I regard it as a supreme compliment because I regard politics as the supreme science, or art, the art of good government, which is what the Minister of National Health and Welfare gives us.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there is one more point I would like to deal with before I come to the objection raised in the amendment of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre. I regard this plan for national hospital insurance as a superb example of good government. I believe it represents the completion of eight years of concentrated effort by as expert a staff as there is in any country of the world, a staff at all times inspired, led, and directed by the Minister of National Health and Welfare.
There are some good things in this legislation which I believe even the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre and those other
ringside critics of the opposition have not yet perceived. Take for instance the provision that at some appropriate time it is planned to extend the diagnostic services to people being treated in out-patient clinics. I happen to have taken a very modest part in the laying of the foundations of the Canadian arthritis and rheumatism society, of which I was the first president in British Columbia. We would never have been able to support our work but for the health grants we were able to obtain by the co-operation of this government, but we did start, I think, without a single dollar of financial resources.
That society has now extended its work so that according to the official report which I have before me, in the last year 6,784 people received direct services from the society's professional staff. The total number of patients at the end of December 1954 was 2,012. Four thousand seven hundred and seventy-two cases were opened for service during the year and 3,983 cases were closed, leaving 2,801 cases on the rolls at the close of 1955. These figures do not include patients treated by the Saskatchewan division, for which comparable statistics are not available. It goes on to say that 81.7 per cent of the cases closed during the year were classified as either being much improved, that is to say 40 per cent; or improved, 41.7 per cent, while 18.3 per cent were classified as unimproved or worse at the time of closing.
The point I want to make is that arthritis and rheumatism are diseases which cause untold damage and misery to literally hundreds of thousands of people in this country. We have demonstrated time and time again that if arthritic patients get proper diagnostic service in the first stages of their disease, its worst crippling effects can be almost entirely avoided. And I would like to stress that it is clearly implied in the bill as it stands that at the right time in the future these diagnostic services will be made available.
I come now to the small difference among the members of this house about one measure. I think even the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre will concede me at least this much, that I am just as anxious to get this legislation through soon and effectively as he is. I submit to him and to the other members who have made this objection that after the most serious contemplation of the point raised, it is my opinion that they are wrong, first on a matter of principle.
I believe our Prime Minister laid down a profoundly important principle in what I now call the St. Laurent formula, with the extension into the provincial field of federal services which have never before been given
to the provinces. We who sit in this house know very well that the British North America Act was written with the conditions of 100 years ago in mind; we know that the needs of our country require constant change and progress. We know, as the hon. member for Saskatoon has so often pointed out, that there is need in so many cases for more federal participation in things which have hitherto been considered exclusively the responsibility of the provinces.
As the Prime Minister so clearly pointed out on another matter a couple of years ago, any government in Ottawa takes a very great moral responsibility when it decides to spend in one province public money raised from the taxpayers of all Canada, in a field where the jurisdiction is not clear; where there has been no change in either the letter or the spirit of the British North America Act, and where there has been no general agreement upon such steps. I submit that in the St. Laurent formula, as I call it, in which the Prime Minister insisted that we were going to make these changes in the spirit of the constitution, there must be first agreement by the parliament of Canada to go ahead, and second there must be agreement by a majority of the provinces of Canada representing populations constituting more than a majority of the people of the country.
A point was raised by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre which was amplified by the hon. member for Red Deer, when he said he could see no good reason for objecting to going ahead at this time when there are only five provinces signed up. I submit there is a very excellent reason and that it is the soundest of all reasons in a great federal union such as Canada. We would, in my opinion, be setting an extremely bad and extremely dangerous precedent for the future.
Since we have been considering a lot of hypothetical cases here today, let me put this hypothetical case to the hon. members of the house. I happen to believe in, as I know some other members of this house do, not only the kind of old age pensions we now have but also compulsory contributory annuities along the lines of the United States social security scheme. I might mention that all members of the all-party committee in 1950, including the hon. member for Eglinton, agreed unanimously that this dominion did not as yet have the constitutional jurisdiction to move into that field.
Now let me ask hon. members this question. Suppose we were so ill-advised as to accept this amendment which has been moved, I think without due thought, by the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.
Suppose we should say that we ought to make these changes in the spirit of the constitution, if the Dominion of Canada and a certain number of provinces representing the majority of the people of Canada agreed; let me show you what a dangerous position we would be getting ourselves into. We would be getting ourselves into the position where at some future time, when a dominion government wanted to make some change, all that would be necessary would be for that government, plus the two big governments of Quebec and Ontario, to put that change through.
Therefore I suggest that the St. Laurent formula is a far superior formula, and one which will stand for all time.
I come now to the tail end of my speech. I was trying to think of some way to make this matter clear to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre and I consulted some of my friends who sit around me. They said to me: "It is too bad that Stanley is not a poker player."
Subtopic: AUTHORIZATION OF PAYMENTS FROM CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND