February 19, 1948

LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but he has exhausted his time.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Go ahead.

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IND

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

Independent C.C.F.

Mr. HERRIDGE:

I appreciate that very much. I would recommend to hon. members who are interested in this question-and I am sure most hon. members representing farm constituencies are interested in the development of agriculture-that they read the history of agricultural credit in various countries. I think they will agree with me that such an examination indicates that the most successful schemes are those in which the agencies of government are linked with the organizations of the people. The more we can enmesh the people in the administration of their own affairs, the more successful they will be and the more satisfactory will be the results. I believe we must use our potential wealth for these purposes-I would say our social credit, using that expression in its broadest sense. At the present time I believe there is something like $200,000,000 invested in the credit unions of this country. What would be the possibilities under a co-ordinated long-term credit scheme with the co-operation of the federal government, provincial governments and farm organizations with loan societies organized on a regional basis, and with the co-operation of dominion and provincial governments supplying the credit? We can surely all see the possibilities so far ar the expansion of agriculture is concerned.

Therefore in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the matter of long-term agricultural credit be referred to the committee on agriculture and colonization, so that it may inquire into the operation of the Canadian Farm Loan Act in order to suggest amendments which will provide ample and satisfactory credit. I maintain that long-term agricultural credit on a satisfactory and co-operative basis, linked to a national natural products marketing act, will bring more security to our farmers, expansion to agriculture, and provide the food that we at home and those abroad so greatly need.

Mr. HOWARD C. GREEN (Vancouver South): As Your Honour well knows, a member taking part in this debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne may deal with any subject or with a variety of subjects. This evening I propose to spend most of my time on veterans affairs; but before going on to that question I should like to say a few words about the position in which the people of British Columbia, my native province, now find themselves with regard to representation in the cabinet and also representation in the house.

I must strongly protest against the fact that British Columbia has had no representative in the ministry for a period of about one month. When this session commenced on December 5 of last year we had as our minister the Right Hon. Ian Mackenzie. He was the senior member of the cabinet, having been a member since the election of 1935. He had been made an imperial privy councillor, and was at the head of one of the most important departments of the government, that of veterans affairs. In addition he was house leader on behalf of the government.

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LIB

John Ewen Sinclair

Liberal

Mr. SINCLAIR:

He led it very well, too.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

Yes, I agree with my hon. friend. Then on January 19 of this year, just one week before the house met again, the Right Hon. Mr. Mackenzie resigned and was appointed to the senate. That was not an accident; that action was taken deliberately by this government. I suggest that Mr. Mackenzie should have been left in the cabinet until the government was in a position to appoint someone to take his place as the representative of British Columbia. He has been able to carry on. I see that he has been making speeches in British Columbia, and also that he has been making speeches in another place which seem to have involved him in a few beginner's lessons in conduct there. In any event he was obviously able to carry on in this house, and he should have been left here until someone could be appointed to take his place. We have had no

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The Address-Mr. Green

representative since, and the interests of British Columbia are not being looked after by reason of the fact that there is not a British Columbia member of the cabinet.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

But we have some good men there.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

If the hon. member for Fraser Valley (Mr. Cruickshank) is not careful I will recommend him.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

I would sooner go to that other place.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

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

Mr. MacINNIS:

Recommending him and getting him in are two different things.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

Perhaps that is true. Our province is further removed from Ottawa than any other province. Our economy is not like that of any other province; it is quite different. I think it is impossible for a minister from another province to look after our interests in the cabinet.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

And even-

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

Now, if the hon. member for Fraser Valley will let me make my speech, I shall probably help him out a good deal before I have finished.

Our province is now third in population, having well over a million people. It is also third in production and in the amount of income tax paid. Judged by all tests, it is now one of the big three, the other two being Ontario and Quebec. And, by the way, it is growing more rapidly than any other province.

On the basis of present population it is very much under-represented in the number of members allowed in the House of Commons. I suggest that British Columbia should have two ministers in the federal cabinet; yet we now have none. And, Mr. Speaker, there is talk of an outsider being brought in, if you please. Surely that is a serious reflection on the sitting Liberal members from British Columbia. One of those members, the hon. member for Victoria (Mr. Mayhew), is the senior parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Finance.

Perhaps members from other provinces will have noticed that, regardless of their political affiliations, members from British Columbia work pretty closely together. We have a sort of camaraderie which I believe is unequalled in the membership from any other part of the country. I am sure I speak for members from British Columbia who are not Liberals when I say that we rather resent this slight to the four sitting Liberal members from that province. Mind you, Mr. Speaker, we intend to defeat the four of them in the next general election. We reduced their membership from

ten to five in the last one, and we will finish off the rest of them in 1949, or whenever the election is called. But, meantime, we do not like to see them getting such a raw deal.

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LIB

Thomas Reid

Liberal

Mr. REID:

I will give the hon. member an invitation right now to come into my constituency.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

I have a very good one of my own. But, speaking seriously, I think this holding open of British Columbia cabinet representation is done for political purposes, is an attempt to win the by-election in Vancouver Centre; I believe the objective is either to appoint some outsider to the cabinet and then run him in that riding, as was done in the New Brunswick by-election, or to hold out to the electors of Vancouver Centre the inducement that if they elect a Liberal candidate he might be made a member of the cabinet.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

You could bring in George Drew; you never can tell.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

The holding open of this position is unfair to my province, and I repeat that we should have a cabinet minister, and without further delay.

Then, I protest also against the delay in calling a by-election in the constituency of Yale. The Hon. Grote Stirling represented the people of that riding for nearly a quarter of a century, and represented them in a most conscientious manner. I am sure all members of the house will agree with me when I say that when he resigned on October 4 he did so because he was physically unable to carry on as the representative of his constituency. When he found he could not be in the house; indeed, when he found he could not take part in the activities in his own riding, he resigned at once, something which I am afraid would be done by very few of the rest of us.

In view of that fact, if for no other reason, I should have thought the government would call a by-election at once, so that the people of that constituency could have their representative here during the present session. And that is particularly important during this session, because the question of the cutting down of the imperial preference, and questions connected with the new Geneva treaties, are of the utmost importance to the constituency of Yale.

Primarily it is a fruit district. The preference on apples has been done away with, and that particular fact may well mean disaster to the people of that riding. Furthermore, the tariff on United States apples coming into Canada has been greatly reduced. That, too,

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affects them seriously. The Geneva treaties affect other fruits, as well, from the sale of which these people live. And it is very important that they have a representative here in the House of Commons when these issues are under debate. Even if the byelection were called at once and the new member were not here until the month of May, he would perhaps have two months of this session in which to serve. I should think that would give him time to take part in the discussions on the preference and on the Geneva treaties. I suggest that in fairness that by-election at least should be called at once, regardless of what may be done in respect of the other constituencies which became vacant at a much later date.

Speaking of veterans affairs, I believe there is great resentment in my province over the way in which the government has been trifling with veteran problems. I have never known resentment among veteran organizations to be as great as it has been in the last few months, caused perhaps by the rise in the cost of living. In any event, that resentment is a fact, and I do not believe I shall be contradicted by any member for British Columbia when I say that.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

Would my hon. friend tell me any country in the world that has done better by her veterans than Canada has?

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is the excuse which is always thrown out by the government in a debate on veterans affairs.

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LIB

Humphrey Mitchell (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MITCHELL:

It is not an excuse at all; it is a fact.

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PC

Howard Charles Green

Progressive Conservative

Mr. GREEN:

I will tell the minister something. In the first place, Canada's position can be compared only with that of the United States, because other countries, such as Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand, are not in a position to do anything like what the United States or Canada can do. In many respects veterans legislation in the United States is very much more favourable to the veterans than is our legislation in Canada. And during the course of my remarks I propose to give one example of that.

I repeat that the government has been trifling and continues to trifle with veteran problems. First of all, I refer to the war veterans allowance. Three days ago, on February 16, the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Gregg) said that the War Veterans Allowance Act was still under study, but he intimated that there would be further government proposals published or announced within the course of a few days. It is because of

that fact that I speak first about the war veterans allowance. Once an announcement is made in the house, as has been done twice in this session by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King), there is very little chance of getting any further improvement. It is then almost impossible to bring about any further alteration.

The final announcement with regard to war veterans allowances has not yet been made. I warn the Minister of Veterans Affairs that now is the time to put up a fight in the cabinet for better treatment of these war veterans allowance recipients. He will have a difficult time to live up to the fighting reputation in the cabinet of the former Minister of Veterans Affairs. Naturally I do not know what goes on in the cabinet, but I believe that on more than one occasion the former minister put up a fight. I believe that if he had not done so there are many amendments to veterans legislation which would never have come before the house. I point out to the present Minister of Veterans Affairs that this is a chance for him to win his spurs. He should get in and fight in the cabinet and see that this war veterans allowance legislation is made what it should be.

The war veterans allowance is simply a burnt-out pension, and that is what it is commonly called. It is paid to the veteran who has seen front-line service at a much earlier age than the 70 years necessary to receive an old age pension. Parliament considered that these veterans had been burnt out by reason of having been exposed to shell-fire, and this legislation followed. I think it has been very beneficial legislation. A few years ago it was extended to cover the widows of veterans who had served in an active theatre of war. There is quite a severe means test and, as hon. members know, the maximum which a single veteran or a widow can get is $30.41 per month.

I am not going to take up time in arguing that that is not enough to live on, because I do not believe there is a member in the house who thinks it is possible for these men or these widows to get along on an allowance of that size. It is interesting to read what happened last year during the debate on old age pensions. I have the Hansards here and hon. members may be interested to check the statements which appear on pages 4744 and 4864. The Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) was being pressed with regard to the adequacy of the old age pension of $30 a month, and finally he admitted that that figure was not enough to live on, that it was

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only a maintenance grant. Upon being questioned by the hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Queleh), he replied:

I do not say, and no one says, that $30 a month is enough for a person to live on.

Later on, he explained that that $30 was merely a grant towards maintenance and that the provinces must make up the difference in order to give the persons residing within their boundaries an amount on which to live. He put the responsibility for paying anything in excess of $30 a month upon the provinces. I would point out to the Minister of Veterans Affairs that the veteran is not the responsibility of the province; he is the responsibility of the dominion. That has been admitted time and again. Last year the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe) admitted that veterans housing was a responsibility of the dominion. There can be no question that the dominion cannot expect a province to pay an additional amount to the war veterans allowance recipient so that he can live; that responsibility rests with the dominion.

Some of the provinces are paying old age pensioners an additional $10 a month. My own province of British Columbia is doing that, and the situation there is that war veterans are going off war veterans allowance and on to old age pension because they can get between $9 and $10 a month more. It is a shameful situation that veterans of that province have to give up their war veterans allowance and take an old age pension when they and everybody else know that, in reality, they are the responsibility of the dominion government. The minister's own department is cooperating in changes of that kind, is making it easier for these veterans to switch from war veterans allowance to old age pension.

The government took some action when on December 19 the Prime Minister announced that there would be an increase in war veterans allowances, and I quote from his statement as reported on page 490 of Hansard:

The amendment will authorize the war veterans allowance board to grant supplementary allowances up to $10 a month-

It does not say they will get $10 a month; it simply says up to $10 a month.

