Mrs. Ellen L. Fairclough (Hamilton West):
Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. member who preceded me, but I am still somewhat at a loss to appreciate just what was the urgent matter on which he wished to adjourn the house the other day. In the course of his remarks the hon. member referred to the adage, he who laughs last. While I think every hon. member of this house appreciates to the full the brand of humour to which the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Sinnott) treats us on occasion, I should like to return to a more serious vein and say that this is no laughing matter to the housewives of this nation. Less than a month ago, speaking on approximately the same subject, I made this remark at page 1156 of Hansard for March 12:
May I draw to the attention of the house the fact that the heaviest single monthly increases in 1950 were in the months of March and July. We are already well into March; and while I am well aware that the figures that are reported are for the preceding month, I predict that the March report will follow the 1950 pattern, and probably the April one also.
I am now convinced that the April report is going to follow the same pattern. To arrive at that opinion it is only necessary to read the advertisements in the daily newspapers, notably those appearing on Thursdays when a great many retail houses run their full page ads to entice purchasers into their premises. Some of these prices, instead of attracting purchasers, would very nearly frighten them away. The most trying problem of this day for the average worker in this country is this very high cost of living. To those on the government side of the house charged with the responsibility of giving this country the leadership they were elected to provide, I would say that this matter cannot be cured by taking away the credit of the consumer. Nor can it be cured by taking away a still greater portion of his income through taxation, either direct or indirect, because already he has too little with which to purcnase the necessities of life. These actions merely aggravate an already complicated situation which has become a nightmare for the little man and his family.
Cost of Living
Apart from those who have some means of sustenance and perhaps the hope of augmenting their regular income through added employment there are those who have no such hope at all, including pensioners of many kinds. There are the old age pensioners, the blind, the veterans and their dependents, those trying to raise families on the mother's allowance, those trying to raise families on the proceeds of workmen's compensation where the breadwinner of the family has been lost. In every mail I receive letters from all over this country, from Victoria, from Saint John, New Brunswick, from Toronto, from the city of Ottawa and many from Hamilton. There is one from Beams-ville. I picked out a few of these, and I should like to read just a sentence from the various letters, because I believe they will express to this house more eloquently than I can possibly do the feelings of the people in this country on this very serious situation. Here is one referring to the old people:
These men and women who, through self-denial, have saved what some years ago would be enough for their needs in old age now find themselves facing poverty through wars and economical conditions beyond' their control-people with small fixed incomes, shelter and necessities rising, many of them are worried sick to know what to do.
Here is another one.
Is it possible to obtain a cost of living bonus for the old age pensioners . . .
Eloquent, is it not? Here is another:
May I bring to your attention the helplessness of our aged people? There is no union to help them as have the workers; the aged cannot go on strike. You know that $40 will not pay for rent, heat, clothing, food, etc.
Old folks here agree that the present $40 is now not quite so good as the $20 we started with. The cost of food has more than doubled and rents have been raised three times. But it is a long time since pensions have been raised.
Here is another:
After spending a lifetime in the service of the C.N.R. got pensioned off with $25 a month to keep my wife and self.
Further in the same letter:
After thirty-three years' service, we have about 50 cents a week to live on after paying taxes, buying coal, electric and gas bills, with nothing left for clothes.
Here is another one:
How about those who are over eighty and cannot, like myself, do any work, must we starve? My wife was ill for seven years, the last four nearly blind and I could not do any work; had to look after her. From July 1, 1949, to August, 1950, when she died her expenses came to nearly $1,200.
Down further in the same letter:
I also had to sell all furniture and go into a boarding house and I pay $50 a month. I have $300
Cost of Living
left from furniture which I hope to save for my funeral (but I cannot do so). I have $450 to take me from now till November.
That was written on March 12, 1951. Here is another one:
Try as I might I cannot manage on what I am getting.
I am just picking out a sentence here and there which I think is pertinent, Mr. Speaker, to this discussion. Another one reads:
We are both up in years, in fact one over the eighty mark. Have had a lot of sickness and have a little left but cannot pay rent and have necessary food.
Here is still another:
We have been greatly concerned about so many refined old people who would never let the world know of their plight and yet they are living almost over the edge all the time.
Further in the same letter:
Old people who had enough to see them through life until costs became so outrageous . . .
I believe the leader of the opposition, in presenting his amendment today, referred to those who are too proud to ask for help, but who are suffering from malnutrition. There are many of them. I recall reading in the paper not long where an aged couple were found who had died from malnutrition.
Here is another letter:
My husband has been in business for sixty years. Has had to give up on account of health. We have had to spend thousands on doctors all our life. We have a little but can't pay rent and live.
Here is another:
I would be so pleased if you could help me in any way, and it would ease my mind about the near future, for even bare necessities run high by the end of the year these days. Fuel and taxes take the rent, and the little that is left goes on urgent repairs, and the home is getting old too, like myself.
Another one reads:
We do not ask for luxuries, but as prices are now how does the government think an aged person can get even the necessities of life out of $40 per month? Take room rent out, and what is left to live on for a month?
Mr. Speaker, I think those few-I may say I have probably twenty times as many in my office-excerpts from letters describe, more eloquently than any words anyone in this house could use, the plight of those who are on fixed incomes. Prices are still rising. The next index will undoubtedly show a still further increase. Where will it stop? We have listened tonight, Mr. Speaker, to theory; we have listened to explanations, and I think we have listened to excuses. I should like to leave this one word with this house. In the eyes of the women of Canada, those who are charged with feeding their families and
clothing their children, excuses will not feed those families nor will explanations clothe their children.