Perhaps the hon. gentleman did not realize that my suggestion would mean there would be two hours; there would be the hour from five to six, and the hour from eight to nine. This suggestion would not take away the private members' time, but it would give us continuity and might give us a better chance of getting this business through in time. However, I am in the hands of the committee.
If the hon. member has a question which he wishes to raise, I have no objection to proceeding. However, I do not feel it should be understood that we conclude by nine o'clock if all the matters that need to be raised have not been considered.
That, in the opinion of this house, the government should give consideration to the advisability of enlarging the definition of a disabled person in the Disabled Persons Act, and the regulations pursuant thereto, to take into consideration such factors as the physical condition, the mental condition and the age of the applicant, and other factors which create a condition of permanent unemployability.
He said: Mr. Deputy Speaker, speaking for the first time in the twenty sixth parliament I should first like to congratulate you on your appointment as chairman of committees. I should also like through you to congratulate the Speaker on his appointment, and the deputy chairman of committees. I wish you well in your tenure of office.
My father taught me to believe that man's first public duty was to help those who were least able to help themselves. Nothing that 1 have learned since has changed my mind about that early teaching. Indeed, I now know it to be a basic tenet of Conservative philosophy. I think that government responsibility is no different; it too should be directed first to helping those who are least able to help themselves. Sometimes in the vision and glamour of all-embracing welfare schemes this rule and lesson is forgotten. The people I am going to talk about are not those who will benefit from a contributory pension scheme, because they do not earn enough; they are not the people who would benefit from the New Democratic party's "airy fairy" promises of full employment, even if such promises could be fulfilled, because they are unemployable.
Who are these people? I think that every hon. member who is interested in his constituents knows dozens of them; he talks to them almost every day he is in his riding. I am quite sure there are many thousands of them all across Canada. Mostly you will find them in the age group of 45 to 65. They are all permanently unemployable, usually through a combination of circumstances. Their age contributes to it; their physical condition in some form contributes to it; their lack of training and their lack of education, their inability to absorb further training or further education, contributes to it. Some of them, because of mental and psychological conditions, are unable to work in the complicated industrial society that we find today; they just will not fit into an assembly line. All of them are left behind.
Where are they now? You will find many of them on permanent relief rolls. Some of them you will find being kept in genteel and not so genteel poverty by their families. Some are drifting from job to job from day to day, doing little else than distorting our unemployment statistics. Hon. members might say, why not keep them on welfare? In my opinion welfare was never designed to meet a permanent condition. Welfare, as I understand it, is designed to tide people over temporary difficulties and temporary embarrassments. I do not think these people should have the humiliation of being permanent welfare wards, because the conditions which cause their unemployability are largely completely beyond the means of correction by themselves.
There are many things that could be done and many acts that could be changed. I have thought to bring forward this motion relating to the Disabled Persons Act because these people are disabled. I would like to read the present definition:
For the purpose of the act and these regulations, a person shall be deemed to be totally and permanently disabled when suffering from a major physiological, anatomical or psychological impairment verified by objective medical findings which is likely to continue indefinitely without substantial improvement and, as a result thereof, such a person is severely limited in activities pertaining to normal living.
I think that perhaps the main objection to the definition is the "normal living" part because, as now interpreted, "normal living" is considered to mean the ability to perform activities such as hygiene, feeding, dressing, walking, stair climbing, use of hands, speech, vision, hearing, writing, and reading. Unemployment is not a factor in reaching a decision. I think it is time we had a new definition that is broader and takes into consideration more of the activities of normal living. Particularly I refer to that of employment. Can they be gainfully employed? Is there anywhere they can be usefully and gainfully employed? For that reason I suggest that the four important factors which ought to be considered under this new definition would be, the physical condition of the person, the mental condition, the age and the permanent unemployability which flows from the first three conditions.
It will be pointed out, no doubt, that the provinces have to be consulted, that this is co-operative legislation I realize that. However, I do not think we will have any difficulty in getting co-operation from the provinces, because it was a Conservative government in Ontario in 1954, under the premiership of Leslie Frost, that took the lead in putting this legislation forward. In
1963 another Conservative government in Ontario has taken a step which answers the problem of a great many of the people who would come within the categories I have mentioned. I refer to the recent changes by the Hon. Louis Cecile in the assistance to widows and unmarried women's regulation under the general welfare assistance act, which now provide that widows and unmarried women over the age of 60 who have no means are eligible for a pension. This covers a reasonable proportion of the people with whom I have come in contact.
