June 14, 1946

LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

I think I can assure the hon. member that there is no duplication; that the functions we have in mind for the various divisions of the department involve no duplication whatever. The various divisions are charged with the work of securing the interchange of information between the provinces. Attached to almost every division in the department there is an interprovincial committee or a committee of professional experts with representatives from each province. In that way the divisions of the federal government provide machinery whereby views are interchanged and plans are coordinated. I have not known of any case in which there has been any duplication at all.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MACDONNELL (Muskoka-Ontario):

Then is it quite clear that the dominion has become a sort of channel of communication between the provinces, and that the provinces find it more convenient to communicate with each other through the dominion than directly; or are there two parallel lines of communication?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

The fact is that through these agencies such as the dominion council on health, the Canadian council on nutrition, the national physical fitness council, the advisory committees to the division of food and drugs, the conference of workers on venereal disease, people from the provinces meet at Ottawa, exchange views, receive information and give advice. That is the way in which a large part of the work of the department is carried on. That is, we are in (communication with them and they are in communication with us. Then the representatives of the provinces or of professional associations meet at Ottawa and exchange views. It is the best way we know of in which the work in different fields can be coordinated throughout Canada. But it is largely the result of consultation and discussion.

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PC

Lewis Elston Cardiff

Progressive Conservative

Mr. CARDIFF:

I do not know whether the same condition applies throughout Canada, but in most county homes I believe at least a third of the cases could be classified as bordering on mental. Is any assistance given in that regard?

Supply-Health and Welfare

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

No assistance is given by the dominion. That was the kind of assistance contemplated in the dominion government's proposals under which grants totalling S7 million might be made, for assistance in providing care for mental cases. That money would have been paid to the provinces, and distributed through various types of institutions within those provinces. But at present there is no such provision.

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Item agreed to. National health branch- 221. Blindness control division, $42,566.


PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

This item contemplates an increase from $10,520 to $42,566. What expansion in programme will there be?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

The largest single item is an increase of $19,000 to cover the cost of medical specialists' fees in connection with a survey of blind pensioners, together with the cost of treatment of some of those pensioners whose vision may be benefited by medical or surgical procedure as indicated by the findings of the survey. This is part of a programme we have set under way, under which we hope to find out what proportion of blindness can be prevented or cured by treatment.

In the proposals to the provinces we offered to contribute 50 per cent of the cost of providing treatment, where that treatment might result in preventing or curing blindness, by operation or other means. As it is, we are going to continue the survey so as to find out the causes of blindness, what proportion can be treated, and carry on some test work to see how much it will cost to do a really big job in that field, with the hope of reducing the number of blind people from the substantial number there are in Canada to-day. It is believed that expenditures by the dominion and the provinces on this work would ultimately result in a reduction in the amount of pensions payable to blind persons.

. Mr. FLEMING: Will that survey involve original research work? Will that not be done in provincial institutions? We are concerned lest the programme contemplated by the minister's department might result in a duplication of the work now being carried on. How will the proposed expansion of expenditures under the item meet a need not at present being met by work done by the provinces?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

I believe it is correct to say that at present no one is charged with finding out from medical files what the causes of blindness are, from a statistical point of view. This is largely a statistical operation, but it must be done by doctors. It is believed

that this is the only way in which the information can be obtained. The work was started some time ago, and this is for an extension of that work. We hope through this means- the only means we know of-to find out all there is to know about causes of blindness in Canada, and to estimate what proportion might be cured by treatment or operation. This is not a duplication of work being carried on anywhere.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

Is the work being done by persons on the staff of the department, or are expert research workers being retained for the purpose?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

I do not think the expression "research workers" would be exact.

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PC
LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

This $19,000 additional is to provide payment to specialists who will do the survey work.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

Specialists outside the department?

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LIB
CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

There are six items in the division, and I am not objecting to any of them, because in my view the work supposed to be done is most desirable. The point raised by the hon. member for Eglinton is worthy of consideration. Is there cooperation between the minister's department and the various provincial departments in these matters, or are they matters which are outside provincial departments altogether?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

The situation is that of the 12,652 known blind people in Canada, some 6,882 were on pension as of January 1, 1946. We have records in the old age pensions office relative to each of those pensioners. Our aim is to go over those records, and also to go over the records of other agencies to find out the causes of blindness in Canada. There is no duplication in the work.

