Mr. T. S. Barnett (Comox-Alberni):
Mr. Speaker, before I attempt to discuss some of the contents of the budget speech made by the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) there are two or three matters with which I should like to deal briefly that are not mentioned in that speech, at least in the way in which I should have liked to see them mentioned.
I think it is perhaps hardly necessary for me at this stage of the debate to go into much detail with regard to the position the C.C.F. group takes on the increase proposed in relation to the old age pension. I think that position is made abundantly clear by the amendment which was moved by my colleague the hon. member for Nanaimo (Mr. Cameron) when he suggested that the old age pension should be increased at this time to an amount commensurate with the increase in the gross national product since 1949, which would call for a pension of approximately $75 a month. Arguments in favour of that proposal were advanced this afternoon by the hon. member for Dauphin (Mr. Zaplitny) and therefore I think that I need not expand upon them at this time. However, there are two points which are not mentioned in the proposals for changes for social security legislation which perhaps may not loom large on the national scene in respect of the number of voters that are involved but nevertheless are ones which I think rightly should have been brought forward at this time.
One of these matters which has been raised many times by some of my colleagues who speak on occasions when we are discussing veterans affairs is the idea of including as eligible for war veterans allowance first world war veterans who were not in what has been termed a theatre of war. I have had one or two cases brought to my attention quite recently of what seemed to me to be needless hardship imposed upon people who did render honourable service in that war, yet are unable to qualify for war veterans allowance benefits.
The other matter which I regret has not been taken care of in the proposals advanced by the minister is a matter which has been put forward as a single point program, jointly by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Council of the Blind, over the last two years, for a specific allowance free from the means test for the blind persons of Canada. I have spoken on this matter on two or three previous occasions in earlier sessions of this parliament, and I must say I was very much disappointed that the consistently reasonable request which those who speak on behalf of the blind have made to the government has not been acted upon. I am sure that the blind people who are in the position of having passed the means test will welcome the small increase which is going to be allowed to them. I must say I cannot understand why the government did not see fit to accede to that request which has been, as the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) and other members of the government well know, put forward consistently, not only to the government but to the members of this house.
There is a third point which I wish to raise at this time. It is also a matter which I have raised on a number of previous occasions. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Finance may recall that shortly before the end of the last session I said that I intended to raise this every year as long as I was a member of this house until something was done about it. I am referring to the continued discrimination against the wage and salary earners of this country under section 5 of the Income Tax Act. I have, on occasion, gone into some considerable detail with respect to the manner in which the application of this section of the act discriminates against many of the workers in my constituency, the loggers in particular. I have outlined the anomalous position in which skilled tradesmen find themselves when they are working for wages in contrast to the man who may be, for the time being, selfemployed. I have attempted to put forward the position that has been advanced from time to time by the various workers' organizations in this respect.
As members of the house will recall, Mr. Speaker, last year an amendment was made to the Income Tax Act which had to do with those things which must be included in respect of taxable income. We passed an amendment which, as I recall it, was phrased something like this: that any
benefit of any kind whatever must be included. Then when we found that an information bulletin, which has become quite well known in trade union circles as information bulletin No. 10, was issued under date
The Budget-Mr. Barnett of July 10, 1956, we began to wonder if this was not a further implementation of the idea that was put forward in that amendment. This bulletin attempted to clarify the situation to employers in respect to including allowances, particularly for those who were construction workers and who were away from their homes in the course of earning a living.
The bulletin says, on page 2:
This bulletin is being issued at this time because it is believed that there may be employers who have been unaware or uncertain of their responsibilities in the matter of tax deductions at the source. Any employers who have, for the present time, neglected to take these elements of income into account for the purpose of tax deductions should make immediate arrangements to do so.
So far as I can understand, that was simply serving notice that the practice, which was fairly well known and had been carried on over a long period of time, was suddenly going to be brought to a stop. In other words, instead of moving in the direction of removing this discrimination the government seems to be tightening up on the wage earners. The Canadian Labour Congress, in their brief to the government this year, brought this matter to the attention of the government. It has been brought to the attention of individual members. I know I have had letters from a great many trade union organizations in my area such as the building trades council, Vancouver and District Labour Council, the brotherhood of carpenters and joiners and a large number of other groups.
Now, sessional paper No. 105A, moved by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles), made some inquiries on this subject and the answer was given by the Department of Finance. He asked whether or not representations had been made to the government on this subject, and the reply says that such representations had been made and had been received from a number of labour organizations. Then, it goes on to say that careful study is being given to these representations and the matter was still receiving consideration. I can only assume that the consideration has come to a conclusion and, because of the absence of any reference to this matter in the budget speech, that the government is no longer giving consideration to it.
Subtopic: ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENT OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE