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


William Arnold Peters

New Democratic Party

Mr. Peters:

I thank the hon. member but I think she is rushing my speech. I was pointing out that we had originally passed this piece of legislation for the recipient who was a widow between the ages of 60 and 65. Then this bill came before the former minister of national health and welfare and she put in the six months' provision. Certainly that was a great advantage. We are talking about 200 recipients coming on stream per month, so it is not a large number. But it meant that after the six months, after being used to getting approximately $600 when her husband died under the legislation of the previous government, she was cut off and she did not get anything more until she was 65 years of age and eligible again. This was not good. Originally she had to move out of her place within the month, depending on what time of the month her husband died, because she would not have enough money to keep the place going. Then the allowance was given for a six-month period. This minister, in passing this legislation, is providing her with an income which will be half of that provided to both of them until she reaches the prescribed age.
I asked the expert on pensions in this House about the matter. He indicated to me that there were not too many husbands in this category. In fact, the number was insignificant. Normally the women were the ones being discriminated against.
The Minister of National Health and Welfare has had considerable experience in matters of health and welfare in a
November 22, 1979

previous job where I am sure he came into contact with many needy cases, mostly in the municipal field. As a result of his efforts in his previous occupation to provide people with a reasonable income, I am sure he would be quite prepared to support the hon. member for Roberval (Mr. Gauthier) in his contention that we should be doing something for these people on the basis of need rather than on the basis of these restrictions that involve such things as whether or not you are married, or shacked up. I do not suppose that is a nice phrase to use when talking about people between the ages of 60 and 65 who are living together for certain reasons. Differences are made, and the advantage comes in many cases if you have neglected to involve yourself in matrimony.
The example was given by the hon. member for Roberval of brothers and sisters, two brothers or two sisters, living in the same house and receiving more money than two people who were married. That highlights a need. The former minister of national health and welfare was interested in looking at, and was in that office long enough to look at a guaranteed annual income plan. All the problems of passing legislation that affects a specific number of people in specific circumstances could be overcome by providing a guaranteed annual income. This would eliminate many of the provincial inspectors who now have to decide on the financial position of the person requesting assistance.
That would not make redundant the work of the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles). When he first came here he inherited the mantle of his predecessor who was interested in providing, where possible, pensions to aid those not able to assist themselves. I know the amount of mail he receives from people all over the country asking for assistance in correcting many of the inequalities created by our system.
1 hope the Minister of National Health and Welfare will look at the studies done by previous governments to see if there is some way of eliminating some of the bureaucrats at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, who administer our hodge-podge forms of social assistance to those in need. Whether this government is in power or not, he would be more comfortable when moving on to other jobs in the other places knowing that he had accomplished something other health ministers could not accomplish, or have been unwilling to accomplish.
I am sure in the days to come the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre will find loopholes in this legislation. There will be others who should and could be assisted. I hope the minister continues to turn to the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre for advice and encouragement. I am sure he has found it has been readily available on many occasions. In this way we can plug some of the loopholes that have made parts of our social legislation rather ridiculous.

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