I am sure the hon. member will believe me when I say I had no intention of misinterpreting what he said. I agree that that is what he said; but he laid stress upon the principle of each man receiving wages high enough so that he could practise the old-fashioned ideal of thrift, and thus lay aside a little for the declining years of his life. I have not attributed to the hon. member anything more than that. But I am going to attribute something to the party to which the hon. member belongs. I would say that since confederation the policy of that party has not sufficiently encouraged the principle of higher wages to make his ideal possible. I offer that as a personal opinion, and it is possible that the hon. member will not agree with me. However, I will leave that to the people of this country on June 27, and we shall see whether they agree with me. But as a man who has worked for wages all his life, with the exception of the short period when I was in the armed forces, and the period when as a D.V.A. veteran I drew $80 at first and then $90 a month-and with the prices we have had since the war-and in the light of my experience as a picket on strike lines, I find it extremely difficult indeed to appreciate the point of view put forth by the hon. member for Grey North.
I have no objection to people who work for a living in this country having high wages so that they may put some of them aside. That is a splendid idea. But when we refer to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre we are dealing with an idea of putting through parliament-and I hope it may be done by the next government-a railroad retirement act which would be beneficial to the railroad workers, whether they get high enough wages to lay something aside, or whether they do not
and the latter would be more likely the case if the existing social order of capitalism continues. Since in the past that has been the condition, it is in the nature of the system, with the competition of one man against another in order to procure a job, or perhaps to stand with the unemployed, who, when capitalism functions, stand outside the gates, to take away that job if any individual dares to strike for higher wages-I say it is in the nature of capitalism
that in those circumstances we will require a railroad retirement act.
I was also interested in the suggestion of the hon. member for Grey North that there have been many men who have devoted their lives to public service in parliament, in the legislature and in other walks of life, and his suggestion that it would be a nice thing if those men could also have some sort of retirement fund. My, how my heart is wrung for the unfortunate members of parliament! How my heart is wrung! And when I think of the widows of the imperial veterans in my riding who receive no pensions, whose husbands have died and who are left to scrub floors on their hands and knees-how my heart is wrung with the desire of M.P.'s for a pension! What a splendid thing, gentlemen! Is it not strange that we have not considered the case of the poor, the indigent, the case of the cripples and those people who have no pensions and who need them so much worse than we do? Do not hon. members think it is somewhat of an anticlimax at this late date, in view of the hours remaining for this house to sit, to bring up this suggestion of pensions for members of parliament? When the people of this country read that speech-and I hope they will-they will most certainly be amused. They will be amused enough to do something about pensions for M.P.'s on June 27 or thereabouts, I hope.
My time is limited and, as I said at the outset, I did not rise to make a forty-minute speech. But the speeches to which I have listened and which were forty minutes long have compelled me to say something at this time, something which I consider should now be said. Let me now say, on behalf of merchant navy veterans, that conditions as they exist at the present time are intolerable to many of the young men who in 1939 went voluntarily to man the ships we were so busy building in our shipyards so that we could transport to beleaguered Britain the food that was to make possible the maintenance of that island fortress of democracy. These young men voluntarily undertook that service, one which at that time was most dangerous, the service of the battle of the Atlantic.
During the years that they were at sea, many of them had their ships sunk under them. They came back and, at the end of the war, when the rewards were meted out by a grateful people through its government, we found that the army, navy and air force were given the full benefits of our Department of Veterans Affairs allowance for education. Many restrictions, however^ were placed upon the men of the merchant navy. These men are granted an allowance while studying to become plumber, bricklayer, car-
penter or any one of the useful trades that we need in this country; but the army, navy or air force veteran is permitted, provided that he has the entrance requirements, to go to university. These veterans are permitted to enter the professional classes. They may become doctors, dentists or lawyers.
The only inference that can be drawn from the different treatment accorded the merchant navy veteran who served his country as gallantly as any member of the armed forces and is a veteran of the armed forces, is that the merchant navy veteran is considered mentally deficient. Many of these men entered the service as boys of eighteen or nineteen. They undertook a very dangerous work. Is it considered that they are unable to become members of the professional classes and that they should be restricted to the trades? I do not think that is fair. I think an injustice is being done to our merchant navy veterans. I should like to say this, Mr. Speaker, that not only are they saddled with these disabilities by comparison with the veterans of the other services, but if they reach the age of thirty they receive no assistance for education. No attempt is made to give them an opportunity to even learn a trade.
These boys who joined in 1939 at the age of twenty, in 1949 are already thirty. The years when they could have been learning something useful they devoted to the service of the cause of democracy in order to contribute what they could to the downfall of nazism. They are now being told, "You are thirty or over thirty; I am sorry there is nothing to be done for you."
At the very time that this is being done to the merchant navy veteran, a policy is being pursued by the Department of Transport by which ships are being sold to foreign flags. Canadian merchant navy veterans who are serving now in the merchant marine in peacetime are having the keels sold under them. They are unable to find work in the ports of Vancouver, Halifax or in the other ports of Canada. At the very time when they could be learning some other way of making a living, even this is denied them. The government is presiding very gracefully over the dissolution of the Canadian merchant marine. Contracts that were made with companies purchasing ships formerly owned by the government stipulate that when the ships are sold the government is under no obligation to rebuild or lay a new keel for a period of five years. At the end of the five-year period a two-year extension can be granted, which means that for seven years there will be no replacement.
Merchant Marine Veterans
Within the last few months two or three dozen ships have been sold; that is quite a slice out of our merchant marine. The result is that the crews are being laid off. The men who sacrificed so much during the war are not to be allowed any reward or recognition for the services they have rendered. I raised this matter earlier and one hon. member-I do not hold it against him since it was probably an excellent humorous remark-suggested that simply because a man was a merchant navy seaman whose ship had been sold and whose job taken away, that did not mean he could not learn to do something else. He went further and said that, like myself, he might become a member of parliament. Of course, the number of jobs as member of parliament is limited; I think that is very obvious.
I might say that is precisely what I am proposing here tonight and I hope that the hon. member who made that statement is with me one hundred per cent. If these merchant navy men are not going to be allowed to work as mariners any longer, if we are going to sell all our merchant marine, they should be given an opportunity of learning some other trade. One way in which that could be done would be to extend the age limit for merchant navy veterans beyond the thirty-year mark. These men of thirty should not be told, "We will give you no assistance in learning a trade." Another way in which it could be done would be to permit these men to enter not only the trades but also the professions.
There is a case in my own university of British Columbia. This young man entered the merchant navy during the early years of the war. He went through the battle of the Atlantic and when the dangerous period was over, this gallant young man decided he was no longer needed in the merchant navy as much as he was needed in the army. Leaving the merchant navy, he joined the army and went overseas. He saw some action, after having had one ship sunk under him in the battle of the Atlantic. Under the D.V.A., he was able to go to the university of British Columbia. After he had been there for less than a year and after having gone through the veterans' school to pass the necessary entrance examination, he was notified his credits in the army were now completed and that the government would be unable to grant him further credits.
He went to the department and told them that he had served with the merchant marine during the early years of the war. They said, "Oh, yes; well now, would you like to be a plumber or a carpenter or a steamfitter?" It happens that this boy wants to be a doctor.
He is willing to serve the seven or eight years which it takes to become a doctor. We are short of doctors in this country and the boy has ability. Simply because he volunteered during the dangerous period of the battle of the Atlantic to face the worst dangers any man could be called upon to face and, when that danger was over, switched to the army, which was the next most dangerous task, he is being penalized. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this is a grave injustice. As a veteran, and even if I were not a veteran, but as a Canadian citizen and as one who is grateful to the men who did so much for Canada in the recent conflict, I believe that before this house closes this government should give some assurance of better treatment for these men. I appeal to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Chevrier) and I appeal to the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as to the cabinet, that they do something for these merchant navy veterans. I believe, politics and elections apart, that the least they could do would be to raise that age limit beyond thirty.
Subtopic: REFERENCE TO REMARKS IN DEBATE OF APRIL 27