March 10, 1950

LIB

Ralph Maybank (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys)

Liberal

Mr. Maybank:

Is prodding like drawing?

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

As a matter of fact we have had to resort to almost every honourable means at our disposal to flay the government into taking some action. As everyone knows, it has been an uphill battle in the face of the needs of many people who were not getting enough to live on decently in past years. Of course the government would not take action. It was the same old story. I repeat for the

benefit of the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Dickey) that every action that has been taken since 1926, in the direction of providing a better system or a less inadequate allowance, has been taken-

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LIB

John Horace Dickey

Liberal

Mr. Dickey:

By a Liberal government.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

-as the result of insistent prodding and effort on the part of the opposition to rouse a government that showed itself unwilling and reluctant to take action to meet the needs of our old people. This government has always been away behind public opinion on this question. Having regard to the position of the parties, I would have thought that was perfectly clear.

I shall leave the parties to my left to speak for themselves, but when the minister talks so airily, as he did today, about the other parties, I want to say that, so far as the Progressive Conservative party is concerned, it made its position clear long ago with reference to old age pensions. That position had been made clear before the national convention of the party held in Ottawa in 1948, but at that time it was made a plank of first importance in the platform of the party, a plank adopted by the unanimous vote of all delegates at the convention, in these words:

The Progressive Conservative party proposes a "contributory social security program", available to every Canadian irrespective of occupation to include the following benefits:

1. Retirement pensions at 65 without a means test;

2. Accident, sickness and disability benefits;

3. Health insurance-to include adequate medical and hospital care;

4. Extended unemployment insurance benefits- to include payment for time lost due to accidents or sickness.

5. Similar benefits on a non-contributory basis for "unemployables".

This "contributory social security program" will be established in collaboration with and be administered by the provinces. Enabling legislation will be enacted with permissive power to the provinces to adopt the plan, thus avoiding the necessity of constitutional amendment or immediate over-all dominion-provincial agreement. Until the contributory plan becomes fully operative the dominion will pay 75 per cent of a retirement pension of not less than $40 per month.

That is the verbatim statement appearing in the platform of the Progressive Conservative party which was adopted by unanimous vote at that great national convention. The views of the Progressive Conservative party on this subject are these. We believe that the present old age pension system is entirely inadequate, outworn, and the time is long past when it must be replaced by a national contributory pension plan. The features of the plan that we propose are:

1. The plan shall be national in scope. It is to include every Canadian irrespective of occupation.

2. The plan shall be contributory. It will in effect be a savings plan.

3. It will provide a pension, not charity. The pensioner will be entitled to it as of right.

4. It will be paid on a retirement basis, that is to say, it will be designed to enable everyone to live in decency in advanced years.

5. It will be payable at age sixty-five. The present age limit of seventy debars many who are in need.

6. There will be no means test. This objectionable test has often penalized the thrifty, created unfair discrimination in the treatment of elderly Canadians, and has resulted in officious intrusion into the private affairs of good citizens. It must be eliminated in favour of a contributory scheme.

7. The plan will require joint dominion-provincial participation in view of the requirements of the Canadian constitution. The provinces under the constitution must administer it, but the dominion ought to bear most of the governments' share of the cost.

I say that such a plan is urgently needed. The present old age pension system has many shortcomings. One of its worst features is the means test. The amount paid is not adequate. At the present time the pension is not acquired by the recipient as of right; it is not, in fact, a pension at all, but a charitable allowance based on necessity. We should have something better than this in Canada. Canada should have had a national contributory pension plan long before this. The need of it is seen more clearly today than ever before. The public are impatiently waiting for it.

A new and very strong argument has lately appeared in its favour. The inauguration of a national contributory pension plan will help to prevent industrial unrest. Adequate provision for retirement in advanced years is one of the avowed objectives of organized labour. A national contributory pension plan can make a major contribution to industrial peace, and thereby to the creation of wealth through the one possible source of new wealth, namely, production.

It is quite obvious, I think, as we look over the record of the government, that there has been too much toying with this problem by the government in the past. What we need today in Canada is a resolute, well balanced approach to the problem of social security; and we need a comprehensive plan. Parliament's approach in the past has been bedevilled by piecemeal politics practised by this government. The time has come for bold and resolute action. Canada wants a national contributory pension plan.

