June 26, 1923


House again in Committee on Bill No. 222, to amend the Dominion Lands Act, Mr. Gordon in the chair. On section 2-Transfer of holders of letters patent in pre-emption and purchased homestead area to another homestead, by provincial certificate.


LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

At the request of the hon. member for Vancouver Centre (Mr. Stevens), this clause stood, and I did not make any explanation at the time in connection with it. The explanation is that for some considerable time, the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have made representations asking that individuals who have homesteaded in the southern areas known as the drier areas of those provinces be given the privilege of securing a second homestead if they were desirous of doing so, in the northern area of the particular province, where more fertile lands were available. To meet this, we have embodied in this clause a provision that where an individual has had a homestead and has made failure owing to no fault of his own, but rather to climatic conditions that exist in those areas, he be given an opportunity to take a homestead in the northern area of the province under the provisions of the Dominion Lands Act. It is necessary that he be armed with the certificate from the provincial government showing that in their opinion he is entitled to consideration. We have confined this matter to the area south of township 31, not including all the district formerly known as the pre-emption area across the two provinces. That is all we propose to do in the matter. I may assure the committee that we propose to make a careful inquiry to make sure that we are not being imposed upon, and to confine our operations absolutely to those who have been unsuccessful in this particular area.

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PRO

Donald Ferdinand Kellner

Progressive

Mr. KELLNER:

How does the minister intend to dispose of the lands that are being vacated?

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

If the land owned by the individual is unencumbered it will revert to the Crown. This section is designed to cover the case of the individual who has failed in due course and loses the land he homesteaded within the boundary described in this section.

Dominion Lands Act

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

If the original homestead is mortgaged does the government propose to assume the obligations in respect of that land?

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

No.

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

How is it intended to meet such a situation? If the land reverts to the government, I presume from the minister's answer, it will be unencumbered, but what about the homestead on which there is a mortgage?

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

There is no difficulty in relation to the man whose title is clear; but the government will certainly not assume the obligations on encumbered property.

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PRO
LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

This is

rather for the purpose of assisting the individual who has failed and who has to surrender his homestead. If a man loses his homestead by mortgage or otherwise, we do not assume the responsibility for those obligations, but we assist him to settle in the northern portion of the province rather than have him go out of the country altogether, as unfortunately too many do. A large number of men in such circumstances go South, and this is intended to retain them in Canada.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

I certainly favour the

working out of a plan for granting second homesteads or, in other words, giving a second opportunity to those who are in the dry areas. The opening up of these dry areas was one among other mistakes of the former government -I mean the next antecedent one in which the Minister of Finance (Mr. Fielding) was then in the same office. The lands were opened up for homesteading when they should not have been, and they have been a source of disappointment and penury ever since. I realize the minister's difficulty in now trying to find some remedy for the consequences of that mistake, but while I fully appreciate that difficulty I do not think he has met it very well. The hon. member for Victoria and Carleton (Mr. Caldwell) mentioned a point which, in my judgment, is not as important as another one that I shall suggest later on. Still it has not been answered. Suppose a man has his homestead in the dry area and* it is'mortgaged-this can be taken to be the normal condition, for I fancy that if the homestead were not mortgaged that would indicate that the party could not get a mortgage on it; such has been the history of the district, the man would be compelled to mortgage the property if he could-we assume,

therefore, that the homestead is mortgaged. This, of course, puts a premium on the individual's leaving and going North. The Government does not get his homestead; it certainly cannot step in and defeat the mortgagee of whatever asset he has in the homestead, little as it may be. Consequently the land will simply be foreclosed and become the property of the mortgagee. The difference between the man who has his land clear and the man who has not such a title to it is that in the one case the government gets the land and in the other the mortgagee gets it. I presume the minister intends to let the fellow with the mortgage have a second homestead, because if he does not then the legislation might as well be wiped out; for I should think that nearly all the homesteads would be mortgaged, and those who hav$ mortgaged and failed are those who need the second homestead. The minister has not said whether he purposes to let those whose land is mortgaged get a second homestead. If he does he is putting the country in the position of losing the first homestead altogether and turning it over to the mortgagee.

