Within the last year or so, there has been a lot of that, more than I have ever seen before.
The government has gone to a lot of expense. They take that boy, give him a medical examination, transport him across the country and put him in a camp. Then they have to go through all the mechanics of discharging him again, sending him back to his home, rehabilitating him and finding some employment for him. A lot of money has been spent to no end. If he is a little tougher and gets overseas and1 then comes back with a disability, it is said to be of pre-enlistment origin. We get a lot of difficulties in cases of that kind because we did not take care of the problem where we should have taken care of it.
I do not imagine so. I imagine that much of the difficulty today is in finding doctors who are willing to work for the money that is paid by the Department of National Defence. I have noticed items in the press where the Department of Veterans Affairs were bringing in doctors from the old country. I know that in my end of the country where enlistments are heavy, perhaps heavier than in any other part of the country, there is no regular medical board as such. The boys are gathered up in groups of twenty or thirty and taken to some ordinary practitioner, and he provides the medical examination.
I am saying all this for the benefit of the record, so that some of the experts in the minister's department will sit down, read it and give some attention to it, and later on try to iron out the difficulties that exist with respect to the question of preenlistment origin. We cut it out of the act either in the latter part of 1942 or early in 1942. We cut it out where the decision used to be made that the disability was of congenital origin.
The second point I want to make has to do with the question of administration. The benefit of all legislation is determined by the way it is administered. Over the years the Department of Veterans Affairs built up from coast to coast an excellent administrative organization. It took many years to build that up. I am speaking now of my own end of the country with which I am familiar. The veterans and the administration of veterans affairs had a very happy relationship, and in my opinion that is one thing that
we should be very careful not to disturb. There was a fraternity built up there and mutual respect for one another. Within the last few months the department lias changed its administrative set-up. In a district like Halifax, for example, you have the district administrator who was there for many many years and who knew practically all the veterans in his area personally and was familiar with all the branches through the secretaries. It was like a large happy family. The act of course determined the extent to which assistance could be given; but there was respect there; there was no questioning a decision made by a man like Tom Fenton, for example, of Camp Hill hospital. The boys knew, if they wanted something done and Tom Fenton, said it could not be done, that was the end of it. Within recent months the department considered that it would be good economy to set up one administrative district for the whole of the maritimes, and we are going to superimpose on the district administration a super-administrator, and from now on that one man is going to have the authority and the responsibility of determining all matters of importance that have to do with the administration of veterans affairs generally. I do not think that is a good development. I think the decentralized administration as between province and province was the proper set-up. It brought the veteran closer to the man who made the major decisions.
When one man is administering Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick he is placed in a fairly dictatorial position and he is removed completely from personal contact with the men. It is changing an organization that has been in existence for twenty-five years and which established mutual respect as between man and man. This man is going to be looked upon as a super-dictator and the confidence built up over the years is going to be destroyed.
During the two months when I was home before this session opened I was met by representatives of about thirty branches who told me in no uncertain terms that they protested vigorously this administrative change. I am sure the minister has received many telegrams from the Legion in Nova Scotia protesting this change. After twenty-five or thirty years' experience in the Legion dealing with the Pension Act and other matters from the bottom, I agree that this particular move is wrong. This centralization removes the personal contact that existed. I do not think any money is going to be saved and it will create headaches that were not in existence in the past.
The change is made and I understand we are to have this type of administration across the country. The country is being broken up into these super-administrative districts. I am simply telling the minister what the representatives of the branches told me in no uncertain terms a couple of months ago when they called me in to hear the views of the rank and file of the Legion. That is all I have to say on the subject. I have made my opinion known with regard to these changes. We regret the fact that the War Veterans Allowance Act is not being amended at this session, but the house has voted on it and we bow to the will of the house.
The minister is a young fellow and I am simply trying to give him some grandfatherly advice from my own experience. I have no ulterior motive; I merely want to help him. I believe the provisions of the act with regard to borderline cases are too tight. There is no flexibility in the administration. If we are going to solve this problem of pre-enlistment disability we will have to do something more. If a disability is said to be pre-enlistment, it must have been known when the man came in and he should not have been taken.
