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


Jay Waldo Monteith (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Monteith (Perth):

That was what I thought. I was just a little concerned about one intimation the hon. member for Timmins gave. Perhaps I am wrong, but I gathered that he might possibly do away with all charitable organizations, all voluntary organizations.
The hon. member for Jasper-Edson spoke, and I should like to thank him for his kind words concerning the operation of the hospital plan. There certainly are wrinkles still to be ironed out; we do not deny this. As I pointed out when we were before the estimates committee, there are certain possibilities under the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act of which full advantage is not being taken. I was interested in his remarks concerning deterrent charges. I would just repeat one sentence from my opening remarks to this committee. It was to this effect: As to whether or not this type of co-insurance charge under a hospital insurance program has any deterrent effect, the department will be pleased to review the subject with the provinces concerned. This is just one of the aspects of the hospital insurance program which are being reviewed all the time.
The hon. member for Welland returned to his favorite topic. I would point out that actually there is a study being conducted in Ontario of fluoridation. I shall be interested in the report when it is forthcoming.
The hon. member for Lambton-Kent and the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard spoke at some length about physical fitness. I certainly will be glad to examine the remarks of the hon. member for Lambton-Kent in greater detail. I know he has given a great deal of study to this important problem, as has the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard.

Other hon. members, I believe, also mentioned the possibility of a Canada sports council. Incidentally I might say that I saw the pictures to which the hon. member for Lamb-ton-Kent referred at close range, and I think in some 30 years he has only varied in weight by something like one pound. I would not suggest that would apply to me.
The hon. member for Assiniboia suggested giving increases in practically everything, and again I gathered he was refighting the Saskatchewan election. I would suggest that we have lived up to our undertakings in the social welfare field.
There was a return requested by the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate, which I think is somewhat self-explanatory. The question was:
Has there been an Increase in social security payments between the fiscal years 1956-57 and 1958-59? If so, how much?
Then under No. 2 he asks:
How much of such increase is attributable to
(a) an increase in the number of recipients, and
(b) legislation enacted before June 21, 1957, and
(c) legislation enacted since June 21, 1957?
Under (c) I should like to point out that old age security has increased approximately $91 million as a result of legislation passed since June 21, 1957; old age assistance by $5,900,000; blindness allowances by $775,000; disability allowances by $4,900,000. Also under unemployment assistance the estimate in the return is approximately $250,000 monthly. Then, hospital insurance and general health grants, the amount paid as a result of legislation permitting the provinces to start their schemes on July 1, 1958 meant that there was an expenditure of $54,708,474 in 1958-59. Incidentally the change in the hospital construction grants resulted in an increase of $5 million. This is a small indication of the increases between 1956-57 and 1958-59 as a result of legislation passed following June 21, 1957.
The hon. member for York South had a very interesting suggestion that the department make grants toward housing for elderly people. I think possibly this would be better dealt with by the Department of Public Works because these loans are made through Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
The hon. member for Kootenay West certainly made quite a philosophical dissertation. I was very interested in some of his remarks concerning some of his personal problems and his ability to give very sound advice.
The hon. member for Calgary South, I think, rebutted the remarks made by the hon. member for Port Arthur who claimed that the hon. member had been making a rebuttal of my rebuttal. In other works, I think the hon.
Supply-Health and Welfare member for Calgary South was really making a rebuttal of the remarks of the hon. member for Port Arthur rather than of mine. I can only thank the hon. member for Calgary South for making the explanation he made and setting forth the simple fact that the department-myself as minister and the officials of the department-do not differ with the committee fundamentally in their findings but more in the way of approach in that we felt there were certain things which might appear to be interfering with what have always been considered to be provincial rights. We are always here, of course, to give advice and financial assistance in many areas. I should like to repeat what I said in my opening remarks, namely that we will keep a continuous review under way of our informational division.
Many hon. members have mentioned the problem of the blind and the disabled. These are under constant consideration. Last October, I think it was, we had a meeting with provincial ministers of welfare with a view to bringing up to date the regulations concerning these various assistance acts. These changes in regulation have been made through the justice department and have been agreed to by the provinces at this stage.
The hon. member for Quebec West mentioned several problems. I should like to thank him for his remarks concerning the World Health Organization and its extremely important work. He might be interested to know that the membership has now risen to 101 countries.
The hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam speaks, as always, after having given considerable thought to matters. I should like to thank him for his remarks concerning myself and the members of my department. He recommended the consolidation of all of our assistance acts. I recognize the problems in this particular matter and certainly will view his remarks with interest.
I would point out that, as he mentioned, the federal government has definitely offered to share the costs of constructing chronic hospitals on a per bed basis, the same as with any other hospital and also in the hospitalization of the chronically ill. All that would be needed to have the province of British Columbia have us share in this particular, namely in the hospitalization of the chronically ill, would be simply a request to amend the schedule of hospitals which would benefit from the act.
One item on which the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam requested information was the exchange of research information with countries behind the iron curtain. Last March we had two representatives from
Supply-Health and Welfare Canada in Russia in order to view the use of live polio vaccine in that country. That is one instance.
The hon. member for Saskatoon was interested in poison control or labelling. I should like to mention something about the poison control program in Canada. This program is established for the emergency treatment of children and others accidentally poisoned with household products including medicines. The food and drug director of my department has collected information about the potentially dangerous constituents of substances such as cleaners, soaps, fuels, paints, waxes and polishes often found in the home. This information and the composition of household medicines has been tabulated on cards. Incidentally, information on the methods for treating poisoning from the products listed was also put on cards. In 1957 sets of these cards were sent to provincial deputy ministers of health who selected the hospitals where poison control centres were established in the provinces. These centres used the information supplied by the department and have facilities and staff present at all times for the treatment of poison cases.
I should like to mention one or two statistics in order to point up what, in my estimation, is the root of this trouble. Having raised three children, at least to varying degrees of maturity, I know the problem involved. Up to April, 1960, 8,826 accidental poisonings have been reported, of which 56 per cent were due to medicines and 44 per cent were due to household chemicals. Almost all of these poisonings were of children under four years of age. I would point out that there are actually more than 170 poison control centres in Canada at the moment. I cannot help feeling that one of the gravest problems is simply ordinary care in keeping dangerous medicines and chemicals out of reach, in view of the fact that almost all of these 8,826 poisonings were of children under four years of age.
The hon. member for Middlesex East was worried about the reported increase of 10 per cent in hospital insurance premiums. I would point out that this is a provincial problem in that they decide how to collect their share of hospital expenses or operational costs. Whether it is done by current revenue -general taxes or sales taxes-or a general hospital tax or by premiums, the matter is up to the province. I must not leave the impression that we are not concerned with the increase in hospital costs. We are concerned, but these costs have been going up over the years.
I think the hon. member for Simcoe East gave a fairly direct answer in this respect.

