July 25, 1944

LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

It is just this-

Topic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES
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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

But if it is an interruption, I will ask the Prime Minister to take his seat.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

There is a point of order. I would ask his honour the Speaker in what connection my hon. friend has the right to bring in a question of Saskatchewan elections.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Oh, oh.

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

If he is trying to bring Saskatchewan to the fore in this discussion, I would ask him to look at what happened in Saskatchewan to his party in the recent ejection.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

I knew that that reference would bring the Prime Minister to his feet. There is, I suppose, no touchier point I could have raised this afternoon.

Turning to subjects which may not be quite so controversial, I notice that when he made reference to the return of the armed forces he talked about this bill as one which would give them a great lift and a better deal. I hope he did not mean that what we intend to do for the armed forces for their rehabilitation in this country is to give them jobs which are below the income tax level in Canada. That is what this bill actually calls for.

More than that, when the Prime Minister talks about the little man and the small income earner in Canada, we must not forget that what he has provided in this bill is help for children who are under the age of sixteen, while in the higher income brackets of this country allowance is made for children under the age of eighteen, and in some instances, twenty-one. So when my hon. friend and colleague here interrupted the Prime Minister to ask him why he did not bring this bill into operation earlier than July 1, 1945, the Prime Minister at that stage set himself up as the political pugilist for the poor, as I understood from his language. Naturally my hon. friend, who has perhaps had a closer contact with the poor of Canada than almost any other man in the House of Commons, for he came up from that class himself, smiled at the Prime Minister, not because of the reference to the humble poor, but because of the man who is setting himself up as the monopolistic champion of that class of Canadian citizens.

I wish now to say one other word with respect to the position of the humble poor of whom the Prime Minister spoke. The right hon. gentleman said in his remarks that of course the poor people, those in the lower income groups, ought to know how to spend their money just as well as those in the upper groups. In fact he said, I believe, that they might be a little more capable of spending their money than those who were financially better off.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

They have to be more careful.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

With that I am in perfect agreement. Nobody will hear me make any statement or raise any argument such as was anticipated by the Prime Minister. As a matter of fact the difficulty I see with the Prime Minister's argument is this, that

Family Allowances

although he speaks very appealingly on the subject of the people being able to look after themselves, he has included in this very bill a section which states as follows:

5. The allowance shall be applied by the person receiving the same exclusively towards the maintenance, care, training, education and advancement of the child-

Then comes the joker-and it is particularly a joker in view of the words used by the Prime Minister when he was championing the humble poor a few minutes ago:

-and, if the minister or such officer as is authorized by regulations in that behalf is satisfied that the allowance is not being so applied, payment thereof shall ibe discontinued or made to some other person or agency.

I ask the Prime Minister, if this is to be done with people who are receiving less than $1,200 a year, why is it not applied to those he talked of who are above the $1,200 level and are getting allowances on income tax? That of course is completely destructive of the argument which the Prime Minister now proposes.

Now I want to make a few observations with respect to the measure itself. Let me make this clear at the very outset of my remarks. It will summarize our position as a party with respect to this measure.

I wonder if I may have some order in the house. I have continually had to speak to the Minister of Pensions and National Health; I have done it always in a very friendly manner, but may I say to him that I do not want to have to call him any more "the official interrupter". I should like to see that term banished from the records of the house, and he can help me in this matter.

Mr. Speaker, we support wholeheartedly and without reservation the purpose and object of this bill, namely, the raising of the standard of family life in the lower income groups and the strengthening of all family life in this country, but we are convinced that this bill in its present form cannot achieve that purpose and object. We shall give our reasons for such belief. We propose to offer another and better way of achieving that purpose and object. In simple language, there is where onr party stands.

That there are breadwinners in Canada whose wages and income total less than $1,200 a year reveals a condition of which this nation can scarcely be proud. Yet there are said to be no less than 750,000 families whose total yearly returns fail to reach that figure. Such a condition existing at a stage of our national development where work is easy to get and the man-power situation is tight calls for a new deal for the "little man" in Canada.

There should be in this nation no breadwinner who makes less than $1,200 a year, which, calculated on a weekly basis, amounts to around $23 a week. I ask the house how a little family can be properly raised on anything less than that. It is evident that in the new and expanding economy which must come in the future such conditions must form no part, and I fancy in this House of Commons, regardless of political considerations, I shall have very complete and thorough agreement on that point.

