Lionel BERTRAND

BERTRAND, Lionel

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Terrebonne (Quebec)
Birth Date
March 10, 1906
Deceased Date
March 25, 1979
Website
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Bertrand
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=15f7b640-a209-4f80-8dd3-69851bfeb8ad&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
journalist, newspaper editor

Parliamentary Career

March 26, 1940 - July 25, 1944
IND
  Terrebonne (Quebec)
June 11, 1945 - April 30, 1949
LIB
  Terrebonne (Quebec)
June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
LIB
  Terrebonne (Quebec)
August 10, 1953 - April 12, 1957
LIB
  Terrebonne (Quebec)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 1 of 22)


January 15, 1957

Mr. Lionel Bertrand (Terrebonne):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments in the discussion in order to fulfil a task entrusted to me by the blind of the province of Quebec and which 1 accepted willingly because for several years I have been associated with their group, namely the Friendly Society for the Blind, Societe Amicale des Aveugles, which has its headquarters in Montreal. The honorary patrons and directors of this society are well known in philanthropic circles and the group is also proud of its sound executive. Its managing director, Mr. H. A. Meilleur, who is well seconded by his wife, lost his sight in an accident when still young. He is for the society a living inspiration of courage and perseverance.

For several years I have been placing on the order paper of the House of Commons a resolution recommending the abolition of the means test in the case of blind persons, but it has not had the honour of being thoroughly discussed. As have some other members, I have often called the government's attention to this matter and although many welcome amendments have been made to the act in the last few years, the blind still consider that the means test should be abolished for the simple reason that it paralyses their productive possibilities and greatly limits their initiative.

I have before me booklets containing the signatures of 1,289 members of the Friendly Society for the Blind, all of them blind persons, from nearly 500 cities and villages of the province and which I intend to pass on to the government. These booklets, prepared by the blind themselves, need no further explanation than their title, "A petition from the blind to the federal government of Canada for the abolition of the means test in the case of blind persons".

The blind of Quebec have gone further. They have tried to show that on the provincial level public opinion endorses their request and each one has agreed to obtain in his own locality the signatures of at least 25 people, including those of the parish priest and the mayor. They have achieved the difficult task of gathering in the other volumes which are before me the signatures of 40,000 people, which represent a clearly expressed opinion. If the blind had set out to obtain a million signatures, they would easily have succeeded, for no one can remain indifferent to the physical and moral hardships of the blind; most of us recognize that sound health and a good eyesight are among the greatest blessings of life.

The signatories of the petition declare that the means test has the following adverse effects: (a) It reduces the blind's desire to work and makes them increasingly idle, (b) It forces the blind and their families to adopt a lower standard of living than any other group in Canada. (c) It interferes with the family life of the blind because it encourages husband and wife to live under separate roofs in the fear of seeing their pension reduced. (d) The blind man becomes a permanent burden on the state notwithstanding the fact that, being normally gifted and capable, he could, if he were granted blindness compensation, earn a greater part of his own living as well as contribute to the welfare of his country.

I believe, as so many people have said before me, that there is no greater disability for a human being than blindness. Indeed, at least 80 per cent of human activity depends upon the precious gift of sight. Work normally requires sight, as do reading and travel to perfect oneself. There is not one moment of the day when to move about, to make a living, to amuse ourselves as well as to protect ourselves against the danger of modern life, we do not count upon the so strong and yet so delicate organ of sight which gives us light instead of darkness.

True, blindness does not deprive the individual of all his faculties or productive possibilities, but only too often it paralyses or neutralises them. Precisely because his

life is spent in darkness the blind must always rely on the help of someone. No wonder that, in this endless night, he should sometimes give in to discouragement. That is why it is so important not to snuff out the human ideal in his heart, but on the contrary to revive it constantly.

I am proud that my country looks after the blind. I say with great pleasure that my country is taking care of the blind by increasing allowances which enable them to meet their basic needs. The blind are certainly satisfied with that, but the means test is becoming in their view, and I feel that they are right, an injustice which they think should be corrected.

Personally, I do not like the word "pension"; I would rather have used in the case of the blind the words "blindness compensation" which, I think, would be much more appropriate. So it is important that the blind do not suffer from an inferiority complex toward those who can see. It is important to raise their sense of human dignity, to give them a social rank, and to free them from the unbearable thought that they are a burden for their families and society.

The blind person is a human being: like every one of us he has a family and his home obligations are heavier than ours because of his blindness. His cost of living is higher than ours. His normal living expenses are much higher. He cannot benefit from sales because he cannot be aware of them and when he goes shopping he needs a helper whom he must pay. If he wants to commute, to go to church or to see a doctor, or even to earn a living by soliciting or by selling certain articles, he has to have a guide to whom he must pay a salary. Being sightless he finds himself more than others involved in mishaps which entail higher expenses for his clothing and the maintenance of his home. Because he is blind he will even be abused in some quarters. And since blindness is often a cause of ill health he has to pay higher bills for medical supplies and services.