The second point is this. It is stated that any one can get a second homestead who has a certificate from the provincial government showing that he has failed at farming througl no fault of his own but through adverse cir cumstances. But the minister has his officer! all through the districts; he has homestead inspectors1-and I can remember some of the criticism that was offered in regard to the number of them when the vote to pay them was passed. Why should they not report on the condition and history of these homesteads? Why should the provincial government be asked to give any certificate? The provincial government will simply have to appoint another set of officers, putting additional taxation on the people; no other result can follow. They will be obliged to have another set of homestead inspectors to examine all these cases and that means a squadron of them. But even aside from the question of expense to the public, which will be very considerable, it is not right for one government to rest on the responsibility of another, it is not consistent with our system of government at all. This government should use its own judgment on the advice of its officers in this matter as in anything of a similar nature. I suggest to the minister, therefore, that he wipe out that provision. I would rather s'ee something done that removes the question of discretion altogether; in fact I think that otherwise the minister will get into interminable wrangles and utterly ines-

Dominion Lands Act

capable conditions of unfairness and partiality. He cannot help it. Throughout the length and breadth of the country farmers can be selected in hundreds, yes, thousands, who have failed, not through any fault of their own at all, and not in this particular area. Farmers all over Canada have failed because of continual visitations of drought, continual visitations of hail and frost and one misfortune or another; and what answer can the minister give those men who come and say that they are just as entitled to relief as the farmers over there to the west? They will say, " You give relief to these men on this especial ground; very well, apply it to us in the same way." And what answer can the minister give? I have not the least doubt, although none of this area is in the province of Manitoba, that the Manitoba government could certify to hundreds and thousands who have failed through no fault of their own, who perhaps succeeded for a time and now are worth nothing. How can the minister refuse them new homesteads? On these grounds I do not think the minister's relief is an efficient working out of the problem. In my judgment it would have been better to have simply declared certain areas to be homestead areas and then said to those men: Select new homesteads there. In this case, I am free to admit, there would be some unfairness to those outside.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

You would have exactly the same difficulty.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

No, because those are areas that never should have been opened. And you do not rest upon the favour of a provincial government, you rest simply upon the cold, bald fact that areas were opened that should not have been opened, and you say to the men who went in there "Go and take homesteads somewhere else." Let me repeat; I object to a government shifting its responsibility on to another government. Let it take its own responsibility. But I am free to admit that if ever a government should shift responsibility it is this one.

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IND

William Findlay Maclean

Independent Conservative

Mr. MACLEAN (York):

The debate so far has brought up a question which I imagine will be discussed on the adoption of the report of the Agricultural Conditions committee-the creation of a national land bank for the relief of the farmers of the West. If that is so, there will have to be some discussion later on in regard to it, and perhaps the Government will announce a policy which, besides allowing farmers to re-homestead, will give them a measure of relief such as the farmers have in the United States,

through a national bank credit system with the credit of the nation behind it. So this is only a partial measure. It must go further, it must be supplemented by giving the farmer a better system of credit. This bill really ignores the main issue, which is a land bank system similar to what they have adopted in the United States to enable the farmer to get on his feet financially. We ought to have such a system in this country.

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

Mr. Chairman, I would remind my hon. friend from South York (Mr. Maclean) that this is not a question of banking.

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IND
LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

I beg my hon. friend's pardon, it is a question of giving relief to certain areas, whereas the question of banking would cover the whole Dominion.

My right hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) states that there are certain well defined areas on which we should offer individuals another choice of a free homestead to give them a fresh start. There is absolutely not a particle of difference in the proposal embodied in this section and what he suggested a moment ago in criticism of this bill. We are told that mistakes were made by former governments. Well, I do not know whether we should criticise former governments for what the3' have done in this respect. I know I have had a good deal of anxiety in regard to the southern area of Alberta and that in all efforts to alleviate the distress of the people in that territory the two governments have worked hand in hand. It is not suggested that we should put upon the provincial government the responsibility of saying who shall and who shall not have homesteads, but inasmuch as the western provinces are claiming their natural resources, we thought it only right that if any individual was to be given a homestead the provincial government should be informed of the fact. It is for this reason that the provincial government is being brought into the matter at all.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

What is the reason?

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LIB

Charles A. Stewart (Minister of Immigration and Colonization; Minister of Mines; Minister of the Interior; Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

In every

effort that has been made for the alleviation of distress in these areas the two governments have acted together, practically.

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CON

June 26, 1923