March 11, 1948

LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. GREGG:

I think the situation might be met if in my further remarks I covered certain points which hon. members have in mind.

As intimated by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) in the house on February 16, these increases will, to a greater or lesser degree, affect about 400,000 beneficiaries under the Pension Act, and with the co-operation of the house it is hoped to get the adjustment cheques in the mail by the end of this month.

The March pension cheque will be on the present scale and will be issued on the regular date. It is planned that the adjustment cheque will be a separate one and will practically be the equivalent of one month's pension. With that done as indicated, regular monthly pension cheques will be able to reflect monthly increases starting April 30 and continue in regular order from then on.

During the course of the debate last Monday the hon. member for Royal (Mr. Brooks) proposed that there should be a standing committee of the house on veterans affairs, and subsequent speakers endorsed the proposal. I know the suggestion is not a new one, but it is one which I as a newcomer would like to consider. In the light of the experience to be gained in the committee which is now set up I hope to be in a much better position to form an opinion later on in the session.

The hon. member for Weybum (Mr. McKay) stated:

Pensions and allowances still remain at the basic rate which was struck in 1926.

Actually the present pension scale was established in 1920 when a bonus of 50 per cent was added to the basic rate and the cost of living index for July of that year was 150-6.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BROOKS:

The minister says the cost of living index was 150; what was the basic year?

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. GREGG:

That was 1920.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks

Progressive Conservative

Mr. BROOKS:

What year was 100?

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. GREGG:

I cannot answer that question but I shall try to get the answer. The bonus was continued at the same rate until 1925 when it was included in the basic rate and it has remained unchanged.

Pension Act Amendment

The hon. member for Acadia (Mr. Quelch) was satisfied that the terms of reference of the committee would be wide enough to permit all matters relating to my department to come before the committee. I have already given assurance that such will be the case. In connection with his observations relating to the present procedure of reducing pensions of veterans of world war I when examinations show a reduction in their disability, I will welcome a full inquiry by the committee at the appropriate time.

In the meantime I should like to refer to a few figures relating only to world war I. I am sure these will be of interest to the house. These include the period from January 1, 1947 to January 1, 1948 and cover examinations in Canada, a few in the United States and in Great Britain. The figures are:

Pensions increased 2,274

Pensions decreased 147

No change on re-examination 2,913

Continued without change 64,402

Total existing pensions in force as

at December 31, 1947 69,736

During the same calendar year there were 191 new awards of pensions to veterans of world war I and 88 reinstated on pension, or a total of 279 new awards as at the end of the last calendar year.

In the course of his remarks the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) quoted figures supplied by my department regarding the number of cases wherein the Canadian pension commission had ruled an award of pension was not indicated because the condition claimed for was ruled to be pre-enlistment in origin and not aggravated during service. In so doing he stated that these men were "taken into the forces as fit and discharged as unfit." His assumption in that regard is not quite correct. The majority were not discharged as "unfit," but were discharged on "demobilization." Full details in that regard will be readily available to the members of the special committee. Every Canadian who incurred injuiy or disease resulting in disability during service is entitled to, and will receive, compensation in accordance with the assessment of the degree of service disablement as provided for in the Pension Act. That is mandatory, the responsibility of the Canadian pension commission, and is a trust which I know they endeavour to discharge with sympathy and understanding.

The hon. member for Souris (Mr. Ross) asked about the report of the McCann committee. That report is available and was tabled in the house last Tuesday.

When the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Pearkes) referred to the adjustment cheques he said: "Let us get them out now." I am glad to have the assurance of his co-operation in that regard. The staff of the pension commission and of the chief treasury officer who have worked long nights and hours of overtime in the preparation of these cheques will be gratified to know that their spontaneous voluntary efforts are so well appreciated. He also mentioned some widows and orphans of Canadian members of the ferry command "who are in much strained circumstances." I am advised all dependents were notified in writing of the provisions of part X of the Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act and I shall be pleased to have full inquiry made on behalf of any such case if the hon. member will send me the necessary particulars.

It was not my intention to speak at length, Mr. Speaker, but only to touch on a few of the major points relating to the bill which were brought out during the previous debate. As I stated at the close of that debate, "the record of Hansard will be studied and the points brought forward will be submitted to the committee." That discussion will not be limited. It may cover all phases of the Pension Act and of the various groups, merchant seamen, fire fighters, and so on, who are provided for in the Civilian War Pensions and Allowances Act, which is subject, in many respects, to the provisions of the former act. I have pleasure, Mr. Speaker, in now moving the second reading of the bill.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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PC

George Stanley White

Progressive Conservative

Mr. G. S. WHITE (Hastings-Peterborough):

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the members of the steering committee of the veterans committee have more or less arrived at an agreement whereby all parties in the house will make every effort to facilitate the second reading of this bill. As far as this party is concerned we hope that the debate will be limited to one speaker, but if other speakers rise that is, of course, something that we cannot control. I assure the minister that there will be no attempt on our part to hold up or delay the second reading, because we want to see the bill go forward to the veterans committee.

The main feature of Bill No. 126 is its provision for an increase in the basic rate of pension. Other clauses of the bill are of importance, but the one in which all members of the house are most vitally concerned is the one providing for an increase in the basic rate.

I presume, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Gregg) who has introduced and is sponsoring this bill feels that

Pension Act Amendment

the increase it provides for is fair and reasonable and sufficient for the veterans. No doubt the bill has been most carefully studied by the cabinet, and therefore I take it that its provisions represent the opinion of the cabinet that this small increase is sufficient and is the amount to which the veterans are entitled. If I am wrong in that opinion, if the Minister of Veterans Affairs or any other member of the cabinet is not satisfied with the increase that is granted, we can only assume that it is the treasury board who are dictating the amount of the increase to be made in the basic pension rate.

No one will dispute my statement that this increase is long overdue. As the minister stated a few moments ago. no change has been made in the rate since 1925-26. despite the fact that today we are living in an entirely different world which has seen a huge increase in the cost of living and a great increase in the wages of all employees. I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that during the war years a very large number of employees and wage earners in this country were granted cost-of-living bonus, but no such provision or allowance was made to the veterans who received a pension. I well remember when the present Minister of Justice (Mr. Ilsley), then minister of finance, announced on introducing his budget that the pension paid to a veteran would be taxed as income, and the veteran did pay tax on his pension. True in a later budget that tax was removed. But today, after all these years since 1925, no adjustment has been made in the basic rate of pension. After the veteran has been denied the cost-of-living bonus during all the war years, and after he has had to pay income tax on his pension, the Minister of Veterans Affairs now brings in a bill providing for a slight increase in the basic rate of pension which in my opinion is totally inadequate. If there are any members of the house who consider that this increase is adequate, just, fair and sufficient for the veteran, I should be glad if he would get up right now and say so. This country can well afford to pay a larger increase. When one remembers the proposals of the Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) to beautify Ottawa and surrounding district as a national memorial to the veterans who gave their lives in world war II, one wonders how the government can undertake such an expenditure, running into hundreds of millions of dollars over the years which it will take to carry out this scheme, and yet hedge and quibble when it comes to raising the basic rate of pension. I wonder how many veterans, veteran organizations, soldiers clubs or associations have been consulted as to what kind of national

memorial we should have to the veterans who gave their lives in world war II. It has always been my opinion, Mr. Speaker, that any national memorial to the veterans of world war II should be in such a form that the veterans or their dependents would derive some benefit from it. I have suggested several times in this house that the awarding of a large number of scholarships spread across the country, open only to children of veterans of world war II, would over the years yield a return far beyond the cost and would not in any way amount to the huge sum which it is proposed to expend in order to beautify the city of Ottawa as a national war memorial.

The general public are keenly interested in this bill, and that has been indicated by the wave of protests from across the entire country after the announcement made by the Prime Minister during the session in December. Apparently the general public do not approve of this small increase, and we had to wait for nearly three months before the Prime Minister made another announcement when he raised the increase from $10 to $12 a month.

The government and all members of parliament have received many letters, briefs and resolutions protesting against this small increase. During the last two weeks members have received copies of many resolutions from municipal councils who have taken the matter up and passed resolutions urging that the basic rate for a 100 per cent disability be placed at $100.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs a few months ago referred to the way in which the increase in bonus was given in 1920 and following, up to 1925. I find in The Legionary of February 1948 an article entitled "Pension increases are not adequate", and in that article the writer sets out certain information as to how the 1926 or 1925 rate, whichever is correct, was arrived at. I should like to read a couple of paragraphs from it. First I should say that in this article the legion proposes a basic pension rate of $100 a month, and the article goes on to say:

Such a revision would be entirely equitable because it is based on the .approximate rise in the cost of living since 1926 when the present pension rates were established by incorporation of the existing cost-of-living bonus. The index then stood at 12T8; today it stands at 146. Anything less than a 25 per cent increase would simply lower the standard of living of the pensioner, who is unable to support himself by any other means, to less than subsistence level. There are indications that the cost of living will mount still higher, in which case some additional supplementation may be required later. Such supplementation, we suggest, should be in the form of a cost-of-living bonus.

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Pension Act Amendment

There is further justification for such an increase to be found in the wage scale of common labour. When the pension rates were established after the first great war they were based on the medically-assessed ability of a veteran to take employment in the common labour market. Thus there is a definite relation between the 100 per cent pension rate and the wages applicable to common labour. The average rate for such labour is somewhere between 50 and 60 cents per hour in rural areas and 65 to 85 cents per hour in urban areas.

A low average for the dominion would be 55 cents per hour. A monthly wage at this rate for an 8-hour day, 54-day -week, would be approximately $100. A 25 per cent increase over present rates would approximate this figure

That seems to me a very fair and reasonable comparison, and I would point out to the minister that at the time this article was written the index stood at 146. Today I believe it is over 150 and will probably go higher. I would also point out that the index as it is given out does not, in my opinion, represent the true increase in the cost of living. This article shows that wages in the common labour market were taken into consideration, and if today the minister, or whoever worked out this formula or basis for the increase, is using the same method or formula, I hope he will tell the house when he closes the debate.

I would also like the minister to put on Hansard, if he can, a table giving a breakdown of the $75 a month and a breakdown of the $87 a month showing how they are apportioned for the support and maintenance of the disabled veteran.

Among the many letters that members have received is one from the Native Sons of Canada. This letter set forth the whole problem in a plain and simple way. The letter is dated February 7, 1948, and I do not think any member of this house could state the problem any better than it is set forth here:

This is an open letter on what should be a closed question-the debt of Canada to her disabled veterans and their dependents.

The rising cost of living lias accentuated their plight and gained them the promise of a pension increase of $10 a month. But this crumb from the table of Canadian plenty is not nearly enough.

The whole approach to the problem is wrong. The veteran's pension is not a gratuity. It is the wages of war. It is the attempt to pay a debt that cannot be measured in dollars and cents-our liability for lives lost and bodies battered wherever Canada's men fought our fight. We cannot replace the war torn mind and body nor bring back life to the fallen. We cannot make blind eyes see, put back the arms and legs that have gone, heal all the wounds and ailments incurred in our defence. We cannot restore the son to his mother, the husband to his wife, the father to his children.

fMr. White (Hastings-Peterborough).]

What compensation then can we make? The very least w-e can do is to give these disabled veterans or their dependents the equivalent of their lost earning power-what as average Canadian workers they would receive in their pay envelope if war had not destroyed or diminished their ability to work. We should give these men and their families everything they would have had in the normal course of events had not the ruthless hand1 of war ripped them out of their accustomed place in civilian life in Canada.

The people of this country expect their elected representatives, before declaring a surplus and reducing taxation, to pay the debts of Canada. This is the greatest. For the honour of Canada -pay it!

One of the amendments to the act mentions the case of a widow whose deceased husband had a disability of fifty per cent or over. In such cases the widow receives a pension after the death of her husband. That is quite proper. But it has always appeared to me that there is a certain discrimination here because the widow of a veteran who had a disability of less than fifty per cent receives no pension after the death of her husband. Apparently the government has recognized liability and obligation to the widow. If so, why restrict this obligation to the widows of pensioners who had a disability of fifty per cent or over? No doubt the majority of pensioners have a disability of less than fifty per cent, and I think it is true to say that after the death of the veteran his widow then is probably more in need of assistance than during his lifetime. The only assistance which the widow of a veteran with a disability of less than fifty per cent can receive is under the War Veterans Allowance Act, and then she has to pass the means test.

I recommend to the minister that he give most careful and earnest consideration to an amendment to provide that widows of veterans in receipt of pension, with a disability of less than fifty per cent, shall receive a pension at least equal to the amount payable to widows under the war veterans act, without the means test. I would also suggest to the minister, inasmuch as he mentioned today the matter of veterans of world war I, that there should be some provision in the act to make it impossible from now on for the pension payable to any veteran of world war I to be cancelled or reduced; also an amendment by which all pensioners would receive automatic increases when they reach a certain age, irrespective of whether their disability is due to gunshot wound or not. So far as this party is concerned, Mr. Speaker, we are in favour of and advocate a basic pension rate of $100 per month for 100 per cent disability. This is no new statement on the part of this party, because it has been advo-

Pension Act Amendment

cated by our leader on many occasions and by many members in this house since the 1945 election.

With reference to the remarks the minister made about the sending out of adjustment cheques, I was not quite clear as to their import. I would ask him to state, when he closes the debate, if it is true that these cheques are now being made out and are to be sent out early in April; because if that is correct, it indicates to me that the government is firmly resolved that there is to be no further increase in the basic rate of pension.

The minister also mentioned the various scales of pension paid to privates, non-commissioned officers and junior officers as compared with the higher rates of pensions paid to the senior officers. As I pointed out only a few days ago when speaking on the address in reply to the speech from the throne, there is a tremendous difference there. A private receives $900. whereas a senior officer receives $2,700 a year; and now under the new rate the private will receive $1,044 while the senior officer will still receive $2,700. Why is there this great discrimination? Why the difference between the amount paid to junior officers and privates and the amount paid to senior officers? In world war II we found in the ranks men from every profession, station and walk of life. We found the same condition among the officers of world war II. How can the minister continue this unjust discrimination? A private may be receiving $900 a year and a brigadier $2,700; yet in civil life both engaged in the same occupation-bank clerks, labourers, teachers, or farmers. Why should we carry into civil life this class distinction which has no place in this democratic country? For I say to the minister that the payment of these large pensions to higher ranks makes it most difficult for the people of Canada to understand why (he department can approve them and yet quibble, chisel and grant an increase of only $12 a month to the privates, n.c.o.'s and junior officers. I for one am most anxious that the minister should make some explanation on this point. After all, the loss of a leg, an arm or an eye-or any other disability- should demand the same payment to the private as to the brigadier. There is no question that the private went through far more hardship than any brigadier, and each may have suffered the same pain or torture as a result of his disability.

The bill also provides for an increase in pay to the thirteen pension commissioners, $1,000 a year, from $7,000 to $8,000. The estimates tabled a day or so ago showed that the commissioners received in salaries for the 5849-135J

past year the small sum of $100,500. It is most unfortunate that the minister has seen fit in this bill to include an increase of $1,000 to the commissioners when in the same bill he is granting an increase of only $12 in the basic rate of pension. There are few in this house who will not agree that $7,000 is not a bad salary. A short time ago all county court judges in the province of Ontario received a salary of only $5,000 a year. A bill was introduced in this house by which the salary of county court judges was increased to S6.666 a year. Apparently the government thought that this was a proper and fair salary for a judge under present conditions. A judge is one who has had long experience in the law and who holds a high and important position in the community. He carries out the important duties of the judiciary which is the bulwark of democracy in our country. Even with the increase recently granted to judges, they are still below the present pay of the pension commissioners, which is $7,000; and it is now proposed to give them $8,000 a year.

In Ontario the magistrates receive from $5,000 to $7,000 a year. I think that the pay, work and responsibility of a judge or magistrate can be fairly compared with the pay, work and responsibility of a pension commissioner. Referring in this connection to the pensions advocate, my understanding was that it was his duty to protect the interests and welfare of the veteran; certainly the veteran needs somebody there to protect him. This important person, the chief pensions advocate, up until this year received the sum of $5,100 a year, but I believe there is an increase bringing him up to $5,680. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that if the pension commissioners are worth $8,000, then the chief pensions advocate, who has all these thousands of cases across the country to look after, is worth considerably more than the amount he is receiving.

Up to 1944 the pension commissioners received $6,000 a year. Either at the end of 1944 or in 1945 they were granted an increase of $1,000 and were paid $7,000 for the years 1945, 1946 and 1947. Apparently the commissioners, or whoever were responsible, were able to convince the minister at that time that, owing to the increased cost of living and other conditions, they were entitled to an increase. I am not arguing about that. They received their increase. But at the same time I would point out that the poor veteran who had to bear the increased cost of living and everything else received no increase in. his pension. Now the commissioners are going to be granted another $1,000, which will make a total increase of 33J per cent over their

Pension Act Amendment

salary in 1944. How can the minister justify this further increase of $1,000 for the commissioners, and at the same time justify an increase of $12 a month to a veteran? Under the proposed new scale a totally disabled veteran will receive the huge sum of $1,044 a year; and I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that when the pension board declares a veteran a one hundred per cent disability he has to be practically dead. Yet here we are going to give the commissioners another $1,000, which is only $44 a year less than the total amount we give a one hundred per cent disability pensioner. I thick the house will be much interested in any explanation the minister can give justifying this increase, in view of the increase granted in 1945 and also in view of the miserly increase given the disabled veterans.

There are many matters which will come before the veterans affairs committee. I wish to mention only one, which was also mentioned by the minister today, when he referred to certain remarks made by the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Green) as to the pre-enlistment condition. The minister questioned the figures the hon. member put on Hansard showing that some 85,000 young Canadians who were taken in as fit and discharged as unfit were unable to qualify for pensions. The minister thought that figure was wrong. That may be so, but I still say to the minister that there are far too many veterans who were discharged because of disability but who are not in receipt of pensions because the officials of the pension board have ruled that they were suffering from pre-enlistment disabilities which the medical officers were not able to find on enlistment. I would mention also the reaction of many applicants to the manner in which they were treated when applying for pensions. It seems to me every veteran is entitled to every consideration from the officials of the pension board. A veteran should not be shoved around and treated as a lead swinger. In far too many cases the veteran comes back from a pension board hearing embittered by his treatment, full of resentment over the technicalities that, have been raised against him, angry because no notice has been taken of the reports or findings of his family doctor or the local medical representative of the board; and even where a pension is granted, in many cases the amount is a mere pittance and not a proper recompense as far as the disability is concerned. The people of Canada are most anxious that every veteran entitled to a pension should get one, and at a proper rate.

