Mr. Angus Maclnnis (Vancouver East):
Mr. Speaker, as I listened during the past two weeks to hon. members who have participated in this debate I had the feeling that though we represent different political and economic schools of thought and disagree on many subjects there is one thing on which we all agree, that is that we are most fortunate to be living in this favoured land.
We are continually being told of our expanding economy, of our increasing national income and our rising standards of living. To a large extent what is said in that regard is true. Canada is a rich country; there can be no doubt about that. At no time in our history have we been more prosperous than we are today. However, as I see it, there is a fly in the ointment of our prosperity. It may not be a very large fly, but still it is there and it does those things which a fly in the ointment is supposed to do.
Our wealth is not equitably distributed. I have not in mind now a system where everyone gets an even share of the wealth. What I have in mind is the fact that a few of our people have a great deal more than they need, indeed, a great deal more than is good for them. The great mass of our people have enough, as the saying is, to get by on. But a considerable number of our people suffer acutely during a great portion of their lives because of a lack of the very essentials of life.
I do not think that that should be so in a rich country such as this where we have all the means of preventing it. This afternoon I am going to take advantage of the opportunity which this debate offers to draw to the attention of the government and the House of Commons the plight of certain groups among us who are not aware that they are citizens of the richest country on earth. I know that they see the prosperity parade going by but they themselves have no part in it.
The first group I want to mention has been mentioned here many times before. I refer to the recipients of war veterans allowances. In The Legionary for December, a copy of which I presume all hon. members have received, is an article by the editor which ought to be "must" reading for members of the government and indeed for Liberal members generally. It is entitled "The Case for W. V. A. Increases". The writer outlines some of the conditions under which some of those who are in receipt of war veterans allowances exist.
He refers to one Ottawa veteran, a man who enlisted and fought in the first world war, was wounded and gassed, as a result of which he has suffered ill health since
1918. This ill health did not prevent him from working altogether but it did prevent him from holding a job very long. He lost one job after another. His wife is also in poor health. His last job was with the Department of Public Works and he stayed there for quite a long time, for jobs of that kind, nearly ten years.
He and his wife are bringing up a grandson. He applied for and received a war veterans allowance. He is living in what they term a two-room basement suite, but from the conditions described I would call it a cellar, as it is seven feet below the pavement. It was originally used to store coal, which of course was removed before this man and wife and grandchild moved in.
This man is receiving a war veterans allowance of $90 per month and they receive an additional $5 per month as a family allowance for the child. They spend $25 per month on rent, $60 for food, $4 for gas for cooking and $4 for Blue Cross. It will be noted that this man even with his meagre income is making provision for sickness, for doctors' attendance and hospitalization. Then he pays $2.36 for insurance, making a total of $95.36 or 36 cents more than his total income.
The writer in The Legionary points out that this does not leave room for things such as books, a radio, clothing, china, replacement of furniture and the hundred and one things that most of us consider absolute essentials of present-day life.
Perhaps it would not be fair to say that this case is typical, but it is not an isolated case. It indicates quite clearly that the war veterans allowance at the present time is not adequate. The article refers to a survey which the Legion carried out across Canada, and states:
In case after case, food and rent devour three quarters of their budgets. In a dozen cases, they report they are living in shacks, others in cabins or in cottages. They live in single rooms, in homes that frequently need repair, live with relatives and friends. One totally disabled veteran lives with his wife and three children in three basement rooms.
And so on. Over a period of time the Legion has made representations to the government and to the veterans committee that dealt with this matter. I believe that they are asking for $60 a month for single veterans and $120 a month for married veterans. I think any hon. member of this house who will consider the present cost of living is bound to say that the Legion is most modest in the demands that it makes, that no single man could live decently today on $50 a month, nor could any married man and his wife live
decently on $90 a month. I say it is a disgrace to us who live in Canada, a country as richly endowed as ours, that these things should exist.
There is another still smaller group to which I wish to refer. I have in mind those receiving the blind persons' allowance. I am not going to say very much about them. If my memory serves me right, there are only about 12,000 in Canada altogether, but I believe they are entitled to our particular consideration because of their infirmity. They are entitled to more thought and sympathy than we would perhaps give to less handicapped people. I think I can put the case best as I see it by reading from an article that appeared in the Vancouver Province on April 14 of this year. The author is Mr. D. A. McGregor. I do not know whether he is a columnist or one of the editors of the paper. He has this to say:
If an ordinary individual has an income of $1,000 or less, he is not required to pay any income tax. The assumption is that he isn't financially able to do so. But if a blind person on a pension dares, by his own efforts, to push his income beyond $840 the same compassionate law which awards him the pension will take everything beyond $840 away.
