May 29, 1972

PC

Heath Nelson Macquarrie

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Heath Macquarrie (Hillsborough):

Mr. Speaker, on May 8 I asked the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Sharp) the following question:

Mr. Speaker, I should like to ask the Secretary of State for External Affairs a question. Inasmuch as the distinguished High Commissioner for Bangladesh has arrived in Ottawa, can the minister report on whether or not facilities have been acquired in Dacca for the Canadian plenipotentiary to perform his duties, and when that official will in fact be performing his duties in Dacca?

The reply was:

Mr. Speaker, I shall have to take the question as notice. I am not certain whether our new High Commissioner has yet appeared in Dacca. As the hon. member knows, there is a double accreditation to this post.

I may say I have had no further response to this question which the minister took as notice. Needless to say, Mr. Speaker, I was aware of the fact that the chief Canadian representative to Dacca had accreditation at another capital. It was this very situation which I protested a good many weeks ago.

This situation is doubtless another aspect of the withdrawal syndrome reflected in the government's white paper on foreign policy. There are in Ottawa today representatives of ten countries at whose capitals Canada has no accredited plenipotentiary. The House will have heard me make frequent mention of the little Commonwealth country of Barbados which has had a fine mission here in

May 29, 1972

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion Ottawa for some years. Yet Canada, a nation of 21 million, cannot seem to find the interest or the funds to reciprocate by opening a mission in Bridgetown. I must cite a recent announcement by the minister indicating that there is now an intention to open a mission in Barbados and five other areas by 1974. But why are we lagging? Does austerity clutch the external affairs department with its icy hand long after it has relaxed its grip on other free spending departments, for example, that of the Secretary of State?

Bangladesh is the second largest country in the Commonwealth and is one to which we should extend not only recognition, as we have, but to which we should send a high commissioner accredited to that great land and to it alone. So horrendous has been its suffering, so immense are its problems and so great our opportunity for assisting a fellow Commonwealth state that Canada should feel humiliated at its incapacity to upgrade its mission. We should have a full time high commissioner there and an adequate office and staff in Dacca. There is much to do in Bangladesh and I cannot believe the people of Canada want their government pennypinching on this issue. Nor can I believe we do not have adequate personnel to staff such an office.

I am not especially enamoured of the insensitive approach to the problem by the minister when he reported on May 15 that Bangladesh would prefer more aid rather than a resident Canadian high commissioner. This, I think, begs the question in a somewhat gauche and condescending manner.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
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LIB

Raymond J. Perrault (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Manpower and Immigration)

Liberal

Mr. Ray Perrault (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Manpower and Immigration):

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Sharp) announced on April 10 cabinet approval for the opening of six new posts. The proposed new posts will enable Canada to achieve more effectively its national objectives relating to its political, commercial, economic, aid, immigration and consular interests.

Embassies or high commissions will be opened in the following countries: Barbados, Hungary, Korea, Morocco and Zambia. A Canadian consular office already exists in Budapest, and Canadian development offices in Lusaka and Rabat. I would remind the hon. member of this when he comments on the alleged failure of the government to be more active in this field. A consulate general will be opened in Atlanta, Georgia. The posts should all be in full operation in 1974. However, the majority will likely be in partial or full operation sooner, as some elements of the posts are already in place or will be transferred from existing nearby posts. Preparations for the opening of these new posts will begin as soon as possible.

Diplomatic relations were established with Bangladesh on March 20 when our ambassador in Bangkok, Mr. Gordon Cox, in his capacity as representative of the government of Canada to Bangladesh, arrived in Dacca for his first visit. Bangladesh having become a member of the Commonwealth on April 18, our representative has been designated as High Commissioner of Canada to Bangladesh and is expected to present his credentials in that capacity almost immediately. He is probably en route to Dacca at this very minute.

A Canadian development team has been assigned to direct the Canadian assistance program in Bangladesh and the first member, who is also a member of the staff of the Canadian representative, has been in Dacca since mid-March. Another member has joined him, to make two on the ground in Dacca. An additional first secretary is being appointed to the embassy in Bangkok to assist the ambassador in his responsibilities toward Bangladesh. He will be spending an increasing amount of time in Dacca, and the facilities available to the development team will be increased so as to permit the operation of a full diplomatic mission as soon as budgetary considerations permit.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
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PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS


Mr. ]. M. Forrestall (Dartmouth-Halifax East): Mr. Speaker, I find it regrettable that neither the minister nor his parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Papi-neau (Mr. Ouellet), are here this evening. I do not like to suggest that this is a measure of the seriousness with which the government takes the question I raise this evening, but very obviously it is.


LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Francis:

There is good reason why he cannot be here.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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PC

J. Michael Forrestall

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Forrestall:

If the hon. member has something to say, he may respond. If either of those hon. members are here, then I apologize to both. But it is my understanding that the hon. member for Papineau is the minister's parliamentary secretary and I do not see the minister or that hon. member here. I may be wrong in choosing-

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Francis:

Mr. Speaker, by arrangement with the hon. member, who has good reason for not being here, I am prepared and will endeavour to reply.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Order, please. The hon. member knows that points of order cannot be raised at this time. The practice and procedures are quite clear in this regard. Members are given the opportunity at this time to make their arguments, and the parliamentary secretary will have the opportunity to reply in due course.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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PC

J. Michael Forrestall

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Forrestall:

The only comment I wish to make is that while there may have been arrangements made, they were not made in consultation with me. I appreciate the distinguished gentleman being here this evening to respond.

My question is quite brief and relates to the difficulty faced by people receiving blind pension allowances when they enter into LIP projects. It is quite clear that blind pension allowances are directly within the jurisdiction of provincial governments. I have no illusions about that, but I make no apology for raising the matter of protecting people on blind pension allowances.

The fact is that under existing legislation the federal authority is compelled to recover overpayments to people receiving blind pension allowances. Any income over and above the $900 allowance, plus $600 which they are allowed to earn, must be recovered. I am also aware that if these people were receiving benefits under the Canada Assistance Plan they could receive up to $1,900 before this

May 29, 1972

recovery provision came into play. My concern is that while the problem has been resolved for at least this year, will the government be prepared to continue to protect people in receipt of pension allowances in the event that the level of income is affected by programs falling entirely within federal jurisdiction? I refer to programs such as those which in fact operate on the basis of direct injection into the economy of taxpayers' dollars-programs such as LIP.

I am sure the hon. gentleman opposite understands my concern. I wonder, at the same time, whether the government might consider in a realistic way and in consultation with the provinces a total and effective review of the blind persons allowance inasmuch as we are all aware that under the Canada Assistance Plan people who have this type of disability are, or could be under other circumstances, entitled to income up to $1,900 before impairment of that program begins to take place, whereas under the existing program they are limited to $600 over and above the amount they receive.

I hope the hon. gentleman will comment on this matter of interest and concern people who are in receipt of the blind persons allowance. I am sure they and the provinces would welcome a clear demonstration of understanding of the difficulties which arise under programs such as LIP. In short, I believe they would welcome clarification on where they will stand next year. I think this is a most important matter and I would appreciate my colleague's comments.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lloyd Francis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs):

Mr. Speaker, by arrangement with the hon. member for Papineau (Mr. Ouellet) I have undertaken to make a reply this evening. The hon. member has made his brief and material available to me.

The Blind Persons Act provides for federal sharing, under agreement, of 75 per cent of the amounts paid by the provinces for allowances to blind persons 18 years of

Proceedings on Adjournment Motion

age and over. The provinces pay allowances to recipients under authority of provincial legislation but in accordance with the provisions of the federal act. The act specifies that payments to a province shall be made only in respect of a recipient whose annual income, inclusive of allowance, does not exceed $1,500 for a single person-the hon. member pointed this out-or $2,580 for a married couple. If both spouses are blind, the income must not exceed $2,700.

Income for this purpose includes all earnings, gratuities and contributions received whether in cash or in kind. This is the requirement under the act. However, under the Blind Persons Act it is general practice for provinces to disregard earned income during the period that the allowance is suspended, except in the case of regular seasonal employment, provided the person advises the province at the time he commences employment and requests suspension of his allowance.

Similarly, when earnings cease, the person may have his allowance reinstated without taking into consideration the amount earned during the period the allowance is suspended. Although federal officials have encouraged this practice, it is at the discretion of the province whether or not the practice is adopted. Under these circumstances, blind persons who have been employed on projects such as those under LIP could have earnings without creating an overpayment or affecting future payment of allowances.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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PC

J. Michael Forrestall

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Forrestall:

For this year only.

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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LIB

Cyril Lloyd Francis (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Francis:

No. This is a general policy which can be applied by the province under the existing regulations. It could apply to this year or any period in the future. The officials of the Department of National Health and Welfare have been in touch with officials of the department of public welfare in Nova Scotia and their understanding is that the problem regarding blind persons employed on LIP projects will be favourably settled.

Motion agreed to and the House adjourned at 10.16 p.m.

-45

Tuesday. May 30, 1972

Topic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS-BANGLADESH-ESTABLISHMENT OF FACILITIES IN DACCA FOR CANADIAN PLENIPOTENTIARY
Subtopic:   PENSIONS-ALLEGED THREAT OF LOSS OF ALLOWANCES OF BLIND PERSONS WORKING ON LIP PROJECTS
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May 29, 1972