March 4, 1914

LIB

Edward Mortimer Macdonald

Liberal

Mr. MACDONALD:

Yes, I thank my hon. friend for the word. A person who has nothing in the world cannot be the recipient of a pension, but is counted a pauper. I am obliged to my hon. friend from North Oxford (Mr. Nesbitt) for affording me the opportunity to accentuate that point. This income, which is a preliminary condition to a pension, may be received as the result of the earnings of work- for a person of sixty-five or over often engages in some employment less strenuous than that in which he engaged in his years of greater vigour-or in some other way. There are many cases in the country districts in England, as in Canada, where an old couple live together and may have some interest in a cottage or a cultivated piece of land. It is the duty of the commission which decides whether a person is entitled to a pension or not, to take into consideration the yearly value of the home or the land, as constituting part of the income which qualifies for a pension. There are other technical conditions which I need not go into in detail, but which are to be taken into consideration by the commissioners in considering the eligibility of the party to a pension and the amount of that pension. There are certain people who are not permitted to receive a pension regardless of other considerations. As I have shown, paupers are not included among those to whom the Act applies, and, in order to make this clear, it is provided that it does not apply to one who receives ' such other supplementary relief as would disqualify the recipient from being a voter ' under their 86

parliamentary law. Such a person is not entitled {o receive pension aid. A man who has failed habitually to work according to his ability, for his own maintenance or the maintenance of those dependent on him, is debarred,-one who has shown no sense of responsibility for those depending upon him, is not entitled to receive a pension. The same is true of lunatics, criminals and habitual drunkards-these classes are absolutely disqualified from becoming recipients of a pension. Now, that system has been in force in Great Britain for quite a number of years. Any one who has studied the question and who is familiar with its effects upon the life of the people in the old country, must have a sympathetic regard for the old age pension system. I have in mind a man whom I met, who came out from a mining district in England, who told me of his father seventy years of age, living with a daughter, and able to live in absolute comfort, having a cottage home to begin with and his old age pension. This old man felt, as a Britisher and a worker, that pride which can only come to one whose independence and comfort were assured notwithstanding that advancing years had made him less fit for the keen and strenuous battle of life. And the gratification of the son with this condition was an instance of the appreciation which is shown, not only in England, but by everyone who understands the system, of the wisdom and usefulness of that system. I think the conditions verify the statement of the Prime Minister of England, as a result of his study of the situation, as to the advantages that flow from the system.

Then, take Australia. I have here the 'Year Book of Australia,' which deals with this question of old age pensions in a summary and interesting way. It says:

The credit of introducing old age pensions into the southern hemisphere belongs not to the Commonwealth, but to her sister dependency, the Dominion of New Zealand, where pensions have been payable since 1st April, 1898. The first state of the Commonwealth to make provision for the payment of oid age pensions was Victoria, whose legislation on the subject came into operation on 18th January, 1901. Later in the same year, viz., on 1st August, 1901, the pension system of New South Wales came into force, while in the case of Queensland old age pensions became payable from 1st July, 1908. Finally, an Act providing for the payment of old age pensions throughout Australia was passed by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1908, pension payments thereunder commencing on 1st July, 1909. This Act superseded the State Acts in so far as provision for old age is concerned.

and I entirely agree with what he has said as to the benefit and advantage that come from the periodic discussion of this question in the House of Commons. It is one of those .questions which in time will arise and be dealt with; but at the present time, in my view, public opinion is not ripe for legislative action.

Old age pension legislation, is not an experiment; it has been proved of immense benefit in Great Britain and on the continent. That I think would be unchallenged in any of those countries. The question is no longer raised or raised widely as to the propriety of old age pensions for the aged and deserving poor of those countries.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   EBYISED EDITION
Permalink
LIB

Michael Clark

Liberal

Mr. MICHAEL CLARK:

I think the

minister will find that there are quite a number of economists in Great Britain today who contend, and with a considerable show of facts, that in the very short period which has elapsed since the so-called social legislation of Mr. Lloyd George, of which the system of old age pensions was the beginning, there has been not a large but a perceptible depreciation in the wages of the working classes, which they attribute to that class of legislation.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   EBYISED EDITION
Permalink
CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN:

In what way is it suggested that that has come about?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   EBYISED EDITION
Permalink
LIB

Michael Clark

Liberal

Mr. CLARK:

There is only so much commercial product of industry, and if you give it to the people in one way, it cannot be given to them in another. Industry can only supply so much to capital and so much to labour; if labour gets its share in old age pensions, there will be so much less in wages.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   EBYISED EDITION
Permalink
CON

John Hampden Burnham

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURNHAM:

But does the hon. gentleman realize that though the totality remains the same, it is the distribution we are talking about?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   EBYISED EDITION
Permalink
LIB

Michael Clark

Liberal

Mr. CLARK:

I realize that, and I am

obliged to my hon. friend for having confirmed my point.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   EBYISED EDITION
Permalink
CON

William Thomas White (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. WHITE:

I am obliged to the hon.

member for Red Deer for bringing to my attention what I had not known before- that some economists in Great Britain had urged with more or less force that the effect on old age pensions had been a diminution in wages. Personally, I should hardly expect that; and I think my hon. friend would find that in this as in all matters of political economy there would be exponents of the diametrically opposite view. I am quite sure there would be an equally large number of economists in England who would not

[Mr. W. T. White. 1

subscribe to the view to which he has referred. But the point I was making is that, so far as my information goes, an old age pension system is no longer questioned as being a proper subject for the action of the legislature. If I am wrong in that, I shall be glad to be corrected. I was going on to say, and it has been drawn to the attention of the House more than once, that the conditions in Great Britain and on the continent are essentially different from the conditions here. I shall not dilate upon that except to say that it has appeared to me that there is in Great Britain a very much larger proportion of those classes who are likely to require assistance in old age, and who consequently would form a substantial public opinion in favour of that system, than is to be found in this country. In Canada we have a population that is between fifty and sixty per cent agricultural. Some agriculturists of more or less prominence have appeared before the committee and expressed themselves, as I understand it, in favour of old age pensions. But so far as I can gather, and I have given the matter a good deal of consideration, it is not true, speaking generally of the agricultural population-and I do not desire to confine my arguments to them -that there is any large body of public opinion keenly desirous of the establishment of the old age pension system in Canada. There are, no doubt, men of humanitarian feeelings and kindly instincts who have brought to their attention the condition of the deserving poor ;n their municipalities who will say: Let us have a system of old age pensions for the Dominion. But this is very different from that active public opinion without which legislation cannot well proceed. I think that any legislation which is a marked departure in the way of social reform and involves the expenditure of large sums of money in a field not hitherto covered by the Dominion Government must necessarily be preceded by not only a friendly but a keenly interested public sentiment, a public sentiment that demands action.

I think the Australian situation also differs materially from ours. My hon. friend from Stormont (Mr. Alguire) has pointed out in what way we differ from New Zealand. So far as Australia is concerned,

I speak with comparatively little information, not having specially looked into this aspect of the matter; but I do not beliAve that Australia ha3 had the problems with which Canada has been confronted and is confronted to-day and to which I have

already referred. We are in the constructive stage in this country; and, while we have large revenues and shall continue to have large and increasing revenues, yet our expend'.ture for many years to come will be required, so far as I can see, upon those great national undertakings to which I adverted earlier in iny Temarks.

The question comes up also whether an old age pension system is necessary for Canada at this stage. I do not mean to say that there are not very many people in Canada to whom old age pensions would be a very great boon indeed. We may talk about our prosperity, and that, prosperity has been, over a course of years, most marked, but poverty you will always have with you in any country, though I believe in less measure in Canada than in any other country I know of. But poverty you will always have; and as stated by other speakers, with the increased wealth, unfortunately, you have an increase of poverty. Men have mastered very largely the production of wealth, but the problem to-day is the fair distribution of wealth. That is the most difficult problem before us at this time. But I think we may say, that notwithstanding any advance that may be made in the way of improved distribution of wealth, we shall have with us always-in our time, at all events- the rich and the poor, and the more wealth we have in the country the more poverty we are likely to have in the slum districts of great cities and other places. So, unquestionably it is only the truth to say that there are large bodies of people in Canada-a comparatively small proportion of our population, I should think, but making a large number in the aggregate, who would be very much in favour of a system of old age pensions, because under the conditions that prevail or are likely to prevail, there can be no assurance to these people that when they reach the age of sixty-five or seventy they shall not De confronted with poverty and left helpless and dependent either upon the municipality or upon private charity. It goes without saying that it would be a very desirable thing to meet that situation provided it were a proper subject for political action at this time. This resolution declares for the inauguration of a system of old age pensions at once. While it is true that many people in Canada would be advantaged by and are favourably disposed to an old age pension scheme, my observation is that the great majority have hardly given the matter a thought. I should not be surprised if to

seventy-five or eighty per cent of our people the subject of old age pensions is simply an academic question. That being so, my view is that any legislation at the present time-and I say nothing as to the future-such as this resolution has in contemplation, is premature and in advance of public opinion. Whether I am right or not, that is my view, and I know it is the view of many members of this House, because I have discussed the matter with them. While it is a tribute to the humanitarian instincts and kindly hearts of all the members of the House that theoretically they feel kindly disposed towards an old age pension scheme, they do not hesitate to say-at least many of them did not hesitate to say to me-that any such legislation now would be decidedly in advance of public opinion, and, consequently, unwarranted. We must not forget that the people of Canada are a kind-hearted people, and that there are not very many cases of extreme .suffering on the part of aged and deserving poor, provided they apply for relief. I am quite well aware that men who have led respectable lives and who, from no fault of their own, have become confronted with poverty in their old age, find it

humiliating to make application for relief, and that the principle involved in any old age pension scheme is to avoid that and to give such persons, as a right involved in their citizenship, an amount which will support them in reasonable comfort and render it unnecessary for them to humiliate themselves by being made the objects, of private or public charity. But it [DOT] is a fact that in Canada there are few cases of hardship to which relief is not immediately afforded either by private or public charity. In connection with the public opinion which, in my judgment, should precede legislation in a matter of this kind, I am given to understand-and the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Clark) would be, I think, an authority on that-* that providing for old age pensions in England was preceded not merely by years of academic discussions in the House, but by years of active agitation on the part of the public. It seems to me that it is very essential that we should take that into consideration.

