July 1, 1947

LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

I said they were volunteers, but they were engaged in a civilian capacity.

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PC
LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

I am saying it now. If one listened to all that the hon. member for Vancouver-Burrard said one would think the merchant seamen have received no benefits at all, when in fact they have received quite a number of benefits. I am just wondering if my hon. friend is familiar with them all.

I have to challenge some of the statements he made a moment ago. I did not want to interrupt him at the time. For instance, this is the monthly remuneration to which a merchant seaman was entitled. The basic pay was $47.07 in January, 1942, but that basic rate was increased to $89.93, to which was added a war risk bonus of $44.50, making a total of $134.43 a month. Income tax was paid on the basic rate only. The war risk bonus and the subsistence allowance were exempt. So much for the war risk bonus.

Then there followed two special bonuses, one called the war service bonus and the other the special bonus, each of ten per cent. One of these was paid on gross earnings after a minimum period of six months service in dangerous waters. It was paid to 6,388 merchant seamen, at a cost of $1,800,000. Then there was an additional war service bonus of ten per cent on gross earnings for service subsequent to April 1, 1944, until the end of the war. That was paid to 4,226 seamen, at a cost of $443,700.

There were also a number of provisions by a special order in council which had to do with railway transportation, leave on pay at the end of each year, round-trip rail transportation from a manning pool to the seaman's home at the low cost of one-third of the one-way fare.

Merchant seamen, on agreement, on completion of service were entitled to receive railway transportation from the port of discharge to their place of permanent domicile. If incapacitated from sickness or injury during service on a manning pool two-year agreement, the merchant seamen received basic pay for a maximum period of twelve weeks. There was over $90,000 paid to those who applied under that particular order.

There was also vocational training which was paid to those who wanted to continue the calling of a merchant seaman. I agree with what my hon. friend has said that that

[Mr. Chevrier.)

does not cover vocational training for a member of the merchant navy outside of his calling. It is directed toward his own calling. That was because the director of merchant seamen was of the opinion that it was his responsibility to make sure that those men got the best possible training, and he asked that vocational training be given to men of that category.

Merchant seamen who left civil employment to serve at sea during the war are entitled to the benefits of the Reinstatement in Civil Employment Act.

Again, pension for disability incurred from enemy action or counteraction is payable to merchant seamen serving on any Canadian ship, and to Canadian merchant seamen serving on ships of allied nations employed in service essential to the prosecution of the war. We went through that at some length in the debate on the bill to amend the Merchant Seamen's Compensation Act.

In case of death from similar causes, widows and dependent children are pensionable.

A Canadian merchant 9eaman in receipt of a pension from an allied nation is entitled, during residence in Canada, to have his pension raised to the Canadian scale.

Merchant seamen detained by the enemy received a detention allowance, equivalent to their basic pay and war risk bonus, and also the special bonus. Dependents of merchant seamen who were detained by the enemy received appropriate portions of this detention allowance for their maintenance, the remainder being paid to the seaman on his return to Canada.

Unemployment insurance coverage for merchant seamen was passed at the last session and came into effect on October 1, 1946. By a special provision under the act, seafarers have been placed on a parity for unemployment insurance purposes with Canada's wartime armed forces. Under this provision many seamen are given credit for wartime service without payment of contributions after they have become established in insurable employment.

Medical and dental care is extended to pensioners, while men on service are covered by the sick mariners fund and the Merchant Seamen's Compensation Act. They are also entitled to medical service and repatriation when hospitalized in foreign parts.

There are a number of other things to which I might refer; for instance, the manning pools that were set up during the war and the many advantages which merchant seamen got under these manning pools. A man in a manning pool awaiting call or assignment to

Supply-Transport-Mrrchant Seamen

a ship was given, the opportunity of going out and working in industry, which was not given to members of the armed forces.

There were two training schools set up, one in Nova Scotia and one in Ontario, at Prescott, for the purpose of training engineers and the like.

I could go on. I have an additional list of welfare benefits, clubs that were set up all across this country to assist merchant seamen, and so on. So when it is said that they have received no benefits or benefits that are entirely inadequate, I have to take issue with that statement. That they may be entitled to more; that they have performed wonderful service for Canada-with such a statement I cannot quarrel because that is a fact. While I should like to see perhaps many things done that are not done for the merchant seamen, it is unfortunate to some extent that the merchant navy was not placed in a different category. I am not making any apologies for that. My hon. friends will remember that the subject was discussed last year and again this year on the compensation act, and at that time I think I made the position of the) department and the government fairly clear. I hope hon. members do not think the position of the merchant navy and the contribution made by them to the war effort is not realized and not appreciated; it is. When compared with other countries, I think the position in Canada far surpasses that of all other lands.

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PC

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MERRITT:

The minister has made a brave show of these benefits. I have written them down, and when you examine them you find two startling things. A great number of them such as the manning pool advantages, leave and railway transportation, the detention allowance for merchant seamen who were captured by the enemy-these are all what I would call "in-service" benefits. They are not veterans benefits at all. I do not think the minister can count those when we come to discuss whether these men are receiving veterans benefits. On the other hand, with regard to the other list of benefits he gave, reinstatement in civilian employment, bonuses for disabilities, and medical and dental care for pensioners, those benefits are strictly limited in their application to those who suffered a disability from enemy action, as I understand it, and are not even available to those who suffered disability through the ordinary perils of the sea.

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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. CHEVRIER:

My hon. friend is not omitting the war service bonuses of ten per cent?

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PC

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MERRITT:

I shall deal with those in a moment. Second, of course, the completion 83166-315J

of training benefits is limited to those who want to continue in sea service. When you look at these two sets of benefits as I have put them before the committee .they are only a brave show, but not nearly good enough. They do not satisfy me at all that the minister is giving practical recognition to the respect he feels for these men.

The minister mentions the ten per cent bonus. I said, when I spoke before, that I was perfectly prepared to take those things into account as deductions perhaps from the general principle. It may be that you could prove to me that the merchant seamen are not entitled to a reestablishment credit at all. I do not say you could, but you might be able to do so. But that does not help the minister in arguing that these men should not be treated as veterans.

Item stands.

Progress reported.

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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. Wednesday, July 2, 1947


July 1, 1947