Let me say to him that not half or quarter as much were they embarrassed by government policy as my hon. friend embarrassed the Conservative party by voting against the $2 million supplement. I hope the hon. member for Comox-Alberni is here, because he is carrying away a wrong impression. I do not like that. He is too intelligent a member to walk out of here with the wrong impression. A great number of hon. members are in the same position. They talk about the $2 million supplement. It is a $2 million vote. The government may very well spend not $2 million but $10 million, if in their opinion it is required.
6.000 or more veterans will need supplemental assistance. It may turn out that 10,000,
12.000 or 15,000 veterans will need this assistance. I do not know. They really do not know themselves. We on this side ,of the house have an interest in this legislation as great as the interest in any part of the house. We are firmly of the opinion that there has not been any departure from the principle
of pensions. If there were we would not have supported this measure-none of us would have supported it.
There is no denying that the veterans made a formidable case for an increase. We recognize that. There has been a 27 point increase in the cost of living since the last increase in pensions. I am sure the difficulty that was facing the government and the committee was to know just exactly how much of an increase to recommend. I am sure that none of us was in a position to say what that increase should be. I am sure that the government found itself in the same position.
When the original brief was presented in 1950, asking for an increase in pension the cost of living was moving up. No one could say where it would end. I am sure the government was faced at that time with this problem: How much should we increase this pension? If we increase it now will it remain at that level for a while? Can we stabilize it in some way? I think they took the sensible course in first trying to stabilize the cost of living-and they have had some success in that regard. Last month was a very good month. This month will probably not be so good, but August and September will prove a great deal. These months will indicate to us whether we have been able to arrest the climb in the cost of living.
The government was faced with this problem. If they increased the basic pension at that particular time, without having stabilized the cost of living, they would have had to put in an escalator clause permitting them at some time or other to have a downward revision. But no Liberal government I am sure will under any circumstances reduce the amount of money that the pensioners will receive. In the face of that, having come to this twilight zone between the cost of living and the pension increase, they decided that they would deal with the problem on the basis of need and spend $2 million, $3 million, $5 million, or whatever they required, until such time as they were able to judge what would be required by way of a basic increase in pension so that it would stay fixed for some time. They came to the conclusion that this was the way of meeting this problem in the interval. It seems to me it is a sensible approach to it.
The committee recommended that the government should reconsider the Legion brief. We did that with much honesty and in the fervent hope that the government would study the brief in the face of all the circumstances and would come to the conclusion to grant increases across the board.
There was absolute agreement in the committee on that. On the other hand, we felt that at the present time it was urgent, it was
important to help that small group of veterans who, for some reason or other, particularly because of unemployability, and physical deterioration, are in need of assistance. To meet that need, vote 650 for $2 million was introduced, to be administered in the same liberalized fashion as other veterans' legislation has been administered, in the hope that this will carry them over until such time as the government is able to take a good look at the brief and make its decision.
I do not want to delay the committee for more than a minute in passing these estimates, because I know that the veterans of the country require the money which will be voted to them in the course of the next hour or two. But I did want to record my disappointment that the terms of reference of the committee had not been extended, and to express the hope that a committee would be set up at the next session of parliament and be granted wider terms.
Reference has just been made by the hon. member for Spadina to possible embarrassment on the part of members of the opposition because they may express their disapproval of a principle which they believe introduces the means test into pension legislation by the only means at their disposal, namely by voting against this item in the supplementary estimates. I hope the hon. member for Spadina is correct in the assurance he gave that that was not the intention of introducing the means test into pension legislation. So far as I am concerned I must admit that it does appear to me as the thin edge of the wedge.
I repeat the hope that there will be a veterans committee set up at the next session of parliament and that it will have wide terms of reference so that it may inquire into the relationship of the disability pension and war veterans allowances to the cost of living. I suggest one other field which in my opinion the committee should investigate and that is the position in which, unfortunately, veterans of the Canadian merchant marine still find themselves in matters of rehabilitation, pensions and hospitalization. I am impressed by the importance of raising that question again. I know it has been discussed in previous committees, but I for one was never satisfied with the decisions reached. And in the light of discussions which have taken place in the house in the last week where we have learned that ships flying the Canadian flag are manned entirely by foreigners, I think we should review the position of veterans in the Canadian merchant marine.
Mr. Chairman, as a member of the committee I should like to make a few remarks. The hon. member for Spadina indicated that other members had provoked him. It is largely because of the position he has just taken that I am provoked to the point of speaking in this debate.
When the terms of reference were set out in the resolution I strongly protested on the ground that we were not going to be a veterans affairs committee, as we had been in previous years, but that we were going to be merely a legislation examining committee. Our only scope was to discuss whatever the government put in the terms of a bill or in a vote. I know most members supporting the government disagreed with that interpretation, and a similar view was taken by several members on this side.
I was particularly concerned because the veterans affairs committee had always been one in which no political lines were drawn, and in which discussions were open and free. We could discuss all phases of veterans legislation. I think the thin edge of the wedge was driven in by the government through the wording of the resolution. We were placed in a position where lines could be drawn-and they were drawn.
That committee was not the free and easy non-political committee in which I had served for several years. The terms of reference were the source of our difficulties. Very early in our deliberations the hon. member for Royal asked support of a motion stating that the terms of reference were not broad enough, and hon. members had the opportunity to vote for that amendment. It stated, in effect, that item 650 be not reported now, but that the committee recommend to the government the broadening of our terms of reference. Any hon. member who rises in his place today and says he thought the terms of reference were too narrow had at that time the opportunity, without disturbing any of the machinery of the committee, to support the amendment and to test the government as to whether it would permit the broadening of the terms of reference so that we could decide on a basic increase in pensions and war veterans allowances, and other items that greatly needed amendment. The amendment was not accepted, although I thought it made a fair and reasonable request.
This item 650 is disturbing to the Legion. Every member of the committee will have to admit that the executive heads of that organization were not only critical but that, this time, they were in a bad mood. The language of their brief so indicated, as did the evidence of the witnesses who appeared before us.
<5508 HOUSE OF
It is a mistake for any body in Canada, whether it be a provincial or a federal government or any other organization having to do with veterans, to antagonize the Legion to the extent they were antagonized. I did not think item 650 should have been placed before the committee. If the government intended to supplement pensions of unemployable veterans it should have done so through a regular bill in the house which could have been discussed here and passed. When it placed the vote before the committee it definitely sowed the seed in the mind of veterans organizations that such procedure was to become part of veterans legislation and that it was going to take the place of over-all increases in basic pension. I do not think it should have gone to the committee.
I believe that even at this stage the government would be well advised to consider increasing the basic pension. We do not have to have a lot of experts with maps and figures and all that sort of thing. The government has that information at its fingertips. I listened to a report from the welfare organization, and I believe it was one of the best analyses I have ever heard. It was airtight and factual, and indicated clearly that they are doing a good job-something which was not generally known.
The government is not in a position to say, "We will consider the matter at the fall session." The fact is we have been considering it for two months and all we have succeeded in doing is to get ourselves in a worse tangle. I strongly suggest to the minister not to leave the combat veteran in that state of mind. The executive of the Canadian Legion are pretty reasonable and fair people and they should not be left in the state of mind in which they are today. The government has the briefs they submitted and must have gone over them. That is what convinces the Legion that this supplement is going to take the place of an over-all increase in the pension.
This vote of $2 million is for payments to unemployable veterans who can relate their unemployability to their pensionable disability. I said in the house on several occasions, as I did in the committee, that there is a place for this kind of legislation. Then, with regard to the test that is to be made, it is not right to say that it is a means test because that is over-simplification. Everyone in this country understands a means test to mean that some inspector comes in, takes a look at your kitchen and asks whether you have enough to eat, or whether you have enough income. That is not what happens with these unemployability supplements. You have to get a medical certificate and so on.
