Mr. W. D. Wylie (Medicine Hat):
Mr. Speaker, my first words this afternoon must be those of congratulations to the mover (Mr. Cauchon) and seconder (Mr. Simmons) of the motion for an address in reply to the speech
The Address-Mr. Wylie from the throne. I was particularly interested in what the hon. member for Yukon-Mackenzie River (Mr. Simmons) had to say about that vast northern constituency which he represents. I have also listened many times to the leader of this group, the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Low), tell about the resources of that wonderful country and advise the government as to what should be done.
The other day I was very interested in a pamphlet I received from Alberta in connection with that north country. No doubt many hon. members know that fifteen years ago the residents of Fort Vermilion had only one means of access, you might say, to our world. The only means of travel they had was by vessel going up the Peace river, and back and forth. Unless their stock was ready at a certain time of the year they were forced to sell them when they were not ready for market. What has happened today? Through the co-operation of the provincial and dominion governments a highway has been built from Grimshaw in the Peace river country to Hay River on the southern shores of Great Slave lake. It runs for a distance of 384 miles through muskeg, timber and some good farm land. It is an all-weather highway. The residents of Fort Vermilion, 45 miles to the east of the present highway, have a secondary highway which they can use. The residents of Keg River, 12 miles west of this highway, can also use it to get their produce out. This is one forward step in the development of our northern areas.
We have not even started to develop our resources in western Canada, in the constituency represented by the member for Yukon-Mackenzie River (Mr. Simmons), and also in the constituency represented by the member for Cariboo (Mr. Murray). While we realize that the development of that area must continue through the assistance of the federal government, we must not overlook the fact that in southern and central Alberta there are many thousands of acres that could be developed through irrigation. They could be developed at a minimum cost so far as road building and schools are concerned. I believe the first thing we must do is develop those areas in which irrigation is possible. I know that both the Alberta government and the federal government have been doing a fair job in this respect. Perhaps some of my Saskatchewan friends, particularly the hon. member for Moose Jaw (Mr. Thatcher), will disagree with me because the South Saskatchewan project is not proceeding as it should. When I read the speech from the throne and saw that another commission was
being set up to study the South Saskatchewan project, it took me right back to Medicine Hat. Year after year I have stressed in this house the need for irrigation. I mentioned the trails being worn over the prairies by the various surveyors who have inspected these projects. I am sure some of the Saskatchewan members must feel the same way. There should be no need for another commission to study that project. Last session we were advised that it was feasible, and if it is feasible let us get on with the job.
I tried to follow one of the previous speakers, the hon. member for Maple Creek (Mr. Studer). I enjoyed his speech. While I do not agree with all he said, I must say that I never heard anyone talk so fast and say so much in such a short time. The only ones in the house for whom I did feel sorry were our Hansard reporters. When he told us of having seven brothers in the United States who talked faster than he did, I am sure that our very good reporters were hoping his brothers never entered the House of Commons. The hon. member's constituency adjoins mine on the east, and one thing I must say for him is that he has everything at his fingertips. He does not have to read his speech, it is right in him. Any time a member can get up and talk for 40 minutes as fast as the hon. member did, there is some credit coming to him. He did a very good job.
This afternoon I want to deal with a brief submitted by the Canadian Legion. I appreciate what the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Lapointe) has said concerning the intentions of the government. However, action has not been taken as yet, so I think it is just as well to review the situation. I shall not read the whole of the brief, as it is quite long, but this is the brief which went out from the dominion command in Ottawa. It reads in part as follows:
Implications and recommendations are one thing, but action is another.
We are told that the fall session of parliament will be short. War pensions and allowances must be made an issue. Basic pensions and allowances have lagged disastrously behind the rapid increase in the cost of living. Our knowledge of this situation and the issues at stake must serve as the spring-board for individual action on the part of every member of the legion interested in getting help to his disabled comrades this year. What action is to be taken? The answer is simple. These facts must be impressed upon your federal member of parliament by as many members of your branch as possible, and as often as it is necessary, to ensure that he will not return to Ottawa without a full understanding of the legion's position on this vital question.
If you can contact your member personally, so much the better. If you live a long distance from him, write him informing him of the pensioner's need. What is essential is an urgent reminder of that need, together with a strong appeal to support the legion's request for an over-all increase in war disability pensions and war veterans allowances to ensure action at the next session.
In the city of Medicine Hat we have a strong Legion composed of over 1,200 members. I am going to read a part of the letter that Legion branch sent to me. The president is Mr. Frank Cooney, and the secretary-manager is Mr. Lowell Haynes. It reads:
The time has come when real action must be taken in regard to the basic increases in war disability pensions and in war veterans allowances- words and promises will no longer suffice.
Then they say this:
We have been informed, very recently, that the cost of living in Canada has reached an all-time high and for the first time has surpassed that of the U.S.A.
War veterans allowance at present rates is wholly inadequate and is an outstanding example of governmental discrepancy, in that the man who is now a recipient of an old age pension in Canada receives more than the recipient of war veterans allowance. This same old age pensioner may have been in the lines against the recipient of the war veterans allowance. That is, the enemy soldier is treated better than the prematurely aged Canadian veteran. This is a most disgraceful situation to be permitted to exist in Canada.
Then I have a letter from another branch in my constituency, branch No. 10 in Strathmore, Alberta. The secretary-treasurer, Mr. W. Ian MacKenzie, has this to say:
We are not asking for an increase in the real value of the pension or allowance. We are merely asking that it be restored to its pre-war value. There is no question but that the pension today is worth in real values only about 65 per cent of what it was at the beginning of world war II. Remember also that pensions are an essential part of our war effort and must be made to conform to Canadian standards.
1 read those extracts, Mr. Speaker, so the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Lapointe) will realize that many others are thinking of an increase in their basic pensions today. One must also realize that we owe a debt to these pensioners. We owe them something which is their right. It is the duty of the government and also of every hon. member to see that veterans pensions are brought into line with the current high cost of living.
We know, Mr. Speaker, that the high cost of living is on everyone's mind today. What we are going to do about it, I do not know. It seems to me the Liberal government now in power must have experts in economics who can solve our problem. It is not up to me to say what they should do. The other day we were advised by one of the members of the government that they had too many lawyers in the cabinet. Perhaps that is right. If those lawyers and those experts in economics got us into the mess we are now in with respect to the high cost of living, surely they have brains enough to get us out of it.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY