June 22, 1925

PRO

John Millar

Progressive

Mr. MILLAR:

I understand his suggestion to be that after the session is over the officers of the department be instructed to look into the revaluation of lands in certain districts where it appears they were too highly valued at the time of purchase. I have received several telegrams complaining bitterly that the bill does not go further, but I realize the difficult position in which the minister is placed, and I certainly would prefer to see the bill go through as it is rather than have it withdrawn. I know of one particular case in my own district where the land was valued at $30 an acre, and I am sure it is not worth more than $10 an acre. If the officers of the department were instructed to look into such cases, I think something could be done to relieve the soldier settler of his heavy burden, and so encourage him to remain on the land. In this way the soldier himself would gain, and the country as a whole would also gain.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

John Livingstone Brown

Progressive

Mr. BROWN:

Mr. Chairman, I regret that the government has not seen fit to go as far as recommended by the special committee. I have felt very keenly for the last three or four years that the obligations assumed by our soldier settlers were such that under any circumstances it was impossible for the men to discharge them. In the early part of the session I had correspondence with some of these returned men, and their expressed determination then was to leave their farms. The question in the mind of one man in particular was, would he make another payment on his land or would he leave. I wrote and advised him to hold on just as long as possible for I felt sure that the parliament of Canada

Soldier Settlement Act

would recognize the situation as I saw it and that relief would be forthcoming. I regret now that I gave him that advice, for he has made another payment and will be simply that much more out of pocket. There is no question that the time must come when the country will have to assume a larger share of these obligations than it has assumed up to the present time. It is all very well to say that the lands that are being sold are bringing higher prices; the answer is that it is the best of these lands that have been sold. I can take you to one comer of my own district and s\iow you farms-one in particular-that I would not take as a gift if I was compelled to make my living on them. The district I represent is one of the best agricultural districts of the west, but some farms have been taken there by these returned men on which it is not possible for them under any circumstances to relieve themselves of the obligations which they have assumed in connection with them. When I left home at the beginning of the session I made inquiries from the municipal clerk and I found that about one-third of the farms had already been abandoned. I am quite satisfied, without knowing the actual figures, that fifty per cent of these farms are already abandoned, and in some cases the men who still hold their land are simply holding on in the hope that the government will come to their relief. I have advised them to hold on, and I know there will be disappointment in these quarters. Of course we must accept this bill as granting relief as far as it goes, but I repeat that the time must come, and will come, when this country will have to assume a much larger measure of these obligations.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

I do not think there is any better example of how the rules of the House play into the hands of the cabinet than this bill before us. It proposes a small reduction to returned soldiers on the value of their stock. The cabinet knows very well that the House generally is in favour of some reduction, but the reduction proposed by the bill is only a little more than a gesture, and we cannot vote against it because we are anxious to get as much reduction as possible. On the other hand we are precluded from moving an amendment to get a larger reduction, because the rules of the House will not permit us lo make any motion which involves an expenditure of public money. So the government goes ahead with a small reduction vrhich means very little except that it may sound well and make it appear as if the government is very solicitous of the welfare of the soldiers. But

Soldier Settlement Act

it really does not get anywhere. And here we are, absolutely helpless; we have to vote for something that is nothing but a sham. We cannot take a step that will lead to something definite, to something of value.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

Thomas Henry McConica

Progressive

Mr. McCONICA:

I feel that this bill should pass rather than that we should have no legislation on the subject, but I am quite certain that it will not attain the object sought. I had hardly realized the situation of the soldiers in my community until just before coming to Ottawa. A meeting was held of some thirty young soldiers who were holders of land. I canvassed that meeting thoroughly and I found just one man who was in better shape financially now than when he began. He was a bachelor, had few expenses and had managed to get a little ahead, but there was not another man in the entire company who was not hopelessly involved from the financial point of view. There has been but one aba i-donment, so far as I know in my

