October 25, 1951

SC

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. Shaw:

I have had occasion to refer quite a number of them over the years. The point is that you are putting your applicants to much more trouble than they were put to before, let me put it that way.

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Marlin:

I think much less.

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SC

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. Shaw:

As one who has had to deal with these cases I know how long it has taken, and how many letters have had to be written, to enable these people to establish their claim to a pension. I realize that the minister can continue saying it is much easier now, and I can continue to say it is much more difficult. I believe he will find that, on the basis of cases we have encountered-I believe all hon. members will be in agreement on this-it is much more difficult.

Old Age Security

The member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) dealt quite adequately and properly with this question of liens. Frequently when this subject is mentioned it creates an entirely wrong impression. It is a fact that the federal authorities did not have liens filed against properties. There were a number of properties on which no liens were filed, but at the same time in those cases where provinces did file liens they did so to protect themselves. They were under an obligation to make certain recoveries, and to make payments to the federal authorities resulting from those recoveries. While I never did like the idea of liens and I am not trying to defend them, I merely assert that those provincial authorities that did use the method of applying liens did so because they did not want to be trapped as the result of not having collected the money which Ottawa would demand.

The old age security committee did not make any specific recommendation respecting the method of financing this scheme. We realized fully that this was a highly technical subject, and that it was a government responsibility. Moreover some of us felt that unless the method recommended met with the approval of the government the whole report of the committee might be thrown out. No doubt, too, there would have been a very serious division within the committee had we tried to narrow our ideas down to the point where we would make a recommendation with respect to financing. I am not going to endeavour to go into any detail at all with respect to what the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) said. I believe that, in the final analysis, it will be found his proposals are not quite as simple as they sound. As a matter of fact they are going to become quite involved. Closer examination of these proposals certainly reveals to me that a number of most undesirable features are contained therein.

I was impressed by the points made by the member for Winnipeg North Centre concerning the ceiling that is being imposed on income tax that is to be paid into the old age security fund. It is an argument that will require a great deal of answering by the Minister of Finance.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

It will not take very long.

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SC

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. Shaw:

We realize, of course, that when the bill comes before the house we shall have an opportunity of dealing with the various sections. I know one thing we shall do; that is, make very searching inquiries as to why the Minister of Finance has made an effort to attach some degree of respectability to the

sales tax which has received such condemnation over the years. It occurred to me that this may well be a move on the part of the minister to put the members of the opposition in the position where, if they criticize the sales tax, it could be said that they were criticizing the old age security measure. Some of us have been here long enough to know that that method is often employed by certain government officials. I shall not take more of the time of the house upon this occasion, Mr. Speaker, but when the bill is before us we propose to give it a rather searching examination.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Clarence Gillis (Cape Breion Souih):

I am sorry to have to keep you in the chair a little longer, Mr. Speaker, but I wish to say a few words on this subject. It is one that most of us have been interested in for a long time. It is rather unfortunate that the speeches of both ministers were made only this afternoon. They were both lengthy and contained many complexities that are not easy to sort out. I shall deal with the Minister of Finance (Mr. Abbott) merely by saying that, as usual, he made an excellent speech. At this time I would not want to stick my neck out and say whether or not I accept his method of financing this scheme. He has had the advantage of studying the matter for a long time with experts, and he thinks it is O. K. Until I am able to read his speech and make up my own mind as to whether this is the best method, I am not prepared to commit myself. Frankly, just listening to him, it sounded all right to me. There have been many recommendations concerning methods of financing an old age security scheme in Canada. Some of them were rather weird, and it took courage for someone to sit down and put these figures on paper. At least it is a good starting point. I shall reserve judgment on that matter until a later date.

I am sure the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) felt quite proud this afternoon. He made an excellent speech. To give credit where credit is due, I believe he has something to be proud of. The minister has been here since 1935. Back in 1935 to 1940 social security was rather a sorry thing in this country. Ten years ago when one asked for a pension of $40 a month and the removal of the means test, he was considered crazy. The minister has always been interested in this subject, and I know he was quite proud to be able to announce this afternoon that at least one of the goals we have all struggled for, the abolition of the means test at age seventy, had been achieved. I am not criticizing his speech at all. It was a

good speech. However, in curing any of life's problems one always creates other problems. I am going to deal with one of the problems the removal of the means test did create in some of the provinces.

