Mr. WILLIAM IRVINE (East Calgary):
I wish to express my personal disapproval of the report of the committee and to give briefly my reasons for disapproving. I think this committee has been working on a wrong line. It has been endeavouring to arrive at some scheme of old age pensions that would embrace the voluntary co-operation of the provinces. We have been instructed by the Justice department that we cannot constitutionally pass legislation that would be obligatory on the provinces. Still the committee persists in its course. I presume that if all the provinces of Canada voluntarily accepted the committee's proposal we might possibly obtain an old age pension scheme along the line of the committee's report, but I do not think that any member of this House will anticipate that all the provinces of Canada will agree to such a scheme anywhere this side of the next thousand years. I do not think there is the slightest possibility of getting an old age pension scheme along the lines of the proposal of the committee. I do not say of
Old Age Pensions
course that the committee has not been perfectly sincere in its quest and in its recommendations, but if hon. members will go over the replies which have come to us from the premiers of the various provinces it will be found that nearly all consider old age pensions entirely a federal matter and will have nothing to do with it. The provincial governments point out the injustice which would come to the provinces which would not come into the scheme, and consequently, if we are to pay any attention at all to the advice of the provinces, we will abandon the scheme suggested by the committee, and proceed at once with a scheme which would be entirely federal, leaving the responsibility on the federal government. We have been told by the chairman of the committee (Mr. Raymond), that the committee does not consider that Canada can stand the financial pressure involved in raising the moneys required to carry out this old age pension scheme; the committee, however, think it could be done if the provinces came in. It is surely clear that it would take the same amount of money whether the provinces came in or not, and the taxpayers of Canada are not so foolish as to imagine they pay any less if they pay part of it through the imunicipalities, part of it through the provincial government and part of it through the federal government. They know perfectly well that if they pay so much in taxes, they pay the same amount no matter how often you divide it. On the other hand to say that we cannot afford it is a confession which I, as a member of this House, do not wish to concur in. I believe we can afford it; but if it be so that we cannot afford it, let us frankly say so and not continue making a pretence that we are on the way to obtaining old age pension legislation by referring the whole question to a conference.
I think the report of the committee recommends that at a meeting to be held this summer; when the provincial premiers are in conference with the federal government in respect to constitutional! amendments, this matter is to be brought up.. And a report is to be given ait the next session of parliament. I do not think instructions given by this session of parliament will be considered binding by another session of parliament. Further, the conference that will be held this summer will have all they can deal with without attempting to deal with this matter at all. If they deal with it, it will be in a very cursory fashion which will not be satisfactory. Without discussing this matter further I beg to move:
That this report be referred back to the committee with instructions to consider and report on a purely federal scheme.