-in cases of need for veterans and widows who, through age and infirmity, are unable to provide for their own maintenance. The board will be authorized to make the supplementary allowances retroactive to October 1, or to any subsequent date, as the circumstances of individual cases may require. [DOT]

That applies to both single and married veterans. If a veteran is married he can get only up to $10 a month; he does not get anything extra because he is married. I suggest to the minister that there should have been

an outright addition to the war veterans allowance of at least $10 without any further means test, without the front-line veteran having to go back to the war veterans allowance board for further investigation, without his having to get past a lot of officials before getting a maximum of $10, and he might get only $2 or $3. That was a ridiculous way to meet a great need. These men are in the greatest need of all veterans. With them it is not a matter of the cost of living, it is a matter of the cost of keeping alive. The proposal does not meet their position at all. I repeat that this is a case of trifling with a veterans' problem.

Another example is the increase in pensions. No cost of living bonus was paid to pensioners or to the recipients of war veterans allowance during the war years when the cost of living was going up. Last session various demands were made that these men be paid a cost of living bonus, but nothing was done. The cost of living index has now gone up until it stands at between 145 and 150, based on the 1935-39 period.

There was nothing in the speech from the throne about an increase in pensions. Mention was made that there would be some veterans affairs bills but there was no promise at all of increased pensions. However, protests from the Legion, from the Army and Navy, from the Canadian corps, from the Amputation and other associations, and protests from newspapers right across Canada were so strong that on December 19, the last day of the short session, the Prime Minister announced that there would be an increase in pensions.

It was not a very big increase but it was something; at least it was a start. The basic increase was $10 on a full disability pension of $75, which meant an increase from $75 to $85. There was no increase whatever in the allowance for a wife or for children or for parents. There was an increase of $10 for the widow. The increases were made retroactive to October 1. As all hon. members know, they were quite inadequate. They met with protests from one end of the country to the other, and now we have had a further increase which was announced on February 16, three days ago. But I submit to the house that the figure is still too low. In some cases it means an increase of about sixteen per cent. I do not think in any case it is over twenty per cent. The cost of living has gone up fifty per cent. The Legion, and the National Council of Veterans Associations, which includes the Army and Navy, the Corps, the Paraplegic Association, Canadian Pensioners', Sir Arthur Pearson Association and the War

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Amputations, both asked for a greater increase. I think the legion asked for an increase of twenty-five per cent right across the board. The increase should have been given. There should not be all this haggling about an increase for the men and the dependents of the men who saved this country. It just does not make sense.

I would point out to the minister that even in Great Britain, hard hit as she is, increases have been granted in many cases up to forty per cent within the last few months. Yes, indeed Canada might very well have made a general increase of twenty-five per cent right across the board. The tragedy of the situation is that, throughout, the government has moved only after terrific pressure, which shows a failure to realize the plight in which the veterans of Canada now find themselves.

The third instance of trifling with veterans' problems is that of the veterans taking vocational and educational training. In December they were refused any increase whatever. Their claims were just brushed aside at that time. Now the married men only are given an increase of $10 a month. I would ask the Minister of Veterans Affairs to correct me if I am wrong in any of these figures. That, I submit, should have been greater. Early in December I received a very good brief from the University of British Columbia branch of the Canadian Legion dealing with this question of an increase in the grants for student veterans. They asked that there be set a minimum over-all increase of $20 a month, which they stated was vitally and urgently needed by all student veterans with unemployable dependents; that is, those with children or wives incapable of working or who support elderly parents. In the brief they submitted figures to show that the average married student was going behind at the rate of $35.67 a month at that time. Their figures were carefully prepared and were accurate. They were taken from the student veterans living in what is known as Little Mountain Camp, a former army camp, where there are several hundred veterans running their camp as a small town, and running it exceptionally well. I am sure that the figures taken by them would be accurate.

This increase of $10 a month is not made retroactive to October 1, as was done with the pensions and the war veterans allowances. For some reason or another it was made retroactive only to January 1. That, again, I suggest is unfair. These men have been in university since September. They have had these expenses for these months. They had

been going behind in each one of these months last year, and this increase should have been made retroactive to October 1.

The single man should not have been left out. A significant statement was given to the press on February 17 by the students of Carle-ton college in Ottawa. Among other things they said:

While the married student is slightly better off, the single vet is still marking time. We feel the government decision is only a half-way measure.

The need for this increase is obvious. In every case the cost of living has gone up for the single man, even though the first claim must, of necessity, be that of the married man. I suggest that the single man should also have had an increase. I point out to the minister and to his associate, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Mitchell), that in the United States less than a week ago President Truman signed legislation increasing the benefits of two million veterans attending college under the so-called G.I. Bill of Rights, which raised the monthly subsistence allowance for veterans without dependents from $65 to $75; those with one dependent from $90 to $105, and those with two or more dependents from $90 to $120.

This liability to the veterans is not a continuing one. We shall have it for only two or three more years, and I do not believe that the government of Canada could make a finer investment than it is making in helping these young men and women to obtain an education. They will be the leaders of this nation within a very few years, and it is of the utmost importance to Canada that they should receive the very finest training that can be given in Canada. I urge the government to realize the difficulties under which they are working and to make a further increase, so that there may be no doubt that they will all be able to carry through until they obtain their degrees.

Another instance is the difficulty under the Veterans Land Act. There again the government has been trifling with the veteran and his problems. I am not going to go into it in detail, because the hon. member for Lambton West (Mr. Murphy) did that and did it well the other evening. But I endorse his demand that a royal commission be set up in Canada to investigate all these small housing programs. I believe that the government has paid, or has incurred costs for repairs, over and above contract price, up to a figure of something like $3,000,000. I believe also that there has been very little of that collected from contractors; and all the contractors I know who had anything to do with veterans

The Address-Mr. Green

housing were in a position to pay for not completing their contracts. I cannot understand why the government should announce with such enthusiasm that it is going to pay $3,000,000 to make these houses right, and not give one little squeak about making the contractor pay that money. There is no reason at all why the taxpayers of Canada should be saddled with that expense. It should come from the pockets of the contractors. I repeat; a royal commission should be set up without further delay.

The fifth instance of trifling with the veterans' problems has been the treatment meted out by the government to the merchant seamen. They have been the completely forgotten men who took part in the last war. They were regarded by everyone as a fourth arm of the fighting services. Speeches to that effect were made by every cabinet minister from the Prime Minister down, lauding these men for the great things they were doing, and they were doing great things. The casualties in proportion to the numbers in the merchant navy were, I think, higher than in any of the other arms of the services; yet when it comes to the treatment of these men, the pensions, vocational and educational grants and preference in the civil service, they are treated as civilians. We battled that out on the floor of the house here last year. The government refused to include them in the veterans preference. A merchant seaman cannot get a pension unless he was wounded by direct enemy action. He cannot get educational benefits. He cannot get vocational training unless he takes it by way of training in the merchant navy. The merchant seamen are not being given a fair deal, and that is another position which must be remedied.

The final instance is the way that this proposed special committee of the house is being handled. The Prime Minister intimated to me yesterday, in reply to a question I asked, that probably the increases in the pensions would not be referred to the special committee which is to be set up. He said that it would probably be necessary to get that bill through in a hurry so that the veterans could get their money, and that, therefore, it would not perhaps be very wise to have the matter go to the committee.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs knows, and his parliamentary assistant knows very well that each time there has been a special committee set up to deal with veterans affairs it has been given very wide powers. It has been given an opportunity to review the whole field of veterans affairs. The com-

mittee has been as non-partisan as any committee in this house could be. Every member of the committee has considered it a privilege to serve, and the job has been well done. That was particularly true of the committee in 1945 and 1946. The veterans' organizations feel free to go before that committee and make representations, knowing that a fair hearing will be given and that the representations made will receive full consideration.

That, I suggest, is what should be done with the committee of this session. It was promised by the former minister of veterans affairs at page 4893 of Hansard of last year:

We shall have another veterans committee reviewing the whole situation as it did last vear.

He made the same promise in Vancouver in November of last year, and we have always understood that the special committee on veterans affairs would be allowed to review the whole situation and do a proper job.

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February 19, 1948