These problems of administration can be handled by the minister from day to day. I can assure him that the administration that was in existence previously in Nova Scotia made everyone happy. There was not much fault found with it over the years. We must realize that there are no supermen, and the closer you can get to the people in administering any legislation the better your administration is going to be.
Another suggestion I would make is that some of the field workers be made permanent. I know that in the end of the country from which I come they are all on a temporary basis. They do not know whether their jobs are going to continue or where they can fit themselves into the organization. It might not be a bad idea to make some of them permanent; I think this would add strength to the administration.
Before there is any further discussion on this bill I should like to remind the house that it deals with one aspect only of the Pension Act, namely the increase in the disability pension. It is a well-established rule of this house that when an amending bill is before the house the main act cannot be discussed. I have not called any hon. members to order, but I thought the house would like to know just what is the rule.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to join with others in congratulating the Canadian Legion, and national council and other organizations upon the splendid fight they have made on this matter. They made a splendid presentation in May, 1950, but there was nothing for veterans on the agenda at the beginning of this session. Something is being done as a result of the continued fight put up by these people and by members in various quarters of this house. I am sure all hon. members are happy to have this legislation before us at this time. While it does not meet entirely our wishes as to what should be done, it is a move in the right direction.
I should have liked to see the department go further than they have. Until you put us straight, I had intended to say something more. However, there is one point which I think hinges pretty closely on this matter. If a basic rate has not been established no increase will be paid. I feel keenly about a number of applications now before the commission, similar to those referred to by the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gil-lis). Many young men who saw service in the last war now find themselves in a rather nervous condition. They were not wounded but in my opinion their condition was brought on by their service. I should like the commissioners to see their way clear to give the benefit of the doubt to these cases.
Another matter referred to is that of co-operation between departments. Lack of this co-operation is costing the country a considerable amount of money. Another matter I should like to refer to is that of dependent parents. These pensions are a matter of discretion on the part of the commissioners rather than of right. I should like to see something placed in the act to deal with this problem.
I did not speak on the amendment, but I must say that that is one case where we are very disappointed. However, we have been assured that this matter will be dealt with at the next session. There are many needy cases which could be taken care of under this other legislation. I just wanted to say these few words at this time and express the hope that the matter about which we are so disappointed will be taken up in the not too distant future.
Mr. Speaker, I was interested in the remarks of the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis) in regard to pre-enlistment disabilities. Before I deal further with that matter I want to say that I am glad and proud that this
Increase is being made in disability pensions. I hope that in the future the war veterans allowances will also be increased.
It is quite easy to talk about pre-enlistment disabilities, but they are most difficult to deal with. I can remember when early in the first war men with certain types of disability were taken into the service. It is true that they were earmarked for forestry, labour or railroad troops, but nevertheless they were taken into the Canadian army. Sometimes their disabilities were marked down on their history sheets, and sometimes not, but the fact is that those disabilities did exist. We have these conditions among railroad troops. Sometimes men are transferred from active work in the infantry to one of the labour troops. Take, for instance, a man with a hernia or a man with a heart condition. Then trouble would start because these men were put into certain classifications and found themselves in the wrong position. It was ridiculous to send a man with a heart condition to the railroad troops where he would be working in the mud or lugging heavy ties. Aware of their condition, these people asked for pensions afterwards, and it made proper administration difficult. These men were always going sick. They realized they had disabilities, and when they came back it was a difficult problem to deal with such cases.
That brings me to the matter raised by the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis). It is not very easy to find these disabilities once men have enlisted. Sometimes they break down under training and one becomes aware of the disability. I think these men have received good examinations. They have been properly examined by competent officers in the army. They have had their chests X-rayed and have passed certain standards, but you come to this point. Any person who has had any experience will know that sometimes you get a young chap who has been employed in a sedentary occupation. You may have some doubts and classify his general physique as being borderline. Nevertheless during the next few months when he is under training his physique will improve and he will develop under outdoor exercise, regular hours, and so on. Correspondingly, another man may break down. It is not very easy. It is easy to criticize the doctors who make the examinations but you do not know when a man is going to break down under training.
That brings up the question of those people who become psychoneurotic after they have been through a period of warfare. This is also a difficult matter because there is no standard whereby you can properly make a decision whether a man is temperamentally fit to be a soldier. You can be very easily
deluded in the examination of such people. Therefore you have certain people breaking down under these conditions, and it becomes a difficult matter for pension administration. Sometimes I feel, as does the hon. member, that these people were taken into the army as physically fit to all intents and purposes, but deep down they were not temperamentally fit to become soldiers. They could not take a certain amount of what the soldier has to go through.
