June 24, 1946

CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

How is the payment for two months to all the provinces around $5,000? Are there any other investigations?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

Yes, of course there are. But I think the hon. member is perhaps expecting too much in respect of the speed with which the accounts are rendered for investigations.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

I can see that.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

You see, we are in a pretty narrow range of time for a very large-scale operation. Payments began in July, 1945. Then, in November, 1945, after'we had been making payments for four months, and before we had arrangements with any provinces, we arrived at this estimate of $300,000 as the figure which was proper to be set as a charge for investigation.

I shall be glad to tell hon. members how that figure was arrived at. It was arrived at on the basis of investigations of something like 50,000 to 60,000 cases a year. That is,

50,000 to 60.000 cases out of 3,333,000 children or about 1,500,000 families. Relative to families, this represents about three per cent of the families in receipt of family allowances.

I believe those who are familiar with the records of child welfare organizations, of the dependents' board of trustees and of children's allowance administration, say that about three per cent of the cases are cases requiring investigation. That does not mean that three per cent of the cases are oases requiring diversion of payments. It simply means that three per cent of the cases are those requiring investigation. It was on that basis that the figure was worked out in November, when the estimates were prepared.

Meanwhile we were endeavouring as quickly as possible to create machinery under which investigations could be handled. As the hon. member has said, at the outset this was very largely done through our own staff. One or two members in each office would investigate cases which were brought to the attention of the staff. Since then, we are appointing welfare supervisors in each office. Since then, we have made arrangements successively with, the three provinces of Nova Scotia, Manitoba and British Columbia. But we have not yet made arrangements with the provinces having the greater proportion of the population of Canada, namely Quebec and Ontario, nor have we yet the kind of alternative facilities which would be necessary to do a complete job there.

Just as soon as Manitoba and British Columbia begin rendering accounts in respect of services which they have rendered, these items of $2,235, as mentioned by the hon. member or $5,000 as mentioned by me, will start stepping up very rapidly, until we are in a position when adequate service is being rendered in all parts of Canada.

It is because I have to present these estimates on the basis of inadequate experience, during the period of rapid growth in this service, that hon. members-quite justifiably I think-have been asking the questions which they have been asking. However, I hope this explanation will indicate to them that, while we hope this figure will not be necessary, and while we believe it will not be necessary, it is still the kind of figure which, on the basis of past experience, should be set in; and that the plan is the best kind of plan that can be arrived at to do the job we have in mind.

We aim to do it just as rapidly, as sensibly and as economically as it can be done. But I would hope that hon. members would feel that if the sum of $300,000 were not spent, this was a good thing, provided that we furnish the services desired. We aim to produce these services as soon as possible. As I say, they have been moving along stage by stage, and. there has not yet been a month in which we have received accounts even from the three provinces with which we have made arrangements.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

There are three provinces with which the department has made arrangements, but there are six provinces where there are no arrangements. In those six provinces someone must be looking after cases of this sort for investigation. Who is doing it now? Surely the department knows what it is costing to do that in these six provinces. Who is doing it? There is no question of rendering accounts, as in Manitoba,

Supply-Health and Welfare

British Columbia and Nova Scotia, because the department itself is doing the work. What has been the experience in these provinces with, as the minister says, the largest population?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

There is no item for these expenditures in the other provinces because, in so far as these services are necessary, and have been proved necessary, they are being done by people on the staff of the administration as part of their ordinary employment. But, as I say, that is not involving a number of people sufficient to give the kind >f service we would like to see given.

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PC

John Bracken (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BRACKEN:

I am rising for a third *,ime on this item-and I hope it will be the ast time. I do so for the purpose of making i suggestion which I hope will be accepted, and which I believe will expedite the passage of the minister's estimates.

From all the information we have, in the first two months of this fiscal year he has required for this purpose 82,500 a month. He is asking, for the remaining ten months of this year, $29,000 a month. Hon. members over here question the necessity of an estimate of this size. The minister himself questions it. My suggestion-and I make it in all deference-is that the minister should say, "We will go back and review this matter. We will look at it in the light of present facts, to date, and come forward with a revised estimate." If that were done I am sure the committee would pass it. But let me say this to the minister, that if hon. members get the idea that that is the way in which his estimates are put together, they will not have confidence in the way in which these tables have been set up. That is all I have to say about the matter at the moment.

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LIB
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

When the minister is

dealing again with this item I would like him to tell us what is being done in the other six provinces. It seems to me that, if arrangements were worked out with the orovinces which have a department of public welfare or a department of that description, it would eliminate the. necessity of setting up some other organization. In discussing this matter to-night the minister has said that we are in the process of doing this, that or the other and it seems to me that when the minister comes back again he should be able to tell us that -negotiations have been undertaken with the other provinces where they have the necessary facilities and that such and such an arrangement has been worked out. It strikes me that the arrangement made with Nova Scotia is an intelligent and satisfactory sort of arrangement if they have a department that can do the work. The same thing obtains with regard to British Columbia and Manitoba. We all know that Alberta has an efficient department, as have Ontario and Saskatchewan, and it seems to me that it would be wise to endeavour to work out a plan whereby the departments already set up in the various provinces would undertake this work and prevent duplication all across Canada.

