May 26, 1925

PRO

Daniel Webster Warner

Progressive

Mr. WARNER:

Mr. Chairman, I never

want to let an opportunity go by to urge on parliament the necessity of doing something this session to relieve our returned men. A great many of them in my constituency are making a desperate effort to hold on until they know what is going to be done this session to help them out. They qre up against an impossibility, as we all know, because their land has doubled in value since they bought it; but not in dollars and cents; in this respect its value perhaps has not varied very much; but the value of the products

Soldier Settlement Act

they get off that land has been cut in two, and that virtually means doubling the price of their land. And all of the trouble does not lie there even. The cost of the stock and equipment and the land taken together makes their position absolutely untenable. I have discussed with a good many of them how much they thought would have to be cut off from their indebtedness before they would have the courage to carry on until they made good, and their estimate varies all the way from 30 to 50 per cent. I think we can strike between those two marks and get approximately the right percentage. I think most of them are looking to the Ralston commission's report as a guide for parliament, and they would probably be satisfied if its recommendations were carried into effect. I have often wondered whether it would not perhaps be better to cut a certain percentage off each man's indebtedness on his undertaking to carry on and try to make good if this measure of relief is given. I think that would suit the men just as well as a revaluation. In fact I do not know what we could do that would relieve them by revaluing their land on the basis of dollars and cents, because their ability to pay depends on what they can obtain from the produce of their land, and such a revaluation might not be altogether satisfactory as well as being difficult and expensive to carry out. I am so convinced that these men should be kept on the land if it is at all possible that I want to urge on the House that something should be done this session to that end, for if we wait even until another session many of these men will have become discouraged and drift into the towns, where they will be hun'ing for jobs that other people already need very badly, and we cannot afford to have that condition of affairs take place in connection with the returned men. The country is going to lose a certain amount of money, but I do not think we need be so afraid of losing a few dollars, because these men have already lost more than we can repay them in a lifetime. We want to do something that will keep them on the land, for they are better settlers than any other men we may replace them with. These soldier settlers may not all make good, but where will you find any class of people who are uniformly successful? As one hon. member said this afternoon, when these soldier settlers went on the land even men of the soberest and soundest judgment had wild ideas of what could be done, and many of them expanded their business and lost heavily. So we should not blame the soldier settlers if under the advice of the board some of them have 228

made mistakes. Under any circumstances I do not think we can afford to let this session close without doing something to relieve these men so that they may know where they are at. As I said before, I think the better plan would be to cut a certain percentage off each man's indebtedness.-

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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

Would not a flat reduction

in each man's case result in a great many men getting a small reduction who do not want it and are not entitled to it, while those who are badly in need of help would get a very small reduction which would be no real value to them?

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PRO

Daniel Webster Warner

Progressive

Mr. WARNER:

Very likely some inequalities would crop up, but I think it would be a fairer way than attempting a revaluation and would be less expensive. As we all know, taxation involves a certain amount of inequality, and we cannot get these matters on an absolutely accurate basis and this is a very similar problem. Many of the men have tried to carry on and they have kept reports from day to day of what they have done. I have looked over some of them and I think they would be a credit to any business man. Most of these reports disclose heavy losses, and unless something is done it is certain that many of the men will lose their own money as well as their soldier settlement money. It is vitally important that we act at once, and I would warn the House of the danger of delay. Twenty-five years from now there will never be any need of a revaluation, because long before that time many of these men will have been forced to give up what already appears to them to be a well-nigh hopeless struggle. I am a practical farmer, and I think I know what they are up against, and if I were in their place I believe I would be just as much discouraged as they are. I like to see young people brought up to understand the necesssity of laying the foundation for a competence that will take care of them in their old age, but if they drift along beyond a certain point they lose the inclination to make the necessary effort to establish themselves on a firm basis. While I am very anxious to see everybody do what he can to take care of himself, I cannot help thinking that the position of these men when they took up land was different from that of the ordinary citizen. It is either a case of their making good or of their becoming a charge on the country. The matter is a serious one, and the appeal on behalf of the men is such that if the hearts of hon. members of the House are right, something will be done this session if at all possible.

Soldier Settlement Act

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

I cannot retain my

seat in silence and thereby intimate that I am satisfied with this legislation. I feel that the government are not doing enough in this legislation for the soldier settlers. In my constituency there are quite a number of these settlers, and I have the highest admiration for the manner in which they have conducted themselves, for the work they have done and for their efforts to make good in the face of an almost impossible situation. I am confident that the great majority of them have done the best they could with the properties they have taken hold of, but they have had much to contend with. The class of farming done in New Westminster constituency is more or less mixed farming. After the soldier settlers had taken over their properties certain changes were made in the United States tariff, and those changes have had a very material effect on the soldier settlers. We produce in the Fraser valley such commodities as hay, fruit, potatoes, butter, cheese, eggs, cattle. We find that the United States tariff on hay is $4 a ton, while the Canadian tariff is $2; on fruits, United States, 35 per cent; Canada, 25 per cent.

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LIB

George Newcombe Gordon (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

I think the hon. member is getting away from the particular resolution before the committee.

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CON
LIB

George Newcombe Gordon (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

It strikes me that he

is. The question is whether or not it is expedient to approve this legislation.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

We have heard a great many suggestions this evening along different lines, and I submit that this is strictly in order. Of course I must bow to your decision if you so rule.

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LIB

George Newcombe Gordon (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

I think the hon. gentleman is beside the questioh just at the moment.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

Then I assume I may proceed along lines which were taken by other hon. members.

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LIB

George Newcombe Gordon (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

As to the expediency

of passing the legislation, yes.

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

I think the government should consider this question of the revaluation of the lands. There is no doubt that in my constituency as well as in others, lands were valued at too high a figure; that a revaluation either by a commission or by the department would show that the soldiers paid altogether too much for their land. I join with other

hon. members in demanding that the government should at this session make some provision for a scientific revaluation of these lands. I understood the hon. member for West Calgary (Mr. Shaw) to say that he was not in favour of interest remission. I do not agree with him in that; I think it is a matter which might well be considered. There is a very strong feeling in my constituency among those interested in the soldier settlers, as well as among the soldier settlers themselves, that this would be an effective way of showing consideration to these men. The hon. member who preceded me mentioned the matter of debt reduction. That is another method which might be considered. The hon. member for Comox-Albemi suggested that some men might get reductions who did not want them, but it seems to me that that would be contrary to human nature, because any soldier settler or anybody else would want whatever consideration he could get in that line.

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PRO

Daniel Webster Warner

Progressive

Mr. WARNER:

And are the soldier

settlers not entitled to all the reduction they

can get?

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CON

William Garland McQuarrie

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McQUARRIE:

I think they are; I

quite agree with the hon. member. We should treat these men fairly. It should not be a case of a money lender demanding his pound of flesh. The department, I know, has been anxious to get back all the money it can; in fact some of the representatives of the government, I think, have been rather hard on the men, and there have been cases where the men have been badly treated. But there is something more to consider than the business proposition of getting back the money which has been loaned. The original idea of settling soldiers on our lands was a splendid one. It is all right to expect them to pay if they can, but I would urge on the government the necessity of doing something more than is contemplated in this legislation.

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PRO

John Evans

Progressive

Mr. EVANS:

I would like to add my voice to the appeal made to the government for a more generous measure regarding the revaluation of the soldiers' live stock and land. Some time ago I received a letter from the provincial secretary of the Great War Veterans' Association giving an account of a convention that was held at Saskatoon on the 17th, ISth, and 19th of March. If there is one thing noticeable about the resolutions that were passed at that convention, it is their reasonableness and the moderate tone in which the convention put forth their demands.

Soldier Settlement Act

Regarding land revaluation the resolution

reads:

Whereas the price agreed to be paid by soldier settlers for land bought from the Soldiers' Settlement Board is too high in most cases and is a burden which will be impossible to carry and unless adjusted will result in the abandoning of the land, the failure of the scheme, the loss of the settler's stake and hardship and suffering,

Therefore be it resolved (a) that the Soldier Settlement Act be so amended as to make provision for the revaluation of all land (particularly raw crown land) purchased by soldier settlers from the Soldiers' Settlement Board, such valuation to be on an arbitration basis, to be optional with the settler and to be based on the condition of the land at the time of purchase, and that the necessary adjustments be made accordingly. (b) That there be a revaluation board in each district consisting of three members, one to be appointed by the Great War Veterans' Association, one to be the District Superintendent, the third to be a disinterested man familiar with land values to be appointed by the two already appointed.

That is moderate in tone, and I think very reasonable. Their resolution regarding the revaluation of stock is based on what we took to be the promise of the government twelve months ago, and reads as follows:

That the act be further amended so that a capital cut be made in the price of stock purchased from the board as follows:

60 per cent reduction of the purchase price where stock purchased prior to December 31, 1920.

40 per cent reduction of the purchase price whore stock purchased prior to December 31, 1921.

20 per cent reduction of the purchase price where stock purchased prior to December 31, 1922.

Speaking as a practical farmer I must say that during the period in which the soldiers have been settled on the land, it has been practically impossible to make ends meet. Between drought and the deflation of prices even the experienced settler could hardly make good. I think the soldier settler who has failed to make good on the land since 1918 certainly has a claim on this country. He was expected to be looked after, I know, but most of these men are very self-reliant, and I do know many cases where hardship has existed on the farms both among the men and the women during the last two or three winters. I say they are deserving of all the help we can give them. They have a claim on the country. Once a. man has faced death for the defence of his own home and of his fellow countrymen he must not be left in a precarious position during the rest of his days; I think it is only reasonable to take that stand.

While it is plain to this House that the members, particularly on this side, are united in their appeal to the government for a more generous measure of revaluation, if the government want a more pronounced verdict from our own group I would ask them to lay this 228i

over for the present as a great many of our members are away to-day attending the funeral of the late Mr. Drummond. I think it would be well for the government to reconsider this resolution, which is to be the basis of legislation to follow, and bring in later a more generous measure both as regards live stock and land. I appeal to the government to do this.

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

Mr. Chairman, I must

confess at the outset that I am very greatly disappointed in the measure that is proposed to be brought before the House with reference to the revaluation of soldiers' stock and equipment. I felt assured last year when the committee's report was adopted by this House, with certain reservations by the Minister of the Interior, that we could not expect anything less than the recommendations of the committee as to the revaluation of the stock at least. I also hoped that there would be a substantial reduction in the liability of the soldier with regard to his land.

I was somewhat surprised this afternoon to hear some of the arguments the Acting Minister of Finance put up in defence of his present stand on this legislation. In the first place he said that the soldier settler was satisfied with the price of the land. I think, Mr. Chairman, those of us who were fairly closely connected with the 9 p.m. work at that time, and everybody in this country as well, realized that these soldiers were young men who had spent three or four years in the zone of war, and knew nothing or very little at all events about prices here at that time. There was a boom on then for greater production, and prices were high. I know that in the province from which I come there is a very great difference in prices to-day from what they were in 1919-1920 when this scheme was brought into effect. At that time our farmers were getting $20 a ton for hay and two or three dollars a barrel for potatoes. Potatoes are to our province what wheat is to the west; it is our big crop for export, and during the present season our farmers received only eight dollars a ton for hay and I think on an average of sixty cents a barrel for potatoes during the whole season, and thousands of barrels will not be marketed at all, but will simply be dumped, because there will be no market for them. In fact, in only one year of the last four years has the potato grower got the actual cost of growing the crop, and that was in the year 1923, when he got a little more than the actual cost of growing. But in the other three years he

Soldier Settlement Act

made a debt on the cost of his production. So conditions are very different to-day from what they were in 1919-1920. Members say that very much higher prices were being paid in Canada then than were justified, but it is not true of New Brunswick. If the price of farm produce had remained' at the level of 1919-1920 the soldiers could have paid for their farms at the price they bought them for, but due to the very great deflation in the price of our crop for export in the last four years the farmers in New Brunswick who had a reserve, who were out of debt, who owned their farms and owed nothing to anybody, have been compelled to use up their reserves. Therefore the soldier settlers have had absolutely no chance to make good, and the amazing part of it to my mind is that a number of them have been able to make payments as they came due. Others have made partial payments.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

What is the difference between the general interest rate in New Brunswick as against the five per cent the soldiers get?

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

I think a man would

have had no difficulty four years ago in getting interest at six per cent on a mortgage.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. STEWART (Argenteuil):

Are they

getting that to-day?

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PRO

Thomas Wakem Caldwell

Progressive

Mr. CALDWELL:

I do not think so. I

doubt if you could get a mortgage on a farm at all to-day. I was talking to a man on Friday or Saturday last, when I was home over the week end, who told me he had foreclosed two mortgages in the last two years. One was on a splendid farm on which the buildings were insured for $10,000, a good producing farm, with excellent buildings, and within less than half a mile of a railroad. This man had a mortgage of $5,000 on that farm, and when he foreclosed he could not get a bid at all. He had a mortgage on another farm of a little less value, farm possibly worth $10,000. He had a mortgage of $4,000 on that, and he could not get a bid on it, when he foreclosed last spring. Real estate in the shape of farm land is a drug on the market in New Brunswick at the present time. There are no sales being

made; nobody wants farm land.

Some members have spoken of urging the soldier settlers in their home constituencies to hang on in the hope that the government was going to carry out the recommendations of last year's committee. This has been done in New Brunswick by numbers of men as well as by myself. A number of the soldier

settlers have been hanging on, with the pretty

firm belief that the government might put into effect the recommendations of last year's committee. I should like to urge the government to at least extend the remission of interest, if they do not wish to make it absolute. Let them extend it for five years or even three years, and thus give these men some hope that eventually they may be able to make good. If times were to revive and became as good as they were in 1920, there might be a possibility of the men paying for the farms.

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May 26, 1925