May 1, 1925

LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

These questions were

asked and answered on March 2, 1925:

1. Has the government communicated with the provincial governments in connection with the old age pension scheme, which was recommended to the House in a report brought down July 1, 1924?

The answer given was: Yes. The second question was:

2. If so, what was the result of these communications?

The answer given was:

2. British Columbia. A resolution was adopted by the legislature approving of the principle of old age pensions and advising the enactment of legislation by the Dominion government to bring the same into effect; the government of British Columbia also expressed the opinion that the matter of old age pensions was one entirely in the sphere of the federal parliament.

Alberta. Consideration promised.

Saskatchewan. The reply of the provincial government spoke of the difficulty of adopting any suitable

scheme of old age pensions by provincial enactment alone, and referred to the differences in climate between the variqjis provinces as rendering a joint scheme between the Dominion and the provinces difficult of attainment. The opinion of the provincial government was that an old age pension scheme for Canada could best be adopted by the federal authorities alone. Manitoba. Promised consideration.

Ontario. Promised consideration.

Nova Scotia. Promised consideration.

Quebec. The provincial government intimated in its reply its inability to comply with the proposals of the Old Age Pensions committee.

New Brunswick. No reply has been received as yet.

The third question was:

If not, has the government decided to do anything during the present session as suggested by the report?

The answer given was:

The matter is under consideration.

Now the proposal is to submit this question to a special committee, having regard to the attitude of the provincial governments as it is before us, for further consideration and report to the House.

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CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I hope the minister will not misunderstand me. I am not for one moment seeking to raise this matter for the purpose of questioning the desirability of the resolution. I am asking this question because of my intense interest in the subject-

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LIB
CON

Henry Herbert Stevens

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. STEVENS:

I am asking a question.

In view of the fact that these answers reveal -what shall I say?-an intention on the part of some provinces, at least, not to do anything at all which would make it possible for provinces who were willing, to act, and in view of the fact that some of the provinces State that this is the duty of the federal government, indicating, therefore, their lack of inclination to co-operate, would it not be better for the federal government to take full responsibility in the matter and to bring in the legislation this session?

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

That, I think, would

be a proper question to determine after a special committee had considered the question again in the light of changed conditions. Last year a special committee indicated-and its report was adopted by this House-that the question was one to be dealt with jointly between the Dominion and the provincial governments. Now, it would seem proper to ask a special committee and, I would hope, the same special committee, to deal with the situation having regard to the changed circumstances.

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. ARTHUR MEIGHEN (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, the special

committee business, in my judgment, has

Old Age Pensions

been overdone in this parliament many times over. We have special committees sitting on this, that and the other thing all the time. The standing committees are also sitting, with the consequence that it is very hard to get attendance in parliament. Parliament is getting a reputation throughout the country for non-attention to its duties, when, as a matter of fact, hon. members are spending, and I fear, in many cases for which they are not responsible, wasting time on special committees. This is a case where it is very difficult to see what the purpose of a special committee can be. If a special committee has any function, it would be to conduct certain inquiries, to get information, to ascertain facts, so as to enable a recommendation to be made as to policy. What inquiries are to be conducted here? What information is to be secured? What facts are unknown? I know of none. According to the minister's statement, at all events, they are all known. What is to be referred to to the committee is this: Certain letters indicating the attitude of the provincial governments. Those are in the possession of the government. The old report of last session is to be referred. That is also in the possession of the government. In a word, to enable the government to determine its course, everything is before it. But the government says: Instead of our determining our course, we shall just have a special committee come and think this thing out and take it off our shoulders. It will not be off the shoulders of the government at all ultimately, and all that a committee can do is to delay the matter. The committee can succeed in delaying progress but what else they can succeed in doing passes my comprehension. Here is the attitude of the British Columbia government, here is the attitude of the governments of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick; here is the fact that some other government has no attitude at all: all that will go before the special committee. And what will the special committee do? One member may think one thing and some other member may think another thing, but there is nothing to find out ; there is no fact undisclosed, or at least there is not suggested to be any. In a word, the government after it has the report will be just where it is to-day.

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

Does the hon. member

realize that there are only three provinces that have stated their position in the matter?