55946-42*

Old Age Security

I am left to wonder just what really is the government's position today. One gathers that the program or platform or policy of the government in reference to old age pensions is simply to appoint a committee. That is all we learned from the minister's speech this afternoon, except a great many negative arguments which, if they were accepted, would lead us to throw up our hands in despair and say nothing could be done.

The minister and two other members of parliament were invited to contribute articles to the Canadian railway employees' magazine of February of this year setting forth their views on the subject of old age pensions; and as interpreted by the minister we find that the policy of the Liberal party is to appoint a committee. That is the extent of government policy today to meet the needs of the situation and satisfy the requirements of many elderly people in this country who are suffering hardship now and who will continue to suffer while this committee is sitting.

There is one thing we of the Progressive Conservative party always take pains to say in reference to questions of social security. Today the minister spoke of the cost. Certainly the party of which I have the honour to be a member has a very responsible approach to this question of social security. What we say as to the needs of the situation carries with it our statement as to the means by which those needs may be met. We say and have always said that social security measures do cost money. The source from which the cost of those measures must be met is the national income. Therefore if we are going to be able to afford the measures of social security the people of this country desire it will be necessary that those policies be followed which will contribute most to the enlargement of the national income. There is no other source of wealth than production. There is no other means by which the cost of social security measures may be met than the national income, represented by national production. Therefore we say and have always said that the system whicfi promises most in the way of social security for the people, the system which will produce the highest national income, is this system of free competitive enterprise which we have so stoutly supported.

The Minister has sought to arrogate unto himself a great deal of credit for alleged action taken by parliament at the request of the government in connection with the tardy measures of improvement introduced in this

Old Age Security

house in 1947 and 1949. He makes this becomingly modest statement at page 69 of the magazine to which I have just referred:

It has been my privilege over the past three years to get the approval of parliament-

That sounds as though this crusader was just wringing out of an unwilling parliament these needed measures of improvement for the benefit of the aged pensioners, when as everyone knows the situation has been exactly the reverse. Actually the opposition were prodding the minister and government to do something, and had waited a very long time for this delayed action on the part of the government. But in his modest way the minister said:

It has been my privilege over the past three years to get the approval of parliament to increase pensions, relax income ceilings and lower the age of eligibility for the blind-increasing the number of pensioners by one-third and more than doubling the payments.

That is worthy of a thought or two. I have said something in general about the people who stirred this government to action after it had shown great reluctance and tardiness; but I wish to be a little more specific now. The minister speaks about relaxing the income ceilings. It is true that there was some relaxation of the income ceiling by chapter 67 of the statutes of 1947. But what about the amendment of 1949, which the minister introduced with a great hurrah and much fanfare, on the eve of the election? I submit that if it had not been for the fact that we were on the eve of an election, and if it had not been for the action of my leader in demanding that the government really get down to business on the resolution it had on the order paper, we would not have had that amendment put through at that time.

Let us look at what happened in 1949. With much fanfare the minister introduced amendments which had the effect of increasing the basic pension, to which this government would contribute 75 per cent, from $30 per month to $40 per month. He was asked in the house, and quite properly, "What are you going to do about the allowable income of these pensioners from other sources?" Of course the minister just passed that over; that was one of those embarrassing questions, and he did not have time to deal with embarrassing questions at that time.

What about the situation now, when we have the minister claiming great credit for what he calls the relaxation of income ceilings? What is this generous income ceiling? The fact of the matter is that since the amendment of April, 1949, a person receiving old age pension is not entitled to any greater

aggregate income, including pension, than he was previously. Today he is allowed the handsome sum of $120 a year, or $10 a month apart from the pension. If he gets one copper over that it comes off his pension of $40 a month; and that is the minister's idea of liberality. He spoke today of the liberality of the present system. What about married people? They are permitted an aggregate income, including pension, under this act of $1,080 per annum. No change was made in that total when the increase was made from $30 to $40 in April of 1949. What is the position of a married couple receiving old age pensions? Well, $40 a month each for two people is $960 a year, and they are allowed a total income of $1,080, so there we have the princely allowance of $120 other income per year for two people. In other words, those two people are permitted to receive an additional $120 a year or $10 a month between them; but if they make a copper over that the minister has what satisfaction he can get out of seeing that a corresponding deduction is made from the basic pension of $40 a month.

