November 22, 1979

?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

I thank the hon. member but I think she is rushing my speech. I was pointing out that we had originally passed this piece of legislation for the recipient who was a widow between the ages of 60 and 65. Then this bill came before the former minister of national health and welfare and she put in the six months' provision. Certainly that was a great advantage. We are talking about 200 recipients coming on stream per month, so it is not a large number. But it meant that after the six months, after being used to getting approximately $600 when her husband died under the legislation of the previous government, she was cut off and she did not get anything more until she was 65 years of age and eligible again. This was not good. Originally she had to move out of her place within the month, depending on what time of the month her husband died, because she would not have enough money to keep the place going. Then the allowance was given for a six-month period. This minister, in passing this legislation, is providing her with an income which will be half of that provided to both of them until she reaches the prescribed age.

I asked the expert on pensions in this House about the matter. He indicated to me that there were not too many husbands in this category. In fact, the number was insignificant. Normally the women were the ones being discriminated against.

The Minister of National Health and Welfare has had considerable experience in matters of health and welfare in a

November 22, 1979

previous job where I am sure he came into contact with many needy cases, mostly in the municipal field. As a result of his efforts in his previous occupation to provide people with a reasonable income, I am sure he would be quite prepared to support the hon. member for Roberval (Mr. Gauthier) in his contention that we should be doing something for these people on the basis of need rather than on the basis of these restrictions that involve such things as whether or not you are married, or shacked up. I do not suppose that is a nice phrase to use when talking about people between the ages of 60 and 65 who are living together for certain reasons. Differences are made, and the advantage comes in many cases if you have neglected to involve yourself in matrimony.

The example was given by the hon. member for Roberval of brothers and sisters, two brothers or two sisters, living in the same house and receiving more money than two people who were married. That highlights a need. The former minister of national health and welfare was interested in looking at, and was in that office long enough to look at a guaranteed annual income plan. All the problems of passing legislation that affects a specific number of people in specific circumstances could be overcome by providing a guaranteed annual income. This would eliminate many of the provincial inspectors who now have to decide on the financial position of the person requesting assistance.

That would not make redundant the work of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). When he first came here he inherited the mantle of his predecessor who was interested in providing, where possible, pensions to aid those not able to assist themselves. I know the amount of mail he receives from people all over the country asking for assistance in correcting many of the inequalities created by our system.

1 hope the Minister of National Health and Welfare will look at the studies done by previous governments to see if there is some way of eliminating some of the bureaucrats at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, who administer our hodge-podge forms of social assistance to those in need. Whether this government is in power or not, he would be more comfortable when moving on to other jobs in the other places knowing that he had accomplished something other health ministers could not accomplish, or have been unwilling to accomplish.

I am sure in the days to come the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre will find loopholes in this legislation. There will be others who should and could be assisted. I hope the minister continues to turn to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre for advice and encouragement. I am sure he has found it has been readily available on many occasions. In this way we can plug some of the loopholes that have made parts of our social legislation rather ridiculous.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Geoffrey Douglas Scott

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Scott, Victoria-Haliburton):

Is

the House ready for the question?

Old Age Security

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. Members:

Question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Geoffrey Douglas Scott

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Scott, Victoria-Haliburton):

Is it

the pleasure of the House to adopt motion No. 1 ?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink

Motion agreed to.


PC

Geoffrey Douglas Scott

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Scott, Victoria-Haliburton):

Is it

the pleasure of the House to adopt motions Nos. 2 to 6?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Agreed.

Motions Nos. 2 to 6 inclusive agreed to.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

David Edward Crombie (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Crombie moved

that the bill be concurred in.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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Motion agreed to.


