April 13, 1945

LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction; Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

If it does, it does.

As to the strait of Canso a preliminary report was obtained on the causeway, and it seemed to me that the economics justified further exploration. In fact I thought that the preliminary report was quite promising as to the economics of either a bridge or a causeway over the strait of Canso. The result is that a survey party is now in the field, and designs will be prepared so that a more accurate study can be made than has been made, with a view of including it in the post-war programme.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

Under the preparations in the Department of Munitions and Supply there is, I understand, a scheme whereby the government enters into a certain oil field1 area and does some research work in drilling and finding out whether oil is obtainable. In some cases they themselves sink wells, and, I understand, if a well is found to be productive the government takes out sufficient oil to pay for the cost of the operation and hands the thing over. In the Kamsack area of Saskatchewan they have drilled some shallow wells and have obtained sufficient natural gas to heat the town; and there is every evidence of oil being available deeper down. The people of that area would like to know what the possibilities are that the government will investigate that field and take some action by way of drilling to see whether or not oil is there; and they would like to know what steps they should take if that plan is to be continued this year under these estimates.

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LIB

Clarence Decatur Howe (Minister of Reconstruction; Minister of Munitions and Supply)

Liberal

Mr. HOWE:

It was not a plan of general application. The situation was that in the Turner valley are certain marginal areas known to contain oil but of doubtful value as commercial propositions. In other words, it was a risky operation from a business viewpoint to get that oil. However, to the government, the obtaining of that additional oil was important; it was oil which we knew we had; we were subsidizing the importation

of oil; and therefore the government itself undertook to drill out that particular area, which was, I believe, on the west flank of the Turner valley. The operation was confined to that district. The results were much as we expected. It would look as though the sales would just about reimburse the government for its investment. It was never the intention of the government to make that a rule of general application; the action was simply confined to that one area and one operation. We have no policy which calls for the government wild-catting in other areas.

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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. PAIR:

About twenty-six years ago we finished a war, we believed successfully, and in the very near future we hope to conclude successfully another war. During past sessions of this parliament quite a lot of legislation has been placed on the statute books for the rehabilitation of men and women who come back from this war, but we have at the present time a number who returned from the first great war who are not in very happy circumstances. I refer to the soldier settlers. On various occasions recently we have asked that clear titles to their land be issued to these old soldier settlers. To-night we have in the house three ministers from whom I should like to have a statement in connection with the matter. We have the Minister of Veterans' Affairs, who, I believe, is sympathetic to these men, and under whose administration they are now being placed. We have also the Minister of Mines and Resources, under whose department the soldier settlement board has been fixed for a number of years, although neither I nor anyone else can tell why. The minister, I believe, is opposed to the granting of clear titles. He is also a member of the treasury board. Then we have in the house the Minister of Finance, another member of the treasury board and one who has pretty close control of the national pursestrings. Not very many days ago I suggested that between seven and eight million dollars, which is no more than the cost of one half day of this war, be set aside to provide these old soldier settlers with clear titles, but the proposal was rejected. To-night, in the dying days of this parliament, and before many of our new veterans are settled on land, I should like to have the three ministers I have mentioned give statements and then that I might have an opportunity of answering the arguments they put up in favour of further persecuting these old veterans of world war one. I believe that the success of much of the legislation which is now being enacted for the younger veterans

War Appropriation

depends on the treatment of these old veterans, who have been subjected to persecution during the past twenty-five or twenty-six years.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

The hon. member for Battle River has been consistent and strenuous in his advocacy of the case of these soldier settlers. The matter came up in committee or in the house some weeks ago; and I informed my hon. friend that on August 25 last year the government, after due consideration of the claim, had rejected them as such. Since then my hon. friend accompanied a delegation of western settlers to my office and, I believe, to other offices and made an able appeal with regard to these soldier settlers. The government considered the situation a second time, and the appeal which had been launched was again rejected. Since then, however, there have been brought to the attention of the administration alternative suggestions which have not yet been fully or finally considered.

May I tell the committee in a word or two some of the figures of the last year with regard to these fine old soldier settlers. The amount of current instalments due in the first eleven months of the fiscal year which began April 1, 1944, was $642,704. The amount actually paid upon current instalments and arrears was $785,662. The amount prepaid-I want the committee to appreciate this-during the year was $761,252. That is, Mr. Chairman, the instalments due were $642,000, and the amounts paid were $1,546,000. Or, expressed in another way: the number of settlers with payments due in the last year was 5,322. The number who, in the first eleven months had made payments, was 89'4 per cent of the total, and the number of settlers who made prepayments in advance of their obligation was 2,630. These soldier settlers are my comrades, and they have the consideration and good feeling of every man in this house. They made prepayments in advance of their obligation in 2,630 cases; that is, exactly one-half of the total number of soldier settlers made prepayments upon their holdings.

Representations have been made, and made in a spirit of deep sincerity, by the hon. member for Battle River for further assistance to these soldier settlers. He has been especially active in this matter, and I commend him for it because I know he is sincere. It is contended, quite justly, that the Veterans' Land Act, which is for the veterans of this war who are going to settle on land, is a better act than the old Soldier Settlement Act, and that veterans of the old war should be given equal consideration with the veterans of the new

war. With that principle, I may tell my hon. friend, I am fully in accord. The Veterans' Land Act provides under certain conditions for a free grant of a portion of the cost of each settlement enterprise. The Soldier Settlement Act contained no such provision. It was found that the burden of debt placed upon the old settlers was too great and, by a series of measures enacted by this parliament from year to year, that burden was reduced.

When we were considering the New Veterans' Land Act in 1942 in an able committee of this parliament the government, as a result of the recommendations of that committee and of an able committee of departmental men with practical farming assistance and experience from outside this city, introduced into this house the present Veterans' Land Act. The free grant is an acceptance by the government in advance of the situation that developed under the Soldier Settlement Act, under which a part of the original liability had to be written off. Thus, Mr. Chairman, we sought to bring the two measures broadly into line with regard to the repayment obligations assumed by the settler.

The hon. member for Battle River-and I am not at all critical-has urged that the government should go still farther and wipe out all remaining indebtedness by issuing clear title to soldier settlers who have not yet completed their payments. Up to the present time the government has not found it possible to accede fully to this request, for reasons which the hon. member stated quite fairly in this house the other day, even though he did not agree with the conclusions we have reached.

There is one conspicuous difference between the Soldier Settlement Act and the Veterans' Land Act which the government had decided to remove and did remove. The Soldier Settlement Act called for the payment of interest at five per cent. The rate under the Veterans' Land Act is 3i per cent. During the present session we decided that the rate of interest for all soldier settlers should be reduced from five per cent to 3i per cent.

That briefly is the story. As I said a while ago, there is quite a lot of good sentiment behind the advocacy of the case advanced in this house by the hon. member for Battle River. Upon the facts as submitted to me and the prepayments made-which I think are in advance of any commercial enterprise in Canada-in the last year by the old soldier settlers of Canada, and reminding him that in the last few days alternative proposals have been submitted to the government but not yet decided upon in regard to the possible meeting

War Appropriation

of the situation. I say at the present time we have done everything we could have in regard to all the proposals submitted to us.

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NAT

Ernest Edward Perley

National Government

Mr. PERLEY:

I am pleased to hear the statement of the minister, but he might give us a little more information. He said that 2,360 have made prepayments. How are they distributed throughout the dominion? I have associated myself with the hon. member for Battle River in his request since he first made it, but I should like to point out this further fact. In 1937 when the minister's estimates were before the committee I suggested that the debt be written off and that these settlers be given clear title to their land. At that time I gave figures to show that the cost of administering the act and collecting the money and so on was almost as great as the amount the government would eventually receive. I just wish to make clear that that was the position I took as early as 1937. Since that time we have had the hon. member for Battle River take up the case, and I have been pleased to support him. I think the minister's statement was an interesting one, but I should like to point out that in the last couple of years we have had two good crops in western Canada and that they have resulted in a lot of these prepayments being made. I should also like to say that many of these old veterans have been working under difficult circumstances. I know some in my district who have two sons in this war. They have carried on under great difficulties and made the payments. I am pleased, however, to know that the situation is clearing up and I certainly wish to associate myself with the hon. member for Battle River.

