Mr. Chairman, as a relic of the first world war I must confess that when I hear hon. members speaking in the vein that the hon. member for Burin-Burgeo and the hon. member for Fort William spoke this afternoon I rather feel that the man with the scythe is creeping up behind me. But, of course, they are perfectly right. We are dropping off at a very quick rate each year and will be doing so at an accelerated rate in the future.
I think that is really one of the major arguments against any opposition, if there is opposition, to increasing the permissible earnings ceilings of war veterans. In my constituency we have a great many war veterans and quite a number on the war veterans allowance. Because of climatic reasons these people go there to live and the problem is brought very forcibly to our attention. There are a number of great hardships at work due to the present rather low levels of permissible income. Many of these men are unable to hold even comparatively ill-paid jobs if they are going to hold them all year round. I have known of instances of men who had to arrange to be laid off for a certain length of time in order not to exceed the permissible income.
Another factor that I think we should consider is that the money incomes that people are getting today are in purchasing power very much lower than that same number of dollars was ten or fifteen years ago. Therefore we should at least try to be as generous as we have been in the past, which we will not be unless we are prepared to take into account the depreciation of the dollar. Of course, as I say, I do not know if there is going to be any opposition to this one point, and like the hon. member for Fort William I think one should concentrate on one point. To my mind the most important of the demands of the Canadian Legion and the one that affects most veterans is the raising of the level of permissible income.
I had hoped that there would be no question, since the events of last June, that when the act was amended it would be amended in line with the demands of the Canadian Legion. Last night I was a bit disturbed, in the same way that the hon. member for Acadia was, by the interjection of the minister which suggested that he and his colleagues were not accepting the levels suggested by the Canadian Legion as the proper
War Veterans' Allowance Act levels. II that is so, I would hope that the members of the present government would perhaps do what my colleague, the hon. member for Kootenay West, apparently has been doing and consult the records of Hansard for previous years. For instance, I hope that the present Minister of Trade and Commerce will consult Hansard of March 7, 1955 in which he will find these words included in a very moving speech he made on that occasion with regard to the position of veterans. He makes reference to the then minister's remarks and says, as found at page 1769 of Hansard:
The minister's remarks the other day I thought were cold, unsympathetic, confusing and unconvincing. He attempted to equate the ceilings of war veterans allowance with the rates for disability pensions. What purpose this procedure served I am at a loss to know. He then went on to estimate the additional cost to the treasury if the ceilings were placed at $1,200 and $2,000. He estimated that these would open the way to placing 14,750 new applicants on the rolls and would increase the cost by $13 million over and above the present proposed increase.
Here is a place, Mr. Chairman, where I think the present ministers should give their attention because the present Minister of Trade and Commerce on that occasion went on in this vein:
This is a familiar dodge practised by some cabinet ministers. We are supposed to accept these statements as gospel truth. No detailed analysis was given by the minister. All that was given was just a bland assurance that this would be the result and that consequently there was no further argument. I hope that the committee will pursue this matter and get a detailed breakdown of these figures.
In connection with that, Mr. Chairman, I want to support the suggestion made by a speaker earlier this afternoon that a standing committee on veterans affairs should be appointed because I notice that among other eminent members of the present cabinet the Minister of Public Works very flatly and plainly came out and stated that when his party became the government they would immediately establish a standing committee on veterans affairs. I hope that is going to be done.
Then perhaps we could get away from these rather vague estimates of what the increased cost would be if we raised the permissible allowance to $1,200 and $2,000. I am not going on the assumption that there may be some opposition to the Legion's position in this regard. We have not yet been told definitely whether that is so, although I would think that the present government would hardly throw aside the Legion's representations when the present
Prime Minister had this to say in 1955, as set out at page 2592 of Hansard of March 31, 1955:
Mr. Chairman, the veterans of this country would be interested if they were here this evening in hearing the applause by Liberal members when it was indicated that the government does not intend to act upon the recommendations and suggestions of the Canadian Legion and the national council of veterans. If they were here tonight they would be interested in hearing the applause that greeted the words of the hon. gentleman as he spoke rather disparagingly of the fight which we in the opposition have put up on behalf, not of something ephemeral and fantastic but of something that is asked for, and reasonably asked for, by the Canadian Legion and the National Council of Veterans Organizations.
I would suggest that the members of the Canadian Legion will be equally interested to know what the position of the new government is going to be with regard to these requests. I share their interest. I trust that the action of the government will not lead us who are still in opposition after the events of last June to remember the old proverb, "Plus ga change, plus c'est la meme chose".
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS RESPECTING ALLOWANCES, INCOME, COVERAGE, ETC.