There is another small point in relation to this regulation that I would like to touch upon generally, although it is not covered within the terms of my motion. I refer to those cases of married couples where one person, either the husband or the wife, is disabled and qualifies under the physical requirements of the act but is disqualified by the very low ceiling income that is permitted for people like that. One example that has come to my attention recently in the city in which I live is the case of a man who is permanently disabled. His drugs bill is $55 a month. He and his wife have two boys in the family. The wife is endeavouring to keep the home together, and she earns $45 a week. By reason of his earnings, the husband is disqualified for the D.P.A. pension and yet she is expected to do the impossible of keeping the home going and buying his drugs on $45 a week. In cases where one or the other spouse is disabled the ceiling should be lifted substantially so that the $65, or whatever the amount of the pension may be from time to time, could be used for the necessary home care of the disabled spouse.
Another case which came to my attention was that of a small farmer who lives in my own riding. He has ten or eleven children. His wife is incurably ill with a disease such as multiple sclerosis. He is not a man who makes a large income. He has to keep his oldest daughter at home to do the housework. Yet by reason of his modest earnings his wife's pension is only $14 a month. This means that although the eldest daughter has to stay home and work he has no means of paying her even a modest wage for her services. Although such circumstances as these are not covered by the terms of my motion, I should like earnestly to commend this thought to the government in the hope that some changes might be made in this regard also.
The resolution before the house on the motion of the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Smith) seeks to enlarge the definition of a disabled
Disabled Persons Act
person in the Disabled Persons Act and the regulations pursuant thereto. I should like to compliment the hon. member upon the birth in his noggin of this very Liberal notion. I only wonder why he did not do something about it during the last six years while he was sitting on this side of the house.
It was a Liberal government which introduced the Disabled Persons Act. It was assented to on June 26, 1954,
and proclaimed in force as of January 1, 1955. It was, and is, another jewel in the long string of social welfare measures initiated for the benefit of our people by the Liberal party. It currently provides that 50 per cent of $65 monthly, or 50 per cent of the allowance paid by the province, whichever is the lesser, shall be contributed for each eligible recipient over 18 years old. Federal payments to the provinces are made monthly in arrears and not in advance. Thus, there is a sharing of cost between the federal and provincial governments under this joint scheme, but each province administers it for its own territory.
During the fiscal year ended March 31, 1961, there were 16,453 applications considered by the provinces. Of this number 6,398 were approved, 9,331 were declined and 724 were not completed. Federal contributions to the provinces and territories amounted to $16,385,819.54 in that year.
The hon. member, by his resolution, seeks to broaden the act under discussion so as to admit more of the 9,331 who were declined but it must be borne in mind that many of these were entitled to receive, and did receive, benefits under other joint federal-provincial schemes, particularly the Unemployment Assistance Act. This latter act came into effect only six months after the Disabled Persons Act and was intended, no doubt, to complement it. It has done so with good, but not complete, success, and as long as there is any loophole to be plugged, I for one along with the hon. member for Simcoe North, am all for plugging it.
I am not certain, however, that broadening the definition of the evaluation of invalidity is the answer. It may be more desirable to increase the benefits to those clearly entitled under the present definition, than to set a precedent by advancing the borderline to increase the number entitled.
All hon. members will bear in mind that presently the whole scheme of pensions for all categories is being reviewed in pursuance of declared Liberal policy, and the contents of the speech from the throne.
Disabled Persons Act
We know that there will shortly be introduced into this house and this country a comprehensive contributory portable pension plan. Contrary to what the hon. member has said, the government is studying not only survivor benefits but disability benefits. If agreement can be obtained with all the provinces there would seem to be no reason why this new comprehensive plan should not include disability benefits. Then all our social security insurance would be written into one new national policy which would be fair to all across the land, and the act under discussion would be repealed.
However, whether the act stands or is repealed, there is need for concern in this matter and I can assure the hon. member for Simcoe North that his motion with regard to extending the benefits on the basis of unemployability is being thoroughly studied by actuarial, social and medical experts in the Department of National Health and Welfare.
Mr. Speaker, there are many disability benefit programs in existence in different countries. There is, however, no uniformity of disability evaluation under such programs. In Canada the rule or definition for disability evaluation is contained in one subsection of the disabled persons regulations under the Disabled Persons Act (Office Consolidation, 1961). Section 2, subsection (2) thereof provides:
"For the purpose of the act and these regulations, a person shall be deemed to be totally and permanently disabled when suffering from a major physiological, anatomical or psychological impairment verified by objective medical findings which is likely to continue indefinitely without substantial improvement and, as a result thereof, such person is severely limited in activities pertaining to normal living."
With respect to administration, assessment of permanent and total disability under the Disabled Persons Act is carried out by joint federal-provincial medical review boards in each province, which are guided by the disability evaluation manual (first revision) September, 1957, prepared by the Department of National Health and Welfare. Chapter 11, interpretation of definitions, provides the official interpretation of the specific phrases in the definition. On pages 5, 6 and 7 an explanation is given of the key phrase, "as a result thereof, such person is severely limited in activities pertaining to normal living". The criteria to be followed in making an assessment of functional impairment in terms of activities of normal living are set forth. It is clear that the determination of disability is based upon loss of functional capacities imposed by the impairment. On page 8, the responsibility of the medical review boards
in referring all potential rehabilitation cases to a rehabilitation assessment team for appraisal and for beneficial therapy is stressed.
In addition to medical appraisal, a social report designed to provide medical review boards with a clear picture of the applicant in his normal circumstances is required. It provides evidence of the degree of actual handicap which the impairment imposes, and should also indicate the extent to which the applicant has overcome difficulties in the past. It helps to identify those persons who would be capable of helping themselves if they received special assistance.
Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia have various disability benefit schemes in effect. In each country there is some provision for benefit for loss of working capacity as a result of permanent disability.
The international social security association in its report on the activities of the working group on the problem of harmonizing the criteria for the evaluation of invalidity, published in its bulletin for October, November and December, 1962, recognizes several elements posed by the complex problem of invalidity evaluation. Interested hon. members will find in this report in the library that the working group, as a first step towards the harmonization of criteria for the evaluation of disability, has recommended certain principles and methods. The original intent of the Disabled Persons Act was to meet the needs of a group of severely disabled persons who, for mental or physical reasons, were unable to provide care for themselves and who presented problems not merely of unemployability but in respect to capacity for self-care. A sickness survey, undertaken some years before the act was passed, indicated that this group was a sizeable one and deserved the next priority in the progressive development of social security measures that was being undertaken by the Liberal government of the day.
It was specifically intended that the concept of employability would not enter as a basic consideration in this program. There were two or three important reasons for this. One was the extreme difficulty of defining employability. In everyone's experience there are persons who are able to surmount the most severe handicaps and achieve a livelihood through the maximum utilization of their remaining capabilities. A further factor was the determination of the government at the time to keep the concept of rehabilitation to the fore, and not to make allowances available to persons who should be encouraged to utilize to the full the rehabilitation services that were then available and which were being encouraged through the federal-provincial rehabilitation program. This was a
point that was emphasized by many of the best authorities in the field. To emphasize this point, the act itself provided that even those who were eligible under the permanent and total disability clause could be further assessed for rehabilitation or approved therapeutic measures. This provision was included to ensure a positive and constructive approach by encouraging rehabilitation and therapy whenever benefit was considered likely to be derived.
The Disabled Persons Act from the very outset provided a valuable measure for those eligible within its terms. All provinces took advantage of it, and for many years there was a steady increase in its coverage. It continues to the present time to perform a necessary and highly valuable role in Canada's social security program as indicated by the case load which in March, 1963 reached 50,600.
Even at the time that the Disabled Persons Act was being developed, discussions were proceeding between the federal government and the provinces for the development of a program which would help to meet the needs of those who could not qualify under the terms of the Disabled Persons Act. I am referring again to the Unemployment Assistance Act which, after discussions with the provinces in 1955, was enacted in 1956 retroactive to July 1955. Under this measure the federal government pays approximately one half the costs of assistance to residual groups of persons not aided under such special programs as those for the aged, the blind and the measure under particular consideration now, the Disabled Persons Act.
Mr. Speaker, there is not sufficient public knowledge of the role this legislation has played in the development of provincial programs of general assistance for the residual group in need, and also for special groups such as the type of person that is envisaged in this resolution. The way in which the provinces have developed their general assistance programs under this legislation has, of course, varied from province to province-indeed, this has been held to be one of the advantages of the legislation in that it has allowed the provinces to undertake measures which are suited to their particular needs. Many provinces assist all types of needy persons under roughly similar provisions, but in a majority of provinces some special attention has been given to some or all of the types of persons referred to in the resolution. It may be of interest to hon. members to have some specific examples of the measures that exist for the group referred to.