I was very glad to hear what the minister had to say on the same point because, as I mentioned a moment ago, the public are not satisfied with the small increase in the basic pension. In every case the veteran should have the benefit of the doubt, which he does not receive today. He should be treated with respect and dignity in deference to the great service he has rendered Canada. I repeat that we of this party approve the legion brief, which proposes a basic rate of $100 per month for one hundred per cent disability.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would especially appeal to all veteran members of this house, irrespective of their party allegiance, and remind them that they have a special duty to perform to their former comrades. Today they are in a position of responsibility and have it within their power to see that a further increase in the basic rate is granted the veterans. I would remind them that veterans do not recognize race, colour, creed or political party. All veterans belong to the same fraternity. Let us who have these responsibilities not fail our former comrades whom we were so glad to have at our side in the days when the going was very tough. And remember, we may need every veteran again in the not too far distant future.

Mr. G. II. CASTLEDEN (Yorkton): Mr. Speaker, this is a bill to amend the Pension Act; to authorize, among other things, an increase in the basic rate of pension; to make statutory certain increases in the salaries of the pension commissioners and other officials, and in one or two minor details to make changes which the minister has said will increase the efficiency and wipe out some of the deficiencies of the old act.

The emergency of the present situation demands that the veterans affairs committee get to work and that this house do something with respect to increasing pensions as rapidly as possible. We are trying to co-operate in getting this bill before the veterans committee in order that they maj' make their report to the house and the bill may become law. so that these people will have some relief. I believe everyone recognizes this emergency. I think the people of Canada generally have been critical of the government for its failure to act rapidly in this matter. The rapid increase in the cost of living, particularly in the last three years, has made it almost impossible for a veteran in receipt of a pension to carry on. But in our haste to get this legislation through I think the house and the committee must be careful to see that the amounts to be paid are adequate, to see that they will really do the

Pension Act Amendment

job and make it possible for those who are dependent upon war pensions to live properly and decently, as they should.

It is not surprising that demands like these should be made, when the government has allowed the cost of living to go up by removing their controls. I understand the present basic pension rate was struck about 1926, and I think we all realize that at that time the legislators of this country believed that basic rate would guarantee a certain standard of living. But as soon as you allow the cost of living to get completely out of line with that basic pension, in effect you are completely repudiating everything you assured these people they would get. As it stands today the pension is completely inadequate. I believe the conditions which exist among the families of many pensioners right across this dominion, because of the inadequacy of the pension, are a disgrace to Canada. It is a blot on our record that these conditions should be allowed to continue to exist until March, 1948.

The inadequacy of this pension I think has been pretty well proved by the previous speaker, and I think even by the statement of the minister when he set out the basis upon which the present rates were set. As has been said already, today $900 a year is practically nothing. The increase from $75 a month to $87 a month far a one hundred per cent disability pensioner just does not mean anything. It does not meet the requests of the veterans themselves; it does not meet the requests of the veterans organizations, and it certainly does not meet the situation which now7 exists. We are hoping that when the bill as it stands today goes before the veterans committee a fight will be put up to see that the pension is placed on a proper basis, one which will meet the situation as it is today.

The government has gone on record as believing in decontrol, and therefore it would appear that it does not want to control the cost of living. If it does not, then whatever basic pension it sets can be easily upset within a few months.

The other feature we advocate and shall continue to advocate is that the basic pension be set high enough. I agree with a previous speaker who said that $100 a month for a 100 per cent disability is about adequate in March 1948. The needs of the veteran will not be properly met if we leave it at that. Some machinery must be brought into action within the act under which those who are responsible for administration can guarantee to veterans who are suffering, disabled and helpless that they will be permitted to live decently and well, and to know that they

have the form of security which the people of Canada would wish them to have.

It is necessary that there be geared to the pension some scheme by which a sliding scale would become operative, so that in the event of an increase in the cost of living the pension would automatically increase. There should be provision for either a cost of living bonus or a grant of some kind. It is our duty, and it is the special responsibility of the House of Commons, to see that those who have made sacrifices to save this country in time of war, and who as a result of their efforts are disabled, shall not suffer.

We must keep constantly in mind the needs of war veterans, discharged for medical reasons, a large percentage of whom are psychopathic cases. I believe that speaking generally the pension commission has ruled that such cases are not considered to be pensionable. Many of these veterans returned from the war suffering from nervous disorder. They have tried to carry on with their work,, but have been unable to do so. On occasions they have to lay off for weeks or months at a time, but they are not permitted to receive a pension from the government. Special consideration must be given to these cases. There are altogether too many of them, and I hope that when the committee considers revision of the Pension Act, and a revision of the regulations under which the pension commission operates, it will see to it that more is done for these deserving cases.

It is not right that men who have returned from war in a disabled condition, and who are unable to carry on in their work, should be denied a pension when it is clear that their disability has resulted from or been aggravated by their war activities. Not only are veterans and veterans organizations asking for this revision, but boards of trade, village and city councils and other organizations are stirred by the plight of many pensioners living within their midst.

It seems to me the farther we get away from war the more likely we are to forget the men who fought. In the report given this afternoon by the minister I was surprised to learn that in 1947 there were 147 veterans of world war I -whose pensions were decreased. Many pensioners of world war I who feel that their disability has increased and that they should make application for increased pensions fear that if an examination is held and they are at the mercy of the commission their pensions may be decreased. That condition should not exist.