PC

David Edward Crombie (Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Crombie moved

that the bill be read the third time and do pass.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Roméo LeBlanc

Liberal

Hon. Romeo LeBlanc (Westmorland-Kent):

Mr. Speaker, 1 know that my colleague, the previous minister of health, wants to speak briefly. For that reason 1 will not take very much time. 1 am obviously very happy we have reached the third reading stage of Bill C-6. 1 am happy that the report stage which we have just gone through consecrates the amendments the minister agreed to present to his cabinet colleagues.

I might say to the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka (Mr. Darling) that if the minister had not been successful in his efforts, he would have discovered the great truth of the saying that "Victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan." However, we are all happy to have been fathers and stepfathers in this one. We congratulate the minister.

I will not get deeply involved in the issue of marital status which was spoken about so eloquently by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). 1 feel that many of the points he made were very accurate and valid.

This bill is obviously agreed to by members on all sides of the House. However, it has to be seen in its proper perspective. This lack of perception, cette absence de la mesure, was nowhere more evident than in the second reading speech by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Miss MacDonald). She left the heady heights of world diplomacy. She left on her desk the super secret coded telegrams. She even left the rarified atmosphere of Kingston to come among us and give to the bill its real parameters. 1 wish to quote from page 475 of Hansard of Monday, October 22, some of the more juicy quotes from the hon. lady. I quote:

Mr. Speaker, as one who has spoken often in this chamber and, indeed, across this country on the plight of elderly women and the poverty in which too many of them live, 1 am pleased that my first remarks in this chamber as a member of the government are in support of a bill which will go a long way toward removing the discriminatory aspects of the spouse's allowance legislation.

Further down the page she decides that certain old wars have to be fought again. I again quote:

This bill is not a minor piece of housekeeping legislation that we should easily gloss over. To me this bill symbolizes the compassion, the common sense, and the instinct for justice and individual dignity that we, as members, must have. I am

November 22, 1979

Old Age Security

proud to be associated with this bill, but even more so with a government that so early in its mandate has moved to eliminate one of the lingering injustices in our pension system.

Then the hon. lady referred to us as "mean and callous" and talked about the "reactionary approach" of the former government. We were lectured. We were given "the treatment" by the Secretary of State for External Affairs as she wrapped herself in this legislation as one would do with a shawl. The problem in this case is that the shawl is rather short.

If this bill is a measure of the concern, care, and compassion that this government has for the needy, I hope that some members, especially the Secretary of State for External Affairs, will review her rhetoric. She made a big fuss about the bill and suggested that somehow it represented the great movement forward she expected of this government. However, she did not tell us that the inner cabinet, of which she is a member, has been fobbing off the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie) by imposing on him a wholesale review of social programs, especially of family allowances, while announcing studies, reviews and seminars.

Meanwhile, the real power of the government, which lies with the Minister of Finance (Mr. Crosbie), puts forward a new program for tax credit on housing to fulfil at least one campaign promise. This is the government which told us it wants to reduce the deficit. It is obvious that somebody will have to pay $1.5 billion or $2 billion which, eventually, the tax credit scheme will cost. Hon. gentlemen on the treasury benches opposite will have to tell us where they intend to get the money, whether this ill-conceived plan is to be paid for at the expense of social programs.

I do not doubt for one moment the sincerity of the hon. member for Parry Sound-Muskoka, having sat on many committees with him. He spoke about the need to do something for those aged between 60 and 65 who find themselves in a precarious economic position. I recognize this need. We have made it clear that this has a high priority. The reality is that this group, according to the figures I remember, would need some $630 million if their problem is to be alleviated. An amount of money of that kind could have been allocated if that had been a priority of the government, instead of devoting funds to a tax credit program which will help those who are not in very great need of help.

Who will pay for this tax credit program? Will it be the mothers of this country who are today receiving family allowances? Those, too, are women about whom the Secretary of State for External Affairs expressed so much concern. Or will the victims of this unwise expenditure be old age pensioners? Will the unemployed, whose benefits have been consistently attacked in the politial rhetoric of the government, be made to pay for this new program? Or is the new Santa Claus of the Minister of Finance to be the Canadian consumer, the user of heating oil and gasoline, who will be hit by a stiff increase in price? These consumers, including the poor, the elderly, and all those who have been co-opted by the Secretary of State for External Affairs, are being called upon to pay high heating

bills and their dollars are already stretched in comparison to their needs.

We have more faith in the Minister of National Health and Welfare than we have in a number of his colleagues. In the coming months we will follow carefully the orientation of the government of which he is a member. If he wants to fight to protect the integrity of his budgets we will support him. But if he gives in to those who want to pit against each other people who need the protection of his programs, if he allows the mothers of Canada to be robbed even to improve the lot of those who live under the poverty line, then he will find in this party those who will fight to protect ce qui est acquis-what is already acquired.

The history of social progress testifies to slow movement upward. Bill C-6 is a small step for a small group of Canadians. We approve of it, but it must not serve as a decoy, as a distraction, while under the guise of review and study the erosion of major legislative measures leaves them fragile and crumbling shells. If the minister needs assistance from members on this side to defend his program, he may be sure that that assistance will be forthcoming.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, 1 understand there are three or four members who would like to make a contribution to this debate, and in view of the fact that we are under a House order to end it at a certain time I shall make my remarks at this point very brief. 1 am getting a nod from the government House leader which I think I can interpret correctly. Perhaps when we reach 9.45 we can agree that, since it is not likely any recorded vote on this legislation will be asked for, we might carry on the debate until ten o'clock. Even with that extra time I may have won for other members I am prepared to make my own contribution brief so that others can take part.

As I said in my earlier remarks on the report stage, we welcome the improvement in the bill which was made in the standing committee. That improvement means that not only will those who are now on the spouse's allowance have the assurance that it will continue until age 65 if they become widows, but it has also become a fact that those whose spouse's allowances have been cut off because of widowhood at any time in the past four years will have it reinstated commencing in November. Any gain is good, so we welcome it, and I am happy to say so once more on third reading.

1 must also say, as I said at the report stage, that I still feel very strongly opposed to having a piece of legislation on our books which contains a marital test, a piece of legislation which says to a woman, in particular, " you get this pension only if you have a man." 1 hope this will soon be corrected. I invite hon. members, and others who may note what I am now saying in Hansard, to turn back a few pages and read the letter which Mr. Gordon Fairweather wrote to the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie). I urge the minister to take that letter seriously and correct this problem without waiting for a review of the whole pension situation.

November 22, 1979

Having said that, 1 want simply to reiterate my conviction, after all the years I have spent in public life and all the years I have spent here, that the best thing we have done for the people of this country has been the provision of social security on a universal basis.

Universal old age pensions have changed the character of old age for the Canadian people. Universal family allowance and universal medicare have played a part from which we must not turn back. By the same token, I think that in the period between 60 and 65 we should have pensions universally available to those who are out of the labour market. I plead for that as a goal to be achieved, pensions at 60, regardless of marital status-I would say even regardless of need-provided the applicant is out of the labour market, but if that is too much for a Conservative or Liberal government to do in one step, at least let us get over this marital test and go no further than a needs test and make it equal as between men and women, equal among married persons, widowed persons and single persons. This present inequality and discrimination are a disgrace to the Parliament of Canada. Instead of our boasting tonight about the progress we have made, we should be ashamed of ourselves that the basic wrong is still in this piece of legislation.

I am obviously-and hon. members know it-thoroughly convinced of the rightness of social legislation which is based on the rights of our people and based on the principle of universality, and I hope that we will proceed in that direction, aiming toward both old age security and the Canada Pension Plan being available to all people between 60 and 65 provided only that they are out of the labour market. That, to me, is a goal toward which this Thirty-first Parliament ought to strive.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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LIB

Céline Hervieux-Payette

Liberal

Mrs. Celine Hervieux-Payette (Mercier):

Mr. Speaker, during consideration of the bill in committee, I put a few questions to the minister, yet, today, 15 days later, 1 still have not had any replies. I trust, therefore, that this evening he will be in a position to give the figures requested. He said:

Mr. Chairman, the actual numbers I do not know, but 1 will see if I can get them for the hon. member.

[ Translation]

And he continued, and I quote:

We will do that as fast as we can.

I hope he can find the figures, because I was asking some questions regarding the welfare savings which would be made under that program. 1 think it would be interesting to know how many persons on welfare will receive benefit from that measure.

On the other hand, I think I would like to follow on the idea of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) regarding the discrimination in the bill. Even though

Old Age Security

I agree with the bill, I think I owe it to the hon. member to say that this bill is discriminatory for men because those who are 60 will not benefit. Again, of course, 1 do not want to see any measure treating the sexes differently. Even though this measure favours women, I say that men and women should be equal. With regard to this legislation they are not. [Translation]

I continue to point out all the measures we bring in piecemeal to help people. A while ago, my colleague, the hon. member for Lotbiniere (Mr. Janelle), also spoke of the people who were on social welfare before benefiting from that legislation. So we see the negative connotation surrounding social welfare which should not even exist here in the House. I remind hon. members that a bill like this one proves that a responsible government should pass measures under a guaranteed minimum income program, because no matter what the legislation is, even if it is useful and a success, for the widows in my riding-even if they do need the money they receive-to qualify for it they have had to live through a bereavement, as the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) mentioned a while ago, I believe discrimination is clearly involved here, that of widowhood, and to my mind that is absolutely unfair.

Just the same 1 would like to commend the minister for the amendments he has made to the legislation. 1 believe one does not repair an injustice by handing out more money but at least this time we bring in an amendment. The minister did manage to redress a wrong that was caused to persons who were not covered under the act. 1 would still like to point out that I obviously deplore the fact that this measure was not introduced earlier and that it is not part of a global guaranteed minimum income package; however, I can only voice my approval for an income support measure which bears the hallmark of a Liberal rather than a Progressive Conservative initiative. In any case, I think the people in the Mercier constituency will benefit from it, but as I said earlier I deplore that a woman has to be widowed to be eligible because I believe it is sad enough to lose her husband to be able to qualify and to change her status as a welfare recipient or as a state pensioner because of such a qualification. I can only express to the government the hope that this measure is only the first step toward a guaranteed minimum income.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

David Kilgour (Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. David Kilgour (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Privy Council):

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to speak in this debate, but the intervention of the hon. member for Westmorland-Kent (Mr. LeBlanc) has provoked me into getting up to speak briefly about this matter.

The absolute hypocrisy of hon. members opposite who get up and pretend to wrap themselves in concern for the senior citizens of this country causes me considerable concern. I respectfully point out that the thing which has caused the older people in this country to suffer most during the last ten years-during which hon. members opposite have, of course,

1622

November 22, 1979

Old Age Security

been in office-is inflation, and I think a case can be made, which is un-get-aroundable, about hon. men and women opposite. They have intentionally debauched the currency of this country.

I think a case can be made, which again is irrefutable, that successive ministers of finance, some of whom have the audacity to seek the leadership of their party, have intentionally caused the purchasing power of the dollar in Canada to be approximately halved during the last ten years.

Some hon. members may say, "How is that?" I think the clear answer is that the economy of Canada has grown approximately 50 per cent in the last ten years, and M-l-or the money supply as it is defined-has increased by approximately 150 per cent and now 160 per cent. That is the reason we have a purchasing power of approximately half of what it was ten years ago. Mr. Speaker, if you or I went down into our basements and printed up approximately $10 billion or $15 billion extra, came up and spent it in the economy, prices would have to rise, and that is exactly what has been done.

