June 21, 1951

LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Martin:

Am I not right in understanding that, when I had the opportunity to discuss this matter with the hon. member a few days ago and told him of my intention, he concurred in the procedure which I have just now suggested as the more orderly one? I just mention this because it was as a result of that discussion that I decided this was the best way to proceed.

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

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

So far as any private discussion the minister had with me is concerned, I believe the understanding was as I have just now stated it, that the debate at this stage could be brief and that the main debate could take place on the bill. But for the minister to stand in his place now and say that there should be no debate at this time is to ask the house to forgo one of the rights and duties set out for us not only in our standing orders but also in the British North America Act. If the committee dealing with the rules of the house recommends that one of these stages of debate be dispensed with, that is another matter. As a matter of fact the last committee on procedure did recommend that this one stage be determined by a 80709-281J

Old Age Assistance Act vote, but without debate, but that recommendation was not adopted. As it stands it is still the case that parliament has the right and duty to inquire into the terms of resolutions preceding money bills.

The other point that I feel should be made at this time is that this is our only opportunity before a bill is actually placed before us to express our views as to some things that should be in the bill, or indeed to express our views as to some things that should not be in it. We all know from experience that once a government bill reaches the floor of the house the chances of getting any changes made in such a bill are indeed slim. We still cherish the hope that by making suggestions before the government has committed itseif in the form of a printed bill some of our suggestions may be taken into consideration.

As I see it, this is an historic occasion. We are so used to historic events in these buildings that sometimes we are not aware of great moments. With all its shortcomings, the legislation forecast in this resolution, long overdue though it may be, is of historic significance. When this legislation is finally passed by this parliament, and the complementary legislation passed by the various provinces, the payment of old age pensions to some Canadians at the age of 65 will be taking place in January for the first time in our history.

We in this group are particularly glad to be partaking in this forward step. As the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) has indicated, and very properly I think, the members of last year's committee had different views as to what should be in our report. Some of us thought that the recommendations in that report should go further than they did, but we recognized also that the chances of our recommendations being acted upon were much better if we could agree unanimously on certain recommendations to go at least so far. It was in that spirit that members of all four parties, and members of both houses, reached agreement on the report that was tabled on June 28 of last year.

When the matter was the subject of brief discussion in parliament last June I made it clear, and I have made it clear since both in and outside the house, that I will do nothing to jeopardize the possibility of the recommendations of that committee being implemented. Along with that statement I have made it clear that there are some things with which I am not satisfied and that I for one will continue fighting for improvements in our old age security legislation. Members of the committee know that I took that position, as indeed did others. Members of that

4418 HOUSE OF

Old Age Assistance Act committee know the points concerning which I feel changes will have to be made after this legislation has come into effect.

Right now, however, our job in this parliament is to get this legislation on the statute books and to lay the basis for the wider program of old age security recommended last June. I feel that one of our immediate tasks in this House of Commons is to make sure that the legislation to be brought in by the government measures up to the recommendations of last year's committee. The Minister of National Health and Welfare suggested to the hon. member for Eglinton that if he would wait until the bill comes in he would find the various points that he was discussing dealt with in the bill. However, the minister has not seen fit to give us the kind of detailed information that would enable us who were members of the committee to determine whether or not the bill does measure up to the recommendations made by the committee.

For example, we recommended quite clearly that the means test which is to be applied to pensions to be paid to those from 65 to 69 years of age should be less stringent than the means test in effect for those 70 years of age and over. I regard it as extremely important that the bill to be brought in should implement that recommendation. On that point I should like to quote from the report of the committee. Paragraph 48 on page 107, under the heading, "Committee's opinion", reads:

These considerations have led the committee to the view that any program of old age security to be applied to persons in the age group 65 to 69 should involve some principle of selectivity, and this, in the committee's judgment, involves the application of a suitable test of eligibility, designed to ensure assistance to persons in this age group most in need of it.

Then over on the next page we find paragraph 51(b) which reads:

For the age group 65 and over not eligible for the universal benefit, old age assistance at the rate of $40 a month should be available, subject to an eligibility test-

Notice how we steered clear of the words "means test".

