December 15, 1945

PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

The statute does not so provide. The statute makes it discretionary, and I think that discretionary power should be removed, irrespective of the practice. I want the minister to understand that if we are critical of these matters, we are still non-partisan.

I should like to refer to the administration of the Veterans' Land Act. It is a good act, and if carried out properly would do a great deal of good. While the act itself is sympathetic, the administration of the act is unsympathetic. While the law is there, the spirit of the law is not being carried out. I find' from the cases that have been brought to my attention that in the administration of the act there seems to be what I was going to term a callous disregard, but which is at least a cavalier disregard, of the necessity of administering that act in fairness to the veterans.

Let me give an example. Young service personnel who were on the farms when they went overseas are now coming back. I brought one or two of these cases to the attention of the house on a previous occasion. I have a letter here from a soldier who was three years overseas. He enlisted when he was seventeen years and eleven months old. He had lived on a farm all his life. He came back from overseas and now wants to take up land under the Veterans' Land Act. His application is refused because he was not on a farm for two years after he was eighteen years of age. In other words, he is not qualified.

I had another instance brought to my attention the other day, that of a boy in my own constituency who had won most of the prizes given in farm judging. He was turned down because he had not put in two years on a farm after his eighteenth birthday. That type of interpretation by the director, or whatever his title is, of the Veterans' Land Act is doing more to bring that act into disrepute than anything else. This man is told he is not qualified, that he must wait another two years. He is now twenty years of age.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

I think my hon. friend brought another case to my attention some months ago, and then there is this one this morning. I can assure my hon. friend that I intend to have that corrected at once.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

I thank the minister. I wish to mention another case, that of a veteran who was married overseas. He finds that he cannot get land under the act because the board does not know whether his wife will be fitted mentally, or perhaps sentimentally, to be a farmer's wife. Many of these men are waiting for their wives. I have had two or three cases brought to my attention in which the wives are overseas. The men want to get them over here, but they do not expect them before April, May, June or July of next year. One of these men has been back nine months and 'he has pretty well succeeded in spending his gratuity waiting around until his wife gets back so that he can qualify if he has the necessary money available to start up under the act. As my hon. friend for Vancouver South says, they have to like the look of the wife when she finally arrives, otherwise he will not get the land.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

I think the idea is that the wife must like the land.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

That will depend on the board deciding whether she is the kind that would like the land.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

Which province is that in?

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

The three I have before me are in Saskatchewan, but I think there are many others. This is penalizing men who were married overseas. They are denied the opportunity to come under the act, and that kind of administration is not the kind of thing the minister wants in his department.

I come now to the third type of case, the man who does not want land but who would like to get machinery. I have before me three cases. One of them is that of a veteran who rose to the rank of squadron leader. He served three years overseas, his father is a big farmer. This young man returned and wants to start up for himself. He needs machinery. The answer is: You cannot get any priority on machinery unless you take up land. I have that answer here. That is the interpretation of the Veterans' Land Act in Saskatchewan.

Here is another case. A man applies for a tractor. There are tractors available, controlled by the administration of the Veterans' Land Act in Saskatchewan. Although this

pool of tractors is available, and he needs one, he is advised that there is no way in which he can get one unless he takes up land. He already has the land, and he wants to farm it; yet he is denied the tractor necessary to do it.

I bring these cases to the attention of the minister to show that the administration of the Veterans' Land Act needs revamping, to say the least.

With regard to housing, I think the minister might well bring to the attention of the Minister of Finance the position of men returning from overseas who rented while they were overseas the houses they owned and now are prevented by the rental regulations from repossessing them. I think these men should be granted an exemption from the present rental regulations and enabled to get back into their own homes after a reasonable period.

There is also the matter of reestablishment in business. To-day all that is given to the returning soldier is a "hunting" licence, permitting him to hunt for stock and commodities for his store. All that is available to him is a twenty per cent quota. W'hat is actually taking place is that the veteran who is seeking to establish himself in business cannot open a business at all. He has the power physically to do it, but there is no preference given to him to assure him of a reasonable share in the commodities he requires to go into business.

There is one other matter which was referred to by the hon. member for Cape Breton South, a matter we have not dealt with in this parliament but which may well develop into a serious problem within the next few months. I see the Minister of Labour in his place. I realize the tremendous responsibility that he carries with such urbanity. No matter how serious the problem, the minister always smiles.

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LIB
PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. DIEFENBAKER:

That is the spirit,

but I am afraid we shall be crying within a few months unless something is done about this problem. Men are coming back from overseas and unemployment is piling up. The statistics for December show that there was a reduction in employment in September last greater than at any time in the last twenty-five years. This indicates the seriousness of the problem. I should like to hear a statement from the Minister of Veterans Affairs and from the Minister of Labour generally on the question of what actual planning is being done to prevent unemployment and to assure jobs. The crucial problem that faces us in this parliament, as I see it, is the maintenance

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of full employment, the government and the people of Canada assuming responsibility for the provision of the machinery for providing jobs; because the mentality that prevailed before 1939, when alongside idle natural resources men roamed in idleness, will not be tolerated. The objective must be a level of industrial production, and markets available for that production, sufficiently h.igh to assure a minimum of employment. Private enterprise must provide the jobs; the government must provide the markets. Many speak of an expanding market, and the necessity of maintaining ever-expanding markets. On the other hand I do not believe in paternalism, in an efficient economy propped up by government. That is why I come back to the question which I asked the other day and which has not yet been answered, with reference to the situation created by the recent loan arrangements made between the British and the United States governments. If under the trade arrangements made between the two governments-Canada was not present, and had no observer there-the British preference is done away with, industry in Canada will have been struck a blow that will have serious repercussions on employment. Even now, late as we are in this session, I think the government owes it to the people of this country to give us the assurance that the markets within the empire are to be maintained, or at least that the government intends to make efforts to ensure their maintenance. Without those markets, unemployment in this country, such as it is to-day, will be increased immeasurably, to the detriment of our men returning from overseas as well as of others within the next three months. I would ask the Minister for an assurance of jobs, because after all that is the first job of parliament-our job is to assure jobs. May we have a statement setting out in detail what is being done in this matter of jobs for the returning men, and what is being done to ensure trade and markets?-because we cannot let these men return once more to the unemployment that was prevalent before the war.

At one o'clock the committee took recess.

The committee resumed at three o'clock.

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PC

Lawrence Wilton Skey

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SKEY:

There are one or two questions I would like to put to the minister, but before I do so may I say that we appreciate the task which his department has at the present time, the excellent work that the committee have done, and the support they have had from all members. I have a few questions that have a bearing on those raised by the

member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) just before we rose at one o'clock. First of all there is the question of interpretation which I brought up on December 11, as will be found at page 3300 of Hansard, in which I said that there was a certain uneasiness in the minds of hon. members that there might be unnecessary delay in granting benefits, narrow legal interpretations, tight rulings by the department, and close decisions by the treasury board. My only reason for rising at this late date is to call attention to one particular phase of the pension act which I think comes within one of these narrow interpretations.

On November 30, in committee, I asked a question of the chairman, reported at page 952 of the minutes of the veterans affairs com-mitteee. I had received reports that when a pensioner went to hospital and came under hospital allowances, in some cases his net income is cut down to the point where he has insufficient money to keep him in cigarettes and small comforts. I said that some of them mentioned as little as S10 a month. Those were my words, and they were supplemented by the remark on the part of the member for Winnipeg South (Mr. Mutch) that $S was the amount they had left. Since then I have received a letter which I will give to the minister if he requests it, and it contains a reply to my question. Before I read the letter I should say that the reply of the deputy minister to my question in committee was that when a veteran is admitted to hospital for a condition which is not pensionable he is allowed compassionate treatment for this condition even although it has nothing to do with service. I have a letter from a pensioner in this category in which he says;

These cases are admitted under another medical disability and then treated for their pensionable disability. By doing so, pay and allowances can be withheld.

I bring this to the minister's attention, because if a man is to be admitted to hospital for something like a common cold and then treated for some war disability, he loses the benefit of his pension.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

No.

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PC

Lawrence Wilton Skey

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SKEY:

The minister shakes his head, but this is the letter I have received from a pensioner in hospital. He says that there are cases in which the veteran is admitted to hospital for some non-pensionable disability, something that has happened to him since the war, and then when he is in hospital he is treated for a pensionable disability, which means that he should have the benefit of his pension and not have any deductions.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

He does.

356S

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PC
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

Will my hon. friend be kind enough to send me the case priyately-

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PC
LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

-because I am sure it is not correct.

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PC

Lawrence Wilton Skey

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SKEY:

I will not delay longer with that case, since the minister will deal with it.

May 1 now call the attention of the committee to the multiple disability pensions now in force. I refer to page 7 of the National Council of Veterans Association submission to the special committee on veterans affairs. In the case which they cite they show that a veteran who has multiple disabilities which in total amount to 170 per cent disability receives in reality, by the scheme now in force, only 89-2 per cent, because they assess his most serious disability first and then take a percentage-

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

I very much dislike interrupting the hon. member, but I would say for his information that the table of disabilities was amended last month and provides for multiple disabilities, but not to exceed 100 per cent.

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PC

Lawrence Wilton Skey

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SKEY:

Thank you very much. I will not go further with that.

There is one other question I wish to ask the minister. It has reference to the nurses who have been employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs in various hospitals throughout the country. These nurses are not eligible for any service benefits. They were actually paid less than nurses who went into uniform and served either in Canada or overseas, and yet the nurses employed in the hospitals by the veterans affairs department applied on many occasions for release in order to join the services. They were under the same orders, the same restrictions, the same service as our ordinary nurses in the forces, and yet all the benefits of the veterans scheme are denied to them. May I ask the minister if any consideration is being given to their position.

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December 15, 1945