March 11, 1968

NDP

Herbert Wilfred Herridge

New Democratic Party

Mr. Herridge:

Mr. Chairman, as usual I shall be quite brief. I do not intend to take the time of the house to deal with the administration of the department because that is being done very thoroughly by the members of the standing committee on veterans affairs. The officials in the various branches of the department come before the committee and explain to its members how the department operates in various provinces and various sections of Canada. However, I do wish to say that having been a member of the standing committee on veterans affairs since 1945 I know the officials of the department have set a standard of excellence in their human approach to the problems that veterans and their dependents face which could be copied to an even greater extent by some officials in other departments.

I rise at this time to say in particular that I am delighted that these estimates provide for $7,800,000 to pay for the 15 per cent increase in disability pensions. This increase was welcomed by all the veterans organizations, which I understand wrote the minister on this account, and it was certainly welcomed by the veterans and their dependants. As a matter of fact, some veterans discussed this matter with me recently and told me how fortunate they thought it was that they got the 15 per cent increase before the economy moves were undertaken. At one time they were very worried. The increase applies as of January 1. It will take some time for these pensions to be recalculated and they will receive the 15 per cent increase for the first three months with their April cheques. I am very glad the house has agreed to go ahead with these estimates at this time to make this possible because I know a great deal of work is

March 11, 1968

involved in preparing the cheques and sending them out to the veterans concerned and to their dependants.

I received many representations with respect to this matter and I have no hesitation in saying that the veterans and their dependants were very worried about the possibility of an early dissolution of parliament as the result of the confidence motion. I am pleased that we are considering these estimates now in time for the office work to be done so that the veterans will have no further reason to worry.

There is another matter which I am sure will come before the standing committee on veterans affairs when it meets, I presume, after the Woods report is tabled in both languages. I am referring to the new formula which I expect the departmental committee has devised and will bring before the committee so that in future disability pensions will be based on a sound foundation. I remember quite well that when the first act was drawn up the basic pension was based on the wages of a casual labourer or someone working in maintenance work in the House of Commons. There is no relationship today between the scale of pensions and the original intention when the act was established. I trust that the minister's committee will recommend something to correct that injustice.

I have a word or two to say about war veterans allowances. It is late in this session, but I expect that when the standing committee on veterans affairs meets to study the recommendations of the Woods report with respect to the administration of the Canadian pension commission the commission will also make representations before the committee with regard to certain changes they think are desirable in war veterans allowances. I will not say any more about this matter at this time because I would like to hear the representations from veterans organizations.

I would like to say that the veterans organizations seem to be very responsible since they have had an opportunity to make representations to the government. I remember a different set of circumstances which prevailed in the United States where in some cases such organizations asked for government action which could not be justified by the circumstances at the time. But I do want to pay a tribute to all veterans organizations in this country for their responsible approach to these problems, having in mind that these

Supply-Veterans Affairs pensions have to be paid for from the consolidated revenue fund and having in mind the needs of the veterans and their dependants whom they represent.

[DOT] (5:00 p.m.)

Before resuming my seat I want to bring one or two other matters to the attention of the minister. I want to thank the minister for his willingness to have officials of the Veterans Land Act administration go into the Arrow lakes and other areas affected by the Columbia treaty project. He will be interested to know that one of his officials went to Kelowna not so long ago to deal with a problem of a veteran. He was very concerned about it. Later the veteran was pleased with the result of this man's visit. He was satisfied because he got other land to compensate him for the land that was to be flooded. Other arrangements were also made, as a result of support from one of the minister's officials, and the veteran appreciates this.

This department is reaching its closing phase so I ask the minister to urge his officials to go into that area again to clean up the few odd cases that remain. I should like to deal particularly with a veteran who is not a settler under the Veterans Land Act. He is an old veteran with whom I served in the first world war. I am informed that the B.C. Hydro and power authority is going to expropriate his property. His wife is a rather vigorous lady so they will have quite a time in getting that veteran and his wife off the property if they send in the police.

The man in question is very ill so his wife has had to carry on the battle in his name. She has done an excellent job. They have a very good farm in the Arrow lakes district some six or seven miles from Nakusp. I trust that the minister will get one of his officials to go there and have a chat with this man to see if the parties cannot be brought together in order that this project will not be marred by some unfortunate incident. It is unfortunate for the veteran concerned because he has a very fine property. I thank the minister for doing this on one or two other occasions for men who had not settled under the Veterans Land Act. I know of one or two instances in which, as a result of a visit from a Veterans Land Act official, the veteran got a few thousand dollars more from B.C. Hydro and agreed that the compensation was fair.

One other matter about which I receive some complaint concerns veterans who have to have dentures or dental treatment. They are required to go to Shaughnessy for this

March 11, 1968

Supply-Veterans Affairs work. In view of the ages of some of these men I hope that arrangements can be made for a local dentist to do this work for them so they will not be caused this unnecessary inconvenience. I note I have the support of the hon. member for Cariboo in this connection.

The other point I wish to make concerns prescriptions. There are a few veterans who require drugs repeatedly. Under the present arrangments they are required to send periodically to Shaughnessy for a new order of these drugs. Some of these men are reaching an age where they are not really capable of writing letters of that sort. I ask the minister to look into that problem to see if the officials at Shaughnessy could not give authority to some local doctor or druggist to provide the drugs required by these veterans. In some cases they find it very difficult to comply with this regulation.

These are my remarks at the present time. I know there are others who want to speak and I hope these estimates will be completed by six o'clock so these veterans will have their fears removed.

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IND

Gordon Minto Churchill

Independent Progressive Conservative

Mr. Churchill:

Mr. Chairman, I want to ask the minister a question or two about the Woods report. My understanding is that the board of inquiry, or whatever they call themselves, completed their hearings around June 15 last year. Then, of course, the board reviewed the evidence in order to write its report. My understanding is that the report was completed in October and has been awaiting translation for months. On February 8, as recorded on page 6501 of Hansard, the hon. member for Esquimalt-Saanich asked the minister a question with regard to whether the Woods report had been translated. The minister replied as follows:

No, Mr. Speaker. I have no information other than what I gave the house last week. I will make inquiries, but I understand that it should be in my hands by the middle of this month.

That would be the middle of February, which is some time ago now. Then the hon. member for Esquimalt-Saanich asked a supplementary question:

In view of the fact that it has already taken four months to complete the translation, will the minister now in any event study the report in English so that a decision may be expedited?

So many things have gone wrong with the present administration that I am not surprised that the translation of the Woods repor has been delayed. However, it seems to me the minister has not shown much initiative in

fMr. Herridge.]

pressing for the translation of that report. Why are the veterans placed at the bottom of the list with regard to the translation of reports? So far as veterans are concerned the investigation by the Woods committee with regard to the Pension Act was considered and is still considered to be of vital importance. It has been delayed for years. The committee, I believe, was quite competent to review the matter, so why this endless delay? The minister says, I have not received the report. Who has the report? Where is it in this great conglomeration of government administration? To whom was the report made? Was it made to the minister or the Prime Minister? In whose hands is that report and why can it not be translated? This is a clear case of discrimination against the veterans of this country.

It seems to me that one of the priority tasks last fall should have been the translation of that report and tabling it in the house as well as referring it to the standing committee on veterans affairs. The time to work on it would have been during the course of the winter. As I see it now, we are not going to have this report in our hands before the session comes to an end. When the next session starts there will be delays. The minister will say if he is then the minister, and I express the hope that he may be transferred to another department, that he has not received the report or it has not been translated. A whole year will have gone by before the disability pensioners of this country have any idea whether or not justice is going to be done to them at long last.

The hon. member for Kootenay West mentioned once again that the basic pension of the disability pensioners should be adjusted. It bears no relationship to conditions and has no relationship to the sacrifice that has been made by these men. We have been looking to the Woods report to present a solution to this problem.

I conclude by remarks, Mr. Chairman, by asking the minister to give us an explanation as to why he cannot get action on the simple matter of the translation of this report. We have had all sorts of other things translated and reports filed but, oh no, if it is a veterans affairs matter it is at the bottom of the list. I hold the minister responsible for this shabby neglect of the disability pensioners of this country.

[DOT] (5:10 p.m.)

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PC

Robert Jardine McCleave

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McCleave:

Mr. Chairman, my remarks will be brief. First of all I want to echo the

March 11, 1968 COMMONS

strong sentiments of the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre and also to point out that in my constituency, and I am sure in all others across Canada, there are invariably veterans who feel that the burden of proof imposed upon them by the Canadian Pension Commission is unjust. We have all had the idea that in cases of doubt the issue should be resolved in favour of the veterans; yet I know of several instances in my own area- and I am sure other hon. members have had the same experience-where veterans feel that the burden of proof is resolved against them unless they can clearly establish their case.

I understand that the purport of the legislation was not to throw that stringent a burden upon a veteran who may have some complaint or disability which he finds virtually impossible to link up with service rendered to Canada years ago. I further understand that the Woods report will deal with this point, which I think makes it all the more necessary that the minister see to it that those responsible for translating the report place it before us as soon as possible. If it is only the translation that is holding up the report, then I think this is one of the biggest arguments that can be raised against bilingualism. Whether a report be in one language or the other, surely the important thing is to have it before us so that some action can be taken to clear up long-standing abuses. Certainly I hope this action will be taken.

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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barnett:

Mr. Chairman, I see the Minister of Veterans Affairs is busily taking notes, presumably in order to reply to the questions being raised in the committee. There are two matters upon which I should like some clarification from the minister. First, what, if anything, can he do to assist people on war veterans allowance who for some time have been experiencing a nightmare? I admit that the nightmare was not created directly by the minister but rather by his colleague, the minister of National Health and Welfare, who brought in the supplementary benefit for recipients of the old age security pension. As the minister knows, that department invited people to apply for the supplementary benefit. A great many people on war veterans allowance accepted that invitation in good faith but as a result found themselves in what I have described as a nightmarish situation in that they would have received more than the allowable income permitted under war veterans allowance.

DEBATES 7487

Supply-Veterans Affairs

I have not had the experience on the veterans affairs committee of my colleague from Kootenay West, but I do try to follow the statements made by the minister in the house from time to time. One of the matters that I feel the minister has still not explained to the satisfaction of myself and certainly to the satisfaction of some people on war veterans allowance is how the increase resulting from the cost of living index provision can be allowed to war veterans allowance recipients without exceeding the ceiling on income but the supplementary benefit itself cannot be allowed. How is somebody on war veterans allowance going to sort out all the permutations that can arise in this situation?

For example, a person on old age security receives the $1.50 or 2 per cent increase. If he has applied for and is receiving the supplementary benefit he gets the extra 60 cents a month. On the other hand, if he decides, as an increasing number of recipients of war veterans allowance have, not to reapply after one year's receipt of the old age supplementary benefit, then I understand he is not entitled to the 60 cents a month cost of living bonus, which to say the least is a fairly modest amount. Nevertheless people with the kind of income ceiling that such recipients of war veterans allowance have are called upon to take into account relatively small amounts of money.

How can the minister justify the equity of a system-I realize that this matter does not come wholly within the purview of his department-whereby certain people on war veterans allowance receive the cost of living bonus while others are unable to do so, depending on whether they decide to apply for the supplementary benefit? Without going into this question extensively, because the matter has been debated in the house, could the minister explain with a greater degree of clarity than he has hitherto why it is that there is a ruling that war veterans allowance recipients cannot be allowed to receive the old age income supplement if they are also old age security pensioners unless it is included in their income for purposes of the ceiling?

There is one other question I want to raise with the minister. I grant that this may be a temporary situation but it is one that arises in connection with war veterans allowance recipients who are receiving a disability pension from the United Kingdom. If my understanding is correct there was an increase in the disability pension rate in the United

March 11, 1968

Supply-Veterans Affairs Kingdom just prior to the recent devaluation of the pound. As a result people in Canada in receipt of this pension expected to get the increase. However, when they cashed their cheques they found they got less than before. If I understand the situation correctly, the decision of the war veterans allowance board was that for war veterans allowance income purposes the British pound would be valued at its pre-devaluation level, with the result that for a one month period recipients of war veterans allowance in Canada actually received less in Canadian dollars than they would have had the British pound not been devalued and the disability pensions not raised.

