March 3, 1927

CON

John Wesley Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS (Frontenac):

Will the minister please explain just how it is going to cost $60,000,000 if the Dominion bears the whole expense?

Topic:   QUESTIONS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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LIB

Peter Heenan (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. HEENAN:

I do not think the hon.

member understood what I said. The suggestions were to make it a purely federal bill, to reduce the age from seventy to sixty-five, and to give the pensioners a dollar a day or $365 a year, instead of $240. I said that if those suggestions were acepted by the government the bill would entail an expenditure of between $60,000,000 and $70,000,000 roughly calculated. I would ask the Llouse to accept this measure, get it on the statute book, and then we can amend it as we see fit, in the light of our experience.

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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CON

John Wesley Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS (Frontenac):

Has the minister made any calculation as to how much it will cost the provinces if this measure goes through? He states that $12,000,000 would be the approximate cost to the Dominion treasury. How much would it cost the provinces?

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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LIB
CON

John Wesley Edwards

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. EDWARDS (Frontenac):

Hardly the

same amount, because section 3 speaks of fifty per cent of the net cost. Who is providing the machinery? If it-only costs the Dominion half of the net cost to the provinces, then manifestly it will cost the provinces much more than it will cost the Dominion.

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LIB

Peter Heenan (Minister of Labour)

Liberal

Mr. HEENAN:

We have taken that into

consideration, and almost every province in the Dominion has some kind of social service work, such as workmen's compensation board, or mothers' allowance board, and this measure can be readily administered through those

Old Age Pensions

boards without any extra cost-probably the cost of one or two clerks. A bill has been introduced1 in the legislature of British Columbia which will give power to the Workmen's Compensation Board to administer the Old Age Pension Act, and it will not cost them anything additional.

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CON

William Gordon Ernst

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ERNST:

What I have to say perhaps would more properly come under the next section of the bill, but I will make my statement now, in view of the remarks of the minister. The reason he has given to the House for not going into a detailed consideration of the clauses of the bill is that it was before the electors at the last election. Doubtless most of us in this House are well aware that it was before the electors, but I believe in some quarters, amongst those who supported the bill last year, there has been a change of heart or a change of opinion. For instance, we have in Nova Scotia the Halifax Chronicle, the chief Liberal organ of the province. During the federal election the Halifax Chronicle extolled the old age pension bill as presented to parliament during last session, but I hold in my hand an editorial which appeared in the Halifax Chronicle, February 18, of this year, which reads as follows:

While strongly favoring old age pensions, the Chronicle believes, for reasons set forth in previous articles, that the federal government would do well, in dealing with the old age pensions bill, to arrange itself to make the necessary provision for the payment of the pensions. Having in its possession the principal sources of revenue in Canada and having initiated the old age pensions scheme, it would seem to be the duty and privilege of the Dominion government to provide ways and means for carrying that worthy measure into effect.

Most of the provinces are short of revenue. In fact, it may be impossible for some of them to respond to the terms of the present bill. Nova Scotia with a deficit of more than one million dollars might find it difficult to assume additional burdens. In this circumstance, then, it would seem only fair that in promoting the purpose of the measure, the federal government should also see to it that it provides the necessary money to carry on the work. It is submitted that if any province had passed such a bill, contingent upon the federal government providing half the funds, it would probably be considered inappropriate and ineffective if not offensive. The present bill of the federal government is in much the same category.

I draw that to the attention of the House, Mr. Chairman, in view of the remarks of the minister that the bill was before the electors at the last election.

I endorse the statements made by the member for Cumberland (Mr. Smith) when he spoke on the measure in committee two weeks ago. As far as Nova Scotia is concerned, it would not come into effect for many years. As the minister knows, this year the province has

a deficit of 1855,000. It is in the unhappy position of having had a great many of its young men emigrate, and there is probably a larger proportion of old people in Nova Scotia than in any other province. Taking what I believe to be a typical district in my own constituency, I reckon that one person in forty would come under the provisions of this bill. True, the majority of them have property, but they would be eligible for pensions. On that basis it would cost the province approximately $1,500,000 a year as its proportion of the pension fund. With the deficit of $800,000 facing it now, it would be impossible for Nova Scotia to put the measure into effect. I think the same applies to several of the other provinces.

I believe in the principle of old age pensions, but I do not believe in the present bill. It is nothing more than a political gesture and will never give pensions to our old people.

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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LAB

Herbert Bealey Adshead

Labour

Mr. ADSHEAD:

What do you do now

with your old people, let them starve?

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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CON

William Gordon Ernst

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ERNST:

We have poorhouses maintained by the municipalities. It has been pointed out that the bill would enable the municipalities to do away with their poor-houses, but I believe this to be a fallacy, because many of the inmates are under seventy years of age and feeble-minded. In neither case .would the bill provide for those people.

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CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

Mr. Chairman, last session when a similar bill was before the House I spoke strongly in favour of its principle. I am still in favour of the principle of old age pensions, but in this proposed legislation I see many manifest injustices to the provinces. On the introduction of the resolution preceding the bill the minister was questioned as to how many of the provinces had agreed to the principle. I think he said one. So only one of the nine provinces has agreed to cooperate in this legislation. In Ontario we have somewhat similar legislation in the Mothers' Pensions Act; and it has worked very satisfactorily. That work has been undertaken, entirely by the province, and if it is deemed necessary to look after our people who are over seventy years of age, I believe Ontario will be equally willing and able to take care of them. In my own riding the position is pretty much the same as that described by the hon. member who has just sat down (Mr. Ernst). We have a home which is well sustained and very satisfactorily carried on to take care of old indigent people, and I do not think that the majority of my constituents would be in favour of this legislation.

Old Age Pensions

In my view the bill is unworkable in some particulars. For instance, under section 10 if a pensioner moves from one province to another the province from which he is receiving his pension is entitled to recover from the other province a proportionate amount of that pension. But how is it possible to recover if the other province has taken no steps to put this proposed legislation into effect? Section 11 is also objectionable.

I repeat, Mr. Chairman, I am in favour of the principle of old age pensions, but I believe the Dominion government should bear the total cost. We have had several instances along this line. It will be remembered that the Dominion government provided $20,000000 to assist the provinces to build good roads, but I think if the expenditure were scrutinized it would be found that an undue proportion of it represented administration costs. The same is true, I believe, in regard to technichal education. We have made a federal grant of $1,000,000 a year-

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LIB
CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

-and probably up to the present time only one of the provinces has taken advantage of that grant, but the act has to be administered and the cost of administration is entirely disproportionate to the amount of the grant. I think the same condition would apply in this case. I believe every member in this House is in favour of the principle of the bill, whether he sits on *he right or the left of the Speaker; but we differ as to the manner in which it should be applied. Speaking for myself, I am entirely in favour of the Dominion either assuming the whole liability or leaving the matter alone.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Mr. Chairman, both last

session and this I have listened to a discussion of the "principle" of this bill. It seems to me to be a bill without principle. The bill is a sorry political gesture, made for the purpose of creating confusion in the minds of those who would be entitled to pensions, those who are promoting the bill knowing full well that under existing conditions it is utterly impossible to carry the proposed legislation into effect throughout the Dominion. There is very strong ground why the government should take into consideration the necessities of those who are unable by reason of age to earn an ordinary living. But the same principle that applies to those who would be entitled to pensions by reason of old age applies to those who by reason of any physical or mental infirmity are deprived of the capacity of earning a living and have no private revenue for their support. During my last election contest in the city of Montreal it was not the question of old age pensions that

caused me difficulty; it was certain promises made by the Prime Minister of this country (Mr. Mackenzie King) to a delegation, partly from my constituency, to the effect that all those who suffer from blindness would this year receive by federal measure relief on the scale suggested in this bill for old age pensions. In fact, so confident are some of those people who were led to vote for my opponent on that occasion, by reason of the promises made by the Prime Minister to that delegation, that I hold in my hand a letter dated February 10 of this year written by Philip E. Layton, president of the Canadian Federation of the Blind, in which he asks me, confident in his belief that this remedial measure will be introduced at this session, to give my support in its favour when the bill comes before the House.

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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LIB

John Campbell Elliott (Minister of Public Works)

Liberal

Mr. ELLIOTT:

Does Mr. Layton in that

correspondence suggest that the Prime Minister made the promise which the hon. gentleman has mentioned?

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

Let me read the letter:

Mr. C. II. Cahan,

Parliament Buildings,

Ottawa, Ontario.

Dear Sir:

Premier Mackenzie King on June 22, 1926,

Note the date.

-received at Ottawa a delegation of 100 blind persons from all over the Dominion, who presented to him a petition asking that pensions be given by the government to the blind. . . . Premier King on receiving the petition kindly stated that he would be pleased to sponsor a bill for state aid for the blind at the next session of parliament. I am instructed by the council of the Canadian Federation of the Blind to ask if you will kindly give your support to this bill when it comes up in the legislature.

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

I rise to a point of order. I

dc not wish to interrupt the thread of the hon. gentleman's remarks, and for that reason I have kept silent hitherto. But as he himself has said, he is discussing the principle of this bill and I would direct the attention of the Chair to the rule that the principle shall not be discussed in committee, but merely the particular section of the bill under consideration. With no ill-will to the hon. member, and with no desire to cut off his line of thought, which of course should have been given to us on the second reading or during the discussion of the resolution, I submit that this is not the time and place to go into a general and wide consideration of the principle of the bill. If we do so we shall never get anywhere. I would ask for the ruling of the Chair.

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

It has been frequently stated in this House in my hearing by the leader of the House that in order to avoid any lengthy

Old Age Pensions

discussion on the second reading of a bill hon. members might reserve their remarks for the committee stage, when the utmost liberty would be given.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

To discuss the details.

Mr. CAHA.N: I was not discussing the

principle but the utter lack of principle of the bill, and the unprincipled ground on which the legislation is being promoted. This objection will simply prolong discussion. We are facilitating the passage of the legislation and it is convenient that I should have five minutes now in which to state my position, rather than take five hours to state it later on. The bdl has not received the consideration from the department which it should have been given. It should be a federal measure, because this parliament has no control over the provinces. This parliament is well advised that the provinces of Canada will not accept the measure in the terms in which it is now before the House, and the Prime Minister has promised a special measure for those who are suffering from blindness. For these reasons the bill should in my opinion be withdrawn to allow the government ample time to consider it in all its bearings. Thereafter the government could submit a measure of wider application, carrying out on the one hand the Prime Minister's promise to the delegation which approached him in June last, and, on the other, making due provision for those who are suffering from other physical or mental deficiency or infirmity which prevents them from earning a living. With regard to those who are now in a position to earn a living and who have an income, I think that such a general bill should provide that those, under the pension age, in that position, should contribute an amount, however small, towards the pension which they would be entitled to receive later in life. There is no objection anywhere in the country, on the part of those wage earners who are likely to participate in the pension provisions of a bill of this character, to making a modest contribution during those years in which they are earning a revenue, while there is a persistent opposition throughout the length and breadth of the country to the adoption of anything approaching the dole system, which has proved so disastrous in some other countries. I suggest therefore that the government should carry out its pledge to the blind delegation or withdraw this bill. We have ample time now for sober reflection, as we are not now on the eve of a general election. The government at a subsequent session could bring down a bill more thoroughly considered, more complete in its terms and one which would meet

with the general approbation of the whole country and at the same time provide a basis for contributions, however small, from the wage earners towards paying the pensions to which they would subsequently become entitled if through infirmity of mind or body they should find it impossible to earn a living.

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LIB

John Frederick Johnston (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The CHAIRMAN:

Rule 13, section (5),

reads:

Speeches in committee of the whole must be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration.

I must rule in accordance with this provision that general remarks under the section now being discussed are not relevant.

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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CON

William Gordon Ernst

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ERNST:

The minister opened the discussion.

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Subtopic:   OLD AGE PENSIONS
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March 3, 1927