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CON

Arthur Meighen (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MEIGHEN:

Well now, that is more

interesting still. The committee will have

the findings of three provinces, and I presume having that information they will say-well, really, one does not know what on earth the committee could say. Two of these provinces declare it is federal business while one says otherwise, apparently. Where will the committee be at all? I presume that after the committee submits its report, if it can ever frame a report to mean anything, then the matter will stand until next session and we shall have a couple more provinces declaring themselves, in consequence of which another committee will be appointed; and so on until all the provinces have indicated their views. Now, is it not Sheer humbug? For the life of me I do not see what else it is. And besides, it is occupying the time of hon. members of this House to absolutely no purpose when already we are so surfeited with committees that we can scarcely get an attendance in the House.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister):

I am afraid I cannot agree with my right hon. friend (Mr. Meighen) in the view he takes. If there was any advantage at all in having a committee of the House originally to deal with the matter, surely there is an advantage in continuing the same committee when it is now possible to obtain the information which it was found impossible to get at the time the committee made the previous inquiry. As hon. members of the House know, this matter of old age pensions has up to the present been considered one in which the provinces as well as the federal government are interested. It is all important that before any action is taken by the federal administration we should understand very fully and finally the attitude that the several provinces will take on this particular question. As the Minister of Labour (Mr. Murdock) has mentioned, some of the provinces have not given any adequate expression of their view, or any expression at all. I should imagine that the committee would now feel that they would desire to have appear before them some official representative of each of these particular provinces who will be in a position to state the view which that province takes on these matters, and also that it would be an advantage to the committee possibly to bring representatives of all the provinces if need be.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

My right hon.

friend suggests that the committee could enforce the views of a province through the machinery of the committee. Under what power could that be done?

Old Age Pensions

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

My hon.

friend, has the idea of force in mind. The whole purpose of the committee however is rather to adopt the opposite method of " sweet reasonableness " instead of attempting to get the information by force. It is not to be assumed that the provinces have not replied because of some desire to ignore the importance of the question, or that those that have replied in the way they have done may not be very glad to reconsider the position they have taken if they get further light as to the attitude of other provinces. The

matter is one in regard to which much better headway could be made by means of conference and joint discussions than by correspondence between the different governments. All hon. members who have had any experience in the matter of correspondence between different departments of the federal government and the provincial governments are aware that such negotiations are apt to be of a most formal and limited character. The government is really desirous of getting if possible co-operation between the federal and the provincial authorities, believing that the matter is one which, if .it is to be worked out satisfactorily, will demand such joint effort. And it has been with that end iD view that the Minister of Labour has felt, with the information he can now place at the disposal of the committee, that he would like to have the same committee re-convene and discuss the subject in the light of this wider information. I think it is entirely in the interests of the subject to which the resolution relates that this course should be adopted.

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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. WILLIAM IRVINE (East Calgary):

I am very much disappointed with the procedure which the government intends to follow in respect of old age pensions. I had looked forward to seeing this question settled in some way at this session. Last year the committee appointed to deal with the matter went into the consideration of old age pensions fairly thoroughly, securing all the information that was available, and the recommendation that the provinces be consulted was not of first importance. The recommendation of the committee last year was that legislation providing for old age pensions was desirable; the suggestion that the provinces should be consulted and that some measure of responsibility should rest upon them in the matter of old age pension legislation appeared to me at that time as perhaps only a way of retarding developments. And subsequent events have proved that. I do 175i

not know what the intention of the government really is in regard to this legislation, but if the intention is to shelve the question for another year this is the best way I could conceive of doing it; and at the same time it would enable the government to report progress to the public outside. But indeed there will be no progress, and the report, u there is one, will be all that we shall have. As the leader of the opposition (Mr. Meighen) has clearly pointed out, the only thing that this committee can do under the resolution is to read over what the Minister of Labour has just read, to the effect that some pn>

vincial governments are not considering the matter at all, believing that it is entirely one for federal action, while others are prepared to consider it further. When we have gone over that information the only thing that can be done will be to re-recommend what was recommended last year.