In the face of that situation the minister has the temerity to put in print a statement in which he speaks of the credit due him for relaxing the income ceilings!

Then let us come to another of these boastings by the minister. He speaks about lowering the eligible age for the blind. Who is entitled to credit for that? In 1947 this government brought in an amendment to the act under which they proposed that the age of blind pensioners should be reduced to forty years. My then leader, Mr. John Bracken, rose in the house and in one of the best speeches to be heard here in a long time challenged the government to do the sensible thing and reduce that age to twenty-one instead of forty. It was his effort that drove the government, before that debate ended, to reduce the pensionable age from forty to twenty-one, as we find it in the Old Age Pensions Act today. Forty was the age the government thought suitable when the amendment was introduced in 1947. I say to you, sir, that the full credit for that change goes to the opposition.

When one looks at this vast majority to your right and to your left, sir, one would have thought that, if the government was looking for ample support before taking action, with 193 members they must by this time have mustered enough strength to warrant their showing a little bit of courage in grappling with this problem. How many more members are they going to need, Mr. Speaker, before they screw their courage up to the point where they will take action to meet the needs of the situation? If 193 members are

not enough, then it is utterly impossible for any person to look hopefully for any action whatever from this inactive and reluctant government.

What is their position? I have suggested it is difficult to find the government's position. We do know that their policy is to appoint a parliamentary committee, and apparently that is all the policy they now have in this field of old age pensions. Yet, I recall that the Minister of National Health and Welfare made this statement in a speech in Kitchener on March 27, 1949, as recorded in a Canadian Press dispatch:

The Liberal government program is now directed toward giving the national contributory old age pensions and a national health program.

Well, how about it? How about some action, Mr. Speaker? Let us have less talk and more action on the part of the government towards bringing about that promised national contributory old age pension system. If the government meant business when the minister made that statement in March, 1949, why all the obstacles that the minister plastered on the record during his speech today?

Then, of course, there is a speech made by the Prime Minister. The Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) has not indicated to us as yet just when it was that the Prime Minister made that speech in Vancouver, but it may have been on that tour the Prime Minister took through the west during the Easter adjournment last year. At that time, he put his toes in to feel how warm or how cold the election water might be. While the Prime Minister was on the same tour, he made a speech in Edmonton which was not read today by the Minister of National Health and Welfare, but which is recorded in a reliable newspaper, the Toronto Telegram. The press report was written by a highly respected member of the press gallery, who accompanied the Prime Minister on that tour. The article reads as follows:

"Most people do feel that a basic pension of $30 a month isn't worth, in purchasing power at the present, what the pension was worth before the last increase," he said.

The basic pension policy of the government is directed towards a contributory system without a means test, he added, but that end can't be achieved until some way is found to assess the contributions. He foresaw no difficulty in getting an amendment to the British North America Act to permit the setting up of a national system of contributory old age pensions.

Let me just interject: If he saw no difficulty in getting that amendment, why on earth was it not obtained long before this, to bring about a national contributory old age pension system?

Old Age Security

Then the article continues:

The more attractive the present pension becomes, however, the greater difficulty of preparing the public mind for acceptance of the contributory plan, Mr. St. Laurent said.

To delay increases in old age pensions until a contributory system is worked out might be unfair to present pensioners and to those about to qualify for them, Mr. St. Laurent added.

To pay pensions under the present plan without a means test would take another $200 million a year from the federal treasury, something not practicable if the people want reduced taxes. The inauguration of a contributory system depended not so much on parliament as on public opinion.

A national contributory system of old age pensions and social services generally would make all Canadians equal, said Mr. St. Laurent. A Canadian might move about from one province to another without having to consider whether he would gain more in these benefits than he would lose. As national unemployment insurance, made possible by the consent of the provinces, had increased the mobility of Canada's labour force, so would a national social security system make Canadians freer generally.

I am convinced that the Prime Minister was right in saying that there would be no difficulty in securing whatever was required, either in the way of provincial co-operation or by means of an amendment to the British North America Act, to make the inauguration of a national contributory pension plan possible. Other government officials are on record on this subject. The minister of welfare in the province of Ontario, the Hon. W. A. Goodfellow, said in September of 1948 that he urged the immediate establishment of a nation-wide contributory system of old age pensions. He gave detailed reasons why that system would remedy the serious difficulties that exist under the present system.

Before I leave this subject, I have one final quotation from a speech made by the Prime Minister in Ottawa on December 16, 1948, which reads as follows:

The Liberal aim is a contributory scheme in which everyone can pay in something during his working years to help provide security for his old age.

Now, sir, if that is the policy and program of this government, then I say to this government and to the house, there is no excuse whatever that will justify continued delay and inaction on the part of the government. No more information is required; no more delay is justified. What is required at this time, having regard to the needs of the people of Canada, and what is demanded by the members of this house who are alive to the needs of the people, what will be required of this government having regard to the promises made by it and many of its followers who were elected in June, 1949, is action-immediate and resolute action, to

Old Age Security

bring about that co-operation with the provinces which the government itself admits will be easily obtained, and to inaugurate a national contributory old age pension plan.

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, during the eight years I have been in this house, I have listened to a great many fine speeches. In fact, a number of those speeches have been the sort that could lead one to believe that a new heaven and a new earth was just around the corner. I think of the speeches that were made by the prime minister during the war years, when we were told that the government was planning then for a better world after the war. I think of the speech made by the minister of reconstruction and supply (Mr. Howe), as he then was, in April, 1945, in which he outlined the government's post-war employment policies. I think of the speeches we have had from time to time about housing. I think of the important speech delivered by the former prime minister in May of 1948, with respect to health matters. I think now of the speeches we have heard before, and the speech we heard today from the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) about old age security. All of them have been fine speeches, phrased in such a way that press reports could give the country the impression something wonderful would happen very soon. We are still waiting for that new world; we are still waiting for the implementation of those employment proposals; we are still waiting for adequate housing; we are still waiting for health insurance; and we are still waiting for adequate old age pensions in this country. Having listened closely to the speech of the minister and having thought about it since he made it, my candid opinion is that it is in the same category with the others. It was nice to listen to; he gave some interesting quotations to which I shall refer; but it does not envisage any early action on this problem of old age security.

I think the minister started off on the wrong foot. In the first few minutes of his speech, I take it in an attempt to give the impression that it was a good idea to set up a committee on old age pensions and that action would follow, he said, if I heard him correctly, that there have been committees on old age pensions on two other occasions, one in 1908 and the other in 1924. The minister said that immediately following the committee in 1908 something happened, the old age annuities act was brought in, and he said that the committee of 1924 led to the introduction of the Old Age Pensions Act in 1926 and its enactment in 1927. I assume the minister knows that those were not the only two committees on old age pensions.

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?

Peter Francis Martin

Mr. Marlin:

Two others.

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

There was a motion for one made in 1907 which was withdrawn. There was the committee of 1908; there were committees in 1912, 1913, 1921, 1924 and 1925. The minister told us about only two committees. As for claiming that the committee of 1908 had anything to do with the inauguration of government annuities, I should like to read this paragraph about that committee, taken from a later report. It reads:

On the 10th February, 1908, a select committee of nine was appointed. The chairman had made arrangements with Messrs. Blue, Acland and King for certain information to be supplied to the committee. Professor Adam Shortt and two other eminent sociologists had been communicated with who were expected to give valuable evidence, but after three sittings had been held it was found impossible, owing to morning sessions of the house having begun, to reconvene the committee. No report was presented to the house, other than a verbal statement made by the chairman on the 10th of July, ten days before the Old Age Annuities Act, 1908, was assented to by the Governor General.

A report was made on July 10, and second reading of the bill-I remember this very well because it was the day I was born-was on June 18, 1908. The point is that that committee was not responsible for the annuities act. The reason I mention that is to deflate, and I feel a job of deflation should be done, the inference made by the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) that the setting up of committees produces results. We have had a great many more committees than the two he mentioned and it has taken a long time and a great many committees to bring results of any kind.

