April 7, 1932

UFA

Donald MacBeth Kennedy

United Farmers of Alberta

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.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

Will the

minister give some details of the expenditures under this item? What is the work done by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind? How many persons do they care for?

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

The institute was formed by the combination of existing organizations in Canada and it works in close affiliation with similar local bodies. The total expenses incurred exceed $200,000 per annum, which is raised from grants from the federal, provincial and municipal authorities, and from private subscriptions. Industrial establishments are maintained at Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg. There was authorized in 1919 payment of an annual grant of $10,000 for a period of five years.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

I doubt

whether during the last nine years there has been a single session when some hon. gentleman somewhere in the house has not asked that this item be increased rather than decreased. The necessity for caring for unfortunate people so afflicted touches a keen chord of human sympathy, and I think this

Supply-National Health

should be one of the last departments to be affected, if ever it is affected, by the so-called economy program of the government. I join with those who have preceded me in protesting against this reduction. There are one or two other items in which reductions are equally inexcusable, but this one certainly will not receive the approval of the Canadian public. Any reduction in a vote intended to take care of acute human suffering or of a disability of this type will be protested against all over Canada.

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UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

I wish to say one word in support of the attitude that has been taken towards this reduction. In protesting against it I would point out something that perhaps is not apparent to everyone. At this time, during a year when able-bodied men, in full possession of all their faculties, find it unusually difficult to secure employment to support themselves and their families, it becomes doubly and trebly difficult for people who are afflicted with any major disability, and particularly blindness, to obtain work. These people are placed at a peculiar disadvantage at this time when competition for any position at all is so keen. All positions to-day are eagerh' sought by men in full possession of all their faculties, and under these circumstances the condition of the blind becomes very much accentuated. I would protest against the reduction. I think that public opinion, to say nothing of the opinion in the house on all sides, would certainly have supported a substantial increase in such an item rather than a decrease. May I also support the suggestion of the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, a suggestion which has been discussed in this house from time to time but never dealt with; I refer to the question of pensions for the blind. The blind form a class set apart from all others; their situation is so peculiar that pensions granted to them would not arouse jealousy among other people. It would not establish a precedent whereby others suffering from other infirmities might come forward and demand similar consideration. This disability forces people to move in a world of darkness all the days of their life, and to people so afflicted generous treatment should be given. Such treatment, I say, would not be resented by others nor would it constitute a precedent; on the contrary, it would be appreciated and supported by the whole country. Another factor must be considered, namely, the extent of such assistance; I do not mean individual assistance, but the total cost. After all, and most fortunately, this is a class comparatively limited in numbers and the total cost would

not be such as to prohibit reasonably sympathetic consideration of their case. I hope that at some time, and the sooner the better, the house will have the pleasure of supporting a measure which will provide, on the part of the people of this country, financial assistance for the blind.

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CON

Robert James Manion (Minister of Railways and Canals)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. M ANION:

May I point out to my hon. friend that in past years this grant has not been so large as it is this year? The grant started originally in 1919 at $10,000 and for a number of years continued at that figure. In 1921-22 it was raised to $20,000 and in 1924-25 and continuing years it was dropped again to $10,000. Then in 1928-29 it was raised to $15,000 and it has been $20,000 for only a couple of years. No one questions the sympathy to which my hon. friend and the other hon. gentleman have given expression in regard to people who are blind, but the fact is that it was thought the easiest way to deal with all these grants was, if there were to be any cuts at all, rather than cut out some entirely, to make a ten per cent cut in all of them, and this has been done. In view of the past amount of the grant, I think that is the fairest method that could be adopted. I am not quarrelling with the statement made by anybody in regard to the sympathy these people deserve, but at the same time this seems a fair action when one remembers the grant was $10,000 only a few years ago.

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UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

The remarks of the

Minister of Railways afford me an opportunity for making another protest. I think there is some justice in his contention that it is better to reduce all the grants by a certain percentage than to eliminate some entirely, but I notice one grant is eliminated, that to the Canadian Social Hygiene Council, an organization which has done splendid work throughout the whole country, the value of which can hardly be estimated, work of an educational character which, if we consider the fact that every year brings a fresh contingent of young people who arrive at the age when such education is necessary, must be carried on continuously if it is to be of anj' value. May I suggest that it would be well for the future of Canada, well for the future of the entire community, if the suggestion made by the Minister of Railways were carried out completely and none of these grants, particularly that of the nature I have indicated, were cut out.

