At least we shall be available. Then we shall go into among others, some of the matters raised by the member for Vancouver South. It should be remembered that the dominion's proposals were put forward as part of a comprehensive scheme, but that does not mean that if we cannot get that scheme we are necessarily tied to these proposals in detail.
As part of a comprehensive scheme they showed what we thought would be desirable. If we cannot get that scheme it may be necessary to work out something else, but we propose to have this conference. I have asked the representatives of the provinces to indicate the matters that should go on the agenda, and then we shall examine the regulations and take into account all the representations that have been made in this committee and in the house.
I was not in the house when the hon. member for Vancouver South began his remarks, but I entered in time to get the minister's reply. He mentioned that this government had taken the initiative in 1927 to institute pensions and again in 1943 to increase the amount of the pension. I believe the records of this house show that in 1927 it was not so much a matter of this government taking the initiative as the initiative being forced on the government. That is quite clear.
They deny almost anything and I do not blame them. We all deny things that are not to our credit. But these are the facts. I would refer my hon. friends to my right to the speech made by a former leader of the party and a former prime minister of this country who said that there was not the least doubt in the world that the person who was responsible for old age pensions in Canada was the former leader of this group, the late Mr. J. S. Woodsworth. But the point I should like to impress upon the minister and upon the committee is that a pension at the present rate of $30 a month is wholly inadequate. It must not be forgotten that that amount is all that these people have to live on.
what it means to the hundreds of people who have written me during the last two or three years. I "have a pile of letters several inches thick from elderly men and women. These letters have come from people all over Canada who have given their lives to the building up of this country, and yet we cannot give them more than $30 a month. Most of those people who are administering this money may spend more than that on cigarettes, cigars and various kinds of drinks. I suggest to the minister that if he wants to get the reputation of being progressive-and he has acquired that in some way or another; I do not know how-he will have to do something better than that for our old people.
The minister has not said anything about pensions for the blind. I know that pensions are given to them, but is the department doing anything, to prevent blindness and to help the blind? The minister's department should take every means possible to prevent people from becoming blind. I have not heard of anything that the department is doing in that connection. I believe this matter came up in the social security committee in a brief presented by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. The earning power of a single blind person should be increased to $660 and a married person to $1,200, and at the same time they should be permitted to retain their pension, because these blind people require people to assist them to and' from work.
During the last few years the Canadian National Institute for the Blind has helped a large number of people to obtain jobs. They have shown them how to work. The blind people are doing a splendid piece of work. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind has helped the department of the Minister of Veterans Affairs to place men in jobs, and these men are doing jobs that are worth while. We have them in factories in Peterborough and they are doing jobs which are very difficult. They are doing the job as well as, if not better than, people with eyesight. Therefore I wish to impress upon the minister that everything possible should be done by his department for these blind people. They deserve it. I should like the minister to make a statement in regard to what the department is doing and intends to do in that regard.
The suggestion of the hon. member for Dauphin that the pension should start where the family allowance leaves off at seventeen years of age is a worthy one. The department should take it up, because these people need pensions at all times.
I am grateful to the hon. member for Peterborough West for his remarks. We have the interests of the blind Very much at heart, and have created a hew division of blindness control to inaugurate just the kind of work which he mentions. This came up in connection with the discussion on these estimates on June 14, 1946, reported at page 2525 of Hansard; also on June 7, reported) at page 2303. Hon. members will not expect me to go over the same ground again. I should like the hon. member and the committee to know that it is very much in mind and that we are conducting a survey of all cases of blindness that can be made available to us in order to ascertain the causes of blindness, with a view to seeing what percentage can be prevented or cured. The proposals we placed before the provinces included an offer to pay 50 per cent of the cost of work in the direction of preventing or curing blindness. Further, the proposals included increasing the amount that might be paid to $30 a month, and reducing the age to twenty-one years.
The other proposals which have been put forward by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and other organizations have been receiving continuous consideration. I think there are only two which have not been put forward either in the dominion proposals to the conference or actually carried out by the dominion government. Those two refer to a special grant for guiding, and to relating the pension to the cost of living index. So far we have not considered it possible to adopt those, but I can assure the hon. member that they, like all others relative to this subject, are receiving careful consideration.
