November 22, 1979 (31st Parliament, 1st Session)


Harold Thomas Herbert


Mr. Herbert:

Mr. Speaker, I will accept that explanation, but nevertheless it took initiative. That initiative was still taken by the hon. member for Saint-Leonard-Anjou, and I congratulate her for that.
What I was saying was that there is no change in status for the single person. Being single, that person has presumably had to contend with the need to provide for herself, or in a few cases himself, throughout his or her life. Until we are able to bring down old age pensions to a lower age for everyone, hopefully age 60, then there is at least some logic for not including these single persons. Despite the letter from the commissioner for Human Rights, I see the reason for going slow in this particular area.
What does bother me considerably is that at this stage the minister is not treating people who are in the same circum-

November 22, 1979
Old Age Security
stances alike. I give as an example three widows who are exactly the same age and who are in exactly the same financial circumstances, living side by side in identical apartments. Only one of those three widows gets the pension because she was between the ages of 60 and 65 when her husband, who was over 65, died. The other widow had not quite reached age 60, so she does not qualify, even though her husband died when he was 65 or more. And the third widow does not qualify because her husband died the day before he reached his sixty-fifth birthday. So we have three widows who are in identical financial circumstances and who are the same age, but only one of the three can qualify. That, to me, is an injustice.
If I were going to move, as we are moving in this bill, to the welfare area, which can be looked upon as a provincial jurisdiction, then we should at least make sure that individuals who are in identical circumstances are treated alike. I also have one word of warning. We know from past experience that not every provincial government looks upon these pensions, given by the federal government, in the same fashion. We know that in at least one case that pension will be taken into account when assessing the eligibility of that widow or widower for welfare payments. We must face the fact that until we get agreement with the provincial governments, any attempt made at the federal level to increase help for these persons will be nullified if every dollar given by the federal government is taken away by the provincial government.
The government has talked at length about co-operating with the provinces, about discussing all matters with the provinces and having their accord in advance. Since this bill is definitely an intrusion into a provincial area of responsibility- and I am not opposed to it on that ground; I think it is very good and I would like to see more such intrusions-and since certain provincial governments will look upon this bill as an intrusion and will not, therefore, be prepared to see these extra moneys remain untouched in the pockets of the recipients, I suggest that discussion should be held with all the provincial governments to ensure that what the federal government give, the provincial government doth not take away.

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