-in some respects similar to that which exists under the present old age assistance program, but modified to take account of the different characteristics of the age group to which this test is to apply,-

Then follow these most significant words: -and adjusted in such a way as to recognize to a greater extent than at present the desirability of encouraging recipients to earn supplemental income.

In other words, our recommendation that the means test to be applied to those 65 to 69 years of age should be less severe than the means test now in effect was not just in blank form; we spelled it out. We suggested

be no delay in going ahead with this matter. I am delighted that at last we are getting rid of the means test at age 70; I am pleased that we are getting a pension started at 65. But let it be clearly understood that this parliament should be satisfied even now with nothing less in this bill than the committee recommended in its report last June. Furthermore, once this legislation is in effect this parliament must face the fact that there are still other improvements which must be made before we can say that we really have an adequate program of old age security, or indeed an adequate program of over-all social security.

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

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. F. D. Shaw (Red Deer):

My colleagues and I welcome the action of the government in bringing this resolution before the house for consideration at this time. We had expected and hoped, however, that the minister would make a rather comprehensive statement. As indicated by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) and the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming), it is virtually impossible for us to proceed now without basing our observations upon certain assumptions. I wholly agree with those who have spoken previously that now is the time for all members of the house to have an opportunity to consider the provisions which should be included in the bill that will be placed before us.

I have heard certain very disturbing rumours, on the basis of which I could probably develop a forty-minute speech. I will go so far as to suggest that at the moment I almost fear that some of those rumours are going to prove to be realities. On innumerable occasions we have made reference to the means test. Many times in the committee last year we stressed the complete viciousness of that test as it has been applied down through the years. However, as a basis of compromise, realizing of course that we are entering a new field in which we must acquire experience, we did agree to the imposition of a means test upon the sixty-five to sixty-nine group. We believed, and in fact were firmly convinced, that it would be a modified means test. Now I suspect that when the bill comes before us we shall find that the means test which is to be applied will be in most respects similar to that which has been applied to our pioneer citizens over 70 years of age.

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. Marlin:

The bill will indicate that my hon. friend is quite wrong.

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

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. Shaw:

I am very glad to hear that. As indicated by a previous speaker, we should have been told that at this stage. If the minister had indicated that the means test

would be modified in keeping with the feeling of the committee, of course I would not have had to make any reference to it.

I noticed that the minister as well as the two previous speakers referred to recommendations of the committee. I find no recommendations in the report. I find summaries of submissions that were made, summaries of our own investigations, and a summary of the constitutional position. The report ends with two sections, one dealing with findings and the other with committee opinions. There are actually no recommendations cited as such. It is, however, a fact, that all members of the committee assumed that the committee's opinion in fact embraced the recommendations of that committee. I am not going to make further reference to the means test, but I should like to advise the minister that if, when the bill is placedi before us, the changes in the means test do not seem to be in keeping with the recommendations of the committee, we shall certainly have plenty to say in that respect.

May I refer to this $40 payment. As indicated by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, we were dealing with the $40 a month as of one year ago when the cost of living index was 165-4. Today, with this resolution before us, the cost of living index is 182. So far as I am concerned, that fact places an entirely different complexion upon the $40 a month which was a suggested amount incorporated in our report of last year.

I have already pointed out in this house that, on the basis of today's cost of living index and in relation to the base period 1935-39, $40 is worth only $21.97 today. The $480 payable to a single pensioner now has a purchasing power of $263.73, which is a wholly inadequate amount so far as I am concerned. I must advise the government now that when the bill is before the house we shall have to take strong exception to the payment of $40 a month. In fact we are convinced that as long as the government fails to take appropriate action to stabilize the value of the Canadian dollar, there is only one fair method by which pensioners can be treated, and that is by incorporating an escalator clause in the schedule of payments. We feel that that is the only just approach to this matter. Even if the government and the house were to agree that we should, as suggested by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, change the $40 to $60, with the way things are going now, in a matter of six months or a year that $60 would be wholly inadequate to meet the basic requirements of those aged people. We therefore think that the only proper method

Old Age Assistance Act by which to deal with the matter is, as I say, to include the escalator clause in the schedule dealing with the amount paid; in other words, to tie it to the cost of living.

We fully appreciate the fact that in dealing with this 65-69 group-which is certainly a step in the right direction-we cannot be unmindful of the requirements of other persons within the nation. It is true that when we take in that 65-69 group we shall be taking care of a great many incapacitated persons within our country. But let us never forget that we still have in Canada thousands of persons under 65 years of age who are wholly unable to provide for themselves owing to physical incapacitation. Certainly the solution of that problem should be one of our prime objectives. While we of course realize that this matter is not tied in closely with the resolution which is before us, we think that in considering it we should not be unmindful of that problem which will have to be dealt with soon.

I do not intend to take up more of the time of the house on this occasion. Hon. members have the report of the committee on old age security. They are in a position to familiarize themselves thoroughly with all that is contained therein. It seems unnecessary for me to read extracts from the report in order to remind hon. members of what the committee's opinion was. It seems unnecessary to remind hon. members what the various interested organizations across the country said with respect to this whole matter. I am therefore not going to indulge in the reading of extracts from the report. I am not going to repeat what I shall probably have to repeat on Saturday when the bill comes before the house.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I would urge the minister to give re-consideration to this $40 payment, which today is wholly inadequate. We sincerely trust that, as he has indicated, the changes in the means test- which we of course prefer to call something else-will be in keeping with the recommendations of the committee.

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

Hon. Paul Marlin (Minister of National Health and Welfare):

Mr. Speaker, as the hon.

member who spoke first stated, this is really an historic occasion.

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

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

It was I who said that.

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

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

It was the hon. member who spoke second who said that.

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:

In February, 1927, there was introduced into this house the first Old Age Pensions Act. It was an act which at that time was thought by many to go too far in the direction intended. The important measure that is now before the house is one that has

Old Age Assistance Act been criticized in certain quarters as going too far in one direction and not far enough in another. It may be that the most commendable feature of the legislation is that it takes a position midway between those two extremes. One is somewhat comforted, I think, in the knowledge that since an extreme position is never a sound one, the government has been sound in accepting the general recommendations of the parliamentary committee and in not giving in to the extreme position.

We are dealing with a matter that is of great concern both from- a social and from a financial point of view. This measure is part of a program that is going to involve an expenditure in this country of over $400 million in ensuing years, and certainly close to $400 million in the year after the measure is adopted. Those are considerations which must be borne in mind at this time. We are not launching a measure of modest proportions. We are initiating a program of the greatest magnitude, and one which, within the very confines of the committee's report, may be looked upon as perhaps the most comprehensive effort of its kind ever made by any country in the world. It does not come to us as a measure foreign to our interests. The government was responsible for the original act of 1927. It was the same administration and the same political view that prompted various amendments to the Old Age Pensions Act from time to time. Since I have been Minister of National Health and Welfare I have expressed the point of view of the government legislatively on a number of occasions when we increased the basic amount of the pension and when we increased the permissible income thereby providing for some liberalization of the means test. Then we made additional amendments that provided for a reduction in the qualifying age for blind persons from 40 to 21 years of age; so that those of us on the right of Mr. Speaker approach this problem not as ones who have been prodded into it, but as ones who have consistently taken the initiative in this matter. That is to be expected of a party that is responsible for family allowances, for unemployment insurance, for the veterans charter, and for the national health program.

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

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

Where is it?

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. Marlin:

But I do not want to depreciate in any way the contribution that has been made by all members of the house to this important matter.

The history of this particular measure, the house will recall, goes back to a motion made by myself on March 10, 1950, on behalf of

the government, urging that there should be set up a parliamentary committee to consider and study this matter of old age security. We had a long debate on that subject in the house, and finally the committee was set up. As I said, speaking in this house toward the end of June last year, I doubt whether any committee in the history of this House of Commons has ever more diligently, industriously and purposefully pursued its assignment than that committee. The result was that in a spirit of collaboration with regard to this important problem it came forward with a unanimous view as to what should be done.

And as I congratulated the committee, its chairman and its members last session, I do so again.

Since that time the government has given consideration to the committee's report-and I may say not only the government, but other countries have given consideration to that report. The congress of the United States has allocated some funds for the purpose of giving study to the type of program that is developing here, realizing their own measure's shortcomings and deficiencies, and for the purpose of ascertaining whether the sort of program we are initiating today might not be advantageously employed in that country. That is a tribute to the work of the parliamentary committee representing all political parties in this house.

After the committee made its report I stated outside of this house that it was the government's intention to go ahead with the committee's report, and to implement it. Shortly thereafter the Korean situation developed, and the government was faced with the obligation of providing in very great amounts for -the defences of this country. The question arose in everyone's mind whether or not, in the face of these unforeseen financial obligations at that time, the administration would carry on with its old age security program. I want to say this, and I say this for Canada: I think it is a great credit to

the capacity and to the courage of this nation that when faced with a commitment of almost $2 billion for national defence, the Prime Minister of this country (Mr. St. Laurent) should have been able to say to the ten provincial governments sitting in this very room last December that notwithstanding those formidable obligations the government intended to go ahead with this important program of social security.

I personally believe that you cannot triumph over communism by force alone; that in the long run the victory over that ideology will be won by the determination of the free nations of the world to use their own capacities, economic and otherwise, to pro-

vide within responsible limits for the social welfare of the masses of the people. That is what we are doing in this program, the cost of which, I must repeat, will be greater than the total cost this year of family allowances.

Reference was made by the hon. member for Eglinton (Mr. Fleming) to the non-separability of the features involved in this program. A few days ago in the house the Prime Minister said what our program was. We propose to proceed with that portion of the committee's recommendations, adopted by the government and now put forward, having to do with the age group between 65 and 69. In addition we propose to bring in a measure affecting blind persons. In the fall we will proceed with that portion of the program relating to persons 70 and over which will be the exclusive responsibility of the federal government, providing at the same time for the measures by which the principle of contribution is to be recognized.

We also propose to bring in shortly a supplementary estimate to provide for the registration of those persons 70 and over who will qualify for the universal pension. We are doing that so that there will be no delay in bringing into operation at the earliest possible date, January 1, 1952, this important measure. That will affect some 410,000 additional individuals in the 70 and over age group. At the present time there are approximately 305,000 individuals in receipt of old age pensions under the present legislation. That number will be increased in 1952 to

715.000 persons. That is a social consequence of the greatest significance, one that is going to give a greater measure of security to many classes of people who otherwise would never have been covered, and who were never intended to be reached by the original Old Age Pensions Act.

The security that it will provide for teachers, for railroad and other workers, for those groups in the nation whose incomes are such as to require supplementation, will give the act a scope which I am sure the original proposers of the Old Age Pensions Act did not contemplate. The measure that we are dealing with, providing for assistance in the 65 to 69 age group, will bring the total number benefited to 860,000 persons in the first year of the complete plan's operation. It is estimated there are approximately

450.000 persons who come within the 65 to 69 age group. It is calculated that of that number roughly 145,000 will qualify for pension in the legislation covered by the resolution now before the house.

This measure, sir, is one that was arrived at not without much co-operation, particularly between the two senior levels of

Old Age Assistance Act government in Canada. We recently had a conference in this building with the ten provincial governments, in which I outlined in principle the legislation covered by the resolution now under discussion. I did not give them the actual details of the bill: that is something which, in accordance with our constitutional practice, must first of all be given to the House of Commons. But I did outline the government's intention with respect to the 65 ,to 69 age group. And I want at this time to pay tribute to the spirit of harmony and the spirit of co-operation which prevails between the two senior levels of government in this particular matter, as I find it in respect of other matters having to do with the department I have the responsibility of administering.

Hon. members who have already spoken may say that they would prefer to see this or that. I would remind the house that when we come to consideration of the legislation we shall have to recall that this is legislation based upon financial contributions made in equal terms both by the provinces and by the federal government. This is a scheme that is going to be paid for, fifty per cent by the federal government and fifty per cent by the provinces. If the pension amount were to be increased, or if the eligibility test were to be varied, the changes would increase the financial responsibility of the provinces, just as it would ours.

