May 22, 1939

LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I am not taking the credit for the extirpation of leprosy. It has not existed to any extent in Canada for forty years. I was discussing the advancement of science in Canada.

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CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

The report states-I shall read it again:

Major Power outlined the achievements of the federal government in health problems. Leprosy, once prevalent in New Brunswick, had been reduced until there are only twelve cases in Canada. . . .

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LIB

Ross Wilfred Gray (Chief Government Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. GRAY:

They are still here.

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CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

I was endeavouring to

compliment the minister; if he does not wish to be complimented, I am sorry.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I have done so many other things-

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CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

I am sure the minister would not want to tell the committee that public health is a purely provincial problem and must be handled by the provinces and municipalities alone; for by such efforts as have been put forth by the federal government to eliminate leprosy, and toward the reduction of maternal deaths, he admits, and the government admit, that the federal administration has the right to participate with the provinces and the municipalities towards the elimination of preventable disease and the cure of curable disease. By this very admission, therefore, I do not see that any minister can rise in his place and say that what I have been discussing this evening is of no concern of the federal government.

I draw the attention of the minister to the fact that his department asks for only about $1,000,000 to be spent towards the reduction of a national wastage which runs into hundreds of millions of dollars a year. We sit here and are asked to vote for public works large sums running into hundreds of millions. This is regarded by many as an expense which is a palliative, perhaps necessary for the time being but nothing permanent about it. At the same time we are asked to vote only about 8 per cent of the cost of the new Canadian National Railways terminal in Montreal for the maintenance of the health of the people of Canada. Even the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) has no difficulty whatsoever in having passed, for the health of animals, essentially twice or three times the amount we spend federally for public health.

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LIB

Ross Wilfred Gray (Chief Government Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. GRAY:

Does the hon. member complain about that?

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CON

Denton Massey

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. MASSEY:

I should like to carry along my argument. I qualified it for the benefit of the chief whip who interrupted by saying that public works such as I cited are, in the main, palliative measures.

True, of recent date a grant of $52,000 has been made by this government for the associated committee on medical research of the national research council. Here is the federal government's contribution towards federal medical research in Canada, a contribution equal to about one day's deficit of the Canadian National Railways!

We have in Canada one of the most outstanding scientists of the age, Sir Frederick Banting, who is chairman of this committee. Why do we not give him full scope for the magnificent work he is capable of doing, instead of restricting him by such a paltry grant?

But the minister will say; "I fully agree as to what we should do, but where do we find the money?" I ask him, what is the cost of medical research compared with the elimination of wastage which it makes possible? I wonder if it costs so much to establish adequate health units from coast to coast and provide uniformity in medical services in all provinces. What sort of policy is it that maintains the standard of relief on a level that endangers health and thus threatens in the Canada of to-morrow the strong, healthy, virile manhood and womanhood of which we in this dominion have in the past 'been able to boast?

I have already drawn the attention of hon. members to the accomplishments of the health units in the prairie provinces, which have been set up at a cost of about 60 cents per capita. The Canadian Medical Association estimates that units could be set up in Canada from coast to coast at a cost of no more than SI per capita; an expenditure of only SI 1,000,000 to preserve the health of the nation and to prevent the ghastly wastage of to-day 1

In conclusion, may I remind hon. members I have not said a word about the humanitarian side of this question, nor do I wish to play upon the sensitiveness of hon. members through such letters as I have received even during the last month, indicating the distress existing from one end of Canada to the other as a result of the failure of those in authority of deal adequately with this great question of public health. Any man who has a heart cannot be insensitive to distress and suffering. We owe a debt to the past, and the only way we can pay it is by putting the future in debt to ourselves. What better way is there for us to accept this responsibility than to (Mr. Gray.]

make sure that our new Canadians are born of healthy parents, and that the children of these children do not have to face the hazards occasioned by the under-nourishment and resulting ill-health of their fathers and mothers in early life. The challenge is clear, the way is clear. Medical science stands ready and willing to do its part. So I ask the government, is it prepared to accept the challenge?

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LIB

Ross Wilfred Gray (Chief Government Whip; Whip of the Liberal Party)

Liberal

Mr. GRAY:

We meet it.

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?

Leslie Gordon Bell

Mr. COLD WELL:

Before this item passes, I do not want to make any lengthy speech, but simply say that I am very glad indeed that the hon. member who has just taken his seat has covered the ground in such an excellent manner. Coming from Saskatchewan, I am glad to know the things he said in praise of the work that has been done there, particularly in connection with tuberculosis. I remember very well when the work started by the anti-tuberculosis league back, I think, in 1911 or 1912 when they built the first sanatorium at Fort Qu'Appelle, and how Doctor Ferguson since that time has built up the institution.

