the province knows just as well as he does, and attempts to cover up the real facts. The statement I make is that this Government, by means of its Prussian methods of collection for seed grain, is at present throttling the western farmer, and trying to take from the man who has debts to pay the very means of paying them and of existing during the coming.winter.

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

My hon. friend (Mr. W. M. Martin) has used some rather strong language in the course of his remarks. He has stated that the western farmers have never, in his judgment, received a square deal, as he terms it, from the present Government. Now, I have had something to do with this matter of relief to the farmers in the districts of Saskatchewan which were visited by drought something over a year ago. Let us consider for a moment the circumstances under which that relief was afforded, and see whether there is any ground for complaint that the farmers in question did not receive a square deal from this Government. It was shortly before the war broke out-and when we were experiencing financially the * full consequences of it- that this matter first came to the attention of the Government, and to my attention as Minister of Finance. It was a time of very great strain. Our revenues were being cut in half. The London money market was. absolutely closed and so far as we could see there was no relief to be had in the American market. Conditions, both financially and commercially, were trying in the extreme. If there ever was a time when financial stress was imposed upon a Government of Canada it was during that period succeeding the outbreak of war, when the matter of the drought in Saskatchewan, and the need of the farmers in the different districts affected was brought to the attention of the Government. What was the attitude of the Government? There was no question whatever about the matter of affording relief, although in the case of the farmers whose lands had been patented, it was the clear duty of the Provincial Government, as distinguished from the Dominion Government, to deal with the situation.

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LIB

William Melville Martin

Liberal

Mr. W. M. MARTIN:

If that is the case, and there is something in what the hon. gentleman says, why was it that in November, 1914, .circulars were spread broadcast throughout Saskatchewan and also, I think, throughout Alberta,, promising to give seed grain to any man whether he were on patented or unpatented land?

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

It was perfectly manifest to us, dealing with this matter, not from a political standpoint but from the economic standpoint, that in respect of those settlers who had been visited by that terrible affliction of drought, the Provincial Government would not be able to afford relief. There is no ddubt whatever that, in strictness, once a patent has been issued to a farmer, he should look to the Provincial Government and not to the Dominion Government for needed relief and assistance. If the Dominion Government is to afford relief in the case of those whose lands have been patented in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, it is perfectly clear that the Dominion Government would have to afford assistance in the case of others in a similar plight in any other province of the Dominion. It is, to my mind, not open to doubt that, once a patent has issued, once the land becomes subject to the provincial jurisdiction, the duty is cast upon the Provincial Government to afford relief if relief is required. I do not mean to say that the Dominion should not, in the case of a visitation of a serious character, from the compassionate motives afford a certain measure of relief, but just as the primary duty rests upon a municipality for giving relief within the municipality, so the primary duty rests upon the province, where relief is to be afforded within the confines of that province to those whose lands have been patented. It was perfectly apparent that the Provincial Government, having regard to the financial conditions pre-

3 p.m. vailing at that time, was not in a position to afford that relief. There was no doubt in our minds that relief should be afforded, and we had no hesitation in affording it, although we knew perfectly well at the time that difficulties would arise subsequently in the matter of collections and that the charges which have been made on the floor of this House would be made with partisan motives. We knew that perfectly well, but, knowing that, it did not deter us from our duty, and we did our duty.

What did we do? Under the circumstances .which I have mentioned, and with the financial situation such as I have described, the Government of Canada advanced a sum of no less than $13,000,000; about $6,000,000 for seed grain and $7,000,000 for relief and fodder. We were not paying our own money; it was the money of the Dominion of Canada, for which this Govern: ment, like all governments, is trustee. We had to deal with the matter on a business basis. Personally, I would very much rather that we had done what was done in 1907-8; I would rather have made advances to the Provincial Government and allowed them in turn to make the advances, to the farmers. But, as a matter of fact, the Provincial Government did not desire to have it done in that way, for the reason that, not only 4s there no political advantage to be gained from affording relief to farmers under these circumstances but, on the contrary, it is a political disadvantage to the Government which does it, because, at some time, ultimately, the money has to be collected. i

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

I do not think the Minister is entitled to make that slur against the Provincial Government.

