March 26, 1968

LIB

Allan Joseph MacEachen (Minister of National Health and Welfare; Minister of Amateur Sport; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MacEachen:

I would not like to make a firm statement on that point.

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NDP

Edward Richard Schreyer

New Democratic Party

Mr. Schreyer:

Does the net effect of the minister's remarks on his revised course of action mean the cancellation of those directives issued earlier under file No. 100-1 (Ml)?

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LIB

Allan Joseph MacEachen (Minister of National Health and Welfare; Minister of Amateur Sport; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MacEachen:

The only directive or memorandum that has been communicated to the Indian bands and chiefs in council is the memorandum which has been quoted from by the hon. member for Burnaby-Coquitlam, and where necessary this memorandum, and any others within the department, will be reviewed and amended to carry forward the statement of policy I have made.

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PC

Walter Gilbert Dinsdale

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dinsdale:

I also quoted from that memorandum and I think this is where the greatest damage was done because it was addressed to all the chiefs and to all the Indian councils without exception. It was the memorandum that created the feeling of uncertainty and insecurity which has aroused all the protests across the country. A lot of ground has been lost in good understanding between the government and the Indian population because of it. I think it would be

DEBATES 8083

Supply-Health and Welfare most important that a countermanding directive be issued and an apology sent to these chiefs.

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LIB

Allan Joseph MacEachen (Minister of National Health and Welfare; Minister of Amateur Sport; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MacEachen:

I think the request for an apology is going a bit too far. It seems to me that the memorandum to the Indian chiefs is a statement of policy that has been followed. I would question, however, the accuracy of the first sentence which states that the resources for Indian health services-I think this is the wording-have been drastically or sharply reduced. That certainly is not the case. If you equate dollars to resources then, on the basis of the estimates, that is not the case. This is an inaccuracy in the memorandum which I regret, but the rest of it is, I believe, a statement of policy which is not fundamentally new. I think it is reasonably sound to propose that Indians who can provide for themselves should be expected to do so. It is not our purpose to encourage dependency on the part of any group in the population. Where Indians through their own efforts or through the band are able to provide for themselves then certainly we ought to welcome that trend.

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

In the memorandum to the Indian chiefs we have stated that when this is not possible and where health service is not available from the provincial governments we would assist. I do not wish to pursue the point, but I believe it ought to be borne in mind that the Indians are residents of the provinces. One of the objectives for progress of the Indian population is certainly to integrate them within the general population of a province. If they are to be regarded as separate citizens to be treated on a different basis in respect of education, health and welfare then the process of integration within the total community will be impeded and they will never become equal citizens as we all want them to be.

I had expected that the provinces would be prepared to take responsibility in this situation. The reaction, certainly from the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba, was less than enthusiastic. In the circumstances, pending a willingness on the part of the provinces the federal government is prepared to assume some responsibility in continuing the present level of services, but I am not for a moment withdrawing from the validity of that position which I think is a sound one not only for the population but for the country as a whole.

8084 COMMONS

Supply-Health and Welfare

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PC

Walter Gilbert Dinsdale

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dinsdale:

Mr. Chairman, this is precisely the reason the government and the minister have become involved in difficulty in respect of this problem. I am referring to the dogmatism and the arbitrary attitude of the minister whether he likes it or not. The point we have been trying to make is that this was done without consultation. Certainly the provinces are willing to accept their obligation and this is gradually being done, but for the past several months the provinces have been asking the federal government for a meeting between their responsible ministers and the responsible ministers of the government of Canada so that they could discuss ways and means to implement the program that the minister has just outlined.

The provinces complain because a directive was superimposed without prior consultation just as was the case in respect of medicare. The government is going ahead with medicare which will inflate the federal health budget and at the other end of the scale it is cutting off health services to a group that cannot afford to lose them. This is inconsistency and confusion. The hon. member for the Northwest Territories referred to it as confusing. As it is we have set back progress by years because of this foolish manoeuvring.

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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barnett:

Mr. Chairman, the minister by his recent action has accomplished one thing.

I am quite prepared to give him full credit for it even though I believe he accomplished it accidentally and without understanding what was happening. He has brought home to the general Canadian public in a way which otherwise might have taken a long time to do the whole mumbo-jumbo of the situation that has existed for a long period with regard to the provision of health services to Indians.

Despite what the hon. member for Bran-don-Souris has just said about the program being set back for many years-normally I would agree with him-I think the result of this situation may be that it will create not only in the minds of the Indian people but in the minds of the Canadian people generally a climate of opinion which will bring to an end the sort of stupid regime we have had for a long time in this field. It is all very well for the Minister of National Health and Welfare to talk about the desirability of the Indian people becoming self-supporting, self-respecting, integrated citizens and residents of the provinces of Canada, but as long as these stupid paternalistic directives go out to the Indian bands and chiefs without rhyme or (Mr. MacEachen.]

DEBATES March 26, 1968

reason the very ends he said we should be seeking are being defeated.

If the minister has given the Canadian people an understanding of this situation then I suppose we in this house should sing loud hosannas and thank him for what he has done. However, the statement the minister made that he intends to review the estimates and look into nooks and crannies of his department in an effort to find where he can squeeze a little cream out of what is already skim milk in other corners of his department so that he can reverse these paternalistic directives, to my mind is not the answer to the situation in which we are involved. While I may agree that in his statement he has reversed his course, there certainly is nothing in what he has said so far which will provide a solution.

I believe we should understand just what the situation is in respect of this matter. Other members who have participated in this debate have made passing reference to what the constitutional situation is with regard to the provision of health care for Indians. Reference has been made to the medicine chest clause in certain treaties. That clause may provide some philosophical background, shall I say, for our responsibility, but in practical terms of today's society I think most Indian people would agree that it does not mean too much. It is one of these fetishes that has been there which really never had any practical application.

I have been interested in this situation because I have had inquiries from Indian residents of my constituency concerning whether they will receive the health care services to which they are entitled from time to time. I must say that the only statutory authority I have been able to find anywhere- and I have made inquiries beyond my own knowledge-is contained in section 72 of the Indian Act where it says that the governor in council may make regulations to provide medical treatment and health services for Indians. This places the legislative responsibility, as far as I can see, four-square on the superintendent general of Indian affairs.

However, I have made inquiries and, unless I have been incorrectly informed, at no time has the governor in council ever enacted any such regulation as is authorized by section 72 of the Indian Act. Therefore the plain fact of the matter is that there does not appear to be any legislative authority anywhere for the provision of health services to

March 26. 1968

the Indian people except so far as parliament by an annual vote decides that money shall be made available for medical services through the Department of National Health and Welfare.

[DOT] (5:40 p.m.)

I am not in any way criticizing the effort that has been made by responsible people in the administration of national health and welfare to provide these services with such funds as have been made available to them. What I am suggesting is that over the years they have had to compress their activities within the corners of this old hand-out policy. If a person is going to die in the absence of a little help we may give him a little help. While we may have built hospitals and paid doctors, the very directives the minister has referred to and the statement he has made today indicate that this is as far as the federal government seems prepared to go with the hand-out principle of health care for the Indian and Eskimo people.

This is the real issue that has been highlighted by the inept bungling which has taken place in the last two or three weeks. I hope that not only the ministers but members of parliament generally will recognize the full truth of the situation which now stands clearly revealed before us. There is an old saying that if you sow the wind you will reap a whirlwind. I think the Minister of National Health and Welfare has been indirectly caught up in a whirlwind created in part by the actions of the minister of Indian affairs.

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LIB

Arthur Laing (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Liberal

Mr. Laing:

He has reaped the wind today.

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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barnett:

He may have thought at some time that it might have been a whirlwind. The point I was going to make is that in another item of the supplementary estimates under the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development there is a vote providing additional funds for an activity of the Indian affairs branch which I think is more to be commended than any other. I refer to the vote for additional funds for the education of Indian people. As the minister of Indian affairs has said on more than one occasion in the house, we have been increasing the amount of these funds at a considerable rate over the last few years. That program has had general commendation in the house.

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LIB

Arthur Laing (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Liberal

Mr. Laing:

Would my hon. friend answer a question?

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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barnett:

I will try, Mr. Chairman.

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Supply-Health and Welfare

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LIB

Arthur Laing (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development)

Liberal

Mr. Laing:

Would he be in favour of the continuation of a guarantee for all time that the taxpayers of Canada should support the medical accounts of all Indians, several hundred of whom are employees of the government of Canada at this time?

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CCF

Thomas Speakman Barnett

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

Mr. Barnett:

My answer to the question as the minister puts it is, certainly not. In a way I think the question answered itself, and this is exactly the point I was leading up to. Perhaps the minister will bear with me for another two or three minutes.

