July 22, 1960

CCF

William Arnold Peters (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Peters:

Perhaps they did. Over the years the Canadian Legion has made a broad presentation to the government in which they have requested quite a number of improvements in the act. They have done this conscientiously over the years. This year they did not make that presentation. They came before parliament, it is true, in relation to specific amendments that were made to the veterans act this year, but to the best of my knowledge they did not make their usual presentation.

I attended a number of veterans meetings in my own area, and it was generally conceded that unless something was done they were going to have to adopt other methods for obtaining these increases. If these increases were not justified, then an argument could be made against them. However, the veterans are not asking for increased pensions in order to improve their standard of living, they are asking for increased pensions in order to maintain the standard of living which was granted to them right after the war in terms of the cost of living of that day. I feel they are completely justified in coming to Ottawa and requesting that that standard of living be maintained. I feel that very little can be said against the maintenance of that standard of living. Frankly, I do not know what the promise would be worth, but I had expected the minister to say he would consider a complete review of the pension situation before the next session. This promise was not forthcoming.

I believe we are doing ourselves in Canada a disservice, and we are doing a disservice to the veterans across this country. As a result of the meetings of the veterans affairs committee I have attended in the last few years I would say that I consider the presentations made to that committee were reasonable and just. I believe we have an obligation to the Canadian people who believe that the promises made to the veterans on their behalf in 1945 are being carried out, and we should inform the Canadian people that they are not being carried out. The pensions were set at a certain level in 1945, but the cost of living has climbed tremendously since that time, wages have risen greatly, but the pensions, while they have increased a small amount, have not increased in proportion to these other things and therefore the standard of living of the veteran has fallen below the standard set in 1945.

I do not want to say any more about this. I do not believe you can get blood out of a stone, and it may be impossible to get money at this time from our treasury. It may be that we are in a position where we cannot afford to continue to maintain war veterans pensions. If we are, Mr. Chairman, then I think it is time we took a look at the situation and tried to raise other moneys to accomplish this purpose. I think it is stupid in the extreme to maintain armed services today, to maintain a defence structure in this country at a cost of billions of dollars, and at the same time not be able to pay a fair and reasonable pension to the veterans of this country. It is not proper to ask the people in the armed services now to serve under these circumstances. I feel we have an obligation to these people to at least ensure them a decent standard of living. Many of them are not able to maintain a proper standard of living on the pension they now receive.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

There is one point I wish to correct. The hon. member mentioned the basis on which pensions are granted and he referred to my statement that the Legion brief did not make what I considered to be a correct comparison. I have no quarrel with the brief. As a matter of fact, I have worked with the Legion as long as anyone in this house. There was a comparison made between the pension of a single veteran and a married common labourer. I said the comparison should have been between a married veteran and the common labourer because 96 per cent of our veterans are married men.

In comparing the single veteran with the married common labourer, the single veteran's pension was put at $1,800 while the common labourer received $3,000. As a matter of fact, since 96 per cent of the veterans are married they should have said that the veteran would receive $1,800 full pension, plus $600 for his wife, which would be $2,400. As I pointed out the average veteran's family consists of about three children. As a matter of fact, I believe our records show it is nearer four, but we will take three. The first child receives $20 a month, the second $15 and the third $12. This brings the amount which a full pensioner would receive up to around $3,000 which would be in the vicinity of what the Legion says a common labourer receives.

I should like to emphasize that I am not using this as an argument for no increase in pension because that has never been my argument. These veterans have other advantages. The widow of a veteran receives a pension, if his disability was over 50 per cent, $115 a month, while the widow of the common labourer receives nothing. Then

Supply-Veterans Affairs if the veteran leaves children the allowance the children receive is doubled and instead of $20 for the first child, the first child receives $40; the second $30 and the third $24. Of course, if the common labourer dies, as I say, his wife does not receive any pension and his children only receive the family allowance. Of course, the pensioner also receives the family allowance for his children. These are just some of the other benefits which the pensioner has.

If he is a blind pensioner or a helpless pensioner, he receives what is known as the helplessness allowance. This allowance for a completely helpless veteran is $1,800 a year over and above his pension. That is the maximum. It ranges from $600 a year up to $1,800 a year. Then again if the pensioner has not an additional amount, if he has a small pension and is unable to work, he becomes eligible for the war veterans allowance. If he is a married man, he will receive $145 a month. This is something, of course, to which the common labourer cannot look forward and to which he has no reason or right to look forward.

Then there is the matter of hospitalization. If a war veterans allowance recipient even in a small amount is hospitalized, all his hospital bills will be paid. In the matter of the civil service, the pensioner has the first preference in every civil service job. I might say that my department and, I believe, most of the departments of government are filled with pensioners who have, besides their pension, the civil service jobs which no labourer has any right or reason to expect.

There is special insurance for a man who would not receive insurance otherwise. Besides all that, and to the great credit of our veterans be it said, when they came back to this country, whether they were disabled or not, I would say that 90 per cent of them at once sought jobs and obtained them. Besides their pensions they have their other occupations.

Those are the simple facts which I have stated and which I think are correct. May I repeat that I did not use them here this afternoon, nor have I ever done so, as an argument against increasing pensions.

I have been in the House of Commons for 25 years. I have been on every veterans affairs committee that we have had in the House of Commons during that time. As my friend the hon. member for Kootenay West will know, I was chairman of the opposition committee and we worked with the government and with the other members of the committee for the increasing of pensions. Pensions are not increased every year. I should just like to point out to my hon.

Supply-Veterans Affairs friend the starting point of increases in veterans pensions. He may not altogether agree with it but the parliament of Canada in its wisdom carried it through in this manner.

In 1920 the pension of a single veteran was $900 and that for a married veteran, $1,200. There was no increase in the pension from 1920 until 1947, a period of 27 years. Our pensions were increased in 1957, just three years ago. For 27 years there was no increase in pensions, from 1920 to 1927. In 1947 there was an increase from $1,200 to $1,500. It was five years before there was another increase. Between 1951 and 1957 there was no increase. From 1920 to 1957, a period of 37 years, there were only three increases in pensions in this country.

I mentioned to the Legion that I plan to review the legislation. I do not make any particular argument here in this connection. As a matter of fact, I planned to review the whole veterans charter. That was one of the pieces work that was outlined for the committee, namely to review the veterans charter, to take first those legislative acts which most needed review and we did that. We took the childrens allowance act because, as I have said, children do not wait; they grow older. We wanted to make sure that those children were not going to miss the education to which they were entitled. Veterans insurance ran out in 1957. We wanted to see to it that no veteran lost his chance of getting further insurance, with the result that between 4,000 and 5,000 veterans now have insurance who otherwise would not have it. It represents some $16 million of insurance.

As to the Veterans Land Act, we were obliged to make it conform with the farm credit act. It was necessary for us to do that action. I said that I planned to review the Pension Act as soon as possible. I plan to do that. We plan to review the War Veterans Allowance Act. We cannot do all these things at once, and we never intended to do them all at once. It would not have been possible for the committee to do that. However, we took first the acts which we considered needed priority attention.

I do not think there is anything further I need to say in that connection. I am simply pointing out to hon. members that these matters have not been overlooked.

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CCF

William Arnold Peters (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Peters:

I do not agree with the conclusion drawn by the minister. While he pointed out that there were certain things on the side of the veterans, times have changed. A guy digging in a ditch is no longer really digging in the ditch. He may be a common labourer but he has compensation and he has group insurance.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

May I point out that I am using the language of the veterans brief?

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CCF

William Arnold Peters (Whip of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation)

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

Mr. Peters:

I agree. But times have changed. But originally the labourer was referred to as a pick and shovel man. The pick and shovel man now gets very large sums of money because there are few people who will do that kind of work. Even the clean-up men around cement work get $1.50 or so an hour. I do not think this is a proper method of comparing the two groups. Certain things have been added on the side of the veteran and we are grateful for that fact, because I think they should be added. But there are things that have also been added to the labour side of the picture such as, for example, compensation, group insurance, sick and accident benefits, hospital insurance. There are many considerations that make his money more valuable than the $3,000 which is assumed to be the labour wage at the present time. If we keep adding all the benefits on there, I think the situation will look even worse as far as comparisons are concerned.

All we are saying is that we believe the veterans pension, whether it be war veterans allowance or veterans pension, must be tied to or kept in relation with the cost of living. I think there is no excuse to look back into history and say that from 1920 to 1946 there were no increases. There was a time I think when the pension was increased because the standard of living and the cost of living had dropped rapidly in Canada and the pension may have looked fairly good in 1931, 1932 and 1933. But by 1946 there were a large number of new veterans and the situation had completely changed.

I do not think it Is any argument to say that we should wait for these periods to go by before we make a change. It is my opinion that the change must be made and that followup must continue as the cost of living rises. I am sure the minister will agree that we are interested in maintaining a fair and reasonable relationship, no matter what we compare it to, and one of the comparisons we would have to use is the cost of living.

I just want to point out that while I sympathize with the minister I do not agree in the comparison he drew as between the veteran and the labourer in 1920. He left out some of the things that would have to be added if we are going to make a comparison today between a labourer and a veteran and. there would have to be certain considerations given there. I think that the difference between the two would have increased almost as rapidly as is indicated by the particular letter in the Legionary.

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Item agreed to. Treatment services- 460. Operation of hospitals and administration including authority, notwithstanding the Financial Administration Act, to spend revenue received during the year for hospital and related services, $44,634,594.


CCF

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

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

Mr. Herridge:

This is a very important item so far as veterans are concerned and is a branch of the department which renders great service to veterans, particularly as they grow older. I repeatedly receive favourable comment from veterans in my constituency concerning the treatment they have received under this branch when in residence at Shaughnessy hospital and other institutions.

I had an illustration of that recently when someone wrote to me and told me a close friend of mine was quite ill and quite depressed, and a padre in Shaughnessy who happened to be in my platoon in the first world war wrote and told me how depressed and ill he was. Then two or three days ago I heard that he had been there a month and had greatly improved in health and that his sense of depression had gone as the result of the excellent treatment and consideration he had received at the hospital.

I should like to urge the minister to give consideration to the resolution adopted by the Canadian Legion with respect to the use of chiropractic services. The chiropractic association of Canada made representations before the committee and the matter was also discussed at the recent convention of the Canadian Legion and a resolution was adopted urging that the Legion should strongly urge the government of Canada to make available the services of registered chiropractors. I have received in recent years many requests that the department consider the use of chiropractors. When I was in the provincial house in the forties the same representations were made to the provincial government to use chiropractors in connection with the administration of the workmen's compensation board and a few years later those requests were recognized and chiropractors are now used by the workmen's compensation board and have been found in many cases to do beneficial work.

So I urge consideration be given to these representations, particularly the representations made at the convention of the Canadian Legion which spring from the requests of the branches and knowledge of the good work the chiropractors have done for organizations such as workmen's compensation boards and so on.

I would also urge the minister to give very serious consideration to the 20 resolutions passed at the last convention of the Canadian Legion which dealt with amendments to the act or the regulations concerned with the treatmenl of veterans.

Supply-Veterans Affairs

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PC

Gordon Campbell Chown

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Chairman (Mr. Chown):

For

the purposes of the record the hon. member was speaking on item 460, item 459 having been passed by the committee. Shall the item carry?

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PC

George Stanley White (Government Whip in the Senate)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. White:

I just want to say a word or two on this item. Westminster hospital in London, Ontario, is located in my constituency and consequently I feel considerable interest in the problems of the veterans. First of all I want to pay tribute to the sympathetic understanding of the minister of the problems of veterans. I also want to pay tribute to the excellent staff of doctors and nurses at Westminster hospital. All over my riding I hear compliments from time to time about the great work they are doing at that hospital for our disabled veterans.

Having said that there are other questions which arise from time to time. It was brought to my attention during the winter months that of the over 800 trees in the grounds some 413 were diseased or had scale or some other problem and were to be removed. I have received more complaints regarding the proposed removal of these trees than about any other thing which has been done in the area. I am glad to hear that the destruction of these trees has been delayed and that the Ontario department of forestry was going to make a survey of these trees. It is interesting to note that a company in the city received in 1955 almost $1,500 for spraying, pruning and fertilizing these trees, and in 1956 they received $1,497. But when we come to 1960 it is discovered that almost half of these trees are earmarked for destruction.

I am concerned about this because not only the hospital authorities but also the provincial highways department and the county organizations have developed a tree butchery campaign, and when you realize it takes a lifetime to grow these beautiful trees, we should hesitate before they are removed. I do not object to the removal of those trees which become dangerous. They should be removed. But I doubt if there is one tree in all the forests of Canada on which you cannot find a bug, a scale or a disease of some kind. Consequently the argument that these trees are all diseased does not hold water as far as I am concerned, and I hope that before a large number of them are removed provision will be made for young trees to be planted before the older ones are removed.

I also want to say a word or two on item 462, but before I sit down I want to ask the minister what progress is being made on the new building at Westminster hospital? (Translation):

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PC

J.-Eugène Bissonnette

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bissonnelie:

Mr. Chairman, while we are on these estimates I should like to say

Supply-Veterans Affairs a few words to the minister (Mr. Brooks) with regard to the veterans' hospital, on Laurier boulevard in Ste. Foy.

On several occasions, I have had occasion to appreciate the devotion and skill of departmental physicians and nurses in caring for the sick who are confined to that hospital and whom I personally have had the occasion to treat in civilian life.

I can therefore have but the highest praise for those doctors and nurses, and for the way they are taking care of their patients. I want to commend them to the minister, because they deserve our praises in every respect.

I must take this opportunity of pointing out to the minister that that hospital is not only a centre for the care of veterans, but also a place where Laval medical students receive part of their medical training. There again, the hospital staff is most co-operative in providing medical training for our students. Therefore, in addition to its primary function, that of caring for veterans, this hospital plays an important part in the training of Laval University medical students. We are quite pleased about it, and I consider it a pleasure to commend the minister and his department for providing us with that hospital in Quebec city.

(Text):

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

I just want to make a short statement in reply to the hon. member for Middlesex East. I can understand his concern about the destruction of trees around the Westminster hospital, because that is one of the most beautiful places I have seen anywhere. We have called in the provincial forestry people and we are doing everything we can to save these trees. We have had to destroy 100, but we hope to save many of the rest.

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PC

George Stanley White (Government Whip in the Senate)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. White:

Will the minister comment on the progress of the new building at Westminster?

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

We are making good progress now. We have begun to excavate and we are getting well started. There has been a lot of rain and it has been a little difficult, but we are getting along well now.

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Item agreed to. 462. Hospital construction, improvements, equipment, and acquisition of land, $4,937,000.


LIB

Chesley William Carter

Liberal

Mr. Carter:

Would the minister give a break-down of this item with respect to hos-

[Mr. Bissonnette.l

pital construction and tell us if there is anything in this vote for the Queen Mary veterans hospital at Montreal?

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

For the Queen Mary hospital we have $290,000 for the modernization of the power plant, $10,000 for an electrical substation and for the new wing and services, $150,000. We are planning to go ahead with very extensive construction at Queen Mary and Ste. Anne.

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CCF

Harold Edward Winch

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

Mr. Winch:

This is the only opportunity I can see to ask a question which has been suggested to me by one who is well known in this House of Commons. I refer to Mr. Angus Maclnnis for a great many years hon. member for Vancouver-Kingsway. He wrote a letter to me requesting me to put a question to the minister with regard to something he could not understand. It has to do with laundry at veterans' hospitals. Why is it that although veterans' hospitals are completely equipped with laundry machinery and facilities a contract should be given to outside firms to operate those laundry facilities. The situation at Shaughnessy hospital has been drawn to my attention and I know about the laundry there because, strange as it may seem, I was one of the electricians who wired that laundry many years ago. As a complete installation exists, and I point out that this is one of the biggest hospitals in Canada, why should an outside concern be given a contract to operate it?

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

I am very glad to answer any questions asked by the hon. member and also by my very dear friend, Angus Maclnnis whom I knew for many years in this house. We have no laundry at Shaughnessy hospital in Vancouver, though we have laundries in some of our other hospitals across Canada. It has been the policy of the government to construct such laundries. We have a laundry at Saint John Lancaster hospital in New Brunswick; we have a laundry connected with our hospital in St. Anne-it is out of date now, but we are building a new one. We have a very large laundry at Sunnybrook in Toronto, and another at Westminster and another in Calgary. It is the policy of the department to establish such laundries as quickly as we can. We started a few years ago, and it is proving very satisfactory. However, there is no laundry at the present time at Shaughnessy.

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CCF

Harold Edward Winch

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

Mr. Winch:

At any rate, provision was made on the electrical supply system for a laundry at Shaughnessy. Am I correct with regard to that? I am certain I am.

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PC

Alfred Johnson Brooks (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Brooks:

There is no laundry as yet. There would have to be a building constructed.

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July 22, 1960