Yes, we are in committee, but the motion is a debatable one. The amendment is debatable because the amendment now is that the amount of the estimate be reduced by a certain sum of money, namely, some $5,000.
Those of us who believe that all that is necessary should be given to the department to deal with pensions for the blind and for old age pensioners are not in favour of reducing the amount by $1 when it is to be used for that particular purpose. I am sorry the minister used the method that he adopted tonight in stopping the debate, because one hon. gentleman had been allowed to proceed with this matter, and particularly when the members of the house were good enough, shall I say, to agree to the suggestion that we should sit beyond the hour of adjournment.
The minister rose in his place and appeared to be quite annoyed at any criticism being leveled at the department in connection with old age pensions. Let me point out to him that the C.C.F. group in this house two years ago urged that the basic pension should be raised to $50 a month, and that motion was ruled out of order at the time. What I am going to point out is this. As the hon. member for Vancouver South has stated, in those two years the cost of living has risen by twenty-four points. As the controls have been removed, the cost of living has risen. The result is that the old age pensioners, who were to get $30 a month two years ago, are today getting the equivalent in purchasing power of $22.50 per month, which means a considerable reduction in their standard of living.
I think the government owes it to the house and to the country to grant a substantial increase in pensions to the old age pensioners and to the blind in this country.
I have always believed that the pensions should be uniform across the country and that the whole amount should be paid from the federal treasury so that there would not be this competition among the provinces, which I think is bad for the old age pensioners, for the provinces and for the general public. I am urging that the government take the opportunity of announcing to the people of this country that the old age pension will be raised so that at least the standard of living, such as it was, will be restored.
In this country where we have had such large budgetary surpluses I think that could well be done. Our senior citizens, as they are called nowadays, and the persons who are blind are entitled to something better than
they are getting. I am sorry the minister chose the method he did of ending the debate tonight. I am not going to say any more at this stage, because I know that the house desires to go through with the arrangements that have been made. I did want to join with others, however, in making this protest against the manner in which the debate was closed tonight.