Mr. Harold E. Winch (Vancouver East):
Mr. Speaker, in rising to take part in the debate now under way I should like first of all through you, sir, to thank the Minister of Trade and Commerce and the management of Trans-Canada Air Lines for their kind cooperation in enabling me to get home speedily on the death of my father. I appreciate their help very much. In the same vein, sir, to you, to the Prime Minister, certain members of the cabinet and a great many members of the House of Commons, may I express on behalf of my mother and family our great appreciation of the telegrams and letters sent to us on that very sad occasion. They were most welcome, and the expressions of sympathy and understanding were of great assistance to all members of our family.
At this stage of the debate on the address in reply to the speech from the throne it may seem rather difficult to believe that there are still some things that have not yet been said and which we feel should be said. It is not my intention to emphasize or repeat in any way the requests made by other members with regard to the changes they feel are required in government policy and legislation. In only one way do I wish to add my voice to those of members of all parties who have asked the government to bring in at this session improvements in the legislation respecting allowances paid our senior citizens, our blind, our disabled and our veterans.
A great deal has been said already on this subject and, as I said, I am not going to go beyond what has been said except to add that I was most interested in the remarks made a few moments ago by the hon. member for Burnaby-Richmond. I want to say to him that if what he said is correct, if the Liberal
The Address-Mr. Winch party is a democracy and not a cabinet dictatorship, then why do they not bring in increased allowances? In the opinion of every member on this and the other side of the house the time is past when these allowances should have been increased.
There is one matter having to do with those of the low income groups about which I want to speak. I refer to the question of housing. There is still a very serious shortage of low rental housing for our aged citizens and those in the same income category. Until about eight years ago nothing whatsoever was being done on their behalf, but a start was made at that time. Some municipalities were interested and made land contributions. Some governments were interested and made grants up to one-third of the capital cost of nonprofit housing on a low rental basis for our aged citizens.
Unfortunately there has never been any major effort made by the federal government to interest itself in this most serious problem. I want to give commendation where commendation is due. There is legislation which enables the Minister of Public Works to make a contribution through Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation to housing for our senior citizens by way of mortgage at an interest rate not greater than 1 per cent more than the rate paid by the government on its own borrowings. However, I feel we have now reached a point with respect to the serious problem of supplying low rental housing for our old age pensioners and others in the same category when there is not only a request but an insistent demand that the federal government show greater interest in the problem and make a greater contribution to its solution than providing mortgage facilities.
Some seven or eight years ago, with a grant of land from a municipality for the nominal sum of $1 and a capital grant of one-third from a provincial government, it was possible to provide good housing for a couple for approximately $22 a month. With the increased costs of construction I can say with authority that now, even with the land free from the municipality, a one-third grant from a provincial government and a mortgage loan from the federal government at 3J per cent, it is not possible to make a good home available for a couple for under $35 a month. I know whereof I speak in that regard.
At the pension rates we have in Canada people cannot afford to pay even $35 a month. The low income groups cannot do so. I believe it is only fair that the entire responsibility should not be left on the municipality and the provincial government. Instead, I think the federal government should give
most serious consideration to matching the grants of the provincial governments in order that we can take care, on an increased scale, of the housing needs of our senior citizens. I hope the government will give some thought to the matter. But if they will not do so, Mr. Speaker, I would most certainly request that they do not put obstacles in the way of those who want to do something about the situation.
Unfortunately this government puts obstacles in the way of those who want to do something about giving good houses to our old age pensioners. Under the acts of the provincial legislature in their making of grants, and under the terms under which money can be borrowed from Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, first of all it must be done by an incorporated company; it must be a non-profit company, and it must put up a certain amount of cash. But when you have churches such as the United Church in British Columbia, an organization such as the Swedish association in British Columbia, an organization such as New Vista in Burnaby and a fraternal organization like the Rotary club at Kelowna interested in this problem, the cash required must come through donations, and we find that as a general rule donations mostly come from the same source.
Those who are willing and able to give also expect that under the Income Tax Act the donations shall be allowable as charitable donations. Mr. Speaker, this government does not allow, under the Income Tax Act, deduction for purposes of income tax of donations to any non-profit, incorporated organization trying to meet the government's responsibility in supplying homes to old age pensioners and those in the same low income category. We know that. We have the ruling of the legal department of the Minister of National Revenue that such donations are not covered and cannot be covered.
That being the case, Mr. Speaker, surely it is not asking too much of the government that, if an amendment is required, they introduce at this session the required amendment in order to take care of the church and fraternal organizations that are trying to do the job that should be the responsibility of government. At least do not put obstacles in their way.
I would also ask you to note this fact, Mr. Speaker. The reason we are turned down by the legal department of the Minister of National Revenue is that we are operating a business. Mr. Speaker, I think there would be a revolution in this country if you tried to tell those who donate to the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., or the Salvation Army that they
could not have exemption under the act because they are operating a business. They are all operating a business in connection with hotels and hostels, the renting of rooms, and doing a wonderful job; and they are sustained to a great extent by charitable donations, directly or indirectly, through the community chests and the red feather drives. Yet, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the provision of homes for the aged on a low rental basis, the government says, "You cannot have any exemption".
