June 23, 1960 (24th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Douglas Mason Fisher

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

Mr. Fisher:

Mr. Chairman, perhaps other members have noticed what I thought was a very significant development in the discussion of these estimates. The minister began by giving what amounted, in the main, to a rebuttal of the report by the House of Commons estimates committee which examined the Department of Health and Welfare. When I say "rebuttal" I mean it in the wide sense rather than in the sense of a direct confutation.
Today we had one of the earlier speakers, the hon. member for Calgary South, who is chairman of that committee, get up and make a rebuttal of the minister's rebuttal. I do not draw attention to this to particularly underline anything in connection with the department, but I think it is a significant parliamentary development. There has been a large grey area in so far as the rights and powers of parliamentary committees are concerned. I was not a member of this committee, but I thought it did as good a job as a committee could do in analysing the estimates of the department. I thought its report was vigorous and direct, and it was certainly understandable in so far as the average member was concerned.
I knew, from talking to some of the civil servants in the department, that the department's reaction to the report was to say the least rather strong. One could expect to get from the minister, therefore, a reflection of the bureaucratic feelings toward the committee's report. It seems to me that a house committee, even if the civil servants and the 79951-0-335J
Supply-Health and Welfare minister concerned react against its recommendation and against the policy considerations it entertains, should stimulate the department. In my opinion there is inertia on the part of the administration at times which must be overcome, and I think much of the stimulation will come from parliamentary committees that will face up to an analysis and perhaps make some overbold suggestions and criticisms. I believe this committee is to be congratulated, and I think the hon. member for Calgary South should be congratulated very strongly for standing up today to rebut the minister's rebuttal.
The comment I wanted to make about the minister of this department would be much the same as the comment made by other members. The few times I have had anything to do with the department he was most agreeable. Unfortunately he has not been able to find a solution to the largest constituency problem I have in connection with health and welfare matters. I refer to the problem of one of my constituents who writes letters on a weekly basis to me, to the minister, to the Prime Minister, to the Leader of the Opposition and to almost everyone in Ottawa in connection with a marvellous invention he has in the field of health. I wish the deputy minister would tell me how we can satisfy this dissident gentleman in my riding who has a magic invention which, when applied to the shoes of all Canadians, would cure so many of the ills to which they are subj ect.
In trying to assess the stature of a minister, Mr. Chairman, I think all of us have tended to look at his predecessors holding that post. We all know that the urbane gentleman, the hon. member for Essex East, was the minister of national health and welfare. The distinction I draw between him and the present minister is that as minister, the hon. member for Essex East was much more ambitious in a political way, in terms of looking for political promotion and going right to the top. I have a feeling that the present Minister of National Health and Welfare has no ambition to be prime minister or anything like that.
You may wonder, Mr. Chairman, what particular distinction I am trying to arrive at. It is this. I think the hon. member for Essex East, as minister, because of his ambition was constantly trying to expand, if you wish, or blow up his role as minister of national health and welfare and make it appear as one of the major posts in government, an extremely important one. I believe he achieved that to quite an extent. The only comment I would make about the present minister, giving him credit for his lack of

Supply-Health and Welfare over-all ambition to reach the summit, is that he should not be so quiet or so passive in his relationships with his more ambitious, thrusting colleagues in the cabinet as to allow the department to shrink in stature.
I was interested in the committee's comments on the amount of printing being done by the Department of National Health and Welfare. I have always found it difficult to become enthusiastic about these publications, but I would be willing to accept the minister's argument that he has gone into the matter thoroughly and feels that the amount of publications is justified.
I hope he will continue to be tougher and tougher with the Queen's printer, because if ever there was an agency in the government charging -too high prices to the departments for the services provided, I think the Queen's printer is an example. I have raised this matter in the house with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, who is responsible for that particular branch, and I think it still holds true that the system under which the Queen's printer tends to give a blanket price under which there is no volume discount-that is, no discount to the department-if it happens to come up with a best seller or something that really moves or for which there is a great demand, is a rather unbusinesslike practice, to say the least. I think it would be a great encouragement to departments in connection with their publications if there were some kind of volume discount, and if we had a more flexible policy in so far as printing is concerned.
I do not know how far one could go in doing printing on a direct basis as between government departments, in certain kinds of publications, and private printers. But from this procedure I think you would get a stimulation in terms of design and some greater level of competition as between the standards of the Queen's printer and those of the private printers. This is a minor aspect of the minister's department, but this is a problem that ranges through all the departments in their relations with the Queen's printer. It is not an organization of the government in which I at least, as a member looking at it, take a great deal of pride.
The hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard, who is well known for his interest in sports and who returned last winter with that lovely tan after his visit down to the Olympics in the Sun Valley area, was off on his kick about a Canadian advisory sports council or a Canadian sports council. I have spoken to this argument of his before, especially when his resolution had a day's debate. I admire the fervour with which he, the hon. member for York Centre, the hon. member for Calgary

South and the hon. member for Hamilton South, who is an ex-footballer, are pushing their efforts in this regard. I pointed out to the Minister of Labour yesterday how amusing was the story in the Toronto paper about the expressed feeling of this small volunteer group that the cabinet was not taking too seriously their suggestions about a sports council because of serious unemployment in Canada. The newspaper went on further to say that it is perhaps arguable that Canada will always have serious unemployment, and that this consideration should not be a deterrent to creating this council.
I was interested in this for the humour of it, and also because it indicated a certain amount of bravery. I think it is a fairly brave member of parliament who will rise in his place and express himself to the effect that even although there is serious unemployment, he thinks the government should go ahead with a project such as this. I suggest to the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard, who is pushing this matter, and also to the minister that we have a genuine cultural lag in Canada in our attitude toward sports. If the minister wants to go into the matter in a sociological way I could give him bibliographies on it, although I do not think it is a topic of extreme importance.
However, we have the attitude that now we have finally reached the stage-and the Canada Council is an example of it-where we are prepared to subsidize through our government agencies musical and artistic endeavours, but we are still some way from the point where we are prepared to subsidize sports or sporting endeavours through the government; and this is the situation despite the fact that the Canadian people in the main are much more interested in sports than they are in the group of seven or in classical music.
When the Canada Council estimates were before the committee the hon. member for York-Scarborough tried to make the argument that there was no reason at all why a barber shop quartet was not as justified in getting support from the Canada Council in order to take part in that particular phase of cultural activity as was the Toronto symphony orchestra or the Ottawa philharmonic orchestra. I would not necessarily agree with the hon. member for York-Scarborough, but I was bothered by the headline reaction to this, indicating what a silly proposal this was. I put it down to the fact that there is, if you want to call it that, an educated elite in Canada who have reached the stage that they feel that fine painting, symphonic music and cultural things of that level are wonderful and fine-and more power to them-and they have an agency now in the Canada Council.

But I should like to point out to them and to the minister and to the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard that our problem so far as sports are concerned is that the common denominator of the people are strongly for sports. Not only do they want their nation to be represented by good teams, but they want Canadians to have fine hockey teams at the Olympic games and they want us to express our national spirit by having a winner. Unfortunately the elite have not quite come to that point yet. What we really need is a Vincent Massey in the sports field. I do not know whether the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard or the hon. member for Calgary South are going to be able to rise to that particular challenge, but I hope they will continue the fight.
It is rather disturbing to national pride to know that in so many fields of both team sport and individual sport in track and field we make such a poor showing. I tend to blame our very success in certain professional aspects of sport for our refusal to support on a government basis those elements of our sport that cannot be put on a professional basis. Because we have viable football leagues and hockey leagues, such as the National hockey league and the two professional football leagues, I think we tend to feel that the judging one makes as to whether a sport is worth while is based on whether it can be put on a commercial basis. Every country in the world which has a sporting thrust within its population has discovered that you cannot compete as amateurs on an international basis with any kind of professional organization.
I think the British experience in the sport of football is a fine example of that fact. There is not any question but that England and Scotland have the best professional football leagues in terms of the number of teams, the public response and everything else, but just because of the very selfishness of the professional set-up they are not able to field an international team, and so the disgrace is very great in Britain about their showing there. We have tended to have much the same kind of reaction in the field of hockey. I think the hon. member's argument for a sports council is a good one. However, I think we must have a great deal more educating before we are going to achieve it. As I say, we need a Vincent Massey in the sports field.
The question of a national fitness program as put forward by the hon. member for Lambton-Kent had a great deal of force behind it. The bothersome thing there is the pitiful way in which the last effort in that field collapsed. The National Physical Fitness Act, when it was introduced in 1944,
Supply-Health and Welfare came in with a fanfare of trumpets. This was to be the answer to the disturbing physical situation that had been discovered in the enlistment or recruitment for Canada's armed forces. We were to have an answer. The answer was to be this voluntary council with one permanent director and approximately $225,000 each year to go out to the provincial agencies to support this effort.
It broke down. I think it broke down, first, just because there was not enough money for each team, and second, because of the difficulty of working out something in this regard within our constitutional framework.
I suggest to the minister that if he is going to subscribe to a national physical fitness program that is going to be a real contribution he must look carefully at the failure of the previous effort. As I see the situation and as I read the speeches made when the scheme was introduced, as well as when the whole matter was discarded, the failure was based upon an inability to get all these agencies working for physical fitness. It seems to me that if something is going to be set up it needs to be much more centralized and should have much larger funds at its disposal than the last national physical fitness council had, and I think the provisions of the act should be broader and should give the federal government a larger role than it played before.
In saying this it is in almost diametrical opposition to what the minister said in his rebuttal to the committee report. The main thing which seemed to concern the minister in his rebuttal was that the committee was urging federal encroachment into a field which was primarily a provincial one. So far as the sports aspect is concerned, I suggest that our interests there are not provincial or local but national. I would tend to think that the same situation has been reached with regard to fitness. We have a crisis of a kind in the fitness field, as the hon. member for Lambton-Kent exposed very well. If the federal government is going to play any role at all I cannot see it being a mere liaison organization; it has to have something of real power. Like most people, Canadians respect money as far as power is concerned. There is no use going into such a field unless the government is prepared to spend considerable money in setting up a really strong organization.
The last point I want to make to the minister deals with the situation of the blind people in my constituency, who are quite dissatisfied with the present provisions of the act which the minister's department administers. I am not going into details as to what they want,, because I think the minister is very much aware of that, but I can assure him that from
Supply-Health and Welfare my contact with the blind group in the lake-head area there is a unanimity of view on this matter which one rarely finds, to use a phrase, in pressure groups.
The hon. member for Simcoe East made a speech which I took to be an appeal to us to consider very carefully any moves to be made in the direction of medical schemes, and he generally extolled the worth of the medical profession and also pointed out the difficulty which the medical profession is having in recruiting people and developing its organization. Mr. Chairman, if I were a doctor I would be almost as concerned as I think politicians should be about the general low state of their reputation amongst the general public. As a matter of fact, I think those of us who are politicians are sometimes stunned on going around when we find how little we are appreciated; but recently I have heard more and more of the same kind of thing said about the medical profession. The picture is getting out into the land that they are money grabbers, graspers, people who will not make a call and who want only people who will come to their offices; that they want prompt payment of their bills, and so on. In other words the old charm and aura which hung over the medical profession have disappeared, and I think disappeared remarkably fast.
Because of this I think the public is perhaps much better prepared or much more prepared to want the kind of medical schemes which have been debated out in Saskatchewan and which are in existence in other parts of the world. As most hon. members know I support that type of scheme, and I am well aware that most of the doctors, certainly the ones of my acquaintance, feel at the moment that such a scheme is undesirable. I would suggest to those doctors that the only way they will save themselves from this kind of scheme is by doing something about the general reputation of the profession as a whole in the country.
I cannot put my finger on all the reasons why this should be. It was startling to me as a school teacher in contact with quite a number of students who want to go to university when I discovered how few of them were any longer interested in being doctors or dentists. I tried to find out why they were no longer interested in going into these fields. The standard answer-I do not know whether it is the right one-is not a question of money at all. It has nothing to do with the fact that more and more doctors are becoming employees. It is always the length and the cost of the training rather than any worry or concern about the kind of money they will

be making later. If this is one of the fundamental reasons why the profession is no longer recruiting, then it seems to me that the profession should be prepared to make some very strong recommendations to some agency somewhere which will be effective in righting this situation.
Mr. Chairman, I suggest that today the only way you can get young people to go into professions where further education is required beyond high school is to offer a very attractive set-up both in terms of scholarships and of-I was going to say easy courses, but I do not think it is that so much; the kind of course which is comparable in its length and toughness and difficulty with some of the other training carried out in universities.
This to me is the root problem of getting more people into the medical profession. As most hon. members know, the situation is much more serious in the dental profession than in the medical profession. We are getting to have a grave shortage of dentists, and most dentists are still very much more under a private enterprise set-up than are the doctors. I know the hon. member for Simcoe East is an employer of doctors, and as I understood an article I read recently, one third of the doctors in Canada are on salary rather than on an individual private enterprise basis.
This does not hold true as far as dentists are concerned. A very small percentage of dentists are employed; in the main they are self employed and in many ways comparable to lawyers and small business men. Yet it is a group which, as any one who looks at the income tax statistics can determine, is one of the higher income professional groups in Canada. Despite the fact that there is a good chance for individuality and working on their own as well as having a high income, the situation is not able to meet the challenge and in so many parts of Canada we are short of dentists.
The problems of recruitment in this field I think have to be part of the minister's concern, if not his responsibility; and if the professions themselves will not come up with answers, I think he has to try to find some of his own. All the medical schemes and dental schemes in the world, whether of the state or of the prepaid kind, are not going to be much good if we have not got the practitioners to work the schemes.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I hope I have said nothing which would hurt the minister's sensitivities as minister. I reiterate that I think every hon. member of the committee appreciates the friendly manner in which he carries out his duties.

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