Mr. C. E. BOTHWELL (Swift Current):
Mr. Speaker, as one of the new members I wish to pay my respects to you and to join with those who have preceded me in congratulating you upon your appointment to the position you now occupy.
During the debate I have been much interested in the figures quoted by some hon. members of the votes polled in the last election and the deductions they have drawn therefrom. If I followed a similar course of reasoning I should have to come to the conclusion that in the particular constituency
which I have the honour to represent there are no supporters of the official opposition. During the campaign my opponent and myself apparently stood for exactly the same platform. We were agreed on what the tariff arrangements should be; we were agreed practically on immigration; we were agreed also on branch line railway construction; in fact I do not know of any question on which we disagreed. However, we were brought before the people by two different conventions, and it was a matter of the electors deciding as to who should represent them in this House.
There is one paragraph in the Speech from the Throne that has not yet been touched upon; it is this:
Measures will be taken to further the retention on the land of our existing agricultural population, to encourage the return to rural parts of urban dwellers possessed of agricultural experience, and the repatriation of Canadians now living in other countries. Special arrangements will be proposed for settlement on crown lands.
Several hon. members have dealt with the question of immigration. I intend for a few minutes to deal with one of the causes of people leaving the land-the settlers we already have there and whom we want to retain. After the war hon. members will recollect that legislation was passed providing for the establishment of a Soldier Settlement Board, and also for settling soldiers on the lands of western Canada. The first act, as a matter of fact, was passed in 1917, followed by the Soldier Settlement Act of 1919, under which the board that was constituted was authorized to purchase or otherwise acquire land; ito reserve crown lands for soldier settlement; to make grants to soldier settlers up to 160 acres. That act was amended from time to time in 1920, 1922 and 1925. The provisions of the original act provided either for payment of all cash, or ten per cent cash and the balance in twenty-five equal annual instalments with interest at five per cent. The board was also authorized to sell stock and equipment on the terms that it might be paid for all cash or in four equal annual instalments, commencing not later than three years from date of sale, with interest at five per cent. In 1920 the terms of payment on live stock and equipment were extended to six payments. In 1922 the indebtedness was consolidated and made payable in twenty-five or fewer instalments, the principal bearing no interest from the date of consolidation for two, three or four years, according to whether the advances were made within twelve months prior to October 1, 1921, 1920 or 1919 respectively. In 1925 an amendment was passed by
The Address-Mr. Bothwell
parliament providing that in case the settler had not repaid his indebtedness, and his agreement with the board had not been terminated, the board should credit his account with an amount in reduction of his indebtedness determined as follows: 40 per cent of the purchase price of live stock advanced to the settler and purchased prior to October 1, 1920; 20 per cent of the purchase price of live stock advanced to the settler and purchased on or after October 1, 1920 and prior to October 1, 1921. All the amendments to that act were made in the interests of the soldier settlers, and the soldier settlers of western Canada appreciate the attempt of the government to help them. They also appreciate the leniency extended to them by the amendments made from year to year. But a number of them in scattered districts of western Canada are not able to live up to the terms provided in the act. In many cases land was bought at too high a price, even as land was valued at that time. In many of the districts where land was purchased and turned over to the soldier settlers crop conditions have been extremely bad, and the settlers found themselves with a big indebtedness and with no crops to meet the payments. Complaints have been made from time to time and letters are continually being received from soldier settlers in scattered parts of the country. I am speaking now more particularly of the district which I represent, because as hon. members may know, during war years and the years immediately succeeding the war that particular part of Canada was not producing paying crops. The people there, although they lost on crops at that time, have learned a lesson. Necessity is the mother of invention, and these people learned that they must conserve their resources and develop a method of marketing their products which would bring the highest prices. What they learned during those years is now standing them in good stead. Referring to the soldier settlers, however, I have in my hand a letter received from one of them, from which I will read a paragraph:
I took up the land in 1919 and now see the hard results of same action. At that time the country generally did jts best to returned men, but owing to war reaction it seems to me everything was at a high price; land according to now, 1926, from $7 to $10 too much per acre; horses and implements away too high-and in my own individual case take notice our sul pervisors paid and passed bills for seed whest grain $2 2o per bushel. Personally, being beginners in life after war, can we honestly repay such debts?
