April 26, 1972

LIB

John Carr Munro (Minister of Amateur Sport; Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. Munro:

Mr. Speaker, the recovery rates under FISP will be in a closely compressed bracket. Without doubt, there are considerable variations in connection with the guaranteed income supplement and, of course, there are bound to be great variations in the family income security plan, if for no other reason than that more people will be applying than is the case under GIS. I am trying to point out that the GIS program is selective, applying to a significant number of people, one million. Although members of parliament I have talked to have complained about benefit levels, and so on, they have not mentioned many serious complaints with respect to administration. That shows that this country, in advance perhaps of any other country in the free world, has been able to use the income test and not the means test in an appropriate way so that we are able to protect the dignity of people and still give them a supplementary income on which to survive.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
PC

Jack Marshall

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Marshall:

Mr. Speaker, may I ask a question? Perhaps the minister would clarify something that worries me. The best way of asking my question is by giving an example. Let us say that a man is earning $4,500 a year and is getting maximum benefits. Let us say, also, that his wife works for part of the year and that the family still gets maximum benefits. She may begin working six months after the beginning of the year. Then let us say that next year she loses her job and the family's income drops to $4,500. How will the government recover any overpayment? There is bound to be confusion because people will have to repay certain benefits received in the previous year.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
LIB

John Carr Munro (Minister of Amateur Sport; Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. Munro:

If I understood the hon. member's question correctly, let me say this. If because of hardship in the current year a man decides to exercise his option on the basis of his current year's income, and if his income jumps back up in that same year, recovery will take place. This is all done by computer. A similar sort of thing happens in connection with the guaranteed income supplement for the aged. Speaking of the guaranteed income supplement for the aged, in cases where we had to effect recoveries in the following year, many of the complaints did not concern so much the recoveries themselves as the fact that we tried to make recoveries within too limited a time frame. Since then we have spaced out the time and minimized the payments; in other words, the monthly payments necessary to make recoveries are lower. By so doing we have effectively dealt with most of the complaints.

Family Income Security Plan

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
SC

Henry P. Latulippe

Social Credit

Mr. Henry Latulippe (Compton):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to direct a question to the hon. Minister of National Health and Welfare.

Since the hon. minister intends to solve the problem of poverty in Canada, I should like to ask him how he can do so by taking money away from those who do not have enough already.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
LIB

John Carr Munro (Minister of Amateur Sport; Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Liberal

Mr. Munro:

Mr. Speaker, I explained at considerable length in my speech the precise answer to that question. If the hon. member did not listen to it, I hope he will read it.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Is the hon. member rising for the purpose of asking a question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

No, Mr. Speaker; I want to make a speech.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
SC

René Matte

Social Credit

Mr. Rene Matte (Champlain):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to take part in the debate on this amendment as I sincerely believe it deserves our attention since the bill before us is not entirely adequate. This piece of legislation was not prepared well enough; in other words, it would be a good thing to accept this amendment even if we have to deal later on with another bill on that subject.

The reasons that lead me to support this amendment, Mr. Speaker, are the following: first of all, the basic problem dealt with in this bill does not seem to be solved adequately.

As for the inadequateness of clause 6, I have already proved it in a speech on the motion for second reading and I shall not go back to it.

Still, one of the factors which leads me to support the amendment is the inadequateness of the amounts provided for in respect of allowances. The vast majority of my colleagues have already spoken against selectivity being applied to family allowances. I share their views; consequently, that point should be reviewed.

Other major reasons should also be considered and lead the minister to pospone study of the bill, so that a better bill might be prepared.

Mr. Speaker, this bill deals with a constitutional matter. I believe the right hon. member for Prince Albert (Mr. Diefenbaker) has already mentioned it in a speech, and that the bill, because we are selecting those who will receive the allowances, becomes anticonstitutional, and that it was through an amendment to the very Constitution of Canada that the federal government stepped into this field of exclusively provincial jurisdiction.

Now, the amendment that had to be proposed when family allowances were introduced gave all Canadian families, without any distinction, the opportunity of receiving family allowances. Consequently, by accepting Bill C-170 as drafted, we are running counter to the Constitution itself. More especially, Mr. Speaker, since we are dealing with a matter about which there are great differences of opinion among the various parts of the country. We all know that Quebec does not accept that system and

April 26, 1972

Family Income Security Plan

that it would rather control all those benefits through a system which it would co-ordinate itself.

As for the bill, it even seemed to us that we were witnessing a federal-provincial race or, if you prefer, a Canada-Quebec race. They are both competing to be first. On the one hand, the Quebec Minister of Social Affairs, who had set May 1, as the target date, was compelled at a certain moment to say that he would postpone for a month or two his comprehensive family allowances plan. On the other hand, the federal government is endeavouring to have the legislation concerning family allowances passed quickly.

