“So here I am,” concluded Mrs. Sanderson, as she hung up her coat and cap. “I am a monument to those who are gone, and the free gift of the people of Alberta to you and your wife, in slight appreciation of the work you are doing in settling the country and making all the land in this district more valuable. They are a little late in acknowledging what they owe the settler, but it took the women a few years to get the vote, and then a little while longer to get the woman’s point of view before the public.”
Mary Wood stood at her father’s side while the nurse spoke, drinking in every word.
“But who pays?” asked Mary’s father—“who pays for this?”
“It is all simple enough,” said the nurse. “There are many millions of acres in Alberta held by companies, and by private owners, who live in New York, London, and other places, who hold this land idle, waiting for the prices to go up. The prices advance with the coming-in of settlers like yourself, and these owners get the benefit. The Government thinks these landowners should be made to pay something toward helping the settlers, so they have put on a wild-lands tax of one per cent of the value of the land; they have also put a telephone tax on each unoccupied section, which will make it as easy for you to get a telephone as if every section was settled; and they have also a hospital tax, and will put up a hospital next year, where free treatment will be given to every one who belongs to the municipality.
“The idea is to tax the wild land so heavily that it will not be profitable for speculators to hold it, and it will be released for real, sure-enough settlers. The Government holds to the view that it is better to make homes for many people than to make fortunes for a few people.”
Mary’s father sat down with a great sigh that seemed half a laugh and half a sob.
“What is it you said the women have now?” asked Mary.
The nurse explained carefully to her small but interested audience. When she was done, Mary Wood, aged eleven, had chosen her life-work.
“Now I know what I’ll be when I grow big,” she said; “I intended to be a missionary, but I’ve changed my mind—I am going to be a Voter!”