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


Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

There is one point I wish to correct. The hon. member mentioned the basis on which pensions are granted and he referred to my statement that the Legion brief did not make what I considered to be a correct comparison. I have no quarrel with the brief. As a matter of fact, I have worked with the Legion as long as anyone in this house. There was a comparison made between the pension of a single veteran and a married common labourer. I said the comparison should have been between a married veteran and the common labourer because 96 per cent of our veterans are married men.
In comparing the single veteran with the married common labourer, the single veteran's pension was put at $1,800 while the common labourer received $3,000. As a matter of fact, since 96 per cent of the veterans are married they should have said that the veteran would receive $1,800 full pension, plus $600 for his wife, which would be $2,400. As I pointed out the average veteran's family consists of about three children. As a matter of fact, I believe our records show it is nearer four, but we will take three. The first child receives $20 a month, the second $15 and the third $12. This brings the amount which a full pensioner would receive up to around $3,000 which would be in the vicinity of what the Legion says a common labourer receives.
I should like to emphasize that I am not using this as an argument for no increase in pension because that has never been my argument. These veterans have other advantages. The widow of a veteran receives a pension, if his disability was over 50 per cent, $115 a month, while the widow of the common labourer receives nothing. Then
Supply-Veterans Affairs if the veteran leaves children the allowance the children receive is doubled and instead of $20 for the first child, the first child receives $40; the second $30 and the third $24. Of course, if the common labourer dies, as I say, his wife does not receive any pension and his children only receive the family allowance. Of course, the pensioner also receives the family allowance for his children. These are just some of the other benefits which the pensioner has.
If he is a blind pensioner or a helpless pensioner, he receives what is known as the helplessness allowance. This allowance for a completely helpless veteran is $1,800 a year over and above his pension. That is the maximum. It ranges from $600 a year up to $1,800 a year. Then again if the pensioner has not an additional amount, if he has a small pension and is unable to work, he becomes eligible for the war veterans allowance. If he is a married man, he will receive $145 a month. This is something, of course, to which the common labourer cannot look forward and to which he has no reason or right to look forward.
Then there is the matter of hospitalization. If a war veterans allowance recipient even in a small amount is hospitalized, all his hospital bills will be paid. In the matter of the civil service, the pensioner has the first preference in every civil service job. I might say that my department and, I believe, most of the departments of government are filled with pensioners who have, besides their pension, the civil service jobs which no labourer has any right or reason to expect.
There is special insurance for a man who would not receive insurance otherwise. Besides all that, and to the great credit of our veterans be it said, when they came back to this country, whether they were disabled or not, I would say that 90 per cent of them at once sought jobs and obtained them. Besides their pensions they have their other occupations.
Those are the simple facts which I have stated and which I think are correct. May I repeat that I did not use them here this afternoon, nor have I ever done so, as an argument against increasing pensions.
I have been in the House of Commons for 25 years. I have been on every veterans affairs committee that we have had in the House of Commons during that time. As my friend the hon. member for Kootenay West will know, I was chairman of the opposition committee and we worked with the government and with the other members of the committee for the increasing of pensions. Pensions are not increased every year. I should just like to point out to my hon.

Supply-Veterans Affairs friend the starting point of increases in veterans pensions. He may not altogether agree with it but the parliament of Canada in its wisdom carried it through in this manner.
In 1920 the pension of a single veteran was $900 and that for a married veteran, $1,200. There was no increase in the pension from 1920 until 1947, a period of 27 years. Our pensions were increased in 1957, just three years ago. For 27 years there was no increase in pensions, from 1920 to 1927. In 1947 there was an increase from $1,200 to $1,500. It was five years before there was another increase. Between 1951 and 1957 there was no increase. From 1920 to 1957, a period of 37 years, there were only three increases in pensions in this country.
I mentioned to the Legion that I plan to review the legislation. I do not make any particular argument here in this connection. As a matter of fact, I planned to review the whole veterans charter. That was one of the pieces work that was outlined for the committee, namely to review the veterans charter, to take first those legislative acts which most needed review and we did that. We took the childrens allowance act because, as I have said, children do not wait; they grow older. We wanted to make sure that those children were not going to miss the education to which they were entitled. Veterans insurance ran out in 1957. We wanted to see to it that no veteran lost his chance of getting further insurance, with the result that between 4,000 and 5,000 veterans now have insurance who otherwise would not have it. It represents some $16 million of insurance.
As to the Veterans Land Act, we were obliged to make it conform with the farm credit act. It was necessary for us to do that action. I said that I planned to review the Pension Act as soon as possible. I plan to do that. We plan to review the War Veterans Allowance Act. We cannot do all these things at once, and we never intended to do them all at once. It would not have been possible for the committee to do that. However, we took first the acts which we considered needed priority attention.
I do not think there is anything further I need to say in that connection. I am simply pointing out to hon. members that these matters have not been overlooked.

Topic:   I960
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