July 20, 1917

CON

William Sora Middlebro

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MIDDLEBRO:

I shall read the resolution to see whether the member for St. John was justified in coming to that conclusion, or whether there was an attempt to give a wrong impression to the committee. The resolution says:

And further to provide that the Board may loan, upon such terms and conditions as may he prescribed, to any such settler an amount not exceeding two thousand dollars for acquiring land for agricultural purposes, payment of encumbrance* on lands used for agricultural purposes.

They do not even have to lend the money upon the security of the land; they may lend on any security and upon such terms as they deem prudent; and they may lend the money for the purpose of paying off a prior encumbrance. So that in the case cited by my hon. friend, that of a man who had a farm worth $2,000 against which there was an encumbrance of $250, the Government would be justified, under the terms of the resolution, in paying off the first mortgage and in that way granting a loan, or they could pay off the first mortgage and take a loan for $2,000. . The resolution, therefore, outlines clearly the powers contained in the Bill as read by the Minister of the Interior.

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LIB

William Pugsley

Liberal

Mr. PUGSLEY:

The hon. gentleman has attempted to answer something which I never said and which I did not dream of saying. I was pointing out that in the eastern provinces, where the Crown lands are owned in the right of the provinces, it might be desirable to buy land-which, 1 understand, can be obtained at a low price -and agree to pay the Provincial Government for it an amount running over a period of years. I thought it would be a great advantage to the returned soldier that he should be able to borrow money from the Government upon second mortgage on his property, farm implements or stock. The minister stated that the Government could not take a second mortgage under those circumstances. I was suggesting that it was desirable that that should be done, if the Board were satisfied that a settler of reasonable energy and thrift wanted the money for productive purposes-perhaps to clear the land, perhaps for drainage purposes, the erection of buildings, or the purchase of stock. I think it is a great mistake that the Government should not be able under those circumstances to take a second mortgage upon the property, in addition, of course, to security that might be taken

upon personal property. Notwithstanding the great ability of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Middlebro) who is the Chief Whip on the other side; who, when he rises in his place to speak about anything which the Government has done, uses the word "we," never forgetting to convey the impression that he is an adjunct to the Government-notwithstanding what he says, I prefer in this case to take the statement of the Minister of the Interior as to the real intent of this legislation -

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LIB

George Ewan McCraney

Liberal

Mr. McCRANEY:

When this resolution was before the House on a previous occasion I mentioned the case of Private Baldwin of Saskatoon. Private Baldwin is a returned soldier who lost his leg. He had been a homesteader before the war; he left his homestead to enlist, and he now wants to go back to his land. I hope that the provisions of the legislation which will be introduced by the minister will apply to land which had been already homesteaded or purchased as well as to land which will hereafter be taken up by returned soldiers.

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LIB
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

The homesteader who is now on service will, on his return, be able to take advantage of this loan?

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LIB
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

The provision for the reservation of land is somewhat questionable. In the first place, reservations are in themselves an impediment to the general settlement of the country. In the next place unless there is some reason why the Government, for the sake of supervision, desires to keep a number of homesteading soldiers close together, it will be a very serious drawback, not only to the settlement of the country, but to the soldiers themselves, if the soldiers are to be allowed to exercise this privilege only within reserved areas. I do not object to a provision for reservation, so that in extreme cases action may be taken to give the ^ soldiers the first opportunity of obtaining a desirable piece of country. But if the Government put in reservation, say, in the Peace River district, a desirable piece of country for the purposes of this Bill, ordinary settlement might be prevented from coming in and the soldiers themselves might not come in in the end. The Peace River country is a very large country, but it is what we might call spotted: certain areas are very desirable, and other large tracts are very much less desirable. So that when we speak of the great area of the Peaoe

Eiver country and then speak of the advantages of that country, there is apt to be confusion of ideas.

There are exceedingly good portions of the Peace river county, but the land is not all of the same character, and so in dealing with the Peace Eiver country, it is quite possible that the Government might do both the development of the country and the soldiers themselves very great injury by applying a policy of reservation. I am, therefore, going to ask the minister: What is the proposed policy of the Government in that particular? Is it considered to be desirable to keep in certain localities the soldiers, who are to get the benefit of this section and who occupy homestead lands?

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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. EOCHE:

The commission is given the power to inspect the land and to recommend to the Minister of the Interior the reservation of any particular area suitable for the location of returned soldiers, and in whatever locality they deem best suited for the purpose. I quite agree with the hon. member it would be impolitic to retain that for permanent reservation. That would prevent, as he has explained, ordinary settlers coming into the country from locating in that reservation, and at the same time, the soldiers might not take as great advantage of the reservation as we would hope. But we are limiting that reservation. The legislation will provide for the reservation to last for a maximum period of three years after the close of the war. We thought that surely within that time any soldiers that were going to locate upon the land would do so. The reservation may be lifted on the recommendation of the commissioner sooner than that. But the soldier is not confined to that reservation; he can go beyond it and select any homestead land he desires, and he will get the same privilege as he would receive on those lands that are reserved.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVEE:

The important point is that the soldier may locate anywhere he pleases and still receive the benefit of this legislation.

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LIB
LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVEE:

That is entirely satisfactory. This authority of reservation should be exercised with a fair regard not only to the interest of the soldier but to the development of the country. It will not . be to the interest of the soldier settler that the development of the country be retarded, and if it is the intention of the Government to hold land

under reservation for three years after the war, that would be a huge mistake, to the detriment of all parties concerned. My suggestion would be this, that a reservation be not made unless and until it is expected it will be brought into use, and then notice should be given that that reservation is for the benefit of the soldiers; that it will remain for so many months for their benefit, and that after that time it will be open to general settlement. I certainly will not favour the closing of land from settlement for any considerable period, or 5 p.m. except under circumstances under which it would be understood it was going to be required and desired by the soldiers. I would be glad to endorse the suggestion of my hon. friend from Bona-venture (Mr. Marcil) in regard to the settlement of Canadians who, by reason of being reservists of allied countries, left Canada to serve in the armies of those countries. They are our citizens, and it would be a gracious and just act that they should be given the same consideration as though they were fighting in our own armies, because we are all fighting in the one cause.

I would follow the suggestion made only so far as it refers to citizens of Canada at the time of their call to service in their home countries.

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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. EOCHE:

Would the hon. member include in that list, for instance, the Japanese who were Canadian citizens before going over to engage in the war?

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVEE:

It would be very hard, of course, to refuse them consideration if we included the others. That would be a matter for consideration.

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LIB

Charles Marcil

Liberal

Mr. MAECIL:

I have here a newspaper published in Montreal, and called La Vic-toire, which is a good name. It is the organ of the French people settled in Canada. I see m it an article signed by Mr. Chevassu, a French reservist, a British citizen, a former member of the press gallery here, and a former secretary of the mayor of Montreal. He was one of the first to go to the front, and, I understand, he was wounded at the battle of the Marne. His article, which is a strong one, is headed, "Shall we have the same rights and the same privileges?" He claims that the Frenchmen and Belgians settled in Canada, British citizens, who responded to the call of duty as soon as that call was sounded, and who comes back to this country, should be given the same opportunity of settling on the land as our own returned soldiers. The minister knows how valuable the French and Belgian farmers are and

how difficult it is to get them into this country in amy large numbers, as they do not emigrate so freely as the farmers of other countries do. The writer of this article hopes, and he says it is almost a conviction on the part of these people, that the Canadian Government will not refuse their request. On the question of settlement in the provinces, I would not like to have any misunderstanding. Suppose the province of Quebec gives a grant of land to a returned soldier, will this Government Supplement that by a Dominion grant to enable him to work the land? If so, will the Government take a mortgage on the property, or how will it give such a grant?

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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROCHE:

Under this legislation there is nothing to debar that man from receiving the monetary assistance provided by the legislation so long as the commission can get similar security. The security has to be agreed upon to the satisfaction of the commission.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

Will the Bill set out the terms and conditions under which the settler will acquire his grant and also the terms and conditions on which the loan of money will be made to him?

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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROCHE:

The Bill deals in general outlines and will deal with the principle, but it is intended to have the administration of the Bill carried out under a set of regulations by the commissioner. This is the policy that has been adopted in Australia and New Zealand, where, I understand-, it has thus far been found to operate well, and we thought it would be a good idea to follow out the same policy.

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LIB

Charles Marcil

Liberal

Mr. MARCIL:

Is there a time fixed when this Bill goes into operation and when the soldiers begin taking up the land, or is the Government going to wait until the war is over?

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LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROCHE:

As soon as this legislation comes into force the land will be available for the soldiers.

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LIB

Frank Oliver

Liberal

Mr. OLIVER:

While it is very desirable that aid should be given in this practical form to returned soldiers as an inducement to them to occupy land and take up cultivation, I have seen a great deal of discussion on the matter that seems to me to have been based on a misunderstanding of the situation. In many cases the discussions that I have read have appeared to assume that this Bill was intended to deal rather with the disabled or partially disabled men. That, of course, is a mistake. Other provision would have to be made for the disabled man. This only applies to the man who comes back in the full exercise of his faculties and abilities,, ani who has the enterprise and desire to establish himself on the land.

I do not think this measure will be taken advantage of to nearly the extent that many people seem to think; in other words, I do not think it will solve the problem of the returned soldier, or even measurably solve it. So far as this Bill will attract our returned soldiers1 to the land it will serve a good purpose, but it will not -solve the problem of the returned soldier. It is a help towards a solution, but the problem is very much larger than this Bill will by any possibility solve. I should like to follow what my hon. friend from St. John has said, that of the vast number of millions of acres of available free land there is very little, except in some portions of the Peace River country, that is not covered with woods and is more or less difficult to bring under cultivation. So that while the financial assistance that is proposed here is substantial, and of great advantage to the man of ability, industry and enterprise who desires to establish himself on a farm, even in that wooded country, it could not really bring the 160 acres under cultivation. I am not suggesting for a moment that this assistance is not desirable, or that it will not be useful; it is desirable, and it will be useful, but conditions in our western country to-day are not as they were ten years ago, when millions of acres of -prairie land were available for homesteading, when the question of roads hardly came up at all because there was the prairie to drive over, and when the -question of clearing did not exist, because there was nothing to clear. But now we have to deal with a country that is very largely of a wooded character, and bringing a country of that kind under cultivation involves a very large expenditure of labour or cash, or both, and the lapse of a considerable amount of time, for wooded country cannot be brought under cultivation like prairie land, in a year or two; it takes years to do it. So we are dealing with different conditions in the West from what prevailed in former years, and that fact must be taken into consideration in any problem of settlement. The problem of settlement in the West to-day is a different problem from what it was ten years ago, and it must be approached in a different way. So I say there is very great force in the argument of my hon. friend from St. John. I myself

saw the statement made by the President of the Canadian Pacific railway some months ago when he suggested that land not now being used for a beneficial purpose, good land conveniently situated, which would cost a minimum of expenditure to bring under cultivation, should be expropriated- I think that was his suggestion- at a fair valuation, and should be brought under cultivation and placed at the disposal of the soldier.

There is a good deal of merit in that suggestion, because the cost of acquiring the wooded land and bringing it under cultivation practically amounts to the value of the prairie land that is now under private ownership apd is not being benefioiaily used. It would, as the minister has said, mean a larger investment,; but, on the other hand, to bring the wooded land under cultivation an investment has to be made in some form or another-either by lapse of time, or by a greater expenditure of effort, or by the actual expenditure of money. The isoldier might very well spend the greater part of the $2,500 that he borrows in merely bringing his land or a part of it under cultivation, and then have no team or implements or stock with which to .go on with and bring in returns. I think the Government might very well consider the suggestion made by Lord Shaugh-nessy. I would not suggest that this land be bought at an extortionate price, but it is just as cheap to buy good prairie land that is well situated and sell it to the soldier as it is to lend him money to cultivate wooded land that is not well situated, where roads have to be made, and where other great difficulties exiist. On the wooded land the soldier's time, money and energy has to be expended in bringing nature under subjection, whereas on the prairie the same expenditure of time, energy and money would be producing actual monetary results. By utilizing this prairie land that is not now being cultivated, and of which it is to be regretted there is such an enormous amount in sight, we will be securing production to a greater degree and in a very much shorter time than lif we make provision for assisting the soldier who is going on land that for the most part is wooded, and which will cost time and money before it can be made productive.

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July 20, 1917