Having admitted that, the question then arises whether or not these people are pensionable. They did break down under warfare. Prior to enlistment they carried on in the world in a normal way. Some place in ensuing legislation we must go into that matter and make a proper decision as to what we are going to do with these people. They have a disability. I am reminded of one or two cases I have had in the last two or three months. I had one referred to me the other day, the case of a boy who enlisted perfectly fit and served for five and a half years. He missed nothing, but now he has had a nervous break-down. There is nothing on his history sheet, and I do not think he ever paraded sick, but just the same he is disabled. He has a wife and two children and he is in that position. I feel that Canada should look after that man because of his five and a half years' service.
I think of some of these borderline cases. I think of one case where a man was gassed in the first gas attack in 1915. He was sent to hospital and developed a heart condition from which he never recovered. His file is full of specialists' reports. He was never able to carry on and received about a 35 per cent pension which varied up and down. He was finally taken sick with his heart condition and was sent to the military hospital. His pension was for valvular disease of the heart but he proceeded to die from a coronary condition. I do not blame the pension -board. At the present time coronary conditions are pensioned for aggravation. However, I felt that it was a case of splitting hairs, and again I do not blame the pension board. They could not do anything else. The man received his heart disability at the second battle of Ypres and he died of a heart disability. No person has yet told us fully in a medical sense the causes of coronary thrombosis, but yet this man died of it. His widow does not receive a pension.
As the hon. member for Cape Breton South has said, these are some of the things that we have to clean up. With respect to the case I have just mentioned, I feel that such a heart condition should be pensionable but under existing legislation the man can only receive a certain amount for aggravation.
However, he is dead, and as he was not a 50 per cent pensioner his wife receives nothing although she spent the best years of her life looking after this man when he was an invalid. Therefore we have to make a decision about such cases, and I agree with the hon. member for Cape Breton South that we might very well review some of these cases to see if we cannot in some way do something for them. They enlisted as fit men; at least there were no apparent disabilities. They carried on, in some cases throughout the war, have become markedly disabled, and in some instances have died. Therefore I feel that when the next veterans affairs committee is appointed we should review some of these cases.
Under the existing legislation there is nothing further we can do about them, but they are deserving cases. With regard to the young man who had five and a half years' service and now has a nervous break-down, I feel there cannot be any other answer but that it was due to his war service and is a war disability. There is nothing on his history sheet. He was absolutely fit when he enlisted. Again I should like to say that I think this is an excellent piece of legislation but we must not forget the war veterans allowance recipients-and I may be out of order in discussing this for a minute.
I think the discussion recently has been a considerably long way from the bill. I am fearful if the house allows a general discussion to continue that it may be some time before we get to the principle of the bill, which deals with an increase in the pension. I am in the hands of the house. If the house, notwithstanding the rules, favours having a general discussion then I will abide by the wishes of the house, but otherwise I think the discussion should now be relevant to the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a few remarks with regard to three different questions having to do with this bill. In the first place, as has been mentioned by the hon. member for Royal (Mr. Brooks), there are certain pensions the amount of which is not definitely stipulated in the Pension Act. Discretion is given to the commission to pay whatever amount may be deemed proper. I have in mind, for example, the pension paid under
section 21, and also the pensions payable to dependent parents. Section 21 reads as follows:
The commission may, on special application in that behalf, grant a compassionate pension, allowance or supplementary award in any case which it considers to be specially meritorious, but in which the commission has decided that the applicant is otherwise unqualified to receive such an award or supplementary award under this act.
(2) The amount of any compassionate pension, allowance or supplementary award granted under this section shall be such sum as the commission shall fix, but not exceeding the amount to which the applicant would have been entitled if his entire claim to payment had been upheld.
That section has been used, for example, in the case of veterans who were decorated for bravery under fire. They have not been able to establish a claim for pension; but because they had this specially meritorious service they have been granted pension under section 21. It has also been used in the case of widows of veterans who had specially meritorious service. I know a pension was granted to the widow of my own company commander, under this particular section.
It has always been understood that the amount of the pension would be practically the same as a pension paid as of right. Evert though there is this discretion given to the commission, I repeat, it has always been the understanding that these meritorious service pensions would be just as large, or just about as large, as pensions paid as of right. When we had a special committee on veterans affairs in 1948 this question was thoroughly aired. Some of us said to the minister and to the chairman of the Canadian pension commission, "What are you going to do about these pensions under section 21?" We were given the assurance that every file for a pension of that kind would be reviewed just as quickly as possible, and adjustments made in the amount of the pensions, so that these recipients would get the benefit of the increase being given to the pensioners who were paid under the schedule in the act.
I do not remember whether there was a definite commitment that in every case there would be an increase. But we did have the commitment that the files would be reviewed at once; and I understood that in practically every case there would be an increase similar to the increase being made in the statutory amount of the pension.
When the minister closes the debate today I would ask him to give us the assuiance that
a similar practice will be followed in respect of the increases contained in this bill. I think, too, that the same practice should be adopted with respect to dependent parents. Here parliament is granting an increase in the pension. Let us carry out the intent in full by increasing also the pensions which are in the discretion of the commission.
In this connection I would point out also that in schedule B of the bill a distinction has now been made between the rate payable to a widow and that payable to a dependent parent of a veteran who has died. For some reason or other there is no increase in the amount which may be paid to a dependent parent. The amount to a widow is increased from $900 to $1,200.
My second point is on behalf of the small pensioners. There are many small pensioners who will not receive any increase in money as a result of the passage of this bill, because as their pension goes up their war veterans allowance goes down. In this way the money in pocket will remain exactly the same, and those particular pensioners will receive no benefit.
The minister has said that at the next session a committee will be set up and that war veterans allowances will then be dealt with, and that if there is an increase it could be made retroactive. Of course that would help these small pensioners. But they are faced with a hard winter. They would get no increase until next April or May, and a retroactive payment made at that time is not of very much use to a veteran who is trying to get along this winter on $40.41-it could be up to $50-part of which would be pension and part war veterans allowance.
These small pensioners will suffer during the coming winter, and I would hope the minister would take some steps to meet that situation, particularly as he has promised retroactive legislation next spring. When the bill reaches committee I intend to move that there be added as subsection 1 (a) the
An increase in pension paid to any person by virtue of section 1 shall not be included as income for the purposes of the War Veterans Allowance Act, 1946.
I am telling the minister about that at this time, so that he may give it some consideration while debate is in progress.
In 1948 a special committee on veterans affairs was set up. At that time there was an increase in the amount of pensions. We find it set out in chapter 23 of the statutes of 1948. New schedules A and B were added just as in the present instance. A provision was made in 1948 to make the increase in pension retroactive for a certain
period. It was made retroactive to October 1, 1947, and the provision was written into the bill that retroactive payment of pensions should not be taken into account for purposes of war veterans allowances. This will be found in section 18 of the 1948 amendment, which reads as follows:
18 (1) Schedules A and B to the said act-
That is the Pension Act; and incidentally, this reads very much like the bill now before the house.
[DOT]-as amended by sections thirty-one of chapter thirty-eight of the statutes of 1928 and twenty-three of chapter twenty-three of the statutes of 1941, are repealed and schedules A and B to this act are respectively substituted therefor.
That brought in the increases in the new schedule. Then the section continued:
(2) Section eight of this act and subsection one of this section shall be deemed to have come into force on the first day of October, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, except that the percentage of disability figures appearing immediately below the class designations 1 to 20 shall come into force on the first day of June, nineteen hundred and forty-eight.
Then subsection 3, the one which is particularly important in my submission, reads:
An increase in pension paid to any person by virtue of this section in respect to any period prior to the day on which this act receives royal assent shall not be included.
(a) as income for the purposes of the War Veterans Allowance Act, 1946.
There are two other clauses, (b) and (c), but they are not material to my submission. I admit that these provisions had to do with a retroactive payment of pension, but I go on to suggest to the minister that there is no reason why a similar provision could not be written into this bill to provide that the increase being granted in the pension shall not be taken into account for the purpose of the War Veterans Allowance Act. That would preserve the situation until the special committee could meet next session. It would protect the smaller pensioners over the winter; they would thus benefit by the increase granted under this bill, in that they would not lose a portion of their war veterans allowance. Unfortunately they will lose some of it unless some such provision is made.
When the committee reviews the whole matter at the next session, the legislation can be changed to meet the wishes of the members of the new committee. That is my second suggestion, that the suffering and hardship that is bound to be the lot of these small pensioners on war veterans allowance could be alleviated by writing some such provision as I have mentioned into this bill.
My third suggestion I know is not going to be very popular. At the beginning the
Canadian pension schedule was set up on the basis that higher ranking officers received higher payments of pension. Rightly or wrongly, that was the plan adopted in 1919 or whenever the Pension Act was written into the statute books. There have been many complaints about that. I believe perhaps it might have been wiser not to have a distinction of that kind. However, it was written into the law, and it has been the law ever since. In 1948 when an increase in pension was granted, there was no increase to these senior officers. Mind you, it is not a very popular plea to have to make. The veterans organizations and hon. members of the house are all hesitant about saying anything about the senior officers, because they get more than the rest of the forces.
In 1948 pensions were increased, but these senior officers were left out. The same thing has been done in this bill. You do not read anything about that in the newspapers. You do not hear it mentioned in the house. Only a handful of men and widows are affected, an$ no one brings forward their position. I suggest that if this principle was right in the first place, this is not a very good time to start getting around it in a sort of secret way without anything being said. The only people who know anything about it are the senior officers, many of whom are getting along in years because they were older than the other members of the forces, and the widows of these same men who, in most cases, will be a great deal older than the widows of the men who were not in the higher ranks. I place that before the minister.
There has been some change in this system. Before 1948 all in the army up to and including the rank of lieutenant were on the same rate. In 1948 it was taken a little higher, and captains were put in. In 1951 they have included the majors. The major gets a little increase, but he does not get as great an increase as the captain and all lower ranks. No one above the rank of major or lieutenant-commander (naval) or squadron leader (air) gets any increase whatever. I believe that should be brought out into the open so we all know what is happening. Under all the conditions, I do not think it is fair that there should be no increase whatever given to these pensioners.
I always find it very interesting, Mr. Speaker, to listen to a discussion of matters affecting veterans in which the main participants are veterans. One always feels that these men bring to a discussion of such questions not only intense familiarity with
the subject but a very real concern for their comrades of the various wars in which our country has been engaged. The result is that we have a most interesting discussion which, in the long run, results in the kind of advantage to our veterans that we all desire.
As has been said before, I believe it should be pointed out that it is not only the veterans in this house who are concerned that we do the right thing by our veterans; that is true of all of us. So it is that I welcome the opportunity of taking just a few minutes to say how pleased we all are that this bill is now before us. The day the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Lapointe) announced the provisions of this bill, it was my privilege to be the first to make a brief comment. As a matter of fact the comment had two points, both of which I feel to be quite important. On the one hand I characterized the announcement of the increases being provided in the disability pension as most welcome. On the other hand I expressed the hope that it would not be long until we might have a similar announcement with respect to war veterans allowances.
I do not need to take up much time, because most of the matters connected with the legislation before us now have been amply discussed by those who preceded me. But I do want to support most strongly the arguments that have been put forward by almost all those who have been on their feet concerning the case of the dependent parents. It does seem to me that their plight should be considered at this time. As the hon. member for Melfort (Mr. Wright) pointed out, they will not be considered when the War Veterans Allowance Act is dealt with at the next session of parliament by the special committee because they do not come under that act. If dependent parents qualify anywhere, they qualify under the Pension Act which is being amended at this time; and I am still hoping that the representations which have been made to the minister since his announcement on November 16 will result in his telling us, when we get into committee of the whole, that he is prepared to accede to those representations.
We now have the bill before us; and on looking at it, particularly at schedule B, I find that the minister has had to go out of his way to avoid giving this increase to dependent parents. Schedule B to the act as it now stands-and I am looking at it as it appears at the end of chapter 23 of the statutes of 1941-has just one column headed "Widow or dependent parent". It is true that each of the figures in that column is preceded
by an asterisk which draws attention to the note at the end of the schedule which reads as follows:
Pensions awarded to parents or brothers and sisters may be less than these amounts in accord^ ance with the provisions of this act.
