Mr. A. B. Patterson (Fraser Valley):
Mr. Speaker, I am sure the veterans and veterans organizations welcomed the government's notice some time ago that a special committee was to be set up to consider veterans legislation. Certain measures have been referred to that committee for consideration, such as the War Service Grants Act and a bill respecting benefits for the members of the Canadian forces, and perhaps one or two others. I know that the veterans and those associations are grateful for the legislation that has been brought in over the years, and without question it has brought many advantages to them. However, even if we admit that, we must also recognize the fact that they are far from satisfied with the present legislation on the statute books.
I discussed the matter with a number of the leaders of the Legion in various sections of my riding. They mentioned several things that they would like to see done, and other matters they would like to have considered. They find it difficult to understand why the government is not willing to accede to the request for a standing committee on veterans affairs, since we realize that these problems are with us and apparently will be with us for some considerable time.
It is the general feeling that if such a committee were set up it could deal with these problems as they arise. I am sure that veterans are going to be far from satisfied with the terms of reference of this particular committee. I may not fully understand the terms of reference, but it seems to me that some hon. members who have spoken this afternoon have said that the terms of reference are wide enough, or that we can get around them or under them or over them. That does not seem to fit in with my conception of terms of reference, and certainly this afternoon we were kept pretty close to the line. We were not permitted to discuss too much that went beyond the actual matters that were brought to us in this resolution, and it would seem to me that in the committee the same thing will happen. We will not be given too much latitude as far as discussing the other problems is concerned.
In my conversation with leaders of the Legion group they have mentioned several
problems, and I am sure that the matters referred to the committee are not the major problems as far as the war veterans are concerned. They may be the concern of some, and I have no doubt they are, but I believe that once again the government is failing to face the problems and measure up to the expectations of the veterans and the veterans organizations.
Some major problems have been referred to today, and perhaps I could do no better than just say that I agree with the statement that certain things of paramount importance have been omitted. For instance, there is the matter of war veterans allowances, which we feel are far too low to meet the needs of men at this particular time, and at the present cost of living. I spoke to one particular leader who was on his way back to the coast. I am not sure of his name, but I think it was Williams. He told me that one of the things that helped the war veterans considerably was the fact that they could buy tinned meat so cheaply at the coast. He said it was a Godsend to them because they could not afford to buy fresh meat; they could not afford to buy the better type of meat and therefore they were living on the very cheapest that they could obtain. I feel that this is one of the problems of major concern, but apparently the government is not planning to give any consideration to the matter at all. I fear they will see to it that these terms of reference are tight enough to restrain anyone from dealing with it very effectively.
Another problem has been mentioned to me, namely, the problem of permissive ceiling, which again reminds us that at the present cost of living these ceilings are far too low. I would like to call attention if I could to some articles, but I suppose the Speaker would rule me out of order and therefore I shall refrain from referring to them. But I should like to ask by what process of reasoning is this ceiling maintained? Are we afraid that the veterans are going to get too rich? Just why do we maintain that ceiling on permissive incomes? I have heard it suggested that it is done to keep them more or less in line with the old age pensions and so on. Well, the same thing obtains there. I cannot see why it should be retained on the old age pension basis. I feel the veterans should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, to supplement their allowances to a point where they can maintain an adequate and a decent standard of living.
Another matter has been brought to my attention, and I believe that this could be considered and will be considered by the
committee, since it falls within the terms of reference. I refer to the changes in the regulations relating to earned income. I have been given to understand that that regulation stipulates that 50 per cent of the gross revenue derived from agricultural operations shall be considered as income for the purpose of the War Veterans Allowance Act. Now, Mr. Speaker, I cannot understand why we should consider that regulation just and proper. However, I believe the Department of Veterans Affairs is giving consideration to this matter and I trust their ruling will be fair and equitable as far as the veteran engaged in agricultural activities is concerned.
There are other matters to which I would like to refer, Mr. Speaker, but I do not wish to presume on the time of the house. Nevertheless, I feel there are three reasons why at this particular time we ought to give serious consideration to the plight of the war veteran. I believe gratitude demands that something further be done for these men who have hazarded their lives in the defence of the things we hold dear. They were willing to sacrifice everything they had. They sacrificed in their own lives everything that was dear unto them, and they were willing and to all intents and purposes did lay down their lives, just as did others, in the defence of the sacred things we enjoy. Therefore, I would suggest that we take a look at this situation again and reconsider some of the major problems. We request that the minister give consideration to these problems at this particular time and deal with them more effectively than has been the case in the past.
Again, I believe it is our responsibility to see to it that these men have sufficient to maintain them in a decent standard of living. I say we are grateful to them, and our gratitude demands that we do something to discharge the responsibility which devolves upon this government at the present time in regard to these war veterans.
Finally, I believe there is one other consideration, namely that consistency demands that the government do something further for these men at this time. A short time ago legislation was introduced in this house which was bitterly opposed by some and supported by others. 1 happen to be a representative of a group which supported that particular legislation. All hon. members I believe will realize that I am referring to the recent increase in indemnity for members of parliament. The government introduced that legislation and it was approved and we are all much better off for it. I supported that legislation and the group to which I belong supported it, but I feel that because of that there
Committee on Veterans Affairs is an added responsibility upon this government to deal with problems affecting our war veterans. I cannot speak for other hon. members but I can say that I received some letters which were far from complimentary, and I was charged with feathering my own nest, and being interested only in myself. But I assured these individual war veterans, old age pensioners and others that I was just as anxious and more anxious to do something for them than I was in doing something for myself.
In view of that I would urge the government that they shoulder this added responsibility which devolves upon them, and do something now for those who are less fortunate, those who have given so much and who are suffering so much in so many ways. I would urge the government to take note of the privations being suffered by these men and request the minister to give further consideration to this matter and bring in legislation at an early date which will deal effectively with this situation.
In closing I should like to read a letter addressed to the editor of the Vancouver Sun and signed "Old Vet". The letter reads as follows:
We who are about to die salute you. I speak for the burnt-out pensioners between 70 and 90, first war men.
We appeal to you and your intelligent readers against the action of the D.V.A. in reducing war veterans' allowances. We find as we go on the old age pension they cut our W.V. allowance as veterans to $20, making a maximum of $60 a month.
Topic: VETERANS AFFAIRS
Subtopic: APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE