The two governments have co-operated, I do not object to that; but the Dominion government never acted on the responsibility of the provincial government. The Dominion government, for example, did not give seed grain relief to a man recommended for it by the provincial government.
That may be, but the provincial government does it on its own responsibility. We did not make a condition that the man should be recommended by the provincial government, we took the responsibility ourselves.
For instance, by whose authority did you advance seed grain to a homesteader? True, the provincial government were advancing it to those with unpatented land, but you took the word of the provincial officer, you advanced the amount of grain, your own officer purchased the grain and put it in your elevators. I know what I am talking about.
No. If the minister looks at the law he will see he is mistaken. I administered the act and know what was done. We decided on our own responsibility whether an unpatented homesteader needed seed grain or not, we did not rely upon the recommendation of the provincial government. We made arrangements by passing legislation providing that the banks should advance the money in the first place and we guaranteed five per cent.
anxious to have their co-operation to clean up a very difficult situation. I admit everything my right hon. friend has said about the difficulty. It would be very much easier for the government not to do anything at all- and perhaps it would be fairer taking all things into consideration. The very fact that a person who has selected land in this particular territory has made a failure-I admit my right hon. friend's argument-is not a good reason why he should be given a preference over the man who has tried in some other territory and has made a like failure. But we have a difficult situation to deal with. I am not unmindful of the difficulties at all, I see every one of those presented by my right hon. friend, but rather than have the people across the line we thought it well to devise ways and means to enable them to make a fresh start in the northern portion of the province if they were desirous of going there. And if any individual is to be given a privilege, it seems only reasonable that the provincial authorities should at least be consulted in the matter.
Not that they are to step in and shoulder any of our responsibility. We are not delegating any of our responsibility to the provincial government. My own idea with respect to the settlement of this vexed question would be if possible to move the settlers off these very dry areas and return these areas again to ranching lands. In doing that, of course, regard must be had to obligations that are already upon the lands-mortgage obligations, school bonds, and so on. I am speaking now of lands which cannot be irrigated. There is a demand that the department try to solve the problem and we are prepared to make an effort. I do not anticipate that a very large number of people will take advantage of the legislation. For instance, a man who has a mortgage on his land is not going to relinquish that land unless he thinks there is no chance of his making good. It is my experience, after eight years of intimate knowledge of the conditions affecting the people who live in these localities, that they invari-
Dominion Lands Act
ably stay until they have to leave-and their leaving means that there is no equity left in the property at all.
I am veiy glad indeed that the minister has undertaken to solve this very difficult problem; it has been a nightmare to banks, merchants and provincial and federal governments for some time. Undoubtedly there are areas that should never have been taken from the rancher-good ranching districts that were destroyed to make a very poor farming district. In 1914 I had occasion to travel over some five hundred miles of this dry area for the purpose of gathering some information and looking into the facts. You will remember that 1914 was a very dry season, but some of the farmers in that district had good crops. I inquired why it was that one farmer had a good crop while perhaps fifty or one hundred round about had nothing, and I found that the men on the farms that had given a good return had been doing their work in a scientific way and had conserved all the moisture that was humanly possible to conserve. Now, it might appear from that experience that the difference was simply a case of good farming as against poor farming, but I believe that is not so. The year 1914 followed several comparatively wet years, and there was some moisture to conserve. Subsequently there were a number of dry years-up to two years ago we had had four or five dry years- with the result that there was no moisture to conserve; the subsoil was as dry as powder. That leads me to believe that in these dry areas, no matter how well the soil is farmed, it is impossible to attain success. A great many of the people who settled in those districts came in with considerable amount of money; their buildings are comparatively new and in many instances are better buildings than those we find in the older areas. For that reason I think it is well that opportunity should be given to those who wish to do so to move to areas where they can succeed.
With a part of what the right hon. leader of the Opposition (Mr. Meighen) said I must agree, namely, that it would be wiser to base any action taken on the conditions affecting each individual farmer in the area in which he resides. If it is simply a case of the farmer failing through no fault of his own, why, you would have applications made from all over the country. But the difference is this: Many farmers are living on
land where, if the economic conditions were made right, they could succeed. They are
living on land that can be profitably worked and which can reasonably be expected in the future to yield a fair return. On the other hand, those who live in these arid districts are on land where no farmer, be he ever so good, could possibly succeed. In 1915 the crop in these arid districts was an [DOT] enormous one, perhaps the greatest that western Canada ever saw-fifty, and even sixty bushels to the acre being not uncommon. The extent of the crop was almost unbelievable. And perhaps that was one of the worst things that could have happened to some of the farmers there, because it gave them hope; they believed they could go to almost any extent in their schemes of expansion, and they hung on year after year for three or four or five years. If another good crop comes, the same thing will happen again, but any temporary measure of success in a given year simply prolongs the agony. It does seem to me that farmers living in these arid districts where it will always be impossible for them to succeed should be entitled to a new homestead, if they take it within a specified time. Of course, the door should not be left open, after this regulation is passed, to those living in other parts of the country to move to another homestead after they have tried one in the arid district for say six months. It should apply, however, to those who settled in these arid districts in good faith. The minister has said he does not think that very many are likely to take advantage of this opportunity. Well, the reason for that is not that the chances of success under their present conditions are good, but simply that they have invested their all. To my mind they would be well advised to take advantage of this opportunity and accept new homesteads.
this legislation, because I suppose it applies to all the prairie provinces, but I doubt whether it is going to be very beneficial to the province with which I am best acquainted, Alberta. It seems to me that this is the way it will work out: Four or five of these homesteaders will go up in the north part of the province and get a desirable piece of land; then they will get after the provincial government for schools and after the municipality for roads, and neither of these organizations will be prepared to accede to their requests. I do not think there is any need for the adoption of this course. I am quite convinced that these people could go up to that north country and either buy or rent land much cheaper than they could get a homestead to-day. The legislation may be all right theoretically, but I very much doubt whether
Board of Audit
it will work out when an attempt is made to put it into practice. I would also point out to the minister that the day cannot be much longer delayed when he will have to give consideration to the demand for the return to the western provinces of their natural resources. Every acre that the government disposes of will simply add to the barrier existing between the Dominion government and the provinces -when that day of reckoning comes.