I was saying that in the supplementary estimates under his department there is an item for additional funds for the education of Indian people. We have been providing funds for this purpose, and this really brings me back to the point where I began. The fact that there are more educated people among the Indians today means that they are no longer going to be content with the kind of paternalistic directives issued by the Minister of National Health and Welfare. They are not going to accept that sort of thing any longer. They are going to stand up more and more- and we have seen indications of this-for their full rights in this field as citizens of Canada along with the rest of us. This means in my books that it is not sufficient for us to stop where the Minister of National Health and Welfare has left us by saying that we are going to restore the level of the services that were proposed to be reduced. We have to move more positively and directly into the field, which will make unnecessary any considerations of the kind raised in the question asked by the minister.

It is not my intention at this moment to pursue this question at length. If I did I would go into the whole question of things which in my view properly belong within the area of responsibility of the minister of indian affairs. However, I want to point out that this is the reason I decided to raise this question now. So far as the statutes of Canada are concerned the matter we have been discussing is primarily within the administrative responsibility of the minister of Indian affairs.

I am not suggesting that I expect the Minister of National Health and Welfare entirely on his own responsibility to go beyond the point where he left us when he was speaking a few minutes ago by saying, whether he admits it or not, we are sorry for what we did and will try to do a little better. If we are not going to go beyond the kind of situation which brought about this public concern, in

March 26, 1968

Supply-Health and Welfare which these services are dependent on the whims and fancies of the government of the day or on the amount of money parliament votes in any given year, if there is a general policy in the department to start chopping off these services we are certainly not going to hear the end of the kind of debate we have been having this afternoon.

I have deliberately attempted to tie this question to the responsibility of the minister of indian affairs, not because I think we can deal with all the matters which come within the jurisdiction of his department today or before the house recesses but rather because I feel in my mind that this is a more positive note on which to consider this whole question and that we should not simply leave it with the restoration of certain cuts or minor amendments of certain paternalistic directives issued under the authority of the Minister of National Health and Welfare.

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Item agreed to. Welfare Services- 40c. Administration, Operation and Maintenance including grants as detailed in the Estimates, $1.


NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

Mr. Chairman, this item relates to the side of the minister's department which deals with the administration of welfare services and the various income maintenance programs. I have a few words I wish to say in this regard. The minister knows I am particularly interested in these programs, and if I were to say all that is on my mind I might be accused of taking part in a filibuster.

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PC

Gerald William Baldwin

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Baldwin:

We wouldn't dream of that.

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NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

I am glad to have that confirmation from the hon. member for Peace River.

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?

An hon. Member:

He had a big grin when he said it.

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NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles:

There is a particular point I wish to come to presently but in leading up to it may I remind the minister of what he knows, namely, that I feel the social security programs which we have in effect, while good, could be substantially improved. As the minister knows, I feel that the income test, as he calls it, which is attached to the guaranteed income security, should be done away with and that in its place we should be paying an old age security pension to all those who qualify by age and residence without any means, needs or income test of any

kind. Indeed, I think the time has come for the amount of that pension to be reviewed. There are a number of responsible bodies in the country which are now suggesting that the figure should be of the order of $125 a month, and this is my view.

[DOT] (5:50 p.m.)

I say to the Minister of National Health and Welfare that I read just about everything he writes on the question of a guaranteed annual income. I find his thoughts interesting, even though I do not always agree with him. In fact, I am not yet convinced that the guaranteed income supplement which he brought into this house is a true expression of the principle and philosophy of a guaranteed annual income.

In this connection, the latest article that I have read on the subject is a very interesting one by Reuben C. Baetz, executive director of the Canadian Welfare Council, in the March -April issue of that council's publication known as "Canadian Welfare". It may be said that many of the points which Dr. Baetz has put together are points that are in the literature on this subject but it is, nevertheless, an interesting and very worth-while article. There is one particular point in it to which I shall come in just a moment.

The point of my taking time on these estimates to address myself to the minister is that I want to impress upon him the fact that if he is going to see sustained the value of the income maintenance programs which he administers, he will have to concern himself with some of our income tax provisions. He will have to make stronger representations to the Minister of Finance than I think he has yet made. I took up with him a while ago the case of people on the guaranteed income supplement who find that they meet a test on one hand so they can have their income brought up to a certain minimum level, only to find that the Minister of Finance then dips into that amount and reduces them to a lower level.

The Minister of Finance and the Minister of National Health and Welfare both had a pat answer to that problem. Their answer was that income tax has to be administered generally and that one cannot play favourites as between those people whose income is earned directly and those who get it as a result of a welfare program. Neither of the ministers faced up to the real answer to the problem, which is the need to raise the level at which income tax applies. The significance of what I

March 26, 1S68

am now saying is that a minister of national health and welfare who brings in these income maintenance programs has to be concerned about this other aspect of the matter.