In Newfoundland, social assistance may be granted to persons who are temporarily or permanently unable to work because of
Disabled Persons Act
mental or physical incapacity. The program is administered by the province in a manner similar to disabled persons allowances, and the benefits under the program may be adjusted to take into account any dependants of a disabled breadwinner.
The province of Nova Scotia also provides, under part I of its social assistance act, for assistance to disabled persons between the ages of 18 and 65 who are not able to qualify for disabled persons allowances. It is my understanding that this benefit does not vary with family size, although there are other provisions in the act to provide for disabled fathers with dependant children; in the latter case, the provision of assistance is, of course, primarily related to the importance of providing support for the children.
In addition to the general provisions that it has for any persons who are unemployed and in need, the province of Quebec has a special program for persons who have been unemployed for more than 12 months, most of whom would be in the category under consideration. The benefits under this program are, as in the case of Newfoundland, related to the number of persons in the family, and the program is administered by the Quebec social allowances commission. It is also relevant to note that the province has developed a special program for widows and single women from 60 to 64 years of age, and undoubtedly in many cases assistance under this program because of need could be related to some form of disability.
There are two programs in Ontario for which federal sharing is now available and which are of interest in this discussion. Provision is made for assistance to families with dependant children in which the need is related to the unemployability of the father, including commitment to a mental or other institution. This program is administered by the department of public welfare through its regional offices throughout the province, and the benefits are paid on the basis of what is referred to as a needs test, under which the level of aid is related to the requirements of the family, as well as any other income that it might have. With effect from May 1, the province of Ontario has also developed a pension program for widows and single women from 60 to 64 years of age as mentioned by the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Smith). This pension is paid on the basis of a means test and carries a maximum benefit of $65 per month, the same as that for disabled persons allowances.
Because of the similarity of their programs, I might refer to the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba together. These provinces have enacted legislation which provides for the payment of a social allowance to any person
Disabled Persons Act
who is unable to earn an income sufficient to pay for the basic necessities of himself and his dependants because of age or physical or mental ill health or incapacity that is likely to last for more than 90 days. Hon. members will note that this is the type of comprehensive coverage referred to in this resolution. The costs of these allowances are, as in the case of the programs referred to above, shared under the Unemployment Assistance Act and, Mr. Speaker, you may be interested to note that in March 1963 there were about 17,000 persons, including dependants, assisted under the social allowances program in Alberta. I believe that the program is now fully in effect in that province, but it is my understanding that the province of Manitoba has adopted a more gradual approach in the implementation of its program, preferring to proceed with it at a pace which will be in line with its fiscal and administrative capabilities.
There are two provinces to which I have not yet referred, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. In British Columbia social allowances are payable to any persons who are unemployed and in need, without making a distinction between employability and unemployability. The program is administered co-operatively by the province and its municipalities, and the benefits are related to the number of dependants in the recipient's family.
In Saskatchewan, assistance to the group referred to in the resolution would, I believe, be provided under two programs. In cases where there are dependant children in the family and the need could be related to the disability of the father, provision is made for assistance through the aid to dependant families program. Other persons in this group can be assisted through the municipal social aid program, and in both cases the amount of assistance paid is related to the requirements of the recipient and his family. It is my understanding that there is in Saskatchewan a good deal of provincial-municipal consultation concerning the provision of social aid, and that every effort is made to assure that the needs of recipients are adequately met.
Hon. members will note from this review that the framework within which assistance is provided varies from province to province, and that the coverage of existing programs is broader in some areas than in others. This, of course, is to be expected when the fiscal capabilities of the various parts of the country are borne in mind, and I should hasten to emphasize that the federal government stands ready under the Unemployment Assistance Act to share in any more broadly
based programs that the provinces may see fit to adopt for the disabled or other needy groups.
Mr. Speaker, I too want to congratulate the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Smith) for bringing in this resolution and bringing to the attention of the house the difficulties I am sure most hon. members have had with respect to the definition of total and permanent disability. At the same time I want to say that I have listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Ryan). It is really too bad he is not a member of the cabinet because we have got far more out of him about what the government is doing and intends to do in the field of social welfare than we have been able to get out of ministers sitting on the treasury benches. But, even if we have to get it from a backbencher, it is good to know that an overhaul of our social security legislation is coming and that all these various matters will be dealt with.
This is the first time I have realized that the proposed contributory portable pension scheme would include something for disabled persons at 18 years of age, because after all that is what the Disabled Persons Act provides-for assistance where it is needed to people at that age.
Mr. Speaker, we have been asked by the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Miss LaMarsh) to contain ourselves. It will be easier to do this, now that we have this backbench assurance that we are going to get some pretty extensive social security legislation during this session. The hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Ryan) made some references to the origins of the Disabled Persons Act. Some of us who were here when it was introduced can remember the circumstances quite well. There had been repeated representations across the years for legislation in this field, but like other such representations they had not been heeded until about 1953 when the prime minister of that day, Mr. St. Laurent, received a personal letter from a disabled individual, a letter couched in such terms that it made a personal appeal to him. The word we got was that he felt so concerned about the plight of incurables and disabled persons that he decided something ought to be done. As a result of that, the research done in the department came into play and we got the legislation.
Well, it was good to get it, and it is good to know that the number of people cited by the hon. member for Spadina are being assisted under that legislation. We agree with
Disabled Persons Act
him that we have to have a broad welfare policy. We have to look to the needs of our people under various categories and various headings, and we should not just try to solve the problem in the simplest way.
Our welfare policy has grown up like Topsy, and it is time we had a good look at it. The very review which the hon. member for Spadina has given, showing the differences that obtain across the country, makes it obvious we need a wholesale review of our social welfare policy. But it still stands as incontrovertible that if we are going to have -and I am glad we have-legislation providing allowances for disabled persons on the basis of disability, then the definition of that disability should be such as to provide allowances to persons who are readily recognized as disabled.
I am sure that my experience is not unique. I have had a good many instances where individuals, who to me were obviously disabled, have not been able to get the allowance because they could not meet the terms of the definition. The fact is they were still alive. They could move about a bit. I am going to read a few sentences from a letter about one case, and I am sure that other members can produce similar letters. I quote this in support of our contention that the definition as it stands under the Disabled Persons Act is far too narrow. The letter I have in my hand I will identify as one written to me by the chairman of the old age assistance and blind persons allowances board of Manitoba. That same board handles allowances under the Disabled Persons Act. The chairman wrote me about a case I had been taking up with him, and he said in part:
It seems quite apparent that his-
The reference, of course, is to the individual about whom I had written.
-heart condition is such that he is unable to work, but this condition would not prevent him from going about the regular routine involved in normal living if he does not try to do things too hurriedly.
That is not my description. I saw the man and I had written to the chairman of the board in Manitoba that just as a layman seeing the man I could see that he was disabled and unable to work. This is the chairman of the board admitting to me that because of the man's heart condition he is unable to work, but saying that this should not prevent him from going about the regular routine involved in normal living provided he does not do things too hurriedly. So he could not get the allowance.
The chairman went on to tell me in this letter that up until a certain date this individual had had a job. He had been running a dishwasher machine in a certain hospital
Disabled Persons Act
in Winnipeg but he had had to give up that job because of an operation he had to have on his stomach. The man already had difficulty with his legs, he already had a heart condition such that he could not work, and on top of that he had an operation on his stomach. I quote now from the letter:
After his operation he was too weak and short of breath to go back to this job. I was concerned about this case-
This is the chairman of the board writing to me.
-and discussed the details somewhat fully with members of the medical panel. I suggested to them that the loss of most of the stomach in the recent operation-
This is on top of the heart condition and so on.
[DOT]-might well make the applicant eligible. Their response to this was that while it might make him feel a sense of discomfort and weakness after eating it was not in effect disabling.
Here is a man over 60 years of age with a heart condition such that he cannot work, a stomach operation as a result of which most of his stomach is removed and he feels a sense of discomfort and weakness after eating, but still he does not qualify as a disabled person within the meaning of the act. This particular individual was at the time of this correspondence between the ages of 60 and 65. It was ascertained that his wife would shortly be 65 so the suggestion was made, of course, that at that time the wife could apply for and no doubt obtain old age assistance in the province of Manitoba, and that once she got old age assistance it would then be possible for her to apply for social assistance-
Yes-on the basis that her husband would be her dependant. Surely the hon. member for Spadina will agree with me that, though it is fine to say there are these various programs it does not exactly qualify as a definition of human dignity to say to a man in this position that the only way in which he can qualify for any kind of assistance at all is by waiting until his wife is 65 so she can get old age assistance, and on the basis of that get extra so-called relief for him.
This is one case. I admit it is the most glaring of the recent ones I have had occasion to deal with. I know we have all had cases like this one. But I submit that even if there is going to be the overhaul of social welfare legislation that the hon. member for Spadina has promised on behalf of the Liberal government it is still incumbent upon us to take another look at the definition of total and permanent disability in the Disabled Persons Act. Along with the hon. member for
Simcoe North (Mr. Smith), the hon. member for Cariboo (Mr. Leboe) and others I think that the definition should be liberalized so that the act will really provide allowances to persons who in ordinary terms are disabled.
Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) give a former prime minister, Mr. St. Laurent, credit for introducing the Disabled Persons Act. I recall that the bill was introduced in the house by the present Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Martin) when he was minister of national health and welfare. Prior to that time the Canadian welfare council in 1954, I believe, submitted a brief to the government, probably in anticipation of such legislation, and they attempted to classify unemployed persons under three heads. Under the first one they included the group who were obviously permanently and totally disabled and had no prospects of any improvement or cure. These people in future, they thought, would obviously receive payments under the act.
The second group comprised those persons who had some handicap but were able to do some work and thus support themselves in whole or in part. The third group consisted of those people who fall between the extremes of the other two groups and about whom we are concerned here. They are those people who cannot be classed as totally and permanently disabled but are unable to work and make a living. In presenting his resolution today I suppose the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Smith) is proposing to include some or all of this particular class of people under the act.
Last year the act was before the house for amendment and the purpose of the amendments was twofold. One purpose was to increase the maximum monthly allowance to $65 and the other was to increase the over-all earnings that a person might have. In the case of a single person the increase was $180 and in the case of a married person it was $360. I remember that at that time members of the house urged the minister to go a little further and enlarge the definition. He read the definition to us and I think that the definition, which has already been read by two members today, would cover the particular cases that the hon. member for Simcoe North has in mind. It would include those with a physical or mental disability or impairment.
So far as age is concerned, persons cannot qualify for a pension under this act at the present time unless they are 18 years of age. I could not conceive of any province wanting to share with the dominion and making of
payments to anyone 70 years of age and over because the federal government bears the full cost of old age security in this area.
I have been somewhat concerned over the years with the difficulty we have had in getting some of these people included under the act. I know that medical men are not aware of the different cases that might be included. We fill out a form for the applicant, and it is a rather extensive form. We send it in to a review board. The review board may send back for more information or may refer the case to a specialist. If there is any difference of opinion between the applicant's medical man and the review board, then the case is sent to an appeal board which is made up of a doctor appointed by the federal government and one appointed by the provincial government. If these two doctors do not agree, then another provincial medical man is appointed.
Since this is a cost-sharing program, the payments are made after a means test. The provincial government sends out an investigator to look into the financial situation of the applicant. I do know that these investigators inquire into other things as well. I recall that last year one hon. member stated that a particular patient, and he was a patient because he had been sick before making application, had incurable heart disease. He was declared to be permanently and totally disabled; yet because this particular investigator found he had walked out into the garden, his application was disallowed. I do not think this sort of thing should be permitted.
Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could ask the hon. gentleman a question? What would he think of having the doctor certify this person as being totally disabled and then if the board is not willing to accept that certification another independent doctor might be asked for his opinion. I know the hon. gentleman has had a good deal of experience in this field over the years. My feeling is that the local family doctor knows the case better than any government official who is miles away and never sees the person concerned. If the board does not want to accept the decision of the family doctor, then let them call in an independent physician in the area to give his opinion. I believe this has been done over the years under the mental health act in the province of Ontario. I should like to get my hon. friend's views based on his experience over the years.
I think that would be a good idea. I believe, in fact, they do that now in some cases. I do not believe a review board, sitting at some centre miles away and passing on reports could always make a very good judgment on whether or not a particular case should come under this act. I do know
that in some cases the board has another local doctor in the area examine the patient.
Mr. Speaker, I did not intend to participate in this debate but I should like to congratulate the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Smith) for having introduced this motion to call the attention of the house on the urgency of amending the regulations governing assistance to the disabled.
In my riding as elsewhere, it often happens that people are deprived of the assistance to which they would be entitled because, after all, one does not have to be totally incapacitated to be entitled to the assistance given to the disabled. In fact, this legislation which was put on our statute books by a Liberal government, as the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) stated so rightly a moment ago, could be amended with the co-operation of the provincial governments so as to cover certain cases of invalids who are absolutely unable to get any work.
In the past, I have met constituents of mine who could get around by themselves in their own house but who could not do any kind of work. I am thinking especially of epileptics who could not work at all, not even in an hospital, for instance, if they wanted to do so. That is why I wonder if it is truly in the spirit of the law to require that such a person should try to find some work.
It seems to me that there should be some way of changing the law in that respect and, once more, I commend the member for Simcoe North for having called the attention of the house on that situation.