June 24, 1946

SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

Under item 229 I notice that old age pensions are to be considered. I desire to make a few remarks regarding old age pensions. On several occasions in this parliament I have advocated that $50 a month be paid to people who have reached the age of sixty-five years, and I wish to make that request once more to the minister, that he give consideration immediately to the possibility of offering $50 a month to people who have reached sixty-five years of age.

My feeling is that the way in which we are treating our aged people is a reflection on the whole of the people of Canada. It is high time that something be done about it more than just talk. The social credit movement has committed itself to $50 a month for people who have reached the age of sixty-five. This is by no means the ultimate goal at which social credit aims. It is the limited objective, the next trench which we at present aim to take and consolidate. Let no one suppose for a moment that social credit is in favour of stopping at the relatively meagre pension of $50 a month at sixty-five, because we simply have no right at all to offer our elderly people anything less than they can live on comfortably. Certainly no ordinary person could live comfortably in any ordinary Canadian community on $50 a month, let alone the thirty measly dollars we are giving them.

[Mr. Hackett.J

When this subject was last under discussion I believe the hon. member for Vancouver East made a motion that something like this amount of money should be paid, and I wish to give him full credit for having made that motion. I supported him on that occasion. The minister at that time made a remark which I believe should be given some consideration. He said, as reported in Hansard, April 10, 1946, at page 753:

Further, there is no system of old age pensions in the world which provides for a pension of anything like $50 a month.

I am quite sure that the minister had overlooked what is going on in the state of Washington. I think it would be well for the minister to consider some of the facts which I am going to read to him, from "The Pensioner", published in New Westminster. In the issue of April, 1946, the minister will find the quotations which I give on the first page of that periodical. It says, among other things, these significant things:

There is now ... no relative responsibility whatsoever.

That is in the state of Washington.

The department is not permitted even to enquire into how much the sons and daughters are earning!

That indicates quite clearly that there is not a means test.

Senior citizens can do what they wish to with any estate they may have!

What a glaring difference there is there between what they do and what we do. Again:

The minimum grant under the law is now $50 for those without resources and income-and that is a floor under grants. Pensioners may, and do, receive higher grants where there is need. Senior citizens found eligible receive their grant retroactively to the day they apply, and it is paid as a legal right of the pensioners.

That sounds something like a paradise for elderly people when we consider what we do here in Canada. Again:

As a result of the W.P.U.'s work, senior citizens-

Notice they call them "senior citizens" there, not old age people.

-can to-day have $200 in cash each, $500 worth of insurance, can own their car, have a vegetable garden, a cow and chickens, and still be eligible. No longer is it a disgrace to be a pensoner; instead it is recognized that senior citizens are the pioneer fathers and mothers of our state, entitled, because of their years of work, to seniority.

That is exactly the stand I take, and I believe that if a confidential roll were called of members of this house, ninety-five per cent of them, regardless of party, would support

Supply-Health and Welfare

that idea. I should like to know what it is which causes it to be impossible for ninety-five per cent of the membership of this House of Commons to be able to get what they want with respect to old age pensions. There is something radically wrong. I believe every member of the house just thrills in sympathy with the statements which are here made.

. . . the pensioners to-day have, in addition to their grants, free choice of doctor and dentist, plus free medicine, free appliances-glasses, dentures, artificial limbs, hearing aids, et cetera, and are entitled to nursing care in their own home.

No member of this house would deny elderly people all these advantages. Yet think of the way we treat them in our country. It positively makes me ashamed to hold my head up when I think of the way this country deals with its elderly people. Again:

. . . the state contributes $100 to each funeral -and relatives can contribute as much additional as they wish without lessening the state's contribution!

I am sure that the minister would be desirous of knowing about that/so that he will not make again such a sweeping statement as he made on April 10. Some hon. members will wonder whether or not this article in "The Pensioner" is authentic. I wrote to the capital of Washington to find out whether or not this was authentic. We received a number of pamphlets, laws, regulations and the like, which it would take too long a time to review, but the gist of them substantiated the report which is given in this periodical. Here is the letter written on April 30, 1946, from the state of Washington's executive department, in which appear the following statements in certain paragraphs:

You will note that to be eligible a person shall have lived in the state of Washington for a period of five out of the last ten years immediately preceding the date of application-

Contrast that with the situation here.

shall have reached the age of 65, and shall be in need of financial assistance. Persons may own the home in which they live, may retain up to but not exceeding $200 in cash resources, and may-have insurance of $500 in value. There is no citizenship requirement in the Washington pld age assistance law, neither is there a relative responsibility clause.

Which of course, as hon. members recognize at once, means that a child or someone else who happens to be related to the pensioner and who is in easy financial circumstances cannot be called upon to help to support the father or mother.

In the next paragraph I read:

We are proud of the provisions which have been made for elderly citizens of the state of Washington. It is felt that the way in which

the grant is determined as well as the amount which is being paid to individuals is preserving both the morale and the well-being of our elderly citizens.

How fine those words sound.

We are glad that you wrote regarding our programme and hope that you will feel free to make further inquiry.

Cordially yours,

Reatha M. Chance, (Secretary to the governor)

That, of course, makes it certain that the report is authentic and that actually there is a part of the North American continent where people have learned something about how to treat their elderly folk. I have no desire to prolong the discussion but I thought this matter ought to be brought to the attention of the committee.

There are two or three other matters which should be considered in regard to old age pensions. This afternoon, in the discussion of family allowances, it was contended that it was to the advantage of producers to have purchasing power distributed among the people. Hon. members can contemplate for a moment the difference it means to producers to have $20 or $25 a month going out to elderly people instead of having $50 paid to them. If they were paid the latter sum, how much more coal, milk, cream, butter, cheese, eggs and everything else our elderly people would be able to buy. They could get all these things if they had the money with which to buy them, and if that were the case, what an excellent market there would be right in our own country. This would be the situation if purchasing power were put into the hands of the people. This is an aspect of the question that must be considered.

There is something else that hurts my feelings terribly every time I think about it, and that is whenever I contemplate the tax structure we have in this country. It is next to impossible for an ordinary person,, after he begins to earn to lay anything by, because every cent which he does not absolutely need in order to meet his current expenditures is literally robbed from him by a financial system that taxes the very lifeblood out of the people. The result is that our people cannot save. We allow them to go on in that way until they are probably forty-five years old and there is no longer a demand for their services. They cannot get jobs and, even if they do get some employment, they are unable to save anything, so that they continue in that state until they are about fifty-five years old. When we no longer need them we take them out of employment, throw them into the corner and expect them to starve until they get to be seventy years old, when they can

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take the meagre pittance which we turn over to them. How can intelligent mem and women in an age like this and in a country like Canada contemplate such outrageous mistreatment of elderly people? There is just no logic or sense whatever in the set-up. Beeause of the taxation structure which exists to-day we must make some sort of provision for our elderly people. There is a fluctuation of employment, which also seriously affects people as they go along. Even if they did manage to save a little, they would presently find themselves out of work and have to spend those savings. How will they live; how will they support themselves when they are too old to find employment?

I will say no more at the present time because I am afraid I shall become rather more animated than I should be on this occasion. I have said enough, but there is one more observation I wish to make before I sit down. I wish to call the attention of the minister and of the committee to this important point. The minister absolutely must get to the stage where he does not have to depend upon the amount of money which he can wring out of the people's pockets in order to obtain the financial requirements for the things he wants to do. I commented on this aspect of the matter this afternoon with respect to the family allowance. There is not a member in this house who would not increase the family allowance to-day by 50 per cent or even 100 per cent. I doubt whether there is a single member who would object to that if the money could be obtained. But it is not a question of money; the question is whether we can produce the goods. Certainly a monetary system should reflect the actualities or realities in connection with the production of goods and services. It is utterly impossible, however, to do this with money that is wrung out of the people by taxation. Obviously, then, something must be done; and for the minister and his colleagues, in this desperately serious time in Canada, to sit by and do nothing about the financial system is virtually a betrayal of the trust which they have assumed in consequence of getting themselves elected at the last election. This condition must not go on. They have assumed a responsibility and must discharge it, and the discharging of that responsibility involves a reform of the financial system which will make that system one that reflects the facts in relation to the productive capacity of the country. Until that is done, it is idle to talk about doing any of the many things that ought, to. be done, including giving tq our elderly .

r.\lr. BIackmorc.3 ... ; ; -

people a fair deal after the lives they have lived in making this country a fit place for us to live in.

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CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. NICHOLSON:

I wish to endorse the remarks of the hon. member for Lethbridge in regard to the importance of granting additional amounts to old age pensioners. While he was speaking this afternoon in connection with the 125 a month, I made a rapid calculation and I found that $25 a month for our

11,566,000 people would come to about $3,469,000,000. While ten years ago people laughed at the idea of paying $25 a month, the record during the past four or five years has demonstrated clearly that we could increase the national income according to the plan advocated by my hon. friends. I want it clearly understood that I am not supporting their economic views. I disapprove their antiSemitic and other queer ideas, but I think the argument that my hon. friend advances-

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON:

On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the hon. member has no right to imply that this group is anti-Semitic. Let him speak for himself.

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CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. NICHOLSON:

I was thinking of some of the members of the Social Credit group.

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SC

Charles Edward Johnston

Social Credit

Mr. JOHNSTON:

Or even some of them. If the hon. gentleman has doubts about that, those members can speak for themselves.

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CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. NICHOLSON:

If we may return to the item before us, I think the minister has a responsibility to the old age pensioners of Canada to give some indication of how soon their pensions may be increased. I have before me the proposals of the government of Canada, prepared prior to the dominion-provincial conference, on health and welfare and a labour reference booklet. In these two booklets I think it is clear that the government recognizes that $20 a month pension for citizens of 70 years of age or over is not adequate. On page 36 I find that aged persons are finding it increasingly difficult under normal conditions to retain their places in the labour market, and this condition is not likely to be reversed in the next twenty-five years. Under the heading, "deficiencies of the present scheme", it states:

The means test is generally recognized as undesirable after a certain age. It has been noted , that about forty per cent of all persons of seventy years of age and over make application, satisfy the means-test requirements and receive pensions. There is little doubt that a very considerable number in addition are not able entirely to support themselves, but are dependent -upon their family, and refrain from applying for pensions because of the embarrassment occasioned by the means test.

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The minimum age of seventy, though convenient as a dividing line with respect to the payment of any kind of universal old age pension, is nevertheless too high in a number of cases of actual need. A strong case can be made for reducing the age limit to sixty-five in order to provide assistance at least for those in the age group 65-69, who are actually in need.

In the other booklet which I mentioned, the legislation which has been passed in the United States, in Great Britain, in New Zealand and Australia is reviewed, to mention but a few of the countries. In these countries old age pensions are available at sixty or sixty-five years of age, and there does not seem to be any good reason why Canada should be so backward. Having demonstrated during the war years that we could surpass records which were established in many other countries, there is no reason why we might not set a different pattern in the treatment of old age pensioners. The words that we have been hearing so often during the past two or three weeks regarding the matter of consulting the provinces and the powers of the British North America Act have been a convenient excuse for failure to deal with, the problem of old age pensions.

I have been reading a booklet prepared by the Department of Labour giving the history of old age pensions in Canada. According to that booklet, I find that in 1906 this question was first brought to the attention of parliament. A motion was introduced suggesting:

That in the opinion of this house the subject of improving the condition of the aged, deserving poor, and of providing for those of them who are helpless and infirm, is worthy of and should receive the early and careful attention of the government and of parliament.

After some debate the motion was withdrawn.

' Then, in 1908 a special committee was selected. On February 10 the first meeting was held and a chairman was selected. On July 11 it was reported that the committee had managed to have only three sittings. Apparently they were very busy in those days with other matters that were much, more important than old age pension legislation. Then, in 1912 a resolution was adopted by the House of ' Commons which indicated that some progress was being made. However, it was , not until the early twenties, when there was a lot of labour unrest and when there were labour representatives in parliament, that the old people received special consideration by parliament. I find that an interesting report ; was prepared of the proceedings of the committee on an old age pension system for Canada in 1924. Some.of the witnesses called ' gave the story of old age ' pensions in the states of Montana and Nevada land in ;Great Britain. Mr. Tom Moore, president of the

Trades and Labour Congress, gave some interesting evidence to the committee. On June 17 the chairman of the committee moved that the report of the committee be adopted. In speaking to his motion he made it clear that nothing very much was to be expected. He said, as reported at page 4425 of Hansard of June 17, 1925:

Hon. gentlemen will observe that the recommendation involves no expenditure and no responsibility further than the continuance of the idea of establishing in Canada an old age pension system, which the committee think is very desirable, and would like to see it proceeded with.

The hon. member for Cariboo, who was then the hon. member for Calgary East, was as impatient as he is now with this type of stalling tactic, and he moved an amendment as follows:

That this report be referred back to the committee with instructions to consider and report on a purely federal scheme.

Those who did not want to do anything argued that the federal parliament had no authority in this field; that it was clearly a matter for provincial jurisdiction. The hon. member for Cariboo at that time said:

It is surely clear that it would take the same amount of money whether the provinces came in or not, and the taxpayers of Canada are not so foolish as to imagine they pay any less if they pay part of it through the municipalities, part of it through the provincial government and part of it through the federal government.

Those remarks were made in reply to the argument advanced that we could not stand the cost of providing old age pensions. Then, in reply to those who said we could not afford it, he said:

I believe we can afford it; but if it he so that we cannot afford it, let us frankly say so and not continue making a pretence that we are on the way to obtaining old age pension legislation by referring the whole question to a conference.

There was an interesting division at that time, and I find that only seventeen stood up and supported the motion moved by the hon. member for Cariboo. There were 138 against the motion. It is interesting to note that of those who supported him two now sit with the Progressive Conservatives, the hon. member for Broadview and the hon. member for Yukon. The Prime Minister voted against it as did most of the Conservative and Liberal members. But after a while there was an election in Canada; the voters of the country felt that if the people wanted to have old age pensions there was no reason why they could not have them, and the government which took office in the next session was prepared to proceed with and introduce old age pensions.

Supply-Health and Welfare

I might say further that before old age pensions were finally passed the members of the senate considered the matter in 1926. There was quite a heated discussion in the other place. Many were much opposed to the idea of pensions. Speaking in the debate, Senator Ross said, as reported at page 156 of senate Hansard:

Mark you, after this bill had been passed and provided a pension of $210 a year, if I know anything about it, the aged people in this coun-trj- would not be satisfied with $240, and it would not be very long until the pension would have to be worked up to one dollar a day, or perhaps doubled to $480 a year.

That was twenty years ago. The old age pensioners in Canada are very patient; they are still not receiving the $480 anticipated by the senator who was so much concerned about it. One other senator used almost violent language. He said, as reported at page 180 of the senate Hansard:

Therefore I ask myself the question: in

heaven's name, why has the present government displayed such hectic haste in bringing this legislation before parliament in order to fasten upon this country an initial expense of $25 million . . .

That was a large sum of money in those days, and we could not spend such an amount so recklessly. In the session of 1926 I find that some heated discussion took place on the question. Mr. Meighen was then in the house, and as reported at page 2474 of Hansard of 1926, he said:

It is the result of a compact, made at the opening of the house, to get the votes of labour members, and it is not going to get any old age pensions. It was intended to secure votes and it has served that purpose already. I do not know of any much more effective step which might be taken in order not to provide for old age pensions.

He was complaining of the fact chiefly that the late Mr. Woodsworth and Mr. Heaps were supporting the government headed by the present Prime Minister, because that government was prepared to introduce old age pensions. The government which Mr. Meighen would have led was unwilling to travel in that direction. This matter was up in the house the other day, and the Prime Minister correctly stated the fact that there was no compact. The labour members wanted at least two things; they wanted more adequate old age pensions and they wanted some form of unemployment insurance. The record would seem to indicate that Mr. Meighen was unwilling to introduce social legislation of either type, whereas the present Prime Minister was prepared to bring in legislation to deal with old age pensions.

I was interested in reading the senate Hansard following the 1926 election. The first time the Old Age Pensions Act came before the senate it was defeated by an overwhelming majority. After the election, however, when the Act came up the second time, the vote was 61 in favour and 14 against. I was interested in reading the comments of one who stubbornly opposed the introduction of old age pensions on both occasions. Sir Allen Ayles-worth. His remarks appear at page 167 of senate Hansard for March 24, 1927:

I voted against the measure last year simply because, as a matter of principle, I personally am unalterably opposed to the whole idea of pensions being paid by the state. We have pensions to the right of us and pensions to the left of us; pensions very plentiful, it seems to me...

I find that the gentleman who uttered these words on that occasion is still a member of the other place. The Parliamentary Guide gives his age as ninety-two, and he does not seem to object to the compensation he receives from the taxpayers of Canada as he performs his duties in that chamber. So I think the people of this country who cleared our land, built our railroads and developed our industries, when they reach the evening of life are entitled to much more generous compensation than we have provided up to the present.

In dealing with the estimates of the Department of Justice the other evening, I found that one of the statutory items, passed without comment, provides pensions for some ninety-seven judges who have retired. I understand that later this session we are to have legislation increasing salaries of judges. I am not complaining about the judges being adequately paid, but we do pay retired judges pensions at the rate of $3,608 a year, or over $300 a month; and if it requires over $300 a month for a retired judge to get along on, after he has had a reasonably good income as a lawyer and on the bench, I do not see how our old people can be expected to balance their budgets in the cities and country communities of Canada on the very small amounts we give them.

Then a return was brought down at the request of the hon. member for York South, giving the amounts being paid to all officers retired on pension from the Royal Canadian Navy, the army and the air force since September, 1939. Again I want to make it clear that I am all for providing adequate pensions for all those who served their country in time of war. But the thirty-seven officers in the highest pension brackets receive over $400 a month, while a great many others receive somewhat less. As you look over the return you find some who receive over $6,000

Supply-Health and Welfare

and others who receive over $7,000, while a great many receive between $4,000 and $5,000. Having established the fact that we can and do pay pensions such as I have mentioned to retired judges and retired service personnel, I think the time has now arrived when we should do something better and different for the hundreds of thousands of old age pensioners in the Dominion of Canada.

The booklet I mentioned earlier estimates the amount it would cost to provide pensions for everyone over seventy years of age. This afternoon some constructive suggestions were offered to the effect that there should not be any objection to paying pensions to millionaires or those in the higher income brackets when they reach the age of seventy, because it would be an easy matter to arrange the income tax schedules in order to recover such pensions, just as is done in connection with the family allowance. So that if pensions were paid to all such people in 1948, according to the estimates it would cost only around $200,000,000. Then, if we were to carry out the dominion's plan to provide pensions on a means test basis for those between sixty-five and sixty-nine years of age it would cost another $34,000,000. That would be only $234,000,000, which is a very small amount considering what Canada did during the war years and what we must do during the years of peace if we are to avoid another depression and maintain full employment.

My deskmate the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, and my colleague the hon. member for Vancouver East have discussed this question frequently and fully. I do not propose to quote from any of their speeches, but I should like to remind the committee of some of the comments made by the former member for Vancouver-Burrard, now a member of the senate, who spoke on this question on July 24, 1943. I believe some of the things he said should be underlined. At page 5413 of Hansard, for that year he said:

But we have neglected to recognize the old age pensioner as a class that is worthy of just as much attention as we have extended to others.

This year the matter came up by way of a question to the minister to ascertain whether or not the cost of living bonus could not be extended to the old age pensioner, and I must, confess that I was deeply concerned with the reply that the minister gave, because I believe that in all the social reforms that are facing us to-dav, success in dealing with them is largely a matter of attitude. The attitude of the minister to the old age pensioner seemed to be a repudiation of well established Liberal policy

Later, he quoted from the Minister of Finance, who replied to one of the appeals to do something for the old age pensioners by saying:

But why grind at the dominion government all the time, with its terrific burdens, and with its deficit of two or three billion? Why drive us, or make it almost impossible for us to carry on at all?