If in such an important part of the country as Quebec there is not full agreement with this measure, we realize immediately the need to further consider this subject and to pstpone for a little while the passage of this bill. There is a major reason, in my view, for supporting the amendment.

We must also, instead of making a petty reform of this kind, consider a general plan where anything relating to social questions would be coordinated within a system which would provide every Canadian with a guaranteed income.

It is in a comprehensive scheme that all these things should fit. This is why I say, again, that instead of passing a particular legislation, we should further consider a general solution to the whole problem, thst is, the establishment of a guaranteed vital minimum income for all. Such should be our objective. Social laws that we have considered should be drafted in view of this major objective.

It is obvious that giving $15 or $20 more, in a very niggardly manner, checking books of every family in order to find out, to the month, what is its income, will not solve the problem. It is some form of excessive socialism that such a method would introduce. And as was stated by, I think, my colleague from Lotbiniere (Mr. Fortin) a few days ago, such selective benefits create discrimination.

I say in effect, Mr. Speaker, that discrimination is created, considering that in knowing the amount of family allowances received by a family, one also knows the approximate amount that family's income. Is that not indirect intervention in matters concerning individual freedom, collective freedom and, especially, the freedom of families?

Some will say: The same thing happens with regard to income tax. The situation is slightly different there, because, as everyone knows, family allowance cheques are seen by all. Everyone knows that the children themselves speak about them, and that is why I say that there is discrimination.

It might even come to this. Two small boys, two little girls, or a little girl and a small boy will say: Me, I am not getting an allowance, while the other will reply: I am. So how are we going to accept such a situation? This is what I call discrimination.

One child will be told: I am not getting an allowance; at home, we are not getting any. The other will reply: I am because my parents are getting allowances. So, will they

have to argue and say: I am not getting any because my parents earn more money than yours; yours are no good. We can easily see what this could lead to. This may be a viewpoint which has not been considered but this is really what could happen, all the more so since when children are 12, 13, 14 or 18 years old, parents usually give such allowances to the children themselves, especially when they are old enough to attend secondary school. Then I would really think that there is discrimination.

If they really want to score political points right now, for electoral purposes or otherwise, Mr. Speaker, there would be a very simple solution. Instead of introducing this legislation, all that is necessary would be to increase family allowances as we know them. All we need to do is to increase them. There is nothing complicated there.

That is why I say that those who feel that by supporting this amendment we are against raising family allowances are completely wrong. On the contrary, I would be in favour of a proposal such as this: From now on, family allowances will be $12 and $15 instead of $8 and $10. I would not object to that. I would even prefer to see them tailored to the real needs of families. Therefore, I am not against their immediate increase within the framework of the legislation that is already in existence, and we should wait before introducing a bill which could really help families with the problems they are facing daily, and particularly those resulting from the continuous rise in the cost of living.

Mr. Speaker, in closing I want to remind hon. members of a major fact, that nothing can be changed through hastily developed legislation to increase family allowances for the purpose of making a good impression on people, so that the government can claim to have increased family allowances from one amount to another, whereas there has been in fact all kinds of chicanery to deprive some people of these benefits according to their salary bracket.

I feel that any effort to achieve a worthwhile legislation in this field should concentrate on the basic determining factor and aim at bringing about social security as a whole, which could really solve basic problems of all Canadian families. And I repeat that to achieve this, it must be taken into account that this field comes under provincial jurisdiction and that there should therefore be more consultation with the provinces on the subject. Also, any agreement relative to family allowances should first be examined jointly with those provinces which want to implement their own system.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
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, I listened with a great deal of interest and very close attention to the speech made by the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Munro). In terms of its construction and in terms of the manner in which he delivered it, I must say it was one of the best speeches he has made in the House of Commons. But in terms of any appreciation of social philosophy, in terms of any understanding of the needs of our society, that speech was so far off base I am as surprised he should have made it as he says he is surprised that we are opposing his bill.

April 26, 1972

The minister enjoyed using the word cynicism in the course of his speech. I did not count the number of times it appeared but it must have been a dozen or 15. Let me say to him, as one who for nearly three decades has been opposing needs and means and income tests, as one who has demonstrated a firm belief in the principle of universality, that I am not touched at all by his suggestion that our opposition to this bill because it does not stick by the principle of universality is a case of political cynicism, and I suggest to the minister that he himself knows better.

