June 21, 1951

PC

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I do not think the minister should take my remarks in the way he has, or I should be called upon to reply in like manner. He used the word "seized", and I was referring to the fact that these ships

Inquiries of the Ministry were operated with his knowledge by a company in China, with its head office at Chungking. Has the minister any evidence that this operation is not being simply continued by the parent company, of which the Ming Sung Industrial Company of Canada Limited is a subsidiary?

Topic:   MING SUNG INDUSTRIAL COMPANY
Subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO SHIPS IN OPERATION BETWEEN HONG KONG AND MACAO SEIZURES BY
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LIB

Lionel Chevrier (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Chevrier:

I used the word "seized" because it was in the question; that was the only reason.

Topic:   MING SUNG INDUSTRIAL COMPANY
Subtopic:   INQUIRY AS TO SHIPS IN OPERATION BETWEEN HONG KONG AND MACAO SEIZURES BY
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FISHERIES

NEWFOUNDLAND-LOSS OF CODFISH ON ACCOUNT OF SCARCITY OF SALT


On the orders of the day:


PC

William Joseph Browne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. W. J. Browne (Si. John's West):

In the

absence of the Minister of Fisheries and his parliamentary assistant, I should like to address a question to the Prime Minister. Is he aware of the fact that at Placentia and Fortune bay there is a scarcity of salt, with the result that thousands of quintals of codfish have had to be dumped? Is the government aware of that situation, and has it taken any steps to relieve it?

Topic:   FISHERIES
Subtopic:   NEWFOUNDLAND-LOSS OF CODFISH ON ACCOUNT OF SCARCITY OF SALT
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LIB

Louis Stephen St-Laurent (Prime Minister; President of the Privy Council)

Liberal

Right Hon. L. S. Si. Laurent (Prime Minister):

I was not aware of the situation to which the hon, member has referred. There are, of course, many things which occur in this country of which I am not immediately aware. I will bring the matter to the attention of the Department of Fisheries and see if they have any information about it.

Topic:   FISHERIES
Subtopic:   NEWFOUNDLAND-LOSS OF CODFISH ON ACCOUNT OF SCARCITY OF SALT
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OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT

PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES

LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Hon. Paul Martin (Minister of National Health and Welfare) moved

that the house go into committee to consider the following resolution:

That it is expedient to bring in a measure respecting old age assistance and to provide for the payment to the provinces out of the consolidated revenue fund of amounts in respect of old age assistance paid by the provinces, to certain persons who have attained the age of 65 years and who are in need of such assistance, not exceeding, in respect of any recipient, fifty per centum of forty dollars monthly or of the amount of old age assistance paid by the provinces monthly to the recipients, whichever is the lesser; and to provide for the making of agreements with the provinces in relation thereto and for the conditions and duration of such agreements.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Donald M. Fleming (Eglinton):

Is it the

intention of the minister to make a statement on this resolution?

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. Martin:

I had not intended to do so. I had understood that there was a sort of understanding that the statement I would make would be on the bill which I propose to distribute at the earliest opportunity.

Old Age Assistance Act Although I have just returned to the city, I understand that the arrangement is that the second reading of the bill is to be given on Saturday and I would naturally make a statement at that time. I would hope that the discussion might take place then. I am of course in the hands of the house, but I think that such an arrangement would meet with the convenience of most hon. members.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

I suggest to the minister that it will save time in the long run if we have his statement this morning. It would be a guide to the house as to what to expect in the terms of the bill. May I ask the minister if he will make his statement now?

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. Martin:

No, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate my hon. friend's view, as I know that he has given this matter some thought. I believe, however, that the statement would be better gitTen when the bill is before the house and when the details are before it. I think that is the best way in which to develop the discussion of this extremely important problem which engages the attention of the house and of the country at this time.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Mr. Speaker, the minister has indicated his decision in this matter. I think the alternative which I have suggested, that of having his statement now, would have contributed to a better understanding of the bTli and to more orderly treatment by the house of the resolution before us this morning. After all, the purpose of introducing sutfti a resolution is, as I understand it, to permit discussion of the subject, and, if it is not too late, to permit suggestions to be made from the floor of the house as to what the bill might well include.

May I say at once, and with emphasis, Mr. Speaker, that I am sure there will be the readiest co-operation in all parts of the house -certainly there will be on the part of the official opposition-in furthering this measure and in bringing about, at the earliest possible opportunity, assistance of the kind outlined in the resolution. As to a number of aspects of the matter I think it would have assisted in furthering the bill and in expediting its passage had we been given more detailed information at this resolution stage.

The Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) has indicated that next January 1 is the earliest date at which such a scheme could possibly be brought into effect, even with the most rapid action on the part of parliament. Certainly, so far as the official opposition is concerned, there will be genuine and ready co-operation in bringing this type of assistance into effect at that earliest possible moment.

