It is not a light matter at all, Mr. Speaker, because the Minister of National Health and Welfare has put that suggestion forward as a reason why there should not be discussion on this item now. That is an important question.
If he put that reason forward seriously, then my request for an undertaking on his part on behalf of the government is a fair one. Every hon. member in this house should be assured that he will have the opportunity of discussing this or any other question in the budget debate.
This is a debatable motion, even though the minister has risen to try to cut off debate.
Supply-Ways and Means Mr. Abbott: We are in committee.
Yes, we are in committee, but the motion is a debatable one. The amendment is debatable because the amendment now is that the amount of the estimate be reduced by a certain sum of money, namely, some $5,000.
Those of us who believe that all that is necessary should be given to the department to deal with pensions for the blind and for old age pensioners are not in favour of reducing the amount by $1 when it is to be used for that particular purpose. I am sorry the minister used the method that he adopted tonight in stopping the debate, because one hon. gentleman had been allowed to proceed with this matter, and particularly when the members of the house were good enough, shall I say, to agree to the suggestion that we should sit beyond the hour of adjournment.
The minister rose in his place and appeared to be quite annoyed at any criticism being leveled at the department in connection with old age pensions. Let me point out to him that the C.C.F. group in this house two years ago urged that the basic pension should be raised to $50 a month, and that motion was ruled out of order at the time. What I am going to point out is this. As the hon. member for Vancouver South has stated, in those two years the cost of living has risen by twenty-four points. As the controls have been removed, the cost of living has risen. The result is that the old age pensioners, who were to get $30 a month two years ago, are today getting the equivalent in purchasing power of $22.50 per month, which means a considerable reduction in their standard of living.
I think the government owes it to the house and to the country to grant a substantial increase in pensions to the old age pensioners and to the blind in this country.
I have always believed that the pensions should be uniform across the country and that the whole amount should be paid from the federal treasury so that there would not be this competition among the provinces, which I think is bad for the old age pensioners, for the provinces and for the general public. I am urging that the government take the opportunity of announcing to the people of this country that the old age pension will be raised so that at least the standard of living, such as it was, will be restored.
In this country where we have had such large budgetary surpluses I think that could well be done. Our senior citizens, as they are called nowadays, and the persons who are blind are entitled to something better than
they are getting. I am sorry the minister chose the method he did of ending the debate tonight. I am not going to say any more at this stage, because I know that the house desires to go through with the arrangements that have been made. I did want to join with others, however, in making this protest against the manner in which the debate was closed tonight.
I am glad that the amendment was brought in because it gives me an opportunity now, without being ruled out of order, to put before this committee a resolution which was presented last summer I believe by the Canadian Federation of the Blind to all the political parties in the House of Commons. In the public accounts there are listed certain miscellaneous grants to various blind organizations: The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, L'Association Canadienne Francaise des Aveugles, L'lnstitut Nazareth de Montreal and the Montreal Association for the Blind; and the Canadian Federation of the Blind has presented to all political parties in this house this petition which I will read so that it will be on the record:
Whereas the Canadian Federation of the Blind is an organization operating throughout Canada with a federal charter obtained in 1928, and duly recognized by the Secretary of State, and is directed by sightless people with the assistance of sighted associate members for the promotion and protection of the interests of the blind, and
Whereas our national executive is of the opinion that being a democratic organization of the blind we are in the best position to understand and advise in matters pertaining to the blind and to give the most effective administration in their interests.
Therefore be it resolved that we request the C.C.F. party-
In this case.
-to consider the advisability of proposing legislation which will include the Canadian Federation of the Blind as a major agency in blind welfare work throughout the dominion, and that the Canadian Federation of the Blind be given an appropriation from the federal treasury.
That is the end of the petition from the Canadian Federation of the Blind, signed by the president, C. A. Pettapiece of Regina. I support that resolution; and I should like to have the Minister of National Health and Welfare consider this petition-that is, for distribution of federal funds to the various blind welfare organizations throughout Canada-on the same basis on which it is making contributions to the four associations that I previously mentioned.
The Deputy Chairman:
Shall I report the resolution as amended?
You have not put the question on the amendment moved by the Minister of Public Works.
The Deputy Chairman:
The amendment was carried.
What has all the speaking been on then?
The Deputy Chairman:
I will put the amendment now.
I am asking for a standing vote on the amendment.
Mr. Fournier (Hull):
It was in committee of supply that I moved it.
The Deputy Chairman:
Shall I report the resolution?
In committee of ways and means, Mr. Chairman, I asked whether the amount of money that you read out took account of the reduction of $5,500. The answer of the Minister of Finance was no. Whereupon the Minister of Public Works moved an amendment that the amount be reduced by $5,500.
The resolution should have carried the correct figure. It could not have been for any other figure. It should have been that. It was a clerical error.
But the change was made by an amendment moved by the Minister of Public Works. It is to his amendment that all this speaking has been going on. I ask for a standing vote on the amendment.
All the speaking is out of order, because the committee of supply has only voted $100,898,573.87, and that is the amount it should have been in the motion which I moved.