In closing my quarter section cost me close to $4,000. To-day, with arrears, etc., so far as I can make out
on their slip and up to date bookkeeping, I owe them close to $7,000.
Another soldier settler from a different district writes as follows:
Owing to the scattered locations of the soldier settlers it is hard to gather material respecting their various problems, but it is safe to say that every settler who purchased land in 1918, 1919 or 1920 has an over-capitalized farm, a great enough hardship without the usual risks of the farm. Some are located in districts where the best yields on summer fallow have only been ten or twelve bushels to the acre for years, some buying raw crown lands at a price greater than is asked to-day for improved farms with buildings, etc., and with large fields ready for crop. Others in the north find they are unable to clear and break land fast enough to meet even the payments to the board. I have met men of the finest type from that country recently who are buying government lands and who are this year unable to meet their store bills, and these are mostly native-born sons of Canada. What then of the new Canadians, who are unacquainted with climatic and working conditions. I will but briefly state my own case. I owed the board at the start $7,300. On a quarter section of school land with but 100 acres of arable land, the remain8er being alkali and unfit for cultivation, but for which the board paid $22 an acre from the Department of the Interior. I am endeavouring to pay for a similar quarter from the department with the same proportion of inarable, at the same price, allowing the usual third each year for summer fallow. What hope have I from the balance, of suitably providing for my family, meeting my increased payments to the board, and my overdue payments to the Department of the Interior from a farm which is penalized with a valuation three times its worth to-day? I will gladly welcome investigation by the opponents of the revaluation plan which has already been before the House, but was sidetracked in 1924.
I have another letter from which I will read an extract.
Upon my return from overseas, after serving four and a half years with the Canadian forces, I decided to take up farming and purchased land through the Soldier Settlement Board. The quarter section I purchased was valued at $6,000 by the board's inspectors. During my five years farming I had two fair crops and three poor crops, consequently I dropped behind in my payments. At the present time this land which I purchased at $6,000 is valued at $3,000. To prove this, the adjoining land was recently sold at $16 per acre.
Now the position is this: We who live in western Canada know that many of the western soldiers acquired land through the Soldier Settlement Board at prices which were too high even with conditions as they then existed. There may have been collusion in some places between soldier settlers and vendors of land; I do not know. We have heard that suggested, but in any event the neighbours of these soidier settlers will tell you that the land was sold at too high prices. We know that during the years subsequent to these lands being allotted, other farmers who were in fairiy good financial circumstances, with a full equipment of stock and machinery, found it almost impossible to weather conditions, and some of those well equipped
The Address-Mr. BothweU
farmers are finding it extremely difficult to carry on. I think the whole tone of the addresses made during this debate shows that hon. members believe that the agricultural industry is the greatest basic industry of Canada; that it should be fostered; that we want to get as many settlers on the land as we possibly can and that we want to retain those already there. If this is so, I submit, Mr. Speaker, that we have to do something for these soldier settlers in order to keep them on the land. All we can do is to revalue, in some way, all the lands allotted to them. I do not want to suggest any radical or drastic action along that line. I do not believe that we would be justified in revaluing all soldier settlers' lands, because many other persons in this country purchased land at the same time from the School Lands Branch at high prices, and they have found it impossible to pay for them. Others have purchased land and have been able to pay for it. A number of the soldiers have also been able to pay for their land and do not need a revaluation.
Mr. EDWARDS (Frontenac-Addington); Does the hon. gentleman suggest, or would he care to suggest, a percentage of reduction in valuation on the lands of soldier settlers?