The hon. member for Stormont (Mr. Alguire) has pointed out that similar conditions existed in New Zealand, where they have an old age pension system. As to what the charge upon the public treasury would be, I think that is a very difficult

matter to forecast. My predecessor some years ago dealt with this matter upon the basis upon which it was then discussed by some members of the House, namely, that the legislation should be of a universal character, and that every one, rich or poor, might take whatever the Government should contribute under old age pension legislation, so that there would be no invidious distinctions, and so that no one would be in any way humiliated by receiving a pension where his neighbour did not. In a debate in February, 1908, my predecessor, Mr. Fielding, said:

If I am correct in my estimate that there are 270,000 people above the age of 05 in Canada, and if it is right to admit at a rough calculation that about $150 per year is as low a pens'on as one would care to offer if we want to make a man comfortable at all in his declining years, we find that to apply that system generally to all persons above the age of 65 years would cost us. on the basis of the population of the last census, $40,000,000 per annum. As our total taxation only a few years ago was about $40,000,000 and as it is, roughly speaking, about sixty-five or sixty-eight millions, I suppose at the present time, it will be seen that the proposition from the financial point of view is a very grave and serious one.

The ex-Minister of Finance was dealing with the matter from a financial standpoint, but, as I have explained, his calculation was based on the assumption that every one over 65 years of age would receive this $150 a year. The total number of persons in Canada over 65 years of age, as disclosed by the last census returns, is 333,763. What proportion of them would make application for or become recipients of the bounty of the Government under an old age pension scheme, I am unable to estimate, but with all due respect to Professor Mavor and the actuaries who advised the committee, I do not believe that the amount is susceptible of anything like exact calculation; I think it would be necessary to make a more or less rough and ready estimate of it. Whether the amount would be seven, ten or fifteen millions, we can be assured that a very substantial sum indeed, and an increasing amount from year to year, would have to be provided from the revenues of the Dominion. Having regard to the programme that confronts this Government and will confront governments in Canada for many years to come, I can forecast that our expenditures upon public works of all character will be very large, probably sufficiently so not only to exhaust our revenue, but to compel us-and there could be no serious criticism of the wisdom of that-to borrow abroad, especially for a

part, if not the whole, of our capital. expenditure. Under these conditions, the financial side of the matter does become important. I am not putting that forward as the sole reason that the present is an inopportune time for taking action in this matter; I have advanced the argument in regard to public opinion, and the fact that in my view this kind of legislation is premature. But the financial side cannot be lost sight of, nor would it be lost sight of by that 75 or 80 per cent of the people who, as I say, are not keenly interested in the matter.

My remarks have been more or less discursive, because I have really not had an opportunity of going into the matter as fully as I should desire. But my view is that, having regard to all the considerations I have mentioned-the state of public opinion in the matter and the obligations that will devolve upon Canada to furnish money for the development of the country, its coasts, waterways, transportation routes and public buildings-having regard to all these considerations, and the fact that Canada can be differentiated without difficulty from other countries that have successfully adopted old age pension systems, I am of the view and the Government is of the view that the legislation contemplated by this resolution is premature and in advance of necessity and public opinion. In consequence, I beg leave to move the adjournement of the debate.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   EBYISED EDITION
Permalink

Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned.


TARIFF AMENDMENT.

CON

John Hampden Burnham

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURNHAM moved:

-That in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that manufactured goods ani natural products coming into Canada from any other country where the rate of wages of those employed in the making or raising of the same is below that prevailing in Canada, be subjected to a tariff duty sufficient to preserve the standard or rate of wages of those in Canada employed in making or producing like goods and products.

He said: In rising to move this resolution, I wish to say that in my humble opinion it involves one of the most im-iportant facts relating to Canadian national and industrial life. It does not, I fancy, come within rule 50 or rule 77. It is simply a reference to an opinion, and is therefore academic. It does not involve a charge upon the people, and therefore perhaps it is not necessary for it to come from the Government.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   TARIFF AMENDMENT.
Permalink
CON

Thomas Simpson Sproule (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. SPEAKER:

I would be inclined to *think that this resolution is out of order.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   TARIFF AMENDMENT.
Permalink
CON

John Hampden Burnham

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BURNHAM:

I looked carefully into that question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   TARIFF AMENDMENT.
Permalink
CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN:

It might stand while the Speaker considers it.

Motion stands.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS WATER SUPPLY.
Subtopic:   TARIFF AMENDMENT.
Permalink

OTTAWA WATER SUPPLY.


On the Orders of the Day being called:


CON

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BORDEN:

I would like to lay upon *the table of the House the correspondence with regard to the proposal made by the city of Ottawa in connection with its water supply, and the reply of the Government to the proposals of the city.

At six o'clock the House adjourned without question put, pursuant to rule.

Thursday, March 5, 1914.

Topic:   OTTAWA WATER SUPPLY.
Permalink

March 4, 1914