As far as family life is concerned there is no doubt that blindness is the cause of higher expenses. There are very few blind people in Canada who earn enough to take care of themselves. Most blind people cannot live on the monthly allowance they receive, and they must of necessity do some other paying work. Do not think that by abolishing the means test you would make the life of the blind much easier. No, sir. Because nowadays, even if in some cases industry employs blind people, the blind person is not normally expected to work in a factory. He can only perform certain manual tasks which involve no accident hazards, inside duties which are

The Address-Mr. Bertrand mostly routine or certain work of canvassing which he cannot do without the help of a guide or a companion. That is what he does, not the year round but during certain periods depending on whether the kind of article he deals in or from which he draws an income can be marketed. If he is in receipt of the pension he must always make sure not to earn more than the few hundred dollars allowed under the act, for if he goes over the maximum amount of allowable income his pension is lowered and often withdrawn altogether. The few hundred dollars that a blind person' may earn annually only means the difference between want and comfort.

It seems inconceivable that a blind single person is able to live on a total of $18.45 a week-$480 he is allowed to earn and his pension of $480. It is inconceivable that the wife of a blind man, who is the mother of several children and who is working to feed her family, should see the pension of her husband lowered as soon as she is earning $21 weekly and totally cancelled as soon as she earns $30 weekly. It is inconceivable that a man whose wife is blind should see her pension lowered as soon as he is earning $21 weekly and totally cancelled as soon as he is earning $30 weekly. It is even more difficult to understand when you consider that in such a case the law makes it compulsory for this husband to pay from his own salary wages to someone who can see to take care of his wife and his home while he is away.

Thus the blind person has continually some cause for concern. If he has worries about his pension we will not even be in a position to defend his cause by himself. And inspection will always be for him a perpetual nightmare, something awful to bear. I have in this respect statements which leave no doubt.

I can see only one solution: the abolition of the means test. This might result in a few hundred thousand dollars of additional compensation. Nowadays, as soon as he is 70 years old, the blind can draw his old age pension and then he is not subject to any investigation whatsoever. I am told that some 400 blind people pass every year from one law to the other. According to statistical figures, in 1955 some 8,000 blind persons were receiving a blindness pension, which meant an expense of $3 million for the federal treasury and of $1 million for the provinces.

There are in this country some 10,000 blind persons who could benefit from a national law or on whose behalf could be made the helpful gesture of giving them a full life. No more restraint. The blind would have ahead of him a wide open road

The Address-Mr. Bertrand to his endeavours. He can produce, He would no longer be a useless piece of machinery with limited activity. He would earn more, which would be one worry less. His earnings would be better, which would mean comfort for his family and for himself a revenue producing hobby. He would thus contribute to the progress of his country and the remuneration which he would receive could be considered to be a tribute paid by the nation in order to enable him to be useful to his country like every other citizen, in spite of his handicap.

At the international workers conference held at Oxford in 1949 and at which were represented all the countries in the world except those from behind the iron curtain, and notably competent representatives from the United Nations and UNESCO, the following resolution was adopted:

Special economic provisions should be made for blind people in order to give them work and to allow them to contribute in every way to the economic and social life of the community. Every nation should provide its blind citizens with at least a minimum subsistence standard, equal in every case, so as to compensate for the increased cost of living brought about by blindness.

In November 1956 the Canadian Catholic conference, of which all archbishops and bishops in Canada are members, made the following statement:

In so far as material prosperity is concerned the state must not be expected to continue forever the payment of various subsidies or grants. Rather it should be expected to create those economic conditions whereby every citizen could be assured of an opportunity to provide for his own needs and those of his family.

I therefore think that the state should provide the blind people with a blindness compensation, leaving them entirely free to earn their own living and to become useful citizens. When the government notices that the mining industry, agriculture or any other segment of the national economy is in danger it provides for grants and subsidies to set matters right. In the case of blind people the state should provide them with an opportunity of producing, of contributing in this way to the progress of the nation instead of leaving them in depressed circumstances. This situation is so distressing that they are asking the authorities to put an end to it by putting an end to the means test which, in the case of the blind, is almost condemnable.

I know that the present government has done everything to help the low salaried classes, the poor and forsaken members of our society. It is proud of its record, and justly so. Another opportunity is provided now for the government to help one class of people which, to my mind, is the most unhappy of all. The representations which I have just made on behalf of the blind people

of the province of Quebec are similar to those which other groups in other provinces and even in the national field have made, I am told, directly to the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin). All I am asking him to do is to look once more upon this side of the question. Everybody in this country knows how fair the Minister of National Health and Welfare is in dealing with problems of social security and how anxious he is to complement what is already being done in this field. Here is another opportunity along that line. I have confidence in him. I have confidence in the government and I know that these recommendations will not fall on deaf ears.

(Translation):

Topic:   SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic:   CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY
Full View Permalink

April 9, 1956

Mr. Lionel Bertrand (Terrebonne):

Mr. Speaker, every time I have spoken in the house I have done so to give my views on matters of public interest and, for the past sixteen years I have tried to reflect here the opinions of my electors. If there is one matter which deeply interests them at present, and about which they send me numerous requests for information, it is that of health insurance, of hospital insurance.

Throughout my public life I have been a supporter of social security. Early in life I had to work and assume responsibilities; my family bravely faced situations which would not have existed if, in those days, there had been beneficial social legislation like that which is in force today. I have therefore considered it my duty to champion the cause of the lowly, the hard worker and the needy. The people of Canada do not want humiliating public charity, but rather legislation that would enable underprivileged citizens in this rich and prosperous country to get their share of welfare and security.