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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. FAIR:

Mr. Chairman, I wish to thank the minister very sincerely for the statement he has made to-night in connection with the concessions that the government, through the minister, intends to make to these old soldier settlers.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

With deference may I correct that statement. I said that since we had considered the matter two or three weeks ago there have been given to the government alternative proposals which we have not yet been able to consider.

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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. FAIR:

I take it that it all means the same thing anyway. I thank the minister, and I think the government in its wisdom, possibly against the will of some of the powerful members, and perhaps in their own interest, decided to consider these questions favourably in the very near future.

It is more than twenty years since we thought we had won the old war successfully. I was not able to write as fast as the minister spoke and I did not get all his figures. I did get enough to convince me that several prepayments have been made during the eleven months of the last fiscal year. What I am concerned with, however, is the principle involved. I am a practical farmer, and I have gone through exactly the same hardships as those old soldier settlers with the exception that I did not have the bailiff at the door every time I could not make my payment. It was not my fault; as one of my hon. friends here suggested, I have better land than many of these old soldier settlers have; I knew a little more about land than they did and perhaps I had a little better break than they had. However, as I said, there is a principle involved, and it would seem to be the policy of the government or of the soldier settlement board to get money regardless of whence it comes. It is their intention to get it and clear up all these old debts. I think that is not good enough.

We have kept these old soldier settlers working and trying to pay off their debts on a quarter-section of land for twenty years, land that in many cases was not worth one thousand dollars if figured on a business basis. I do not think two per cent of the members of this house would ever try to go out and make these payments. These old soldier settlers are not asking anything from this or any other government, because after suffering all they have gone through they have paid for their land time and time again. When they bought the land wheat was close to $3 a bushel and in 1932 it went down to 19i cents a bushel for the best wheat in the world. I know that to my sorrow, for I sold thousands of bushels that year for 12J cents a bushel after paying eleven cents a bushel for threshing. Now we have a business administration, and I ask them to use some common sense in dealing with these old soldier settlers. A number of these old soldier settlers are making prepayments this year for very good reasons. Not very long ago, through a return to a question of mine, information was brought to me which showed that in the years from 1930 to 1943 inclusive, a fourteen-year period, we had almost three thousand of these soldier settlers either sign quit claim deeds or forced to get off the land on being served with a thirty day notice. That is one very good reason for these fellows paying up; because if you look at the record you will find that since the war broke out a particular drive

War Appropriation

has been put on either to get the soldier settler to pay up or get off. If you treat your new veterans in that way you may look for chaos, and plenty of it, in Canada because the new veterans will not take the treatment handed out to the old ones, and so far as I am concerned I hope to do my share to see that the new men receive better treatment.

The minister might have pointed out some other benefits that have been extended in connection with these lands, but I think we have successful answers to any arguments he may advance. I would point out that thirty-nine per cent of the credit extended to the new veterans will be given as a grant if for the first ten years they keep up their payments. At the end of March, 1944, the old settlers owed only twenty-nine per cent of their original average debt. Why in the world can we not square that off and give them a clear sheet? At the present time the average age of these settlers is close to sixty, and I have had letters from several who are over eighty. I have not pointed out that recently the government sent out to these people forms on which they might make application to have their loans renewed or the period of payment extended for up to another twenty years. Can one imagine a man eighty, eighty-five or eighty-eight years of age signing a contract which will oblige him to keep on paying for his quarter-section of land until he is over a hundred years old? Again I ask for a good business administration to take these matters into consideration.

As has been pointed out by the minister, under the Veterans' Land Act the rate of interest is 3J per cent. Let us not forget that under the old soldier settlement board the interest on the current debt was five per cent, and as soon as they went into arrears they paid seven per cent. I say again that if the reduction in interest had been made retroactive these old settlers would have been paid up years ago and would not have had to come to the government here, as they did last year, asking for clear title.

Some persons have an idea that they are asking for something for nothing. This is not a matter of my own interests. I am not a soldier settler; all the land I have I bought. In the interests of Canada; in the interests of the success of the Veterans' Land Act, and in the interests of our own veterans, the government still has time before dissolution to pass the necessary order in council-they have passed thousands already-to give these men clear title. If the Minister of Mines and Resources and the Minister of Finance will give

us their arguments in opposition I think we can take care of them because I do not think they have a leg to stand on. They cannot get blood out of a stone. Let me point out to anyone opposed to the granting of these titles that we are taking money from these old settlers, while in many cases their wives and families need medical, hospital, dental or other care. Do not forget the malnutrition that has prevailed in many of these families, as in many others, during the years these men have been on this land. I know many of us in this house have never seen any hard times. When we go out around the country we live at the best hotels, at the expense of the country. The old soldier settler, however, is trying to make a living off the land, and for heaven's sake, before this parliament dissolves, give him the clear title for which he has been asking on so many occasions.

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CCF

George Hugh Castleden

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. CASTLEDEN:

Since first entering

this house this group has consistently supported this request. The minister's statement this evening proves quite conclusively the sincerity and good will of those people who are still on the land. They would have paid everything if the opportunity had been given them. They have been more than willing to fulfil their obligations, and the government should recognize that fact. During the three years from 1939 to 1941 the actions of this government worked a great hardship on these men and aroused a great deal of resentment. In view of the past contribution of these returned soldiers, who fought in the last war and who now face the declining years of their lives, surely this government, without loss to itself or to the people of Canada, could give them clear title to their land. I am sure this group would give full support to the action of the government in so doing.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

Just before we leave that subject I should like to add a word to the discussion. I hope the minister will not think we are indulging in any loose sentiments, as he expressed it a while ago I do not intend to repeat the arguments which have been put forward by the hon. member for Battle River, who, I think, presented a sound case. However, it seems to me that the government should go a little farther in the new Veterans' Land Act. I quite agree with everything said by the hon. member for Battle River in regard to the old soldier settlers getting clear title to their land. Let us remember that Alberta has passed legislation to give the returned men of this war who had residence in that province a half-section of land, with clear title

War Appropriation

in ten years. When the province can go so far as to grant clear title in ten years, with no encumbrance whatever, not even taxes, surely this federal government can do a little better than it has promised to do for our veterans of this war, as well as the veterans of world war No. 1. The provincial government has not the money the federal government has, nor has it, thanks to this government, the ways of raising money that are open to the federal authority. Not only has Alberta agreed to give the returned men of that province who desire it a half-section of land, free of all taxes and other encumbrances at the end of ten years; it desires to go a little further than that. If the federal government will cooperate a little in the interests of the returned men Alberta is prepared to give each veteran forty acres of land broken and cleared. All the province asks is that the federal government pay half the cost. I do not think that is loose sentiment at all, but something to which these men are entitled. Surely, if Alberta can do that it is not being sentimental. Not at all; it is doing so because it is good business.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

I do not wish to interrupt my hon. friend, but has he had an opportunity of reading the order in council tabled this afternoon in regard to provincial crown lands?

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I have not, but am I to understand that the federal government is agreeing with the province of Alberta-

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

The federal government had a conference with officials of the province of Alberta, among others, and as a result of careful consideration an order in council was prepared and tabled in this house this afternoon, dealing with this very question of provincial crown lands;

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I am very glad an order in council has been passed, but we have not had a chance to look at it. Would the minister tell us the contents of the order in council?

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

I am sorry I have not the order in council before me at the moment, but we had a conference with representatives of the western provinces, and, I think, some of the eastern provinces as well. The discussion lasted for two or three days; certain principles were agreed upon, which were submitted to the government, and finally an order in council was drawn up providing for cooperation with

the provincial authorities in order to make it easier to place soldier settlers upon crown land.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

Does the order in council provide for the federal government sharing the cost of clearing and breaking forty acres?

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

No.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):

I believe the federal government should give that suggestion a great deal of consideration. As I was pointing out, the government of Alberta is not doing this from a sentimental point of view.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

I think my hon. friend will find that this order in council will be of great benefit to settlers in Alberta.

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April 13, 1945