Mr. Chairman, this bill has been considered very carefully in the Veterans Affairs Committee. Many items were discussed in the committee which I think settled some of the problems that were raised in the house when the bill was before us on an earlier occasion. A request had been made to extend the provisions of the fund to Newfoundland veterans but that was dealt with in the committee by pointing out that those who contributed to this fund were the only ones who were entitled to share in the fund.
The fund arose as a result of various activities of the Canadian army in the second world war and it is those veterans of that particular army who are entitled to the benefits of the fund. R.C.A.F. veterans, for example, cannot make use of this fund. Neither can navy veterans use the fund nor army veterans of the first world war. As I pointed out when this matter was before the house on a former occasion, the moneys in the fund were derived from the regimental funds of army units, from auxiliary services, from Bronco, from the navy, army and air force institutes and from various miscellaneous sources, all of which funds resulted, as I have mentioned, from the sale of comforts and so on to the soldiers of the Canadian army.
There are certain Canadian funds in existence from the first world war. To my knowledge only three are left now, those in Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick. Originally such funds existed, I believe, in nearly every province in the country but as the moneys in these funds were used up the administrations closed their doors and the funds ceased to exist.
There is still a good deal of money left in the fund we are considering now and the purpose of the bill is explained fairly adequately in the explanatory notes accompanying the bill. Without going into a clause by clause discussion of the bill at the moment, I might point out that it has been thought that the interest rates should be increased as set forth in the bill to bring them in line with interest rates paid on similar funds held by the government of Canada.
Second, the purpose of the bill is to make an adjustment in the way the salary of the secretary is fixed in order that this matter may be removed from the statute and the
Army Benevolent Fund Act salary fixed by the board itself. I understand the secretary has not received any increase in salary for a number of years and it is thought that to have his salary made statutory is not a convenient way to deal with it.
In the standing committee it was suggested by the Canadian Legion that the interest rates should be increased still further than is set forth in the bill. When you increase interest rates on this or any other fund, I suppose it is always possible to suggest that the rate should be increased still further but the figure that has been selected in this case has been chosen on the basis of the principles which have existed for the setting of the interest rate on this fund in times past, particularly in 1952 and also in 1947 when the fund was originally established. Therefore I think we had better stick to the original principles for the setting of these interest rates, and the activities of the fund, will, of course, be tailored in accordance with the amount of money available.
I think that is all I can usefully say at the present time. As I mentioned, the bill was discussed very thoroughly in the standing committee and we are bringing it forward now for consideration in committee of the whole house.
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS TO INCREASE RATES OF INTEREST, PROVIDE FOR ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES, ETC.