Let me give a precise example which has been drawn to my attention. It is the case of an actual person and it demonstrates very clearly my concern in this area. It is the case of a person whom we shall call Joe Doe. He does not like to be called John Doe, so we will call him Joe. He is a retired civil servant. His pension as a retired civil servant is $170 a month, or $2,040 a year. Joe Doe is also a veteran and has therefore been able to qualify for the war veterans allowance. Since there is a ceiling of $245 a month on the permissible income for a war veterans allowance recipient who is married, the total war veterans allowance he was able to get has been $75 a month. So his two pensions, the retired civil servant's pension and the war veterans allowance, gave him a total of $245 a month or $2,940 a year. Up until the end of last year,

1967, that was his position-an income from these two sources of $2,940 a year. I point out to the Minister of National Health and Welfare that because the war veterans allowance is non-taxable, this Mr. Doe did not have to pay any income tax. His taxable income was only $2,040 a year, $60 less than the $2,100 level. We do not have to worry about the extra $500 that was available to him, because he was under the $2,100 level.

But Joe Doe turned 67 late last year, so starting in January this year he qualified for the old age security pension of $75 a month. We will not bother about the $1.50 additional for the moment. He qualified for $75 a month or $900 a year. Immediately Mr. Doe starts receiving this $75 a month old age security, he loses his war veterans allowance because his old age security of $75 and his retired civil service pension of $170 bring him to the ceiling of $245 a month. So in terms of gross income he is right where he was-$245 a month or $2,940 a year.

But here is the jolt. Old age security income is taxable, whereas war veterans allowance income is not taxable. So Joe Doe finds himself with $2,940 a year income in

1968, the same as he had last year, but $840 of that is taxable to the tune of something over $100. The result is that this married man, this married veteran, this married retired civil servant, by having part of his income changed from war veterans allowance to old age security has a net income position more than $100 less than it was.

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I have tried to make the point several times, and I make it again so that no one comes back at me with respect to it, that I think it is proper that old age security income be taxable income. I think if we are going to have a means test-and 1 believe there should be no means test at all-it has to be taxable income. But on the face of them situations like this do seem grossly unfair. Let me repeat it. Here is a veteran who by making this transfer, which he has to make, has the same gross income but has $100 less real income.

Situations like this demonstrate the point I was making a moment ago, that the Minister of National Health and Welfare must be more concerned than I think he has yet been about our income taxation policy. But what happens, if I may put it in personal terms, is that he gives money with one of the government's hands, and the Minister of Finance takes it back with another. The minister may tell me the reason this problem has arisen is that we have raised the levels to which we guarantee people's income. That is fine. But surely, the answer to this is the necessity of raising the income tax exemption levels, certainly to not less than $3,000 for a married person.

I am not asking for anything special for Joe Doe that is not available to people whose income is entirely their own or who have no connection with the war veterans allowance; but this case highlights the problem and I think stresses the need for coupling with increasing old age pension programs, increasing social welfare programs, a look at our whole income tax problem.

I said I would make a passing reference to the article by Reuben Baetz in the current issue of "Canadian Welfare". I invite the minister to read it if he has not already done so. There are four points that he makes as to the way in which we can get at the problem of a guaranteed annual income. He indicates the various difficulties that there are and says it may take time to achieve the goal of a guaranteed annual income. Therefore, he urges that in the meantime we take steps in the taxation field along the lines recommended by the Carter commission on taxation and that we cease taxing incomes below a recognized poverty line.

[DOT] (6:00 p.m.)

Well, I suggest to the Minister of National Health and Welfare that he must agree that at today's living costs, at today's wage standards, at today's standard of living, that is

March 26, 1968

Supply-Indian Affairs something higher than $3,000. The povertyline has perhaps come closer to $4,000. It is not good enough for the Minister of National Health and Welfare to sponsor programs to bring people up to this level and then have other taxation programs that take them down. I invite the minister to study carefully the case of Joe Doe which I put on the record, and I invite him to face the fact that no matter how much he may believe he has done wonders in the social security field there is still a great deal to be done to provide adequate security for our elderly people and to make sure that, having provided it to them, it is not taken away.

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?

@Deputy Chair(man)? of Committees of the Whole

Shall vote 40c carry?

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March 26, 1968