Mr. W. M. Howe (Wellington-Grey-Dufferin-Waterloo):
Mr. Speaker, I should like to say a few words on this amendment presented by the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Rynard) in connection with Bill C-207, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act. I agree with all those who have indicated that this is good legislation. It is legislation which is long overdue. The minister has admitted, through his sudden conversion to the principle of linking old age security payments to the cost of living index, and by making an increase retroactive to January 1, 1972, that the existing legislation in this area is not adequate to meet the needs of the present day. For the life of me, I cannot understand why the minister did not go all the way in terms of retroactivity to the date on which the basic pension was established at $75 coupled with a 2 per cent escalation factor.
The history of the Liberal party in connection with old age pensions has not shown that party to be too expansive or too generous. Many of us can remember the episode in 1957 when the old age pension was raised from $40 to $46. We can also remember the drastic and well deserved results of the following election when "Six-buck" Harris himself went down to defeat, together with the majority of the Liberal party of the day. We sometimes wonder whether history is repeating itself.
May 17, 1972
Old Age Security Act
The bill before us concerns Canadians, many of whom suffered the effects of two world wars and the worst depression in world history. Many of them have become self-sufficient, and have been able to acquire sufficient resources of their own to see them through the years of their retirement. However, thousands of Canadians who have retired in the last few months are finding their life savings so badly eroded by inflation that a few dollars can make the difference between comfortable retirement and a bare existence. Had the escalation clause in this legislation been linked directly to the cost of living, the basic pension would now be $90.53. In other words, recipients will still be eight dollars short of the sum they should actually be receiving each month, notwithstanding the minister's own view that in arriving at the amount of old age security payments the cost of living is a necessary criterion.
As I say, we sometimes wonder whether history is not repeating itself. In 1957, $6 was given under this legislation.. Today, it is $8. The legislation still falls short. I realize that on July 1 an old age pensioner will receive a cheque for $97.28. However, on August 1st his cheque will be reduced to $82.88. In other words, he will get a bonus for one month. I do not know how near we are to an election, but I feel recipients of old age security payments will not be led astray by this attempt to bribe them with their own money, money which was due to them many months ago. According to the minister, this concession will cost an additional $166 million. Looked at within the whole spectrum of social security spending, which is within the neighborhood of $5 billion, this is not such a large sum. I say to the minister: Think again, and amend the legislation further, even at this late stage in such a way as to bring the basic old age security pension up to at least $90.53, the amount pensioners should be receiving had the escalation clause been instituted in 1967 when the pension was set at $75.
Subtopic: AMENDMENTS RESPECTING ESCALATION OF PENSIONS, RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS, INCREASE IN GUARANTEED INCOME SUPPLEMENT