February 2, 1916 (12th Parliament, 6th Session)

LIB

William Erskine Knowles

Liberal

Mr. KNOWLES:

I will endeavour to conform to that rule. I will read therefore from a copy which I have, and not from Hansard:
"While the Government is satisfied to collect one-half of the seed grain account in all cases where the security is in no way impaired, and the crop not interfered with, this does not apply where seizure has been made. Therefore, I would like your office to see that the total amount of indebtedness is collected. Unless in cases where half or part has been paid I will then advise you of the balance owing, which must be collected and remitted to this office.
" I trust that you will regard the above instructions as being specific and entirely satisfactory to your offlce. Thanking you for your co-operation, I am,
" Tour obedient servant.
" (Sgd.) Chas. A. Beddoe,
" Superintending Accountant."
I will endeavour, both in letter and in spirit, to observe the rule that I shall not renew the subject of a formed debate, although I have not noticed that rule observed very closely in this House in former years.
In the course of that occasion the Solicitor-General (Mr. Meighen) rose in his place, and, while I am not permitted to read his exact words, I may say generally that he stated that I was in error in believing that that was the condition; that there had been a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of instructions, and that no difference was being made between the man whose crops were seized, and the man whose crops were not under seizure. I told the Solicitor General, at the time, that I took his statement with a grain of salt- but that is not in Hansard, and so I could not read it even if the rule did not forbid. However, I took it with such a large grain of salt that I spent some money telegraphing to ascertain whether the statement thus volunteered by him was based on facts, or was simply a statement volunteered for the purpose of glossing over, in a more or less fair way, the charge made against the department. I sent the following telegram:
Ottawa, February 1, 1916.
John Rutherford,
Sheriff, Moosejaw.
Did Dominion Government countermand Bed-doe's instructions requiring full payment where seizures made?' Reply.
W. E. Knowles.

I received the following answer last night:
Moosejaw, February 1, 1916.
W. E. Knowles,
House of Ccmmons,
Ottawa.
Beddoe's instructions to of liens where seizure manded.
collect full payment made not courJter-
J. Rutherford,
Sheriff.
I look upon that, as requiring two observations, the first of which I shall merely make and not elaborate upon. It is unfortunate that statements by a Minister of the Crown should he found on investigation to be not worthy of the reliance that we should like to place upon a minister s statement when he undertakes to correct an ordinary, everyday member of the House, like myself. But it will be useful for Us, as a means of estimating in future the value of the statements volunteered by the Solicitor General.
My second observation is that this is a matter of the greatest public importance and of the greatest urgency. I represent a district 240 miles east and west on the main line of the C.P.R., and 175 miles north and south, from the international boundary to the middle of the province of Saskatchewan. In that territory there are thousands upon thousands of settlers. I am the representative here of a hundred thousand people. It is of the utmost urgency that these homesteaders, who were assisted by the Dominion of Canada a year ago, should not now have such pressure brought to bear upon them as is brought to beaT by this order of which I complain. I rise to urge the Government to countermand its drastic instructions by telegraph, and also in the most speedy manner possible to restore to the unfortunate homesteaders any money that has been taken from them by reason of those instructions. The Solicitor General has admitted that this is quite in order. He rose in his place, and he said that the department disapproved of the action taken, and he said also- though he was inaccurate in that-that instructions had been given to the contrary. Having agreed with me, that to require the re-payment of 100 per cent of the seed grain debt on the part of those who had executions against them, is unjust, it is the duty of the Government, without the loss of an hour, to relieve the people of the drastic measures brought to bear upon them.
The majority of these people are beginning in that western country; they are the pioneers of homesteading. In 1914 they had no crop; practically no crop at all. In 1915 they had a crop. The debt of a homesteader to the Government may run from $200 to $400. When the Government collects a seed grain debt, there is no exemption, and the sheriff cleans up as clean as possible. The consequence is that many will be left to face the cruel winter weather without a dollar to buy fuel. It is all very well for hon. members of this House, in this well-heated place, and with lots to eat and lots to wear, but it is vastly different in a homesteader's home, where a dollar means more than a hundred dollars does to a member of the Government, or probably to the average member of this House. If it was wise for the Government to make advances to these men; if it was wise for the Government, under the legislation passed, practically to go into partnership in order to furnish them the necessary seed, and to afford them relief in relation to fuel and provisions, it is a fortiori desirable and wise that the Government should now refrain from squeezing them, and that it should rather seek to afford them opportunity to continue as desirable homesteaders. The weather in the West, as hon. members no doubt are aware, has been extremely cold. Following the daily telegraphic weather reports, I notice that in my own town for two weeks past the thermometer has been at from twenty to thirty, and even to thirty-five degrees below zero; and during that time it has not once been above zero. Under these conditions, it is of the utmost importance that the Government should act wisely and reasonably in regard to these seed grain loans. If it is well to give a twelve months' extension to the wealthier farmers, who have no executions against them, a fortiori it is well to give an extension on half of the amount due by the poor men who have executions against them. I urge that the Government should telegraph countermanding these drastic instructions, and, as speedily as they can get the cheques written, refund to the homesteaders anything they may have taken from them over and above one-half of the seed grain loans. I move that this House do now adjourn.

Topic:   SEED GRAIN INDEBTEDNESS.
Full View