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

If I am in order, Mr. Speaker, I am entitled to make the observation I have made, and I think I am in order. I do not want for one moment to speak disrespectfully of a Provincial Government, but I am expressing my belief that the Provincial Governments did not desire to make this distribution. If they refused, as I am now informed they did refuse to make this distribution, what was the position? The duty of assisting the farmers of the West was cast upon the Government of Canada, and we were not only willing but most desirous of assisting, them, we were desirous, in the first place, because we sympathized greatly with those farmers in the drought-stricken districts, and because, in the second place, if there ever was a, time in the history of Canada when it was desirable that production in thi^ country should be increased, it was that particular time. We raised, under circumstances of financial difficulty, such as never before had confronted this country, not $2,000,000 or $3,000,000, but no less a sum than $13,000,000. And, in the face of this, the hon. member for Regina (Mr. Martin) says that the Government did not give a square deal to the western farmers.

I 'ask this House and the country if there could have been any squarer deal. What could this Government have done more than it did? Governor's warrant after governor's warrant-there being no appropriation by Parliament-was passed to enable us to furnish this much-needed assistance to the farmers of Western Canada, $6,000,000 for seed grain and some $7',000,000 for fodder and relief. Under the circumstances which I have described, the Dominion Government furnished all the money that was* asked for, all that was required ti meet the needs of the situation. Having done that, is the remark of my hon. friend justified, that there was not a square deal, and that this Government acted harshly and oppressively in the matter? What could any government have done in excess of what we did to meet that most trying situation with which we so greatly sympathized?

This money, as I have already said, is money for which we are the trustees of the people of Canada. It is money that belongs to the Dominion which embraces all the provinces. The Government is the trustee, for the money and it had to take security for it. As I have said, it is the primary duty of the Provincial Government to deal with matters of this kind, but let me point out that the case is different when patept-s have not yet been issued. Where patents have not yet been issued upon homestead lands the duty is cast upon the Dominion (and that duty has been recognized not only by this but by preceding governments) to make advances for seed grain to homesteaders. On the other hand, in the case of farmers who have patents, the duty is directly upon the Provincial Government.

It was the duty of this Government to take security and the matter was discussed in this House. We took security for the seed grain along these lines. We took- and of course, it was necessary to get legislation, by the Saskatchewan and Alberta Legislatures to give effect to our intentions-a first charge upon the land of the farmer who got advances for seed grain. In addition to that, we were given by this legislation, a lien upon the grain itself which was raised from that seed grain which we had supplied to the farmers. In the case of moneys -advanced for relief, we took a charge next after all existing charges upon the land, and we took a lien upon the product of the -seed grain. Now, that was the security which we held

33*J-R-16

in trust for the people of this country. I do not mean to say for one moment that the trust should not be exercised with discretion and good judgment. It should not be oppressively exercised, and I know it was not in the mind of any member of the Government to harshly exercise our powers in the collection of advances which we made for the purpose of affording relief and of enabling the farmer to purchase his seed grain. But, we did hold that security-The crop was grown and harvested-and' it was one of the best crops in the history of Canada.

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CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

The best.

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CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

It was the best crop by far, I think, in the history of Canada, and with the exception of last year, I think, the prices were the best obtained for a great many years.

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LIB
CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir THOMAS WHITE:

Well, the price was around ninety cents a bushel. Now, what attitude should the Government take with regard to the collection of these moneys which are owed to the Government by the farmers who had borrowed from us for the purposes which I have mentioned? Let me in passing call the attention of the House to the fact, that in order to secure these advances for seed grain, we took a lien, in priority to mortgagees. The mortgagees themselves were therefore interested in the payment of interest and in the collection of principal upon the advances we had made, because if the interest was allowed to accumulate, and if the charge was allowed to remain, this would have an important bearing upon the value of their -securities which had been taken under the laws of the province as first mortgage securities. The matter came up for consideration, and as the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Roche) has stated, various representations were made to us as to what collections we should make from the farmers in respect of those advances. Representations, as he has stated, came from farmers, from boards of trade, and in addition, *strong representations came from financial interests which had invested money in the Northwest. The Government was not decisively influenced by any of those representations, but we took them all under consideration. I remember the decision of the

