March 5, 1968

NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, the subject of the pensions of retired civil servants is on the late show again tonight because of a question which I put to the Prime Minister (Mr. Pearson) on Wednesday, January 31, as recorded in Hansard at page 6207. Initially my question on that day to the Prime Minister had to do with the business of the house. In particular I asked if he could indicate what items of legislation the government wished parliament to deal with before anything happened to the present session. The Prime Minister in reply expressed the hope that he would be able to give a list of such items shortly, and then Hansard reads as follows:

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE-PENSIONS OF RETIRED CIVIL SERVANTS-REQUEST FOR INCREASE AT THIS SESSION
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

Will the list include provision for increasing the pensions of retired civil servants, so this matter can be dealt with before the present Prime Minister retires?

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

I would only be in a position to submit the pieces of legislation which are very urgent and of immediate importance; and while the item to which the hon. member refers is of great importance, it is not on the immediate and urgent list.

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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

Why not?

As a matter of fact, the point of my asking for this matter to be posted for this adjournment debate is to seek an answer to that question: Why not? Why is it that the matter of increasing the pensions of retired civil servants, as recommended unanimously by a joint committee of both houses in a report tabled on May 8, 1967, is not on the list of business to be dealt with before the present Prime Minister retires?

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, I have not time to go over the whole history of this matter, and it is not necessary because it has been done a good many times; but there are one or two other references I should like to make at this time. On December 15, 1967, eight days after

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March 5, 1968

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Benson) had indicated the programs that were being cut, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would include this question of increasing the pensions of retired civil servants on the list of things that he would attend to before leaving office. His reply on that date, as recorded at page 5474 of Hansard, was that he hoped the situation would improve during the remainder of his period as Prime Minister so that this might be possible. Later, on another occasion, I asked the Prime Minister whether conditions had improved to that point. This was on Friday, February 9, 1968, as recorded at page 6558 of Hansard, and he said he was still hoping that the situation would improve so this matter could be dealt with.

The story in its entirety is a long one; it covers many years. But the facts are now pretty well known to the members of this house and to the public generally. Our retired civil servants have a case for an increase in their pensions. Other people have, too; but surely the place for the government to begin is with its own employees. That case has been confirmed by the report of the special joint committee to which I have already referred. We were assured time and time again that the matter would be dealt with, but we have been put off and off and off.

I say quite frankly that if this matter is not dealt with under the present Prime Minister,

I am not very hopeful that any of the candidates who aspire to be the prime minister in the next session of this house will be as interested in the matter as he is.

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NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas:

There is an exception.

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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

My leader says there is an exception. Perhaps the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. MacEachen), if he is the exception, could indicate where he stands on the matter. It might help him at the April convention.

In any case, I am deadly serious about this. It does seem to me that neither we in the house nor the people who are affected should be insulted and put off any longer by the excuses which are given to us from time to time. The excuse that it was a matter of saving money, as suggested by the President of the Treasury Board last December 7, just does not go down. The excuse that the matter is complicated, just does not wash. The excuse that there is no parliamentary time to deal with it, is not acceptable at all. The need is there; the case has been made. This matter

was dealt with by a previous government, so it can be handled. It is not brand new ground that is being broken. I suggest therefore that the appeal I make is one to which a response should be made. This matter should be dealt with during the present session of parliament before the present Prime Minister leaves office.

My time is nearly up, so without indulging in any histrionics or further argument, may I just ask whatever person opposite is answering my question for the Prime Minister tonight to tell me why this urgent and important question is not on the list of matters to be dealt with before the present Prime Minister leaves office. If it is not yet on that list, I urge that it be put there without delay.

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LIB

James Edgar Walker (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board)

Liberal

Mr. J. E. Walker (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board):

Mr. Speaker, in reply to this question I will have to repeat some of the remarks which the hon. member made. Five weeks ago tomorrow, the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre asked the Prime Minister on orders of the day a general question regarding legislation which the government hoped to bring forward in the present session. The Prime Minister answered in general terms, and two days later replied more specifically. The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre asked a supplementary question to his first one, as recorded at page 6207 of Hansard, which reads as follows:

Will the list include provision for increasing the pensions of retired civil servants, so this matter can be dealt with before the present Prime Minister retires?

The reply read as follows:

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LIB

Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Pearson:

X would only be in a position to submit the pieces of legislation which are very urgent and of immediate importance; and while the item to which the hon. member refers is of great importance, it is not on the immediate and urgent list.

I say to the hon. member that I think it is less than realistic for him to brush aside the answers which have been given to him and others time and time again by the Prime Minister, the President of the Treasury Board, and myself. Why bother asking the question if he will not listen and understand the answer? I submit that this is the real question.

Another basic question is: When will this house deal with the extremely urgent and critical matters which now lie before us, including a simple amendment to the National Housing Act which will reduce the down payment on homes for thousands of Canadians.

March 5, 1968

The question of superannuation pensions is of great importance and a matter of continuing consideration on the part of the government.

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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader; Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

Why refer anything to committees if you do not pay any attention to their reports?

[DOT] (10:10 p.m.)

Topic:   PUBLIC SERVICE-PENSIONS OF RETIRED CIVIL SERVANTS-REQUEST FOR INCREASE AT THIS SESSION
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TELEVISION-REQUEST FOR IMPROVEMENT IN SERVICE IN LAC ST. JEAN CONSTITUENCY

RA

Joseph Alcide Simard

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Alcide Simard (Lac-Saint-Jean):

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I shall read the question I put this afternoon to the hon. Minister of Transport:

Further to the representations made by the chamber of commerce of Alma, main centre of my riding, can the hon. minister tell us what steps he intends to take to improve the relay of C.B.C. programs by the station CKRS-TV of Jonquiere-Kenogami?

Mr. Speaker, the reasons which prompted me to put that question to the hon. minister are, to my mind, very urgent because for a while now, the people back home deplore the inefficient relay of C.B.C. programs.

The facts which motivated that question can be found in the brief addressed to the hon. Minister of Transport (Mr. Hellyer), of which he certainly has a copy.

I quote this excerpt from the brief presented by the Alma chamber of commerce:

The Jonquiere station (CKRS) serves the people of Alma through channels 12 and 8, that is from the main station or from the Chambord satellite. In both cases, and we shall see why, black and white or colour reception leaves much to be desired, especially in the lower parts of the city and in certain areas such as Isle-Maligne and Maltais. The most highly perfected antennas- several citizens made the experiment-did not remedy the situation. On the other hand, the Chicoutimi station (CJPM) -

Incidentally, this is a private station.

-serves all the area through its facilities at Mont Sainte-Claire alone. Generally speaking, the black and white and colour reception is superior to that of CKRS-TV.

In a city like Alma, where thousands of people watch television, which constitutes a well of publicity from which the two regional T.V. stations draw abundantly, this is intolerable.

Now, Mr. Speaker, what are the causes of this poor reception? I shall quote further from the brief:

In the course of our survey, we questioned a good number of T.V. owners, technicians in electronics, people who work in the area.

On the strength of what they told us, and considering the fact that the problems related to the quality of relaying are far more acute through the 27053-461*

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion channels of the Jonquiere station, we decided to limit our remarks to this station only for the time being.

Now, Mr. Speaker, who is responsible for this sad state of affairs? Here is what the brief has to say in this regard:

It is difficult to determine who is truly responsible for all this, because the frequencies are allocated by the federal Department of Transport. The owners of television stations have no jurisdiction over them. But, on the other hand, it is unfortunate that such inconveniences become noticeable only after the transmitters and antennas are installed. Their removal would no doubt, cost hundreds of thousands of dolars to the Jonquiere station.

I hope that it is fully realized the kind of expenses incurred by the owners of television sets who, having noticed a rather poor reception, called the dealer of the technician in order to find out why. Other people installed rather expensive antennas simply to come to the conclusion that the station itself, CKRS-TV, was in fact responsible.

And the brief concludes with these words:

After due consideration to all the arguments and facts mentioned above, the Alma Chamber of Commerce calls upon the federal Department of Transport to ask CKRS-TV station, which broadcasts the C.B.C. programs, to set up a microwave relay system as found everywhere else in the province of Quebec and in Canada.

I should like to know the attitude of the hon. Minister of Transport in this regard and ask him whether he can assure us that steps will be taken to correct it.

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LIB

James Allen (Jim) Byrne (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. J. A. Byrne (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport):

Mr. Speaker, this seems to be a matter that would more properly be directed to the Secretary of State, inasmuch as it deals with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I am in great sympathy with the hon. member for Lake St. John regarding his difficulty in sorting out the various television stations in his community. I wish some of the members from Quebec, Ontario and the more central regions would visit British Columbia and note the difficulties we are facing in the matter of providing television service. The C.B.C. and other private stations have been unable to provide service to communities of up to two and three thousand people. So that while I am in great sympathy with the hon. member I do want to assure him that his problem is certainly not unique.

On making inquiries this afternoon during the little time at my disposal I was informed that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has this matter under consideration and has

March 5, 1363

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion requested that the application for satellite transmission, as I understand the problem, be deferred till certain other technical problems have been resolved. But the matter is under active consideration, and since the hon. member has brought it to the attention of the Department of Transport I want to assure him that I personally will be pleased to look into it on his behalf.

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FINANCE-REQUEST FOR STATEMENT ON ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL POLICY

NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. H. W. Herridge (Kootenay West):

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Finance was being questioned today about the statement that he is going to present to the house when his estimates come before the house tomorrow, I asked him the following question:

I have a supplementary question. Mr. Speaker. I should like to ask the minister whether in making that statement he could, for the information of dullards like me and others, specify the advantages of a fixed exchange rate or the disadvantages of a floating exchange rate.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, that exchange rates are a bit beyond the intellectual capacity of the hon. member for Kootenay West to absorb; however, I am anxious to learn. On reading the history of exchange rates I find that there has been no pattern with any nation throughout the years. Most nations, I find, have acted in what they thought was the national interest in periods of emergency. I find Conservative governments taking both sides of the question, Liberal governments taking both sides of the question, and socialist governments have taken one or the other side of the question at certain times. That is the reason I asked this question.

I understand that at the present time the minister is strongly in favour of a fixed exchange rate. Before the minister replies I want briefly to refer to an article that appeared in the Star for February 16 written by Peter Newman in connection with the report of the Watkins task force. I must say that I think the Star is to be complimented for publishing this article, which is a report on foreign investment in Canada.

[DOT] (10:20 p.m.)

It reads as follows:

A floating rate for the international value of the Canadian dollar would help protect jobs and guard against inflation in this country, suggests the Watkins task force report on foreign investment.

The present fixed rate-921 cents U.S.-restricts independent Canadian policy in these areas, the report says.

It comes down on the side of the "flexibles" in the continuing argument over exchange rate policy. They include many bankers and financial men, as well as politicians.

The government has been committed to the fixed rate since 1962. At that time, a floating rate had to he abandoned as part of the price of massive international help in supporting Canada's efforts to relieve speculative and other pressures against the dollar.

Other major world trading nations also have fixed rates, by agreement under the International Monetary Fund. Their purpose is to assure currency values to international traders and investors.

The report says "it is likely that the most effective means for lessening these constraints (on Canadian economic policies) would be a return to a flexible exchange rate system."

Backers of the flexible exchange rate see it this way:

When there is a heavy flow of money from Canada, the natural tendency is for the value of the dollar to drop.

If it drops far enough, it helps correct the outflow by discouraging imports and encouraging exports.

That is, it brings more money in to Canada and lessens the amounts going out.

But Canada can't now let the dollar drop more than 1 per cent below its pegged rate.

This means it may be compelled to attract money to Canada by raising interest rates, slashing government spending and raising taxes.

And that may interfere with policies of growth and full employment.

After hearing arguments on both sides of this question I can well understand that many of the Canadian people are confused. This is why I asked the minister the question I did. I hope he will respond favourably to my invitation because I think his comments would be most interesting to members of the house, and informative to the Canadian public.

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LIB

Mitchell William Sharp (Minister of Finance and Receiver General)

Liberal

Hon. Miichell Sharp (Minister of Finance):

As the hon. member has suggested, it is my intention when my estimates are called tomorrow to discuss both international and domestic matters, and I shall of course at that time be talking about some recent developments in the exchange market.

I cannot promise, now, that I shall engage in a dissertation on the respective merits of fixed and floating exchange rates. The only thing that causes me a little wonder is that the hon. member should raise any question about this at all. I understood that the party to which he belongs is fully committed to the floating exchange rate. However, I shall listen with great interest to the views of his party, and perhaps the hon. gentleman himself will enter the debate when he has an opportunity to do so.

Motion agreed to and the house adjourned at 10.25 p.m.

Wednesday, March 6, 1968

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March 5, 1968