12 noon neighbourhood, but the men have been going back year by year, and the stock to-day will not have a proper valuation even when this forty per cent reduction is made. The prices at the time they bougot were far in excess of the prices of to-day, and there has been some depreciation. They can surrender every dollar's worth of property they have and go out and buy at lower prices than they will be paying under this reduction. I have not so much complaint as to the value of land in my vicinity; I believe the soldiers will take care of their land obligations, but the reduction on the personal property is not enough. I certainly hope that the government will see its way clear to give us at least a thirty and fifty per cent reduction; forty and sixty per cent would be even better.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

John Evans

Progressive

Mr. EVANS:

I think the government is overlooking a very important feature in soldier settlement if they do not do something regarding the revaluation of land. At a convention held in Saskatoon in March, the Great War Veterans' Association there passed the following resolution:

Whereas the price agreed to be paid by soldier settlers for land bought from the Soldier 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 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 Soldier 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.

rMr. Irvine 1

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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LIB

James Alexander Robb (Minister of Immigration and Colonization)

Liberal

Mr. ROBB:

May I interrupt my hon.

friend? What was the price paid for the crown lands?

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

John Evans

Progressive

Mr. EVANS:

It does not say what the price was, but I suppose it would vary, according to the district. In some cases I know that the price was too high. The resolution goes on to say:

That there be a revaluation board in each district consisting of thr. e 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.

The loss of these men engaged in primary production will be a distinct loss to the country, and I do not think the help they are calling for would cost any more than the outlay involved in putting immigrants in their places, based on what each immigrant is costing the country at the present time. I sincerely hope the government will take this matter into consideration.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

Milton Neil Campbell

Progressive

Mr. CAMPBELL:

A few evenings ago, in

the discussion on the Calgary and Fernie Railway bill, the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Macdonald) took the ground that this House was under an obligation to pass that bill almost without question, because it had been passed by a committee of the House. I am very sorry that the government does not adopt the same attitude toward the recommendations of the committee which dealt with the revaluation of soldiers' property. It seems to me that there is only one way in which we will get this thing down to a proper basis. An arbitrary reduction, after all, is not fair. In some cases the stock and the land may be not overvalued at the present time, and a revaluation would not be fair to the government or to the whole people. In a great many other cases the land is very much over-valued, and any ordinary reduction is of no use either to the soldier or to the department. The only fair way to handle this whole matter is to place a board in control of it and have a reappraisal made of all the stock and of all the land. Some of this land was well chosen, some of it is the best in the country; but in other cases its condition is such that it is impossible for any settler to make a living on it, and the valuation must be greatly reduced, otherwise the soldier cannot possibly remain on it. To write off these amounts would not in itself be a distinct loss to the government as it might appear to be, because the government is going to lose anyhow; in the last analysis it is only a matter of book-keeping. I appreciate the attitude

Soldier Settlement Act

the government may take in pointing out that it would be an addition to the national debt and would perhaps show against their particular regime-I suppose that would be the official way of looking at it. But in so far as the nation as a whole is concerned, the loss must be accepted in the last analysis. What I consider the great crime in connection with the handling of this question in the past has been that after the original soldier settler was forced off the land, after he found he could not make it go, could not pay the interest on the principal and live, there was a reduction made in a great many cases to a proper basis, and the land was resold to another man. In a great many cases, had the land with that reduction been offered to the original soldier settler, he could have remained on it and made good. But now the best years of his life are gone, he has lost what little stake of money that he had, and now he has nothing at all; and some other settler has secured the benefit of his work and sacrifice. In a great many cases the trouble is due entirely to officers of the department. In one particular district in my constituency a large number of soldier settlers were brought from the eastern part of the country, from Ontario mostly, men who had never worked on the land

before and who knew little or nothing about farming, and they were placed in a heavy bush district where an experienced farmer would never have located at all. Those men were placed there because the land was homestead land. It was a long distance from the railway, and contained very heavy bush that had to be cleared. A great many of these men had been wounded overseas and were seriously impaired physically, and were not at all in a position to clear that heavy bush. When I go through that district I find that these men are living under the hardest possible conditions. Most of them are young married men, raising families, and making an effort to get along, but the district is so poor that there is no possible chance of their making anything but a bare living. They can never pay off their indebtedness, and in the last analysis there is bound to be a loss to the country. In this particular case the land was homestead land. I want to point that by the time they are able to prove up and clear sufficient land, it will cost them a good deal more than ordinary land near the town could be bought for.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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LIB

James Alexander Robb (Minister of Immigration and Colonization)

Liberal

Mr. ROBB:

How does my hon. friend propose to revalue homestead land?

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

Milton Neil Campbell

Progressive

Mr. CAMPBELL:

In these particular cases there is no revaluation of the land necessary. I am trying to show that the trouble in the first place was due to officers of the department, and that something is due these men. With the small amount of stock and implements they have, the only thing I can suggest to the government is to wipe off their indebtedness entirely. That is the only way these men can hope to remain on the land. They cannot possibly pay for it. The acreages are small, and while the question of ownership of the land is not involved, I submit that the land itself is of practically no value I believe with regard to most of these quarto; sections that I refer to, that if they were thrown on the market, they would not sell for $500 apiece; in fact, I do not know that they could be sold at all.

Let me point out another phase. Two years ago a branch line bill was submitted to this House and passed by this House, but it was turned down by the Senate. Now that particular branch line was supposed to serve a district where there are a large number oi' soldier settlers located, men who were brought there by officers of the board and located on the land on the definite promise that this branch line was to be constructed. Just a few days after this branch line was turned down by the Senate, I understand, the Canadian Pacific Railway let a contract to run a branch line through the same district, but about fifteen or eighteen miles farther west, where it could not possibly serve these soldier settlers. They are in a position to-day where they cannot now and probably never will secure railway accommodation. They are trying to get along under the hardest possible conditions, but conditions that, as I see them, they cannot possibly overcome. There is no possible chance of their making good with the liabilities that they have. In cases like that I think there is nothing the department can do but wipe off the whole indebtedness, because eventually the country must accept a great loss in any case. The machinery and stock that these men have has depreciated to such an extent that it is now worth very little. It is possible in the prairies to-day to buy a fairly good horse for $30, and a milch cow which when these men settled there would be worth from $75 to $S0, is to-day worth not more than $25. So the government must face a loss anyhow.

I think the government is responsible in another way. Let me point out that the drastic reduction in the value of these lands was due primarily to the sudden deflation of

Soldier Settlement Act

the currency that was brought about in 1920. That was really responsible for the deflation in the values of land and stonk. Now the government must accept some responsibility for that. It was part of the governmental policy, or if it was not, at any rate the government adopted a passive attitude towards it and permitted it to happen. So there again the government must in the last analysis accept a good deal of the responsibility.

I appreciate the position of the minister. T know there are a great many difficulties in the way, that re-appraisal will cost a good deal and will take considerable time; but I submit it is the only way in which this question can be definitely settled, and that a minor reduction such as is proposed in this bill is only prolonging the agony; It is not really dealing with the question at all. I do not want the minister to think I am opposing the bill. I appreciate the fact that the government has given the men this amount of reduction. In a good many cases it will help materially, but I think the minister should take into consideration all these various phases of the question and before long undertake and complete a revaluation of all these holdings with a view to bringing them down to the present values of land and stock.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

Before the minister replies, T would like to dissociate myself-and I rather think there are others who would like to do the same-from the extravagant language used by the hon. member for East Calgary (Mr. Irvine) when he told the House that this measure is but a gesture and a sham. If it is allowed to go on record that the House or members on this side of the House were of that opinion, the Minister of Finance would perhaps be justified in saying: " Well, if it is only a sham and a gesture, I will withdraw the bill and save $5,000,000." I think we shall find that it is anything but a sham and a gesture when we come to look at the aggregate cost of this reduction on the books of the treasury.

As far as I am concerned I am glad to get at least what this measure proposes. I wou'd feel very much embarrassed if I had to go home to my soldier constituents and say to them that we were offered a rebate of $5,000,000 but that owing to extravagant and unjustified language used in this House we got nothing at all. While the reduction is not as large as I would like-I shall not go into that matter again-it is some measure of assistance at least. If I owed $500 on stock, and I got a rebate of $200, I should consider that as something better than a sham, something more than a gesture.