I may say that every principle that will be found in the bill, the details of which will be given when introduced, was discussed with the provinces, and represents, as closely as it is possible to do so, an agreement and understanding between those ten governments and the federal government.

I do not want to anticipate the details, but because of some things that have been said, and because I think it is desirable that they should be dealt with, I say in general terms that in this legislation we are following almost to the letter the recommendations made by the parliamentary committee. In fact in some particulars it will be found that the government has decided to be a little more generous than the committee, on which all parties in the house were represented. It will be found, for example, that while the committee recommended the continuation of the principle of an eligibility test in the 65 to 69 age group, there will be provided in the bill a degree of liberalization somewhat broader than the recommendations made by the parliamentary committee. Likewise there will be something that perhaps the committee did not fully deal with, having to do with recoveries from estates. It will be seen that we have reached on this

4424 HOUSE OF

Old Age Assistance Act point agreement with the provinces, which will be incorporated in the legislation, and which undoubtedly will be regarded as a progressive step. The treatment that will be accorded Indians will also, I am sure, win the favour of the house, and, I think, of most people in the country.

These are matters to which I have referred in general terms because they have been referred to in the debate thus far; and if I did not answer, undoubtedly a wrong impression would go out to the country. I do not think anyone in the house would really want that to happen.

Then of course the proposed legislation will deal with something that has been sought for some time by a section of our population, having to do with blind persons. Requests have been made from time to time by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and by other organizations looking after the interests of blind people in this country; and it will be found that in the appropriate legislation, which is not covered by this resolution but which forms part of the whole scheme, we shall have taken account of almost all the recommendations made by serious-minded persons interested in doing something to improve the lot of the blind.

I give these advance indications at this time so that they may stand side by side with observations made this morning, with a view to placing them in their proper perspective.

This measure is one of the greatest significance. It is one that is going to impose on all of us an obligation to realize all of its implications. I have faith in the capacity of this nation to bring this kind of measure forward at this time. I know there are many serious-minded people in the country, people whose judgment we must respect, who, in the light of our great obligations in other fields, have some concern as to the action that is now being taken.

This is no effort to create a welfare state. This is no effort to impose greater powers on the state. We still maintain our freedoms. In the light of the growing productivity of this nation, in the light of its growing national income and national productivity, we feel it is possible to bring forward improved measures of social security, as in this particular instance we are doing for our aged citizens.

I am sure the house is seized with the importance of this occasion and of this measure, when we realize that we are going to provide assistance for close to 900,000 out of the 14 million of our population, and

give them increased security. I am sure the house and the country will look upon this measure as one having the greatest significance at this time. It is a measure which is in keeping with the responsible policies of the government, in this instance supported by a parliamentary committee, and kept within the bounds of what we feel as a nation we can financially do to live up to our obligations as a country that wants to provide a proper balance between freedom on the one hand and security on the other.

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

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

Mr. Speaker-

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

Elie Beauregard (Speaker of the Senate)

Liberal

Mr. Speaker:

Order. Apparently a number of members are questioning whether the debate can continue. Under standing order 43 the minister does not, on a resolution preceding a bill, close the debate, nor has he a right of reply. This is not a substantive motion. The leader of the opposition and other members who have not spoken have a right to speak at this time.

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

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. George A. Drew (Leader of ihe Opposiiion):

Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) has said, this is a most significant step. The motion now before us is the customary motion which declares that it is the opinion of the house that it is expedient to introduce the appropriate legislation to implement the recommendations of a committee which was fully representative of all parties in this house. There can be no disagreement among hon. members on the question whether it is expedient that this legislation be introduced. In fact, the members of this house have been urging that this legislation should be proceeded with as soon as possible. I welcome it; and members of this house will recall that only a short time ago I expressed the hope that the government would reconsider their apparent intention to defer consideration of these bills until the fall. I welcome the fact that they have changed their minds and that we are to have an opportunity to deal with them now.

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:

We always intended going

ahead with these two measures.

