March 16, 1937

LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

But it is not correct.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

Our act does not allow them to ask about the earning of a son-in-law; there is no suggestion of that.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Would the hon. member permit me to speak?

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

Yes.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

But the British Columbia Parents' Maintenance Act does allow them. Under the British Columbia law the same board is administering that and other acts for the province.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

Yes, but this form I have in my hand is not sent out under the Parents' Maintenance Act.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

Oh, well-

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

As a matter of fact the Parents' Maintenance Act does not extend to sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. It is the pension board which puts it in, and that is the point of my complaint. I say they are not adhering to the dominion law, they are not adhering to the provincial law; they have a law unto themselves. They are making these fool regulations-

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

And they are responsible to the government of British Columbia, not to this government.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

When I ask that in British Columbia they say, "Oh, it is under the dominion act; you will have to go to them." I got into trouble with the minister there. He said I had no business going around blaming the province for the way they were carrying out the act, the way the Minister of Finance suggests I should. Then I went over to our Department of Finance and

Old Age Pensions-Mr. Leader

they told me, "We only operate to the extent of seeing that they are making no unjust demands, but we cannot put any pressure upon them to do even what is right." I submitted certain cases to them, and said, "What do you think about these?" They said, "We would pass that in a minute. Why does not British Columbia O.K. it? We would do it." I said, "Can you not make them do it?" and they said, "Our authority goes only to the extent of saying that we will or will not make certain payments. We cannot say that they ought to pay something." I think that is correct-the minister nods his head.

Then I went back to British Columbia, and I was told that that was not so-passing the buck again. They said what their principal object appeared to be, and communicated it in a letter. They boasted that in a number of years past they had never had one case rejected by the dominion authorities, while they could point to other provinces where as many as four hundred had been rejected. The obvious answer was that that was exactly what I was kicking about. Because if a case came within a thousand miles of the limit they would not grant it; that was the trouble, and then they boast that never once were their cases turned down. They are leaning back so far in their fear that the dominion government might possibly refuse a case that they are rejecting cases that the dominion government would be willing to pay. That is one of my complaints.

I have a letter under my hand which I shall not read, but the contents of which I shall state briefly. One of these cases was to be put through, and the board said-not the regulations; not the act-" You must show us what your son-in-law and daughter-in-law earned in the last year, and in the last three months individually." One of the sons was teaching school up in the Peace River district, and it took a lot of time to get word back from him. His school trustee was really in the position of an employer. To shorten the story, may I say that he sent in his income tax return, but the people in Vancouver would not accept it, or the affidavit which came with it. They said they had to have a statement signed by the actual school trustee. By the time that had been accomplished, due to delays in winter service three months had gone by. The board then said, " You sent us in a return for the three individual months of January, February and March, but it is now May; we want another return for February, March and April "-and the whole performance had to be gone through again. Was anybody's interests or property protected by that? No,

it was nothing but red tape from beginning to end.

I wish to bring to the attention of the house something which happened a few years ago under the present leader of the opposition. It will be remembered there was a lot of fuss about soldiers' wives and about red tape causing a great deal of trouble. We asked the right hon. gentleman about it across the floor of the house, and he said he would attend to it. Later in the session he was asked whether he was going to bring in legislation, and he said, "No, I do not think it is necessary; all that is needed is common sense application of the act. I have had a word with the chairman of the board." From that day to this we have had no particular trouble in that connection. It was not the act; it was not the regulation, but it was the foolish way it was carried out by the people concerned. That is the condition in British Columbia. There was an election in British Columbia in 1933 and at that time I told the people that perhaps with a change of government they would get a better deal. There is another election coming on and I am afraid I shall have to tell them the same thing.

I am trying to convey one point to the minister, but I do not appear to have succeeded. I am sorry if I have not succeeded, because I have been desperately in earnest about this matter. I suggest that these people should be told that if they are going to draw funds under this act they must administer the act in a reasonable, decent and common sense way. They must conform with the regulations of the act and not administer it according to their own private opinion. Apparently they have got the tip not to spend more money than they can help, and they are doing that.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

There was no such tip from here.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

Not from Ottawa, from

Victoria.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Harry Leader

Liberal

Mr. HARRY LEADER (Portage la Prairie):

Mr. Speaker, if this is the proper time, I should like to make one or two observations. I listened to the remarks of the hon. member for Comox-Alberni (Mr. Neill), and if I understood him aright, he is asking that in interpreting the Old Age Pensions Act we should make it easier for the applicants to obtain pensions. I do not see why the authorities should take it for granted that these applicants are committing perjury or stating something which is not in accordance with the truth, especially when the local authorities are there to vouch for the declaration. Instead of making it harder for these people

Old Age Pensions-Mr. Dunning

to get a pension, we should make it a3 easy as possible, provided they are able to fulfil the first requirement of establishing that they are seventy years of age and entitled to a pension.

I understand there is a provision in the Old Age Pensions Act to the effect that an applicant must have lived in the province for five years immediately prior to making his application. There was some reason for that provision when the act was first drafted, because at that time only two or three provinces undertook to work with the dominion. It is quite easy to understand that old people in a province which was not taking advantage of the provisions of the act would drift into one which was. I understand that now all the provinces have come under the provisions of the act. If that is so, I think it should be sufficient when a person proves that he is seventy years of age and has lived in the dominion for twenty years without regard to any particular province. I know of one case where a man eighty years of age who had lived for the last thirty years in Alberta moved into my constituency in order to be near his son. This man is destitute and cannot get a pension because he has not been in Manitoba for five years. Because he preferred to come to Manitoba to be with his son, he cannot get a pension. I do not think that is right.

The other observation I want to make is in connection with the blind. I feel sure the minister will have every sympathy with what I am about (to say. I understand that this bill provides that a blind person applying for pension must have had five years' residence in the province in which application is made. Is that right?

Hon. CHARLES A. DUNNING (Minister of Finance): Mr. Speaker, I did not expect

that this bill would start a discussion on old age pensions generally. If I had, I would have made a statement in that regard at the outset. I am debarred from speaking now, but I can answer my hon. friend's question very briefly. This bill assumes that a blind person is seventy years of age when he attains the age of forty. That is the sum and substance of it. There are one or two provisions which make it a little more favourable to blind persons than to others, but the main factor is the assumption of the age of seventy when the age of forty is reached. If a discussion is to be permitted on old age pensions generally, I would crave the indulgence of the house to be permitted to make a statement in reply, although I am out of order in so doing.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Harry Leader

Liberal

Mr. LEADER:

I have been requested to

bring this matter before the minister and I am doing it to the best of my ability. I think that anyone labouring under the terrible handicap of blindness should be able to obtain a pension provided he has lived in the dominion, without its being necessary to prove residence of five years in the province immediately prior to his application.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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Motion agreed to. bill read the second time, and the house went into committee thereon, Mr. Sanderson in the chair. On section 1-Definitions.


CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to make one or two suggestions to the minister and also express one or two thoughts with regard to this bill, which I trust will be helpful to him. I think every hon. member is in favour of the principle of the bill, and I believe it has the support of practically every person in the dominion. The thought in everyone's mind is that it will help a very deserving group of Canadians who are seriously handicapped in their struggle to take a worth while part in the life of the nation. This being the spirit in which the bill is received, I think that now is the time for us to make certain that the administration of the bill and of the Old Age Pensions Act which it amends will not defeat our intentions. We should make sure that the act will be administered in the way in which we intend it to be administered, and in the way in which the people of Canada believe that it will be administered.

This bill provides for pensions for the blind by extending the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act. When the bill is passed, the Old Age Pensions Act will provide pensions, not only for our elder citizens who have reached the age of seventy years, but also for blind Canadians who have attained the age of forty. Ten years ago when the act was first before the parliament of Canada it received practically unanimous support both from the members of that parliament and from the Canadian people. They had much the same thought in mind as is in our minds to-day, that is, that the legislation would help a deserving group of our people, in that case the needy old who otherwise might be forced to spend their declining years in want and probably in suffering.

My submission is that the old age pension was never intended to be a dole or a form of relief. When the act was passed ten years ago we had no such thing as a dole or no such thing as relief. The old age pension was intended to be a pension payable to a worthy

Old Age Pensions

group of our people. I refer the committee to the terms of section 8 of the Old Age Pensions Act, showing the class of people whom it was expected to help. Under clause (a) a person, in order to get this old age pension, must have been-

... a British subject, or, being a widow, who is not a British subject, was such before her marriage.

Under clause (c), the applicant must have-

. . . resided in Canada for the twenty years immediately preceding the date aforesaid.

And under clause (d) he must have-

. . . resided in the province in which the application for pension is made for the five years immediately preceding the said date.

But by reason of the regulations which were adopted under the Old Age Pensions Act, and the administration of the act and these regulations, the old age pension has come to be considered a form of relief. My suggestion is that that is not good enough, either for British Columbia or for any other province, and I suspect that the conditions are just as bad in the other provinces as they are in British Columbia.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

No, they are not.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

Well, that is all to the good. The trouble arises not so much because of the terms of the act, which on the whole are fair and just, but, as the hon. member for Comox-Alberni has said, because of the regulations made under the act and the administration of those regulations; over the years in the hurly-burly of building up a system for administering the act and particularly during the depression, when cuts were made in services in all directions, the tendency has been to restrict the application of the act and to make these older Canadians feel that they are paupers when they apply for the old age pension. I should like to give the committee a few instances. I must refer of course more particularly to British Columbia. First I would quote regulation 18 (d). That is a regulation passed under the dominion act, not a regulation under an act of a province. It reads as follows:

For the purpose of determining the income of any applicant, the pension authority shall take into account any of the following sources of income:

In British Columbia the pension authority is the board set up by joint action of the provincial and dominion governments.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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LIB

Charles Avery Dunning (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. DUNNING:

And this regulation also.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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CON

Howard Charles Green

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GREEN:

Yes. But this board is or should be subject to some direction from the dominion government.

Topic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS ACT
Subtopic:   AMENDMENT TO INCLUDE CERTAIN CLASSES OF BLIND PERSONS
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March 16, 1937