The Progressive Conservative party strongly supports the principle of more equitable adjustment of the extra burdens, borne by parents of families, over the resources of the state, and over all members of the community as a whole. There has long been a compelling and urgent need of action to meet this problem, not only in our low income groups but in fact all through the great sturdy middle class of this country as well. Surely on this we can all agree, and also that we should move, and should have moved long ago, to deal adequately and effectively with such problems.

The measure and methods which the government now submits to us to achieve these ends we do not think are adequate. Left to regulation is the whole tremendous administrative set-up, all the procedures to be followed, as to whether the dominion is going to set up treasury and dominion welfare offices in all the provinces and in the major cities and towns of the country. All this haziness and this demand on parliament for an open warrant to set up committees, board and tribunals and staff is not to meet the problem head on, but rather is it a request for authority to do as little or as much as cabinet desires and to defer any actual, practical help to July 1, 1945. This measure is only an isolated link in what should be a chain of comprehensive welfare and security plans for the home and family and child life of this country. The government must know that this is an illusory, hastily prepared and untenable measure. It must surely be aware of its unconstitutionality. It must know that it is not good enough or sound enough to be put into effect. The public must be made aware that the effect of its illegality will be to delay benefits sought. This measure, which concerns the basic relations in our social life, and which will affect our whole present provincial system of child welfare, mothers' allowances, children's aid, standards of wages, educational authority and child welfare jurisdiction, is presented to parliament not in the form of a complete statute but in the form of authority for regulations

100-33C

Family Allowances

to be passed. The very character of the measure perpetuates bureaucratic control through delegated authority into our post-war economy, on a measure not connected with the prosecution of the war itself, as is evidenced by the fact that the government postpones its operation for nearly a year.

We support the purpose and principle of elevating the standard of family life among the masses of our people, but we do not believe, that this bill will adequately and effectively carry that out. Some of the reasons for such a stand I shall now enumerate:

1. It is unconstitutional and invades the jurisdiction of the provinces. In other words, it proposes to do things which this parliament has no power to do, and this without even consulting the provinces first. It is a direct thrust at the rights and responsibilities of the provinces, who doubtless will oppose such an illegal encroachment upon their recognized field of welfare services. A measure that will not stand up in court is worse than no measure at all; for it only delays the relief and reform it purports to give. This bill in my opinion, if passed, will be as powerless as a day-old kitten to further the objects and purposes it sets out to accomplish. It might be profitable to recall the words of caution and warnings of disaster on the constitutional point employed by ^ the Prime Minister when he inveighed against the social legislation introduced in the session of 1935. As late as July 14 last we heard an echo of that debate when he spoke of the social legislation introduced at that time, and this is what he said:

That legislation was introduced and placed upon the statute books, but what happened? The matter was appealed to the supreme court which held the whole body of legislation ultra vires. I ask my hon. friends whether that was helping the social order in the country or whether it was the sort of thing that was calculated to provoke social unrest.

I toss those words back to him now and ask him, after the experience he related with respect to that legislation, whether he can consistently introduce a measure now which is in a similar position. I say it is a dangerous and retrograde step to promise the underprivileged people of this nation something in a measure which is limp, which is crippled and which is powerless in law. Others in our party will deal further with the constitutional aspect of this measure, and I do no more than mention it at this juncture.

2. It seriously endangers the setting up of minimum wage standards in Canada, and may be accepted in many instances as a substitute for better wage levels. It is a thrust at the power of collective bargaining and of minimum wage principles. Labour has always

fMr. Graydon.]

looked with a doubtful eye on such legislation as this bill envisages, and not without good reason.

3 It adds a further strain on our national unity. There is but one province which has maintained the high birth rate and large family which was so characteristic of Canada's pioneer strains. That province's contributions to the general revenue will be out of proportion to the heavier deflection of payments that will have to come from other provinces to pay that province's heavier share of these subsidies. A proportionately lower revenue provider receiving a proportionately higher subsidy can scarcely make for greater unity at this stage in our national life.