Government as distinctly as if the matter had been discussed yesterday. I discussed it with the Minister of the Interior and with the Solicitor General (Mr. Meighen), who naturally came to me as Minister of Finance in regard to it. What I said then was this: let us do the right, and fair, and decent, and generous thing; we must, on the one hand, be fair to the people of Canada, whose money we have- advanced; we must not allow any part of our security to be lost if we are going to be at a disadvantage later in the collection of our advances, because we are the trustees for the people of Canada; but I said: let us do the fair thing. What is the fair thing under these circumstances? Here is a bounteous crop for which a fair price is being obtained. We thought that as thqse farmers had a hard year last year if would be oppressive to attempt to collect all the advances made either for .seed grain or for relief, and we discussed what it would be fair for us to collect, fair to the people of Canada on the one hand and fair to the farmers on the other. What we determined was that in cases where advances had been made both for seed grain and for relief, we should collect one-half of the advance made for seed grain, and allow the advance for relief to remain over; but where advances had been made for relief and not for seed grain that we should'collect one-half of the advances so made. That seemed to us, under the circumstances, to be a reasonable arrangement with the farmers of the West, and it means less than one-third of the whole. Although I do not think for one moment that we should insist upon the carrying out of the representations made by the parties at the time they borrowed, yet the fact remains that it was represented to us that this loan was to be a strict loan, and that it would in all probability be paid back within the year. The course that we took was a fair, just and generous course towards the farmers. The hon. member v for Edmonton (Mr. Oliver) has called attention to the fact that the Department of the Interior engaged the elevator companies, and I think he said the railways also, to collect this money from the proceeds of the grain as sold. As I have stated, part of the security held by the Government was a lien upon the grain. Now, if I have a lien upon the grain of my hon. friend from Edmonton, and he sells that grain, what becomes of my lien? That lien has gone; the grain is gone; and I can not enforce the lien on that grain in the

elevator at Fort William or at Liverpool. Therefore, if the Government was to conduct this business on a business basis at all, or on the semblance of a business basis, it was necessary for it to take steps to see that, in cases where the farmers were able to pay, its liens should not be defeated, and that is all that the Government did. After all is said and done, and after all the strong talk that has passed across the floor of this House as to the oppression exercised by this Government, as to its injustice, as to its Prussian methods, to use the expression of my hon. friend from Eegina (Mr. W. M. Martin), what is the great outstanding fact at the present time with regard to the advances which the Government made to the farmers of certain portions of Saskatchewan for the purpose of relief and for the purchase of seed grain? The outstanding fact is this: we advanced, under the circumstances that I have mentioned, $13,000,000-every dollar that was asked for, every dollar that was required. We advanced it because we sympathized with the farmers; we desired to help them and to put them on their feet, and we desired to increase production. What is the fact to-day? This oppressive Government, this Prussian Government, has actually collected up to date about $1,000,000, or one-thirteenth of the entire amount advanced. There are some things that do not require to be argued at length, and I purpose leaving my statement just as I have presented it to the House.

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LIB

James Alexander Robb

Liberal

Mr. J. A. EOBB (Huntingdon):

The Minister of Finance has laid considerable emphasis on the statement that this was a business proposition. In my judgment, he failed to answer the charge of the hon. member for Eegina (Mr. Martin) that the Government had bungled the seed grain question from the beginning. While I admit the claim of the Minister of Finance, that it was a business proposition, that the Government were handling the money of the people of Canada, and that they should administer their trust fairly to all the people, including the western settlers, the Minister of Finance tells us that the Government had decided in the month of November, 1914, that it would be their policy to supply the western farmer with seed grain, and at that time wheat was selling at a little less than a dollar a bushel. But the Government waited until wheat went up to about a dollar and a half a bushel before they started to buy.

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

I desire to correct the hon. gentleman. He made a somewhat similar statement last session, but 'later I was able to present information that absolutely contradicted him.

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LIB

James Alexander Robb

Liberal

Mr. ROBB:

Then, perhaps the hon. minister would tell us what they paid for seed wheat?

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

I have not the figures before me now.

Mr. ROiBB: My recollection is, that it ran about $1.53 .a bushel, on the average- it might be a few cents more or a few cents less. I do not know at what price it was sold to the western farmer. Having this in mind, what are we to think of the subsequent action of the Government? They carried out the policy of purchasing seed grain for the western farmer; and then, when the western farmer sends the product of that seed, his crop of 1915, to Fort William, to hold it for an advance on the market, this same Government that had bought the seed wheat at so high a figure, jumps in and commandeers the wheat, fixing a price about 76 cents a bushel under its market value in Liverpool. These facts bear out the statement made by the hon. member for Regina, that this question of seed grain was bungled from start to finish.