In other words that note makes it clear that although the amounts of pension for a widow or dependent parent appear in the same column with the amount as that for a widow in schedule B to the act as it now stands, in the case of the widow the amount is mandatory but in the case of dependent parents that amount is a maximum which it is within the power of the commission to award.
In the bill now before us we find that instead of just increasing the figures for the first two groups, from $900 a year for the first group and $1,008 a year for the second group, up to $1,200 a year or $100 a month in both cases, the government has separated what was in one column and put it into two columns. To me it looks as though the only reason the separation into two columns had to be made was that only in that way could the government deny to the dependent parents the increase being granted to widows of veterans where the disability pension is 50 per cent or more.
When we get into committee and get to the consideration of schedule B, I hope the minister will consider doing away with the second vertical column in that schedule and putting widows and dependent parents again in the one column, thus awarding to dependent parents the same possible increase that is being awarded on a mandatory basis to widows of disabled veterans. It seems to me there is no real argument against doing this. The representations for it made from all sides of the house have been most earnest and by way of sincere pleading on our part. I hope this matter will be dealt with today. As I have already said, if it is not dealt with today it seems to me these people are going to lose out in the shuffle, because they will not come in for consideration when the War Veterans Allowance Act is dealt with at the next session.
I want to say also that it seems to me the minister, when we get into committee, should give consideration to the matter drawn to his attention first by the hon. member for Royal (Mr. Brooks) and more recently by the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra (Mr. Green), namely that in the act of 1948 there was a special clause providing that over a certain period of time increases provided by that act were not to be regarded as income for the purposes of the War Veterans Allowance Act. In other words the very request we made when we were at the resolution stage of this
bill, that something like that be done, has a precedent. When, at the resolution stage, it was suggested that this should be done, the minister or his parliamentary assistant-one or the other of them, or perhaps both-suggested that this was a matter to be dealt with under the War Veterans Allowance Act. Here we have a precedent indicating that it can be done in the Pension Act itself.
I can foresee a difficulty if a private member should seek to move the kind of amendment the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra has suggested. But at any rate, when he presents it in committee I hope the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Lapointe) will not start looking around for ways to argue that it is out of order; I hope rather that he will ask the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra to send the amendment across to him so he may have one of his ministerial colleagues move it. It seems to me we should make sure that the increases provided by this most acceptable bill which is now before us will not result in some veterans getting an increase in their disability pensions but suffering a reduction by the same amount in their war veterans allowances.
There are obviously many other matters that arise in relation to this bill, in view of the wide scope of the discussion this afternoon, but I shall confine my suggestions to those two points which I hope will be given earnest consideration by the minister when we get into committee on this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to speak on this motion for second reading, as I made my remarks at the resolution stage; but in view of some remarks made by the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra I feel that I must express my opinion on his suggestion. First of all I re-emphasize my opinion as to the defects of this bill: the failure to increase the provision for the children of pensioners to equal the amount being given the pensioners; the failure to make extra provision for dependent parents; and the failure to make certain that those who receive meritorious pensions or those who receive them on compassionate grounds shall receive the necessary extra consideration.
I greatly admire the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra. He often presents fearlessly an unpopular point of view in this house. I think he was quite correct when he said it was unpopular to suggest that the higher ranks should retain their higher ratings in pension and so on. He made some complaint that in the last amendment of the bill the schedules were amended so that those up to the rank of captain received the same rate of pension as other ranks, and in this bill
it now includes up to the rank of major. I must support the government's action in this respect, because in Canada I think we live under different conditions from those upon which those first pension principles were based. The theory that the higher ranks require considerably higher pensions than do the lower or other ranks is based on the theory that those who receive commissions in his majesty's armed forces come from what were formerly termed as the upper classes, and that when they were retired from the army they had a certain above average standard of living to maintain. I maintain that those conditions do not exist in Canada and therefore we should not continue to follow a practice that was established under conditions that existed one hundred years ago in Great Britain. To illustrate my point, may I say that I had a former colonel and two former majors working on my farm on the same day, and I am sure they were quite willing to be considered as ordinary Canadians, returning from service to civilian life.
