Let me remind the hon. gentleman that the legion command in Alberta voted that clear titles be given these soldier settlers. The hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Fair) placed that resolution on record some time ago, and referred to it again tonight; but I cannot take any responsibility for what the legion does in Saskatchewan. What probably happened there, I think, was this. At that convention I believe that there was a good deal of lobbying, and that it was explained to the delegates that if they asked that clear title be given the old soldiers it might prejudice government action in regard to soldier settlers under the new bill. I have no fear that just because we may give clear titles to the old veterans of the first war, the new veterans will cease to make their payments. I think it is utter nonsense to suggest that any soldier of this war would wait for twenty-seven years in order to get title. He wants his title just as quickly as he can get it; and I think the records have proved that whenever a soldier settler has had the money to pay, he has paid. So that if to-day we gave clear title to these old veterans I anj sure there would be no question of the soldier settler of this war wanting to wait for twenty-seven years in order to get clear title also. However, I believe it may have been argued at that convention that this action would be detrimental in this way, and I think that may be why they took that stand.
We frequently hear members of the government eulogizing the government programme in regard to the rehabilitation of veterans of world war II, and I will agree that this programme is good. There may be exceptions to that statement, but I think it compares favourably with the programmes of other nations. On the other hand, however, I would say that the government's programme in regard to the veterans of world war I is altogether inadequate. To-day veterans of the first war are old men. What chance, for instance, will the men coming out of the veterans' guard have to get back into industry? The ages of these veterans range from fifty-five to eighty, so they have not a chance. It is all very well for the hon. member for Rosthern (Mr. Tucker) to be so optimistic about the four thousand soldier settlers on the land to-day and to say that men who have an equity of 30 per cent are almost sure to be able to pay for their land. Let me remind the hon. member that
in 1929 there were many farmers who did not owe a cent; who had paid up their life insurance and had money in the bank, but who lost their farms five or six years later. If men in that position can lose their farms I suggest that we should not be overoptimistic about men who have only a 30 per cent equity in their farms and who, in many instances have nothing but old machinery.
As we know, the history of the old soldier settlers has been tragic. Of the 25,000 who settled on the land, in the neighbourhood of
16,000 lost their land. The hon. member for Rosthern stated that 5,600 have paid up, but we still have some 4,000 who, generally speaking, have only a small equity in their land. The resolution before the house is based upon order in council 10472, and for a little while I wish to deal with the history of that order in council, the reason it was brought forward and to what extent it covers the needs of the soldier settlers. P.C. 10472 came into being very largely as the result of a recommendation of the committee on veterans affairs that sat in 1942. I want to read to the house the recommendation of the legion to the committee at that time, which recommendation is to be found at page 158 of the committee's proceedings for Friday, July 10, 1942:
The legion, therefore, recommends that the principle contained in section 9 of the new bill, respecting the veteran's debt should, as far as possible, be applied to soldier settlers under the old act and that the director be given power to rewrite contracts accordingly.
On page 162 of the same proceedings I find this statement by the chairman of that committee :
I was going to point out that failures have been largely due to circumstances over which the settler had no control. What we should attempt to do, I think, in making a report, or suggested amendments, is to try to bring this situation of settlers in distress in conformity with the present bill 65.
I do not think the hon. member for Rosthern or the minister would try to argue that order in council 10472 did bring the old Soldier Settlement Act into conformity with the new one. It is only necessary to read the two recommendations to see that in reality the order in council was the negation of the recommendation made by that committee. I say that because in the recommendation of the committee we find it recommended that soldier settlers be given equity in their land. When that, recommendation was made it was the general understanding of the members of the committee that the equity would be along the lines of that given under the new act. I could quote member after member speaking in the committee who advocated that the principle of the new act should apply to the
old. I have already quoted the chairman as saying that the aim of the committee should be to give to the soldier of the last war the same benefits as received by the soldier of this one, under the act.
So, when the recommendation read that equity should be given, the understanding was that the equity would be along the lines of that given in the new Veterans Land Act. But what do we find in the order in council? We find in it that there is no provision for any equity. I quote section 1 (b):
(b) make application to the director for a reduction of his indebtedness to the director, and the treasury board may on the recommendation of the director confirm or reduce such indebtedness, provided, however, that the recommendation made by the director shall be based upon the amount which in his judgment constitutes the present and prospective productive value of the land; the effective date of reduction if any shall be the standard date in 1942.
In other words, if the director had followed out the order in council in detail he would have reduced the debt of the soldier settler only down to the actual value of the land. The soldier would have had no equity in the land at all. Fortunately, I believe, for the veterans, the director of the soldier settlement board did go beyond the order in council, and he did provide some equity.
On the other hand if, when the adjustments were made, the old soldier settlers had been given equity to bring them into line with the soldiers settling under the new act, they would have been given an equity of at least 33} per cent, because that is the equity so granted under that act.
Under the new act the veteran is given an equity of 23} per cent, and he pays down 10 per cent himself, so that he has an equity of about 33} per cent. In addition, he is given a grant of 81,200 for machinery. So that actually in land and machinery he has an equity of 46 per cent.
If a soldier settler had been given an equity of 33} per cent four years ago, then naturally, after four years of war and good prices for farm products one would expect to find that soldier settler in far better shape than merely having an equity of 33} per cent. If a soldier settler cannot increase his equity considerably during a period of high prices, what chance would he have to increase it in later years, when prices may have fallen?
In spite of the fact that the soldier was supposed to have been given an equity of 33% per cent, we find that to-day there are 1,446 settlers with an average equity of only 30 per cent. So that apparently they made no progress at all. We find there are 518 with an equity of only 14 per cent. If they were given
an equity of 33% per cent they must have gone back. Then there are 203 with no equity at all. Surely these figures are evidence that the intentions of the 1942 committee were not carried out.
I hold in my hand sessional paper 125B. In this paper the question is asked;
How many of the 3,800 soldier settlers classified in grades 3 and 4 as at March 31, 1942, have had their debts adjusted under P.C. 10472?
The answer is;
1,739 debt reductions have been approved by treasury board to May 31, 1946; further 72 cases are under review.
The second question was:
How many of the above failed to make an application under this order?
The figure given in reply was 1,787. I think the reason is obvious. Forms were sent out, and it is stated on those forms that their debts would be readjusted so that the amount of the debt would be equal to the value of the land. Then they were asked to sign the forms for another twenty-five years. A lot of them said, "Thank you for nothing," and made no application at all.
Then the third question:
How many of those, whose debts were adjusted, had their debts reduced to the point where they had an equity in their land of (a) over 30 per cent; (b) over 15 per cent; (c) under 15 per cent, based upon 1941-42 values?
The reply is that only 377 were given an equity of 30 per cent, 1,298 an equity of 15 per cent and sixty-four an equity under 15 per cent.
These figures prove conclusively that the intentions of the 1942 committee were not carried out. I am not blaming the director of the soldier settlement board, because he went farther than he had a right to go under the order in council. I am, however, criticizing the government for passing an order in council that was a direct negation of the recommendation of the 1942 committee.
When the question of giving clear titles to veterans in the last war came up in committee there was a good deal of discussion, and I think that generally the committee was sympathetic to it. But as I have said, however, when the time for the vote came the forces were marshalled so that there was no chance that those who were in favour of it would win out. But what I am surprised at is this, that when a motion was put to grant the soldier settlers of the last war an equity of 33} per cent, the committee turned it down by a vote of twenty-one to thirteen. Again, of course, that was the direct result of bringing into the committee all the reserve
army of government members. Four cabinet ministers were included in that reserve, just to make sure that it would carry out the wishes of the government in that regard.
The government could have at least given soldiers of the last war that much consideration. It would have been right in line with the recommendations of the 1942 committee. Mind you, the whole basis of the new Veterans Land Act is that a soldier has no chance ever to pay for his land unless, when he starts out, he has an equity of 33j- per cent. The mortgage companies take the stand that a man must have an equity of 50 per cent in his land if he is ever to pay for it.
If it is necessary for soldier settlers under the new act, men who are young, men who, generally speaking, have fairly new equipment, to have an equity of 33J per cent to pay for their land bow much more necessary is it for old soldier settlers ranging in ages from fifty-five to seventy years to have an equity of 33-j per cent if they are to pay for their land.
Yet, strange as it seems, the committee recorded a vote against giving them that equity. The minister repeatedly asks the question: Are you in favour of the present resolution? I would reply in this way: If you find a starving man and someone offers him' a small crumb, even it be a small crumb I would say by all means give it to him. Therefore I shall support the resolution as being just one small donation; but it does not begin to meet the need.
Subtopic: AMENDMENT RESPECTING RATES OF INTEREST