In addition to the committees I have mentioned there was a committee on social security in 1943 and a committee on reconstruction and rehabilitation which went into these matters as well in 1944. I submit that the record is not very good so far as this parliament is concerned as to the effectiveness of committees on social security. They pile up a lot of information that can be used for debate on the floor of the house and I should admit that they help to educate our people in the whole field of social security, but they are not vehicles for bringing about action.

In connection with the setting up of committees, I think it should be emphasized, as it was by the previous speaker, that when committees are asked for from this side of the house to go into various matters the government spokesmen take an opposite attitude. On October 12, 1949, when a motion was made by the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) for the setting up of a standing committee on social security, housing and related matters, the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Claxton) opposed it vigorously.

The minister pointed out that it would be a case of cutting across the whole theory of responsible government, that you could not have policies made, particularly where they involved the expenditure of money, by committees representing all parties. The minister said that policies have to be brought before the house by the government which is responsible to parliament and in turn responsible to the people. The minister went into the matter at some length. He is an expert on this question because at one time he wrote an article in a magazine in which he took the other side of the question. Having changed his mind, and he has stated that change of mind several times on the floor of the house, he opposed the committee idea again on November 3 and November 18, 1949, when the leader of the opposition (Mr. Drew) was asking for a committee on defence.

That is the position the government takes. I agree that we have responsible government. At times we have tried to get into the heads of the ministers what that means. We had quite a battle with the Minister of Justice (Mr. Garson) last fall as to what responsibility on the part of the government meant. But at the moment I am talking of this in relation to committees of this house. Committees can make studies; committees can bring out information and disseminate it among members of parliament and in turn throughout the country; but they are not vehicles for getting action. The only way to get action is for the government, which is responsible to parliament and in turn to the people, to bring its policies before this House of Commons in the form of legislation.

I regret very much that the Minister of National Health and Welfare has today done the very thing that the Minister of National Defence on October 12, 1949, said should not be done, for he failed to state the government's views on the matter and simply said that the whole question will be referred to a committee.

I should like to indicate the nature of the minister's speech. He put a number of opinions on the record and by asking rhetorical questions, the answers to which were supposed to be obvious, he hinted at his own opinions on one or two points. He quoted the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) in Vancouver on April 14, 1949. He commented on the situation with respect to the plans in the United States. He lined up four different plans which might be assessed by the committee. As a result of all these words that were uttered, I have no doubt that the newspaper reports will give the people of Canada the impression that something is coming out of this committee. But the minister on behalf of the government did not

Old Age Security

pinpoint any one of those propositions and say, "We are going to bring in legislation to implement this policy or this point of view." The whole matter has been left to the committee, which in turn has no legislative power. As the Minister of National Defence said last fall, "What is the use of having a committee unless it can make recommendations, and what is the use of a committee making recommendations if they have to be approved, first of all, by the government?"

I submit that it was the responsibility of the minister today not just to give us this interesting discourse on the subject of old age security but rather to tell us what the government intends to do by way of legislation at this session.

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LIB

Gladstone Mansfield Ferrie

Liberal

Mr. Ferrie:

What about Ontario and Quebec?

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

The hon. member for Mackenzie is again making references to the provinces and perhaps I might as well deal with that right now. I was going to deal with that later, but it is just as well to do it at this time because the Minister of National Health and Welfare said that he hoped that we could get rid of the means test but it depended upon making necessary arrangements with the provinces. If I heard him correctly there was a somewhat similar reference in the quotation he gave from the speech of the Prime Minister in Vancouver last April.

May I remind the government and the hon. member tor Mackenzie that that sort of argument figured largely in the discussions back in the middle twenties when old age pensions were being considered in this House of Commons. At that time there were the same objections raised to old age pensions that are being voiced today against a better old age pension. One of them was the constitutional argument and another was that you had to consult the provinces. Another was the financial problem. Another one was the supposedly high moral consideration that the hon. member for Winnipeg South (Mr. Mutch) is now advocating, namely, that we have to consider whether this kind of thing is good for the people as a whole.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. Blackmore:

Anything for an excuse.

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

As I say, back in the middle twenties one of these committees, I think it was the committee of 1925, collected reports from the various provinces as to their attitude toward instituting old age pensions at all. In addition they got an opinion from the Department of Justice, and I want my hon. friend, the hon. member for Mackenzie (Mr. Ferrie) and the Minister of National Health and Welfare-I assume the minister is fully aware of this-to realize that the opinions of the

Old Age Security

provinces, and the opinion of the Department of Justice at that time, looked liked hurdles that could not be got over. The provinces in their replies to the queries sent out from Ottawa ranged from lukewarm to cool-in fact, to cold-toward the whole idea.

