July 3, 1935

CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

The hon. gentleman applied to officials of the printing bureau when he should apply to the minister in charge of the department. He cannot obtain that information by telephoning some secretary or minor official.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

I will take the minister's

advice and apply to the Secretary of State now. When can we expect these things from the printer?

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

When the hon. gentleman

asks with regard to a particular department. As soon as this house is prorogued and the bills are finally assented to, each department of the government will have prepared for its own use the final prints, which are then available I understand to any member who makes a request for them.

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IND

Alan Webster Neill

Independent

Mr. NEILL:

In from four to six weeks.

Does the minister not know that there is an election coming on and that we have to go before the people and explain the mass of legislation, 120 bills, that we have passed, and that without them we may have to say, "Well, I do not know because amendments were made to these bills in the Senate and we will not get them for four or five weeks."

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CON

Charles Hazlitt Cahan (Secretary of State of Canada)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. CAHAN:

There are some of them,

a certain number of private bills, for instance, which I think the hon. gentleman will not need to explain to his constituents, but the public bills are made available at the printing bureau as soon as they are requested by the several departments which have charge of these bills. In my own department they are out within ten days of the close of parliament and are then available, such bills as the Companies Act, the act dealing with copyright, the act dealing with patents, and so on.

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Item agreed to. Miscellaneous- Emergency grant to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, ?50,000.


LAB

Abraham Albert Heaps

Labour

Mr. HEAPS:

I would like to say a word

or two in regard to the action of the government in refusing at this session of parliament to enact legislation giving to the blind people of this country pensions commencing at the age of forty. I feel, Mr. Chairman, that the blind people of this country were led to believe by what this house had done through

its committee this year that they would at this session of parliament receive at least certain benefits from pensions which I believe they are entitled to.

First of all we had a resolution before the house, which resolution was referred to a committee of this house, and on that committee members from the government side of the house sat in a majority. That committee reported in favour of some form of pension for the blind at the age of forty and over. When that report came before the house it was very sympathetically received on all sides, and I believe there was the feeling that the blind over the age of forty should receive a pension. When therefore it was announced by the Prime Minister last week that the government was taking no action in this matter I am sure that there was great disappointment on all sides of the house, and nowhere was the disappointment keener than among the blind people of this dominion. The disappointment would not have been so keen had the feeling not. been unanimous amongst members of the house, even among the government supporters themselves, that legislation was to be enacted granting pensions to the blind at this session of parliament. That was the feeling that was aroused on two occasions by a unanimous report from the committee on industrial and international relations.

It may perhaps be too late now to ask the government to bring down legislation at this session implementing the recommendations of that committee, but, Mr. 'Chairman, I cannot help at this time, in the very last hours of this parliament, saying how much I regret and how deeply disappointed I am that the government could not take definite action at this session to give the blind the benefits of a pension which is so long overdue. In most countries blind people are given special consideration. I do not need to say anything about their condition or about the particular difficulties which they are experiencing in these hard times in making a livelihood, but I wonder if we could not have some kind of statement this afternoon from the ministry or at least some assurance given to the blind people from all sides of this house. If the present government has not been able to see its way clear to bring in legislation implementing the report of the committee, my firm hope is that whoever occupies the treasury benches a year from now at least will see that the blind people of this dominion will get the pension which is so long overdue.

Supply-M iscellaneous

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver):

As I

understand it, this is not in any sense a substitute for a system of pension for the blind. I understand, and perhaps the minister will say whether I am right, that this application was made to the government over a year ago. I saw some suggestions in the press from other organizations that this was more

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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RHODES:

My hon. friend is quite correct. Representations were made to the government by a deputation consisting of Captain Baker and Lieutenant Myers, speaking on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and my recollection is that it is a year ago or more that the representations were made. This has no reference to annual grants of any kind, nor has it any bearing on the question of pensions. The request was made solely with a view to assisting the institute in a very difficult period, as I explained the other day, to cut down a heavy overdraft which has arisen because of the circumstance that private contributions have in recent years been very much diminished. This is to enable the institute to carry on without curtailment of its work.

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LAB
CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RHODES:

1 No, this is an entirely separate and distinct government grant made for the specific purpose I have mentioned.

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LAB

Abraham Albert Heaps

Labour

Mr. HEAPS:

I do not suppose the minister looks on this grant as in any way compensating for lack of recognition of the blind in other directions.

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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RHODES:

My hon. friend could not have heard my explanation. I said that this item has no bearing on or relation to the question either of other grants or of pensions themselves.

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LAB

Abraham Albert Heaps

Labour

Mr. HEAPS:

Suppose this government is in power a year from now, would it then consider more favourably the introduction of a bill dealing with pensions for the blind?

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LIB
LIB
CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RHODES:

No, it goes to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

92582-266J

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LIB

Cameron Ross McIntosh

Liberal

Mr. McINTOSH:

Has the minister any further statement to make in connection with pensions for the blind?

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CON

Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. RHODES:

I have nothing to add to what was stated by the Prime Minister the other day.

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CON

Ira Delbert Cotnam

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. COTNAM:

Mr. Chairman, as sponsor of the resolution urging that action be taken at this session to grant pensions to the blind, I am very sorry indeed that the government has not seen fit to take action this session to give these much needed pensions to the blind people of this country. That resolution stood on the order paper during the session of 1934 and was never reached or discussed at that session. The resolution again stood on the order paper all during this session. Various opportunities to discuss this matter have presented themselves and the blind people were led more or less to believe that some action would be taken at this session. Pensions for the blind are being paid in practically every civilized country and all countries in the British empire pay pensions to the blind or provide other goverment assistance. When this resolution was introduced there was no opposition from any quarter of the house and the press of the country was unanimous in its support of the proposal. As far as my information goes there was not a single editorial unfavourable to pensions for the blind.

We have about 8,000 blind people in Canada and had this resolution been adopted and a bill enacted it would have involved an expenditure by this government for the coming year of about $125,000 to $135,000. The total expenditure in the country would have been between $500,000 and $600,000. I contrast this with what has taken place in the United States during the recent session of congress. A federal bill was brought down which will involve an expenditure of about $3,000,000 in providing assistance to the blind. Some 25 or 30 states have blind legislation at the present time and where there is such legislation the federal government proposes to increase the pensions paid to the extent of $15 per month. Where no pensions are being paid the government will provide $15 per month towards the assistance of the blind and the maintenance of blind institutes. In the state of Massachusetts alone there are about 4.500 blind people receiving about $750,000 per annum in pensions. During the last twelve years this govcrnmnet has granted in aid of our 8,000 blind people about $158,000. I think it is a sad commentary upon the people of this country that they have been able to

Supply-Miscellaneous

assist the blind during the last twelve years only to the extent of $158,000. The provinces have contributed something in the neighbourhood of $100,000 to blind institutes. The supplementary estimates contain some large votes for different purposes. During the last five years this government has voted as federal assistance to the unemployed something like $160,000,000. This money was granted to people who have their sight, who have their hands and feet and are able to help themselves and yet we do not seem to be able to find half a million dollars to take care of blind people between the ages of 40 and 70 years. It is a sad commentary upon this House of Commons that we have seen fit to allow this resolution to remain upon the order paper during the session and then at the last moment decide that no action can be taken and that the matter must be shelved until some future date. The 'blind have suffered a great deal and they are considerably disappointed that something has not been done at this session.

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July 3, 1935