May 12, 1933


The house in committee on Bill No. 78, to amend the Pension Act-Mr. MacLaren Mr. Sullivan in the chair. On section 1-Definitions.


CON

James Arthurs

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ARTHURS:

Mr. Chairman, this bill No. 78 as it appears before the house to-day is largely amended from the bill as originally introduced. Bill No. 78, in effect, is a bill to reorganize the administration of the pension department. It has nothing to do with pensions in the ordinary sense. It was found that after the amendments to the Pension Act of 1930 the courts as then organized became greatly congested, and in consequence an investigating committee was appointed in 1932 to inquire into the whole procedure. The members of the committee included five officers of the department, five representatives of the returned soldier bodies, and one judge. Unfortunately, perhaps, they disagreed on many points, but in some essential points they were in entire agreement, and based on their report the original Bill No. 78 was introduced and was afterwards sent to a committee of this house of which I had the honour to be chairman.

The unanimous opinion of the committee of 1932 was that there should be only one court of first instance, thus shortening the procedure. This court, according to the bill as it was first presented to this house, was to be completed by an enlargement of the board of pension commissioners. Hon. gentlemen will see by the amended bill that our committee have recommended that a new body be formed to be called the Canadian pensions commission, this body to consist of not less than eight or more than twelve persons, in order that there may be sufficient personnel to carry out the idea of the present quorums and be able to meet the soldier at home. That principle has been consistently followed throughout the bill. Therefore the board of pension commissioners as at present existing and also the tribunal will be done away with by this act.

There are other essential changes, not necessarily amendments, but in the bill itself. I might refer to the reviewing officer, which was

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another very important feature and was very thoroughly considered by your committee. The reviewing officer under this bill is a man appointed for the purpose of protecting the public to a certain degree, and also of seeing that justice is done the returned soldier. In the past objection to the judgments of the various quorums has been taken by various persons, largely employees of the board of pension commissioners. This was objected to, and in the original bill it was suggested that the reviewing officer should be placed under the control of the pension appeal board. This would apparently be more satisfactory, but it has been considered better to have an entirely independent officer, and so it will be found that in the amended bill as presented to the house to-day this official is to be appointed directly by the governor in council and to be responsible to no particular body.

So far as the pension appeal court is concerned the recommendation of the committee of last year was followed. It was found that in that court there are at the present time between 1,300 and 1,400 cases awaiting appeal, far too much work for one quorum. This bill therefore provides that ad hoc members may be added, some judge who shall be paid only for the time engaged, thus allowing two quorums to be formed and two courts to be working at the same time, and in this way it is quite possible that they will be able to catch up with the congestion.

The most important part of the whole bill and of this legislation is that we have probably not yet reached the peak of our pension troubles. There are at the present time 1,490 cases already prepared to come before the tribunals, and these cases are coming in at the rate of approximately 3,000 per year. So the committee will understand how necessary it is that these quorums should be able to carry on and help to relieve the congestion at the earliest possible moment. I may also say in passing that if our recommendations are carried out and this measure meets with the approval of this committee a good deal of the red tape in connection with the trial of these cases will be done away with. There will be a great deal less formality and that will be much better for the returned men.

In conclusion, I think I voice the opinion of every member of the committee in saying that the work was done by your committee most earnestly and with no desire except to serve the interests of the public and at the same time the interests of the returned men. Not only that, but I think that in every

change, certainly in every material change, we were absolutely unanimous, and had the entire concurrence of the representatives of each of the veteran bodies, all of whom were present at the hearings.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

Mr. Chairman, I desire to say a word or two of concurrence with the sentiments expressed by the hon. member for Parry Sound (Mr. Arthurs), the chairman of the committee on pensions. The committee may recall that I was personally responsible, when the original Bill No. 78 was first brought to the house for the suggestion that this bill should be referred to a special committee. And I think if ever a course was justified it was that course, because there is a tremendous difference between Bill No. 78 now before the committee and the bill in its original form. The main changes, as stated by the hon. gentleman who has just sat down, have been endorsed by the unanimous vote of the committee, with certain reservations which can be expressed during the discussion, and also endorsed by the bodies of ex-servicemen representing all the organized associations in Canada. So while we have all received numerous letters and telegrams from the various provinces protesting against Bill No. 78 as introduced, I think generally speaking the bill now before the committee should give satisfaction. Speaking only for myself I may say quite frankly that I would have preferred to see the present legislation functioning for at least another year, but seeing that the majority of the investigating committee last year, the Audette commission, including General Ross and Colonel Sherwood, recommended legislation along this line, possibly there was substantial reason for change. I wish to make one observation, that we have adopted in the first place the principle of merger between the board of pension commissioners and the tribunals. Most of the telegrams received have objected to abolition of the tribunals and retaining the board. I ask the committee to observe that these objections have been met by your subcommittee. The new body, the Canadian pension commission, is to consist of not less than eight and not more than twelve, in the discretion of the governor in council. I think I am voicing the opinion of the committee in saying that although the number of members is left to the discretion of the governor in council, the number of cases now awaiting decision or coming up for hearing in Canada absolutely justifies the number being twelve instead of eight. But that is left to the discretion of the governor in coun-