I think it lies in the simple fact mentioned by the hon. member, namely that in 1920 there were no pediatric wings in Canada. Today's modern pediatric wings in many hospitals-possibly in practically all of them- indicate the great progress we have made. We cannot do this without some increased costs. Statistics indicate that the cost of operating hospitals had actually been increasing at something of the rate of ten per cent a year before hospital insurance came into effect.
The hon. member for Burin-Burgeo thanked the department for its assistance in the St. Lawrence mine radiation problem and I would like to acknowledge that appreciation. He is also concerned with the disability pension and the mental health problem, and he mentioned the education of mental children. I would like to point out that the William Anderson school for retarded children in Galt is the first new experimental school in this particular category, and I understand that as of this morning it has been indicated that property has been purchased for the extension of this project so that it will include students over 18. This is being done incidentally by private endeavour and the Kinsmen's club of Galt.
The hon. member for Timiskaming mentioned the portable pensions in which I said I have great interest. The matter of the members' pension I think is one for finance, not one which comes within the sphere of my department.
Mr. Chairman, undoubtedly I have not answered all of the questions of hon. members who have spoken, but I do feel that most of them spoke with the thought in mind of assisting the department and offering suggestions. We heartily accept these suggestions and will study them very closely. Again I would like to thank the committee and hon. members for the helpful suggestions which have been made.

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