This kind of action is pretty niggardly, to say the least. I do not understand all the complexities of the timing, but according to my information the practical effect of the situation is that war veterans allowance recipients in Canada are actually receiving a number of dollars less from the United Kingdom, according to the size of their disability pension, than they would have otherwise received. If this is an administrative decision it is a pretty unfortunate one to make at a time when the present government is supposed, as it says, to be exercising economy measures. I hardly think we need go that far. If the minister can clarify the two situations I have raised I think it would be of value to veterans across the country and might perhaps give us some understanding of what course of action should be taken in regard to some of these matters when they are dealt with in greater depth than is possible in this committee at the present moment.

[DOT] (5:20 p.m.)

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LIB

Gérald Laniel

Liberal

Mr. Laniel:

Mr. Chairman, I should not like to let the debate on supplementary estimates of the Department of Veterans Affairs go by without saying a few words on the overall problem of Canadian veterans.

A moment ago, the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Churchill) made some statements which, to my mind, were most unfair for the hon. minister. I do not want to take it upon myself to defend the minister, because I know that he is capable of finding the necessary arguments to justify certain attitudes or positions his department has taken in the face of problems which have come up. But I do want to tell the members I hope personally that in spite of what happens

[Mr. Barnett.)

in the next few days and months, the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. Teillet) will continue in that post, for, in my opinion, he is the one who has best served the interests of veterans.

Mr. Chairman, first of all, I wish to congratulate the hon. minister for the step he has taken-that is why the supplementary estimates of his department are before the house-by increasing the veterans' pensions by 15 per cent. If one considers the various increases granted in previous years, one finds that they actually represent a substantial improvement, compared to the pensions paid when the present government came into power.

Of course, there is still a great deal to be done and, personally, I hope that it will be possible to readjust those pensions according to some schedule so as to avoid asking the house constantly for further increases. But until then, Mr. Chairman, I think that the minister is to be commended, and I hope that the inter-departmental committee now considering the basic rates of pensions will be in a position to submit to him a report which will result, in the next months, in the introduction of a piece of legislation designed to settle this problem once and for all.

As far as the Woods report is concerned, I hope, like all members of the veterans affairs committee, that it will be referred as soon as possible to that committee, either the report itself, or a summary of that report, or still a piece of legislation relating thereto. But it is urgent that the officials of the Department of Veterans Affairs provide an opportunity for organizations to make representations and offer comments in order that we may obtain a complete reform and reorganization of the Pension Commission, with a view to improving the situation and serving the interests of veterans better.

I am convinced, Mr. Chairman, that this report which, according to my information will be quite long, will open the way toward improvements in the pension field, for the greater good of veterans.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would simply thank the members of the house who are members of the committee on veterans affairs for their co-operation, but I would say to them that when this report is sent to the committee, we shall have a great deal of serious work to do, so as to help the minister in accomplishing a reform which has perhaps been delayed, but which will surely be worth it.

March 11, 1968

However, I must comment on the remark made a few minutes ago by the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. McCleave), who said that it might be one of the reasons why he might have reservations about bilingualism if the latter entailed such delays in the introduction of reports in both languages. I wonder what the hon. member for Halifax (Mr. McCleave) would have said if the French version only of the Woods report had been tabled in the house.

This is a very technical report. One should not forget that such reports comprise some quite technical terms and that it is important that both ethnic groups can have an exact understanding of the recommendations in precise terms and in a quite definite translation. I think that perhaps the Woods commission, which has undertaken this translation itself, should be urged to speed it up a little, but I am convinced that the minister will receive the report and that it will be made available to us without delay, so that the committee can get to work if this report is sent to it.

tEnglish]

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PC

Robert Jardine McCleave

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McCleave:

Mr. Chairman, the hon. member who has just taken his seat directed some remarks at me and I do not expect he will quarrel with my rising. My response to his remarks is simple. I would not mind if the report were written in Latin, in Iroquois or in any other language. If there has been an injustice it is up to the government to correct that injustice. It should not hide behind the excuse that it has had to wait for months and months for a translation. If the report can only come before us in French and if the recommendations of the report are sound, the government should act on those recommendations. I would accept that wholeheartedly. I do not think we should take a good cause and trample on it or postpone action by hiding behind bilingualism.

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LIB

Gérald Laniel

Liberal

Mr. Laniel:

Would the hon. member permit a question? Does the hon. member know that the veterans association did not want that report to be referred to officials of the pension commission before it was referred to the committee on veterans affairs? The association did not want the commission to begin work on the report before the report had been made available to the committee because the veterans association wished to make representations to the committee in order to help in the preparation of a good committee report.

27053-472^

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PC

Robert Jardine McCleave

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McCleave:

Mr. Chairman, I do not quarrel with the request of the veterans association nor do I argue with the hon. member. His remarks do not seem germane to the point we were arguing about.

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NDP

Norman Edward Fawcett

New Democratic Party

Mr. Fawcett:

Mr. Chairman, I do not intend to hold up the minister's estimates. Like many other hon. members I feel that the increase in pensions is long overdue, and I welcome it.

I wish to bring one or two matters to the minister's attention. One is the interminable delay that some people experience in trying to have their appeals heard. I shall not go into great detail and I shall cite only one case as an example. It is the case of a veteran who was receiving a disability pension and who died approximately two years ago. Because it was alleged that his disability was only two-fifths attributable to war service his wife was not entitled to a war pension. Following his death strong evidence came to light contesting the allegation that his disability was two-fifths attributable to his war service and supporting strongly the widow's claim for a pension. I will not go into details about the case since it is being processed. I shall merely say that from my reading of the evidence there is a strong case for paying the widow a pension. She appealed the previous decision some months ago and despite numerous telephone calls and letters I understand that the appeal will not be heard until May or June.

[DOT] (5:30 p.m.)

The widow is faced with a real problem. She has a child attending a secondary school. He will finish school this year and she wants to send him to a university. Although she does not at present need financial assistance she is obliged to conserve the little money she has in order to hold on to her home. Her resources are not enough to permit her to further the education of her child without assistance and she is anxious to know where she stands so far as the child is concerned. In all fairness I do not understand why there should be such a delay in handling appeals after all the evidence has been turned in. In cases of this kind, widows are placed in an extremely unenviable position.

I have been involved in another similar case. The appeal was finally decided in the widow's favour after the case had been under consideration for almost five years. Such delays appear to be unnecessary and when they do occur the provision for 12 months

March 11, 1968

Supply-Veterans Affairs retroactive pay is insufficient. Something should be done to expedite the handling of appeals in cases such as those I have mentioned.

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LIB

Herman Maxwell Batten (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The Chairman:

Shall the item carry?

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IND

Gordon Minto Churchill

Independent Progressive Conservative

Mr. Churchill:

No. We are waiting for a reply from the minister. If he is not going to reply there will have to be further discussion. I give him the opportunity. Does he intend to answer the questions which have been raised?

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LIB

Roger-Joseph Teillet (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Teillei:

I think I should be permitted to wait until all the representations have been made and then reply to the questions. I do not think I ought to get up half a dozen times to speak on different points.

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PC

George Louis Chatterton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Chatterlon:

In that case perhaps the committee should allow the item to stand until we have dealt with the other questions. Otherwise the minister might be ruled out of order when he does rise to speak.

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LIB

Roger-Joseph Teillet (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Teillei:

I do not think it is a question of passing this item immediately. After hon. members have asked their questions and made their comments I shall be glad to deal with them.

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LIB

John Ross Matheson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Malheson:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to make a few comments on this matter. I think we are all deeply in debt to the present minister. The announcement that this rather substantial increase was to come was made on December 20. Anyone who reflects on the events of that time will recall the situation on the London money market, the scramble there, virtually duplicated in every treasury in the western world, the anxious preoccupation with budget balancing, fiscal responsibilities and so on. Bearing in mind the fact that my hon. friend has brought in three substantial increases in the less than five years during which he has held his present portfolio, the increase before the one now contemplated having been on September 1, 1966, and bearing in mind the sacrifices we are asking the Canadian people generally to make so as to present a position of fiscal responsibility and integrity to the world, I think it is greatly to the minister's credit that he should bring forward this recommendation now.

I am sure we are all anxious that the Woods committee report should not be delayed. I feel it would be very wrong if the report came to us in English alone and we had to await a second report in French. As one who appeared before the Woods committee and therefore seized with the highly technical

arguments that were brought to bear on certain sections of the Pension Act, I can think of nothing more painful than the necessity of re-examining later, in another language, the significance of the committee's recommendations.

We are looking forward not to a modest change in pension legislation but to a new, streamlined act which will meet the requirements of veterans as we find them today rather than as we found them at the conclusion of the war. I think the report will recommend far reaching changes and, as I say, I hope it comes forward very shortly.

During the past week I lost a friend, a member of my battery with the same rank as myself. He left a widow and a family-two children at university, I believe. Had it been possible to implement the recommendations of the Woods committee, the financial position of this veteran before he died might have been altogether different and the circumstances of his dependants would consequently be much more satisfactory. Over the weekend a doctor friend of mine, an active Conservative, incidentally, telephoned to tell me about another friend of mine, a man who fought overseas as a very young fighter pilot and who may die very soon. The changes one might expect from the Woods committee recommendations could very well bring about major improvements in the lives of veterans such as these two and I suggest that the minister, who is most sympathetic in this connection, might reflect on the serious consequences of undue delay.

In calculating pensions paid to veterans we often find that the basis used is the salary currently received by low paid civil servants. By comparison the veteran is thought of as a man with a wife, two children and a 100 per cent disability. Perhaps it was not unnatural to expect that a veteran at the conclusion of a war would have a wife and two children; I can understand why this comparison was made originally. But possibly the French officials whom we interviewed in Paris at the Boulevard des Invalides were correct in their approach, that compensation should be paid with the veteran alone in mind, not his wife and his other dependants.

Such a suggestion is immediately questioned, of course, by experts such as the officials of service organizations who say that additional pension allowances are required in respect of a wife and children or the family simply could not survive. But this approach, I feel, begs the question. The amount of the

March 11, 1968

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PC

George Louis Chatterton

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Chatterton:

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Chairman. We on this side purposely cut down our speeches so that the minister would have a chance to reply before six o'clock. The discussion which the hon. member for Leeds is now carrying on could be more properly carried on after we have received the Woods report. We want to get these estimates accepted today because we might not have a chance after six o'clock.

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LIB

John Ross Matheson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister)

Liberal

Mr. Matheson:

Mr. Chairman, I have nothing more to add.

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PC
LIB
LIB

Roger-Joseph Teillet (Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Teillel:

Mr. Chairman, on rising to reply to the representations and queries I wish to express my thanks to the members of the committee for the interest they have again shown in this very important subject. The hon. member for Esquimalt-Saanich was

Supply-Veterans Affairs the first to speak and some of the subjects he covered were also mentioned by a number of other hon. members. Speaking of the Veterans Land Act, which I know interests the hon. gentleman very much, I urge him to understand that there is no question of a means test being applied but certain guide lines-I know that is a much misused word-have been issued to the regional offices in the hope that veterans would go to those offices, ask for explanations and get a clear understanding of what is involved. The hon. gentleman mentioned a figure of $7,000 which was used as a guide line, as an income below which veterans would be given priority. That $7,000 does not include such things as pensions, the wife's income, or family allowances. It is personal income outside of these other things.

This is the guide line that was given and it is hoped that not too many people will be affected. However, it is not mandatory and instructions have gone out that every case is to be judged on its merits in order to avoid the kind of thing that the hon. gentleman mentioned where in some cases a matter of a few dollars might cause hardship. This is only a guide and we hope that no hardship will result.

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March 11, 1968