There is difficulty, of course, in seeing the problem as a whole when we have not before us the details either of this measure or of

IMr. Martin.]

the accompanying measure to provide the universal pension at age 70. Certainly this is a problem that does not admit of being divided up in that manner into watertight compartments. I wish the government had proceeded by laying before the house at one time its entire proposed legislation with respect to the whole problem. The special committee of both houses of parliament on old age security which sat last year saw this matter as one entire problem; and one regrets to see the treatment being accorded to the problem now and parliament's approach to it chopped up as it has been, with the resolution on this one aspect of the problem being put before us now, and the other one, providing for universal pensions at age 70, being held back until October.

There were three pressing questions before that committee in regard to priorities; and that problem as to priorities thrust itself upon the committee time after time, with witness after witness, and day after day. Three principal needs were made clear by all those who contributed their ideas or the results of their studies for the assistance of the committee. The first was in reference to the means test; the second was the question of lowering the age, and the third was the adequacy of the amount of the pension. At various times the committee had to ask different witnesses who came before it-some representing organizations, and others persons who, by reason of their special study and experience, qualified as experts in this field

how they arranged these three urgent problems in order of priority. There was not absolute unanimity in the reaction of these witnesses to that question, but there was almost entire agreement. When the committee came to address itself to establishing the priority among these pressing aspects of the problem, the committee was able to do it, I think, unanimously. The committee said in effect that the most urgent problem is to eliminate the means test; the second is to find a means of lowering the age and bringing assistance to those in the age group 65 to 69, and the third problem is to find a way of providing an adequate amount. With each of these three problems was associated the problem of financing.

When the committee came to report its findings, having indicated its view as to the relative urgency of these three major problems or aspects of the problem, the committee refrained from indicating any hard and fast method of raising the money required. I think it is fair to say there was a strong difference of opinion in the committee as to what was the proper role of the committee in reference to financing the scheme. The committee eventually wrote a report in this

respect, in which it said, in effect: We cannot lay down, any particular method to be recommended as to raising the money. When he spoke on this subject in the house on June 4, the Prime Minister indicated something in this respect that has a definite bearing both upon this resolution and also upon the consideration the house will give to the other problem of financing the universal pension at age 70, which will come before the house in the fall. At page 3665 of Hansard the Prime Minister said:

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 effect 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.

I take it that the Prime Minister's observations there apply to the universal pensions at 70 and over. He does not indicate what is to be the basis of financing the program of old age assistance at ages 65 to 69, and that was one of the matters that I had hoped the Minister of National Health and Welfare would make clear to the house this morning in the statement that he has chosen not to make at this stage.

There are other questions which naturally present themselves to hon. members in relation to this aspect of the problem that is presented by the resolution this morning, namely, the assistance that is to be provided to persons aged 65 to 69. At once, sir, we ask what is the basis upon which persons are to qualify. The resolution is not too clear on this point. It speaks of providing old age assistance to certain persons who are "in need of such assistance". That is a very vague expression. I expect many people in all age categories would disclaim an absence of need of such assistance; but we are given no basis of conjecture, no inkling whatever in this resolution as to what is to determine the basis of the need.

One turns then to the Prime Minister's statement in the house on June 4, and one reads at page 3663 the following:

In conformity with that statement of the government's position, I wish to state at this time that it is proposed to introduce legislation at an early day to enable the government to make agreements with the provinces to provide old age security to persons in need between the ages of 65 and 70, and to

Old Age Assistance Act provide authority for the registration of persons over the age of 70 for the universal old age pensions. That legislation would probably also at the same time provide for the continuance of federal assistance in the payment of pensions to the blind.

The minister has given no indication whatsoever as to whether the test of need is to be the present means test, which the committee felt itself obliged to condemn, and which it recommended be discarded as to the ages of 70 and over. There was a difference of opinion on this point in the discussions in the committee. Broadly speaking, a number of us on the committee, having seen the means test condemned as to ages 70 and over, felt that it would be most inconsistent to recommend a retention of the means test for ages 65 to 69, and that was said repeatedly.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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?

An hon. Member:

The report does not

say that.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

The committee report does

not say that. I am speaking of the discussions in the committee, and there was a good deal of discussion on the point. Nevertheless, when the committee came to write the report the problem confronting it was twofold. First of all, as to the method of financing, was this to be a contributory system in the orthodox sense, or was the committee to subordinate the contributory principle in favour of universality? In the second place, how were we equipped as a nation to meet the cost of a scheme of old age pensions which would place those 65 to 69 on the same basis as those 70 years of age and over, with a view to complete abolition of the means test?

The committee on the whole felt that it was prepared to go as far as the report indicates, and not to go farther at this stage; and some of us in the committee, who had expressed our views as strongly as we could on this point, supported, and I may say were quite happy to support, the report of the committee in principle and on balance. Because this report, while it does not represent a hundred per cent of the views of all members of the committee or of all political parties represented on the committee, does represent a very high common factor of agreement; and when the committee as a whole was prepared to go this far, all members of the committee, representative of all political parties, were glad to give the report unanimous endorsation as far as it went.

I did not hear that any member of the committee, even those who felt the committee went as far as it should go in the circumstances, was prepared to say that this was the last word on this subject or the last step that should be taken in the field of old

Old Age Assistance Act age security at any time. We were dealing with the situation in the year 1950. The committee did, so far as the report goes, achieve unanimity in backing the recommendations that the report contains. I think that members of the committee are free individually to ask for better terms, if there is any practical hope of achieving them under present circumstances; but may I make it quite clear, Mr. Speaker, that the members of the official opposition did give unanimous support to this report as far as it went. We would have liked to see it do things other than it did in many respects, but we did give it unanimous support as far as it went. That was our position at the time; that is the position I am putting before the house today.

Now, sir, so far as the means test is concerned, if that is the method of determining need contemplated in this resolution, all I can say at the moment, lacking any information on the point from the minister, is that the means test which the committee discarded in the light of experience as to the age group of 70 and over, is not likely to prove more satisfactory as to the age group 65 to 69. We will continue to have, with respect to the lower age category, the same objections as have been levelled at the means test as applied to the age group 70 and over. It penalizes thrift, and creates unwarrantable intrusions into the affairs of private citizens.

If that type of test is to be enforced by the government in the legislation to be introduced,

I want to make an observation with regard to the income that persons of this group are entitled to receive. I think we recognize in the first place that the present allowable income to persons receiving the old age pension at the present time is entirely inadequate.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
Permalink
LIB

Paul Joseph James Martin (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. Martin:

If the hon. member will permit me to interrupt, I think he will find, when the bill is introduced and the details are before him, that these points are adequately covered, along the lines of the committee's recommendations. I am sure that when the hon. member sees the bill he will realize that the discussion he is launching at present could be more effectively pursued with the bill before him. These points are all dealt with in the bill and for the sake of orderly discussion I should point out to him respectfully that that would be the more satisfactory course to pursue.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

The minister confirms the very reason I put forward earlier as to why his statement should have been made this morning. These are points of great importance, points in which hon. members are bound to be interested, in respect of the [Mr. Fleming.1

legislation outlined in the bill. I am not going to attempt to anticipate everything in the bill-far from it. But I am indicating to the minister that that is one of the things we are looking for.

I hope nothing is going to be done to discourage people in the age category 65 to 69 from working, if they are able to do so, because of the need of expanding our labour force, and because of the evidence given to the committee as to the beneficial therapeutic effects upon persons in that age category who continue to feel that they are useful members in society and that their contribution to the labour force of this country is necessary.

I hope we are to have a statement from the minister very soon as to what is to happen to such benefits as the medical services available hitherto for persons receiving the old age pension. Is the intended application of the principle of universality in the category of 70 and over going to affect the medical services and the availability of medicines to persons who receive old age pension today, and who qualify for it under the means test? In the second place, is anything to be done in this respect for persons qualifying under the means test in the category of 65 to 69?

We shall also look to the bill with interest to see what it provides as to terms, conditions and duration of agreements which will be authorized with the provinces. May I pause here to comment that I think the ready co-operation of the provinces in connection with the type of assistance provided here has been altogether commendable. Those of us from Ontario take great pride in the leadership given by the government of our province in encouraging the extension of security to our aged citizens.

There are many questions in this field that will not be settled conclusively by the legislation indicated either in the present resolution or the one following which deals with assistance to the blind, or in the bill to be introduced in the fall for universal pensions to persons 70 years of age and over. There is still a great field of insecurity of which the committee was conscious in its review of the problem of old age security last year. Repeatedly the committee brushed up against the rather narrow confines of the field of inquiry assigned to it. That field of inquiry was strictly confined to old age security, and we had to ask ourselves many times how far the committee should go in that respect, when it was not permitted to inquire into, but nevertheless could never dismiss from its mind, the problem of persons for whom no provision is made at all under our present system of state-assisted security.

We had the question of persons who, by reason of chronic illness or permanent disability, at any age, are unable to provide for themselves. We do make provision for those who suffer from the special disability of blindness. But there are others in our society who suffer from disabilities which are equally damaging in preventing them from providing for themselves, and for whom no provision is made today.

I say this by way of reminding the house that while these measures on the order paper, and the one to be introduced in the fall to provide for universal pensions for those 70 years of age and over, are altogether commendable and will, 1 am sure, receive the sympathetic and unanimous support of the house, we must nevertheless not close our eyes to a field that is still there calling for attention. We must not assume that we have completed our task.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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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, I wish to say at the outset that there is some merit in the suggestion of the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) that at least the main debate in connection with this matter should take place when we have the bill before us. On the other hand I feel I must say that I regard the position taken by the minister as plausible, at best. After all, if it can be said today that we should not debate the resolution preceding a money bill, that is an argument that can be taken with respect to any resolution preceding any money bill.

Topic:   OLD AGE ASSISTANCE ACT
Subtopic:   PROVISION FOR AGREEMENTS WITH PROVINCES
Sub-subtopic:   PAYMENTS AT AGE 65
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June 21, 1951