They declared for the federal scheme, in face of the fact that my hon friend in the session of 1925 voted against it, and in view of the fact that the now leadei of the opposition, my hon. and genial friend, said that it would be an invasion of our constitutional jurisdiction.
My hon. friend will pardon me, but I cannot let that statement pass. He has made it for the third time, but on the other occasions I refrained from interrupting him. I said the constitutional jurisdiction as declared by the Deputy Minister of Justice. I expressed no opinion of my own.
My hon. friend can ask for it now if he expects something different. Now, we were told that the scheme was unworkable and inadequate, and at that very time we were negotiating with the western provinces. To-day this so-called unworkable and inadequate scheme is in effect in every province in western Canada with the exception of the province of Alberta. The Premier of Alberta has stated that his government will adopt the scheme this session, and already a bill has been introduced for the purpose.
The Budget-Mr. Heenan
Then again this so-called unworkable and inadequate scheme is about to be put into effect in the province of Ontario, the most Tory province in the whole Dominion.
Ontario, I think, sent more delegates to the Conservative convention in Winnipeg last year than any two or three of the other provinces combined. They were unanimous in declaring our old age pensions scheme to be unworkable, but quite recently Premier Ferguson has introduced a bill in the provincial house to take advantage of the legislation. When my hon. friends observe the progress that has been made in this connection I should think they would not start sniping at the scheme and attempt to make the people of this country believe that the Prime Minister stated in this house the other day that it was a vicious system, when as a matter of fact he said nothing of the sort.
I would expect opposition from the Conservative party, but I am surprised to find One or two members-whom I would have expected to endorse the old age pensions scheme and help the government in every way to put it into effect-are joining the Conservatives in trying to infer that the Prime Minister called the scheme a vicious principle, whereas as a matter of fact such a thought was far from his mind. But I am not so much worried about what my friends of the opposition think of the government and of the scheme. I am satisfied to reflect that the people who are now benefiting by this legislation are old-time pioneers. Therefore I prefer to take the opinion of those who are sympathetic towards those pioneers and towards this scheme, and I can cite no better evidence in this connection than the views of the Trades and Labour Congress, as set out in the legislative program which they presented to the government on January 8 last. They did not doubt our sincerity. They said:
It is pleasing to note that the Minister of Labour has continued to publicly urge all provincial governments to accept the federal-provincial Old Age Pension Act and this we ac-[Mr. Heenan.)
cept as a manifestation of the sincerity of the federal government in seeking to have the benefits of the measure made applicable throughout the entire Dominion at the earliest time.
We have been told time and again by our friends opposite that the old age pensions act is inadequate and unworkable. Apropos of this allow me to quote what the hon. member for Cumberland (Mr. Smith) stated from his seat in this house:
Might I mention here that very recently there has been submitted to the government of the province of Nova Scotia an interim report by the commissioner who was appointed to investigate an old age pensions scheme in that province, and he has estimated in this report, which is not at all complete, that the total cost to inaugurate such scheme-of which I may say every person in the province of Nova Scotia is heartily in favour-will amount to $4,400,000.
The portion to be borne by the province to be $2,200,000, plus expenses of administration of the scheme.
When a similar argument was advanced by the government of Ontario, I undertook to hazard the guess that instead of costing in the neighbourhood of five million dollars, as stated by the provincial authorities, it would cost approximately half that amount, towards which the Dominion government would contribute 50 per cent. I knew whereof I spoke, for to-day the premier of Ontario realizes that at the most it will not cost the province more than three million dollars. This estimate for Nova Scotia-
and I like to call it by the same name. This estimate, I say, is ridiculous, because at the last census the number of persons in Nova Scotia over seventy years of age was 24,756. Assuming every one of them was paid the maximum pension, the cost to the' provinces would be less than 12,975,000. Our experience in the other provinces has shown that about thirty-five per cent of these old people qualify for some part of the pension. Even taking forty as the percentage for Nova Scotia, the cost of full pensions for all would be about $1,200,000; if thirty-five per cent received full pensions the cost would be $1,027,800. The cost of administration has been exaggerated. In British Columbia it does . not cost more than eight thousand dollars a year, whereas it has been estimated that it would cost Nova Scotia two hundred thousand dollars for administration. Such an estimate on the face of it is ridiculous.
* Sun Lije Assurance Company
I have only five minutes more in which to deal with several questions, and, Mr. Speaker,
I do not know which to cut out. Before I leave the old age pensions question let me say that this government is right behind the scheme; the Prime Minister and his cabinet are one hundred per cent in their support of it, and they are all anxious that the scheme should go into effect in every province. We ask support from our friends opposite even at this late date to help us to put it into effect in every province, and when it does go into effect in the provinces we are quite prepared to sit down with them and consider such amendments as may be deemed necessary; because so far as this government is concerned this is not the last word in regard to old age pension legislation-this is the first.
The hon. member for West Hamilton (Mr. Bell) took a fling at the government from many angles, and I want to discuss one point of attack which he made. He attributed the strike in Hamilton to the policy of this government, implying that had this been a protectionist country that strike would not have taken place. Let me point out to him that there has just terminated a strike in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in what is the most highly protected industry in the world. That strike occurred in the cotton mill centre where, according to the American Federationist, the employees are not making a living wage. They had to suffer a 5 per cent reduction. I wonder, therefore, how the hon. member can blame the policy of this government for the strike to which he referred. Let us measure my hon. friend's party and its policy by the strike criterion and see how they fare. From 1912 to 1921 there was an average of 150 strikes a year, while time lost by reason of strikes averaged 1,081,508 working days. In the last three years, on the other hand, from 1926 to 1928 inclusive, there has been an average of 86 strikes per annum instead of 150, while the average number of working days lost was 233,410 as compared with over a million.
The hon. member for Muskoka-Ontario (Mr. McGibbon) advanced a strange argument. He read from the census returns of 1921 to show that the country was not prosperous, and then he went on to make the statement that not one of the men engaged in several occupations which he mentioned earned over $1,600 a year. I would point out to my hon. friend that he was not censuring this government in that regard; he was alluding to what had taken place while his own party was in power from 1912 to 1921. But if he wanted
to be fair he could have ascertained from the wages bulletin which we issue that the wages of bricklayers in Toronto had increased since 1921 from $1 to $1.25, or 25 per cent; the wages of carpenters from 90 cents to a dollar, and the wages of electrical workers, sheet metal workers and others similarly, the average increase in wages being 19 per cent. So that if the hon. member condemns his own party-