Old Age Pensions
age pensions plan, will be able to deal with this new problem in an efficient and expeditious manner. These administrative arrangements are, as I say, already being planned with the aim of pressing them forward as rapidly as possible, and they will be pressed forward as soon as the necessary legislative authority is given to the department to carry out the registration for this purpose.
So far as the legislation to provide for the universal contributory old age pension is concerned, the government has come to the conclusion that, in the light of the heavy load of work already before parliament at this present session, it would not be appropriate to ask parliament to deal with this new and important legislation during the next few weeks. Hon. members are fully aware of the heavy load of work which lies ahead of us, and of the necessity we shall shortly face of holding meetings in the mornings, afternoons and evenings in order to deal with the main estimates now before the house and the other items in the government's legislative program already before parliament, as well as old age security assistance and one or two other urgent matters. .
If the universal contributory old age pension measure were the only legislative proposal which would remain for consideration, the government would be disposed to ask parliament to continue to sit in July until it had been enacted, in the hope that it would not be necessary for parliament to meet again in the present calendar year. But that is not the situation. In addition to the universal old age pensions legislation, there are a number of important measures under consideration, some of which arise out of the report of the royal commission on transportation. In that regard it is the intention of the government to recommend to parliament the implementation of the recommendations of the royal commission to the fullest practicable extent, and that will require many amendments to the present Railway Act. This amending bill will be a very important legislative proposal, and one which should receive the most careful consideration by parliament because of its long term effect on the Canadian economy. It is intended to recommend that the bill be referred to the standing committee on railways, canals and telegraph lines, and that the committee provide an opportunity for representations as to how the proposed amendments might be expected to affect certain interests and localities. We feel that these proposed amendments should be before the public for study and discussion some reasonable time before they are finally dealt with by parliament.
The government in the course of the next few weeks will also have to give consideration to the recommendations of the royal commission on national development in the arts, letters and sciences. This requires some time for careful study by the government, by members of parliament and by the public, though it does not seem unlikely that some legislative provision should be made before the end of this year.
There are a number of other legislative proposals to which the government has been giving thought. Some of these, like the revision of the Consolidated Revenue and Audit Act, have had to be postponed more than once. It is intended to introduce that legislation and to have it referred to the public accounts committee, where it can be fully explained in all its details. That is the act which provides the standard for the control by parliament over the expenditure of public fund's, and we think it is one that is deserving of careful consideration.
In view of all these considerations, the government has come to the conclusion that it would be preferable to make an effort to complete the work now before the house, to conclude the present session as soon as is consistent with the proper dispatch of that business and to adjourn until the beginning of October, with the proviso that we can meet earlier if circumstances make an earlier meeting necessary. If an earlier meeting is not required by unforeseen circumstances, the government would recommend the prorogation of the present session when we meet in October and the immediate commencement of the new session. There would be plenty of public business-mainly legislative-to require a full session, and we would propose to have the session devoted exclusively to government measures, in the hope of overtaking all important arrears and starting with a clean slate in the regular session of 1952.
With respect to old age security, the reason for proceeding with the old age assistance measure in the immediate future is, of course, that it is the part of the old age security program which involves joint action with the provincial governments and we feel that the provincial authorities should know as soon as possible the precise legal basis for the proposed agreements in order to make their own legislative and administrative plans in the light of that knowledge. Of course it is intended' that the old age assistance legislation will come into effect at the same time as the universal pensions.
So far as the universal pensions are concerned, once authority has been given by
parliament for the necessary registration, it will not make the slightest difference to the public whether the main legislation is enacted in July or October. The government believes more careful consideration is likely to be given to this very important measure if it is held over, and holding it over will not make any difference as to the date on which it will come into force. That in either case will be the earliest date which we consider administratively feasible on the advice of our experts in that field, that is to say, January, 1952. That from the very beginning has been the earliest date on which it was considered that it would be feasible to get this new machine rolling, and that information was given to the provincial governments at the dominion-provincial conference of last December.
Moreover, as hon. members know, the universal pensions are to have right from the start a contributory basis. Now, we have not yet completed consideration of the normal budgetary program of the current year, and the government believes it would be an advantage to have a few months to observe the effects of the recent changes in the tax structure before reaching a final decision on all the precise details of the contributory system to be recommended to parliament.
It will be recalled that the joint committee made no precise recommendations on that point, because it was recognized that it was the inescapable responsibility of the government. We want to be as sure as we can that we are making the right proposals for a plan which is going to affect, far into the future, the provision for old age security of the whole Canadian population.
The government intends to place on the order paper with all reasonable dispatch the proposals required to be dealt with by parliament to give effect, if parliament sees fit to do so, to this program I have just announced.