April 8, 1957


Clause agreed to. On clause 6-Payment of contributions.


CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

Mr. Chairman, I object very strongly to subclause 2 of clause 6 being in this legislation at all. This is the subclause that requires the agreement of six provinces. I register my objection on two counts. In the first place I object to it from the point of view of law, if I can get into that field without running certain risks. It does seem to me that this is a case of giving to certain other jurisdictions the power of veto over legislation of this sovereign parliament.

By virtue of the British North America Act, when a bill has been passed by the House of Commons and the Senate and has received royal assent it is the law of the land. Yet by virtue of clause 6, subclause 2, we give to provincial legislatures the power, by failing to act, to veto this legislation and keep it from coming into force. As I said earlier, I concede the right of the government to say it will not bring in legislation until certain conditions have been met, but I object very strongly to conditions of this kind being written into a statute of the parliament of Canada.

We can pass this bill in the House of Commons, as I hope we will today. It can be passed in the other place and can be given royal assent before parliament is prorogued. It can even be proclaimed under the provisions of a later clause in the bill. Yet it can remain on the statute books of the Dominion of Canada without ever coming into actual effect because of the right of veto written right into this clause.

The other count on which I object to subclause 2 of clause 6 is that I think it is a ridiculously unreasonable requirement to continue to insist that there be at least six provinces agreeing to the legislation before it comes into effect. As I have pointed out

now on several occasions, the five provinces which have agreed contain within their boundaries 56.3 per cent of the entire population of Canada, and when I say "entire population of Canada" I draw attention to the fact that that percentage is based on the population of the ten provinces together with the population of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

As I have already pointed out, if the province of Prince Edward Island were to reach agreement with the federal government on this matter, technically the government's formula would be met. We would then have six provinces. But what would be the change in the population percentage? It would go up from 56.3 per cent to 56.9 per cent.

Topic:   HEALTH INSURANCE
Subtopic:   AUTHORIZATION OF PAYMENTS FROM CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND
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LIB

Edward Turney Applewhaite (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

Order. It being one o'clock-

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Martin:

I do not think it is quite one o'clock, Mr. Chairman.

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LIB

Edward Turney Applewhaite (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Deputy Chairman:

According to my clock it is one o'clock. If the committee wishes to sit after one, that is entirely up to the committee.

Topic:   HEALTH INSURANCE
Subtopic:   AUTHORIZATION OF PAYMENTS FROM CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND
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?

Some hon. Members:

One o'clock.

At one o'clock the committee took recess.

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AFTER RECESS The committee resumed at 2.30 p.m.


CCF

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

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

Mr. Knowles:

At one o'clock I was pointing out how ridiculous is this provision which is contained in subclause 2 of clause 6 of this bill. I refer to the requirement that at least six provinces containing at least one-half the population of Canada must enter into an agreement concerning this proposed hospital insurance before it can come into force.

As I had already pointed out, five provinces have already agreed, namely British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Newfoundland. Those five provinces represent 56.3 per cent of the total population of Canada. If the smallest province in Canada, namely the province of Prince Edward Island, were to reach an agreement with the federal government concerning this plan the formula would be met; we would have six provinces. In terms of population we would have 56.9 per cent instead of 56.3 per cent of the population of Canada.

I suggest it is utterly ridiculous for the government to be drawing a line of that kind, and to be saying, "We are prepared to put this legislation into effect when 56.9 per cent of the people of Canada are in provinces whose governments have agreed, but we are

not prepared to go ahead with it when that total is only 56.3 per cent." I hope that even yet subclause 2 will toe struck out of clause 6 of this bill.

I come back for just a minute to the first of the arguments I made on this point when I rose a few minutes before one o'clock. In terms of the drafting of a statute of parliament, I object most strongly to this right of veto being included in this statute. If this bill goes through in this form it will mean that although technically speaking it will be the law of the land, nevertheless it can be kept from coming into force by the provinces that fail to take action with regard to this matter.

As everyone knows, five provinces have agreed. That means that any one of the five provinces which have not agreed can, by their inaction, veto this legislation of the parliament of Canada so far as the majority of the people of Canada are concerned. Subclause 2 of clause 6 of this bill thus, for example, gives to the government of my province of Manitoba, a government which is quite slow in these matters, the power by itself-the same power that is accorded to four other provinces in the country-to veto this legislation.

In terms of law I think it is bad business, and I hope that even yet sutoclause 2 will toe struck out of this clause 6, so that once parliament has passed this legislation this week it will be the law of the land and can come into effect in those provinces, representing a majority of the people of Canada, which have agreed to it.

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PC

William Gourlay Blair

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Blair:

I should also like to register my objections to this clause. I agree with the hon. member who has just spoken. I think the minister could very well amend this act. I realize that an amendment moved by me would be out of order. All that is required is a change in one simple word. In place of "six", simply write in the word "five". The province of Ontario made concessions to enter this agreement and deviated from their original plan. One can conceive of this legislation remaining inactive, with nothing done about it, until another province comes into this scheme.

We need this act. We want it. However, I would not want to see it held up on account of the lack of one province. Already the minister has a majority of the people of this country in the five provinces which have agreed to the present suggestion. I therefore suggest to the minister, in registering my objection, that he reconsider the matter, and that in subclause 2 of clause 6 he make his own amendment by striking out the word "six" and putting in the word "five".

Health Insurance

Topic:   HEALTH INSURANCE
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SC

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. Shaw:

Having been rather fully occupied in a committee while the house has been considering this bill, I think it is conceivable that the minister may have answered this question without my knowing it. It occurs to me that when we were discussing the resolution preceding the introduction of the bill the minister indicated that it would have been unfair-although he may not have used that exact term-for a majority of Canadians to be taxed, as it were, to provide hospital benefits for a minority of Canadians. I understand that even though only five provinces have signed the agreement we have in excess of 56 per cent of Canadian taxpayers who, as residents of five provinces, would come under the provisions of the bill; that is, if it were made operative.

Has the minister indicated any reason for this legislation not becoming operative with five provinces other than the one he advanced while we were considering the bill at the resolution stage? I feel somewhat the same as do those who have already indicated their views on this section of the bill. To date I have not heard an argument which would convince me that the government would be taking an unwise course of action in authorizing the bill to become operative with five provinces participating especially, as I emphasize, when the population of these five provinces represents, let us say, substantially more than 50 per cent of the Canadian population.

May I ask the minister again if there is any reason other than the one he advanced at the resolution stage for not making this legislation apply if five provinces instead of six were to sign.

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LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Shall clause 6 carry?

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SC

Frederick Davis Shaw

Social Credit

Mr. Shaw:

No, Mr. Chairman. I asked

my question in all sincerity. I should like to know whether there is any other reason than that given by the minister at the resolution stage.

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Murdo William Martin

Mr. Marlin:

My hon. friend asks me a

proper question. I have given the reason, but I should be glad to repeat it. I do not share the pessimism that has been expressed about the likelihood of a sixth province indicating agreement. I will be having a conference this week with one provincial government. I cannot, of course, positively state that there will be a sixth province in the immediate future, but I have every reason to be optimistic on that score.

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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Would the minister tell us

which province that government represents?

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?

Murdo William Martin

Mr. Marlin:

The province of New Brunswick is going to confer with me this week.

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CCF

Alexander Malcolm Nicholson

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

Mr. Nicholson:

Not Manitoba?

Health Insurance

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LIB

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

Liberal

Mr. Martin:

Manitoba has conferred with

us and is coming to see us again. The reason we insist on the provision for six provinces as part of the conditions which are embodied in the proposal of the federal government and in the bill is that our aim is to obtain a scheme as nearly nation-wide in character as possible. If we had not included that condition, I am satisfied that we would not at this time be able to say that five provinces have accepted the proposal put forward by the federal government. We are after a nation-wide scheme. From the discussions I have had during the past few months I am satisfied that the way to bring about something approximating a nation-wide scheme is to maintain this particular condition.

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LIB

William Alfred Robinson (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Shall the clause carry?

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Subtopic:   AUTHORIZATION OF PAYMENTS FROM CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND
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PC

Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

When the minister professes his desire to have more provinces come in, it does not seem to occur to him that he himself could do a great deal to make it easier to bring in more provinces. This morning when we were dealing with some of the exclusions in the bill he had an opportunity to improve greatly the chances of bringing in more provinces. But he stands rigidly on the terms the federal government laid down a year and a half ago, and which it has been adamant in insisting upon ever since. Notwithstanding the financial condition of many of the provinces, he is asking them to assume a very heavy commitment.

If the federal government had been more earnest in connection with this matter and had offered terms that were not so difficult for the provinces to meet, he certainly would have had the majority of the provinces before this time. If he really wishes to bring in the provinces, let him not insist upon such rigid terms.

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PC

John Angus MacLean

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MacLean:

I just want to make a remark or two along the same lines. I believe if the minister is sincere in wanting this to be a truly nation-wide program, then it should be of such a nature that all parts of the nation could take advantage of it. It will be difficult for the maritime provinces generally to afford to come under this scheme, and in the case of Prince Edward Island I believe it will be impossible for the time being at least. I should like to think that further consideration will be given by the federal government in connection with making the terms such that they will be more acceptable to the provinces, and within reach of all of them.

Topic:   HEALTH INSURANCE
Subtopic:   AUTHORIZATION OF PAYMENTS FROM CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND
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April 8, 1957