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oil who will be acquainted with the number of cases calling for attention. The hope of the committee is that this legislation will largely remove the congestion referred to in the report of last year and also will remove the unsatisfactory condition that prevailed in regard to the number of appeals taken. A very important feature of this bill is that there is no appeal from a favourable decision of the commission as such, that is a decision favourable to the applicant. There is an appeal from the travelling quorum which hears cases throughout the country. And the reviewing officer, who in the old bill was subject to the appeal court, is now an independent officer subject only to the governor in council. He will advise which of the cases in which judgment has been given in favour of the applicant by the quorum in the field should be appealed by the crown. So I think the legislation in general should work in the interests of the veterans. We have endeavoured to ensure that the personnel of the tribunals and of the board of pension commissioners shall have equal chances in the discretion of the governor in council, and also that the clerks and under-staff shall be in the same category. So that the objections which we have all been receiving from our various ridings have been as far as possible met by the committee.

May I say in conclusion that I agree with the hon. member for Parry Sound that the spirit manifested by every single member of that committee, was a desire to serve the best interests of the ex-servicemen, consistent of course with the interest of the state.

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UFA
?

Mr ROSS:

With the principle of the bill so ably presented I am in accord. I could not be otherwise, since it is practically the method I proposed to the committee in 1930. That proposal was turned down; it was decided to enter upon the experiment which we are now discarding, and that experiment has cost this government and this country $1,371,000 in cash. The tribunal was not a name of which I was very fond, because returned men always liked the name "pension board." Owing to -the difficulties which have arisen ever since the close of the war many returned men felt that the pension board was not sufficiently sympathetic to their applications, but now that this -bill proposes to change the name it may be, and I trust will be, that a better feeling will exist among the returned men.

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I have always felt, Mr. Chairman, that our legislation was good. No other country has pension legislation equal to that of the Dominion of Canada, but the trouble has been that somewhere the administration fell down. I am sure that any person who served on any of the committees appointed since 1922 has felt that there was some sort of antagonism or lack of cooperation on the part of the different organizations. That became very acute when we introduced the tribunals and the appeal court. Now these two bodies have been merged, and I hope we can look for a more sympathetic administration of the act.

As I said before, Mr. Chairman, I think difficulties have existed with regard to the administration. I directed t'he attention of the committee to a lack of consideration which, if rectified, perhaps would clear up some of those difficulties. It was stated during one of our meetings that in notifying an applicant that his application had not been accepted, the name and address of the person concerned with appeal appeared on that notice. I disputed that statement. I have before me one of the forms sent out in such cases, which is as follows:

I am directed to inform you that the act of 1931 amending the Pension Act provides:

"Should the application be not granted the commission shall refer the case to the chief pensions advocate and the chief commission counsel for presentation to the pension tribunal if the applicant or any person on his behalf duly authorized so requests in writing."

When that notice is received very often the person interested does not know what it means, and many of these notices are not answered. As a result, many applications are lying (there inactive. I would direct the attention of those in charge of the administration of this legislation to the fact that some effort should be made to get rid of these ten or twelve thousand cases now in the inactive list. It might be that if these cases were divided up as between different areas the persons concerned could be advised by advertisement that no action had been taken with regard to their applications and that, if they would get in touch with some official of the commission, they would be informed more definitely as to what might be done. I am perhaps more interested in this phase of the question than in anything else. We have still kept the principle of examination and inspection, and with a little more trouble, and more details given in the paper sent to the applicant who has failed, I think we could clear up a good many of these ten thousand cases.

fMr- Ross.]

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CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

I wish to express my

complete appreciation of the work of the committee. They have come together on this bill and have been very thorough and assiduous in their duties. The work they 'have done has shown a fine spirit of unity on a subject in regard to which there are so many diverse opinions. I was visited yesterday by representatives of the Associated Veterans. They came to inform me, as representing their organizations, that the bill met with their complete approval. Both of these factors, both the finding of the committee and the representations from the Associated Veterans, are undoubtedly gratifying and will encourage the department to do its 'best in carrying out its part. In any case, it is reassuring. Finally, if I were making any general observations, I would ask for the fuller confidence of parliament, of the returned men and of the public generally in the administration of this act. I believe it is warranted; I do not think it would be misplaced but on the contrary would have a very beneficial effect not only on the department but on the feeling of the people throughout the country.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

What the minister has just

said is something Which I think should be borne in mind by this committee, namely, that the soldiers' organizations as represented before the committee undoubtedly displayed a spirit of conciliation and of compromise, and evidenced an endeavour to arrange the matter having in mind not only their own interests but the interests of the taxpayers as well.

There have been two main troubles with the administration up to date; one was congestion in the hearings by the tribunals and the other was the appeal. The appeal was probably the sorest point of all and it arose because the commission was really appealing on its own behalf. Perhaps what has been said had some basis in truth; the soldiers felt that the sympathy of the commission was not always with them. The commission appealed without knowing what it was appealing on in many cases. There was pressure at times, the record was not always available, and appeals were put in without regard to whether they were justified or whether there was proper cause of appeal or not.

The merit of this bill, to my mind, is this. The number of appointees may be eight or twelve, and hereafter such matters as delay or congestion in the first court, and the question of appeal from that court, will be up to the governor in council. That is the essential feature of t'he bill as we now have it. There is no delay anywhere at all except in the officials appointed by the governor in council.

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They may appoint enough or they may appoint too few members to go about the country hearing cases. Further, either the reviewing officer is proper and right in advising appeal or he is derelict in his duty in advising too many appeals, in which case the governor in council will have to stand the brunt of the criticism that may be brought to bear.

These are the achievements of the committee; these are the things that the house will have achieved in passing this bill. The soldiers have had good cause for complaint in a great many instances, but I believe that the opinion of the country is still in favour of all the promises made to these men being carried out. There is no disposition on the part either of the country or of this government to cut them down. We hear occasionally of pensions having been wrongly granted to persons-men who did not deserve them. May I point out, however, that this is not to be laid at the door of the soldiers. Pensions may have been badly awarded, there may have been injustice in that direction; but that to my mind has been the fault of administration in the granting of pensions and not a fault which must be laid at the door of the soldiers' organizations. They simply desire to see that the soldier shall get a fair deal in the matter of pensions.

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LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

I am happy to associate myself entirely with the remarks of the other members of the committee, and I am particularly happy to concur fully in the very able remarks of the hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

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Section agreed to. On section 2-Canadian Pension Commission.


LIB

William Duff

Liberal

Mr. DUFF:

This is the section referring to the 'change in the act to provide that instead of there being a pension commission and also a pension tribunal these two bodies shall be amalgamated and a commission to be known as the Canadian pension commission appointed. I notice in subsection 2 of section 3 that the number of commissioners to be appointed by the governor in council must be not fewer than eight though it may be increased to twelve. While every right-thinking man in this country is willing to see that every consideration is given to the claims of the returned soldiers and that the amounts due them for pensions are paid, nevertheless it seems to me, in view of the magnitude of the amount which this country is voting every year for pensions to returned soldiers, that the government in the present condition of the country's finances should carefully con-53719-312

sider what action ought to be taken in connection with this section of the bill.

In the past we have had a board of pension commissioners, and I do not think that anyone who has taken any interest in the work of this commission will deny them credit for the splendid work they did during the number of years they functioned. It is rather strange to me to hear some hon. members say, in spite of the fact that, in addition to the board of pension commissioners which for so many years carried out its work so well in the interests of the returned soldiers, and the fact that an additional body of twelve men was appointed after the act was amended in 1930, that now there are more complaints and more claims than there were when the work was done entirely by the pension commission. It seems to me that while everyone is anxious to do everything that is reason^ able and possible for the returned soldiers, the government should be very careful to take every step it possibly can to economize in this matter. Let me say to the Acting Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, that in my opinion it is necessary to try first how well the work will be done by eight men, before the additional four are appointed. Before those additional four are appointed, making twelve in all, the governor in council should make an experiment with eight men. It seems to me it would be in the interests of economy to appoint the three pension commissioners. These men know the work and could be appointed with advantage. It seems to me it would also be in the interests of the taxpayers of this country to provide only for a board of eight, which would be sufficient to carry on the trials.

This pension commission has been acting for a great many years and in the main has given satisfaction not only to the people of this country but to the returned soldier. It is quite true that there has been criticism of certain amounts paid to returned soldiers, but that is to be expected! in the administration of such vast sums of money. There have been criticisms made that they have not always given the amounts which the returned soldiers or the men at the head of the organizations demanded, but it seems to me that that should be in their favour. In any business it is impossible to satisfy everyone and the Minister of Finance and every member of this committee knows that where government money is concerned, either for this or any other purpose, there is sometimes a temptation to ask for more than should be given. It seems to me that the members of parliament are as much to blame as anyone

[DOT]1938

Pension Act

else for the fact that since this act came into force a number of years ago we have spent vast sums of money and are to-day spending something like $55,000,000. I am not averse to spending every dollar that is necessary, whether it be $55,000,000 or $100,000,000, but the Minister of Finance has to find ways and means of raising the revenue and in view of the conditions prevailing at the moment I think every effort should be made to see that no money is paid to returned soldiers which is not deserved. I suggest to the Minister of Finance that a complete investigation be made into the payments to returned soldiers. This could be made either through this pension commission or in some other way. I am convinced that many men are receiving pensions who should not receive them while there are other poor devils receiving amounts entirely inadequate. If the whole matter was gone into I am quite convinced that the Minister of Finance would be able to save tens of millions of dollars.

The pension commission and the tribunal boards will go out of office immediately this bill receives royal assent. In view of the good work done in the past by the pension commission, I think in the appointment of these eight officials first choice should be given to the three members of the present pension commission. After a man has been engaged in a certain line of work for a number of years it is pretty hard for him to go back to something else upon being thrown out on the street. I should like the Minister of Finance to give serious consideration to this matter. Why do I say this? First, for the reason I gave a moment ago, that these pension commissioners have given the best years of their lives to this work. Of course, there is bound to be criticism in the expenditure of such a vast sum of money but the fact remains that these pension commissioners are in a position entirely different from that of the members of the tribunal boards. These boards were a new experiment and they have been in operation for only a few years. If the minister cannot make a definite statement to-day I ask him to take into consideration the appointment of the present commissioners to the new pension commission.

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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RHODES:

In administering subsection two of section 3 I am sure it will be the purpose of the governor in council to keep in mind the considerations which have been presented to the committee by the hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough (Mr. Duff). It is the desire of the governor in council, as it is of the members of this committee and the

people of this country, that full justice should be done to the returned soldier. On the other hand, we must keep in mind the heavy burden which is imposed upon the taxpayers of this country. As my hon. friend will understand, I cannot give him any definite undertaking but we all appreciate the representations he has made, not only with respect to the personnel of the old pensions board but with respect to other matters. I can assure my hon. friend that the attention of my colleagues will be directed to his observations and that they will receive my careful and sympathetic consideration.

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LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

Will the Minister of

Finance give the same assurance with respect to the members of the pension tribunals?

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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RHODES:

I am sure it will be the

desire of the governor in council to see that alll interests are properly considered.

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LIB
CON

Murray MacLaren (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MacLAREN:

As this bill will become operative by proclamation, the difficulties referred to by the hon. member for Antigonish-Guysborough will not arise. The hon. member referred also to the necessity of a review being made of all pensions. My understanding is that the board of pension commissioners have been working for the past few months upon a review of all cases.

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UFA

Alfred Speakman

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. SPEAKMAN:

Mr. Chairman, I do not intend to repeat what I have said already but I wish again to urge the importance of the right of hearing being held in open court and the necessity of having a body sufficient to provide the necessary quorums. As far as the personnel of this body is concerned, I am sure the governor in council will keep in mind those men who have obtained experience in this work and who only a few years ago were appointed under a ten year contract. The bill in its original form provided for the reappointment of the board of pension commissioners and I hope in the appointment of this new body the governor in council will consider the number which I have suggested and which is provided for in the bill. I hope they will also keep in mind, as they undoubtedly will, the personnel of the pension tribunals. Apparently these men have achieved a unique success, something rarely accomplished. They reviewed many cases some of which they accepted and some of which they refused but I have heard only of a few cases of dissatisfaction in connection with unsuccessful applicants whose cases were heard by these tribunals. Men have told me that while they were disappointed in not having

their cases accepted they felt' that they had had a fair, honest and impartial hearing. If their cases were rejected, they felt that they were not strong enough to stand. I hope these men will be kept in mind in the appointment of this new commission. The government is under some responsibility to the members of these boards as they have served only three years of the ten year statutory contract under which they were employed. I repeat that to my mind the important part of this legislation is the retaining of the feature of the open court and the providing of travelling quorums before which the applicants can make a personal appearance. This can be done only by adequate appointments to the board.