The hon. gentleman also appeared to derive some pleasure by affecting to discern a change in the position of this party between March 24, when I made the first speech on this bill, and the date on which my leader, the hon. member for York South (Mr. Lewis) spoke after the Easter recess. He was in the House for my speech on March 24-I presume he and his speechwriters have read it since-and he knows that that speech was one of opposition to this bill for the reasons I stated clearly at the time. At that point we considered that despite our opposition to the measure, we would let it go to committee in the hope that in committee we might be able to make the necessary improvements in it. However, the longer we studied the bill, the more we became aware of the obvious intent of the government to depart from the principle of universality wherever it could and the firmer became our conviction that at some point it was necessary to take a stand, that at some point it was necessary to say: You are going no further.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

I do not mind telling you, Mr. Speaker, even though some of my hon. friends behind me may say I am revealing caucus secrets, that we had a struggle over the bill to amend the Old Age Security Act which the minister brought down in December, 1970. It confronted us with a dilemma. The bill did provide for some increase and for this reason we felt we ought to let it go through. But there were members of our caucus who argued that we should vote against it because it attacked the principle of universality.

On balance we let it go through, because although it attacked the principle of universality by increasing the guaranteed income supplement without increasing the basic amount-unless the minister still calls 42 cents an increase-nevertheless it was still true that there was universality at the $80 level. In other words, all persons in Canada 65 years of age and over can qualify for and receive that amount of money.

The minister now comes along and introduces a bill that completely takes away the principle of universality from family allowances. We know that the minister is a member of a government that seems to think it has to tear down everything that has been built up during the past 50 years and remake it, and we are wondering what is next. Will this government take universality away from medicare, hospital insurance and what have you? We think that in our day we should be moving further in the direction of universality, not away from it, and this is why our party has decided that at some point we have to say no. I say to

Family Income Security Plan

the minister that this is that point. We are saying no, in our amendment, to second reading and we are going to say no by our vote on second reading itself.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I was planning to make a speech today before the minister spoke, but in different vein. It was going to be a speech in which I would appeal to the minister to take this bill back to the drawing board or back to the experts in his department who drew it for him and to do his best to come back here with a reasonable and sensible piece of legislation.

I still think that the minister is a man of some common sense. I remember in particular the way in which we were able to work together when he was a private member and even when he became a parliamentary secretary, particularly in the days of the Canada Pension Plan. There has been a bit of a gulf between us since he became a minister and has all the authority and the power that goes with that, but behind all that I think there is still something in the minister to which one might appeal.

Despite the speech that the minister made this afternoon, which seemed to be one of defending the proposition he has placed before us, I say to him-and the minister referred to this-as one who has been paying attention to income maintenance and social security measures for a long time that this bill is a serious mistake in Canadian social security legislation. Far from his worrying about any disavowal with which he charges us, I would say to him that he and the members of the cabinet to which he belongs, led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau), are in fact disavowing a position that it has taken the Liberals 50 years to achieve.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas:

"No more of this free stuff", says the Prime Minister.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Not only does he say that, but he says that it is a lot of guff for pensioners to be claiming that they are not getting enough to live on, and so on. Just as the government feels that every other area of government has to be torn apart and put together in some different way, they seem to think that King, St. Laurent, Pearson and the ministers that they had in their day were wrong to the extent that they moved gradually toward the concept of universality in social legislation.

Because this bill is not only opposed to what we have stood for across the years but is also opposed to what the Liberals themselves finally got around to putting on the statute books, we think that we are being true to ourselves, that we are doing a service to the Liberal party and most of all to the people of Canada, by taking a firm stand and saying that this bill in its present form ought not to pass.

I now want to say something about some of the comments made by the minister in his speech, on which I have commended him for its construction and the way he delivered it despite what I think of some of its contents. The minister rose in his seat only 20 feet away from me and said that we were voting against increasing allowances for the poor. I say nonsense, Mr. Speaker, we are not voting against increasing allowances for the poor. We want our people to get even greater allowances than the minister is proposing to assist them in the upbringing of their children. We are voting against the strings that the minister

April 26, 1972

Family Income Security Plan

and the Liberals are attaching to the increased allowances provided in this bill.

In the first place, despite all the persuasive language the minister used when he said that this is not a means test but an income test, the fact remains that it is a test to which people must submit themselves. Indeed, it is so far from the simple arrangements that have been in effect under the Family Allowances Act that I still cannot understand why the minister has brought in the bill.

Earlier today while thinking about the speech I intended to make this afternoon, which was to be different from the one I am now making, I went into the files in my office. Actually, I intended to pull out a copy of the original Family Allowances Act which Mr. King brought in in 1944 and to see what else I had in my files. I was amazed to see how simple the bill was-just a few pages, and there it was. But as I looked into my own files I discovered that in the 27 years since that legislation came into effect in 1945 I have not had ten letters from people complaining that they were not getting the right amount or that they were not getting the family allowances to which they were entitled. There were many letters calling for higher allowances, but almost none dealing with administrative errors.

We all know the kind of correspondence that we have been getting recently about unemployment insurance. We all know the kind of correspondence we receive about veterans pensions and allowances. We all know the kind of correspondence we have about problems experienced by our old age pensioners. Yet in a quarter of a century we have had precious little correspondence as members of parliament about family allowances cases because of the very simplicity and directness of the legislation that was brought in in 1944 and which was put into effect in 1945.

