May 11, 1925

CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Referring to section 3, I have discussed this matter with the minister. Ever since it was proposed it has given me some trouble. I regard it as a most important and very dangerous step. I admit its merits. I know there are cases where without it considerable hardship would result, but let us see where we are going, to land if this section passes. If a man buys land or buys anything else he is liable on his purchase. If a man buys grain and pays a small margin, ten per cent just as he does on land, it would be a grand thing for him if, having bought a

hundred thousand bushels, he afterwards could narrow it down to ten thousand bushels and apply what he had paid to the ten thousand, and pay it up. Speculation then would have no terrors for anybody. He would risk virtually nothing and his chances of profits would be immense. In other words his chances of profit would be ten times his chances of loss. It is exactly the same with school lands, and it is the very same for the actual farmer as for the speculator. If men are to be allowed to buy school lands and afterwards to narrow down their purchase to a quarter section, and apply what they have paid to the quarter section, the element of risk is virtually gone. Take the case of the farmer purchasing. He buys a half section. His neighbour, or many neighbours, bid against him. This man was a little more venturesome than the others and he outbid them. He was taking the risk and he had a perfect right to any profit he might make; but now the minister comes along and relieves that man of his risk-relieves him of his loss. What is going to be the result in the future if this provision becomes law? Why a man making purchase will very readily outbid his neighbours. The speculator, in a word, will have a big advantage over the actual farmer, because the speculator knows that his chances of winning are ten to one over the chances of his losing, or whatever proportion the purchase bore to the quarter section of land, and the chances of the farmer are exactly the same. It seems to me it is a dangerous precedent. If you do it in this case, why not carry it further? Why not carry it into the soldier settlement scheme? Here is a soldier settler; why not relieve him of part of his obligation as well, and apply everything he has paid on a small part of it? He is just as much entitled to it as the school land purchaser. They have only got quarters, it is true, but it is a case of degree. If it is a case of degree, many of them would like to bring it down to forty acres, and have the payment applied on a small part; but if we begin this, where are we going, to end? In a word, it is a case of one

party to a bargain relieving the other party of his obligation. I know it

is the provinces who are mostly concerned. They are the beneficiaries of the school land fund but I do think that they have not very fully considered this matter before giving their consent to the legislation. I know that when I was minister of the department-and in those days the applications would not be anything like the number they are now, in the very much more difficult farming times-

Dominion Lands Act

the applications in many instances came from men who found they had got on the wrong side of the the bargain and wanted the government to assume the load instead of themselves. They came almost daily instead of weekly, but we had no power to grant any of their applications and we did not. The minister suggested he had the power. I do not know under what power he could do it. I know there are cases of hardship, but it is sometimes better to stand by a sane and sensible rule than to vary it under special circumstances, creating a precedent that is going to be very serious.

M(r. MORRISON: The conditions in which those farmers largely find themselves are due to a reaction from war conditions. When war was declared the cry went out, " Produce, produce, produce ", and the farmers got busy and assumed extra contracts, bought more land, and more equipment, dug right in, and produced beyond their means. Now no readjustment was made in their favour to enable them to successfully and permanently carry on. On the contrary, adjustments were made with the railways. The Crowsnest pass rates were set aside and they were allowed to raise the rates against the farmers who were urged to produce in the national interest. The banks had the laws adjusted to give them greater advantages, in the national interest, presumably, but it was in the banks' interest really. The Riordon people had a readjustment of their affairs, and they settled their tax account by the note route, which was an absolutely new process. Was that not readjustment in the interest of the individual or the company? As regards the manufacturers of Canada, the tariff was raised on farm implements by just seven per cent as a war measure, against those farmers who were urged to produce in the national interest. While we were producing, the other fellow was getting a good slice of it. .

Topic:   MEAT AND CANNED FOODS ACT AMENDMENT
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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Is the hon. member

talking by the book in that? If he will look back over the law, he will find that a special exception was made in the case of the farmer and that there was no increase on farm implements at all.