I have a picture of what is going to happen in my end of the country. First, the applicant will have to get in touch with someone in the Halifax office to get an application form. That will be sent up and the welfare branch in Sydney will be told to look up Jim Smith. The inspector will go and take a look at Jim Smith and will tell him that he must get a medical certificate showing that he is totally unemployable. In my part of the country a man could be receiving a ten per cent disability pension and be one hundred per cent unemployable as far as working in the coal mines or steel plant is concerned. You cannot get employment there unless you are able to pass a medical test. That man is a ten per cent disability pensioner but he is totally unemployable as far as those plants are concerned.
I have heard the hon. member for Lanark talk about this problem and he is quite right. The same would apply to many others in the heavy industry sections of the country. They are going to be handicapped under this legislation which starts at 35 per cent disability. Instead of this supplementary allowance beginning at 35 per cent and working up to 100 per cent, it should be applied to the five, ten or fifteen per cent disability, the man who cannot be employed in these different areas because of his service disability.
The government has had sufficient time to consider the Legion's briefs since last fall, and the one that was presented to the committee. They used pretty tough language in the last one. It is not so much a brief as a straight accusation of manipulation behind the scenes to have this small supplement take the place of an over-all increase. That may not be correct, but the minister should get up and say that it is not the intention of the government to do that. That is the frame of mind in which the Legion representatives are at the present time. I have received a number of strongly worded telegrams, from my part of the country demanding that we oppose these supplemental benefits and go after an over-all increase in pension as requested by the Legion.
It is a perfectly reasonable request. If the government pay what the Legion asks by way of basic increase in pension the pensioner will just be left in the position in which he was in 1948. Inflation is still wiping out what was done for the pensioner in 1948. Practically every industry in this country has recognized the inflationary trend during the last two years and in many cases have signed agreements with their employees containing escalator clauses which provide that wages will go up with the cost of living.
JUNE 22, 19&X
Surely the government is just as interested in the veterans who fought to maintain our institutions in two world wars as General Motors are interested in the men on the assembly line, or as the steel plants are interested in their employees. If it is reasonable to have an escalator clause in those industrial agreements, it is just as reasonable for the government to wipe out the present deficit in the pension cheque which was created, not by the veteran but by the government refusing to institute proper controls to maintain reasonable price levels. The basis of everything we are discussing at the present time lies in the fact that proper price controls were not instituted. Unless something is done to control prices the upward spiral will continue and this argument will still be presented. That will be the result unless steps are taken to curb inflation.
I talked so much in the committee that I became allergic to this matter and I would not be talking this afternoon except that I was provoked by the hon. member for Spadina. I ask the minister to take another look at war veterans allowances. When a recipient of war veterans allowances reaches the age of 70 years he is not permitted to have the same income as could be received by an old age pensioner. He receives $840 a year as veterans allowance, but an old age pensioner could receive up to $1,080 per year with his permissible earnings. I took up a case of this kind with the department and was told that this man could not receive any old age pension because the act provided that that could not be done. Why not allow such a man to have as much of the old age pension as would bring him up to the total permissible earnings and pension of an old age pensioner? I think the minister will agree that that kind of thing should be changed.
There is another rank piece of discrimination in the War Veterans Allowance Act that affects the widows of imperial veterans. The provision is that a widow must have twenty years' residence in this country, but it may happen that an imperial veteran may die after having spent only nineteen years in the country. His widow would not be entitled to an allowance under the act. There are not many cases like that and not much money is involved, but it is discrimination. The widow of John Jones may live next door to the widow of Jim Smith; one receives a pension and the other does not because her husband died before he had been living in the country twenty years. Little irritations like that should be ironed out.
I am leaving these thoughts with the minister and strongly suggest that he have
Supply-Veterans Affairs another look at his department to see what can be done. If the money cannot be provided by this vote, he could bring in a supplementary estimate.
I merely want to add my voice to the protest that has been made by hon. members of this party with respect to the war veterans allowance and other matters.
I was not a member of the committee this year, and I do not propose to repeat in any way what has been said by the hon. member for Royal, the hon. member for Lanark, the hon. member for Calgary East, the hon. member for Vancouver-Quadra and others who have spoken. I also wish to agree with a considerable portion of what has been said by the hon. member for Cape Breton South, especially his remarks with respect to heavy industries. So far as heavy industry is concerned today, steel mills and heavy industries particularly cannot employ people with disabilities because of the speed at which modern machinery runs, and the heavy and intensive work which has to be done.
As I said, I want to add my voice to the protest with regard to the subsidiary earnings allowed under the War Veterans Allowance Act, and I do so for two reasons. The first reason has to do with the matter of justice to the recipients of these allowances who are being seriously squeezed by the inflationary pressure they have to bear. Second, I do so for the economic good of the country. If there ever was a time when every bit of useful work that anybody can do should be done to assist the economy of Canada in these inflationary days, now is that time. We see the Minister of Finance going around asking people to work forty minutes more a day. Here we have people who are willing to work not only for forty minutes but for a great deal more per day, and they are precluded from doing so because of the regulations of the act.
There is a great shortage of what used to be called casual labour. In our present modern economy casual labour is a most important part of the economic life of the country, not only in agriculture but also in industry and in the ordinary life of our major cities. I think it is not only a great injustice that these men are not allowed to earn more than they are but it is doing a great disservice to the country as a whole.
I should not like this item to pass without some mention of the plight of at least 12,000 pensioners in this country who, so far as the speakers this afternoon are concerned, have been more or less overlooked. I refer to the plight of the imperial veterans which is quite serious. When these people came here they never anticipated the drastic devaluation that took place in the pound
4510 HOUSE OF
Supply-Veterans Affairs sterling. Neither did they anticipate the difficulty of getting money from the old country, particularly those who have inherited capital, small sums of money, or possibly in some cases large sums. Neither did they anticipate the present high cost of living with relation to the imperial pension that they receive.
Naturally the difficulties they are faced with are beyond their control, and therefore they look to the Canadian government to do something for them. While we call these veterans imperials they are Canadian citizens, and to my mind they are entitled to all the benefits accruing to all other Canadian citizens whether they be veterans or civilians. This point of view is maintained by the members of the Canadian Legion or, in other words, by all Canadian veterans. They believe that the imperial veterans should be treated in the same way that they are. Many of these veterans were encouraged by the government to come out to Canada as immigrants in the early days. They were actually invited to take part in the development of land under the Soldier Settlement Act, and some of them did. I claim that the record of the imperial veterans in Canada is a good one both from the standpoint of their contribution toward the national economy through their skill and labour and in their contribution to our social and cultural life through their homes and their participation in our community welfare.
Many of them came to Canada in 1920 when the value of the pound was about $4.86. As I mentioned, they had no reason to anticipate any drastic change taking place. They felt that up to that time the pound had been fairly stable and would continue to be stable. Naturally they find themselves in this plight today. Not only do I wish to emphasize the fact that they are good Canadian citizens and are entitled to the same treatment as Canadian veterans, but many of them had sons fighting in the last war. I should like to place before the house what the imperial veterans seek from the government, and I shall refer mainly to the brief prepared by the imperial veterans action committee in Vancouver. First of all they ask for the establishment of a standing parliamentary committee on veterans affairs to include, if possible, members of the imperial forces or at least someone on that committee conversant with the problems facing imperial veterans. They also submit that power should be given to the committee to deal with matters affecting imperial veterans and to recommend to the British and Canadian governments solutions for their problems.
Then they recommend that consideration be given to the widows of imperial veterans, particularly those referred to by the hon. member for Cape Breton South, whose husbands died before the qualifying period. Then there are three other requests that I should like to mention, and the first has to do with income tax. In their brief they say:
Service pensions, other than disability pensions, are taxed in Britain, and if such pension is supplemented by earnings in Canada, the pensioner takes a double blow due to devaluation of the pound. Firstly he receives less dollar pension, and also the income tax deducted in Britain from his pension, which is assessed on his total earnings from Canada as well as his pension income, makes his tax the greater owing to an exaggerated sterling income when for purposes of assessment his Canadian income is converted to sterling.
This situation has been relieved between Great Britain and New Zealand and Great Britain and Australia. They have arranged for the imperial to be given the choice of paying his income tax either on the British basis or on the Canadian basis. Naturally imperials who live in Canada are Canadian citizens and they would prefer to pay taxes in the country in which they are residing. Another point they raise has to do with an appeal tribunal. They say that an appeal tribunal should be set up to deal with the 11,177 imperial pensioners living in Canada. In their brief they say:
In the United Kingdom an appeals division has been set up for such pensioners resident in Britain. The staff of this is lay and medical. This division has both entitlement and assessment tribunals. It is urged that such tribunals should be set up in Canada to hear such appeals of disability pensioners resident in Canada in co-operation with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Then they also refer to hospitalization and say:
It is urged that authority should be vested in the British ministry representative in Ottawa, so that he can deal with the matter of admittance to hospital of Canadian born veterans who served with the imperials, and imperials resident in Canada before world war I, and that they should be on the same footing as regards treatment in D.V.A. hospitals as veterans who served in the Canadian forces. Also reciprocal treatment to be given as between Canadians resident in Britain and imperials resident in Canada.
Briefly that sets forth what the imperial veterans would like to have. They would like to be on the same basis as Canadian veterans. If a standing committee is not to be set up to look after all veterans affairs, I would urge that at least a special committee be set up immediately to investigate the claims made by the imperial veterans and to try to bring about some remedy. I know the word "imperial" suggests someone alien to the country, but that is not the case. In many instances these men are Canadians who joined the imperial forces. Many of them
were young men who became impatient with the progress made in Canada and joined the air force in Britain in both the first and second world wars. They are actually Canadian, although we call them imperial veterans. Others entered this country in good faith to help develop the country, after contributing their services in the first war. They have been good citizens; they are your neighbours and my neighbours. They are entitled to the same respect, the same treatment and the same courteous service that the Canadian veteran receives from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
I would urge the minister to give consideration to the setting up of a committee to ascertain what can be done to relieve the tense situation in which these men find themselves owing to the nature of the currency difficulties between the two countries.
I had not intended to speak on this matter, but in view of some of the remarks made which left the impression that the committee on veterans affairs was made up of youthful members who did not know anything, were simply hoodwinked and led by the older members of the committee, I felt I must make -some reply. Many of the older members on that committee were members of the opposition. The member for Acadia particularly stressed his experience on the committee, as did the member for Vancouver-Quadra. Some of us who were the youthful members of the committee, Mr. Chairman, were in veterans organizations before they ever got into the committee. In the days of the old army and navy veterans there was not even a great war veterans association like the Legion. Some of us were in all of those organizations, and have studied this matter of pensions. It is a reflection on some of the older veterans who were in France with the first outfit to say that we sat in the veterans affairs committee and cheerfully acquiesced in everything that was done.
As a matter of fact I was greatly surprised to see the committee divide on party lines. I did not think they would divide at all, but we found the Conservatives blocking things by introducing motion after motion. I intend to be very brief in dealing with this matter. Members have mentioned certain telegrams that they received from their constituencies. Although there are eight branches of the Legion in my constituency I have not received one telegram or one letter protesting the actions of that committee or the government. I have spoken to dozens of returned men in this house who have given me the same answer, that they have not received any telegrams. But they said we had better not mention it or we will get
Supply-Veterans Affairs some telegrams. I think the minister should know that. I did receive one telegram from the secretary of the Saskatchewan Legion command in Regina. It reads:
Saskatchewan command Canadian Legion requests your support of brief presented to parliamentary committee on veterans affairs provided such increase will assure adequate standard of living for unemployed pensioners.