In the city of Edmonton where 1 am from, 1 am told, and I believe, that on a Monday morning after a weekend grocery sale, pensioners literally push each other to get access to vegetables and other materials which are on sale. I think the figure is that fully 70 per cent to 75 per cent of people over 65 in this country are close to or below the poverty line. The thing which is hurting pensioners in this country has to be inflation, and I say inflation was created intentionally by the previous government. We are doing our level best to try to do something about that.

It is not known by many people that a deficit is not necessarily inflationary. A deficit is only inflationary if it is not financed by borrowing, that is, if it is financed, bluntly, by the printing presses of the Bank of Canada. That is the root of the problem of pensioners of this country, and that is the most serious charge which can be made against hon. members in the official opposition.

As the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie) is the first to accept, this bill is a small step. It is a necessary step but, unfortunately, it does not do much in the face of the inflation older people are experiencing and have experienced for ten years in this country. I believe that had the party of the member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) been in office during the past ten years, we would have had less inflation and less deficits than under the previous administration. In short, I believe that the Liberal party has been more irresponsible, financially, physically, and monetarily, than members of the NDP would have been had they been in office. The example I give is that of the government of Saskatchewan which, as perhaps members on the far left from this side of the House would know, runs a more fiscally reponsible government by far than has the former government of Canada.

In conclusion, may I urge every member of the House to vote for this bill.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Marcel Ostiguy

Liberal

Mr. Marcel Ostiguy (Saint-Hyacinthe):

Mr. Speaker, I have decided this evening to speak very briefly on Bill C-6 introduced on October 19, because when the amendment of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) was moved on October 26, I rose to tell this government that the bill tabled on October 17 includes only part of the promises and commitments that it made during the election campaign in May. As the people of the constituency that I have the honour to represent will remember, the government had stated and promised that it would bring down the age of eligibility for pensions to 60 for all citizens.

Obviously, Bill C-6 does something to improve pensions, especially for women who have the misfortune to lose their husband before reaching the age of 65 and who receive the spouse's allowance. It is obvious that this government tried everything to get the vote of retired people, but Quebeckers realized that it was a trap and did not rise to the bait.

Quite recently, in committee, without the vigilance of the Liberal members and the great experience of the hon. member for Saint-Leonard-Anjou (Miss Begin) we are convinced that the amendment moved tonight by the minister, which will certainly improve this bill, would not have been passed. I therefore congratulate the hon. member for Saint-Leonard-Anjou and all the Libera! members of the committee. Because of this amendment, all women who have the misfortune to lose their husband before reaching the age of 65 will be eligible in the future.

Of course, once again, a certain group in our society has been neglected. As the hon. member for Mercier (Mrs. Her-vieux-Payette) said earlier, there are all the widows, all the single people, all the women between 60 and 65 who cannot join the labour market and who must apply for social welfare in certain provinces, at least in Quebec. I would refer, Mr. Speaker, to my intervention of October 26 when I spoke about a couple with an income of $3,528 in 1979-80. In view of the increase in the cost of petroleum and healing oil and in the cost of living, I still wonder how those people can make both ends meet even if they have the opportunity to live in low rental housing, because these units still cost between $200 and $250 a month. Mr. Speaker, I said that 1 would not take too much time, and I believe that Bill C-6 has some good points, but it completely ignores a whole category of people who will have to apply for social welfare to make both ends meet.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Walter David Baker (Minister of National Revenue; President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Progressive Conservative Party House Leader)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Walter Baker (President of the Privy Council and Minister of National Revenue):

Mr. Speaker, if the House

November 22, 1979

would agree, may 1 propose that the very appropriate suggestion made by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) be adopted to allow us not to see the clock at 9.45 p.m. as contained in the order of the House, and to continue until ten o'clock, at which time, I believe, all hon. members are prepared to support the legislation of the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie).

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink
LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Hon. members have heard the suggestion of the President of the Privy Council (Mr. Baker) that the Chair not see the clock. Is that agreed?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   OLD AGE SECURITY ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
Permalink

November 22, 1979