When the means test was applied at age seventy the federal government paid 75 per cent of the pension and the province of Nova Scotia at least made a gesture towards the old age pensioner by providing him with what was called medical aid. There was not very much aid attached to it. The province appropriated 80 cents per year per pensioner. If a pensioner felt that he needed a medical examination he could go to the doctor of his choice and have that examination. Out of that fund the provincial government paid the doctor for the examination, and that was the extent of the medical aid. The pensioner paid for whatever medicine he got, and so forth. This 80 cents per year per pensioner was at least some help. As soon as the federal government decided they were going to assume responsibility for the old age pension at age seventy without a means test, the provincial government of Nova Scotia notified the pensioners that they would no longer continue that medical aid. Thus it will be seen that while we have given them something federally, in removing the means test, the provincial government has taken something from them. That is a point that has to be considered in our whole social security thinking. No uniformity in handling the care of the aged of this country can be achieved because there is no uniformity of provincial income. Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan provide their old age pensioners with allinclusive medical aid: doctor, hospital and so forth. Ontario now is promising to do it, but they are still not doing it. The rest of the country then is being discriminated against because the pensioner in those provinces I mentioned is receiving much more than is the pensioner in the other provinces, owing to the fact that the provincial income in those other provinces is not sufficient to provide medical aid. That is one of the problems we created by removing the means test. I think it was an ill-advised move on the part of the government of Nova Scotia to discontinue that bit of medical aid that the pensioner received.

As to this matter of proof of age, I should just like to say this. I agree with what the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Shaw) has said, if things are as he says they are in his province. Maybe the difficulty existing in the provinces in which they have that problem arises out of the fact that the administration there is not doing all the things that can be done.

Old Age Security

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Martin:

The hon. member found the situation really satisfactory in Nova Scotia, did he not?

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

Yes, I did. When I went home in August there was apparently quite a tangle. All the people who anticipated receipt of this pension at age sixty-five began to put in applications along with what they called a delayed certificate issued by the provincial government, and based on some record they submitted. It was an official certificate. But the registrar for the federal government was not taking that certificate. I had some correspondence with him, and I want to say that he is one of the best people I have done business with. I have known him well for some time. In a few weeks he completely ironed out that problem, by accepting the delayed certificate back to 1949, if it was issued in that period, and other records that were available and I think are available to most of the provinces if they want to get them. Since the latter part of August I have not heard a word about any difficulty - in that province with regard to the establishment of age. That was a problem we created. As to Nova Scotia I think it is cured, and I think it can be cured across the country without a great deal of difficulty. But I want to impress on the minister the necessity of trying to work out, in conjunction with the schemes now in effect, provision for some medical aid for the aged pensioner. It cannot be done on a provincial basis unless you can bring about uniformity of income, which is not possible. Some federal aid will have to be given to the provinces that are not in a financial position to handle the problem. That whole question of health is important; and it is dealt with in a lop-sided manner today. I am not going into the matter now, but recent figures indicate that the situation is badly out of balance as between province and province.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre went into detail with regard to many matters. I sit behind him, and I agree with him on most of them. There is no need for me to repeat what he has said, but I should just like to emphasize that point with regard to putting a ceiling on the amount of money people in the high brackets will contribute to this pension fund by way of income tax. I do not think that step can be justified. When the government were talking about removing the means test and making this pension applicable to everyone, the general assumption across the country was that those who did not need it would pay it back through their income tax. But as a result of this provision that is not going to be done.

Old Age Security

It is going to create a great deal of controversy on the part of people in the lower income brackets.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

I know my hon. friend wants to be fair. They will pay it back. The $480 will go into everybody's income as taxable income, and will be subject to tax at the appropriate rate. The 2 per cent contribution tax, or whatever you want to call it, is in addition to any other income tax that may exist.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

I said a moment ago that I did not want to get involved in any financial discussion until I had time to think the matter over.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

I think that is wise.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

As I understood the hon.

member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles), he claimed that if you had an income of $100,000 a year there was a ceiling on the amount of that income that was taxed for this purpose.

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

If you have an income of

$100,480, we will take at least $420 of that extra $480.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

Why limit the total amount that is taxable for this purpose?

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LIB

Douglas Charles Abbott (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Mr. Abbott:

I will deal with that matter when we get into committee. I indicated that

1 am suggesting that this contribution for this purpose, whether from the sales tax, the income fax or the corporation tax, should be based on the benefit principle. I will elaborate on that point when we get into committee.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

I am not going to argue about the matter now, but I do say this. If I have $10,000 income on which to pay tax, and you are levying a special tax for the purpose of building up this fund, my total income should be taxed for that purpose at the additional

2 per cent. As I said a moment ago, it is a point that -can be badly twisted and you can get a great deal of adverse criticism.