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Item agreed to. National health branch- 222. Tuberculosis control division, $32,051.


CCF

William Scottie Bryce

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. BRYCE:

I do not rise to criticize the minister, but rather to appeal to him for support. I was sorry that the dominion-provincial conference failed, because I had hoped that we would receive from that conference some support in the control of this terrible scourge which sweeps the country.

In Manitoba one person dies each twenty-four hours from tuberculosis. That is a heavy deathrate. I have told the house before just how bad it is. When we send tuberculosis-

2ozti

Supply-Health and Welfare

tested cows to the north country we find that the people give the cows the disease before they are there three months. That is how bad the condition is. I have read in the newspapers where this matter has been discussed by provincial governments, but we find that very little has been done for the control of the disease.

I am pleased to note that another $15,000 is being set aside for that purpose. However, that is not nearly enough. The disease in the northern part of my constituency is spreading like wildfire. I know of one poll consisting of 120 voters. There are about 200 people in the settlement, and it was found that of that number there were seventy-two people infected with tuberculosis. There were twenty-one at home. At the last report eleven were active and probably would require treatment; three needed further investigation and eighteen were reported as having communicable diseases. When you have seventy-two out of 200 people in one little settlement in this condition you can realize how serious it is. This matter was brought up in the Manitoba provincial house by Mr. Hamilton, who represents a northern constituency, and Mr. Richards, but they do not seem to be able to do anything. This is a matter for the dominion to tackle. The dominion will have to step in and do something about it.

I do not want the committee to think I am speaking only about Indians because this is a mixed population. I hope something will be done, because people who go up there and work come back and find that there is something wrong with them. It is so easy to get this disease. I appeal to the minister to try to provide more money to control this disease in the north country, because it is worse there than in the southern parts of the province.

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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. KNIGHT:

I should like to congratulate the minister upon increasing the amount being made available to deal with this scourge of tuberculosis. We have been fighting tuberculosis quite successfully in the province from which I come. Of course, we have no monopoly upon what we are doing, since this is general throughout the country.

I wanted to speak about something not altogether connected with the disease. I should like to draw to the attention of the minister certain privileges which are denied to people confined in sanitaria. I refer to the exercise of the franchise. Prior to the last dominion election this caused considerable trouble in my constituency. The electoral act does not appear to be clear on the matter, and the electoral officers at that particular time seemed

FMr. Bryce.] I

unable to give a clear definition of the act. As I say, they did not seem to be sure on the matter, and the information we received at different times prior to the election was quite conflicting. As I understand the act, it provides that people in charitable institutions-I want to protest now against the use of that word-and inmates of sanitaria were to be deprived of the right to vote. As I contended when dealing with citizenship, the right to vote should be irrevocable, and I want to protest as forcibly as I can against the disenfranchisement of anyone unfortunate enough to be afflicted with tuberculosis.

We attempted to have the inmates of a sanitarium in my city enfranchised. We wired the electoral officer several times, and finally we were told that only those who had been in residence for a period of twelve months and had no hope of getting back to their constituencies could vote. We thought that was perfectly clear and we rejoiced when the telegram came through, but it is a sad commentary upon the stupidity of some of the returning officers in this country when I say that they interpreted that to mean that only those could vote who had been in residence for a period of twelve months and were considered to be incurable. After further wiring, we were able to change their minds, and we were permitted to take those people out to vote who had been certified by the doctors to be able to go.

Tuberculosis is not like other diseases and that is one reason why those patients who have been certified by the doctors to be able to do so should be able to go out to vote. I appeal to the minister to use his influence in this, particular matter. I see no reason why the electoral act should not be amended to permit or even to compel the setting up of polling booths in these institutions, so that the inmates could vote without sacrificing their comfort or running the risk of aggravating their condition.

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June 14, 1946