Charles Edward Johnston
Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):
I hope it will be. Perhaps, as an hon. member suggests, this is a death-bed repentance on the part of the federal government.
Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):
I hope it will be. Perhaps, as an hon. member suggests, this is a death-bed repentance on the part of the federal government.
Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):
No; it is the promise of the dawn.
Mr. JOHNSTON (Bow River):
As I was
pointing out a moment ago, the government of Alberta is not doing this from any sentimental point of view. I think experience has shown that if the federal government at the end of the last war had granted clear title to every one of the soldier settlers who wanted that land, it would have been dollars ahead, because of the tremendous overhead in administration. Even if they were to grant clear titles to those soldiers who got land under the soldier settlement board, I am quite positive the federal government would, in the long run, be dollars ahead.
The provincial government have gone into this matter carefully and have come to the conclusion that it is cheaper for them as a provincial government to give the soldiers one-half section of land, absolutely free at the end of ten years. It has been cheaper, they consider, to give the soldiers clear title, without one penny owing, than it would be to set up a tremendous administration to carry on the work of administration for years to come. That is not sentimentality; it is good logic and good business.
Surely, if one of the prairie provinces, one of the poorest provinces of the dominion, can be so generous to the soldiers, the federal government could loosen up a bit. There would be no great difficulty in the federal government's financing such a proposition, and
saying to these soldiers-not only those of the first world war, but those of this war who desire to take up land-that once they have proven their intention of staying on the land, and have shown their good faith by staying there for ten years, that the federal government would give them clear title. I hope that the government will take a saner view, and do that very thing.
Would the Minister of Veterans' Affairs give us a statement as to the factors which determine the eligibility of a veteran to receive aid under this act for the purchase of small acreages adjoining a city or town? There appears to be some confusion in that regard.
I know of one man who applied and was refused aid on the ground that the job he held in the city was not permanent, and there was some doubt as to whether he would be able to keep up his payments. In another instance I got a letter from the minister saying the reason this man was refused was that he had not had any farming experience for about twenty years and, consequently, they did not think he could make a living on the acreage.
It was my understanding when the bill was before the house that the purpose of helping people to get acreages nearer cities was so that they could work in the city during those seasons when work was available, and also have some assistance from small acreages, such as those on which they would keep chickens or grow berries. What are the factors which determine eligibility?
Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):
Some time ago the hon. member for York South raised the same question. He asked what qualifications should be possessed by a veteran seeking to establish himself on a small holding under the provisions of the Veterans' Land Act.
Just now he mentioned the case of a Toronto workman whose application- was refused when he asked for a small holding. The hon. member was good enough to furnish the name privately, and since then a report has been obtained by myself ini regard to that particular case.
I have indicated1 that the director had to go slow in authorizing settlements up to the present time. It is not in the interests of any veteran that he be encouraged to enter into a contract involving the repayment of a loan unless and until the necessary home, farm buildings, tools and equipment are available, so that he has the means of earning the money to pay his instalments.
Knowing the limitations in this regard, the administration has sought to allocate avail-
able materials among applicants considered to have the greatest need. This, frankly speaking, is a discretionary process, and inevitably it gives rise to disappointment in some cases. The policy of the department is to study as many as possible of those cases; but the hard fact remains that until materials, equipment and labour are more easily available we shall probably not be able to settle all applicants on small holdings.
These are the reasons, I may tell my hon. friend, why the veterans referred to by him and by others have experienced delay. There are several aspects to the qualifications mentioned by my hon. friend. The applicant must have the service record laid down in the act. I understand there is no difficulty on that score, in the case of the veteran mentioned by the hon. member. Either in farming, or in the case of most small holdings, it is contemplated that the veteran has to make at least some part of his living by cultivating the soil, some part of his living through some branch of agriculture or horticulture. Whatever it is, the veteran has to show that he has some experience and background related to the project for which he applies, whether it be a full farming acreage, or the keeping of poultry, the growing of vegetables or beekeeping.
In the case of small holdings there must also be some assurance that the veteran has reasonable prospects of some other means of livelihood
the condition referred to by my hon. friend. That is, he must have reasonable prospects of some personal livelihood-a job or a skill which will ensure him a reasonable prospect of getting a job in the vicinity of his home.
A directive recently issued to regional offices on January 2 shows that the policy is to take a reasonable view of those requirements, along practical lines. Another qualification which, of course, is necessary in every case, has to do with character and steadiness. With some men there is little prospect of reestablishment by tying them up, or trying to tie them up with a hard and fast contract for fifteen years.
Here again the policy is not to be too strict, and account is taken of reasonable probabilities. Decisions on those points are not made arbitrarily by civil servants. Qualification is a process requiring interview by an advisory board consisting of farmers, business men, and veterans from the applicant's locality, men who know local conditions, and who are good judges of the person in question. Great care has been taken in the selection of these advisory boards to see that they will have the confidence of the veteran, and of the community in which he dwells.
In the case of the veteran to whom the hon. *member referred the other day, a report has been furnished, and it appears that the reasons for refusal were not quite as my hon. friend -understands them to be. This veteran, who was about fifty years of age, proposed to make his living from an orchard, and the production *of small fruits from one and a half acres of quite good land, equipped with a small three-roomed frame house. The applicant was found to have had little or no association with agriculture for the past twenty-four years. He is employed, as I understand, as a metal polisher in Toronto. The officers of the department, and the advisory board, seriously questioned this man's prospects of success in an occupation for which he lacked training and [DOT] experience.
However, I may assure my hon. friend that one refusal is not final. The officers of the board are trying to find a type of reestablishment which will fit more closely with this man's present employment, and offer him greater prospects of success.
I understood the minister to say that a committee of local farmers and 'business men, and I presume legionnaires and ex-veterans, sit as a committee in respect of small holdings. If that is so, why is it not done in the Fraser Valley? I understood the minister to say, further, that he presumed a veteran would have a reasonable chance of making a partial living, or of gaining partial employment in some other line of farming. In my riding this is what has happened, particularly in the vicinity of Chilliwack. I should like to know if local people who know conditions will be consulted before these men are settled.
Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):
Definitely, yes. I understand that in the case referred to the advisory committee consisted of only two gentlemen. They were estimable gentlemen but they were not necessarily in touch with all the local conditions. There is no objection whatever to enlarging these local committees and giving representation to the Canadian Legion and local councils or to practical farmers. We want the advice of those who know local conditions and we are only too glad to have it.
Will such a committee be consulted before any settlement is made ?
Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):
I invited the Minister of Mines and Resources and the Minister of Finance to put up an argument to-night, but they have walked out without doing so. I had hoped
that before going to the home for the aged the Minister of Mines and Resources would have cleared his conscience of at least some of the sins he has committed against these old soldier settlers. I do not want those sins to haunt him in the happier days that lie ahead.
When the national defence estimates were being considered I endeavoured to get a clarification of the status of the members of the voluntary nursing aid detachment serving with the Canadian Army, particularly in connection with gratuities. I did not get an answer and I was wondering if the Minister of Veterans' Affairs is in a position to give some information. Doubt was expressed before as to whether the members of the St. John ambulance corps were members of the army. I have in my hand several orders in council that definitely tie them in with the Canadian Army in connection with rations, discipline, orders and everything else.
There is an appendix to general order 156 of 1942. This is quite lengthy and all through it we find that these girls are definitely under the regulations pertaining to the army medical corps. During the last few weeks these girls were ordered to take off the1 service1 ribbons they had been wearing for the past fifteen months. Evidently since this discussion' as to their eligibility for gratuity came up in the house there has been some action behind the scene to relegate them to a category where they will not be entitled to gratuities.
I am not going to read these orders and no doubt the minister can check them with the Department of National Defence. I think an injustice is being done to this particular ser- ' vice. They are prohibited from marrying; they get the same leave as officers; they get the same transportation rights and are under the same discipline as the nursing sisters. Has the minister any information?
Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):
I am afraid I have not. My hon. friend was kind enough to approach me personally with reference to these eases, and several other people have done the same thing in the last week or two. I do not know whether they have a definite form of enlistment for service ' for the duration of the war, but I think there is a lot of merit in the contention of my hon. friend. Without committing myself I shall certainly be most happy-it does not come under my jurisdiction-to look into the situation. Perhaps my hon. friend will be kind enough to send me copies of the documents he showed me this afternoon and then I shall be happy to bring them to the attention of my colleagues.