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UFA

George Gibson Coote

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. COOTE:

Not being a member of the special committee, I had not intended to say anything upon this subject, but the remarks of the hon. member for Antigonish-Guysbor-ough prompt me to say a few words. Many veterans and their friends throughout the country greatly regret to see the pension tribunal done away with. It was because of the dissatisfaction existing in Canada that the pension tribunals were established and there is a great deal of dissatisfaction now because so many cases in which favourable decisions were given by the tribunals have been appealed and the appeals are held up for such long periods. I think in one case which I brought to the minister's attention, an appeal has been pending, if I remember rightly, for nearly two years. While of course I agree with the hon. member for Antigonish-Guys-borough that the government at this time should do everything to practise true economy, I want to remind the hon. member and the committee that this government has gone to the limit in living up to our obligations to those who purchased government bonds to finance the war, but in many cases, in my humble opinion, we have not gone nearly to the same limit in living up to our obligations to the men who went overseas and fought in the war. I say that because of individual cases which have come to my attention. I have under my hand the correspondence in regard to one case where a man served three years and ten months in France with practically no leave, and with every day of that leave spent in hospital in England. He is incapacitated and he cannot get a pension. Although he was physically fi.t when he was taken on, he was discharged as medically unfit, of course the board claiming that this was due to defective eyesight which they stated was congenital.

I have another case of a man who spent four years in France; he was buried in an 53719-312i

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explosion caused by a shell. He has suffered ever since with a weak back and pains in his legs. It would seem to anyone that this man's disability was due .to the injuries he sustained when buried by the shell. He was refused a pension by the pension commissioners. His application was heard by the tribunal and allowed. His case was then taken to the appeal board where, after a delay of a year, it was heard and he was refused a pension. In many of these cases when they come to the appeal court, the clause under which the applicant is supposed to get the benefit of the doubt is absolutely ignored. The men feel and I feel that the board of pension commissioners should be enlarged to take in the present members of the pension tribunal so that we may clear up the thousands of cases that are waiting for hearing. I should like to urge upon the minister that the full board of twelve be appointed so that they may deal with these cases as promptly as possible and clear up some of this dissatisfaction which I think rightfully exists among many veterans who have applied for pensions.

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LIB

Edgar-Rodolphe-Eugène Chevrier

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

I have just a word to say about subsection 14. This was amended in the committee to read:

All officers, clerks and employees on the staff of the board of pension commissioners for Canada-

Then there was added:

And of the pension tribunal . . . shall be and become during pleasure, officers, clerks and employees on the staff of the commission.

The amendment was one about which I felt strongly. It was my desire that the officers, clerks and employees of the pension tribunal should receive the same consideration as those of the pension board. By that I mean that there should be no discrimination. Some misunderstanding has arisen in certain quarters as to just what that means. My sole desire is that the staffs of both the pension board and the tribunal should be placed on an equality when it comes to the question of administration and that the same consideration should be extended to the employees of both boards, without any discrimination whatever.

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Section agreed to. Sections 3, 4 and 5 agreed to. On section 6-Pension appeal court continued.


LIB

William Duff

Liberal

Mr. DUFF:

With regard to 10B on page 6, subclause (1) reads:

The governor in council upon the retirement of anv member of the commission, or the court, who has served upon one or other of such

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bodies during at least twenty years, or who has so served during at least ten years and has reached the age of seventy years, or is physically or mentally incapacitated, and is not entitled to superannuation under the Civil Service Superannuation Act, may grant to him a pension for his life not exceeding one-third of the salary to which he was entitled as such member.

It will be noticed that if he is over seventy years of age, after serving ten years, he receives 33 per cent of his salary, but if he is not seventy years, but might have served ten or more years, he gets nothing. In view of the principle 'laid down by parliament on several occasions and especially in the last few days in regard to the appointment of the tariff commission, where a salary of $15,000 was asked for the chairman for the next ten years and where, after that ten years had expired, he was to receive a retiring allowance or pension amounting to $7,500, and in view of the fact that certain members of this new pension commission, or, in fact, of the old commission, will soon retire, they should be entitled to the same treatment, I am going to move the following amendment to 10B:

That all the words after the word "least" in the third line of subsection (1) of clause 10B be struck out and the following substituted therefor:

"ten years, may grant him a pension for his life not exceeding one-third of the salary to which he is entitled as such member, or two-thirds of such salary to any member of the commission who has, as aforesaid, served fifteen years and upwards, provided any such member is not entitled to superannuation under the Civil Service Superannuation Act."

I am not asking for the same consideration as has been given to the chairman of the tariff commission; all I say is that a member of this board, after serving ten years, may be granted for his life a pension not exceeding one-tlhird of the salary to which he was entitled.

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May 12, 1933