I will not take the time to read them all, but here is an interesting one. This was a reply under date of November 19, 1924, from the Hon. Mr. Gardiner, who was then the minister of labour and industries in the province of Saskatchewan. Listen to this. I am reading from the Journals of the House of Commons of 1925 at page 456:

The government of Saskatchewan is of opinion that an old age pension scheme for Canada can best be adopted by the federal government alone.

That was the young Jimmy Gardiner of November, 1924. I continue:

There would seem to be so much difficulty in the way of providing any scheme that would be suitable to all the nine provinces of Canada as to make it almost impossible, and it will be readily understood that if any number of the provinces were to remain out, it would be almost impossible to adopt any scheme that would not subject those provinces within the arrangement to considerable expense that should rightfully be borne by those outside the scheme.

Listen to this last sentence:

While we are disposed to think that an old age pension scheme should be undertaken, the difficulties in the way of the suggested scheme appear almost, if not entirely, insurmountable.

As a matter of fact that is not the most negative of the replies of the various provincial governments. In addition to that, the committee of 1925 got a ruling from the Department of Justice, which was to the effect that in the view of the Department of Justice the whole question of pensions lay with the provinces, and the federal government could not institute any old age pension plan if it involved the federal government trying to obligate individuals within the provinces to make contributions toward it. That same ruling from the Department of Justice admitted that the federal government could go in for the paying of old age pensions-and the assumption is that they could pay them out of the general tax revenues-but they made it clear at that time that any attempt to obligate individuals to pay directly for old age pensions would be unconstitutional. I do not know that there has ever been a court ruling on the matter. All we have that is stated officially, so far as I know, is this opinion of the Department of Justice, but at any rate it has stayed there ever since. I was thinking when the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) was speaking about the possibility that we might have to call the officials of the Department of Justice before the committee and get their opinion on this, that old

rule of stare decisis that we heard so much about last fall might stand in the way of our getting any other ruling than the one given twenty-five years ago.

What I want to say is this. In addition to the opposition of the provinces toward the federal government in 1925 and 1926 going ahead with old age pensions, in addition to the adverse opinion of the Department of Justice, there was a strong and spirited opposition to the measure' on the floor of this house from the official opposition, the Conservative party of that day. I hold in my hand some quotations. Here is one from Mr. Bennett-

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Can't you let him rest in peace?

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

-of March 26, 1926, Which will be found at page 1971 of Hansard:

The members severally-

Mr. Bennett was referring to the members of the committee of that day.

The members severally were of the opinion that there should be no old age pension legislation by this parliament unless the various provinces had agreed and had arrived at a conclusion with respect to it, and as the correspondence indicated that they were not agreed, and as the minister stated this afternoon there has been no further correspondence, therefore it follows that this parliament should not proceed with this matter at this time, and, Mr. Speaker, I do venture to plead with my friends opposite not to urge the government to proceed with it at this time.

Mr. Stevens also took part in the debate. My time is going by, therefore I will not read all of these quotations.

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?

Peter Francis Martin

Mr. Marlin:

Who was the speaker the hon. member just quoted?

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CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

Mr. Bennett. I started to say that I have a quotation from Mr. Stevens who was here at the time, and who urged that the legislation of 1926 be not proceeded with until, as the hon. member for Mackenzie says, the government had seen the provinces. What did Mr. King say after Mr. Stevens asked him not to proceed with the legislation? On March 26, 1926, as recorded at page 1979 of Hansard the following appears:

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?

Henry Herbert Stevens

Mr. Stevens:

Therefore would it not be better to

have the conference prior to the passing of this legislation?

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LIB

James Horace King

Liberal

Mr. Mackenzie King:

I think my hon. friend, if

he looks into his heart of hearts,-

That is quite a phrase.

-will agree with me when I say that if we are in a position to put before representatives of the provinces a plan which has been drafted and carefully considered, and an act passed by this parliament, and to invite the attention of the provinces to what may be essential in the way of amendment to it or its relation to their own legislation, a measure

of co-operation can be obtained that would not be possible if the provinces were simply brought together without any concrete legislation before them for consideration.

Later in the same session, on April 15, 1926, as recorded at page 2487 of Hansard, Mr. King said:

In reference to the answers from the nine provinces, which the hon. gentleman has just read, I might say that those very replies convinced the government of the futility of ever having an old age pension scheme enacted by correspondence with the provinces. We concluded that the best way would be to enact concrete legislation. We thought that was the only way we could get anywhere.

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that if the government of 1926 had listened to the objections of the provinces, had listened to the ruling of the Department of Justice, had listened to the protest of the official opposition, that act would not have been passed that year, and who knows whether we would have had the beginnings of old age pensions on the statute books yet. But no, the government of the day-under pressure, to be sure-felt that it was necessary to act, not just to consult, nor just to hold conferences, not just to study, and so they put the act on the statute books. Well, that act, as most hon. members know, was defeated in the other place. The hon. gentlemen over there seemed to agree with the idea of pensions for themselves, but they voted down the first old age pension act. To complete the record I must say that it was the Conservative majority over there that killed the first old age pension bill. What did the then prime minister do? He made it an issue in the election campaign of that year, and said that if he came back to power he would put that act back on the statute books. In the next session it was put on the statute books, and the leader of the Conservative party at that time got up in the House of Commons and said that they were in favour of the measure.

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that what happened in that case was that the government went over the objections of the provinces, the objection of the Department of Justice, the objection of the official opposition, to the highest court in this land, to the people themselves. The people said they wanted that legislation, and when the next parliament met the legislation was put on the statute books.

I submit that is the way the government should be acting now, not finding all possible ways and means to stall; rather, legislation should be brought in at this very session.

I have criticized the minister for not pinning himself or the government down to anything concrete. I would have to criticize the hon. member for Eglinton on the same score. He says that what this house wants is not a committee, but resolute action, and he stated

Old Age Security

the general position of his party as being one in favour of a national contributory old age pension plan. But I did not hear him tell the minister what he thought should be put into legislative form and brought before parliament at this session. Since I have criticized both of the previous speakers for that shortcoming, I must try and state clearly and without evasion what I think should be done; I must and will state the view of the party I represent on this matter.

In what I am about to say, I am going to have to use a word that I wish to define a little more fully. I refer to the word "contributory". But, bearing in mind the fact that I am going to define it, may I say that we believe in and advocate an over-all social security system on a contributory basis. But let it be clear that we support the contributory idea only in relation to an over-all plan. Anything piecemeal would have to be noncontributory. By "over-all" we mean a social security system which includes old age and retirement pensions, unemployment insurance, health insurance, sickness benefits, pensions for invalids, family allowances

everything that is necessary to provide real social security in the modern sense.

That is what we advocate. It is set out clearly in the platform we have circulated throughout the country, and it is toward that end this party is working. We recognize that a program of that extent will have to be attained by a few stages. Having admitted that, the next thing for me to do is to state clearly what I think the first stage should be. That is what I wanted the minister to do this afternoon; and I am sorry also that my hon. friend to my right failed to do it.

What do we say should be the first stage? As I said on Monday in another debate, we say

and I repeat it now

that the first thing to do is to get rid of the means test. I believe there is real significance in the way public sentiment has welled up against the means test the past few years. No one would now stand up and defend it. The idea of saying to people who have saved a little, who have got their own homes together, who have paid taxes and helped contribute to the wealth of the country, that, whereas others in destitute circumstances can qualify, those people cannot qualify for the old age pension-that just does not make sense at all. I insist that these thousands of cards which are coming to this building these days represent a very sound opinion; and I hope that even the hon. member for Winnipeg South (Mr. Mutch) will credit the people who are sending them in with holding very honest convictions that the time has come to do away with the means test.

Old Age Security

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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Mutch:

The hon. member for Winnipeg South seems to have got under your skin. Make your own speech.

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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 have not heard anything so amusing for a long time as the speech made yesterday by the hon. member for Winnipeg South.

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LIB

Leslie Alexander Mutch (Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Mutch:

I am getting along very well with the people in south Winnipeg.

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March 10, 1950