I am happy to underline here the vast accomplishments of the Liberal party to which I belong, and which was successfully led by Mr. Mackenzie King until 1948 and which has been led with no less success since by the Right Hon. Mr. St. Laurent. Even opponents have to recognize that the Liberal party, which has governed the destinies of our country without interruption since 1935, has always enjoyed the confidence of the Canadian people; it has enjoyed that confidence during the worst period of the war and it came out of it with an even greater prestige than before. Today it still enjoys that confidence. The social legislation enacted by our party has been the envy of other countries and has helped to create in Canada an atmos-

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand phere of welfare that has become indispensable.

Nobody would like to see family allowances stopped; the government that enacted that legislation made a generous gesture and the people cannot forget it. If it did not exist, we would have to enact it. That legislation has been greatly beneficial to our people; it has satisfied a human desire for protection and provided help for the family. In the last few years, several requests have been made asking that the allowances be doubled, without increasing taxes. In my opinion, such a request was improperly put forward. I have often said and I still contend that although I am in favour of increasing family allowances, I do not see how it could be done without increasing one way or another governmental expenses and, therefore, the taxes which we have to pay.

I believe, and I have often said so in my constituency and in the house, that the family allowances act should be revised. It was enacted nearly eleven years ago. By virtue of that legislation, the government has spent several million dollars, but that money has not been wasted. It has contributed to the health and the progress of the nation. Those dollars have provided better food, better care, better clothes and a better education for thousands of children. The family allowances cheque, which comes at the same time, on the same day of each month, which is paid without political partisanship and used to good purpose has contributed and still contributes to create an atmosphere of family satisfaction which honours our country. During the past eleven years, the cost of living has greatly increased. I believe that the time may have come to revise the act, to set new rates that would take into account the cost of living. The Department of National Health and Welfare would be well advised to study the matter. In adjusting the act to present conditions, it would answer the general wishes of the people.

By providing good food and a good education to our young citizens we are doing an act of liberation. Children truly represent the future. If our children are healthy, our future will be prosperous; if our children are well educated and understand their religious, civil and patriotic duties, our future will be assured. Money invested by Canada to educate our citizens of tomorrow is not lost. It is an asset which enhances the undeniable prestige of our country.

2750 HOUSE OF

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand

Mr. Speaker, I put on the order paper of the house a motion which has not been debated but which deals more particularly with the blind. I have always taken an interest in them, and I know the work done by their associations, especially the Societe amicale des aveugles, in which I am particularly interested. In my opinion, the blind should not be subjected to a means test; they should be granted the maximum pension without any restriction whatsoever. True, last year the age requirements were lowered and the maximum income permitted was increased, but that does not seem to be sufficient. Few blind people in Canada have an income sufficient to provide for themselves, and the majority are unable to cope with the monthly allowance they receive unless they do some other work to supplement their income. I recently said in a speech in this house;

The blind are not deprived of all their producing capacities, but these capacities are deadened or reduced to nothing. If you want the blind to take on some productive job, you have to make them financially secure. The psychological fear of not being able to keep up their jobs because they might lose their pension if they kept on working adds to their anguish.

I have not changed my mind. In the case of the blind, one must stimulate and not destroy their human ideal. The elimination of the means test would guarantee their financial security as, by the very nature of things, blindness entails expenses which people with normal vision are spared: higher cost of living, guide services, additional maintenance costs, more adequate medical care, poor health, etc. Blindness calls for many extra expenses. It is for that reason that quite a substantial number of blind people in the province of Quebec do not get the pension. The husband or wife is working, since the maximum income fixed by law, even with a full pension, is not always adequate for the maintenance of the home. Therefore, in many cases, the blind person lives outside the home in order to receive full pension, leaving to the spouse the responsibility of working and raising the family. To raise the family and social standard as well as the dignity of the blind, it is essential that the blind do not have to suffer an inferiority complex throughout the year. The blind person lives in darkness; in many ways, his existence is complicated; he worries and loses patience, he feels lonesome and forsaken. The elimination of the means test would open new perspectives to him; he would find a new reason to work, to adapt

himself to circumstances and thus, being less worried, be in a better position to provide for the education of his children and the maintenance of his family.

I wish to say a word about disability allowances; no one should blame me for a few remarks on this subject since I have advocated this pension many years before the legislation on this matter was put on our statute books.

The provinces have accepted the act, although reluctantly in some cases. The regulations have been approved following discussions between representatives of the federal government and of the provinces. Some 30,000 people now get the disability pension in Canada, which is much less than the 50,000 and more which had been estimated at one time. Personally I think that the act is too rigid, and a great many cases which have been called to my attention after the applications had been rejected have brought home to me that it is so. Many of these applications have been submitted anew, and they have been granted favourable consideration.

I do not think this legislation should be for the dying; it should become more flexible. We could consider as invalids a large number of people who, though they may not be forced to remain constantly in bed or in a chair are prevented, through some infirmity or other, from earning their living or are constantly refused on the labour market, even though they may have the use of their hands or feet. A number of applications which seemed worthy of consideration have apparently been refused. The lack of latitude provided for in the regulations would seem to be directly responsible for this. Would it not be well to call for a study of these applications which have been turned down in order to see whether or not the present regulations could be changed so as to make the legislation really efficient and to achieve the desired purpose?

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the government that the constituency of Terrebonne, which I represent in this house, supports a national health insurance plan and that my constituents are anxious for it to be quickly implemented. The comments which I have heard and the views which I have had the opportunity of ascertaining are quite indicative of the opinion of the people on this subject. If my constituents entertain such definite views on this matter, I doubt whether things are at all different in other constituen-

cies. It must be recognized that, for our working people, insecurity is the worst worry of all. There is nothing like idleness to wipe out in a few weeks savings which have been acquired after long and arduous effort, and to turn a prosperous home into one beset with financial difficulties or even with real want. These views of my constituents are all the more welcome to me because ever since I have been in public life I have never ceased to demand legislation which would ensure our working people the help of the nation in case of illness or confinement to a hospital.

I do feel also that most people in Canada favour a national health insurance plan and that the decision of the government to go ahead in this matter has been highly appreciated. I would even go further. The people of this country would not forgive the government if it were to stop halfway now, no more than it would forgive delay in completing the present program of social security by this beneficent legislation. And I would add that this question is so close to the heart of the people and appears so essential to them now that provincial governments refusing to co-operate may be judged severely by their constituents.

It is becoming impossible for the low income group to face the excessive costs of hospitalization. I realize that a hospital, like a hotel, must ask rates which often appear prohibitive, in order to meet their costs of management, but it is none the less undeniable that medical and hospital costs are excessively high. Dr. Jean Gregoire, deputy minister of health in the province of Quebec, did not hesitate to say a few months ago that 80 per cent of the people of Quebec-and I presume that such is the case elsewhere-cannot meet hospitalization expenses when they are sick. No doubt, there are many Canadians who are protected at this time against medical and hospital costs, either by subscribing to a private hospitalization plan or because their employers have adopted a group insurance plan which protects them, together with their dependents. There remains, however, a great number of Canadians-possibly more than 50 per cent of them-especially in the working and low income classes, who have no protection at all. It may be because their trade does not permit it, or because their employers are opposed to it or never thought of it, or because their salary does not allow them to join a private insurance plan. If their income is not sufficient to

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand permit them to seek preventive medicine, all the more reason for their being unable to face hospitalization costs. These people, I should point out, even when sick, will wait to the last minute before seeing the doctor, because of the very inadequacy of their income. They will conceal their ailment and suffer in silence, seeking relief from sedatives and old wives' remedies.

When the time comes for them to be hospitalized, they will not only be unable to regain their health but they will have to bear the handicap of impaired health. That point of view should be kept in mind by those organizations which, in their annual briefs or in their periodical suggestions to governments, will not come out clearly for or against the health insurance scheme but which say that we must be careful and proceed slowly, under the barely concealed pretext that taxes might go up.

On the other hand, many welfare and labour organizations are asking for that social security measure, and if the price comes high -which nobody will deny-they say that if we can, and rightly so, spend huge amounts of money to protect ourselves against outside dangers, against war and even to prevent war, it is up to the government to build a large social security system in order to suppress as much as possible social evils, to do away with distress which comes from ill-health, and to give Canadians, in these times of anxiety, the benefit of security and the priceless advantages of good health. The English writer and statesman Benjamin Disraeli said on that score:

The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.

Our country is not backward in the public health field. Under the constitution, public health comes under provincial jurisdiction; but, eight years ago, the federal government embarked upon a national health program for the sole reason that the provinces alone could scarcely establish a uniform system and that it seemed necessary therefore, without depriving them of their autonomy, to co-operate with them on a national level so as to give greater efficiency to all freely taken joint decisions. Thousands of beds have been put at the hospitals' disposal; from year to year, medical research has gained in importance, public courses have been initiated, groups have been formed with the help of the various governments, and great progress has been

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand made in the fight against tuberculosis, cancer, mental illness and other ills that plague humanity. And-I am stressing this without fear of contradiction-never has the country had a better minister to carry out all these plans in the field of social security, i.e. family allowances, old age pensions, pensions for the blind, and for the disabled, than the present Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin). I am therefore happy to pay a deserved tribute, not only to his personal talent, but also to his devotion for his cherished cause of public health, to his remarkable and well known industry, and to his very clear comprehension of all problems under his departmental jurisdiction.

I am among those who hope that he will be able to carry out the health insurance scheme. This is a vast project indeed, but his devotion measures up to it. I know he understands the importance of this scheme, and that he wants to help all Canadians, and more particularly the small wage earner.

The small wage earner is the man who, in order to live and support his wife and children, has to count on each day's work, who cannot afford to be ill for, whenever he is, hardship immediately befalls his home. The small wage earner is the one who never achieves wealth and who, at the end of his days, after toiling for forty years, has painstakingly put aside only a few hundred dollars to cope with unforeseen expenses of sickness and old age. The small wage earner who, during his lifetime, has been able to escape, with his wife and family, surgical and hospital bills which are always heavy will be, among his kind, a very lucky man indeed. Many of these people come to my office and show me unpaid hospital bills. They are people who, over and above their daily cares, always feel tortured by the same bills which will keep on piling up. Hospitals want to be paid; they cannot carry on unless they are. Are patients always able to pay? That is the question. Health insurance will be beneficial both to our citizens, who have to cope with sickness and to the hospitals whose progress will thus be ensured.

The small wage earner is the one who, week after week, sees his tax deducted from his pay cheque, and, though sometimes grudgingly, is nevertheless willing to do his share in the administration of the country. And when he makes out his annual income tax return, what is he allowed to deduct? A few dollars as charitable donations, a portion, always insignificant, of his medical expenses. On the other hand, the industrialist, the merchant, the businessman, owing precisely to their business, have an expense account where they can enter so many indirect expenses, the legal

facility of providing themselves with leisure and amenities, and to bestow on their families benefits squarely denied the low income class. Thus, health insurance would create a new balance through which the well to do would lose nothing of their benefits, while the poor and the humble would get their share of security. The happiness of the lower class is made of peace of mind and heart. You cannot have one without the other. Let us not forget that the heaviest damage to health is not caused by work, because sixty year old workers, who have worked very hard all their lives, still go to work early every morning. The things that are harmful to health, that undermine and destroy it, are moral and financial worries. Just go down to the miserable classes of society, and you will see what it is all about. The low income worker will understand that, even though he has to contribute his share to the establishment of a health insurance plan, he no longer will have, when misfortune strikes him, the awful shame of having to tell his doctor or the hospital officials that he is unable to pay, of having to be endlessly hurt in his feelings, and of having thereafter, because of accumulated debts, to live in discouragement, and sometimes on the brink of despair. We, the lucky ones, must keep aware of the fact that, close to our home there are slums, and people who, through lack of money, have never paid a visit to their native province or country and who will never go to Florida, and we must convince ourselves, when we criticize a poor home with a television set, that the poor ones too must have their moments of enjoyment. In these times of easy life, when sports are draining so much money, when the attraction for travel increases from year to year, when luxurious restaurants are crowded with customers who do not care for the amount of the bill, when in grills and bars we pay as much as one dollar for a glass of scotch or rye, I will never tolerate that those with an easy life should be the first to criticize or to refuse to pay a few additional dollars in taxes in order to maintain and develop our social security plan.

(Text):

Topic:   REQUEST FOR ASSURANCE OF SUPPLY OF GARRY 27
Subtopic:   THE BUDGET
Full View Permalink

April 9, 1956

Mr. Lionel Bertrand (Terrebonne):

Mr. Speaker, every time I have spoken in the house I have done so to give my views on matters of public interest and, for the past sixteen years I have tried to reflect here the opinions of my electors. If there is one matter which deeply interests them at present, and about which they send me numerous requests for information, it is that of health insurance, of hospital insurance.

Throughout my public life I have been a supporter of social security. Early in life I had to work and assume responsibilities; my family bravely faced situations which would not have existed if, in those days, there had been beneficial social legislation like that which is in force today. I have therefore considered it my duty to champion the cause of the lowly, the hard worker and the needy. The people of Canada do not want humiliating public charity, but rather legislation that would enable underprivileged citizens in this rich and prosperous country to get their share of welfare and security.

I am happy to underline here the vast accomplishments of the Liberal party to which I belong, and which was successfully led by Mr. Mackenzie King until 1948 and which has been led with no less success since by the Right Hon. Mr. St. Laurent. Even opponents have to recognize that the Liberal party, which has governed the destinies of our country without interruption since 1935, has always enjoyed the confidence of the Canadian people; it has enjoyed that confidence during the worst period of the war and it came out of it with an even greater prestige than before. Today it still enjoys that confidence. The social legislation enacted by our party has been the envy of other countries and has helped to create in Canada an atmos-

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand phere of welfare that has become indispensable.

Nobody would like to see family allowances stopped; the government that enacted that legislation made a generous gesture and the people cannot forget it. If it did not exist, we would have to enact it. That legislation has been greatly beneficial to our people; it has satisfied a human desire for protection and provided help for the family. In the last few years, several requests have been made asking that the allowances be doubled, without increasing taxes. In my opinion, such a request was improperly put forward. I have often said and I still contend that although I am in favour of increasing family allowances, I do not see how it could be done without increasing one way or another governmental expenses and, therefore, the taxes which we have to pay.

I believe, and I have often said so in my constituency and in the house, that the family allowances act should be revised. It was enacted nearly eleven years ago. By virtue of that legislation, the government has spent several million dollars, but that money has not been wasted. It has contributed to the health and the progress of the nation. Those dollars have provided better food, better care, better clothes and a better education for thousands of children. The family allowances cheque, which comes at the same time, on the same day of each month, which is paid without political partisanship and used to good purpose has contributed and still contributes to create an atmosphere of family satisfaction which honours our country. During the past eleven years, the cost of living has greatly increased. I believe that the time may have come to revise the act, to set new rates that would take into account the cost of living. The Department of National Health and Welfare would be well advised to study the matter. In adjusting the act to present conditions, it would answer the general wishes of the people.

By providing good food and a good education to our young citizens we are doing an act of liberation. Children truly represent the future. If our children are healthy, our future will be prosperous; if our children are well educated and understand their religious, civil and patriotic duties, our future will be assured. Money invested by Canada to educate our citizens of tomorrow is not lost. It is an asset which enhances the undeniable prestige of our country.

2750 HOUSE OF

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand

Mr. Speaker, I put on the order paper of the house a motion which has not been debated but which deals more particularly with the blind. I have always taken an interest in them, and I know the work done by their associations, especially the Societe amicale des aveugles, in which I am particularly interested. In my opinion, the blind should not be subjected to a means test; they should be granted the maximum pension without any restriction whatsoever. True, last year the age requirements were lowered and the maximum income permitted was increased, but that does not seem to be sufficient. Few blind people in Canada have an income sufficient to provide for themselves, and the majority are unable to cope with the monthly allowance they receive unless they do some other work to supplement their income. I recently said in a speech in this house;

The blind are not deprived of all their producing capacities, but these capacities are deadened or reduced to nothing. If you want the blind to take on some productive job, you have to make them financially secure. The psychological fear of not being able to keep up their jobs because they might lose their pension if they kept on working adds to their anguish.

I have not changed my mind. In the case of the blind, one must stimulate and not destroy their human ideal. The elimination of the means test would guarantee their financial security as, by the very nature of things, blindness entails expenses which people with normal vision are spared: higher cost of living, guide services, additional maintenance costs, more adequate medical care, poor health, etc. Blindness calls for many extra expenses. It is for that reason that quite a substantial number of blind people in the province of Quebec do not get the pension. The husband or wife is working, since the maximum income fixed by law, even with a full pension, is not always adequate for the maintenance of the home. Therefore, in many cases, the blind person lives outside the home in order to receive full pension, leaving to the spouse the responsibility of working and raising the family. To raise the family and social standard as well as the dignity of the blind, it is essential that the blind do not have to suffer an inferiority complex throughout the year. The blind person lives in darkness; in many ways, his existence is complicated; he worries and loses patience, he feels lonesome and forsaken. The elimination of the means test would open new perspectives to him; he would find a new reason to work, to adapt

himself to circumstances and thus, being less worried, be in a better position to provide for the education of his children and the maintenance of his family.

I wish to say a word about disability allowances; no one should blame me for a few remarks on this subject since I have advocated this pension many years before the legislation on this matter was put on our statute books.

The provinces have accepted the act, although reluctantly in some cases. The regulations have been approved following discussions between representatives of the federal government and of the provinces. Some 30,000 people now get the disability pension in Canada, which is much less than the 50,000 and more which had been estimated at one time. Personally I think that the act is too rigid, and a great many cases which have been called to my attention after the applications had been rejected have brought home to me that it is so. Many of these applications have been submitted anew, and they have been granted favourable consideration.

I do not think this legislation should be for the dying; it should become more flexible. We could consider as invalids a large number of people who, though they may not be forced to remain constantly in bed or in a chair are prevented, through some infirmity or other, from earning their living or are constantly refused on the labour market, even though they may have the use of their hands or feet. A number of applications which seemed worthy of consideration have apparently been refused. The lack of latitude provided for in the regulations would seem to be directly responsible for this. Would it not be well to call for a study of these applications which have been turned down in order to see whether or not the present regulations could be changed so as to make the legislation really efficient and to achieve the desired purpose?

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the government that the constituency of Terrebonne, which I represent in this house, supports a national health insurance plan and that my constituents are anxious for it to be quickly implemented. The comments which I have heard and the views which I have had the opportunity of ascertaining are quite indicative of the opinion of the people on this subject. If my constituents entertain such definite views on this matter, I doubt whether things are at all different in other constituen-

cies. It must be recognized that, for our working people, insecurity is the worst worry of all. There is nothing like idleness to wipe out in a few weeks savings which have been acquired after long and arduous effort, and to turn a prosperous home into one beset with financial difficulties or even with real want. These views of my constituents are all the more welcome to me because ever since I have been in public life I have never ceased to demand legislation which would ensure our working people the help of the nation in case of illness or confinement to a hospital.

I do feel also that most people in Canada favour a national health insurance plan and that the decision of the government to go ahead in this matter has been highly appreciated. I would even go further. The people of this country would not forgive the government if it were to stop halfway now, no more than it would forgive delay in completing the present program of social security by this beneficent legislation. And I would add that this question is so close to the heart of the people and appears so essential to them now that provincial governments refusing to co-operate may be judged severely by their constituents.

It is becoming impossible for the low income group to face the excessive costs of hospitalization. I realize that a hospital, like a hotel, must ask rates which often appear prohibitive, in order to meet their costs of management, but it is none the less undeniable that medical and hospital costs are excessively high. Dr. Jean Gregoire, deputy minister of health in the province of Quebec, did not hesitate to say a few months ago that 80 per cent of the people of Quebec-and I presume that such is the case elsewhere-cannot meet hospitalization expenses when they are sick. No doubt, there are many Canadians who are protected at this time against medical and hospital costs, either by subscribing to a private hospitalization plan or because their employers have adopted a group insurance plan which protects them, together with their dependents. There remains, however, a great number of Canadians-possibly more than 50 per cent of them-especially in the working and low income classes, who have no protection at all. It may be because their trade does not permit it, or because their employers are opposed to it or never thought of it, or because their salary does not allow them to join a private insurance plan. If their income is not sufficient to

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand permit them to seek preventive medicine, all the more reason for their being unable to face hospitalization costs. These people, I should point out, even when sick, will wait to the last minute before seeing the doctor, because of the very inadequacy of their income. They will conceal their ailment and suffer in silence, seeking relief from sedatives and old wives' remedies.

When the time comes for them to be hospitalized, they will not only be unable to regain their health but they will have to bear the handicap of impaired health. That point of view should be kept in mind by those organizations which, in their annual briefs or in their periodical suggestions to governments, will not come out clearly for or against the health insurance scheme but which say that we must be careful and proceed slowly, under the barely concealed pretext that taxes might go up.

On the other hand, many welfare and labour organizations are asking for that social security measure, and if the price comes high -which nobody will deny-they say that if we can, and rightly so, spend huge amounts of money to protect ourselves against outside dangers, against war and even to prevent war, it is up to the government to build a large social security system in order to suppress as much as possible social evils, to do away with distress which comes from ill-health, and to give Canadians, in these times of anxiety, the benefit of security and the priceless advantages of good health. The English writer and statesman Benjamin Disraeli said on that score:

The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.

Our country is not backward in the public health field. Under the constitution, public health comes under provincial jurisdiction; but, eight years ago, the federal government embarked upon a national health program for the sole reason that the provinces alone could scarcely establish a uniform system and that it seemed necessary therefore, without depriving them of their autonomy, to co-operate with them on a national level so as to give greater efficiency to all freely taken joint decisions. Thousands of beds have been put at the hospitals' disposal; from year to year, medical research has gained in importance, public courses have been initiated, groups have been formed with the help of the various governments, and great progress has been

The Budget-Mr. Bertrand made in the fight against tuberculosis, cancer, mental illness and other ills that plague humanity. And-I am stressing this without fear of contradiction-never has the country had a better minister to carry out all these plans in the field of social security, i.e. family allowances, old age pensions, pensions for the blind, and for the disabled, than the present Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Martin). I am therefore happy to pay a deserved tribute, not only to his personal talent, but also to his devotion for his cherished cause of public health, to his remarkable and well known industry, and to his very clear comprehension of all problems under his departmental jurisdiction.

I am among those who hope that he will be able to carry out the health insurance scheme. This is a vast project indeed, but his devotion measures up to it. I know he understands the importance of this scheme, and that he wants to help all Canadians, and more particularly the small wage earner.

The small wage earner is the man who, in order to live and support his wife and children, has to count on each day's work, who cannot afford to be ill for, whenever he is, hardship immediately befalls his home. The small wage earner is the one who never achieves wealth and who, at the end of his days, after toiling for forty years, has painstakingly put aside only a few hundred dollars to cope with unforeseen expenses of sickness and old age. The small wage earner who, during his lifetime, has been able to escape, with his wife and family, surgical and hospital bills which are always heavy will be, among his kind, a very lucky man indeed. Many of these people come to my office and show me unpaid hospital bills. They are people who, over and above their daily cares, always feel tortured by the same bills which will keep on piling up. Hospitals want to be paid; they cannot carry on unless they are. Are patients always able to pay? That is the question. Health insurance will be beneficial both to our citizens, who have to cope with sickness and to the hospitals whose progress will thus be ensured.

The small wage earner is the one who, week after week, sees his tax deducted from his pay cheque, and, though sometimes grudgingly, is nevertheless willing to do his share in the administration of the country. And when he makes out his annual income tax return, what is he allowed to deduct? A few dollars as charitable donations, a portion, always insignificant, of his medical expenses. On the other hand, the industrialist, the merchant, the businessman, owing precisely to their business, have an expense account where they can enter so many indirect expenses, the legal

facility of providing themselves with leisure and amenities, and to bestow on their families benefits squarely denied the low income class. Thus, health insurance would create a new balance through which the well to do would lose nothing of their benefits, while the poor and the humble would get their share of security. The happiness of the lower class is made of peace of mind and heart. You cannot have one without the other. Let us not forget that the heaviest damage to health is not caused by work, because sixty year old workers, who have worked very hard all their lives, still go to work early every morning. The things that are harmful to health, that undermine and destroy it, are moral and financial worries. Just go down to the miserable classes of society, and you will see what it is all about. The low income worker will understand that, even though he has to contribute his share to the establishment of a health insurance plan, he no longer will have, when misfortune strikes him, the awful shame of having to tell his doctor or the hospital officials that he is unable to pay, of having to be endlessly hurt in his feelings, and of having thereafter, because of accumulated debts, to live in discouragement, and sometimes on the brink of despair. We, the lucky ones, must keep aware of the fact that, close to our home there are slums, and people who, through lack of money, have never paid a visit to their native province or country and who will never go to Florida, and we must convince ourselves, when we criticize a poor home with a television set, that the poor ones too must have their moments of enjoyment. In these times of easy life, when sports are draining so much money, when the attraction for travel increases from year to year, when luxurious restaurants are crowded with customers who do not care for the amount of the bill, when in grills and bars we pay as much as one dollar for a glass of scotch or rye, I will never tolerate that those with an easy life should be the first to criticize or to refuse to pay a few additional dollars in taxes in order to maintain and develop our social security plan.

(Text):

Topic:   REQUEST FOR ASSURANCE OF SUPPLY OF GARRY 27
Subtopic:   THE BUDGET
Full View Permalink

April 9, 1956

Mr. Bertrand:

Before the house adjourned at six o'clock I was speaking of health insur-*

ance. I would like to repeat one sentence I said at that time.

We, who are more favoured, should take note of the fact that next to us there are slums, that there are people who, through lack of money, have never visited their province, or their country, who will never see Florida; before criticizing the poor people who own television sets, we should stop and think that those poor people are also entitled to a few moments of happiness. In this period of easy living, where sports drain so much money, where the thirst of travelling increases from year to year, where luxury dining rooms are overcrowded with customers who do not worry how much the bill will be, where people have to pay as much as one dollar for a glass of scotch or rye in grills or bars, I will never admit that those who are better off are the first to criticize or to refuse to pay a few more dollars in taxes for the maintenance and the development of our social security program.

