question I should like to ask the minister before the bill is brought down. At that time I shall have something more to say. What about the soldier settler who year after year for many years has paid to the board his principal and interest and then, just a limited number of years before his principal and interest is paid, passes out, or goes west? What about the dependents of that man? Will the department modify the legislation in any way so that the property will pass into the hands of the dependents? Because if the money is not paid, and the breadwinner is taken away, they would have to leave their farms and lose all their holdings.
interest of the deceased in the land devolves upon his dependents and is administered by the estate. Whether or not there are cases where the estate is not able to administer them and suffers hardship, I do not know. There may be such cases.
Nothing left, if something is not done to save the estate for those who are left.
Soldier Settlement Act
Mr.'SPENCER: I believe when the minister was considering bringing down this legislation an opportunity was given to soldier settlers to place their views before him. I should like to ask to what extent the present legislation is in line with their wishes.
The present legislation is not in line with the original view of some of the soldier settlers. A number of them wanted the whole debt wiped out. In fact, I believe some of them asked the return of money they had paid. Of course those differences had to be the subject of conferences, investigations and exchange of views. All the various possibilities of legislation of this type had to be considered. In the main these settlers do not want to be legislated into ownership. The final result was that the legislation drafted as nearly as possible conformed to the views of the majority. I have no doubt in the world there are those who will not be satisfied and, although I am an optimist, I never expected that we could satisfy everybody. I do say however that, in my judgment, as a remedial measure the proposed legislation does deal equitably with the soldier settlers throughout Canada, and others holding contracts with the government. An effort has been made in framing the legislation to see that a penalty is not imposed upon other soldiers, because it must be remembered that soldier settlers represent less than three per cent of the Canadian expeditionary force. There are many soldiers in Canada to-day who are not on land and who are in the same difficulties in which many of us find ourselves. I make the statement, believing it to be true, in the relative sense at any rate, that there are many soldiers who are not in the preferred position that the soldier settler is in, and who have not had the advantage of residing upon lands for the last thirteen or fourteen years. Having that in mind, and also the position of other land owners in the various provinces where different legislative enactments have been passed or are contemplated, the government felt that the best course to follow was to deal with the soldier settlers and others holding lands from coast to coast in the way indicated in the resolution, and which will be set out in greater detail and accuracy in the bill to follow.
I do not believe that the horizontal reduction was at all sound. I cannot help but think it was put through in a hurry, and that at the time consideration was not given to the effect it might have. The effect was not an equitable distribution, I think in so far as it is possible this bill will bring about equitable distribution. Then, again, the government do
not deem it desirable to enter into any such agreements as were entered into with respect to taxes and things of that character. They were not universal or dominion-wide in their application. That was hurriedly done; the so-called agreement was hurriedly entered into. I do not say this in a spirit of ultra-criticism of those who had charge at the time, but in my estimation it was hurriedly done and did not extend to all those under the act the benefit of the so-called agreement. As a matter of fact it applied only to the three western provinces, and was entered into when there was before the then soldier settlement board the opinion of the Department of Justice that it was illegal to do it. I have no doubt it was illegal. I say it was hurriedly entered into in the late spring or early summer of 1930, that it was not a wise procedure to take and has not worked out well. It has given endless trouble; it has taught many settlers to disregard their responsibility to their municipalities, and rendered the position of those municipalities almost hopeless so far as collecting taxes is concerned. Some of the settlers do not consider that municipal taxes are obligations which they should take seriously. I say that with great frankness, because that was one of the results achieved by the so-called tax agreement.
to poor prices for crops last year the soldier settlers had gTeat difficulty in meeting their one-third crop payment. Is an attempt now being made to collect one-third, or is it being dropped to one-fourth?
In accepting a portion of the crop the director endeavoured to conform to the practice and the law in the various provinces. The provinces would adopt one-third or one-fourth or some other fraction, and the director endeavoured to conform. But the practice now is to accept one-fourth or less, regardless of whether or not the province asked for more.
A lot of these men will have payments coming due for the next ten years, say. The credit of $2 where he has paid $1 applies only for five years. Suppose by some miracle he gets some money-he will not get it out of the land, but his mother-inlaw might die-will he be allowed to pay in advance in order to get this $2 for $1?