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


Stanley Howard Knowles (N.D.P. House Leader)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stanley Knowles (Winnipeg North Centre):

Mr. Speaker, 1 understand there are three or four members who would like to make a contribution to this debate, and in view of the fact that we are under a House order to end it at a certain time I shall make my remarks at this point very brief. 1 am getting a nod from the government House leader which I think I can interpret correctly. Perhaps when we reach 9.45 we can agree that, since it is not likely any recorded vote on this legislation will be asked for, we might carry on the debate until ten o'clock. Even with that extra time I may have won for other members I am prepared to make my own contribution brief so that others can take part.
As I said in my earlier remarks on the report stage, we welcome the improvement in the bill which was made in the standing committee. That improvement means that not only will those who are now on the spouse's allowance have the assurance that it will continue until age 65 if they become widows, but it has also become a fact that those whose spouse's allowances have been cut off because of widowhood at any time in the past four years will have it reinstated commencing in November. Any gain is good, so we welcome it, and I am happy to say so once more on third reading.
1 must also say, as I said at the report stage, that I still feel very strongly opposed to having a piece of legislation on our books which contains a marital test, a piece of legislation which says to a woman, in particular, " you get this pension only if you have a man." 1 hope this will soon be corrected. I invite hon. members, and others who may note what I am now saying in Hansard, to turn back a few pages and read the letter which Mr. Gordon Fairweather wrote to the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Crombie). I urge the minister to take that letter seriously and correct this problem without waiting for a review of the whole pension situation.
November 22, 1979

Having said that, 1 want simply to reiterate my conviction, after all the years I have spent in public life and all the years I have spent here, that the best thing we have done for the people of this country has been the provision of social security on a universal basis.
Universal old age pensions have changed the character of old age for the Canadian people. Universal family allowance and universal medicare have played a part from which we must not turn back. By the same token, I think that in the period between 60 and 65 we should have pensions universally available to those who are out of the labour market. I plead for that as a goal to be achieved, pensions at 60, regardless of marital status-I would say even regardless of need-provided the applicant is out of the labour market, but if that is too much for a Conservative or Liberal government to do in one step, at least let us get over this marital test and go no further than a needs test and make it equal as between men and women, equal among married persons, widowed persons and single persons. This present inequality and discrimination are a disgrace to the Parliament of Canada. Instead of our boasting tonight about the progress we have made, we should be ashamed of ourselves that the basic wrong is still in this piece of legislation.
I am obviously-and hon. members know it-thoroughly convinced of the rightness of social legislation which is based on the rights of our people and based on the principle of universality, and I hope that we will proceed in that direction, aiming toward both old age security and the Canada Pension Plan being available to all people between 60 and 65 provided only that they are out of the labour market. That, to me, is a goal toward which this Thirty-first Parliament ought to strive.

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