The former member for Vancouver-Burrard quite correctly pointed out that paying a few million dollars extra to enable the old age pensioners to have enough to eat and decent housing should not be a burden on a country the size of Canada; and then at page 5417 he went on:

Now the minister tells us that it would be a terrible thing if we brought the old age pension up to $30 a month, because probably we would get an increasing cycle of rising prices that would spiral into an inflationary St. Vitus dance. Whoever heard of inflation coming from the expenditures of old age pensioners? Yet that is what we were told here the other night. They are fighting this war in Australia from positions more dangerous than our own, and they are putting everything they have into it just as we are. Does anyone suggest that their old age pensions scheme has injured their war effort or caused them to suffer from inflation? But Canadians are so far behind Australians that it should be an inspiration to us to move onward. The population of Canada is 11,566.000. The population of Australia is 7,000,000, so that we have 64 per cent more population than they have. The number of old age pensioners in Canada, taking the figure for 1942, is 185,000; in Australia it is 275,000. They have invalid pensioners numbering 60,000; we have none in Canada. Pensioners in Canada total 185,000. and in Australia, 336,000, so that they have 150,000 more, old age pension beneficiaries, though we have 60 per cent more population. The total amount paid in pensions in Australia is $93,580,000; in Canada for this year it will be roughly $30,000,000 from the federal government, which bears three-quarters of the cost, which would bring our total up to $40,500,000. If we were paying in proportion to our population the same amount as Australia is paying, we would pay out $146,000,000 a year. Yet we tremble about inflation and about our financial position in the war when we think of going not nearly as far as Australia has gone. Our age limit for both men and women is seventy; in Australia it is sixty-five for men and sixty for women. The average pension paid throughout the dominion ranges from 61 cents a day in British Columbia down to about 38 cents a day in Prince Edward Island. Does any man in this house believe that an old age pensioner can get along in the cities of Canada on $20 a month?

The member who then represented the constituency for Vancouver-Burrard is not here to support the plea he made for more generous old age * pensions. But I am sure there are many hon. members on the government side of the house who share the views expressed so well that hot night in July a couple of years ago. I know the minister has given a good deal of thought to this

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problem. I urge that before the item passes the minister hold out some hope to the old age pensioners in this country, to indicate to them that this is not now a financial problem. Rather, the government should ask itself, "Can we supply these people with decent housing? Can we see that they have enough money to buy flour, bread, milk and other supplies?"

The government's policy of removing price ceilings and permitting prices to follow their natural course has already placed a serious burden on old age pensioners on fixed incomes. There are nearly 200,000 people who are hoping that in this year the government will carry out the programme that was announced when the premiers were brought to Ottawa. In 1926, when the fate of a government was at stake, there was no hesitation in introducing old age pensions, although at the time there was some question as to the constitutional right of the federal government to proceed without the consent of the provinces. It took nearly ten years to get full cooperation from all the provinces. But I am sure that if to-day the federal government would indicate that it is prepared to go ahead with the plan outlined to the provinces, either with or without their cooperation, there would be very little criticism.

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IND

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

Independent C.C.F.

Mr. HERRIDGE:

I rise briefly to support those hon. members who have spoken for improvements in old age pensions. It is quite unnecessary to repeat the arguments used by previous speakers.

The hon. member for Lethbridge mentioned the pension legislation in the state of Washington. I was keenly interested in what he said, because my constituency borders that state. I know it is a most progressive one, and is composed of a fine type of people. A habit has grown up between the people of that state and those in my constituency of visiting back and forth.

I was in the state of Washington at the time they were considering changing their old age pension legislation. At that time they were in very much the same position as we are in Canada to-day, because for ten years their government was stalled on the question of old age pensions. I was there on one occasion going through the forests of Washington state and meeting large numbers of the country people who were discussing this question. These were people from both the country r.nd the cities. There was a strong demand for an improvement in their old age pension legislation, a demand which was crystallized in the plan which was read to the house this evening by the hon. member for Lethbridge.

Some two or three years ago I returned to the state of Washington and met a number of the same people. While there, I took occasion to ask them what they thought of their old age pension plan, and the answer I received from the farmers and the working people was that while at the time of its passage, there were many who considered that it involved tremendous expense, they were unanimous in their statement that it was one of the finest things the Washington state legislature had ever done. Hon. members may be interested to know that the total budget for that state last year was $350 million, out of which $110 million was spent on old age pensions and social welfare. That is some indication of the progressive nature of the state of Washington.

I wish to emphasize that this advanced type of legislation was not brought in under a socialist government, but rather under a capitalist system. The natural resources of that state are very much like ours in the west. While I am not suggesting that this government had a mandate from the people of Canada at the last election to establish a socialist system, I do say that as a result of the government programme and policies announced to the people it has a mandate to establish, and to do so very quickly, an improvement in the old age pension system.

There is no group of people in Canada to-day who have been more deeply disappointed at the failure of the dominion-provincial conference than those people who would benefit by an improved old age pension system. I believe hon. members in all parties see the necessity for this move in the near future. I hope hon. members will study what has been done in other countries, without endangering economic systems. I am sure that when we do establish an improved old age pension system along the lines of that in the state of Washington hon. members, regardless of their party, will say-as they have in that state-that it would be one of the finest things the parliament of Canada has ever done for its people in this generation.