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

I think my hon. friend was on the special committee last year. Did the committee not decide that if an old age pension scheme was to be adopted it should be under a joint arrangement with the provinces?

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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

I have just mentioned that this was part of the recommendation of the committee. But surely the Minister of Labour does not conclude from that that since some of the provinces are not prepared to follow that suggestion Canada should forever be without am old age pension scheme. We might go on making inquiries of this kind for the next fifty years and still find some of the provinces unwilling to take action. Apparently therefore it would be the duty of the federal government to make some move now since the responsibility is ultimately a federal one. My purpose in rising is to urge the federal government to take that responsibility now. If this resolution were to instruct the committee to draft the necessary bill, I could understand how some progress mishit be made; I presume, however, that that would be the prerogative of the government itself. I would suggest that instead of ithe government letting this matter go to the committee for another few weeks of fruitless consideration, it should bring in legislation as soon as possible providing for old age pensions. If this matter goes to a committee now, and is considered for two or three weeks or more, no matter what the composition of that committee is and no matter how favourable a report it might make, it is not likely that we will have any legislation this session.

Old Age Pensions

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

If the federal government did what my hon. friend suggests, would that not be acting contrary to the report of the special committee appointed last year as adopted by this House?

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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

I do not think so, Mr. Speaker. The committee merely recommended this interprovincial inquiry as part of their suggestion to the government. The committee felt, I think, or if it did not it turely ought to have felt, that some of the provincial governments might not entertain the idea.

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

If that is his view my hon. friend should read the report of his own committee last year.

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LAB

William Irvine

Labour

Mr. IRVINE:

I have read the report,

Mr. Speaker, I had something to do with the discussion which took place on it, and I think I am familiar with it. I am not speaking for the minds of the individual members of that committee, but surely when that committee suggested that there should be cooperation between the provinces and the Dominion in the drafting of this legislation and joint responsibility for carrying it out, that committee did not conclude that if one or two or more of the provinces refused to take any action there would 'be no old age pension legislation. If the committee had entertained that opinion, I think it would have voiced it, and I do not think that the Minister of Labour or anybody else had a right to assume that that was the committee's view.

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CON

Henry Lumley Drayton

Conservative (1867-1942)

Sir HENRY DRAYTON:

Mr. Speaker, the answer my right hon. friend the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) gave me is quite correct, and I only put the question in view of the previous statement made by him, which was to the effect that this committee could bring before it the officials of those provinces that as yet had not declared their position. My right hon. friend's explanation of course shows that that could not foe done. This being so, the first part of his reasoning fails. But he gives another reason, which may be entirely correct, that this matter is to be approached in a spirit of "sweet reasonableness." I suppose that is the only way it can be approached. There is no question in the world that when the Dominion government goes to the provincial governments seeking to get

4 p.m. them interested in some joint venture, the best way to obtain results is by the exercise of the spirit of "sweet reasonableness," and I entirely agree with my right hon. friend that if he is to accomplish

anything it must be by the exercise of this spirit. But that provokes a very interesting question, Mr. Speaker,-whether the government is bereft of this spirit of "sweet reasonableness." Is it quite sure that the provincial governments would be more likely to co-operate when so approached by the Dominion government than if they were met in that same spirit of "sweet reasonableness" by a special committee? I do not like the suggestion that the government is bereft of that spirit of "sweet reasonableness," that it is absolutely necessary to erect a committee at this stage of the session for the purpose of functioning in that spirit which the government lacks. Now, how much better it would be if we could just have a little bit of frankness one with the other. We all know that if this report is referred to a special committee the chances are very, very slim that anything can be done with it this session. What objection is there to the government in this particular case announcing its policy, and submitting that policy to the committee, with instructions to lick it into shape? Then something might be done. Of course, in that case it would not be possible for the government to play both sides against the middle; they would have to say something, and they would have to stand upon it. But, after all, is not this question really serious enough, vital enough and human enough to be dealt with one way or the other and not played with? There is just another thing I would point out. I think we have a special committee on which labour is specially represented in one of the standing committees now provided for by the Minister of Labour.

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LIB

James Murdock (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. MURDOCK:

The committee on International and Industrial Relations.

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May 1, 1925