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PRO

John Morrison

Progressive

Mr. MORRISON:

There was no increase

in the tariff on farm implements? Well, there was an increased duty on a number of commodities in the interest of the manufacturers. Many of us, as individuals, found ourselves in this position, that we were obliged in our mutual interest to compromise. It was no use putting a man down and out, when his trouble

was largely through no fault of his own, and he had assumed too heavy obligations. There are a number of members in this comer of the House who, I know, compromised with others, rather than put them down and out. This is a very proper step for the government to take. It is not giving any favours: It is a

readjustment of conditions that were brought about largely from the reaction after the war, and I heartily commend the government for the step they are taking.

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PRO

Oliver Robert Gould

Progressive

Mr. GOULD:

The speculator is not as

great a factor in western Canada to-day as he was some years ago. First of all, agriculture is not profitable enough for him to look upon the purchase of land as an investment. Second, provincial legislation has taken hold of the speculator and practically eliminated him from his activities in the west simply because he was a nuisance in the early days and an imposition upon those who were trying to settle on the land. I speak now of our own province. With our wild lands tax the imposition of the telephone tax, and various other forms of good legislation, we have largely eliminated this individual, and I do not think the day is going to come when he will again be a big factor in the purchase of raw lands in western Canada. Consequently, if we are going to look after the few people we have left in that western country at the present time, legislation such as this is necessary. I say the few we have, because they have been diminished in numbers in the last few years largely because of the speculative activities of the past. Personally, I know of thousands and thousands of acres that were abandoned by speculators who came in from the United States, simply because they would not keep up the payments. That is, agriculture was not profitable enough that people resident in certain areas could purchase these lands at the enhanced price, and this fact, together with the taxes that were being levied, such as the telephone tax, wild lands tax and various other taxes of the provincial government, practically obliged those men either to cultivate the land or to abandon it altogether. We approved the legislation in those days because the speculator came in, and I think we would approve it again to-day if we had to review the matter.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

I should like to meet the views of hon. gentlemen to my left, except the hon. member for Weybum (Mr. Morrison), because he approaches the question from an entirely different angle, an angle which has nothing to do with the case. I have a great deal of sympathy with what has been

Dominion Lands Act

said by the hon. member for Lisgar (Mr. Brown). He agrees as to the menace of the speculator. The hon. member for Assiniboia (Mr. Gould) speaks about thousands of acres which have been held by speculators and which have been abandoned. I think I would be voicing his views if I were to say that under this legislation it would be a great mistake if those speculators could again come in and get a portion of their abandoned land. That would be all wrong. I am entirely in sympathy with what has been said as to the actual settler farmer. This is a clause which already has provisoes. Under this clause one can do exactly what my hon. friend wants and give protection where they think there should be protection. I would add to the clause words similar to these. Hon. gentlemen will observe that the provision winds up:

Provided that there shall be no refund of any moneys.

In order to meet the case advanced, I would add there words:

And provided that no action shall be taken save and in respect of bona fide settlers, and that the said money shall only be applied on lands actually being worked by such settlers.

And I would give them the relief every time.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

I have no

objection, but I would not care to accept the amendment of my hon. friend without giving it some consideration. I would much rather ask the committee to rise and report progress in order to give me time to see whether it was going to interfere with the general provision of the clause, because I have learned by some years of experience that hastily thought out amendments sometimes cause a great deal of difficulty in administration.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

I agree with my hon. friend.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

I have no

desire to protect the speculator, but many remedial measures have been 9 p.m. undertaken in order to try to get us out of the difficulty we got into in western Canada by overpurchasing lands. To-day they are moving settlers from southern Alberta to northern Alberta and we are spending money right and left. After having given this matter very careful consideration, I am strongly of opinion that we shall keep a great number of people in the country and preserve their investment who otherwise would lose their investment and, perhaps, leave the country altogether.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

What about the case of a farmer who bought, say, a half section or

a section, who was not able to pay, who had his land cancelled on him and who is gone? Will he be allowed to come in again?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

We could

not revive a cancellation. The land has passed to the position of having been sold by public auction?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Supposing his sale was

made at the same time as that of another man who has carried on and who will be allowed to come in, does the minister not think there will be very serious and well founded complaints?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

Undoubtedly there will, but the provision of this clause i3 that we are to give consideration to each case. We are to deal only with sales that have taken place prior to January, 1923.

iMr. MEIGHEN: But the minister cannot consider a case where it has already been cancelled.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

I quite admit that, but in all cases of this sort you are bound to have difficulties of one kind or another. In thousands of cases in western Canada, like that cited by the hon. member for Weyburn (Mr. Morrison), private individuals, banks and mortgage companies have made all sorts of arrangements in order to keep the settler with a portion of his holdings. This is practically the only case in which we were not authorized in any way to make any arrangement with him, and we are doing this in order to meet that situation. I think my right hon. friend will agree with me that the man who has stuck there, in spite of his difficulties and in spite of discouragement, is worthy of consideration rather than the man who wrote in a couple of years ago stating that he was through, that we could confiscate his payments and that he wanted to relinquish his land. Of course, there is another case that we must not forget, the case where we cancelled the sale on our own account, but that was done very largely because we could get no response and, in many cases, the land had been abandoned for a year or so before we took that action, so that I do not think anyone would suffer any injury.

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PRO

Milton Neil Campbell

Progressive

Mr. CAMPBELL:

I quite agree with the principle of the amendment as explained by the minister and I am heartily in sympathy with the amendment but I want to point out that that is liable to be abused. What is a bona fide farmer? A man might go back on raw land, on which, perhaps, he had not resided at all, live on it for one night, and in

Supply-Trade, and Commerce

that way change himself into a bona fide settler. I think that ought to be very carefully considered; there should be some definite understanding as to what a bona fide farmer

is.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

I am simply accepting the general trend of the amendment; I am not committing myself to it because I want time to consider it. The idea of the committee, I take it, is that they only want us to deal with the man who is in possession of the land and is actually farming it, having made an honest attempt to cultivate

it, and not any individual who, never having put plough to the land, holds the place in speculation.

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PRO

Henry Elvins Spencer

Progressive

Mr. SPENCER:

With regard to the payment for school lands, we shall hope that most purchasers will do their very best to make their settlements. But there are a few people who, after they have made one or two payments and taken off a few crops, will try to evade paying the balance. How long will such people be given before cancellation takes place?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWTART (Argenteuil):

They are of course liable to cancellation on the first default, but if a man is making an honest attempt to cultivate the land and can give good reasons for not being able to meet his payments, we accept interest and part of the principal. Although there are some cases of shirking responsibility, we do not find very many attempts made to deliberately evade payment. If there is any fault to be found with us, it is rather that we write too many threatening letters. Certainly we make a serious endeavour to collect the money, but where there is likely to be hardship as a result of forced collections we seldom if ever take action. Of course, we are apt to be taken advantage of once in a while.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHBN:

The section will be better with the amendment submitted or with some amendment along that line. I was surprised at the comment of the hon. member (Mr. Morrison); nothing of what he has in mind animates anyone that I know of. Nobody is refusing to do for the farmer what is done for any other person. This money does not belong to the country; all of it belongs to western Canada. The only wish of the committee is therefore to avoid adopting any principle which in its application might operate to the detriment of that fund on which the whole support of the school system in the west depends.

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PRO

Archibald M. Carmichael

Progressive

Mr. CARMICHAEL:

The leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) has prefaced some remarks I should like to make with regard to this fund. I know for a fact that parcels of land are sold to individuals and payments made to the department, but the taxes are allowed to accumulate on those lands for probably eight, ten or twelve years. If the contract is cancelled and the money is still in the hands of the department, what is the attitude of the minister towards the local improvement district, including the schools, the rural telephone companies and other local governing bodies that are short of money and find it difficult to finance? If the department should have on hand money which, as the leader of the opposition says, belongs to western Canada, is it not reasonable that any taxes in arrears should be paid to the local municipalities?

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

The hon.

member would lead me into dangerous channels if I attempted to discuss that question. Inasmuch as this is a trust fund we would have no authority to pay any of it to any individual or municipality. We must, in carrying out the trust, apply the money in payment to the trust fund itself. Nothing of the kind suggested could therefore be given consideration.

Progress reported.

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May 11, 1925