April 19, 1950


Motion agreed to.


SOLDIER SETTLERS

PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES

SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Robert Fair (Battle River) moved:

That, in the opinion of this house, the government should take into consideration the advisability of giving clear titles to all soldier settlers of great war I who hold land under contract with the soldier settlement board.

He said: In moving this resolution today, I express the hope that this is the last time it will be necessary for me or anyone else to deal with this question, and that the government will see to its immediate solution. This matter has been dealt with from time to time since 1937, and it is now a little more than thirty years since these settlers first took up their land. I feel it is long past the time when a disposition of this matter should have been finally made.

In this house a great deal has been said about the sanctity of contracts. It has been mentioned by cabinet ministers and others, and this afternoon I am basing my appeal on the sanctity of contract. I have before me a copy of an address delivered by the late Sir Robert Borden, then prime minister of Canada, to the Canadian expeditionary forces in 1917. He said:

You are men actually facing the enemy day and night. You are suffering greatly from fatigue, overstrain, and lack of rest. The marvel of it is that men could undergo such a strain without breaking; but you have never yet broken and history will appreciate that in days to come.

You men are about to enter one of the most serious engagements that ever faced the Canadian corps. I cannot, at this moment, give any information as to where this attack will be staged, whether it be successful or not, it is to be borne in mind that it will not be an easy success . . . We feel confident that you will succeed where others failed; for you have never yet failed in anything you have set your hand to, as a Canadian corps.

You can go into this action feeling assured of this, and as the head of the government, I give you this assurance; that you need have no fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service to the country and empire in what you are about to do and what you have already done.

The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of the people at home, and it will always be our endeavour to so guide the attitude of public opinion, that the country will support the government to prove to the returned man its just and due appreciation of the inestimable value of the services rendered to the country and empire; and that no man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken with the men who won and the men who died.

Soldier Settlers

In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, that is a definite promise on behalf of the government of that day. It is a promise that has not been kept, the fulfilment of which I hope the people of Canada will see is no longer delayed. The soldier settlement legislation was passed in 1919. As a result of that legislation, which some people thought was good and which was passed hurriedly by men who had no previous experience in the matter but were merely interested in getting the ex-soldiers out of the towns and cities, 25,017 veterans were given average loans of $4,358.40 each. These loans totalled $109,034,331.

For the information of those who have not heard this argument before, I might say that those soldier settlers were beaten before they ever started. Immediately after the war the price of land was high, as were the prices of grain and livestock. At that time-and I am not saying this from hearsay because I was in the country then-wheat was selling for as high as $3 a bushel; milch cows were selling for as high as $125 to $150 each; and horses for as high as $500 a team. Again let me state that in many cases the horses that were purchased by the soldier settlement board and sold to the settlers should have been used for crow bait rather than for the purposes of those veterans; the. same might be said of some of the cows and other stock that were purchased and also a good deal of the farm machinery was ready for the scrap-heap.

I have here a statement or "authority to sell chattel equipment". I might say that the livestock all belonged to the soldier settlement board, and the settler could not sell any of it without authority from that board. This is an authority granted to one George Connon, Junior, of Hazeldine, Alberta, a man in my constituency, who gave me this paper with permission to use it if I felt that I should do so. This is an authority granted to Mr. Connon to sell some livestock, and this is the appraisal placed upon the livestock by the officials of the soldier settlement board:

1 cow, 1,100 pounds $10

1 black cow, 10 years old, 1,000 pounds 10

1 roan cow, 9 years old, 1,000 pounds 7.50

1 red cow, 9 years old, 1,000 pounds

101 cow, tan and white, 10 years old

101 cow, red, 8 years old, 1,000 pounds

101 cow, black and white, 8 years, Holstein_ 101 cow, black, 8 years old

101 roan bull, 3 years old

102 yearlings, 1923 increase

20Total $107.50

That meant eleven head of cattle for

$107.50, less than the price of one animal four or five years prior to that time. I stated that these men were beaten before they ever started out, and I think that statement from

one of the settlers or that official paper of the soldier settlement board will bear out the statement I have made.

Another thing I see wrong with the contract was that, while there was a definite stated price in the contract that the settler should1 pay to the soldier settlement board, there was no guarantee whatever of the price that the settler would receive for his grain or livestock as time went on; and we know from sad and expensive experience that shortly after war broke out prices broke also and as a result the soldier settlers and many of us out in the country at that time had quite a hard time to get enough to eat, without paying interest, taxes or any of the principal of our debts.

Another injustice in the act at the time was I believe section 57, which took away from the settler the oil rights that went with his holdings. I am glad to say that some of this has since been restored. Back in 1937 or 1938, I am not sure which, legislation was brought in which would restore those oil rights to the settlers who were entitled to them; and while the legislation went through this house without much discussion, when it went to the other chamber we find that it was conveniently sent to a committee, and in that committee certain members, led by Right Hon. Arthur Meighen, saw to it that those oil rights were not restored to the settlers. The result was that it was not until a couple of years ago, since the present Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Gregg) came into office, that these men have been able to get back that right. In that case I feel that the soldier settlement board might just as well have sold buildings off the farms as to have taken away the oil rights that went with the land.

Shortly after the settlers bought their land, as I stated before, prices dropped. We also had a series of poor crops out in that part of the country. As you know, the settlers were mainly located in Saskatchewan and Alberta. As soon as the prices dropped and the crops were short, we had a number of failures. Many of the settlers at that time who were wise enough, who could see far enough ahead -or perhaps through disgust-got off their farms and made a living in other occupations; but many of the others who were determined that they would some day own their land stayed with it', and are still staying with it. I shall deal later with the number who are still on the land.

From practical experience I know that some grades of oats sold for as low as three cents a bushel and in many cases where farmers hauled grain to the elevator and shipped it out in carload lots, after it got down to Fort

William they had to turn in either an additional car of grain or some cash in order to pay the freight. The farmers in general went through those conditions, and the soldier settlers of course were not in a condition to stand those things.

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Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. Blackmore:

Will my hon. friend permit a question?

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Fair:

Yes, certainly.

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Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. Blackmore:

Can he tell us whether or not those low prices were given in the depression or before the depression?

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Fair:

In the depression, mainly. The government felt that a mistake had been made and certain debt reductions were made, including a cut of interest. But it will be readily understood that while prices like those existed, and they had existed for a good many years, the reduction did not keep pace with the losses sustained by those settlers. As a result, instead of getting out of debt, they were going deeper and deeper into debt and they had no way of helping themselves.

A little later on, the government passed legislation providing for a dollar for dollar bonus on arrears. This would have been fine if we had been getting either good crops or good prices; but, as I stated before, all during the depression years good crops and good prices were in a few instances only experienced out there, and the people were not able tp take advantage of the dollar for dollar bonus. It was only applicable on arrears and the people had a great deal of difficulty in finding the money with which to buy enough to eat, without paying taxes or interest or principal on their debt.

Hon. members will recall that by 1939-that is twenty years after this legislation was passed-we had the start of another boom, and that start was caused by the outbreak of another man-made war. Many of the old settlers who were in good enough physical *condition joined up again, and went and served their country for the second time. Those who were not in good enough physical condition to join up stayed home, worked long hours, and produced food and sent it overseas, besides supplying our own needs. At that time, I might say, they were not aware of the income tax collections that would be made a little later on in 1946, 1947, 1948 and so on covering the years when they had worked long hours and when they should tiave been taking life easy.

There is another injustice that many people will not believe. In those cases where a soldier settler enlisted and his wife and family stayed on the home farm, and there was no provision being made for the settler's wife to keep up the payments while he was away,

Soldier Settlers

the then director, Mr. Murchison, under the supervision or the lack of supervision of the then minister of mines and resources (Hon.

T. A. Crerar), under whose department the legislation was administered, saw to it that a certain amount was deducted each month from the allowance that was made to the wife so that the debt of the settler might be taken care of while he again served his country. Many people will not believe that, but if there is any doubt about it let them look up order in council P.C. 138/1936, passed on March 19, 1941. I am just going to read the very meat of this.

It says:

Accordingly the board recommend that notwithstanding any provision to the contrary contained in any of the regulations providing for payment of dependents' or marriage allowances in respect of dependents of members of the Canadian armed forces, that in all cases where the dependents of an enlisted person continue to occupy the farm for which such person is indebted to the director of soldier settlement and in respect of which the contract terms are not otherwise satisfactorily provided for, there may be deducted from the dependents' or marriage allowances amounts sufficient to provide for payment of taxes levied by the local taxing authority in respect of the property in question and interest accruing annually on indebtedness to the director of soldier settlement, such deductions to be made monthly and in no case to exceed $20 per month except with the consent of the dependents concerned.

On many occasions we have pointed out to the government that the then director of soldier settlement was not a fit person to be in charge of operations, particularly when his minister, whose name I have already mentioned, and who is now in another ' section of this parliament enjoying security for the rest of his life, was not minding his business. After some time, and a whole lot of pressure, the government finally did remove this director, Mr. Murchison, and I think-in fact, I am sure-that many of the settlers were quite relieved as soon as that removal took place. I believe we now have a man as director who is a businessman, a man who looks after human values rather than dollar values, and I feel that he is making a success of his work.

Because of the inability of the settlers to secure clear titles there was a movement started back in 1937 in Lloydminster, to have those clear titles granted without any further payments, and the Soldier Settlers Association of Canada was formed a little later on at Saskatoon. That association has had several delegations down here, I believe on five different occasions, and they have done a lot of work in an effort to secure clear titles. We have had several discussions here in the house. Delegations appeared before the veterans affairs committee on two or three occasions. Let nobody think that

Soldier Settlers

this cause is not being supported by many people all across Canada. Perhaps a tew names will suffice to back up my argument. More than 12,000 signatures were secured on a petition for this purpose. A resolution was passed by the Alberta legislature and also by the Saskatchewan legislature; by the Alberta farmers union; by the Saskatchewan association of rural municipalities; the Saskatchewan wheat pool; the united farmers of Canada, Saskatchewan section; the united farmers of Alberta; the Alberta branch of the Canadian Legion; the executive of the British Columbia branch of the Canadian Legion and many others asking that clear titles be granted. We also had a recommendation by the dominion command of the Canadian Legion asking that certain reductions be granted. The hon. member for Acadia asked the question and the then president of the Canadian Legion said that he would not object to clear titles being granted.

The last presentation was made on the 17th of June, 1948. At that time, I am very glad to say, the veterans affairs committee, a committee that has done its work without any political wrangling, gave this delegation's brief favourable consideration, and when the report was presented to the house later on they had this to say under the heading "Soldier Settlement Act":

Your committee recommends that all indebtedness of soldier settlers under the provisions of the Soldier Settlement Act, 1918, be remitted, and that they be granted clear title to their holdings.

Right here I want to pay tribute to the then chairman of the committee, the hon. member who is now parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. He was very sympathetic, and when I brought this matter up first in the house some years ago he was one city member who supported the idea because he felt it was good business. It would cost much less to give them clear title than it would to continue collecting from and persecuting these people. In spite of the fact that the veterans affairs committee recommended that clear title be granted, the government has not up to the present time seen fit to grant clear titles.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

Why is that?

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. Low:

That is what we should like to know.

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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

So would I.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
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SC

Robert Fair

Social Credit

Mr. Fair:

Sanctity of contract again!

Sanctity of contract; that is the only reason that I know of. I remember going into the office of the then minister of finance, the Right Hon. Mr. Ilsley, with a delegation from the Soldier Settlers Association. The first

thing he fired at us, after the suggestion was made that clear titles be granted, was that these men had made a definite contract with the government, and it was the government's business to see that those contracts were fulfilled. I feel quite satisfied that that was not a sufficient argument. It is not a sufficient argument because the government saddled these men with contracts which it is impossible to fulfil. The men did their best on practically every occasion to fulfil their contracts; but because of policies laid down by the government and because of crop failures, and in many instances because of sickness also in the settlers' families, they were unable to carry on.

I must give the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the government credit for coming to the relief of the settlers to some extent. During the past two years they have placed certain amounts in the estimates for the purpose of relieving distress in those cases. They have begun to deal with the most needy cases. When the settler cannot pay his debt, and many of them are not in a position to do so, they give him a chance to square his debt by paying a nominal amount.

Certain reductions were made last year. In 1949, 911 altogether paid off their debts. They paid off $830,308.71. Of those we find that 692 got reductions of $269,311.95. The individual average would be $389.18. But in spite of these reductions, and in spite of that large number having paid off their debt, we find that on the 1st of January, 1950, there still were 1,634 of those settlers who owed $1,838,303.18, or an average of $1,125.

As I said before, the amount advanced to them more than thirty years ago was $4,358.40, and they still owe a little better than 25 per cent, or $1,125 at the present time. Somebody may come back and say 911 paid off their debts in 1949, and in less than two years the rest will be able to clear up theirs. That is not so. Do not forget that the average of the 1,634 who still are in debt to the board is $1,125. Knowing conditions as they are, I am quite satisfied that these men will not be able to pay off their debts.

Some claim that these farmers should have paid their debts. Having been on the land myself since 1914 I know the conditions under which farmers work. Some of those conditions, of course, were not the fault of the government; but many of them were. Some of the men who were unsuited for farming were placed on the land. Land, livestock and implements were purchased at high prices. In some cases the land was in drought or frost areas. Prices of agricultural products reached a very low point, and interest rates which had been originally five per cent on current

account were seven per cent on arrears. Let us compare that with the rate of interest to the veterans under the present Veterans Land Act, where they are being charged three and one-half per cent. Many of the settlers, who have written to me a good deal about the matter, say, "Let the government give us the same rate of interest they have given the veterans of the last great war. There is no reason why we should pay more. Then we would have money coming from the government, instead of having the government collect from us." That is one argument the government might use if it wished to clear up this trouble for the benefit of these old veterans.

Then let me turn to some of the reasons why these titles should be granted now, rather than having to wait any longer. I was going to say when I began to speak that before all the debts are cleared up this resolution will be eligible for the old age pension. Knowing many of the old settlers I feel that unless some action is taken many of them will not be there, in person, to receive their clear titles when they are granted-that is, if the government ever does make up its mind to do so. I believe the average age of those men at the present time is about sixty years, and some are considerably more than that, reaching the age of eighty.

The scheme was hastily improvised and was intended as a rehabilitation measure. However, for reasons I have already given it has turned out to be one of persecution. If those men were not able in thirty of the best years of their lives to pay off their debts, what hope is there of being able to do so in the near future? The prices of farm products are going down while the cost of living and farm operating costs are going up. I feel that again the cards are stacked against those old settlers. Many who paid off their debts in 1948 and 1949 did so at great sacrifice to themselves in order to take advantage of the government's offer of debt reduction. In having done so they have denied themselves and their wives and families many of the comforts which should belong to those veterans who went overseas to defend Canada.

The failure of old settlers to get titles will also have a detrimental effect upon those veterans who are now settling. While we have been assured that there is no depression in sight, we have also been given indirectly reason to believe that the same old cause for bringing on another boom is in the offing. It is not to me, and to many others, a pleasant way of bringing about prosperity.

I do not feel I should speak long on this matter. I have set out my arguments in detail on many occasions before, and what I

Soldier Settlers

have said has been supported from many sections of the house. Yet the government has not seen fit to grant these clear titles.

In conclusion let me repeat that it should never again be said of the Canadian government and members of the House of Commons -because, after all, we have our responsibilities-that:

We love our nation's heroes dead;

We very much adore them.

And since they haven't to be fed

We build grand tombstones o'er them.

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CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. P. E. Wright (Melfori):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to compliment the hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Fair) upon having brought this matter to the attention of the house again. He has done this consistently for the last ten years, while I have been in the House of Commons.

As he has stated, at one time a few years ago we did think the government had made up its mind to make a final settlement with respect to these old settlers. However, it did not turn out that way. At the last moment apparently someone, in a position of higher authority than the government members who sat in the veterans affairs committee, was able to set aside the recommendation of that committee with respect to this matter of giving clear titles to soldier settlers.

I am particularly interested in the matter because in 1920 I settled under the Soldier Settlement Act, and bought land by virtue of it. I know the circumstances which obtained. I believe that in the particular area I represent there was a greater concentration of soldier settlers than was to be found in any other area of Canada.

During the last thirty years I have seen those settlers, one after the other, fall by the wayside; until today in the same area only about 20 per cent of the original settlers who settled under the Soldier Settlement Act are to be found. That is an area in which we have not had crop failures, and is considered to be one of the best crop areas in the Dominion of Canada.

Let me give some of the reasons for the failure of some of those settlers. When I have done so I think hon. members will agree that it has not been the fault of the settlers themselves. I would mention first a neighbour of mine who bought land in 1920 under the board. In 1919 the dominion government controlled school lands, but it had not yet taken over the school lands of the provinces in western Canada. Those school lands were turned over to the soldier settlement board for the settlement of returned soldiers.

The land to which I am referring in the school section had been offered for sale in 1918 at a regular auction sale held to dispose of

Soldier Settlers

school lands. This land was offered at an upset price of $10 an acre, but there were no bids on it. No one thought the land was worth that much, with the result that it was not sold. In 1919 it was turned over to the soldier settlement board for the use of soldiers. Did they offer that land to the soldier settlers at that price? No, they did not offer it to them, even on a bidding basis. The price of that section of land was set to the soldier settlers at $21 an acre, take it or leave it. Three-quarters of the section was bought by soldier settlers at that price when, the year before, it had been offered to the general public at the upset price of $10 an acre, and no one had seen fit to bid on it.

Under the circumstances how could soldier settlers be expected to be able to pay for that land when farmers in the area who knew the land had not been prepared to bid $10 an acre for it? As a matter of fact a quarter of the section was not sold. It came up for sale in the sale of school lands in 1927 and was sold for $15 an acre to the general public.

The government said to our returned men, "If you want land, here is the price you must pay for it." I have mentioned only one instance, but I know of others. I could tell about dozens of chaps in my particular area who had homesteads in the area at the time of their enlistment. They went overseas and upon their return wanted to extend their holdings to the extent of another quarter section. They bought those quarter sections through the soldier settlement board, and obtained additional loans for stock and equipment. But when they obtained those loans the board demanded that they be given a lien on the original homestead.

In many cases soldier settlers ended up by losing both the homesteads and the land they had bought through the soldier settlement board. Is that fair? Is that the way we should deal with our returned men? It is an old story. We remember the prices charged at that time for stock and equipment. When I went west in 1919 I worked for a farmer who had a large number of cattle. He was anxious to sell some of his milch cows to the soldier settlement board. I remember well his selling ten milch cows to the board on the basis of two calves he owned on that farm. The soldier would come in and say: Here is a nice fresh cow tor you and here is a calf. The inspector of The soldier settlement board would come along and pass that particular animal for purchase through the soldier settlement board although he must have known when he went back there ten different times that certainly the ten cows did not all have one calf.

That sort of thing went on with the result that many of our soldier settlers were loaded up with equipment, cattle and horses whose value was not represented by the amount which they had paid. We recognized that in the house later on when we reduced some of that indebtedness. Today the indebtedness of the soldier settlers has got down to the amounts given by the hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Fair), a small hard core or residue of settlers who, in my opinion, still owe the board through no fault of their own. I am sure that ninety-five per cent of the settlers who are still in debt to the board today are indebted because of circumstances over which they had very little control. I know that is true of the men whom I know personally in my own area. Perhaps they have had large families; perhaps they or their families have had a lot of sickness. Perhaps the land which they obtained was not the best; perhaps it was land that was either of poor quality or in an area where it was subject to frost. Through circumstances over which they had no control they find after twenty-five or thirty years that they owe the board a considerable sum of money.

I think hon. members should at least give consideration to the resolution of the hon. member for Battle River and give these settlers clear titles to their lands. The government has recognized that something should be done. They have set aside a certain sum of money each year to deal with the more difficult cases, but I do not think it is a very businesslike way in which to handle the matter. For instance I have a letter from an old soldier settler in British Columbia. In it he states that one of the officials of the board visited him last year at the request of the settler that they review his case and discuss the matter of his indebtedness to the board. He states that he came to an agreement with that particular official for the payment of a stated sum of money-I believe it was $600- to take care of his remaining indebtedness. He thought that the matter was settled. This particular inspector apparently was not able to persuade the people in the head office that his recommendation for reduction was correct, with the result that the settler received notice that the offer would not be accepted. The impression was immediately created that somebody at head office, who had never visited the farm and knew nothing about the circumstances, was overriding the judgment of the man who was actually familiar with the case, and whose judgment should have been accepted.

I wrote to the board about the matter, and they indicated that, although their man might

have suggested this was an equitable settlement, nevertheless the final settlement was at the option of the board and could only be made on their recommendation. The letter I received from the director of the board reads in part:

I have reviewed the information on file and I sincerely regret that Mr.-

I will use the name "Smith".

-was given encouragement to expect a reduction in his debt; however, to do so at present would mean that we would be giving him preferred treatment as adjustments are handled on a priority basis.

What does that mean? It simply means that the settler is not in a serious enough position for his debt to be reconsidered. Is he likely to try to get into a better position if he knows that by being a little more careless, by paying a little less, in another year they will give consideration to a reduction of his debt? I do not think that method of dealing with these cases is satisfactory at all. I think that a much more satisfactory way would be to recognize the fact that the small core now remaining under the soldier settlement board are in the main-I would say in 98 per cent of the cases -in the position they are in because of circumstances over which they have had little or no control. I believe that the government should be prepared to recognize that, and to give them clear titles at this time.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. Diefenbaker (Lake Centre):

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to take very much time because I do not want to talk out the resolution. I want to give it my support first of all on the ground of equity, and I concur in what the hon. member for Melfort (Mr. Wright) has said as to the general conditions under which settlement took place. Second, I support the resolution on the ground of economy. In 1946 it was made clear in the house that it would cost three times the amount of the indebtedness then owing to collect it. Surely in these days, when we talk of economy, to continue on the books an indebtedness of veterans who took up land in 1919 and 1920 under the soldier settlement board, if it is going to cost three times as much to collect it as the amount of the indebtedness, is entirely unreasonable. When one takes into consideration the equities of the situation, ordinary business sense, apart altogether from sentiment, prompts one to support the resolution

I should like to cite as a supporter of the resolution the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Mutch). If he can use on the minister and the government the arguments that he advanced in the house in 1945 and 1946 this resolution will indeed receive the support of all members

Soldier Settlers

of the house. After all, argument is unnecessary on such a resolution when one can call as a witness the hon. gentleman who occupies the high position of parliamentary assistant to the minister. I should like to refer to page 2854 of Hansard for June 26, 1946. This is what the hon. member said at that time:

Mr. Speaker, I fancy that I am in a unique position in rising to speak on this resolution, not because of my attitude toward the resolution itself, but because of the fact that so far the discussion has had little or nothing to do with the subject matter of the resolution. I am one of those who in this house a year ago advocated the granting of clear title, for reasons which I gave at the time. I think it is uneconomic to send good money after bad. If we are not going to leave it to the house and the people of this country to read the proceedings of the committee,-

He was referring to the veterans affairs committee.

-I am entitled to say on my own behalf that when a member of the committee brought forward a resolution to grant clear title I supported it. I think that was the only recorded vote that has taken place in the veterans committee in the last two parliaments.

The resolution is a simple one. It reads:

That, in the opinion of this house, the government should take into consideration the advisability of giving clear titles to all soldier settlers of great war I who hold land under contract with the soldier settlement board.

Many Legion branches in the province of Saskatchewan have given support to the purport of this resolution. On more than one occasion my own branch in the city of Prince Albert has passed resolutions in favour of granting clear title to those veterans who today find themselves in this position by reason of what might be called the uneconomic purchase of land at a time when land prices were high, or who were settled in localities where through the years they suffered successive crop failures as a result of drought or, when they had reasonably good crops, found prices at such levels as made it uneconomic for them to continue. These men have struggled through the years. Surely this is not a case of discharging an indebtedness that ought not to be discharged. Parliament gave a lead in adopting the Farmers' Creditors Arrangement Act, to permit the reduction of the indebtedness of many farmers.

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LIB

Ralph Melville Warren

Liberal

Mr. Warren:

Who was prime minister then?

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Diefenbaker:

It does not matter who the prime minister was. It has been used under this government to an extent that it, was never used under the government which brought it in, the government of Right Hon. R. B. Bennett. It was a piece of legislation that helped many farmers in this country to continue on the land. I was not dealing with this matter from the political angle. I know

Soldier Settlers

my hon. friend wanted to give approval to Mr. Bennett and the benefits that flowed from that legislation when he asked the question; that is the only reason I considered it necessary to reply.

From the point of view of equity and fairness, Mr. Speaker, and if we want to look at it from the narrow angle, from the economic point of view, I believe we should take this action. I am sure the parliamentary assistant, having expressed the views he did in this house in 1945 and 1946, and having voted in the committee on veterans affairs for the discharge of this indebtedness, will join with the hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Fair) and others in this house who support this resolution and with the branches of the Canadian Legion in western Canada who have asked for this action, in removing one of the greatest causes of unrest and ill feeling among the veterans of the first great war.

I want to add one further word. I believe the hon. member for Battle River is entitled to great credit for the persistence with which he has carried on his crusade on behalf of those unfortunate veterans who ask parliament for action this session.

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Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. L. A. Mutch (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs):

Mr. Speaker, an eminent Conservative statesman in another country once said that the man who never changed his mind was in the same category as the man who never changed his shirt. Let me assure the house at once that any honours and responsibilities which have come to me as an individual since 1945 or 1946 have not altered my judgment as to the desirability of liquidating, as quickly as may be consistent both with the public interest and the interests of the veterans themselves, this question which has been hanging over their heads for many years, and which has been repeatedly brought before this house with such sympathetic fervour, persistence and argument by the hon. member for Battle River (Mr. Fair).

I am not one who speaks generally and lightly on public questions; in fact I do not speak very often on anything. I appreciate the way the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) referred to my remarks as a private member of this house in reference to what I might almost call this perennial resolution. Had I been sitting where my hon. friends are I might have been more pointed and even less generous. I have had the high privilege-and latterly some responsibility-of serving on every veterans' committee, I believe, that has dealt with this and similar questions since coming to this house some fifteen years ago. I am, of course,

fully aware that on two occasions these committees have expressed sympathy and support for the measure of relief suggested in the resolution now before the house. However, with all due appreciation of the kind words of the last speaker, I have not yet reached the position, either as a former chairman of the committee or as parliamentary assistant, where I can direct policy. It will not come as a shock to my hon. friend, who knows me fairly well, but perhaps it may surprise some other hon. members that in more than one instance I have been unable, either through the committee or through my present position, to bring my views before the government as forcefully as he suggests I might be able to do.

However, Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to confirm what has been said by others this afternoon, that as a result of the discussions that have taken place on these resolutions, and as a result of the actions of the committees on veterans affairs, some steps have been taken. During the last two years, and the proposal is before us now for another year, there has been a steady and progressive liquidation of this problem, beginning where anyone who recognizes the problem must begin, which of course is where the need is greatest. I am a little resentful when some of those who plead the case of these settlers continue to offer as evidence in support of what I personally think is a good case the fact that the lands and the men selected for settlement under that scheme were not always chosen as well as they might have been. In fairness to the government in office when the scheme was conceived and to successive governments since, and indeed in fairness to Canadian taxpayers generally, when we discuss this question we should bear in mind that many millions of dollars have been written off these contracts from time to time in recognition of the fact that we in Canada did not know as much about land settlement in those days as we have learned during the somewhat bitter years that have intervened.

Making due allowance for that, however, the administration has realized that with the passing of time, the difficulties in the way of fulfilling these contracts have been too great for some, as they will continue to be too great for others. So we have had what I like to think of as an orderly liquidation of this problem in the last two years, which is being projected into the coming year. That is a recognition on the part of the administration, Mr. Speaker, and I think the member for Battle River is entitled to take whatever comfort he wishes to take out of the fact that some method has been found for the orderly liquidation of this problem. I will not either

retract or reiterate my own views on the subject, which were quoted a few moments ago from a speech I made. At that time I was looking at it as a business proposition. I should like to remind the house that as far back as 1945 or 1946 the view of the people in the country, as well as the members of this house, was that the economic future of agriculture in Canada was cloudy. This doubt arose out of our experience at the conclusion of world war I. I am happy to say that, as a result of arrangements which have been made in the last two years, the number of those who have not yet been able to get clear title to their farms has decreased sharply, and the number of those who have continued to make payments has shown a sharp increase. I believe this reflects the increased economic stability of agriculture, particularly in western Canada.

Had I known that this resolution would come up, and that the minister would not be able to be here, Mr. Speaker, I would have brought down the statistics concerning the improvement in the position. This improvement is due first and foremost to the effort of the soldier settlers, and secondly to the cooperation which has been possible as a result of the grants which this house has made at the instigation of the department, looking forward to the orderly liquidation of this problem. When I learned that this debate was taking place and came into the chamber, I did not have the opportunity of getting those statistics.

There is one thing which I think the mover of the resolution, and those who have, with myself, supported it during the years, would be willing to admit, and which merits consideration when we deal with the question, and that is that the present policy of the government is in fact doing what the member for Battle River suggests should be done. In my view the difference arises because the resolution proposes that this matter should be concluded at one fell swoop. On other occasions I have supported the hon. member in that stand, but that recommendation has not been accepted for reasons which have been given from time to time, and which have some validity. The other policy, that of the orderly liquidation of this problem, has been followed.

Soldier Settlers

cerned-who as a result of negotiation and extreme hardship have succeeded in concluding their contracts. To exact payments on contracts from those who can pay, while letting the others go free, would be unfair to those who had made sacrifices and would be a bad example to those whose contracts have some time to run. That is an argument which one has to meet.

I am not one, sir, who finds himself either comfortable or consistent or even sensible in arguing both sides of the same question. This is a matter which was referred to the government as late as 1948 by a committee of this house dealing with veterans matters, of which committee I had the responsibility of being chairman. In view of the fact that this debate was not expected, and it was not possible for the minister who heads the department to be here to present the views of the government, I desire to move the adjournment of this debate. This would enable a full answer to be given to the house from the one whose responsibility it is. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. Coldwell:

I do not think this debate should be adjourned. This matter has been before the house for the last fourteen years, so far as I can remember, and we have had a similar debate every year initiated by the member for Battle River (Mr. Fair). It seems to me that the house is surely in a position to make a decision on the matter. I am not going to talk longer because I think a decision should be made. I do not think the debate should be adjourned, and if an attempt is made to adjourn it I think we should call a vote.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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SC

Solon Earl Low

Social Credit

Mr. Low:

I feel the same way. I am opposed to the adjournment of the debate at this time. Surely if we are ever to finalize this problem, we could let the house settle it now. I do not think the hon. member is taking the wise course in asking for the adjournment, and I am opposed to it.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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PC

Gordon Graydon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Graydon:

Come to grips with the problem now.

Topic:   SOLDIER SETTLERS
Subtopic:   PROPOSAL TO GIVE CLEAR TITLES TO VETERANS WITH UNPAID BALANCES
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April 19, 1950