July 22, 1960 (24th Parliament, 3rd Session)

CCF

William Arnold Peters (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Peters:

Perhaps they did. Over the years the Canadian Legion has made a broad presentation to the government in which they have requested quite a number of improvements in the act. They have done this conscientiously over the years. This year they did not make that presentation. They came before parliament, it is true, in relation to specific amendments that were made to the veterans act this year, but to the best of my knowledge they did not make their usual presentation.
I attended a number of veterans meetings in my own area, and it was generally conceded that unless something was done they were going to have to adopt other methods for obtaining these increases. If these increases were not justified, then an argument could be made against them. However, the veterans are not asking for increased pensions in order to improve their standard of living, they are asking for increased pensions in order to maintain the standard of living which was granted to them right after the war in terms of the cost of living of that day. I feel they are completely justified in coming to Ottawa and requesting that that standard of living be maintained. I feel that very little can be said against the maintenance of that standard of living. Frankly, I do not know what the promise would be worth, but I had expected the minister to say he would consider a complete review of the pension situation before the next session. This promise was not forthcoming.
I believe we are doing ourselves in Canada a disservice, and we are doing a disservice to the veterans across this country. As a result of the meetings of the veterans affairs committee I have attended in the last few years I would say that I consider the presentations made to that committee were reasonable and just. I believe we have an obligation to the Canadian people who believe that the promises made to the veterans on their behalf in 1945 are being carried out, and we should inform the Canadian people that they are not being carried out. The pensions were set at a certain level in 1945, but the cost of living has climbed tremendously since that time, wages have risen greatly, but the pensions, while they have increased a small amount, have not increased in proportion to these other things and therefore the standard of living of the veteran has fallen below the standard set in 1945.

I do not want to say any more about this. I do not believe you can get blood out of a stone, and it may be impossible to get money at this time from our treasury. It may be that we are in a position where we cannot afford to continue to maintain war veterans pensions. If we are, Mr. Chairman, then I think it is time we took a look at the situation and tried to raise other moneys to accomplish this purpose. I think it is stupid in the extreme to maintain armed services today, to maintain a defence structure in this country at a cost of billions of dollars, and at the same time not be able to pay a fair and reasonable pension to the veterans of this country. It is not proper to ask the people in the armed services now to serve under these circumstances. I feel we have an obligation to these people to at least ensure them a decent standard of living. Many of them are not able to maintain a proper standard of living on the pension they now receive.

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