But the rights and interests of the people of Canada as a whole must be conserved, and I think that not much fault can be found with the department for seeing to it that this money is collected. I do not see why the western farmer could not pay for his seed grain this year. Surely he cannot expect to be ever in a better position to repay such a loan than he is in this year. I think the Government are justified in doing what they can to collect for the seed grain, without unduly oppressing the farmers. But I submit that the statement of the hon. member for Regina (Mr. Martin) that this seed grain question has been bungled is borne out by the facts.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I desire to say a word in reply. My hon. and learned friend from Calgary (Mr. Bennett) offered an observation or two . He did not address himself to the point at issue, but called attention to the qualifications of the person who had brought the subject forward. It may be that I do not know anything about law. Suppose we assume that I am not a lawyer,

but only a farmer. If as a farmer I made the remarks I did, and if the hon. gentleman was familiar with the subject, it would not be necessary for him to rise and make an answer based upon the want of knowledge of law of the person who raised the question. I am afraid the hon. member has proved -so much among kings and queens, and jacks and knaves, that he hardly knows enough to be civil to a back bencher in this House. I do not stand here on my knowledge of law. I am here representing the homesteader, and there is nothing of which I am prouder. I hope that as long as I behave myself I shall retain their confidence and that, no matter how poor a lawyer I may be, and no matter how great a lawyer, or how great an aristocrat, the -hon. member for Calgary may be, I shall still be able to voice the needs of my people. And if the hon. member for Calgary has much more to say, I am afraid I shall have to ask the Solicitor General to tell us again just what kind of a member the hon, member for Calgary is.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Solicitor General of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Mr. Speaker, I would

ask you if the hon. gentleman is in order in speaking by way of reply on a matter brought forward under rule 39?

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mir. SPEAKER:

My opinion is that on such a question as the one before the House, not only the hon. member for Moo-sejaw (Mr. Knowles), but also the hon member for Regina (Mr. Martin), and the hon. the Minister of Finance (Sir Thomas White), should remember that paragraph (b) of the rule says:

No more than one matter can be discussed on the same motion.

The remarks of the hon. gentleman were very interesting, but I will ask him in future to confine himself within this rule.

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I will observe the rule, Mr. Speaker, and will confine my remarks to a word or two. I desire to explain a matter to the Minister of the Interior (Mr. Roche), who is always courteous. I did not send him word that I intended to bring this matter forward, but I did send word to the Solicitor General, as it was with that hon. gentleman that I had the discussion. That word did not reach the Solicitor General, though I sent it to his room about three o'clock. Had I thought of it, I would certainly have sent notice to the Minister of

the Interior, but I saw that he was in his place before prayers, and I thought it was' not necessary. After all that has been said the fact remains that the sheriff of Moose-jaw, a large judicial district, has not had word that he is to exempt the people from one-half of this indebtedness for the present. Will the Minister of the Interior wire those instructions to-day? Those farmers who had not executions against them escape with the payment of only half. The hon. member for Calgary (Mr. Bennett) may say what he likes, but if I am asking that which is unreasonable or illegal in regard to those who have executions against them then the department is doing that which is unreasonable and illegal in the case of those who have no executions against them. If the Government can legally excuse those who have not executions, why can they not as well excuse those who have? In the face of the hon. member for Calgary, the Government say they are going to excuse these men to the extent of half, but the sheriff of Moosejaw says that he has nothing on his flies except the order to collect the whole amount. A telegram is cheap-dt will only cost $1.01 with war tax. Will not the Minister of the Interior send a wire-even though he may call it supererogatory-in order to get word to the sheriff in Moosejaw, that the desire of the department is that he should collect from those who have judgments against them only half the debt? I am not trying to make political capital, I am only trying to make it easy for the department to take this necessary action. Will the minister send this wire? And will he refund the money? What I say is not in any contentious spirit, but I only ask the minister will he not be good enough to promise that he will send this telegram?

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CON

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

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROCHE:

The hon. member seems bent on getting a promise that the telegram shall immediately be sent. But instructions have already been sent out-I do not know exactly on what day. I promised the hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Turriff) that I would make inquiries this afternoon and find out when the instructions were sent out, and if they have not had time to arrive in the sheriff's hands by this time, I will see that he is informed. And if the collections have been made in full, we will make a refund of half. What hardship can there be in that, even though a telegram is not sent?

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LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

Can not you wire and save time?

Motion of Mr. Knowles to adjourn the House negatived.

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February 2, 1916