There is one further point I should like to refer to in connection with the matter raised by the hon. member for Battle River. The argument has often been used that the government would not be justified in giving clear title to these soldiers because the taxpayers' money was used in buying the land. Even if that were true I would not agree altogether with the argument, but it is not a true statement of fact. In many cases the land sold to the soldier settlers cost the government absolutely nothing and it was sold at fairly high prices. In other words, the soldier settlers were exploited and there was profiteering at their expense. I should like to read from a return made to the house last year in connection with the cost of some of these lands. This return was made May 23, 1944. I asked this question:
What was the cost to the dominion government of the following lands that were sold to soldier settlers in 1920: sections 6, 13, 14. 15, EJ, 10. 22, 23, 24, of range 18. township 33, west of 4 and sections 32, 30 NE J 26, 23, 22. Wf, 19, 18. 17, 16, 15 and NE I 13, of range 18, township 32, west of 4?
The reply was "nil". It did not cost the government a cent. Then my next question was:
What was the average price per acre?
The answer given was $16.38. In the same area civilians were buying South African scrip from the government for S3 an acre; yet the government were charging the soldier settlers $16.38 an acre for land that did not cost them a cent. I have continually contended that . since it did not cost the government anything to obtain this land they should be prepared to sell it at the same price as they were selling South African scrip, $3 an acre. My next question was:
What is the total debt of soldier settlers or members of veterans guard still resident on these lands?
The answer was, "$35,448.30". I then asked:
How many soldiers originally settled on these lands?
The answer given was, 40. I then asked:
How many have paid for their land in full?
The answer was, 3. Out of a total of forty who settled in 'that area we find that at the end of twenty-five years only three have been able to pay for their land in full. This is owing to the fact that the price charged was exorbitant, and even with the prices that prevail to-day we find that land is being sold for far less than $16 an acre. I can say that because
not long ago I bought some land in that area for a price away below $16 an acre. My next question was:
How many have abandoned their land?
The answer was, 17. Out of a total of forty, seventeen have had to abandon their land. The next questions and answers were:
8. How many are still resident? 13.
9. How many are in the veterans guard but still hold their land? 4.
It is all right for the minister to say that, many soldier settlers are making their payments. The thing that interests me is not how many settlers are making their payments but how many are still down and out to-day. Unfortunately there are a great many in that position. I know of settlers who have had pressure put upon them to leave the land because it is claimed they are not farming in an efficient manner.
I know of one case of an old fellow who was refused an adjustment on his land upon the ground that he is not able to farm efficiently. He is getting too old and they are trying to put him off the land. He is an old Irishman and he told me that he would have to get a shot-gun if they bothered him any more. That is the kind of spirit I am glad to see in these soldier settlers who have suffered such hardship. The superintendent of soldier settlement knows very well the land to which I am referring and I urge the minister to give consideration to this matter.
Included in the appropriation of $2,000,000,000 which is now before us there is a substantial amount for old1 age pensions and I should like to speak briefly on this matter. I refer the Minister of Finance in particular to the discussion that took place in the house last year early in June during the course of which a number of suggestions as to changes that might be made in the old age pension regulations were offered to the government from all sides of the house. The minister showed great interest in the suggestions that were made and acceded to our request to have them compiled and studied by the officials of his department in charge of the matter. Later in the session, on August 14, I had occasion to ask the minister whether any progress had yet been made in connection with the implementing of these suggestions. The minister replied that a study had been made and an excellent memorandum prepared, but that nothing further was possible at that stage.
The minister knows that this is a subject in which I am greatly interested, and there is a good deal I could say but I am going to refrain from any lengthy remarks under present
circumstances. I should like however, to point out to him and to the government that the people who are on the old age pension and those in later years who ought to be receiving it but wrho are denied the pension for one reason or another find it difficult to understand the long delay that seems to have to take place before satisfactory amendments can be made to the Old Age Pension Act or to the regulations. They are not critical of the pieces of social legislation which have been introduced and passed, particularly during the session of last year, but they find it hard to understand how huge sums of money can be found for other desirable pieces of social legislation and yet for it not be possible to make any substantial increase in the amount of the old age pension. In particular they cannot understand why it has not been found possible to abolish what for the sake of brevity I shall refer to as the means test provisions in the act and in the regulations. It is because of that feeling on the part of old people that I would ask the Minister of Finance to make a brief statement on behalf of the government, and if he will do so there are two questions to which I should like him to direct his attention. The first is this. Has any progress been made in connection with implementing the suggestions made to thp minister on June 2 and June 5 of last year? My second question is this. Now that the date of the election has been announced, has the government any announcement to make as to its intention with regard to' old age pensions? That is giving the minister a golden opportunity. I do so because I speak not only for myself but, I am sure, for private members in all parts of this house when I say that we are keenly interested in something being done as quickly as possible to improve the lot of our old age pensioners.
