Mr. EUSEBE ROBERGE (Megantic) (Translation):
Mr. Chairman, two members of the house having done me the honour of replying to the observations I delivered on Friday last, I consider it my duty now to reply to them. The first one is a brilliant lawyer who poses as the champion of the French Canadians. This is how he commenced his speech:
I shall not attempt to follow' the arguments of the hon. member for Megantic (Mr.
Roberge). Everyone knows that every year the old gentleman repeats arguments along that line.
Is the hon. member for Dorchester (Mr. Gagnon) aware that this country has only two official languages, English and French? According to my information, ad hoc means that I present measures of no value. It is possible that they mean nothing to the hon. member for Dorcester, for I know how little interest he takes in the farming class.
My first speech of the present session was delivered on the 12th of February-and related to the change of the interest rate. The bill had been introduced by the hon. member for Maeleod (Mr. Coote), and I asked the government to have a measure adopted fixing the rate of interest at 4 per cent, in order that, after deducting the 1| or 2 per cent contributed by the provincial government, the farmers of the province of Quebec would have to pay only about 2 per cent interest. I wonder if the hon. member for Dorchester and the hon. member for Compton will be pleased to inform their constituents that the farmers cannot obtain money at 4 per cent!
On the second occasion on which I spoke during this session, I asked the hon. Minister of Colonization (Mr. Gordon) to grant to farmers' sons an amount equal to that granted to them by the province of Quebec. That proposal also, according to these hon. members, is worthless. Well, I ask them to go to their respective counties and say that the federal government is doing nothing for the sons of farmers and is opposed to all federal aid. I continue, following word for word the speech of my genial colleague:
Everyone knows that the old gentleman ...
It is true, Mr. Chairman, that I am old in political life. I have been actively engaged in politics in Megantic County since 1896, which is nearly thirty-nine years ago. Allow me to state, Mr. Chairman, that never in all that time has a Conservative been elected in that beautiful county. The hon. member for Dorchester is still rather young and is incapable of distinguishing between the provincial and the federal government, for three quarters of the speeches he delivers in this house are devoted to provincial matters. That is probably one of the .reasons why he was not chosen as provincial leader of the Conservative party at the great convention held at Sherbrooke.
Further on, Mr. Chairman, at the foot of the page, appear these words:
This legislation has received the approval in Quebec of the bishops and the general approval of the unions of Catholic farmers all over the province.
Farmers' Creditors Act
No one has more respect than. I have for the opinion of the bishops and no one is more anxious than I am to help the farmers. To mention a well known fact, Mr. Chairman, and to show you what has been accomplished in the county of Megantic to help the farmers, I shall mention what has been done in my parish since 1922. We established the Pure Bred Cattle Young Breeders' Union and the Potato Growers' Association which have an organization beyond comparison in this country. We established the Fowl Breeders' Association which ships 15,000 to 20,000 chicks per year. We have the Farmers' Association which has bought a clover and timothy threshing machine. We have the Farmers' W ives' Club, the Farmers' Club and a demonstration farm which I secured from the dominion government since I represent the county of Megantic.
Mr. Chairman, it is on behalf of all those associations that I asked that the rate of interest be set at 4 per cent, in order that the farmers and the small investors may be protected; that I also asked the government to present a measure providing for a 5 or 10 year moratorium which woidd allow our small investors to live without fear, and also oui farmers to remain on their land in the meantime, without being disturbed if they paid their taxes and interests.
A little further on, at the foot of the page, I read the following:
I have news from my district, where the farmers have suffered perhaps more than the farmers of the county of Megantic. I have a letter here from one official receiver who tells me that at the present time fifty per cent of the farmers are unable to meet their debts.
Now here is a county represented by a lawyer, where fifty per cent of the constituents are on the verge of bankruptcy. I live in a farming district, such as that represented by the honourable member for Dorchester, and in eight parishes of the beautiful county of Megantic, out of a total population of more than 2,000 farmers, only one took advantage of this legislation. Moreover, let me tell you how the farmers of my district meet their obligations. The names of those who owe tax arrears for three or four years are sent to the county council, in order to make up the list of sales for taxes. On December 1st, il asked the secretary how many sales were to be held in my parish. He told me that the names of twenty farmers were to be sent to the county council. On January 15, I made further inquiries and he told me that there remained only two; last Monday, there remained one. As the sale is
to be held on March 6, I hope that last case will be settled and there will be none left. That is how an old country merchant can protect the farmers in his county.
At the foot of the page here is what the member for Dorchester says:
I am a lawyer, Mr. Speaker; I cannot forget that, and I say that the creditor has just as much right to be protected as has the farmer.
I also say that the creditor has just as much right to be protected as has the debtor.
In order to protect the debtor, one must come to his aid and this assistance cannot be rendered to him through opposing a 4 per cent rate of interest, as was done by the hon. members for Dorchester (Mr. Gagnon) and for Compton (Mr. Gobeil).
Again, on page 1339:
Nevertheless I urge the Minister of Finance to continue his negotiations with the attorney general of Quebec in order to find ways to help the farmers.
The proper way to, help the farming community is easily found: Let the dominion government fix the rate of interest at 4 per cent-the provincial government is prepared to pay half of that rate-and let them give our farmers, through the moratorium act, the assurance that they will not be disturbed for five or ten years; you will see at once an improvement in conditions.
And again, on page 1340:
I realize that in the future some people may have difficulty getting money from rentiers.
Mr. Chairman, we have there a confession on the part of the hon. member who states that he realizes that in the future it will be extremely difficult for a farmer to borrow any money from the smaller rentiers.
Let us see now how the hon. member for Dorchester looks after his electors and how he deals with them in this house. On page 1339, he said:
Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, in the province of Quebec there are creditors who do not possess even an elementary sense of justice, and who have thus acquired many farms in my district.
Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that a man who claims to be as much of a patriot as the hon. member for Dorchester should not speak disparagingly of his province in this house. But the hon. member went further than that: during the last electoral campaign, in the province of Ontario, he went in the constituency of Cochrane-North and spoke against a French-Canadian. Mr. Abel. The French-Canadians experience great difficulties in obtaining representation in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, but this courageous man
Farmers' Creditors Act
who poses as a champion of the French-Canadian race went there and helped Mr. Abel's opponents.
May I now briefly refer to my hon friend from Compton (Mr. Gobeil). On page 1341, he made the following statement:
Just now I know that the hon. member is using his frank to mail out thousands of copies of the remarks he made last week, some of which were just as bad as what we have heard to-day.
So, according to this statement, the hon. member of Compton claims that I made a worthless suggestion in this House when I was urging a subsidy of $300 for the sons of farmers; he claims that, when I insist on obtaining money at the rate of 4 per cent interest for the farmers, my suggestion is of no value. I would ask of him that he repeat the same statement to his own electors.
He said: "Just now I know that the hon. member is using his frank to mail out thousands of copies. . ." It is not usual with me, Mr. Chairman to make personal remarks; and this is the first time that I make any in this house. But, is the hon. member for Compton now in a position to give the house such information owing to the fact that one of his daughters is now employed as a stenographer in the House of Commons? I would ask the hon. Speaker of this house and the clerk to investigate the matter in order to find out who keeps the hon. member for Compton so well informed, and I insist on the guilty party being punished accordingly.
Topic: FARMERS' CREDITORS ACT
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS TO FARMERS' CREDITORS ARRANGEMENT ACT, 1935