Once upon a time it was the private obligation of the person suffering from the disease to meet the cost of care. Then the cities and urban centres formed a pool, and in that pool they placed a certain amount and sent patients to the sanatorium. Since, then, other sanataria have been built, and to-day tuberculosis treatment is free in Saskatchewan to all those who require it. That seems to me a demonstration of what might be done on a much wider scale. The hon. member who has just spoken showed the necessity for similar care for the same disease in other parts of Canada. He drew attention to the tremendous wastage in human life from other diseases, and from sickness which is very largely preventable. I am not forgetting that much of this disease arises from insanitary conditions in our cities and lack of nutrition in the case of many people in the country. And I think that consideration of economic conditions has to go with consideration of these health measures. I strongly support tie position that this is a national problem, because it deals with our greatest national asset, that of health and human life.

There is one other disease to which I wish to draw the attention of the minister and the committee to-night; that is the dread scourge of cancer. A great deal of work is being done in many provinces in regard to cancer. In Saskatchewan cancer clinics have been established. I was startled when some years

Supply-Pensions and National Health

ago I heard a young doctor, I think Doctor Dragon, a member of the legislature, turn to the members of the legislature-there were then sixty-five of them-and tell them that in all probability thirteen of the sixty-five, if they lived up to the average, would die of cancer. It was a startling statement. That scourge is spreading.

I wish to put in a plea for just one phase of the cancer situation. Many people find it very difficult to avail themselves of the opportunities provided by the clinics, where they exist. It has been suggested to me-it is not original with me-by a woman who is interested in health work, and particularly in cancer cases, that the federal government, if it made no other contribution, might in some manner provide that people who desire to avail themselves of treatment at these cancer clinics should be provided through the federal department with free transportation to these clinics. In Saskatchewan, where distances are great and where there is a great deal of poverty at the present time, transportation is a barrier. I make this plea to the minister because it would be at least a small contribution to the splendid work that is being done in these provinces.

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LIB

Malcolm McLean

Liberal

Mr. McLEAN (Melfort):

Is it not a fact that people who require cancer treatment at these clinics and have not the means to pay for their transportation are assisted in that way also? Are they not supplied with transportation now, to a great extent?

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

I understood not.

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LIB
CCF

Major James William Coldwell

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. COLDWELL:

If that is so, it has been adopted more or less recently, for it was not the case some little time ago. I have not checked up on it lately; I have been awaiting an item of this kind, and perhaps I should have made a little further investigation. However, that does not alter the suggestion that this is a contribution which might be made by the federal government. All I wish to say is that I thoroughly endorse the position taken by the hon. member for Greenwood, and I hope that as time goes on we may see in Canada a health service for our people aimed at preventing disease, just as free and as available as education is for the children of our country.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

I want to say just one word to thank the hon. member for Greenwood for having so eloquently placed on Hansard the result of his researches into this health question. It is a very large question. The matter of responsibility particularly is one on which it is extremely difficult to get full

agreement throughout the country. There has been no doubt at all in my mind, particularly since I have had an opportunity to give health matters that study which I have been enabled to give them since taking over this department, that the state has as much responsibility to look after the health of its citizens as it has to protect them against burglary or any other social calamity. But which particular branch of the state in Canada should do that is something not yet decided. We cannot say all at once that we are going to take over all the health services of the provinces. I am sure that if I were to decide to take over the health units in my own province we would have a kind of revolution on our hands. We would be infringing on provincial rights. The banner provincial autonomy would be raised. If other province! would follow the example of Quebec and Saskatchewan and develop their own health units it would be for the greater good of Canada.

That is the ease all along the line. There is room for cooperation. There is room for coordination of effort. There is a crying demand for some kind of conference so that we may trace, as between municipality, province and dominion, just what are our responsibilities and how we may be able to carry them out to the best of our ability in order to assist the entire population. In any event I thank the hon. member for Greenwood and the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar for their observations. I assure them that so far as I am concerned I am always glad to hear members, on whatever side of the house they may be, urge on the government and on the country that we spend more on our national health, provided that we can spend it usefully.

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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin

Liberal

Mr. MARTIN:

The minister missed the whole point of the speech of the hon. member for Greenwood.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I should like to associate myself with the observations of the two hon. gentlemen who spoke from this side of the house. At the same time I should like to point out that all pious wishes such as these probably will remain pious wishes until we find a way of getting the necessary money without added taxation or borrowing.

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Item agreed to.


LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

There were three other items in the supplementaries which the committee might allow me to put through, always holding back the two items which I suggested would be held back.

Pensions branch.

629. Pension appeal court-further amount required to provide, in the event of the abolition

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of the pension appeal court, for gratuities not to exceed in any case the equivalent of eighteen months' salary, $43,500.

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LIB

Charles Gavan Power (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. POWER:

This is the supplementary item I mentioned a moment ago, in order to provide compensation to the members of the pension appeal court which is being abolished.

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May 22, 1939