I did not anticipate that
this subject would come up to-night and I have not any documents or any officials with me. The hon. gentleman asks whether any progress has been made in procuring amendments to the present old age pension regulations and says that it is hard to understand why it takes so long to get these amendments made. If he were in the position of administering the Ottawa end of the Old Age Pension Act he would very soon find out what are the reasons for delay in having amendments made to these regulations.
I had a long list compiled of the suggestions that were made in the house last summer. I do not know that I would approve all of them myself; I never undertook to approve them or to try to have the suggested amendments made. But there was one-I cannot remember at the moment what
it was-which I regarded as desirable, and in December or January we started in to try to have that amendment made. We have been corresponding with the provinces ever since and we have not yet reached agreements with the provinces. It is almost impossible to obtain amendments to the regulations because one has to get agreements with the nine provinces. What happens is 'that you write to a province, and the province comes back with a counter suggestion. You say: No; let us stick to the original suggestion; you have the same thing going on with one province after another, and that goes on and on ad infinitum. I do not think any effective step can be taken to deal with our old age pension system without a dominion-provincial conference.
The hon. gentleman says, why is not something done to raise the old age pension? I have repeatedly stated in this house that we regard that as a provincial responsibility. As the hon. gentleman knows, we have enormous demands upon the dominion treasury, in the fields which are our responsibility, and we are by no means niggardly in response to the requests of member after member of this house to loosen up. We loosen up sometimes more often than I approve. But I realize that in pleading the cause of the general taxpayer I am pleading an unpopular cause here when I listen to members of this house saying: Spend, spend, spend. I realize that this is probably the wish of the members of the house.
But in this matter of old age pensions I have made it quite clear that we regard it as primarily a provincial responsibility. The provinces all have heavy surpluses and are infinitely more prosperous, governmentally speaking, than the dominion, and there is nothing to prevent any province from raising the old age pension to thirty-five or forty or fifty dollars a month if they see fit to do so. Some provinces regard a higher rate as more appropriate than do other provinces. It depends on the feeling of the people of the particular section of the dominion affected.
All I can say about old age pensions is this. I have made the statement here in the house in the past. I said two or three years ago that if the provinces thought the rate ought to be higher and all made that request, we would give consideration to making the rate higher, and we finally did that. They requested that it be raised from twenty to twenty-five dollars. We did that. Later I suggested that if the provinces were of the view that we should lower the age to sixty-
five, we would give consideration to that. But only a few provinces have made any such request.
The dominion is in this position, that we cannot get a good old age pension system in this country without a dominion-provincial conference and getting the pension on a contributory basis. I never heard of a system where the means test was abolished if the system was not a contributory one. I do not believe the people of this country would stand for our paying forty or fifty dollars a month to millionaires over sixty-five or seventy years of age unless they had done something to pay for that pension; in other words, unless it had been contributory. If you abolish the means test, you must have the contributory system. Otherwise it will strike the ordinary taxpayer or member of parliament, no matter how generous he is with the taxpayers' funds, as ridiculous.
I appreciate the difficulties to which the minister has referred in connection with dealings between the federal government and the provinces. I know, for example, the difficulty that we have in my own province of Manitoba in persuading the provincial government there to take certain desirable steps that are long overdue. One that I will mention particularly is this. About a year ago the federal government, after we had asked some questions about the matter, advised the provinces that as from that date they could cease filing liens against the property of old age pensioners up to the value of $2,000. The change which the federal government made at that time was to make permissive rather than mandatory the filing of liens up to that figure. Since that time some of the provinces have taken advantage of that provision which the federal government made. In my own province strenuous efforts have been made by public bodies and by members of the legislature to persuade the provincial government to make that very minor change, but they have not seen fit to do so. I quote that in part to express regret that this has not been done and in part to support what the minister has said, that there are these problems in dealing with the provinces.
However, in connection with the statement that the responsibility for increasing the amount should be put on the provinces, I want not only to take strong exception to the minister's stand but to point out that the total amount of money which it would cost to take care of the present old age pensions entirely from the federal treasury is not very large compared with some other sums which
are now being provided. Like the minister,. I have no figures in front of me, but my recollection is that it is about thirty-eight to-forty million dollars a year that it costs the federal government, and about twelve million, dollars is borne by the provinces; I may be out a few millions, but that is fairly close.
It is a little high. I think the federal contribution is slightly over thirty million dollars.
So much the worse, but it. is in that region. In other words, the total cost of old age pensions to the federal government, the provincial governments and the-municipalities-for in some provinces a portion of the obligation is passed on down-is in the-region of fifty to fifty-five million dollars a. year.
I wish to make a comparison, and in doing so I would make it clear that we of this group supported the family allowance measure which is to come into effect very soon. But if it is possible for us to find $200 million a year for that desirable provision, only fifty or fifty-five millions a year to assist those at the other end of life is not good enough. My colleague the hon. member for Cape Breton South who is sitting beside me frequently says, when we are dealing with these matters, that there are two groups of people for whom social legislation should make the first provision- the aged and the young. I am glad that the step has been taken with respect to the family allowance measure, even though it requires certain improvements. But I feel that progress should be made in connection with old age pensions without delay.
I mention the family allowance measure for another reason. When the government brought that measure in they did not suggest that it should be the responsibility of the provinces; they felt that the effort to assist children and family life in this country should be put on a national basis, that it should not be possible to have differences as between the various provinces. Accordingly I would say that, commendable as it is that a number of the provinces have made additions to the amount which the federal government is paying, one of the undesirable features which is developing at the present time is the variations in the old age benefits in the various parts of the country. I think it would contribute a great deal to the sense of national unity in this country if old age pensions were put on a dominion-wide national basis similar to that of the family allowance measure, and in doing so let us make the best possible provision for our old people throughout this dominion. I
hope that the present government while it lasts and whatever government succeeds it will give further consideration to the case of our old people; and I urge particularly that we keep away from the thought that this matter is a provincial responsibility. We must recognize it as a national responsibility. I urge, too, that we look squarely at the total amount of money which old age pensions are costing us, and ask ourselves if the really small amount we are providing for this purpose is good enough for our old people, in the light of our present national economy.
Mr. Chairman, I should like to make a few remarks with respect to the Department of Reconstruction. I had intended to speak briefly on this matter when the minister's portion of the appropriation was before the committee; but time interfered. Yesterday the minister tabled a pamphlet entitled "Employment and Income." I have read this pamphlet through. After the great amount of advance advertising which it and the work of the Department of Reconstruction received from the minister himself and from other ministers, I had been led to believe that in this pamphlet we were going to have something really epoch-making. I thought possibly we would really be given an idea as to how we could emerge from the old order into a new order. But I must say that reading this pamphlet through greatly disillusioned me. I was utterly disappointed. There is in this pamphlet no evidence whatsoever of any new heaven or any new earth. There is no indication of any real appreciation of the causes of the economic ills which afflict the world at the present time, and there is no sign of any knowledge how to remove those causes. That is an exceedingly serious matter.
I spoke on March 23 about the international conference at San Francisco, and I found the same fault with the general set-up there. They seem disposed to talk about everything but the causes of the trouble and how to remove those causes.
Now, the causes of the trouble which we face to-day are briefly these: that we have developed great machines of astonishing efficiency; we have perfected highly efficient technological skills, as a result of all of which we are able to produce abundantly and largely without the use of men, the result being that the purchasing power in the hands of the people as related to the amount of goods and services which are coming on the market is gradually decreasing, with the result that we have an inability on the part of those who produce to sell their product at a reasonable price, and an inability on the part of the people generally to buy the goods; the result
being that we have poverty in the midst of plenty and general consternation and dismay, with the tendency for the producers to combine in greater combines and cartels, international organizations, and a tendency on the part of the labouring men to combine in a similar way to combat the power of money, with the result that there is an urge everywhere apparently to centralization of power and the destruction of democracy. Not only is this to be observed within the nation but it is a world phenomenon. We shall never overcome this difficulty; we shall never be able to protect democracy unless we discover the fundamental causes of the trend of our day and set about remedying those causes.
With respect to this white paper, the Social Credit group has not had time fully to study the government's employment and income scheme, but we are convinced from the study we have made that the white paper does not contain any effective cure for the economic disturbances which ended in the world catastrophe of 1939. Rather, controls are to be increased to make effective -resistance by nations to economic ills more difficult, if not impossible. Further, it is clear that disarmament and similar proposals are not advanced in whole or even mainly in the interests of peace through international good will, but rather to prevent national resistance to economic conquest by means of an international gold standard. These are hard things to say about the minister's general proposal, but the mere fact that the whole plan centres around the Bretton Woods agreement indicates that what I have said is not an unjust criticism.
I have several suggestions to offer the minister in connection with the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Canada. As he will agree, we must increase production and consumption or distribution in Canada. Only by these two processes can the standard of living of the Canadian people be raised to where it should be and maintained there. The ordinary socialist takes the stand generally, I gather, that private enterprise will not produce abundance. That, I maintain, is the most flagrant nonsense because private enterprises are producing so much goods that we find it utterly impossible to sell them all. Therefore our difficulty is by no means production. We can produce if we could only enable private enterprise to sell. The problem is, therefore, to enable them to sell and at reasonable prices. I am not going to deal now with how that is to be done except to hint, but I intend to approach the problem of rehabilitation from the practical point of view in a general way, a thing which the minister will, I think, readily understand.
I am going to refer to my own constituency. In my constituency there are several rather unusual possibilities for increasing production and consumption. One of those is coal. In Alberta we have extensive deposits of high quality bituminous coal and quite a large percentage of it is in the Lethbridge riding of Alberta. Up to the present time we have done very little in Canada by way of utilizing our coal for the production of desirable means toward improving our standard of living. For example, very little is done with respect to processing coal to obtain power for rural electrification and the like. There is a great need for rural electrification and consequently a great opening for the use of coal to produce power for that purpose. Almost nothing has been done in Canada with respect to processing our coal for petroleum. The minister pointed out this afternoon, and has pointed out previously in his speeches in this house, that Canada is dependent largely on outside sources for her petroleum, oils, gasoline and the like. With the tremendous deposits of coal which we have in Canada I maintain, that it is a reflection on our intelligence to have to be importing our oil from outside when nations such as Germany, Italy and Britain have been producing their oil needs in such large measure from coal. We have such tremendous quantities of coal. I am told that the amount of gasoline and oil products which we need in Canada could be produced from about twenty million tons a year. This would add greatly to the prosperity of the coal mining areas in our country and would add greatly to our own security and self-sufficiency in time of stress.
Much has been done in other countries in the way of processing coal to get certain chemicals. Very little is being done in Canada. Men process coal in order to get plastics, explosives and solvents of one kind and another. All of these are possibilities of the future; I submit to the minister that he should take into the most careful consideration the possibility of processing our coal deposits in order to produce those very desirable commodities in our country. I am told that in Britain and in Germany they have used coal to obtain coal tar for the building of highways. We need highways in Canada very, very badly. We have much difficulty in getting highways that will stand up to our weather. It ought to be a sound proposal to obtain coal tar from our coal deposits and with it to build highways.
I should like to refer the minister to a good brief which has recently been submitted to the royal commission on coal that has been sitting across Canada. This brief was submitted by the Lethbridge board of trade. It is called
"A Fuller Utilization of Coal Deposits." If he will read that brief he will obtain some ideas which I think will help him to avoid too much study in the matter.
May I turn from our coal deposits to the possibilities of irrigation. Every gallon of water that runs down the slopes toward Hudson bay should be carefully stored and beneficially used on the thirsty soils of the west. We have all too little water in western Canada, and of that which we have a great amount, in fact by far the major portion, is being allowed to run to waste year after year with nothing being done about the matter. May I particularly draw the attention of the committee to the project for the utilization of water in my own constituency, called the Lethbridge southeast water conservation project, or the St. Mary's and Milk rivers conservation project. In this project it is proposed to take the waters that run in four rivers flowing through southwestern Alberta and store them in ten reservoirs, the combined capacities of which will be 738,700 acre feet; then to distribute that water over 345,000 acres of land in the federal ridings of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, the total cost being $15,178,430. The land upon which it is proposed to put the water is choice soil. It has been semi-arid for centuries; consequently it is very rich. The climate there is unusually fine and the location with respect to transportation and markets is good. By utilizing the land and water we can add greatly to the stock raising capacity of Alberta and the west, the dairy producing capacity, the capacity to cam goods and the capacity to produce sugar. Sugar beets particularly grow very well with high yields and a high percentage of sugar content. Up to the present time the people of Canada and particularly the present government of Canada have greatly neglected the possibilities Of producing beet sugar in Canada. It is an amazing thing to me; nevertheless it is obviously true.