The average age at the present time of a pensioner from world war I must be about 59 years. Surely pensioners who have suffered

Pension Act Amendment

disability from the first world war are more likely in later years to feel the effects of the disability they suffered in that campaign. Those men should not be deterred, by fear of the commission making a reduction in their pension, from making application for increases.

I believe the promise of the government is inherent in any basic pension scheme. Certain standards should be maintained. When the cost of living goes up, the promise of the people or the government is being repudiated and the pensioners are not able to maintain the standard of living to which they are entitled. If we look at it in that way we will see to it that these men are given a proper pension and some form of security which will assure to them that they, their children and their families will not have to suffer as a Tesult of their war service. I know of no other way in which that security can be guaranteed do them.

There are many other points which could be discussed and with which a committee of the house could deal when this matter is placed before it. We would like to see the bill go to the committee as quickly as possible. Naturally the committee will consist of a majority of government members, and as a result it will be difficult for members in the opposition to introduce amendments which would involve the expenditure of public money. Under the rules this is not permitted.

I can assure the government and all connected with it that we expect when the committee deals with this legislation it will bring back to the house a bill which can be considered adequate. If the bill is adequate to meet the situation, the support of this group will continue: if it is not, there will be opposition.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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SC

Victor Quelch

Social Credit

Mr. VICTOR QUELCH (Acadia):

Mr. Speaker, in order to expedite the passage of the bill at this time, I should like to be brief in my remarks. Ever since the announcement by the former minister of veterans affairs in July last to the effect that the committee on veterans affairs would be set up at this session, veterans have hoped that the long overdue amendment to the Pension Act would be brought down. I am afraid the present bill will fall far short of their expectations.

In the first place, the increase in the amount of pension is considered too low. Second, none of the recommendations made by the committee on veterans affairs in 1946, passed unanimously-and later vetoed by the minister-has been included in the bill. Third, a

number of recommendations already made by the legion and the national council of veterans affairs have been ignored.

However, since it is desirable that the measure should pass as quickly as possible in order that the payment of these increases in pensions may be made, perhaps it is fortunate that very little of a controversial nature, in addition to the increase in pensions, appears in the bill. I should hope however that the Minister of Veterans Affairs is in a position to assure the house that this bill is not the last word in pension legislation for the present session.

All veteran organizations have urged that the increase in pension for all beneficiaries under the act should not be less than 25 per cent. The hon. member for Hastings-Peter-borough (Mr. White) quoted from The Legionary and built up a strong case for an increase of 25 per cent. Other organizations have emphasized' the fact that the increase should not be less than 33 per cent, and I have received a number of resolutions from boards of trade in my constituency urging that the basic rate for a 100 per cent disability pensioner be set at not less than $100 a month. The present bill provides for an increase of only 16 per cent and therefore falls considerably short of those recommendations.

The veterans organizations are asking at this time that the pensions of veterans of world war I be stabilized. I was glad to have the assurance of the minister that when the pension bill is before the committee a thorough investigation will be made of this whole question. I think all of us agree that it is a deplorable situation that veterans of world war I, whose average age is around 59 or 60 years, are called up before a board and told that, since their disability has decreased, there will be a reduction in their pension. Surely when a veteran of world war I has reached the age of 59 or 60 years he should be assured that no action will be taken to reduce the amount of his pension. The present rates should be stabilized as a floor and the only revisions in the future should be upward.

In 1946 the veterans affairs committee voted in favour of deleting the deadline of April 1, 1944, affecting widows, wives and children of veterans of the first great war, but the Minister of Veterans Affairs vetoed that action. It should be remembered that, after careful consideration, the committee unanimously agreed that the deadline should be struck out. I suggest to the minister that legislation should be brought down this year to take

Pension Act Amendment

care of that matter. I do not say that it should be included in this bill, because we want to get this one through as quickly as possible. The cost to the government would be insignificant, but on the other hand it would mean a great deal to many veterans and dependents who would benefit from the change.

It is also well to remember that in 1946 the committee voted in favour of inserting in the act a clause which would establish the presumption that an applicant's condition as recorded at the time of enlistment was in fact his true condition and that any subsequent deterioration be pensionable. While that received the unanimous approval of the committee, it was later vetoed by the minister. It has been argued by some that it would not make very much difference in the decisions of the pension commission. If that is true, and since various veteran organizations are keen to have such a provision in the act, I think the minister could very well see that the act is amended along that line. As I say, the members of the pension commission do not think it would make very much difference. It would give a certain assurance to war veterans if that were done.

War veterans allowances do not come under the pension administration but, since veterans who are unable to qualify for a pension have to seek help under the War Veterans Allowance Act, one might say that that act is the last resort. We feel that action should be taken this session to bring about a substantial increase in war veterans allowances and either remove the means test or permit additional income up to the amount of the income tax exemption.

I think the time has come when we should try to clarify the situation with regard to imperial veterans. Three days ago I had a case brought to my attention of a Canadian who went to the United Kingdom the latter part of 1913 because his father was seriously ill. He was living in England when war was declared and enlisted in the imperials. He was wounded and received a pension. After the war he returned to Canada and became domiciled in this country. His pension was stopped. Apparently he cannot get a pension from England, because they say he is now a Canadian citizen and that he was domiciled in Canada before the war and has been domiciled here since the war.

Apparently he cannot get any help under the War Veterans Allowance Act, because a veteran who served with the imperial forces must have served in the second world war to obtain a veteran's allowance. It is contended

that this man was not domiciled in Canada at the time war was declared, having gone to England a few months before. They stop his pension in the United Kingdom because *he was domiciled in Canada before the war, while in Canada they take the stand that he was not in Canada when war was declared. This man seems to fall between two sections. I bring this case to the attention of the pension authorities in the hope that the matter may be clarified. I hope that we shall be able to give the imperials a better deal than they have been given in the past.

I am not suggesting that blame rests with the Canadian government. I believe suggestions have been made by the Canadian government that they would be willing to give certain benefits to imperials if similar benefits were given to Canadians in England. That is, they are willing to act on a reciprocal basis. In the meantime, these imperials have to suffer. As I have said already, I want to expedite this bill and therefore I shall make what comments I want to make when the bill is in committee.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. G. A. CRUICKSHANK (Fraser Valley) :

Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a word in connection with this bill in order that it may not be said 'that private members on this side of the house are not interested. I want to compliment the two previous speakers upon having approached this subject in a nonpartisan manner. I passed up a most important meeting this afternoon in so far as I was concerned, in order to be here to express my opinion on this bill. I want to say to the house, through you, Mr. Speaker, that I consider it our duty to see that this bill gets to the committee immediately. However, I want to say that I do not think the bill goes far enough; it is not adequate.

In my opinion the best speech that has been made on this matter during this session was that made by a non-veteran, the hon. member for Comox-Albemi (Mr. Gibson). The hon. member said that if we in Canada could find the sinews of war and the sinews of peace; if we were able to pay the interest on bonds bought by those who stayed at home, surely it was no alibi to say that we could not afford to pay an adequate pension to those who fought and gave so much for their country.

The bill goes a long way but I do not believe it goes far enough. There is one thing about the bill to which I object strenuously. I am not here to criticize the salaries being paid to the commissioners because I believe the labourer is worthy of his hire, but I do not think this or any other government

Pension Act Amendment

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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CCF

John Oliver Probe

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

Mr. PROBE:

Are you sure of that?

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

I am sure of it, and a higher percentage of veterans living within our province.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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CCF

John Oliver Probe

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

Mr. PROBE:

That is a different matter.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

I do not want the people to think the private members of this house from British Columbia sitting on this side are satisfied with a $12 increase in the pension for a totally disabled veteran. I do not want the veterans of Canada to think we are satisfied with the present situation of the war veteran's allowance, with its means test. If the war veteran's allowance means anything, why apply a means test to a soldier who has reached the age and circumstances that entitle him to the allowance? That is something I cannot understand.

I believe that the veterans committee can do great work, and in closing I wish to pay a tribute to the hon. member for Kamloops (Mr. Fulton) who got up in his own branch of the legion in Kamloops and said not to blame the members from British Columbia who sit on this side of the house but that pension and allowance increases should be decided by the

house on an absolutely non-party vote, with each member free to express his own opinion. Anything that pertains to party should be left out of such a question, which should be decided entirely on its merits.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. E. G. HANSELL (Macleod):

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that it is desirable to send this bill to the committee on veterans affairs as soon as possible and I shall therefore take but a moment to express my views.

Looking at such a bill, one thinks generally in terms of dollars and cents, whether we can afford to take chances in taxing the people in order to pay higher pensions and allowances. I say that may be the general way of viewing a measure of this kind, but that is not how I look at it. I view it on the basis of what I consider a very valuable principle, and the principle I have in mind is that any individual who, in time of war, volunteers in His Majesty's forces and offers his life for his country and is fortunate or unfortunate enough to serve in an actual theatre of war, should be guaranteed, upon his return to civil life, economic security for the rest of his life in return for offering his life for his country.

What I am going to say I say upon my own responsibility. But holding that principle, I say that a volunteer who serves in an actual theatre of war should be given, for the rest of his life, a pension which is at least equivalent to the average income of a Canadian citizen. That is perhaps a very wide view to take; perhaps it is extreme, and it is quite likely that someone will take out pencil and paper, do a little figuring, and then say, "Hansell, that is beyond all reason." But my answer is this: Is Canada able, through its productive machinery, to produce enough to distribute to every veteran the equivalent of the average income of Canadian citizens? That is how I analyse the question, and I believe that Canada can do just that.

