Mr. KENNEDY (Winnipeg):
In connection with this grant to the institute for the blind, may I say that during the last campaign I was asked whether I was in favour of pensions for the blind, and I said I was. Probably, therefore, it would be consistent for me now to repeat that statement here. I am not going to make a speech, but I wish to call the matter to the attention of the minister. It seems to me that if this parliament can legislate on pensions because of the disability of age, by the same token they have power to pass legislation to meet the disability of lack of sight. The age set under the Old Age Pension Act is three score years and ten. That age is fixed because it has been found that after seventy years of age a person who is without means of supporting himself is helpless. The basis of the pension is the physical inability of the individual to make his way in this world. Age is one disability and lack of sight is another, and if blindness comes before the
age of seventy it is a disability that prevents the individual from earning his living. I urge that upon the minister. The hon. member for Kenora-Rainy River suggested that if a real government were in power they might do something about it. In reply to the hon. gentleman I would point out that in 1926, I placed on the order paper-and this was when a government which was supposed to be a real government was in power-this question:
Is it the intention of the federal government to introduce legislation to provide pensions for the blind?
The answer I received, which is of record, as given by the then Prime Minister, now leader of the opposition (Mr. Mackenzie King), was:
The matter of pensions for the blind is not enumerated under the provisions in the British North America Act applying exclusively to the dominion.
That was the stand taken by the party supported by the hon. member. But apart altogether from that, I think the principle is sound, and I hope to see the day when, whether it be by an amendment to the old age pensions legislation, or by a separate act, legislation will be introduced in this house making the matter of pensions for the blind a federal burden to be dealt with by Canada as a whole, so that those afflicted people will get similar treatment throughout the dominion.