Right Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (Prime Minister) moved the second reading of bill No. 149, to establish a Department of National Health and Welfare.
He said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to establish a new department of government to be known as the Department of National Health and Welfare, under the direction of a Minister of National Health and Welfare. The bill carries out one of the undertakings in the speech from the throne which relate to the establishment of new departments of government to deal, amongst other things, with postwar planning. I shall read the passage from the speech:
My ministers believe that the time is rapidly approaching when a minister of the crown should be responsible for each of the three broad fields of post-war planning. You will accordingly be asked to approve the establishment of the following departments of government:
(1) A Department of Veterans' Affairs to have charge of the rehabilitation and reestablishment of members of the armed forces, and the administration of veterans' pensions and allowances;
(2) A Department of Reconstruction to promote and coordinate planning for national development and post-war employment; and
(3) A Department of Social Welfare to organize and to assist in administering activities of the federal government in the fields of health and social insurance.
The words "Social Welfare" as the designation of the department have since been changed to " National Health and Welfare."
As to the scope of the new department, it divides itself broadly into two parts, the first of which has to do primarily with health, and the second with social welfare.
The first part, concerned primarily with health, takes over from the old Department of Pensions and National Health those branches which relate particularly to health. As the house is aware, there has already been taken from the Department of Pensions and National Health the .portion of the work of that department which relates more particularly to veterans' affairs. Apart from veterans' affairs, there remain the branches of the department which relate to national health. All these will be brought under the new Department of
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National Health and Welfare, and the present Department of Pensions and National Health will disappear.
The other main division of the new department will be social welfare. This will include such branches of the public service of Canada as relate to social welfare which may be transferred from existing departments to the new Department of National Health and Welfare, as well as the administration of such new social welfare measures as may be enacted. As the house is aware, there are several social security measures which are already on the statutes and which are administered by different departments of government. One of these is that pertaining to old age pensions administration, which has been under the Department of Finance. The Minister of Finance has indicated that in some respects it would be preferable that a department other than the Department of Finance should administer the old age pensions. I cannot say just at what moment the transfer may be made, but, at some convenient time, the administrative work in connection with old age pensions will be transferred to the new Department of National Health and Welfare.
There is also the statute relating to pensions for the blind, the administration of which will likewise be transferred to the new Department of National Health and Welfare. At the last session of parliament a statute was enacted having to do with physical fitness. At the present time it is being administered by the Department of Pensions and National Health. It will now come under the new Department of National Health and Welfare.
A number of measures relating to social welfare and human well-being are contemplated in the programme of social security already outlined by the government. One of the most important of these is that which relates to family allowances. Hon. members will have seen on the order paper a notice which I have given of a resolution upon which a bill will subsequently be based dealing with family allowances. It is intended when that measure is enacted that it will be administered by the Department of National Health and Welfare. Hon. members will realize that the administration of a measure so important and far-reaching as that will require much careful preparation. It is therefore desirable that the new department should be formed at an early day so that the measure may be in full operation at the time fixed for it to come into force.
These were measures specifically set forth in the speech from the throne, but, in addi-
tion, the speech refers to some broader aspects of social security, and to these I should like to quote in the terms of the speech itself. One paragraph to which I would draw attention is the following:
A considerable measure of social security is already provided under federal and provincial legislation, but the working out of a comprehensive national scheme, in which federal and provincial activity will be integrated and which will include nation-wide health insurance, will require further consultation and close cooperation with the provinces.
It will be seen from this paragraph that the government hopes a means may be found of integrating matters relating to social welfare, to prevent overlapping and bringing about the effective coordination of activities as between the federal and provincial governments. We contemplate working out a comprehensive national scheme in which federal and provincial activities will be integrated and which will include national health insurance.
National health insurance is a subject which has already been referred to the important committee on social security which was appointed last session and again this session. This committee has been making a full and careful study of the whole question of health insurance. It will be necessary, at some stage, for the dominion and the provinces to have conferences in order to work out a comprehensive scheme which will serve the best interests of the dominion and provinces alike.
With regard to health insurance I would point out that it is a means to an end. The end of all this social legislation is social security. Social security will be brought about by such measures as will be undertaken under the veterans' affairs and reconstruction departments and those that relate to insurance against the social and economic hazards encountered in the life of the people. The necessity for a nation-wide plan must be apparent to everyone.
