Mr. ROBERT FAIR (Battle River):
Before allowing the motion to pass, I should like to say a few words in connection with some of the legislation passed since the war broke out. Since springtime is about here, and is indeed here in several parts of Canada, and since a number of veterans of this war will soon settle on the land and go to work under legislation, recently passed, I feel it my duty to say a few words in that regard. Before I deal further with that, however, there is another matter which. I think should be considered, and that is in connection with similar legislation passed at the close of the last great war.
This matter has been taken up on several occasions but I am sorry to say it has not had very much favourable consideration by the government, either this or previous administrations. We have on several occasions brought to the attention of the house the situation of the soldier settlers under the old soldier settlement board. During 1944 the soldier settlers were very active, going so far as to send a delegation of nine to Ottawa to present their case. At that time we were not given any satisfaction as to w'hat the government's
answer would be to the request of the old settlers, that request being, of course, that clear titles to their land be given them.
Eary this year the Minister of Veterans' Affairs replied to me that the government would not grant these clear titles, and as a result the soldier settlers' association sent a delegation of two, whom I accompanied here, to place before the minister a further brief. In order to give the house some idea of the standing of these settlers, I feel I can do no better than read that brief so that it may appear on Hansard. The brief was presented by the president and secretary of the Soldier Settlers' Association of Canada. Mr. Harold Baker is president and Mr. Alfred J. Sibley secretary, and the brief was presented on March 5 last as follows:
March 5, 1945.
To the Honourable Ian A. Mackenzie,
Minister of Veterans Affairs,
Sir: As representatives of the Soldier Settlers' Association of Canada, we have the honour to present this further brief of our requests to the government made on May 23, 1944. We still, as before, ask for a clear title to all lands held by soldier settlers as at March 31, 1944, under the Soldier Settlement Act of 1919.
Practically all of these settlers are now over 60 years of age, indeed some are beyond the 80-year mark. Because of information given in your letter of the 3rd of February to Robert Fair, M.P., we have again come to Ottawa, driven by necessity, to arrive at a definite decision acceptable to those old soldiers whom we represent. As at March 31, 1944, there were 6,153 soldier settlers still holding contracts on their farms and who owed a total of $7,715,954.01.
The average indebtedness of all soldier settlers under the scheme was $4,358, and the average indebtedness of those still holding contracts is $1,254 as at March 31 last.
This represents 29 per cent of the average original loan. In spite of the fact that several reductions were made in the original debt, and of the fact that the settlers, their wives and families have worked for the past 25 years, only 4,130, or 16 per cent of the original number have acquired titles and 6,153, or 25 per cent of the original number are still holding contracts, while almost 60 per cent have either quit voluntarily or been forced off their farms. In connection with the above figures, it must also be understood that many settlers who have acquired titles or kept their contracts in good standing have used up money that should properly have been used for the proper maintenance of the settler and his family and the upkeep of his buildings, machinery and other equipment, and also includes sums of money that have been returned to the farms by the members of the settlers' families who have worked in war industries or have enlisted in the services. The average annual cost of the administration of the scheme is approximately $1,100,000 or I of the total amount owed by the settlers as at March 31 last. Plainly speaking, seven years of this administration would eat up the whole of the present debt.
Taking the foregoing into consideration we are convinced that the government would actually save money by granting clear titles now without any further payments. Failure to do this will force a number of the present settlers to apply for war veterans' allowance benefits which will cost the government $720 a year for the settler and his wife, and in two years the government will have paid more than the present average indebtedness of the settlers, whereas, if clear title is given, many of the settlers will not apply for the allowance.
The V eterans' Land Act is now becoming operative, and many of the contract holders under that act are sons and daughters of the old soldier settlers. If the present plight of the old settlers is allowed to continue, the effect on the morale of the new settlers might well be disastrous, as the unjust treatment and sufferings of the old settlers are well known throughout the country. Under the Veterans' Land Act the settlers get a grant of 38 per cent of the original loan. The amount now owing by the old settlers is only 29 per cent of their original loan. The rate of interest under the Veterans' Land Act is 3J per cent; under the Soldier Settlement Act the rate of interest on current accounts was 5 per cent and 7 per cent on arrears.
Because the Soldier Settlement Act legislation was enacted for the rehabilitation of veterans of great Avar 1, and because economic conditions that existed during past years made it impossible for the settlers to pay, we believe our request is reasonable and just. Our request has the support of thousands who signed a petition early last year, as well as the Alberta legislature, the 20,000 members of the Alberta farmers' union, the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, the United Farmers of Canada Saskatchewan Section; the United Farmers of Alberta, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Executives of the Alberta and British Columbia commands of the Canadian Legion. We believe that our request for clear titles for all holders of contracts under the Soldier Settlement Board Act, as at March 31, 1944. is reasonable and just, and your immediate favourable consideration will be appreciated.
Respectfully submitted by
Harold C. Baker, President Alfred J. Sibley, Secretary. Soldier Settlers' Association of Canada.
I may say that during the present year the Saskatchewan legislature has joined in with those who have already signed and the Alberta legislature and the Alberta farmers' union have also once again endorsed this request. I have the resolutions here, but I do not think it is necessary to read them because they have been in the press and have been discussed all through western Canada and in many parts of eastern Canada.
After presenting this brief we had a very nice talk with the Minister of Veterans' Affairs (Mr. Mackenzie). I feel quite satisfied that the minister is sympathetic. If that is not correct perhaps the minister will contradict me. I also feel that several members of the
cabinet are sympathetic, and I only wish we could have an opportunity of giving the members of the house a chance to vote on this question. If that were done I believe we would have a very large majority voting in favour of it. But I am sorry that we have some men in this house-men who apparently have quite a little power-who do not want this to go through. I see one of them sitting here now. The Minster of Finance (Mr. Ilsley) is not favourable to this going through. He feels that we are now making good collections from these men, and he also feels that contracts should be honoured. All of us are in favour of contracts being honoured, but when an unjust contract is made then I think some adjustment should be made even to civilians. I believe that is only right.
Debt adjustment legislation has been passed and has been in force over the years; and because the farming community as a whole all throughout Canada has been at a disadvantage over the years, particularly between 1930 and 1940, I feel that something drastic should be done in connection with these contracts. Had the government of the day-and I am including both Conservatives and Liberals in this- seen to it that farmers received their proper percentage of the national income during the years that these contracts have been in force then there would be no need for me to be pleading again on behalf of the old soldier settlers to have clear titles granted.
During the depression years we had at least thirty-three per cent of the population of Canada living on the land, and when that portion of Canada's' population received no more than five per cent of the national income I ask the Minister of Finance if the government was honouring its contracts and its obligations? Why did not they step in then and do something about it They did not. The farmers were taking the rap, and that was quite all right. When we go back to 1932, five per cent of the national income was all that the farmers had, and yet the settlers and farmers in general were expected to pay up their debts.
I could, if I wished, name others who are not treated in this way. To go back to the Minister of Veterans' Affairs, I said a moment ago I believe he is sympathetic, but he has as director of the soldier settlement board and the Veterans' Land Act a gentleman who apparently is not sympathetic. If that director is not sympathetic, then I feel we have other men who are sympathetic to the soldiers and who are just as efficient as he is, and I believe in the interests of the success of the Veterans' Land1 Act a change should be made in the department.
The arguments presented by the Minister of Veterans Affairs-and I believe the arguments were passed on to him by the director of that department-are that payments and pre-payments are being made. I will admit frankly that farmers are in a better position to-day to make payments than they have been for quite a while, but I think the price that we are paying in flesh and blood and sacrifice is much too high. We had to have a war before farmers could be prosperous enough to pay off their debts, and that is no credit to this or any other country. Payments are also being made because members of the old soldiers' families are working in war industries to-day and some of them are in the services. Payments are also being made because a number of these old soldiers are afraid of being put on the road, as numbers of other soldiers have been, and when their families come back there will be no roof for them to get under. Some say we are not turning any soldier settlers off the land, or at least very few. Very recently I had a return brought down which I believe justifies what I have said. During the years 1930-31 to 1943-44, a fourteen year period, we had no less than 2,064 of these old soldier settlers sign quit claim deeds. That means an average of 147 settlers in these fourteen years signed quit claim deeds. Why did they sign quit claim deeds? Simply because they could not make their payments. We also had during that 1930-31 to 1943-44 fiscal year period 934 of the old veterans of great war one kicked out on the street, and in many cases with no place to go. Why were they served these thirty-day notices? Simply because they could not pay. That is an average of 67 of our old veterans kicked out every year from 1930-31 to 1943-44.
There is one thing I should like the house to take particular notice of. In 1938-39 we had 143 of these old veterans kicked off the land; in 1939-40 at the time the war broke out we had 162 kicked off and in 1940-41 no fewer than 192 kicked off.
We have passed a lot of legislation here that deserves favourable comment, but the Veterans' Land Act may turn out, unless something is done, which I intend to suggest before I sit down, to be a repetition of the old soldier settlement board legislation. After what our men and women have gone through over the years I do not think we should ask them to go through the treatment endured by the old soldiers.
Another argument passed on to the minister from the director, I believe, was that if these clear titles are granted now to the old veterans of great vrar one the soldiers under the new Veterans' Land Act, will not pay, but will demand the same treatment. I see in that an
War Appropriation ___________
admission by the government that the Veterans' Land Act is going to be a failure. If these men are given proper conditions there vvill not be any need for them to ask for dear titles without making full payment. To my mind this argument is an admission by the government that we are going to have a drop in the price of farm products that will not allow these new settlers to make their payments.
Before going on to deal with the Veterans' Land Act, may I say that when this scheme was started we had 25,017 settle on the land. On March 31, 1944, 4,130 or sixteen percent, had clear titles after twenty-five years labour on the land, 6,153 still held contracts. That amounts to twenty-five per cent, leaving almost sixty per cent who had deserted their farms or were forced off. Is that a bright future for those who intend to settle under the Veterans' Land Act? In order to make the Veterans' Land Act a success I believe we should have it administered by an efficient and sympathetic director. I have already dealt with that but I again wish to make it plain that we must have a different head in that organization. An increase in the amount provided for live stock and equipment should be made. It is only $1,200 at the present time and that would pay about two-thirds of the price of a tractor.
I do not care how good a farmer a man may be; unless he has sufficient equipment he cannot make a success on the land. In the past we have spent millions of dollars in training these men efficiently to destroy human life and property. Why not provide a few millions now to set them up in business, so that they can make a living on the land? Those settlers are bound by contract; and I say "bound by contract" because they have signed up for land, live stock and equipment based on to-day's prices for farm produce. If those men are. to make a success; if they are ever to get clear title to their land, I feel that the government is duty bound to guarantee them similar prices for their products during the period they are paying back that loan. By that I mean that if wheat is worth $1.25 a bushel to-day and later on those settlers have to sell it for seventy-five cents a bushel, then the government should give them a book credit of fifty cents a bushel, if they, are ever to get title to their land. I do not care if we give them all their land, live stock and equipment free; if we compel them to produce at below the cost of production there is only one thing ahead of them a little later on; that is to be kicked
off their land by a dictator director, as has been done with a number of the settlers of great war No. 1.
I suppose that suggestion will be met with the reply that we have passed legislation providing that prices of agricultural products will be maintained at certain levels. I am quite ready to admit that such legislation has been passed; but I think the government also will admit that we have not been given any figure on which those prices will be stabilized, and the success of this legislation will depend entirely on the level that is set for prices of farm products. Between 1930 and 1940 the farmers received 9-4 per cent of the national income. If prices of agricultural products are fixed on that basis, then the legislation will not be worth the paper it is written on. If prices of farm products are brought up to such a level that the farmers of Canada will receive their proper percentage of the national income, then the legislation will be successful.
I do not want to take up very much more of the time of the house, but I would remind hon. members that the governments of Alberta and British Columbia have made provision for grants of land to men who enlisted from those provinces and who wish to return to the land there. I will let some of the British Columbia members give the details of their legislation, but in the case of Alberta a man who enlisted from that province will receive a half-section of land in a soil-tested district. During the.first three years he will not be asked to pay one penny. During the remaining seven years he will be required to turn in one-eighth of the returns from his crops. The government 'has gone farther and suggested to the dominion government that if they will pay half the cost of clearing and breaking forty acres of land after the settler goes in, the Alberta government will pay the other half. Then, at the end of ten years, instead of the bailiff being sent there to kick the man off the land, he will be given clear title to that half-section. In the long run I believe this will be cheaper, and I think we owe it to the veterans of this war.
Then, in order to clear a blot from the statute books of this country I suggest that even before the next election the government make available some $8,000,000 or even less to clear off the indebtedness of those old soldiers who are still working under the soldier settlement board legislation. This war is costing us something like $16,000,000 a day. Can we not afford to spend half of that amount to' free these old soldier settlers of the past? Once more I ask the government to give this matter favourable consideration, because what has been done is not good
enough. I do not wish to see the veterans of this war getting at our hands the kind of treatment that has been handed out to the soldier settlers of the last war.
Mr. WILFRID LaCROIX (Quebec-Mont-morency) (Translation): Mr. Speaker, we are being asked in this resolution to vote two billion dollars for the conduct of naval, military and air operations beyond Canada; the greater part of that appropriation will be for the war against Japan. I wish to voice at once my objections against conscription under any form for the dispatch of soldiers, sailors and airmen for service in the war against Japan, which Canada declared before the United States had itself decided upon it. I take this stand for the following reasons:
Firstly, the costs entailed by the dispatch of such forces will cause the maintenance of the present taxes in this country, and I think that our industry and commerce which will be called upon, after the war with Germany has ended, to proceed with the reorganization of their business with a view to their conversion to peace-time activity, will not be able to do anything along those lines so long as taxes have not been lowered. Secondly, our population of 12 million, which is now greatly reduced through our war effort, will not be able, in view of the extent of our territory, to plan for the development of our natural resources so as to compete with those countries which, not being at war with Japan, will necessarily have forged ahead by taking advantage of the period during which war with that country will last, and this to our detriment on world markets, because that war can still last for one or two years.
Thirdly, it will be contrary to all promises previously made by the Liberal government to the people of Quebec to send against his will a single one of our fellow-citizens to fight outside this country and especially against Japan, whether it be under the form of a voluntary system involving a hypocritical and disguised conscription, as was shown by the administration of the National Resources Mobilization Act, or by virtue of an act establishing outright conscription for overseas service, as happened in the ease of bill 80 passed by this house a short time after the resignation of the hon. member for Richelieu-Yercheres (Mr. Cardin) from the cabinet, and under which the order in council of last fall was passed.
Why should we let our country fall more deeply into debt when the whole world recognizes that we have done more than we were humanly able to do? No one can foretell how much longer the war with Japan will last. President Roosevelt himself has stated
that the road to Tokyo would be much harder than the road to Berlin. Why should we not avail ourselves of the opportunity offered, based on common sense and good logic, to show that we are able to act independently without submitting to the dictates from London?
The other day, I heard the hon. member for Beauharnois-Laprairie (Mr. Raymond) state, in a speech, that the San Francisco conference would stand as an affirmation of our independence. However, the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) has taken upon himself to refute him most emphatically, when he stated, right after the speech of the hon. member for Beauharnois-Laprairie, as reported in Hansard on Wednesday, March 28, 1945:
Hon. gentlemen opposite will find out when the opportunity comes-and I am thankful to say it will be given fairly soon-for them as well as the government to appear before the people of this country, whether or not the people of Canada feel that I have done my duty by the British commonwealth of nations, by the British empire, through every hour of the time I have been serving as Prime Minister of this country.
There is also this other statement of the Prime Minister of Canada, made on the previous day and also reported in Hansard. I quote:
Why does my hon. friend say that Canada will not do her full part in the British commonwealth, .after what she has done during this war ?
That is to say Canada will continue to be a colony of the empire as heretofore.
Besides, the hon. member for Beauharnois-Laprairie said, in his speech, that our group had always hoped that Canada might participate in previous conferences, such as those held at Dumbarton Oaks, Bretton Woods, Yalta, et cetera; this, he claimed, should be a reason to incite us to take part in the San Francisco meeting. However, it is precisely because our country has not taken part in any of these other conferences, and this in spite of our protests, that we are justified in refraining from cooperating in the San Francisco meeting ; for, at all these previous conferences, decisions have been taken without our consent, such as the dismemberment of Poland, the right to veto, and the three votes granted to Russia, the assumption of control over our economic set-up by international finance following the decisions taken at Bretton Woods. All these decisions will be ratified by the San Francisco conference, as the Prime Minister has frankly admitted in his speech.
Why should we pay the price of secret or public agreements to which we have never
given our approval? Why should we allow our country to be drawn into another conflict following decisions which we have never concurred in?
I am not surprised by the stand taken by the hon. member for Beauharnois^Laprairie, for he did not vote against the act mobilizing our human and national resources which has resulted, for our people, in a hypocritical and disguised conscription and the setting up in our country of an economic dictatorship which has sounded the death knell of small businesses and small industrial plants by denying them the quotas of goods and materials to which they were entitled for the benefit of large trusts which, owing to the National Resources Mobilization Act, had representatives on all government bodies who were known as dollar-a-year men.
I respect the views of the hon. member for Beauharnois-Laprairie, but by his stand in regard to the National Resources Mobilization Act he has contributed in setting up in our country the worst economic dictatorship in- our history, the repercussions of which will be felt long after the war is ended.
The representative of a newspaper expressed the wish, in his daily column, that the hon. member for Beauharnois-Laprairie be chosen as one of Canada's representatives to the San Francisco conference. I sincerely believe that he deserves this appointment and I trust that this time he will be more successful than in 193S when he was mentioned for appointment as Canadian- representative in Paris, at the very moment when he voted for the war appropriations which involved our country into a disastrous participation in the war.
Subtopic: PROVISION FOR GRANTING TO HIS MAJESTY AID FOR NATIONAL DEFENCE AND SECURITY