April 10, 1945

NAT

Grote Stirling

National Government

Mr. STIRLING:

Then there is one other question, with regard to the unfortunate burning of ordnance depots in several parts of

War Appropriation-The Army

Canada. Would the parliamentary assistant give a list of those that have so burned, and the causes of the fires?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I presume I could obtain that. .

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NAT

Grote Stirling

National Government

Mr. STIRLING:

Could we have a statement dealing with those matters?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

Yes, a little later.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

I should like to raise one point with the parliamentary assistant because at various times it has rather disconcerted me. Quite frequently members of parliament receive communications or visits from their constituents inquiring why they have not received replies to letters addressed to various departments of the government, particularly the Department of National Defence. By approaching the minister's office I have always been able to get fairly prompt replies to my inquiries, but quite frequently I do not want to bother the minister's office; and on a *number of occasions, as I say, I have been considerably disconcerted by not receiving *replies to letters addressed to this and other departments. There may be some reason for this, but I should like to point out to the parliamentary assistant that a member's constituents feel he is the one man in Ottawa to whom they can go to get information, and -when the member writes a letter to a particular department it seems to me at least an acknowledgment should be received within A very short time.

Mr, ABBOTT: I quite agree.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

Last Friday the parliamentary assistant said that, speaking generally, there was not very much trouble in connection with gratuities, except in cases where the person concerned was not entitled to a gratuity.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I think what I said was that the trouble arose in cases where no application had been made and, second, where application had been made and refused.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

I have a case to which I should like to refer. It is rather a small matter to take up at this time, but it illustrates what I am referring to in connection with this matter of getting replies. In this particular case a notice was sent out on which was endorsed this statement: "Your cheque will

be mailed February 20, 1945." This particular individual came to see me out in Saskatoon eleven days after February 20, and asked me to find out why he had not received his money. On March 3 I sent an airmail letter to the secretary of the Department of National Defence for the army, Ottawa. I had not

received a reply when I left to come to Ottawa. After coming here I sent a letter under date of March 28. It is now April 10; and certainly as the representative of a fairly large number of people in this country I am entitled to a reply from a department of government.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I entirely agree.

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PC

Alfred Henry Bence

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BENCE:

I cannot explain to my constituent if I do not get a reply.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I do not blame the hon. member; and I do not know how I can explain, either. If my hon. friend will just give me a copy of the letter I can assure him that he will get a reply by an early hour to-morrow.

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CCF

Percy Ellis Wright

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

Mr. WRIGHT:

I have had the same experience with this department in writing concerning gratuities, so that the case mentioned by the hon. member for Saskatoon is not the exception.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

On the question of gratuities, the committee will realize that this is a comparatively new function of the department. Some of us may remember that in the early stages of the war a good deal of difficulty was experienced in connection with cheques for dependents' allowances. I know when I first came here nearly five years ago I received many complaints from dependents who said their cheques were not coming regularly. I found that in the process of organizing the machinery to send out these cheques there was considerable delay. That gradually was overcome and the difficulties ironed out, so that to-day, judging by my own experience, the system has -become pretty efficient, since in recent years I have received very few complaints in regard to delay in sending out dependents' allowance cheques. As I explained the other night, applications for gratuities are coming in pretty large numbers. The other evening the accumulated total had reached seven thousand. I believe these applications are being handled reasonably promptly, but I have no d-ouibt the system will be improved as soon as that can be done. In the ordinary course the cheques go out within forty-eight hours after the application is approved. However, I will bring the remarks of the hon. member to the attention of the department. I regret that there appears to have been a failure to acknowledge letters; and I agree that letters from members of parliament in particular should receive prompt attention.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

May I ask the parliamentary assistant if there is any particular kind of case in which there will be any un-

War Appropriation-The Army

usual delay in forwarding the gratuity to the next of kin? I have in mind a letter which was shown me by a colleague this afternoon, in which it was stated that it would be necessary for this case to go to the estates branch, and for the military estate of the deceased soldier to be wound up before payment of the gratuity could be made to the next of kin. In this case the soldier had died more than six months ago. This raises the question whether in all cases payment will be made fairly quickly, or whether there will be delay in instances such as I have mentioned.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

My hon. friend will realize that I am no expert in departmental administration or in the handling of applications of this kind, but, as I said a moment ago with respect to the remarks of the other hon. member, I will bring his statement to the attention of the officers of the department particularly in charge of the handling of these matters and ask them to do everything in their power to expedite the disposition of these claims. Personally I do not know of any particular type of case which may be more difficult than another. Obviously, as my hon. friend will realize, the application must be checked; verification must be had of the length of service and the amount of gratuity to which the claimant is entitled, and of necessity that takes some little time. It cannot be done in an hour or two, or probably within two or three days.

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CCF

Stanley Howard Knowles (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. KNOWLES:

I was concerned when I saw this letter because I had a clear memory of the wording of the order in council tabled the other day, which indicated that in these cases the amount of the gratuity was to be credited to the military estate of the deceased service man. If that is the case there may be instances in which there will be lengthy delay. I was hoping that it might be possible, since it has now been recognized that this gratuity should go to the next of kin, to have payment made without that sort of delay. There has been so much uncertainty and disappointment about the matter that I hope an effort will be made to deal with these cases as rapidly as possible.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

Obviously care must be taken to see that the gratuity is paid to the proper person, but I can assure my hon. friend that every effort will be made to see that these claims are paid as promptly as possible.

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SC

Victor Quelch

Social Credit

Mr. QUELCH:

Could the gratuity not be paid in exactly the same way that back pay is given to the next of kin?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. ABBOTT:

I would imagine so.

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SC

Victor Quelch

Social Credit

Mr. QUELCH:

If the dependents can

establish their right to the back pay of the deceased soldier I should think their right to the gratuity would be established automatically.

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April 10, 1945