I have also heard this question discussed at Legion meetings. What the government is doing in gradually equalizing pensions as between the higher ranks and the other ranks receives the support of the great majority of veterans in this country and the great majority of the Canadian people. The opposition groups in this house advocated an increase in the basic rate of pension to compensate pensioners for the increased cost of living. We did not ask for an increase in the basic rate of pension for certain groups to maintain a higher than average standard of living. Therefore we in this group heartily commend the government on this further step in equalizing the basic rate of disability pensions, and in so doing showing a good understanding of the thinking of the Canadian people on this question.
I should like to contribute an observation or two on this motion for second reading. Those hon. members who have sat in during the last few months with branches of the Legion and other veterans organizations were particularly impressed by the sane and responsible approach which these organizations have been making to the government, both before the committee which sat during the last session and in the intervening period when the representations were made direct to the government itself.
There is one thing about veterans legislation that distinguishes it from all others. The government need not fear any revulsion of opinion on the part of the public generally
to reasonable and fair dealing in favour of the veterans in these measures. In my opinion the general public is always prepared in veterans legislation to go further than even the government or parliament sometimes suggests. In some instances the government may be somewhat reluctant to introduce measures which may have some unfavourable public reaction, but there is one thing about veterans legislation; the government need never fear an unfavourable public reaction to it.
One of the things that make parliament a great institution is the fact that on the question of veterans affairs there is great unanimity on all sides of the house. I think that is a reflection of the feeling of the people generally. I have always felt it was a good thing that years after the end of two great wars there is still an intense desire on the part of the Canadian people to do the right thing for those who served and contributed so much to our democratic stability and survival in the years that have gone by.
I wanted to raise my voice this afternoon to endorse the suggestions which have been made by several hon. members in this debate, without attempting to repeat those proposals in detail. It is not too late for the minister to give serious consideration to the proposals which have been made, because in the brief that was submitted to the committee last session and the numberless representations that have been made since to parliament and the government it seemed to me those veterans organizations adopted an attitude which can hardly be ignored by the department. The attitude was sane, reasonable and fair, and the claims they made were not extravagant.
I am hopeful that when the minister introduces a measure such as this, which I may say to him has received a most welcome response from all quarters, both civilian and service, he will be encouraged by what he has heard in the House of Commons and in the representations from elsewhere to go further and reconsider some of the suggestions which have been made in this debate and on previous occasions, and at the same time see to it that in some way the war veterans allowance-which I am not supposed to speak of on this occasion- is increased to take care of the increased cost of living that bears so heavily on the recipients of the war veterans allowance and other pensioners who are not mentioned in this legislation.
I do want to impress upon the minister with every bit of conviction at my command the necessity of taking a generous attitude, as has been proposed by a number of hon. members and by persons outside the house. If he does so he will find that his legislation, if
it follows along the lines suggested, will receive an even greater and more enthusiastic welcome from the Canadian people than this bill has. I want to say to the minister that I personally am very grateful for the changes that have been made. They will be of great help to a great number of people who in my opinion who are the most deserving of all our Canadian citizens.
In rising to speak for a moment on this bill, to avoid much needless repetition I wish to say that I support wholeheartedly the remarks made this afternoon by the hon. member for Van-couver-Quadra (Mr. Green) and the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). I have been very much disappointed because there has been no stepping up of the war veterans allowance this session. I would urge that at the earliest opportunity next session-not when it is half through or toward the end-this matter be gone into fully by, as has been suggested, the war veterans allowance committee, and also that full consideration be given to the widows and orphans who in many cases are certainly most deserving. Their cases are long overdue for consideration.
When this matter was at the resolution stage I expressed my appreciation of the action of the government in bringing down this increase. I 'am sure the veterans across the country will very much appreciate this move. At that time I also drew the attention of the minister to what I considered to be some weaknesses in the legislation. However, at this time I rise to refer to a matter the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis) brought up, namely the question of disabilities of pre-enlistment origin.
Order. I thought the house agreed not to discuss questions other than those which are in the amending bill. As the hon. member for Acadia said, there was some discussion on the question which he proposes to discuss now. It is my impression the house decided that it would not further discuss questions outside the amending bill.
I thought at the time you were referring to two references to the war veterans allowance, because this question will apply to the increase in the pension. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that members of two parties have referred to this matter, and it does seem to me that one member of this group should also be allowed to refer to the same matter.