Beet sugar is one of the most important commodities which we can produce in Canada. During this war we have had to go short of sugar. During a future war-let us not forget that a future war is a possibility-we might not be able to get the meagre supplies that we have been able to get from abroad. It is only the part of ordinary common sense to put ourselves in a position where we can produce our own sugar, and we can do that successfully in Canada.
May I return to the water conservation project? I would suggest to the minister that he read the report of the committee
which was appointed under the name of the St. Mary's and Milk rivers conservation committee to examine into the possibilities of the project about which I have been speaking. This committee submitted a report to the Minister of Mines and Resources in February, 1942. On page 12 of the report the committee pointed out that they believed this project was a desirable one for post-war rehabilitation in Canada; and in the report they pointed out the serious danger of Canada losing her share of the waters of the St. Mary's and Milk rivers because they are international streams, since that share was awarded by the treaty dated January 11, 1909, and stipulated by official order of the international joint commission dated October 4, 1921. I specially urge that the government proceed immediately with the St. Mary's dam of a capacity of 270,000 acre feet. This would cost roughly $4 million. It would provide plenty of water to make up for the shortage which now exists in the irrigation districts in the Lethbridge area comprising 120,000 acres, and it would provide water for 94,000 acres of new land. These are very important matters. Therefore I commend to the minister's most careful consideration the Lethbridge southeast water conservation project.
I referred a moment ago to the beet sugar industry. May I turn the attention of the committee to that again for a minute or two? Any nation that does not or cannot produce its own sugar needs cannot be really free. Sugar is likely to become more important as the generations pass. Canada could easily produce her own sugar. One beet sugar factory like the one at Raymond, Alberta, in my constituency, can produce one-twentieth of Canada's annual requirements of sugar. Canada could produce all the sugar she needs in southern Alberta, south of Calgary. The beet sugar industry should, I maintain, be encouraged. I urge upon the minister that he bring influence to bear upon his colleagues in the cabinet to the end that this may be done. As I said a moment ago, the present government has been unsympathetic to the beet sugar industry, and has hurt that industry in Canada.
May I now turn for a few moments to agriculture in Canada, as it is affected by the rehabilitation programme. If agriculture is to be rehabilitated in Canada three things must be done. First, the farmer must have parity prices. This means the bonusing or subsidizing upward of the prices the farmer gets, and the bonusing or subsidizing downward of the prices of the commodities he has to buy. The subsidizing process should be 32283-56
carried to the point at which every farm family would be able to have a modern home and a cultured, educated family free from financial worries. This should be the ideal. Anything short of that is unworthy of any government whatsoever that might have power in Canada. Second, the farmer needs full markets; markets in Canada to the limit of the capacity of Canadians to consume the goods, andi markets abroad for all our surpluses, either through trade or through mutual aid so financed as to avoid increasing taxation or debt. The third need is generous credit facilities. If the minister will provide these three requisites to the farming population of Canada, he will have no need to worry about rehabilitating them, for they will take care of the rehabilitation themselves from there on.
I now turn to the question of housing. Some attention has been given to that matter up to the present during the debate. I maintain that the present housing programme of the government is altogether inadequate. The proposed assistance is not available to the very people who need housing assistance most. Money for housing must be made much more widely available so that the poor man, working for a low and uncertain income, may be able to possess his own home. Interest rates must be much lower than are now proposed, not more than perhaps two per cent. The repayment of the loan should be on the basis of the income of the householder. If he pays a moderate percentage of his income for a period of, say twenty years he should be guaranteed clear title to his home. Every family must have an opportunity of possessing its own home.
Canada exists for the sake of the people of Canada. Without plenty of patriotic, healthy and prosperous people, Canada will never grow. The people must come first. Measures must be taken to encourage an increase in the Canadian birthrate, and suitable housing provision would be one such measure.
Some people will say it sounds foolish to argue that if the householder has paid a certain percentage of his income for twenty years he should have possession of his home. May I just point out to hon. members that the administration in Alberta is proceeding on just such a basis. When they turn over, we will say a half-section of land to a returned man they say to him, "Now, if you give us a certain percentage of the produce of your land for a certain number of years, perhaps ten or fifteen years, you can have the land." I believe eight per cent is all that is called for.
The house in committee of supply, Mr. Golding in the chair.