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

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

At any rate I welcome the fact that we are proceeding with this legislation at this time. I indicated the great importance of having before the members of this house and before the ten provincial legislatures the actual wording of the legislation which they will be called upon to consider. The step which is being taken already indicates the advantage of this course, because dates have been set for the meeting of some of the provincial legislatures early in the fall to deal with this subject.

As the minister has pointed out, it will be possible to deal more satisfactorily with the provisions of the bill when the printed bill is before us. I have no thought of attempting to interpret the remarks of the minister as to the details of the measure. We know the general intention of the legislation, and with that knowledge it is possible for us to express our approval of the step which is being taken in so far as there has been general agreement in regard to old age pensions.

The minister has stated that the legislation to be introduced substantially interprets the recommendations of the committee, which once again demonstrates the value of committees of this nature. Over and over again we have been given evidence of the unanimity which can be attained when members on both sides of the house meet to discuss subjects about which they are in agreement in principle.

In this particular case the one point that has come up for discussion this morning which perhaps raises any question at all is in regard to the provisions that are proposed to be made for those between the ages of 65 and 70 years. The discussion of that can also be much better carried forward in detail when the legislation is before us and when the actual procedure to be followed can be carefully analysed. However, I do submit that as we take this important step we should bear in mind the reasons for the contention which has been made that at the appropriate time, and when a similar measure of unanimity can be achieved, old age pensions should be extended to those of 65 years and over without a means test.

The minister has pointed out that there are those who talk about the welfare state and who see in legislation of this kind a tendency to place too great a dependence upon the treasury. After all, this principle has been recognized for a long time, without regard to party and without regard to whether it was carried on at the national or the provincial level. For many years the principle of old age pensions has been accepted, and for many years there have been expressions regarding the obvious objections to the means test, and it has been contended that it should be removed.

The question every hon. member will be called upon to ask himself as he considers such legislation is whether any argument that was ever made against the means test at the age of 70 years does not apply with equal force to the application of the means test at the age of 65 years. I should like to point out that on different occasions I have referred to this matter, and for that reason

Old Age Assistance Act I have strongly emphasized my own belief that the means test should be abolished wherever it is agreed that old age pensions should be paid.

I would recall to hon. members that at the time I had the privilege of placing the position of the government of Ontario before the dominion-provincial conference in 1945, I used these words-and I quote from the submission that I presented to that conference:

The province of Ontario agrees that old age pensions should be extended to all citizens over 70 years of age without a means test, but disagrees with joint dominion-provincial contributions to pensioners under the age of 70 with a means test.

It is recommended that old age pensions should be paid to all citizens over 65 without a means test. It is recognized, however, that heavy expenditures are involved in this proposal, and it is therefore suggested that the extension to cover all persons over the age of 65 should be made as soon as the dominion finds that it has the necessary financial resources.

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:

As my hon. friend knows better than I, because of his actual experience, the attitude of the provinces would have to be taken into account, because they would have to share in this.

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

George Alexander Drew (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Drew:

I was simply reading into the record the statement I had made, on behalf of the province of Ontario, to the conference in 1945. Having read that into the record, I wish to point out that I stated clearly six years ago my own belief that there should be a general application of the principle that at whatever age it is agreed old age pensions should be paid, they should be paid without a means test.

In response to the remarks made by the minister that this must be done in agreement with the provinces, I certainly recognize that, and I recognize also that neither the legislation nor the administration can be satisfactorily carried out at any time unless there is agreement with the provinces. There are very good reasons why there must be general agreement, because it would be most unfortunate if we created different levels of social security throughout Canada, with the obvious disadvantages that that would create. I think it is appropriate that, when we all express our opinion that it is expedient to proceed as rapidly as possible to take final steps at this stage, we should clearly analyse why it is that the means test is objectionable. Many people still seem to think that the withdrawal of the means test is a concession which places in the hands of people of substantial means payments that they do not require. Undoubtedly there will be those who do not require these payments, and who probably will not welcome the receipt of them. I am quite sure there are many people whose

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Old Age Assistance Act convictions are so strong on this subject that they will not accept the payments. We must remember, however, that the number who can be included in that group is a relatively small part of the population.

I for one would be very reluctant to see this or any other government take any step which would discourage people of any age from using their physical and mental abilities to the very last hour that they can use them. There is nothing more pitiful than to see people lose their confidence in themselves, lose their happiness and their gaiety of spirit simply because they feel that they are unable longer to be engaged usefully in some occupation. Far from discouraging people in any occupation, I think it should be the role of government to say to people of 65, 70, 75, 80, yes, of any age: We want to see you work in any way you can to the very limit of your capacity. Undoubtedly those people who engage their brains and their bodies throughout the longest term of years are those who gain the greatest happiness out of life.

But I submit that the means test is one device by which we actually discourage saving rather than encourage it. Those who have had the responsibility for the administration of legislation of this type-the hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Croll), as well as the Minister of National Health and Welfare, has had that responsibility-know that there is an almost irresistible temptation for people to divest themselves of any small holdings they may have if those small holdings are going to deprive them of old age pensions with a means test, when the savings that they have are at the same time inadequate to maintain them.

In our complex society, even with high wage levels it becomes increasingly difficult, with the taxes and other obligations that people are called upon to assume, to make savings at a level that will give the individual continuing security throughout his declining years. That does not mean that people should not save. They can and should be encouraged to save, but at this very time we see what inflation does to an income that twenty years ago might have been regarded as a safe and secure income for the remainder of the life of an aged couple after their working years. The trouble is that if you impose a means test you then force people who have saved to use up their savings, and you ultimately place a very large number of them in precisely the same position as those who have not saved a cent. That should not be the result of government action at any time.

Let us see exactly what happens with respect to the payment of old age pensions with a means test at 65 carrying on until

IMr. Drew.]

people are able to receive a pension without a means test at 70. At 65, in industrial work generally men and women find that their engagement is terminated. Perhaps that does not apply so much in times of abnormal demand for workers, but ordinarily, whether or not we think 65 is the maximum limit of physical fitness, the fact remains that industry very largely has established that as the age level of employment. Consequently if that is the level that industry is going to establish, it is the level at which we must recognize that some payment is necessary. If a means test is applied then those who have saved are going to be called upon to use up their savings, and, unless they have made quite substantial savings, when they reach the age of 70 they will be in the same position as those who have saved nothing up to the age of 65.

That is a situation which I do not think any hon. member in any part of this house can contemplate with satisfaction. I am not disregarding the heavy financial obligations involved. I have emphasized my own belief over and over again, in this house and elsewhere, that we should seek in every way we can to make our whole system of old age pensions a fully contributory system, operating on an actuarial basis as far as possible, always recognizing that through periods of enforced unemployment and otherwise it cannot be rigidly on an actuarial basis similar to that employed by an insurance company. I believe, however, that step by step from this point, gaining experience as we proceed with the administration of this type of legislation, we should seek more and more to make it a fully contributory system so that the people themselves who will ultimately benefit will recognize that we do not get anything for nothing, and also so that they themselves will feel that this is in fact a payment as of right and not a payment ex gratia. Everyone then realizes that they are contributing directly in some way towards a fund which will give them a measure of security throughout their declining years.

I welcome the introduction of this motion which indicates that we will be proceeding with this legislation. There is no part of our community more deserving of the thought and consideration of every hon. member than the older generation who have contributed so much to the advancement of the nation which we collectively represent. Every consideration should be based on the idea that we are not extending charity but that we are simply extending that measure of basic security which the people of this nation have the right to expect that they will receive.

As has been said already, the best answer we can give to communism is to show those'

in Russia or elsewhere what our system does for people who are old or blind or incapacitated in any way. In the legislation we are all going to support, with whatever discussion of detail there may be, we are making a great advance; but I urge that we recognize the principles involved and that we do not discourage saving by asking anyone to use up his savings and reduce himself to the same position as that of those who have not saved. We should work for that day when, at whatever age pensions are paid, they will be pensions as of right, without a means test, payable to those who have earned the respect and support of the country.

Motion agreed to and the house went into committee, Mr. Beaudoin in the chair.

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

Louis-René Beaudoin (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

Shall the resolution carry, or shall I call it one o'clock?

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

Some hon. Members:

Carried.

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

June 21, 1951