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PC

John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

Has the minister any

information concerning expenditures and investigations in the provinces with which no agreements have.been made? I wish also to ask him,if in his opinion members of parliament and lawyers have the right to represent people who. have.;been unable to get any satisfaction from; the "department,1 want the minister to understand that while I have written to

Supply-Health and Welfare

him I realize that he has not had time to examine the matter and reply. I make no complaint about that. I wrote to him about a case where the parties had been writing to the Quebec office of the department for something over six months and had been unable to get any satisfaction whatever. I took the matter in hand and I did not get any satisfaction. I then wrote a rather earnest letter and I was informed, in courteous terms, by the head of the department in Quebec that under some order in council or regulation the records were considered to be private and could not be discussed with members of parliament. No mention was made of lawyers, but I inferred that they w^ere included. I should like to know if there is any such regulation and whether or not the minister considers the answer I received a proper answer to give to a member of parliament who endeavours to come to the rescue of constituents who have not received for some months the bonus to which they are entitled?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

Under regulation 19 it

is provided that no person shall disclose or communicate or allow to be disclosed or communicated any information or evidence obtained under the provisions of the act and these regulations unless the same is necessary for the administration thereof or is required by law. To the best of my knowledge that provision is strictly enforced, but it does not prevent members from taking up cases to make sure that the parties concerned are receiving consideration from the regional office, from the department or from the minister.

If the hon. member has received any communication along the lines he suggests I can only reply that probably the occasion for that refusal to disclose information would arise because there was something in the case which required that answer to be given. Ordinarily members' letters are replied to courteously by either the department at Ottawa, the regional office of myself. The matter is looked into and, when possible, action is taken at once. An effort is made to answer correspondence on the day it is received, or on the following day, and I think in only a small minority of cases is there any delay. If there is, it is on account of the fact that there must be some further investigation and the correspondent is told about that.

While the secrecy provision is there and while it is observed, it certainly does not prevent hon. members from making representations to see that cases are adequately considered. Those representations are carefully considered;

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PC

John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

I am not complaining of any lack of courtesy; I simply want to know how far this matter of secrecy goes. I understand that these records are private, but 1 should like to know if when a lawyer receives a mandate from a client, when a member of parliament writes in at the instance of a constituent, the minister would interpret the opening of the record to such lawyer or member as a violation of the secrecy under which the work is carried on. I think we should be clear on that because, if he does, it will undoubtedly give rise to some consideration of the wisdom of revising the rules and regulations.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

In answer to the hon. member for Stanstead I must say that I have never had drawn to my personal attention any case in which a refusal to give information on the grounds of the secrecy required under the act was protested against. If the hon. member has such a case I would be only too glad to see that it is brought to my personal attention and I will look it up. I know that on a number of occasions regional directors have refused to give information, on grounds of secrecy; and I think that where it has been done it has usually been recognized that that is the right course to follow. I have never heard of any case in which there was a protest against that action being taken. In the ordinary course where, a member writes in, the usual kind of letter is, "Mrs. So-and-so filed her application for family allowance on such-and-such a date. The regional officer says it has not a record of the filing on that date. Would you please look into the case and see if it is not possible to give effect to the filing from sueh-and-suoh a date?" There is a well-recognized procedure in that event. If there is at the office a record which can be traced which shows the date of filing, then that is the effective date. If that cannot be shown, and there is some evidence by way of affidavit or otherwise which is reliable, then the filing of the application is dated back to that date.

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PC

John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

I am quite positive that the minister will deal with this specific case, which I mentioned only for purposes of illustration, and I want to put that aside. What I want to know is, does the rule of secrecy preclude a member of parliament or a lawyer from acting on behalf of the person who is complaining?

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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:

On a point of order, the minister said that this item would stand. I have never seen any further debate once the responsible minister suggests to the committee of the house that the item stand; it means that the item is to be considered or reconsidered; it means that the item comes back to this committee for consideration and reconsideration. Therefore I think the item automatically stands over once the responsible minister suggests to the committee that it shall stand.

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LIB

William Henry Golding

Liberal

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Golding):

I think the point raised by the Minister of Veterans Affairs is quite correct.

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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:

Call the next item.

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LIB

William Henry Golding

Liberal

The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Golding):

The suggestion was made that the item should stand; the minister consented; the item will again come up for consideration; and I would suggest that this item be now allowed to stand.

Item stands.

Welfare branch-

229. Administration, $47,410.

Payments of dominion's share of pensions, $34,538,200.

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June 24, 1946