I would like to ask a question on a point which is not quite clear to me. Section 1 says that this amount, whatever the man is found to be entitled to, shall be deducted from his indebtedness if he has not repaid his indebtedness to the board. Take the case of a man or his wife who comes into a little legacy- that is the only way he would be able to repay his indebtedness-and we will suppose be pays off with the legacy his indebtedness on his stock, but has not paid off his land indebtedness. Will he be allowed to apply this reduction on the stock to what he now owes on the land?

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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LIB

James Alexander Robb (Minister of Immigration and Colonization)

Liberal

Mr. ROBB:

I would not like to commit myself on that without looking carefully into it. That might involve the possibility of an interpretation that would include those who had sold out altogether and left the land.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

I am asking if it would apply in the case of a man who had paid off his indebtedness on his stock, but who still owed on the land?

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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LIB

James Alexander Robb (Minister of Immigration and Colonization)

Liberal

Mr. ROBB:

It would depend whether he

was on the land or not. The bill is clear that he must be on the land.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

Alan Webster Neill

Progressive

Mr. NEILL:

Yes, the act calls for that. It says it shall not apply to a man who has repaid his indebtedness or who has abandoned his land. But what I want to have made clear is whether a settler shall be entitled to apply this reduction to what he owes on the land- if, for instance, he has come into a little legacy and has paid off his indebtedness on his stock. I think he should be entitled to deduct that payment on account of stock reduction from what he now owes on the land.

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UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

I think that point is

quite covered in the bill. Before 1922 the lands, it is true, were on a differential basis. There were specific loans on stock and specific loans on land. In the amendments of 1922 all the loans made up to that time, which would indue all the loans made for live stock, which would come under this act, were consolidated into one loan, which would amount to a new loan being issued which would cover all the indebtedness in October, 1922. I do not think there can be any doubt this would apply to any indebtedness as the stock loan would be merely a portion of the whole loan as consolidated in 1922.

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LIB

James Alexander Robb (Minister of Immigration and Colonization)

Liberal

Mr. ROBB:

It seems to me that in the interpretation of the act we might very safely leave this in the hands of the Soldier

Soldier Settlement Act

Settlement Board. They are sympathetic to the settlers as they are soldiers themselves, and I do not think any good purpose can be served by continuing the debate.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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PRO

William John Ward

Progressive

Mr. WARD:

Since I spoke a few moments ago I find a letter in my file which is a fair criterion of many cases in the northern part of Manitoba. This gentleman has written me several letters. He says:

I am taking the liberty of writing to you again. I am given to understand by the Free Press newspaper that there is to be no revaluation on land. My payments will amount to $371 and taxes $75 next year which is impossible to pay. (Farm bought at $4,000). The most it is possible to pay is $200 including taxes. The quarter adjoining mine was sold for $1,200 last year, and if I cannot get mine at that price Iwill have to leave it as it is impossible for a manto stay on a farm and not get enough to eat. At the present time the main part of my crop is under water owing to the recent heavy rains. I wish you would see into the matter and let me have a replyas soon as possible. Hoping this is not causing you too

much trouble.

And he says that is the value prevailing in the district. I think that is a fair description of the situation all through northern Manitoba. I have often made the statement that if a physical revaluation were made by practical men it would be found that the reai value would not be over thirty per cent of the original price paid. I would like to draw the attention of the minister to the fact that in making these protests which we have made for revaluation we are backed up by resolutions passed 'by each of the prairie province governments in the three successive years. We have unanimous resolutions passed by the union of municipalities of the three prairie provinces, and we have supporting us the unanimous resolutions passed by each of the conventions held in each of the last three years by the farmers' organizations in the several prairie provinces, besides thousands of other organizations throughout those provinces which have been passing such resolutions.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

What is the use of making all these speeches about these matters when the hon. member for Comox Alberni is perfectly satisfied?

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PRO

William John Ward

Progressive

Mr. WARD:

I do not think the hon. member for East Calgary is quite fair to the hon. member for Comox Alberni. I do not think the hon. member for Comox Alberni is satisfied by any means.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLEMENT ACT, 1919, AMENDMENT
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June 22, 1925