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LIB

Peter Heenan

Liberal

Mr. IIEENAN:

Just for the information of my good friend the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre and for his informa-

1S20

Supply-National Health,

tion only, because, if I remember aright, I do not think he was a member of the last parliament-

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UFA
LIB

Peter Heenan

Liberal

Mr. HEENAN:

I am speaking of 1926 to 1930. The hon. member stated that he placed a question on the order paper in 1926, asking whether it was the intention of the government to introduce legislation to provide pensions for the blind, and the then prime minister, now leader of the opposition, answered to the effect that the matter came within the jurisdiction, not of the federal parliament but rather of the provinces. I want to point out to the hon. member that the then prime minister replied correctly on that occasion. The difference is, however, that if one were' to ask that question to-day, the present Prime Minister would say that it was not in order for a member of the opposition to ask questions with respect to the policy of the government. The situation is this, that this being a matter that did come and still comes within the jurisdiction of the provinces, we had representations made to us by various provinces that the first time the Old Age Pension Act was amended we should take care of the blind. The blind people in 1928 or 1929, I am not sure which, had the assurance-I was on the delegation that met them -that the first time we amended the Old Age Pension Act they would be taken care of under it, of course with consent of the provinces. The act was amended last session and the representation was made across the floor of the house to the present government, but they did not see fit to accede to it. That is why I made the remark I did.

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UFA

Donald MacBeth Kennedy

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. KENNEDY (Winnipeg):

I should like to thank the hon. member for Kenora-Rainy river for explaining once more that this is one of the many things which the party he supports would have done had they remained in power.

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Item agreed to. Grant to the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene, $9,000.


UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

This appropriation is not cut just ten per cent and the Minister of Railways should explain why the tip of the scythe has cut more deeply in one spot than another in the garden of flowers. In this case we shall have no blossoms this year and nobody will be happy. There will not be any more seeds sown. Why is it that in some cases only the flower has been cut off, while in others almost the entire plant has been stricken down?

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

It is obvious what the position is. Under special conditions a reduction has had to be made in the vote this year.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

I should like to know the conditions. If the members of the committee will take a glance down this column they will find some very interesting facts. First of all, as mentioned by the hon. member for Red Deer, the appropriation for the Canadian Social Hygiene Council is entirely cut off; this appropriation to the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene is reduced by more than fifty per cent, but apparently we conceive it to be necessary to maintain almost the entire expense in connection with the grant to the Chief Constables' Association of Canada and the grant to the Interparliamentary Union, the latter being reduced by only $60. I disagree with the principle enunciated by the Minister of Railways; but if, as he asserts, it is the policy under which these estimates have been cut, surely an explanation should be forthcoming from him why in this case fifty per cent is cut off this appropriation and only ten j>er cent cut off that to the Chief Constables' Association.

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UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

While the minister is considering his answer, might I suggest that this is a 'peculiarly inappropriate vote to be cut at this time. A few days ago, in common I assume with a few of the other members of the house, while perusing the columns of a newspaper published in this city, I noticed some rather unfavourable comments in respect of, shall I say the sanity of members of parliament, including members of the government and leaders of the house. If we are to take that editorial seriously, might I suggest that an increase rather than a decrease in this vote might be necessitated? But apart from that and speaking perhaps more seriously, the time in which we live and the nervous strain under which we are all working-I mean the people throughout the country'-would certainly necessitate extreme care and possibly increased expenditure in respect of this particular appropriation. I think it was a mistake, at least in this instance, that the doctrine enunciated by the Minister of Railways in regard to a ten per cent cut, was not adhered to, instead of a fifty per cent cut being made.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

The hon. member for Red Deer has not fully explained whether the restoration of the grant to its old standard was in his opinion for the purpose of taking care of the mental condition of members of the House of Commons, or that of the Ottawa Journal.

Supply-Justice

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UFA

George Gibson Coote

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. COOTE:

While the minister is cogitating his answer may I say that if one cared to be facetious he might suggest that the economic conditions obtaining in this country under the present government are such that we may need a very large grant to take care of all the people who will become mentally deranged. Speaking seriously, I believe that the economic conditions in this country at the present time are going to increase, and have already increased, the strain upon institutions and people who are caring for the mentally deranged, and I think that this is one of the last votes that should be reduced if the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene is making any proper use of the grant. I say that in all seriousness, and I am surprised that the Minister of National Health would reduce this grant by fifty-five or sixty per cent. Certainly he should explain to the committee why this grant has been reduced from $20,000 to $9,000 at a time like this. We need something more than the simple statement that all these grants are ' being reduced by ten per cent, because the reduction here is over fifty per cent.

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UFA

Edward Joseph Garland

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. GARLAND (Bow River):

This committee is entitled to an explanation, and I for one will not allow the vote to pass until we get one. That is the least we can expect from the minister.

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

I have no further

explanation to give beyond the one I have already given.

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April 7, 1932