This item and item 231 have to do with the matter of national physical fitness, and arise out of the National Physical Fitness Act passed in 1943. At the outset I should like to observe that if there are any items above all others which should be considered only after the committee has been furnished with full information, it is items of this kind. Here the administration started out with $250,000 on hand, of which $25,000 was to be for administration expenses and $225,000 for distribution among the provinces. Six of the provinces have entered into agreements coming under the scheme, while three, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec, have refused to participate. It is now June 24, and we have not before us, in any form whatever, the report of the national council
on physical fitness for the past fiscal year. Section 13 of the National Physical Fitness Act, which is chapter 29 of the statutes of 1943, provides:
The minister shall, as soon as possible
I emphasize those words, "as soon as possible".
-but not later than three months after the termination of each fiscal year, submit an annual report to parliament covering the administration of this act for such fiscal year, and such report shall contain a statement of all moneys paid into or credited to the fund and all disbursements therefrom and shall include the regulations made under this act.
The fiscal year adhered to by the council is the government fiscal year ending March 31. Under the section I have just read, one week from yesterday is the last day within which the minister must file the report of the national council on physical fitness, even without giving any attention to the words "as soon as possible". I think the committee is entitled to an explanation of the fact that this report has not yet been furnished to hon. members.
I go on from that to offer this observation. In approaching items of this kind, having regard to its duty to scrutinize these proposed expenditures, I believe the committee needs to be certain that the activities of this national physical fitness council are really such as will contribute to the end of increasing physical fitness throughout the country. The committee will want to be very sure that what is being proposed or embarked upon here is not just a duplication of work already being carried on by the provinces. I know in the province of Ontario no occasion has been found for participation in this scheme, because it represents duplication. Just enlarging on that thought, at page 67 of the report of the Department of National Health and Welfare for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1945, I find this paragraph:
In connection with the training of instructors and leaders under the National Physical Fitness Act, the national council passed the following resolution:
"As many excellent leaders in physical fitness and recreation are serving at present in His Majesty's services, the council recommends that the responsible provincial departments use this source of potential leaders."
I do not think we need any national council on physical fitness to tell the responsible departments of the provincial governments that in the armed forces we have a source of instructors in physical fitness. I think the provincial departments are well aware of that fact, so that it is quite unnecessary, and I suggest perhaps just a little bit cheeky, for this national council to be passing resolutions of this kind undertaking to instruct the pro-
Supply-Health and Welfare
vincial governments concerned as to how they may carry out their duties to those who have served in the armed forces. I think the provincial governments are well aware of their duties in that regard.
Lacking the report, I question whether the committee is in a position to give these two items the intelligent study which should be given. Since we are without the report, may I ask the minister if he will answer questions on the following points? In the first place, will he give the committee the expenditures for the past year? In the second place, what programme is contemplated for the present fiscal year, and what distribution among the six participating provinces is contemplated? Next, can he furnish the committee with a financial statement for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1946? Next, what is the salary of the national director; and next, has the council undertaken to acquire any real property pursuant to the power contained in section 6 (2) of the act?
I wonder if there are any other questions I might take up at the same time. If not, I shall be veiy glad indeed to answer the questions put by the hon. member for Eglinton. In the first place, the statute requires that the report be filed as soon as possible after the end of the fiscal year, and not later than three months after the end of the fiscal year. I think hon. members will agree that this period is shorter than that provided in most statutes requiring the filing of annual reports. In this case we have had the report available in draft form for just a few days. It would have been filed in typewritten form already but for the fact that there has been delay in having it translated. I think hon. members are aware of the fact that just now it is difficult to have government papers translated and printed as promptly as we would like. However, the report will be filed in accordance with the statute before the end of this month, though it will not be possible to have it printed in that period.
The hon. member asked for the expenditures last year, and I can give him those. They were as follows:
Cost of living bonus and unemployment insurance
Publicity and information
Telephones, telegrams, postage ...!!
Professional and special services. ..
Material and supplies
Freight, cartage and express Transportation and travel
I have just been handed the table of expenditures I gave the hon. member, and I find I shall have to reconcile it with the information to be procured.
With regard to the programme covering the present fiscal year, the national council of physical fitness has had two meetings during the year. It laid down for the national director a programme which involved the preparation of a draft syllabus for a suggestion to universities in connection with the training of instructors in physical fitness. That has been distributed to the universities and it has met with a good deal of interest. It is available for them to be used, should they desire to do so.
Resolutions were adopted by the council suggesting further educational and promotional activities in connection with camps, the holding of games, organized activities in universities and schools and in connection with community activities. This act came into effect in 1943. Six provinces have cooperated actively in it.