I make this further suggestion, and I do it in all seriousness because I believe it is a vital one. I believe that any individual who volunteers in His Majesty's forces and serves in an actual theatre of war should, upon his return to civil life, be exempt from all taxation. That may be a new suggestion; I do not know whether it is or not. But it does seem to me a preposterous and a very selfish thing that these men, after facing shot and shell, should, upon their return, be taxed mainly perhaps for the purpose of paying for the war which they helped and fought to win. I make that suggestion, I say, in all seriousness. I say these returned men should be absolutely exempt from paying income tax and all other taxes,-except perhaps in cases where they have

Pension Act Amendment

investments other than their homes. That is a suggestion which I hope the veterans committee will take into consideration, and with these words, Mr. Speaker, I take my seat.

I have some convictions on this matter. It is no light thing for a man to offer his life for his country. I had three members of my own family do so. I am not boasting at all, but it is no light thing, even for those who remain at home, to go through the strain and stress and worry of not knowing what will happen to these young men as they serve in an actual theatre of war. This country is vast enough and wealthy enough and has potential production enough to offer such men security for life, and in that case I go so far as to say that much of our veterans affairs department could be scrapped. There would be no questions asked. All you would have to do would be to look up the two conditions required: Did they volunteer their lives? Did they enter an actual theatre of war? You would not need a pension commission for that. You would simply need a good clerk to look up the record, and instructions would then go forth.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

And you would not need any psychiatrist.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

No psychiatrist, no means test, nothing of the kind.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

No parliamentary

assistant.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

Perhaps you could do away with the parliamentary assistant and perhaps with parliamentary committees. I am not saying there would not be a great deal in connection with the administration of veterans affairs, because there would still be those who did not volunteer; there would still be those who did not see an actual theatre of war, and you would still have to conduct the veterans affairs department. But as regards those who volunteered and faced death, to them belongs a life of comfort from now on.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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IND

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

Independent C.C.F.

Mr. H. W. HERRIDGE (Kootenay West):

Mr. Speaker, I did not intend to speak in this debate, but I must rise and express opposition to the unsound proposals made by the hon. member for Macleod (Mr. Hansell). I am quite sure that the men who served the country did not serve in a mercenary spirit and do not want to be treated for the rest of their lives as mercenary troops. I believe that the men, and the veterans organizations that represent them, want to see that those who were injured receive adequate compensation. They want to make certain that

those who returned from the war shall have an opportunity to earn a decent living and obtain their security in that way. I also believe that they want the dependents of the veterans to be well cared for. Because of that, I support the remarks made by the various speakers this afternoon in relation to this bill. I will not repeat what many speakers have said. I think that is unnecessary. I believe, however, as the hon. member for Fraser Valley (Mr. Cruickshank) has pointed out, that this bill does not go far enough, and I trust that when it goes before the veterans affairs committee we shall be able to secure some further amendments to this bill.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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LIB

James Horace King (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. SPEAKER:

If the minister speaks now he will close the debate.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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LIB

Milton Fowler Gregg (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. GREGG:

I am quite sure, Mr. Speaker, that the house would prefer that the various points raised by hon. gentlemen this afternoon should be studied carefully in detail when they are brought before the veterans affairs committee, but there are one or two points, as brought out by several hon. members, to which I should like to refer. One hon. member stated that veterans with 100 per cent disability were helpless, and another said that a 100 per cent pensioner is practically dead. I should like to correct that at once.

I happen to have an outline which bears on that; and of the high disability cases, including the 100 per cent, registered with the department, there are actually employed .11 per cent. I am not saying that is full-time, year-round employment, but they are employed at some times during the year. There are 34 per cent on treatment or under training for employment, five per cent unemployed, and seven per cent not accounted for.

I wanted to refute immediately the impression given that the high disability pensioner was a helpless case. It is not so.

Several hon. members spoke with regard to the incorporation in this bill of an increase for the chairman and members of the pension commission. The only comment I wish to make is that, before I entered this chamber, for the past two or three years, as hon. members know, there has been going on in all government departments, in co-operation with the civil service commission, under a special committee, an investigation into salaries from top to bottom, and that recommendations in this regard were not confined to my department but have been general. This was part of the whole and was partly put into effect, I believe, a year ago.

The hon. member for Hastings-Peterborough (Mr. White), if I understood him correctly,

Pension Act Amendment

made the statement that many pensioners' widows did not have a pension. All widows are pensionable when the death of the husband is attributable to his pensionable disability.

I think, Mr. Speaker, I should like to leave the case there for the present and carry it forward to the veterans affairs committee.

Topic:   PENSION ACT
Subtopic:   RATES OF PENSION FOR DISABILITY AND DEATH
Sub-subtopic:   SALARIES OF PENSION COMMISSIONERS
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March 11, 1948