4. It disregards the whole question of need in family life and child welfare. It is a direct threat to a more comprehensive social programme where cash grants to those in need and adequate health, educational, housing and general welfare provisions would have their place. It thus ignores the needy families of our nation's taxpayers and the heavy expenses incurred by parents with children over sixteen. The loosing of this lone wolf to range in a constitutional no-man's land can seriously threaten the developing dominion-provincial network of assistance and health provisions and even hold back other programmes. This is in the present set-up only "bull in the china shop" legislation and rides rough-shod over social welfare undertakings of the provincial and municipal authorities. This "intruder" legislation runs the risk of disturbing and delaying the progress being so rapidly made by other jurisdictions.

5. It foreshadows the building of a giant peace-time bureaucracy with its inevitable controls, offices, inspectors and machinery. This nation wants to get rid of this kind of thing when the war is over, and here we have this unpopular war-time policy being perpetuated in the period of peace. The bill itself is little more than the barest authority upon which orders in council can be based. The real legislating with respect to this measure will be done behind the closed doors of cabinet council.

6. It is blank cheque legislation without the emergency of war time to justify it. When the flesh is put on the skeleton of this legislation by cabinet-made regulations the people and parliament -will be spectators in the grandstand rather than participants in its framing. It will result- in a costly overlapping of services and will reach its finger into the lives of the people directly from the centre of bureaucracy itself. That to agriculture and labour as well

Family Allowances

as citizens at large will not be a welcome provision in the bill. They are fed up with bureaucracy and controls.

7. It attacks the very basis of our system of justice, for it asks for power to constitute solely at the discretion of the minister and his appointees a system of committees, boards, tribunals and agents with undefined powers and and with denial of appeal under specified heads and with prosecution for infringement of the act, solely with the minister's consent. It constitutes a threat to the liberty of the subject which to say the least may be extremely dangerous.

8. It is a costly duplication of existing services. It gives power to the federal government to set up expensive overlapping agencies where provincial, municipal and voluntary services are now doing a good job. This superimposition of federal machinery on top of existing provincial machinery cannot help but be wasteful and inefficient.

9. It denies the basic principles of social justice. Such justice calls not for the mass treatment of all people as the same, such as marked unemployment relief, but for treating life as it is, individually and the needs of families differently as they are different. The needs of a family in the winter in my part of Ontario are different from those in the far north. Families in a teeming slum and families in the Okanagan; families in the eastern townships and families in Cape Breton's mining or fishing villages, have very different needs. This scheme lumps them all together and gives the' same grant to all. Could the injustice be more patently apparent?

Having stated some of the reasons why we feel that this measure is not in the interest of a better method of raising the family standard in Canada, I now move the following amendment, seconded by the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson):

That all the words after the word "that" in the said motion be struck out and the following substituted therefor:

"in the opinion of this house it is desirable that the standard of family life among the masses of the people in Canada be raised,

"but in view of the fact that bill 161 is not within the constitutional competence of the do-minion parliament, that it be not now read a second time, but that it be referred to the special committee on social security with instructions that the bill be studied and redrafted after consultation, collaboration and in cooperation with the provinces as a joint undertaking and introduced before this ho-use prorogues. Such redrafted bill Shall contain specific details as to the administrative machinery, forms and procedure under which the bill will be administered and shall provide that any contributions to be made under the terms of

100-336J

the said hill by the dominion to a province shall be conditional on the federal Minister of Labour certifying that the standard of wages in that province is not lower than the average standards of wages for similar work in the other provinces.

May I propose to the government that as dependents' alowances come properly under federal jurisdiction, the allowances now paid with respect to children of members of our armed forces be augmented at once by the amounts mentioned in the bill now before the house instead of delaying such payment till July 1, 1945. The same should apply to those coming within the provisions of the Pension Act. The government possesses the power to do this quite apart from this bill, and it may also be properly pointed out that such records are available. There is no legitimate excuse for delay. It is merely a matter of increasing the amount of the cheque.

Before I conclude I should like to express the hope that the government will be diverted from their charted course and accept our amendment which is designed to meet more effectively and quickly the problem we are all trying to solve. Its acceptance would prevent such an unconstitutional and unworkable piece of legislation from being tossed into an election campaign where there might be a temptation to make three and a half million political footballs out of Canada's children. At all costs they must not be made pawns in a political game. The public are bound to regard a bill so patently unconstitutional and unworkable, brought in at the dying days of a dying parliament by a dying government, as a last straw to which this drowning administration clutches to save itself in the churning sea of political unpopularity.