Under this bill we have a set of rules and conditions that I defy any member of the House, having read the bill three or four times, to comprehend. Under the old system, if you had a child of a certain age you got a certain allowance and that was it. Under the new rules you have first of all to consider the level of income of the family. During the latter part of his speech the minister made quite a bit about the limits on income for family allowance purposes being not as severe as we think they are. He went on to read off a long list of items. In effect, he was telling us that the definition of income under the family income security plan will be the definition of income used in the Income Tax Act. There might be one or two differences but in the main the definition is the same.

So that is where you start; you have to find out what is your level of income. You then have to face the fact that above a certain point, for every $500 in the family income there will be a difference in entitlement or in the amount of the family allowance. Even within the $500 range we will have to face the fact that every $100 difference in income can mean a difference of 33 cents per month in the amount of the family allowance. Then you will have to consider how many children you have, what their ages are, what happens when they move from one age to another, and so on.

Then there is this very interesting system that has been developed in the bill in which there are extensive references to the benefit year and to the base calendar year. The benefit year starts on September I and continues until next August 31. That is the period for which you get your allowance at a fixed amount, except that nothing is really fixed. The amount you will get in that benefit year from September to August in most cases is determined by what your income was in the base calendar year, which is the calendar year that ended eight months before the benefit year began. However, there will be many people, in fact I would say many thousands of people, who will find it difficult to base their claim on that base calendar year which, as I say, ended eight months before the benefit year began.

So there is a possibility of substituting for the base calendar year the current calendar year, but the conditions under which you can make that substitution take several sections to spell out. Then under certain conditions, if you cannot estimate your income for the full amount of the current calendar year you can submit what your average income is for a certain number of these months and multiply it by a certain figure, getting an estimate that will be accepted.

Then there is the whole question of what happens to people when their levels of income change, especially the working people of this country, the people whose wage rates may go up a few cents an hour or who may have a bit of time off, a lay-off, and so on. It does not take very much of a wage increase to amount to $500 a year. You will probably have cases where employees will be wishing the increase were $490 a year instead of $510 because of what it will do to the family allowance.

The point I am making is that the items which will have to be fed into a computer will be legion, and it was the minister himself this afternoon who talked about putting these things into the computer. Any suggestion that it is a simple arrangement, as simple as the guaranteed income supplement-and even the simplicity of that I deny-is inaccurate. It is suggested that this is a lot simpler, but what it means is that you have here a complicated system which will cause the recipients of family income security plan benefits to be completely ignorant of where they stand.

I say to the minister-and this was the kind of thing I intended to say when my speech was being planned, before he made his-that within three years of the time this bill comes into effect some minister of national health and welfare will be coming into this House seeking legislation to change it. Some minister will be coming in saying it is utterly too complicated and too unworkable, that we have to simplify it and go back to a system whereby the amounts are paid out and any recoveries that are to be made are looked after at the end of the year or through the medium of income tax.

When I was talking earlier about all the complications, I forgot to mention the question of recoveries and overpayments. The minister made some reference to these this afternoon. Sprinkled through the legislation-the public will be aware of this and it will have to be in the pamphlets put out-are references to the penalties which can

April 26, 1972

be suffered if one makes a mistake or files a wrong application. So the whole thing, compared to the simple plan we have, is such a hodge-podge of complications that for the minister to stand up here today and say we are making a mountain out of a molehill suggests he has not read the bill. Perhaps I should not say that because I am sure he has read the bill, but I wonder if he has read it, not just with an eye to understanding it as a lawyer and an intelligent person versed in these things but with any attempt to understand what it will mean to the ordinary people of this country.

I come back to what I said at the start of this part of my remarks. I deny completely the minister's suggestion that we are voting against an increase in family allowances. I say we are voting against the strings that are attached to it. One of the most serious strings attached to this whole measure is, indeed, this complicated structure and grotesque array of conditions that people have to meet. This will spoil the legislation. I suggest that within three years-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
LIB

Colin David Gibson

Liberal

Mr. Gibson:

It is humanitarian.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

Oh, be quiet.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
NDP

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

New Democratic Party

Mr. Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

All I can say to

the hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth (Mr. Gibson) is that his father was a smarter man. He was here in 1944 and supported the principle of universality.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
?

An hon. Member:

He also knew when to keep quiet.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Is the hon. member rising on a point of order?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
LIB

Colin David Gibson

Liberal

Mr. Gibson:

I think it is unfair for my friend to refer to paternity. I would have to be as old as Methuselah to have any knowledge of his father, so I do not think it is a fair comparison.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink
NDP

William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

He knew yours, but he sometimes wonders about him now.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   FAMILY INCOME SECURITY PLAN
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO PROVIDE BENEFITS IN RESPECT OF CHILDREN
Permalink

April 26, 1972