I should like to say something about the war veterans allowance, and to impress this as strongly as I can on the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin) and on the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Lapointe). We have removed the means test at age seventy and we are going to pay that pension to anyone in this country who is eligible by reason of residence qualifications and who has reached that age. There is no discrimination; it is across the board to everyone. That means test is out, with one exception; and it is not the fault of the old age security legislation. The War Veterans Allowance Act still sets up a glaring discrimination with regard to men who are in receipt of the war veterans

[Mr. Gillis.)

allowance. That discrimination was put there some considerable time ago. That means test was written into the War Veterans Allowance Act when there was no thought of removing the means test under the Old Age Pensions Act. The act is worded in such a way that it is impossible to get around it unless the provision is removed. In the War Veterans Allowance Act there is a short clause that states that no person who receives the old age pension can receive war veterans allowance. I understood the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) to say that you might be able to get $10 a month. But as I read the War Veterans Allowance Act you cannot get anything by way of war veterans allowance if you are in receipt of the old age pension.

The men on war veterans allowance have hospital care, doctor, medicine and so forth. Their income is small. A single person receives $40 a month. It certainly is not enough to get along on. I cannot understand why the veteran who is obliged to take his war veterans allowance because he is prematurely aged, who was broken down in the service of the country and is eking out an existence on $40 a month, which is just about enough to pay his room rent, should be discriminated against. I do not understand why we should make a distinction and refuse to grant him an old age pension of $40 a month without the means test. If it brings him into the tax brackets, then he is taxable. The great majority of those in receipt of war veterans allowances are people who cannot establish a disability pension. They have been broken down prematurely, and they have no other protection. They have been eking out an existence on that kind of income for years. They will never be in the tax bracket. Why should we continue the discrimination under the War Veterans Allowance Act that was written into it years ago! It was ^ never designed to set up the kind of discrimination it sets up today as between one citizen and another in this country.

If we are to make this old age pension at seventy applicable to all our citizens we have to ask the Department of Veterans Affairs to amend the War Veterans Allowance Act by taking out the prohibition against an applicant who is in receipt of the war veterans allowance and who may be eligible for the old age pension. There will not be so many of them, but there are a few. I strongly urge the Minister of Veterans Affairs to get in touch with the Minister of National Health and Welfare and straighten out that point. A continuance of that discrimination which is in effect in this country today cannot be justified. People

are amazed when we tell them there is a clause similar to that in the War Veterans Allowance Act.

We must admit that we have made a lot of progress in this field in the last twenty-five years. All the measures that have been brought in within the last few years have been an indication of progress and of a consciousness on the part of the government that social security is a necessary part of our way of life. Yet I think the objective we should set for ourselves is to see to it that the type of pension we have established now, the universal pension at seventy without the means test, should be extended to those aged sixty-five. I think the whole thing should be levelled down to that age, because when the average person slugs it out in life until he is seventy he does not get very much enjoyment out of life after that. There is not much life left; there is no doubt about that. I believe that a man at the age of sixty-five-unless he has been a senator all his life, or a member of the House of Commons-if he has been a fisherman, a farmer, a steelworker or a miner, or employed in a heavy type of industry, is not thinking about much other than sitting back somewhere quietly and smoking his pipe. He has a lot of kinks in his spine by that time. I know it is the hope and mission of the Minister of National Health and Welfare, and I hope of his colleagues in the cabinet, to see to it that the age limit is brought down to sixty-five so that people may enjoy themselves for a few years anyway. In addition there is the matter of providing ways and means of at least enabling the aged pensioner to have medical examination when it is necessary, because if he went to the average doctor today and got the kind of check-up he should get it would cost him a couple of months' pension. I think that whole field should be looked into. The field of medicine should be made available. They are doing it in British Columbia; they are doing it in Saskatchewan; they are doing it in Alberta and they are talking about it in Ontario.

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PC

William Gourlay Blair

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Blair:

We have had it for some years.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

Not on the scale they have it in the other provinces. There is an election on now.

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PC

William Gourlay Blair

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Blair:

They have had free treatment for quite a few years.

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CCF

Clarence Gillis

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

Mr. Gillis:

I am not going to argue with you, doctor. Perhaps you have treated a lot of people free for a long time.

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October 25, 1951