As was natural, the work of social welfare was taken up in the first instance by municipalities and the provinces. Many of the provinces have social legislation on their statute books to-day. They began first with such measures as those relating to workmen's compensation, mothers' allowances, child welfare, hospitalization and other social measures. More recently the provinces have been giving much closer attention to health measures. Some have departments or branches of departments dealing with health.
It has become quite clear that without some assistance and cooperation from the federal
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government there cannot be anything in the nature of a national scheme. Differences exist between provinces in connection with the legislation enacted. Nothing could be more inimical to a nation-wide plan than to leave to mere chance, and to conditions as they arise, the enactment from time to time by the dominion and by the provinces of different measures which may be regarded as necessary. There is a necessity for some central agency that can be helpful, in cooperation with the provinces, in coordinating services, in preventing duplication and overlapping, and in seeing, when one department is behind another in some important enactment, how that difficulty may be overcome. One of the functions of the new Department of National Health and Welfare will be to cooperate in that way with the several provinces.
There is no intention whatever in this enactment of attempting to invade the jurisdiction of the provinces in these matters. I will refer to that in just a second, but before doing so I should like to read another clause of the speech from the throne which relates to this matter. The speech contemplated that this nation-wide measure of health insurance would be effected only after there had been ample opportunity for study, in both provincial and dominion fields, and after there has been opportunity of conference between the provinces and the dominion. It is not the intention of the dominion to seek to force upon any province any legislation, no matter how good it may be, by invading provincial jurisdiction. What the dominion will endeavour to do in these matters is to bring about to the advantage of the provinces and the dominion alike, proper coordination of all efforts to improve the health and well-being of the people.
The speech continues:
When suitable agreements are reached with the provinces, my ministers will be prepared to recommend measures to provide for federal assistance in a nation-wide system of health insurance, and for a national scheme of contributory old age pensions on a more generous basis that that at present in operation.
That statement in the speech makes it clear that the dominion contemplates having at some time, we hope it may be soon, not only a nation-wide system of health insurance but, as well, a national scheme of contributory old age pensions. The administration of the contributory scheme of old age pensions would be a very important function of some department of government, and it is the intention to have the Department of National Health and Welfare administer the contributory scheme once it comes into being. In the interval one of the duties of the new department will be to help to gather the necessary
factual information which will be required in conferences between the provinces and the dominion, and also to gather from the experience of other nations the kind of knowledge which would be essential for the most efficient working of the old age pension scheme.
The Minister of Finance has made it clear that once the contributory scheme is enacted it will be possible for the government to consider, to use the words of the speech, a more generous basis than that which is at present in operation. "A more generous basis", I should say, would include a lowering of the age at which persons would become entitled to old age pensions and also an increase of the amounts of the pensions themselves.
Will the house pardon me if I mention that my colleague the Minister of Finance has just sent me a note indicating that this debate should be adjourned shortly in order to enable the bills respecting the amendment to the Bank Act and the Quebec Savings Bank Act to pass this house so that they can get over to the senate as soon as may be possible, because if they are to serve the purpose for which they are intended they will have to be assented to before the 1st of July. I will conclude more quickly than I otherwise would what I have to say on the second reading, and after a reply on the part of some hon. member opposite, with the permission of the house will ask that the debate be adjourned in order that we may take up the other measures.
I have indicated fairly well the scope of the work which the new department will be expected to carry on.. I should like, however, to set forth more concretely the different measures the department will be called upon to administer and over which it will have supervision. That cannot be better done than by quoting section 5 of the bill, respecting the duties, powers and functions of the minister:
5. The duties, powers and functions of the minister shall extend to and include all matters relating to the promotion or preservation of the health, social security and social welfare of the people of Canada over which the parliament of Canada has jurisdiction, and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, particularly the following matters:-
(a) the administration of such acts of the parliament of Canada and of orders or regulations of the government of Canada as are not by law assigned to any other department of the government of Canada or any minister thereof relating in any way to the health, social security and welfare of the people of Canada;
(b) investigation and research into public health and welfare;
(c) the inspection and medical care of immigrants and seamen, and the administration of