Just the other day we heard the Prime Minister tell us about the new Canada Council -that is a wonderful thing and something which is long overdue-and he emphasized the fact that provision would be made that donations given to this council for the advancement of culture and the arts would be exempt as charitable donations. Mr. Speaker, I agree with that course. But I say it is a confounded shame that the government should boast that they are going to make provision for the exemption of gifts for the advancement of culture and the arts, and refuse the same right for the building of homes for the aged of the Dominion of Canada. I certainly hope that something will be done about the situation. I am interested in the advancement of culture and the arts. Maybe I need some myself. But I am interested first of all in decent homes for those who have built our country, and the government should have the same interest.
To go on from that point, there is another matter I desire to raise. It may seem small, but to many it is important. I am extremely grateful that the Minister of Labour is in his seat, because I am certain he will take note of it. Under the British North America Act there are divisions of jurisdiction as between the federal government and the provincial governments. One of the responsibilities and jurisdictions of a provincial government is the enactment of legislation on hours of work. Legislation varies in the different provinces of Canada, but most of the provinces are interested in hours of work and they make laws as to how many hours it is lawful to work in a day and how many hours it is lawful to work in a week.
It always happens that law is behind what has become general practice and what is the demand of organized labour. But it seems to me onlv reasonable to suppose that any activities of the federal government or of any department under the federal government would be in line with the laws of the province, or would be of such a nature as not to discriminate against people if they want to live up to the laws of the province. Therefore through you, Mr. Speaker, I want
The Address-Mr. Winch to say to the Minister of Labour that I think it is wrong that the attitude of the unemployment insurance commission should be that if a person becomes tired of working too much overtime, finally rebels against working too much overtime, even above the trade union agreement and the law of the province, and quits the job because of the overtime, then when he makes application for unemployment insurance he should be told, "You are not eligible because you did not have a legitimate reason for quitting the job".
I know this applies in particular to one phase of operations. If a woman is single, works overtime and does not complain, then after being married if she does not want to work excessive overtime but wants to go home after work she is denied lawful hours. The unemployment insurance commission says "You are now married. You did not object to this overtime when you were single, so you have now no reason for quitting your job. You are not eligible for unemployment insurance".
Mr. Speaker, I assure the Minister of Labour that I am not talking through my hat. I have cases; I have decisions. I have on my desk one decision of the appeal board that such is the rule and such is the policy. I just want to say through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Labour that it is definitely wrong, and I sincerely hope he will interest himself in that one little phase of a large operation; because it is not only wrong in principle but is placing a burden on people who do not wish to work overtime but are forced to do so. If they quit their jobs they are not eligible for unemployment insurance. Surely in our country, in our provincial and our federal policies, our goal should be that everybody should work reasonable hours. As long as we have immigrants who want to come here and are told they cannot because we have no employment, then we should have a federal policy which coincides with provincial law on hours of work in a day or a week.
There is another subject which I will not discuss at any length because, as I said, I do not wish to take up too much time in this debate. It is an important subject. I merely wish to ask if and when this government is going to give at this session some information to the people of Canada and in particular to the people of British Columbia as to what government policy is going to be on major developments in regard to international rivers. It is not enough to read in the papers about surveys and studies. They may extend over many years, and the developments about which I have read recently perhaps will not be undertaken for 25 years. The problem of the Columbia river is of such a nature that
The Address-Mr. Winch there should be some indication by the government now as to government policy and co-operation between governments as to development of that great resource of British Columbia.
One of the great regrets in my years in public life is that we have to wait until the last moment to find out what a government has in mind. The speech from the throne was one of the most barren documents I have ever heard or read in my life. It gave no indication whatsoever to the common people as to what they might expect. We all know there is going to be an election this year, and the major guessing game which is going on across Canada today is trying to find out what is government strategy. To me it appears that the government strategy is to wait until we have been here a few weeks; then perhaps have the Minister of Finance bring down the budget; then ask for six months' interim supply, and then dissolve the house, when the members of parliament will have no right to discuss the people's business or to interrogate on government policy.
It will be a marvellous thing when we have true democracy in this country. That will be when we have a government that operates on principle and not on political election expediency. It has always been that way in the past but there is no reason why it should be that way in the future. There is no reason why a government should have to use a strategy for election purposes. In the same light there is no reason why an opposition should have to use parliament for election strategy purposes. Sometimes, however, the hands of the opposition are forced in trying to force the hands of the government.
Mr. Speaker, I opened by giving you the thanks of our family for your expression of sympathy on the death of my father. May I conclude with the final words that man, who was for 24 years in the British Columbia legislature, left as his epitaph. I think if we will guide ourselves, as government members or as opposition members, by these four lines we will have a greater Canada, more democratic and more honest elections:
Not as a ladder from earth to heaven;
Not as a witness to any creed.
But simple service, simply given,
To his own kind in their common need.
When parliament follows that rule we will have democracy.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY