July 20, 1917 (12th Parliament, 7th Session)

LIB

William Roche

Liberal

Mr. ROCHE:

I think the hon. gentleman is quite mistaken in his premises. In the first place lands that a few years ago were very far removed from transportation facilities are now being brought within easy reach of the railways by extensions of lines up in the north country, and there is a large amount of available Dominion lands in those western provinces.
The hon. member says that this policy is not very generous. Of course, I expected some criticism along that line, no matter how generous the assistance we proposed, because this is a matter that lends itself to catering to the soldier's sympathies. It has been represented to us by the Land Settlement Committee of the War Veterans' Association that the soldiers who will be likely to settle on the land will be provided with but very little money. The hon. gentleman has suggested that instead of allowing the soldiers to settle on our free Dominion lands, we should purchase lands, which would mean, of course, that we would have to re-sell them to the soldier. Now, I fear there would not be many soldiers who would have sufficient capital to purchase those lands.
We are doing something more than simply granting 160 acres of free homestead lands to the soldiers; it is true we grant him that. There is no interference with his ordinary homestead rights; that is to say,
if he has not exhausted his homestead privileges already, he can take up 160 acres of free homestead land by complying with the provisions of the Dominion Lands Act, which are most generous in their terms. But we are doing more than that for the soldier. We are offering him an additional 160 acres under the conditions provided by this legislation. So the soldier can take up 320 acres, one-half of which is to be earned under the Dominion Lands Act, and the other half under the provisions of this Soldiers' Settlement Scheme. Under this scheme we are granting a further 160 acres free to the soldier. We also supply the inexperienced man with agricultural training at the expense of the Government. We also grant him a loan to a maximum of ,$2,500, which is the largest amount granted in any of the British possessions, this loan being secured by a lien on the land.
I think the hon. gentleman will agree with me, when he reconsiders what he has said, that it would not be the wisest policy or the most acceptable to the soldiers themselves if the Government purchased lands for them in any particular province. Suppose, for instance, in the province of Alberta we bought lands adjacent to the more thickly settled communities, and said to the soldier. "Here is 160 acres of land, and you must settle- there if you wish to settle at all." That would be practically dictating to the soldier where he should locate, and if we adopted a policy of that kind in Alberta, every other province would have an equal right to demand such a policy for itself. The Government would then have to buy lands in provinces where the Crown Lands are owned by the provinces themselves. Under our policy, if the soldier wants to settle near a city or town, he has the privilege of purchasing the land where he wants to locate.

Topic:   THE SOLDIER SETTLEMENT BOARD.
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