That is the way it is, and put that way it is most striking. Then he goes on to deal with the married blind person as follows:
The Income Tax Act assumes a married couple need $2,000 a year. But if the married blind pensioner, or his wife, adds more than $360 to the pension, and brings the family income over $1,320 he too will have the excess deducted. The money is not taxed away, but it is lifted from the pensioner's purse as effectively as if it were.
So far as those on the blind persons allowance and those on war veterans allowance are concerned, I say that we should remove at once the limit on their outside income. Why in the world should a person on war veterans allowance be restricted to earning not more than $10 a month? You know, that is not only bad for that person but it is bad for everyone. Work is good for a man. It adds to his self-respect and selfesteem. It makes him a better citizen, and I cannot see who would be hurt if we allowed a person receiving the war veterans allowance to earn $50 a month. No one would be hurt and everyone would be better off including, I am sure, the government because the standard of citizenship in this country would be improved.
There is one class comprising quite a number of people, although not very large, with which I wish to deal. I refer to the superannuated federal civil servants who are living on a very small income which they put aside with the assistance of the government at a time when the amount of the pension they now receive meant a great
The Address-Mr. Maclnnis deal more than it does today. I do not believe we should say that we have no responsibility for these people. After all, they are citizens of Canada who gave service to Canada during the years when they were able to give service, and if what they put aside during those years is not sufficient today to provide anything like a decent standard of living that is not their fault. If there is fault then it is our collective fault, and collectively we should remedy it by making further provision for them.
The number of people involved and the amounts they receive have been put on the record so often by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) that perhaps I should not take the time of the house today to repeat this information. However, I will put some figures on the record and those I wish to quote are as of March, 1952. There are 1,106 receiving less than $20 per month. From $20 to $29.99-let us say $30 because it is simpler-there are 1,365. From $30 to $40 there are 1,417. From $50 to $60 there are 1,384 and from $60 to $70 there are 1,017. There are approximately another 4,000 who receive from $80 to $100. All these people, and particularly where there are dependents involved, are not receiving sufficient income-and I say again through no fault of their own-to be able to provide themselves and their dependents with a decent standard of living. During this session of parliament, while our economy is booming, is the time to take action in all the cases I have mentioned, and I hope that those responsible will remedy these defects and enable these people to partake of the prosperity which is a part of the life of most citizens of Canada.
I now wish to say a few words with respect to the amendment to the amendment moved by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) which urges that at this session of parliament a measure be introduced to provide for national health insurance. In listening to the speeches and the references to this matter I have found that there is very little opposition in the house to such a program. There has been a little double talk but as far as I have been able to see there is no general opposition. I believe there was one speaker who opposed national health insurance. Today it is something that is accepted in every civilized country as an essential part of their social security legislation. Some members said they were going to vote against the C.C.F. amendment because it proposed state medicine.
Really, I don't know what state medicine is. No one has told me during this debate, but, if they have read that into the amendment, they have read a great deal more into
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The Address-Mr. Maclnnis 'the amendment than is in it. After ail, what does the amendment do? It does not outline any system of health insurance. It asks this government at this session to introduce a measure for national health insurance. What that measure would be would depend on the kind of legislation this government would introduce.
May I just say in passing that I have been in this house for some considerable time and, looking at these matters objectively, I am sure that this group would give its support to any measure-no matter what we considered or thought of it ourselves, and whether we thought it was what we would do or not, but we would support any measure that we considered to be in the interests of the people of Canada. We would consider it on its merits and we would not boggle at whether there was this in it or that in it if we felt it would serve the people of this country. Those who say that they are opposed to the amendment because the C.C.F. wants state medicine are just talking through their hats.
The hon. member for Lanark (Mr. Blair)- and I may say here that there is no man in this house for whom I have greater respect- got himself all balled up over this question, largely, in my opinion, because the hon. gentleman is himself in favour of national health insurance, though he is not quite sure that the party to which he belongs is in favour of national health insurance. In the course of his speech, the written and the oral one, he lias made two or three proposals and concludes by saying that he is opposed to the C.C.F. amendment and is going to vote against it because it is state medicine. I just suggest to him that whether it is his party or the party now in power that brings in a national health insurance measure-as I said before, whether it completely agrees with what we have in mind or not-if it will serve the people of Canada we will support it.
By the way. the member for Vancouver South (Mr. Laing) said that he too was opposed to state medicine and I noticed that when he said that he looked towards this group. I think that what differentiates so-called state medicine from ordinary health insurance, or what my friends would consider satisfactory health insurance, is the question of whether doctors are on salary or on a fee-for-service basis.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY