As a result of the action taken in 1941 this matter was given some measure of positive form in the proposals made by the government to the provinces in August 1945. Since that time we have had a director of health services who has just resigned from his post to take up another important task. At the present time the work is being carried on by a number of Individuals in our own department who I believe are specially qualified to deal with the matter. They have other functions as well. As a matter of fact only this morning I was hoping to be able to conclude certain arrangements with another department of government to enlist the services of a gentleman who I believe, because of his studies and his own experience, can be said to be exceptionally qualified in the field of health insurance. I am hoping he will be able to come to us to carry on and to supplement some of the work done by Doctor Little, by our own deputy minister and by several research assistants. I hope that within a week or so, in the person of Doctor H. M. Cassidy of the university of Toronto, we shall have the temporary services-I trust they will prove more than temporary-of one of the outstanding persons in this field in Canada. Arrangements have not yet been completed, but we are anxious to have his services to pass upon certain projects which I believe will prove important in the field of health insurance.
I assure the hon. member that this matter is being actively pursued. Apart from cancer and what we hope to do in respect of arthritis, this matter is receiving priority of interest so far as I am concerned.
I consider that a most unsatisfactory statement from the minister. Last year there was an appropriation of 843,555, and this year in the estimates there is a
reduction of about *15,000. The sort of project the minister has outlined is not worth even the 827,863 mentioned in the item.
I hold in my hand the report of the advisory committee on health insurance appointed by order in council in 1942. I shall not take the time of the committee to read it, but it does provide some valuable material. The taxpayers of Canada have been at considerable expense in carrying out these surveys. The hopes of our people were raised when the representatives of so many different organizations were brought to Ottawa to give their opinions on the compilation of this information. Included in these were the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Hospital Council, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, and a whole list of other associations I shall not mention. They went to considerable expense to express their views, and I believe the taxpayers of Canada are entitled to know what happened to their ideas. What precisely has the department done this year? Who are devoting full time to this work? What has been done or what may we expect to be done with the $27,863 in the vote? What have we to show for what has been done? The minister should' give the committee more information than he has given thus far.
I regret that the hon. member thinks our active interest in pursuing these studies is not adequate. I do not know what more one can do than constantly engage one's attention on the problem. Instead of confining it as it originally was to one person, the work has been distributed to a number of people in the department who I believe are specially' competent. If the hon. gentleman wishes confirmation of that I would ask him to talk to Doctor Mott in Saskatchewan to ascertain if we in the department are not meeting this problem in a whole-hearted and embracing way. The decreases to which the hon. member has referred are in the educational and informational publicity item and1 other pay list items. That has nothing to do with the importance of the work. I venture to suggest that in the person of the present deputy of welfare we have a gentleman who has had tremendous experience with the only health insurance act ever passed by any government in this country. I have every reason to rely upon his judgment and skill in the matter. As I said a moment ago, I am hoping to have additional services on a temporary basis, because he is now permanently engaged, in the person of Doctor H. M. Cassidy. He was deputy' minister in the
Supply-Health and Welfare
appropriate department in British Columbia when the health insurance act was passed in that province some years ago.
I am not criticizing any of the personnel. I am simply saying that this sort of report is not good enough. I have the greatest confidence in the deputy minister of the welfare branch, as well as of the health branch and other personnel. However, I submit that if we are spending $27,000 there should be some persons devoting their full time to the work. If the expenditures are being reduced at the rate of $15,000 a year it would indicate that the federal government is going out of the field of health insurance studies. The minister should tell us how many in this department have been working on this, how much was spent last year, and who are the persons employed on a full time basis.
The hon. member wdll recall that the department had only recently come into being at the time the estimate was prepared, and for the available personnel outside the department it was an overestimate. I can only repeat that we are engaging the full time of at least six persons in the department, with four additional persons who have other duties to perform. When we have the type of conference with the provinces which we envisage'we shall be prepared at that conference to submit details in respect to the studies we have been making and are making and to bring about at the earliest possible moment the realization of a health insurance scheme.
Last year the minister's predecessor was open to a great deal of criticism for asking for votes which in the opinion of some hon. members had no relation to the amounts which were to be expended. I have asked the minister a fair question: How much of the $43,000 which was voted for this purpose last year was spent, and how was it spent?
If you estimated in November 1945 you were going to spend $43,000, why was only $4,700 spent? How many are on the staff now, and what are the prospects of expending the $27,000 the minister is asking for?
I can only say that we have ten people now on the staff who are engaged in- this work. Some of those people are doing other work as well. To the extent of the available personnel covered by non-filled posts at the moment we will spend this money. My hon. friend, considering the province from which he comes, should be in a special position to know that personnel in this particular field is extremely difficult to obtain. That has been experienced 'by the government of Saskatchewan, and we have had the same difficulty. The director left for another post, and an acting director was appointed1 in January. That gentleman has taken on a post which he regards as more important at the moment, that of acting secretary of the National Cancer Institute. But that in no way represents a diminution of the work, because, as I have indicated, the officials in our department, in our research division, the deputy minister and another gentleman whom we hope to have from another department, along with the services of Doctor Cassidy, will all be available.
I do not think the minister is giving the committee the sort of information it should have. The fact that there have been directors who have left for more important work indicates that this branch is not doing anything. In view of the general interest across the country and the representations which were made to the social security committee, I think it can be taken that the taxpayers in Canada consider this department quite seriously. They felt that they are going to get some active leadership in working out plans. I know there is no sure way from where you are to where you want to go, but the federal government should be giving some dynamic leadership across the country and trying to work out ways and means. The minister should tell us who in the department are devoting full time to this work. What are the names and qualifications of those who are directing this important branch?