On behalf of the children and their parents across Canada who are badly in need of real and immediate help, I repeat my demand and plea that we must have legislation which will work, and which has teeth, and which will provide the essential assistance to the hard-pressed parents of families across the dominion who are struggling hard and doing their level best to keep up in the uncertain race for economic survival to-day. Let us help these people. Let us not just say we will help them a year from now by undisclosed ways and means. Actions speak louder than words, and this party stands for action.

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Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR PAYMENTS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN UNDER SIXTEEN
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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE KING:

I rise to a point of order. My hon. friend has proposed that the bill be not now read a second time but that it be referred to a committee. I do not wish to say that my hon. friend is not as well' aware of -the rules as he should be, but he

Family Allowances

certainly ought to have known that his motion is out of order according to standing order 75, which reads as follows:

Every public bill shall be read twice in the house before committal or amendment.

As the amendment proposes that the bill be not now read a second time but be referred to a committee it is, I submit, out of order.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

May I say to the Prime Minister that if that interpretation of the rules were to be accepted, then of course one of the major banking bills of this session was not dealt with in the proper way. It was referred to the banking and commerce committee before it was given second reading.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

No; which one?

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

The Alberta Bank bill. I distinctly remember that that was done at that time.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

The subject matter.

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury). The Alberta Bank bill was referred to the banking and commerce committee.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

Not the bill itself, but the subject matter of the bill, which is very different from the bill.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

The subject matter of the bill is the bill. The Alberta Bank bill was referred to the [DOT] banking and commerce committee on every occasion on which it was brought forward before second reading was given to it. I vividly recall requesting the administration at that time not to pursue that course. If the government take the responsibility of trying to eliminate this amendment, that is their responsibility, but the public will desire to see a test made on this amendment.

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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE (Vancouver Centre):

The amendment is out of order.

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NAT

Richard Burpee Hanson

National Government

Mr. HANSON (York-Sunbury):

I do not [DOT]think so.

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LIB

Thomas Vien (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

I have read the amendment and standing order 75, which is as follows:

Every public bill shall be read twice in the house before committal or amendment.

. The amendment states that the bill be not now read a second time, but that it be referred to the special committee on social security. My recollection is not that of the hon. member for York-Sunbury (Mr. Hanson). It was the subject matter of the Alberta Bank bill which was referred to the banking and commerce committee. In my judgment the amendment now before the house falls under

IMr. Mackenzie King.]

and is contrary to the provisions of standing order 75; consequently the bill cannot be referred to a committee before second reading, and I shall have to rule the amendment out of order.

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NAT

Gordon Graydon (Leader of the Official Opposition)

National Government

Mr. GRAYDON:

If that is your ruling,

Mr. Speaker, we desire to appeal from it.

Mr. SPEAKER put the question as follows:

On the motion made bj' Right Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King that bill No. 161, an act to provide for family allowances, be now read a second time, Mr. Graydon, seconded by Mr. Hanson (York-Sunbury) moved an amendment. I ruled the amendment out of order on the basis of standing order 75, which states that every public bill shall be read twice in the house before committal or amendment. The leader of the opposition has appealed against the decision

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CCF

Major James William Coldwell

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

Mr. M. J. COLDWELL (Rosetown-Biggar):

Mr. Speaker, in discussing this important measure this afternoon I 'have no set or prepared speech or remarks to make. I want to say immediately that we of this party welcome heartily the introduction of this measure. However, I wish it were a part of a wide social security programme much more comprehensive than any of the measures that have been placed before this house up to the present time, or perhaps I should say, up to this stage of the session.

This afternoon as I discuss this measure I am thinking of the years that have gone by. I think of 1921 when the late Mr. J. S. Woodsworth appeared as the member for Winnipeg North Centre. I think of the many years he spent endeavouring to popularize social security measures in this house as he succeeded to a large degree in popularizing them across the country. I have no doubt whatever .that it is not only because of the new order, of which the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) speaks, but because of the long process of education carried on in this

country by pioneers for social security that this important bill has reached its second reading to-day. As one of the party which has consistently urged the adoption in this country of comprehensive social security measures, I welcome this proposal.

I regret that the constitutional argument has been introduced at this time by the official opposition. I think that was a move to shelve this important matter, and I am glad, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling has been sustained. I regret that any constitutional doubts which may exist have not been resolved ere this. When we met in 1940 the Sirois commission had been inquiring into the needs of the country. It made a comprehensive report regarding some of the constitutional difficulties

arising in connection with various provinces-and the dominion. I think it is indeed a tragedy that right up to the end of this parliament we have not had an opportunity of endeavouring to resolve those difficulties to which such striking attention was drawn a few years ago.

The government has promised throughout the whole of this session, and before he went to Britain to attend the prime ministers' conference the Prime Minister said that a meeting of the premiers of the provinces would be called at an early date in order that these matters might be discussed and considered. I am sorry that at this stage, when the life of ' this parliament is running out, when the sands of the government are running low, that we have not yet seen convened by the Prime Minister the conference which could consider the very important matters which some people evidently are inclined to raise. When I say, "some people" I take it that the leader of the opposition (Mr. Graydon) had in mind that the constitutional issue would be raised by one of the provinces where his friends are in control.

I said a few moments ago that in my opinion we should have this measure as part of a national social security programme. When this movement came into being as a result of the federation of many groups throughout this country with similar ends in view, we adopted a programme. That programme contained a statement regarding comprehensive social security measures for Canada. Throughout our entire existence our party has endeavoured to get these matters considered by the people and parliament. I have in my hand the very last statement that was made at our national convention two years ago when we said that we would work for and promote improved nutrition standards, family and' mother's allowances. Hon. gentlemen will1 note that in that statement we included not

Family Allowances

only family allowances but some other items that are of interest and importance in the realm of social security.

I quite agree with the Prime Minister when he said this afternoon that the new world, the new order as he put it, which we all hope is in the making will put the emphasis on human welfare rather than on wealth. Most of our law's in the past have been written for the protection of property. Parliaments have been more or less merely umpires in the economic realm. But to-day parliaments and legislatures everywhere in the world are forced to think more and more in terms of human welfare. Ten years ago, twelve years ago, and in the years before that, in this house the slogan that we adopted in 1932 was ridiculed from all sides. We said that there must be production for use rather than for the amassing of wealth and the making of great profits. But to-day we have had the satisfaction of bearing the Prime Minister on the floor of this chamber echo in other words the slogan of the party for which I speak. We ask, Ihowever, why is it that such measures were not introduced years ago?

The Prime Minister said that conditions were different seventy-five, fifty, twenty-five years ago, but I notice that he stopped at twenty-five. May I remind him that conditions that called for social security measures, for a nutritional programme, for family allowances, for widows' pensions, for better conditions for the aged and for those who were finable to secure employment existed ten years ago, nine years ago, eight years ago, five years ago, when we had nearly one million people in this country on relief, and when in the city where I lived, where we gave relief on the most generous scale of any city in Canada, people were forced to exist on something like an average of three cents a meal. Consequently, no matter what conditions may have been fifty or one hundred years ago, the conditions that existed between 1930 and 1939, in the years when this government was in power, or when hon. gentlemen to my immediate right were in power, called loudly for measures of this description. Let me remind the house that we are now but reaping the vengeance of those days. Those [DOT]of us who have examined the figures that were given in the house showing the results of the (physical examinations of the men who volunteered for active service in this war know that nearly one-half of those who volunteered in the early part of this war were rejected on physical grounds. To-day many men are suffering form physical disability because of the conditions they had to endure between

IMr. ColdwelJ.]

1930 and 1939 when this government or its predecessor was in power. One of the most common ailments to-day in our armed forces, I am told by medical men, is stomach diseases that were caused by inadequate feeding, malnutrition or no feeding at all in the days before the war. But to-day we have this measure, and in spite of the fact that it is belated, in spite of the fact that we regard it as only one short step, we welcome it because it is a recognition that human rights must come before property rights in our land.

Topic:   FAMILY ALLOWANCES
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR PAYMENTS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN UNDER SIXTEEN
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July 25, 1944