That is all it said. It was sent on June 8, and that is the only telegram I received from the province of Saskatchewan. Now, that telegram is diametrically opposite to the submission that was finally made to us by the Legion representative. I do not know what has come over the Canadian Legion dominion command. I am not going to quote the editorial appearing in The Legionary because most of the members have seen it. It casts reflection upon members of the government, many of whom have had brilliant service overseas. The article is nothing more or less than a scathing, incorrect and unfair article which is below the prestige of the former Canadian Legion paper. I have taken it ever since it started. But if party politics enters the Canadian Legion I am going to tell you, as one of the most experienced men in the Jifie of veterans organizations ini the Dominion of Canada, the Legion will be smashed as quickly as that happens. We do not want politics in it at all.
The statement has been made here, in connection with the submissions made to the committee, that these organizations were unanimously behind everything the Legion representatives said, and were against the action of the government in voting this $2 million or more as the nature of the case may require. In connection with the $2 million vote I would point out, as has been pointed out by the member for Spadina, that whatever more is required under that vote can be provided. Under that vote a veteran who actually needs help is the one who is going to get it. He is going to get more help than if the pensions were increased right across the board in accordance with the increased cost of living. The man who actually needs the help is going to get more under the government proposal than he would if we had followed out the suggestion of the Conservative members of that committee. Remember that their motion was noi moved until June 7, and that motion would have referred this whole thing back to the house. If we had argued in here as long as w>e did in. committee, the needy veterans who will get more under this government proposal would never have received anything. The session would have closed before we finished the argument.
These other eight organizations, other than the Canadian Legion, did not express dissatisfaction with the government's attitude on this particular vote. Here is what the head of the organization, Major Wickens, said. He has been well-known to me for many years, and is a splendid gentleman even if he is a Conservative. This is what he said;:
Excuse me, I know Saskatchewan politics better than you ever did. I know that Mr. Wickens is a Conservative, and always has been. You had better check up your own party; that is why you do not win seats.
Except they differ in some details. What are the details?
That is the detail on which these eight organizations disagreed with the Canadian Legion.
The Witness: Well, the detail we have not considered extensively Mr. Chairman, and Doctor McMillan. There were some observations about means test applicable to this unemployability allowance, but the chairman of the pension commission and the deputy minister were kind enough to place themselves at our disposal for the best part of an hour this morning, and, in discussing the matter, they gave us a very informative illustration of how the unemployability allowance is going to operate. We came to the conclusion that the observations which the Legion made about this being in effect the introduction of a means test in pensions were not tenable. There were other minor details of that kind.
Then again at the same session of the committee, page 119 of the proceedings, the chairman asked the representative of the eight veterans organizations this question:
Are there any other questions, gentlemen? I shall now take the liberty since we have our officials here, of turning the tables on the committee, and saying that particularly in view of the hitherto lack of specific knowledge revolving around this $2 million supplement, that if any of the members of the delegation have any uncertainty in their minds respecting what is set forth in this, that it would be acceptable to the committee that they should ask questions of them.
Major Wickens has told us that they had the advantage of a consultation this morning with the senior officers of the department. We have a few minutes left and if the committee concurs, I think it would be in order. It should be helpful, and some points might be clarified.
The Witness: Mr. Chairman, practically every
member of our delegation was present at that conference this morning. We are very much indebted to the two officers for the very frank session we had with them.
Apparently that committee was satisfied. I would judge so from those remarks. I think most of us can understand English, and you can put any construction you like on that. But I would judge that that committee representing eight organizations, after hearing officers of the department, were satisfied that this was not an introduction of the means test and that they were satisfied that the needy veterans were going to get $2 million or whatever amount would be needed.