To maintain a social security program and, if need be, to improve it, is to destroy communism. Has communism ever been associated with a high level of production, attractive salaries and a high standard of living? Does communism make any headway in countries where the government is concerned with the lot of the working class and of people of modest means and takes care of the needy, the sick, the destitute and the poor? Has communism any chance to grow in a country where social legislation protects the people against the hazards of life and ensures the welfare of the needy? No one who is sincere would refuse to pay a few dollars a year in taxes in order that the government may enact a social legislation which is not only helping the population but ensures internal peace to a country like ours.

Personally, I would be willing to pay more taxes if necessary for the implementation of a health insurance program. There is no need to throw everything upside down nor to establish state medicine.

It is not a matter of preventing the family from choosing its own physician. Nor is it a matter of controlling the hospitals or the organizations which are in charge of them. The autonomy of the provinces can and must be respected. The federal government is willing to pay half the costs of such a health insurance plan. True, if it does need the approval of six provinces to go ahead, I hope that it wins it as quickly as possible and that the province of Quebec will be among those six.

However, should this national health insurance plan meet with too many difficulties, should the provinces refuse to enter into it

The Budget-Mr. Montgomery for a number of reasons into which I need not go, I still think that the government should not close this case it has opened in the interest of the whole country. It should put the question to the voters at the next election or, should circumstances become pressing, ask for a referendum so as to settle the matter once and for all.

Mr. Speaker, our social security program makes our people happy. The people know that they owe it to the party to which I belong. This program cannot and must not be tinted by politics. It is not and that is to the credit of all of us representing the people here. If old age pensions did not exist today on a national scale for people of 70, how many people and how many homes would be in difficulty. The amount of $40 a month was a boon to public health. It helps and continues to help old people to get better treatment and, by casting off financial worries, it enables a great many people to live longer and to await in serenity the inevitable twilight. The thing that must prevail now is a feeling of security, the certainty of that security. By spending annually enormous amounts of money for NATO and the protection of its territory, our country gives us that certainty. That feeling of security must also be felt in every home and be solidly anchored in the heart of every Canadian. Health insurance must become one of the foremost concerns of this government and also of parliament. In this as in other fields, I know, the government will not fail and it is our duty, in this parliament, to support the government.

(Text) ;

Topic:   REQUEST FOR ASSURANCE OF SUPPLY OF GARRY 27
Subtopic:   THE BUDGET
Full View Permalink

April 9, 1956

Mr. Bertrand:

Before the house adjourned at six o'clock I was speaking of health insur-*

ance. I would like to repeat one sentence I said at that time.

We, who are more favoured, should take note of the fact that next to us there are slums, that there are people who, through lack of money, have never visited their province, or their country, who will never see Florida; before criticizing the poor people who own television sets, we should stop and think that those poor people are also entitled to a few moments of happiness. In this period of easy living, where sports drain so much money, where the thirst of travelling increases from year to year, where luxury dining rooms are overcrowded with customers who do not worry how much the bill will be, where people have to pay as much as one dollar for a glass of scotch or rye in grills or bars, I will never admit that those who are better off are the first to criticize or to refuse to pay a few more dollars in taxes for the maintenance and the development of our social security program.

To maintain a social security program and, if need be, to improve it, is to destroy communism. Has communism ever been associated with a high level of production, attractive salaries and a high standard of living? Does communism make any headway in countries where the government is concerned with the lot of the working class and of people of modest means and takes care of the needy, the sick, the destitute and the poor? Has communism any chance to grow in a country where social legislation protects the people against the hazards of life and ensures the welfare of the needy? No one who is sincere would refuse to pay a few dollars a year in taxes in order that the government may enact a social legislation which is not only helping the population but ensures internal peace to a country like ours.

Personally, I would be willing to pay more taxes if necessary for the implementation of a health insurance program. There is no need to throw everything upside down nor to establish state medicine.

It is not a matter of preventing the family from choosing its own physician. Nor is it a matter of controlling the hospitals or the organizations which are in charge of them. The autonomy of the provinces can and must be respected. The federal government is willing to pay half the costs of such a health insurance plan. True, if it does need the approval of six provinces to go ahead, I hope that it wins it as quickly as possible and that the province of Quebec will be among those six.

However, should this national health insurance plan meet with too many difficulties, should the provinces refuse to enter into it

The Budget-Mr. Montgomery for a number of reasons into which I need not go, I still think that the government should not close this case it has opened in the interest of the whole country. It should put the question to the voters at the next election or, should circumstances become pressing, ask for a referendum so as to settle the matter once and for all.

Mr. Speaker, our social security program makes our people happy. The people know that they owe it to the party to which I belong. This program cannot and must not be tinted by politics. It is not and that is to the credit of all of us representing the people here. If old age pensions did not exist today on a national scale for people of 70, how many people and how many homes would be in difficulty. The amount of $40 a month was a boon to public health. It helps and continues to help old people to get better treatment and, by casting off financial worries, it enables a great many people to live longer and to await in serenity the inevitable twilight. The thing that must prevail now is a feeling of security, the certainty of that security. By spending annually enormous amounts of money for NATO and the protection of its territory, our country gives us that certainty. That feeling of security must also be felt in every home and be solidly anchored in the heart of every Canadian. Health insurance must become one of the foremost concerns of this government and also of parliament. In this as in other fields, I know, the government will not fail and it is our duty, in this parliament, to support the government.

(Text) ;

Topic:   REQUEST FOR ASSURANCE OF SUPPLY OF GARRY 27
Subtopic:   THE BUDGET
Full View Permalink