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CCF

Frederick Samuel Zaplitny

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

Mr. ZAPLITNY:

I do not wish to hold up the committee unduly, but I believe this is a question upon which we might well spend more time. We have spent much longer time in discussing estimates which are not as important as this one.

Hon. members who have preceded me have made a strong case for old age pensioners. I should like to bolster that case with figures, showing dollars and cents, because we are now dealing with expenditures. I feel sure that in a little while the Minister of Health

Supply-Health and Welfare

and Welfare will rise in his place and, by means of statistics and dollars and cents, atempt to prove that this cannot be done. So that I am going to present by budget first.

I have worked out the budget which I believe the average old age pensioner would work out for himself, on the basis of a full pension of $25 per month, the amount payable in Manitoba. If we take the month of June as a basis, having thirty days, and divide that into that amount of money we find that we have a figure of 83$ cents a day. The old age pensioner knows he has to provide three essentials of life out of that sum, namely food, clothing and shelter, leaving aside all those other things which he might and should have.

If we divide that amount of money equally for food, clothing and shelter, we find it works out to 28 cents a day for each. Then, if one has a habit of eating three meals a day, this would work out to 28 cents for the three meals, or 9$ cents per meal. I should imagine that would be nine cents for the meal and one-third of a cent to tip the waiter.

This is on a basis of $25 a month, the maximum amount payable in most provinces. But, as the hon. member for Mackenzie pointed out a while ago, the average pension payable is not the maximum. He quoted figures from another source which showed that in British Columbia, where I believe the highest average amount is paid, it was 61 cents a day. If this is divided up in the same way as I have divided up the budget it would work out to only 6$ cents a meal, or a little less than the previous figure.

I have made this computation to show what would be the effect if we were to have a 60-60 plan, that is $60 a month at the age of sixty years. That would not be anything revolutionary because it would still be below the amount necessary to live on at the present time with the way prices are. Taking a $60 pension for a thirty-day month, you would have $2 a day with which the old age pensioner would have to provide food, clothing and shelter. Divide that into three equal parts and you have 66$ cents a day for food. Divide that into three meals a day and you have only 22 cents a meal with two-thirds of a cent left to tip the waiter. Anyone who would argue that 22 cents is too much for a meal for an old age pensioner would certainly run up against stiff opposition. With the way prices are to-day, $50 a month, the amount some one has suggested, is not sufficient. If prices continue to rise I doubt if we shall be able to rise in our places next year and say that $60 is enough. Prices seem to be going up in all directions in spite of the

protestations of the Minister of Finance and others. It seems to me that this is one class of people which should not be pegged down to a certain amount which was considered sufficient some years ago, although I doubt if it was even then. I have no hesitation in endorsing everything that has been said by other hon. members.

I understand that pensions for the blind come under the same item. I have often wondered why these pensions are not payable until forty years of age and this has never been satisfactorily explained to me. I understand that there is some suggestion in the proposals of the dominion government to the provinces that the age limit be lowered to twenty-one years. That is a step in the right direction, but I see no reason why we should stop at twenty-one years. Family allowances are paid up to the age of sixteen years, and in the case of a blind person I submit that the pension should start at seventeen years, so that it would take over where the family allowances left off. This class of person has been waiting too long for the relief they require.

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CCF

Gladys Grace Mae Strum

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

Mrs. STRUM:

I felt that I could not let this item go by without saying something about the needs of old age pensioners because I think we are in honour bound to keep talking about this until something is done, regardless of what party we represent in this house. I was interested in the budget presented by the hon. member for Dauphin, but I think he is too generous. I think he allowed the old age pensioner far too much to spend because I did not notice that he allowed for rent.

Take a $30 a month pension, which is what is paid in British Columbia. Saskatchewan pays $28 and medical benefits. I am sure much less than that is paid in many other places. If an old age pensioner had to pay $15 a month rent, he would have only $15 left. If he were in Ottawa he would not get a room for that. The cheapest room that I have seen in Ottawa was priced at $10 a week for two people, and I would not stay in it any longer than I could help. As I say, the old age pensioner is left with $15 a month to buy his clothing and food. We will allow him $60 a year for clothing, and out of this he would have to buy his shoes, his overcoat, his suit, his underwear, and tobacco and anything else he might need. That would take $5 a month which would leave him $10 a month with which to buy food for thirty days.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

What about heat?

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CCF

Gladys Grace Mae Strum

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

Mrs. STRUM:

He is supposed to have heat in that $15 a month room he is living in. To buy 90 meals in a thirty-day month would

Supply-Health and Welfare

give him 11 cents a meal. I suggest to hon. members who think that $30 a month is enough that they go and rent a room and try to live for a month on the remainder. Until a person has done that he does not know what these old people are up against. The economist whom this party pretends to follow-I have in my hand the book by Sir William Beveridge called "Full Employment in a Free Society"-states that capitalist governments must be responsible for the total outlay of money in their country, and must make up the difference between what the individual may spend and the maximum expenditure required to give full employment. That is not a socialist concept. I agree with my hon. friend over here who says that this government was not elected to bring in socialism. This government pledged itself to bring in comfort and decency and until it has established a decent old age pension it will have been guilty of defaulting on the promises made just a year ago.

I hope that this government will see fit to allow old age pensioners more than eleven cents a meal, more than 115 a month _for rent and more than $60 a year for clothing. I am sure that many of them have much less than that, because in many, places less than $30 a month is being paid.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

Several hon. members have spoken about the old age pension proposals and, while the item is related to old age pension payments and the cost of administration, I think hon. members will bear with me if I reply to some of the remarks that have been made. The hon. member for Lethbridge referred to a statement which I made when this matter came up on a private members motion on April 10, 1946, when I said:

There is no country in the world, of all those that have old age pension legislation, where there is a non-contributory system that is not on a means test. Either you have a contributory system of insurance and no means test, the people receiving the pension as of right, or else you have a non-contributory system on a means test.

The hon. member was quite right in saying that I said that. He then went on to say that apparently I had overlooked the position that obtained in the state of Washington where, according to what he hadi read, they have a generous old age pension. I would point out that from what he himself quoted that pension is paid to those "in need of financial assistance" and also to those "without resources or income". That would indicate that there is a means test there, and therefore my statement is still true. We have done our best to examine.the systems in force in

other countries and have found no case in whioh there is a non-means test pension payable without contribution. If there is one, I would be glad to find out about it.

The hon. member for Lethbridge said also that people cannot save under the present system, referring to people generally, not just old age pensioners. I would call his attention to the fact that on December 31, 1939, the personal savings of individuals in Canada amounted to $3,117 million, while at December 31, 1945, these had increased to $10,993 million.

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CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. NICHOLSON:

How much of that is in the hands of individuals at the present date?

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LIB
CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. NICHOLSON:

I wonder if that is

correct or whether a number of individuals have cashed in their savings?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

That is. the net increase in bank savings and similar deposits, in the holdings of government bonds and other individual savings.

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. COLDWELL:

Is that not because

people denied themselves many things that they needed?

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

Yes, that is true, but at the time those savings were being made the consumption of consumer goods went up about 15 per cent. Of course the cost of living indices must be taken' into account, but I think the increase in that connection was much less in this country than it was anywhere else. There was a substantial amount of saving during the war, and the saving I have referred to is in the hands of individuals. That is leaving out of account reductions in mortgages, reduction in farm implement loans, the paying down of indebtedness of all kinds. There has been a satisfactory change in the position of the Canadian people as individuals.

The hon. member for Mackenzie referred to the fact that it took from 1927 to 1936 to bring into force old age pensions on the basis on which we have it now, as amended from time to time. That is quite right. The first province to come in came in in 1927, the year in which the dominion enacted this legislation, and the last province to come in came in in 1936. It took nine years, and it indicates that that is a very difficult mode of procedure to follow in bringing about a substantial change in social legislation. My belief is that measures which can be financed out of the consolidated revenue fund and which provide for a payment as of right to all the. people from one end of Canada to the other can be introduced by federal legislation; but when the provision is contributory or on a means-test

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basis, I do not now see bow it can be done by federal legislation, but should be done by agreement with the provinces. It was with this end in view that the dominion put forward the proposals to the provinces last August, with the result which all hon. members know: we had a series of discussions and an adjournment of the conference.

The proposal then put forward with regard to old age pensions has already been referred to; it was for old age pensions for everyone at the age of seventy years, without proof of need, of $30 a month; for old age assistance between the ages of sixty-five and sixty-nine, up to $30 a month, to which the federal government would contribute 50 per cent of the costs of the pensions. It was intimated that these * measures would in part be financed out of a social security tax which would be introduced. That was part of a comprehensive system of social security and financial arrangements which were put before the provinces.

The hon. member for Kootenay West said that no one could be more disappointed at the failure to arrive at an agreement between the dominion and the provinces than the people who might have benefited from these provisions. I believe that to be true, and I would include among those wbo were exceedingly regretful at the failure to arrive at an agreement, those who worked for several years steadfastly to arrive at that agreement.

An hon. member referred to the "convenient excuse" of the constitutional position. I do not regard the constitution of Canada ever as a convenient excuse. I put it to hon. members that if you have an old age pension plan which is payable on a means-test basis or on a contributory basis, either one or the other, it is difficult to see how it could be introduced without a constitutional amendment or except by cooperation with the provinces, and that is the plan that we put forward.

I have briefly referred to the remarks of hon. gentlemen. I share with them the desire which many bon. members have to see to it that by one means or another our old people have more adequate provision made for them during their older years. I myself believe, as I think most hon. members do, that the best way in which to make that provision is to do it on a contributory basis under which those people who are able to do so will contribute year by year, through one means and another, so that -when they arrive at the time when most of them will need assistance they will get it as a right, having built up an amount out of which the government will make the payments by means of contributions of themselves and others. Personally, so far as I have

examined all the systems in force in different countries, I do not see that it matters very much whether the contributions in a national scheme are directly earmarked for each person on a strict superannuation fund basis or whether the contribution is made by a social security tax such as they have in New Zealand or Australia. The actual machinery is perhaps less important than that contributions should be made.

The situation as we have it to-day, however, is much as it was before the dominion government's proposals were made; that is, the old age pension is as provided for in the act of 1927 as amended from time to time. The attitude of the federal government with regard to this and other matters growing out of the dominion-provincial conference will, as the Prime Minister announced, be indicated at the time the budget is brought dowm, and I have nothing further to add at this time.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

Does the minister think there would be any merit in attempting to make an agreement with the provinces on the question of old age pensions alone? There are different factors in connection with the pension which will have to be agreed upon anyway between the governments, and surely it would be worth, while to attempt an agreement on the whole question.

I think no one can dispute that the present condition of many, many old age pensioners js deplorable. Surely we cannot sit back now and wait-perhaps a matter of years-for something to happen, particularly when each year means so much to these senior citizens of Canada.

There are two factors with which the minister has not dealt this evening. One of them is the manner in which the additional pension is to be paid once the National Emergency Transitional Powers Act lapses. At the present time the statutory provision for the old age pension is only $20 a month. The minister will correct me if I am wrong in that statement. A further $5 is paid by order in council originally passed under the War Measures Act, and the National Emergency Transitional Powers Act picks up the orders in Council passed under the War Measures Act, so I assume that that is the way in which this extra $5 is now paid. It seems to me that this parliament must make provision for the w'hole old age pension on a statutory basis, and when that is being done the amount should be increased to at least the sum of $30; the minister should explain to us how he intends to get around the difficulty.

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The other question I should like him to deal with is the possibility of amending the regulations. They are extremely harsh in many respects, as I pointed out to him at the session last fall. He will find that discussion at page 3610 of Hansard for the last session. In his reply to my questions at that time he intimated that he was already negotiating with the provinces for an amendment to the regulations. He said:

I am very glad to tell the hon. member, however, that we have already inaugurated discussions with the provinces alongside the work of the dominion-provincial conference, and in their welfare officers-

I think there is a word left out there.

have accepted our suggestion that early in the new year we should meet together to discuss administrative problems relative to old age pensions.

It would be interesting to know whether that meeting has been held, and, if so, what progress was made in changing the regulations. I do not intend to go over in detail the regulations that should be changed, but, as the minister knows, in the proposals of the government of Canada, set out for the dominion-provincial conference of last year, there is to be found the dominion's idea of what these regulations should be. At page 38 it is suggested that the residence qualification should be residence in Canada for a total period of twenty years since the age of 18. No matter at what time the applicant had been out of the country, the only requisite would be a total residence in Canada of twenty years since the age of 18. Then the dominion apparently believes that the maximum payment of pension should be reduced only by any income that the recipient actually gets. In other words, there would be none of this business of estimating five per cent of the assessed value of his home and counting that as income, whereas he was not actually getting any income from the home. The proposal reads:

In computing the income of the recipient for purposes of this means-test, moneys received from other sources not for the recipient's own use to be excluded.

I would point out that in the proposed amendments to the War Veterans Allowance Act, now being considered by the special committee on veterans affairs, provision is made for the war veterans allowance recipient to have a home of a value of $4,000 without suffering any reduction in his war veterans allowance. There is also provision, under that act as it stands at present, for the recipient to have $1,000 in victory bonds without suffering a reduction in his war veterans allowance.

The dominion also proposed last fall that provinces should not crack down on an old age pensioner coming from another province.

It would not make any difference in which province he had been, he would be entitled to full pension; whereas at the present time, under certain conditions, the pension is reduced. The dominion further advocated wiping out the provision whereby the estate of the pensioner can be taken by the government after his death.

These are only a few of the suggested changes in the regulations. Is it not possible to have these changes made in the near future without waiting for a resumption of the dominion-provincial conference? It seems to me that the necessity for these changes is so obvious that there cannot be any argument . about it; there should be some way of bringing about changes in the regulations.

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LIB

Brooke Claxton (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. CLAXTON:

The hon. gentleman

expressed the hope that we would not sit back and wait. I would point out that this government has not sat back and waited. It took the initiative with the introduction of old age pensions in 1927. It took the initiative with the amendment in 1937 and with the introduction of pensions for the blind. It took the initiative in 1943, when, by order in council, as the hon. member said, the maximum amount payable was increased to $25, and it took the initiative in August, 1945, when it put before the provinces the proposals to which I have already referred. The question of old age pensions is one in which, while there may be comparative agreement among the members of the house, there is considerable disagreement in different parts of the country, and that was brought out during the course of the discussions at the dominion-provincial conference, when the attitude of all the provinces was by no means identical. The complexity of dealing with a matter of this kind became apparent in the wide disparity of views which were expressed.

The hon. member referred to my indicating that I hoped early in the new year, following discussions we have had with provincial representatives, to call a meeting to discuss possible amendments to the old age pension regulations. We had that in mind in consequence of the discussions which took place in November and December, and it was my thought that we would have that conference early in the new year. But in view of the adjournment from time to time of the dominion-provincial conference, it seemed advisable not to have it until we knew clearly what the outcome might be. However, I should say that the interprovincial board on old age pensions has

Supply-Health and Welfare

recently been reconstituted. I have sent a letter to the members of the board, which consists of the provincial ministers responsible for old age pensions administration, and the deputy ministers, suggesting to them that it might be convenient to meet on September 16.

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June 24, 1946