Mr. VITAL MALLETTE (Jacques-Cartier) (Translation):
Mr. Speaker, I consider that the house owes a debt of gratitude to the hon. member for St. Mary (Mr. Deslauriers) for having so clearly and forcibly described the plight of the small property holders. The hon. member, in so eloquently submitting this resolution to our consideration, had no other
thought in mind than the unfortunate situation of these small property holders, particularly those of his electoral division. It is therefore only right that some of us should rise to congratulate him.
In my humble opinion, this question which relates to mortgage debts and municipal taxes, comes under the jurisdiction of the provincial rather than of the central authority. However, I trust that, as a result of this debate, the provincial legislature will take up this question and enact the needed legislation.
(Text) Mr. Speaker, I think the house owes a debt of gratitude to the hon. member for St. Mary (Mr. Deslauriers) for having brought to the attention of this assembly what he has called the plight of the small proprietors. No doubt, as I have just said in French, when he spoke so eloquently and well he had in mind particularly the electors of his division of St. Mary, 'but this problem touches everyone in every county, and relates not only to the small proprietors but also to the large proprietors, because all have been affected. In my humble opinion, since this question is so closely connected with taxes and mortgages, it should come before the provincial legislatures, and I hope that as a result of this debate our wise provincial legislators will see to it that something is done to help these poor small proprietors. My experience in municipal problems and administration has extended over twenty-five years and it has been my privilege to come into contact almost daily with proprietors of all classes, especially the small proprietors.
I believe these proprietors can be divided into two categories, one being the man and woman who have invested all their life savings in a small home, and the other the small owner who has bought a house larger than his own needs and rents the rest of it in order to obtain a small revenue. When the depression came this class was hit hard. In the first place many of these owners lost their jobs or positions, and those who had tenants saw their tenants lose their jobs or positions, so that there was no more revenue either from wages or rents. These poor people had to go to the banks or the notaries and borrow money, and many had to sell everything they had including their life insurance policies and afterwards go on relief. When relief began nothing was done for these small proprietors. Those who were distributing relief had the idea that before anyone could be given relief he had to dispose of everything he owned. So these men found themselves penniless and forced into the army, already too large, of paupers or seekers of relief.
Small Property Holders-Mr. Mallette
In Quebec the provincial government wisely passed a moratorium act by means of which proprietors in hard circumstances could go to a judge of the superior court and so long as taxes and interest were paid they could secure an extension of the mortgage. Consequently this problem became largely one of taxes. So the provincial authorities passed another law compelling the sale of all properties on which taxes were more than two years in arrears. At first sight that looks like a hardship, but it is not, because the same law carries the provision that these proprietors have the right to go before a judge of the superior court and, upon showing their position, if they are unable to pay they get permission to fund the taxes and pay them over a period of five years. Although the Quebec government consists principally of lawyers, and so much has been said about the legal profession to-day, the provincial government saw to it that the lawyers who prepared the papers to secure these extensions were not allowed to charge a fee higher than five dollars. Let me say this for the legal profession; I know of many cases where lawyers prepared these cases and went before the courts on behalf of poor people without charging any fees at all.
Another curse we have in our province is the money lenders. They advertise in the papers and over the radio and many people are caught, thinking they can get out of their difficulties by obtaining an easy loan. The procedure is something like this: The would-be borrower comes to see the lender and explains his position. The first thing the lender does is to ascertain from the corporation of the municipality in which the property is situated what is due on it for taxes, and then he arranges with the borrower as to the amount to be lent. The loan is made and the tax receipts are registered for preference over mortgages, so that at the end of the term if the loan is not repaid the lender has a chance to get the property for almost nothing. Further, I understand that a borrower from these loan companies on being granted a loan of say $100 is first charged a fee of $10 for searches and other matters; then he has to pay, I am told, seven per cent on the whole $100, so that for a loan of nominally $100 all he gets is $83, and if I calculate aright the interest works out at something over twenty per cent per annum. If that is not usury I would like to know what it is. No wonder the hon. member for St. Mary has brought this question before the house; it surprises me that it has not been before the house or the provincial legislature before.
How can this be cured? I am not able to give a complete answer. But if the dominion government were to go into the matter something could probably be done along the lines of the farm loan board. I have every sympathy for the small proprietor, in fact every proprietor, but the small proprietor is looked upon as the back-bone of the nation. I wish there might be a more extensive distribution of landed property, because the man who owns some real estate feels he has a stake in the community and is watchful to see that no undue extravagance takes place. However I believe this problem is more one for the provinces. I feel fairly sure that the mover of the resolution had no intention to embarrass the government, and although I am heartily in favour of the motion still I think the matter should go to the provincial legislature.
I have noticed that when speaking to a motion members are allowed to speak of other matters, so seeing that this is the first time I have spoken in the house I crave indulgence for a minute because I want to thank whoever made the seating arrangements for placing me where I am. Thanks to the seat I occupy in this chamber, I have the pleasure not only of seeing the government in front of me but of having on my right a member from Manitoba, in front of me a member from Nova Scotia, and on-his right, a member from Ontario. This is very interesting from the point of view of the exchange of ideas. Moreover, I have on my left the pleasure of being close to the representatives of the Conservative party, a situation which is very interesting indeed; I find that there is not such a very great difference between us. Also I say in all sincerity that I believe this is the most interesting side of the house because it comprises men of all hues: radical Liberals,
orthodox Liberals, Conservatives, Cooperative Commonwealth Federationists, Reconstructionists, and Social Crediters. And on top of all that there is one more reason why this is the most interesting side, that is because it contains the entire feminine representation of the country.
Mr. DOUGLAS G. ROSS (St. Paul's): Mr. Speaker, I am very much embarrassed by my hon. friend speaking of me in such glowing terms. That is all.
Topic: SMALL PROPERTY HOLDERS
Subtopic: PROPOSED STUDY OF THEIR FINANCIAL SITUATION LOOKING TO EQUITABLE TREATMENT