Yes. But a more prominent place to-day must be given to old age pensions because it is becoming an acute problem. There are a great number of objections to the old age pensions act now on the statute books. The first one is the means test. Because it is unparliamentary I cannot say what I think about that test; but believe me when I say to the house that many worthy people in Ontario have never applied because it meant an investigation of the son; it meant an investigation of the daughter and the son-in-law; it meant an investigation of the man's life, and his pride did not permit him to admit, and he would not admit publicly, that he had lost the economic battle of life. He had further to face the humiliation of turning over to the government his small house as a charge against the money that the government gave him, which in effect brought the government in the final analysis a mere pittance, because after the man passed away the government always made a settlement with the
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heirs or executors, took whatever they gave and often forgot about it. But the government had to go through the motions. That is unworthy of a country like Canada and unworthy of this government.
So far as the age is concerned, I shall have something to say about that in a few minutes. So far as the amount is concerned, we must not lose sight of the fact that it has been raised from $20 to $25, and that is progress. But that is not the vital point. There are provinces in this dominion that pay an old age pension of $18.63 and there are provinces that pay as high as $29.41; but the province that can afford the $29 usually pays the $18 and the province that has the greater needs cannot afford it. Consequently, it must be a dominion responsibility.
We have this act and we must keep pace with the times. We are living in an increasing tempo of everyday life. We are living at an accelerated and very fast pace, and we in Canada have astounded the world with our scientific development. We are one of the three great powers in the world possessing some very important scientific secrets. In this country not only have we stream-lined production in factories, on the farms, in our forests and fisheries, but we are speeding up that production from day to day and the momentum will continue rather than relax.
Every one of us in the house, excluding the lady member, must remember the horse and buggy and mechanical days, but we must not forget that to-day we sit on the very fringe of the rocket and the atomic power age. The old age pension legislation fits well into the age of yesterday and, as the hon. member for Vancouver East (Mr. Maclnnis) said, the procedure in this house also belongs to that age. The scientists have done a great job, particularly in the last six years, but as yet they have not found a way to make of the body a tireless machine; so the human body wears out. To-day the need is for youth, both in body and in mind, the youth that brings with it not only vitality but strength. In industry at the present time fifty is a questionable age; a man fifty years old has difficulty in getting into most industries. In industry to-day sixty is a difficult age and seventy is an impossible age. That "is the problem we have to face. At the present time there are some two hundred thousand pensioners who are not able to cope with the tempo of life or who are incapacitated and cannot maintain the Canadian standard of living. Peculiarly at this time we have an opportunity to do something about this problem, because by the hundreds of thousands young men are returning to the Canada which
belongs to them, to pick up the threads and weave the pattern of a life of happiness and security. During the war the oldsters were plying the tools which belonged to the young men. As has been said in this house already, these old people made a valuable contribution to the war effort. They left their homes; they did everything that was asked of them, and now the time has come for the tools to change hands, for the young men to take up the task. Yesterday I read an article in the Windsor Star, dated October 2 and headed "Older Men Stepping Out";
Many of the older men in some of the larger organizations in Canada are retiring now that the war is over. This makes vacancies by which others step up and there is a general reorganization.
So many men eligible for retirement within the last three or four years have remained on the job to fill in while the younger men were at war. Now, these younger chaps are coming back and delayed promotions are being given.
Most of the older men are glad to step out. They have been working hard and are tired. In their last active years they did more than when they were in the prime of their careers. They rose to the emergency and carried on well.
My submission is that we should permit the young men to work and create while the old men rest and enjoy life. We have heard a great deal about money. I expected some of the questions that were asked, but I think we ought to look at it from the point of view of whether or not this is a good investment, whether or not this is purchasing power. These old people spend their money; they are lucky to make it last the month, when they receive only $25 or even $30. In this house we placed upon the statute -books a law that has the absolute approval of everyone, that has caught the imagination of this country and that is the envy of our neighbours to the south. I am referring to the family allowances legislation, under which we invest in the youth of this country. At the same time we pay compensation to people who meet with accidents, at any age; but for the inevitable accident of life, old age, we make a pitiful allowance. People who look upon that as charity are mistaken. People who look upon it as a reward are mistaken. People who look upon it as a burden are mistaken. It is a long overdue dividend to the pioneers and builders of this country.
I think the time has come When not only the Old Age Pensions Act but other legislation must be revised in order to keep step with the times. It is true that in private industry some arrangements are made for pensions. Public enterprise also makes some such arrangement, although public enterprise has gone much farther in this direction. But a
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great many people are in neither of these classes at the present time. They have toiled through the sunshine of their lives, and now in the twilight I think it is the duty of their representatives to see that the clouds do not entirely obscure the sun.
My hon. friend who introduced the motion made reference to the government blue book, which contains a great deal of information. He read paragraph 1 on page 37, and I should like to complete the record. At that page the government places on record its realization of the deficiencies and makes a public confession, which is not a common thing for governments to do. They say they recognize the problem, and there it is; my hon. friends agree to that. But the government go farther and say, "This is what we think ought to be done:
In developing its proposals with reference to old age pensions, the federal government has given careful attention to the experience of other countries (in particular the plans and proposals now in operation or under consideration in Great Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand)-
That ought to make everybody happy.
-as well as to the economic and social conditions of Canada. In the light of this survey, it appeared that the following principles should be incorporated in the dominion government's proposals.
(a) The scheme should be nationwide in scope and capable of immediate implementation.
(b) Benefits should be paid at flat rates and -hould not in individual cases have to be related to individual amounts or rates of prior contribution.
(e) Provision should be made for more generous scales of payment and a lower age of eligibility than heretofore.
(d) To the extent that means-testing procedures may have to be maintained, they should be left as the administrative responsibility of the provinces, who are best equipped to deal with this problem.
Naturally I do not agree with the last point, although if it were left to the provinces I can assure the house that the means test would have gone out the window. It would have gone out the window when I had the department, and I think I can speak for those now in charge. That is progress. It is all very well to say it is only a step in the right direction; but when one reads farther and realizes that the government has as its plan a national old age pension to all people at the age of seventy and, in addition, a pension to those in need between the ages of sixty-five and sixty-nine, it seems to me it is not only a step in the right direction but a hop, skip and jump in that direction. True, it may not go as far as we should like, but we have to face up to it.
The crux of the situation lies in the dominion-provincial conference. If we are to deal with these related problems, then we must have the complete, absolute and over-all right to collect income tax, to collect succession duties and to collect corporation taxes. And so long as the provinces will not untie our hands, we cannot write cheques for social services to the extent we would wish.
It is our business to create public opinion in that respect. I think the steps taken by the government at the present time are forward looking and realistic. However, I was completely impressed by what was said by the hon. member who has sponsored the motion. These were his words as I recorded them: "The government does not see its objective, and the government has not planned."
May I point out to him that at this particular time to act in a piecemeal fashion would accomplish only a limited objective. Not only must the government look at old age pensions, but it must look at health insurance and unemployment insurance. A resolution is now offered asking that this insurance be increased by fifty per cent. I have no doubt a number of us will have something to say when that matter is before the house.
Only a few days ago we discussed the question of further allowances to veteran settlers, a matter which will come before the veterans affairs committee. The government must look at these problems in the broadest sense- and not only the government, but each one of us. Those are the things we want. I do not believe we want to have them piecemeal. I believe that by our rising in our places, speaking about these problems and expressing our opinions the government will learn where we stand. Undoubtedly we must have a somewhat broader vision in these matters. If we have responsibility, then we also must have some power.
We must have the right to tax before we have the right to spend. Undoubtedly this is vital to the whole question at the present time, and I agree with it in principle. On the other hand, we must make certain that we view the problem in its widest scope, and as it is related to other social services. Then we must deal with it on that basis.
Mr. NORMAN J. M. LOCKHART (Lincoln) : Mr. Speaker, may I offer my word
of congratulation to the hon. member for Spadina (Mr. Croll) who has so ably presented views which, I believe, were based on actual experiences he has had, in more ways than one. I must say I was in accord with him when in a sense he criticized the
present administration for not having developed and improved the Old Age Pensions Act before this time. I am quite sure the hon. member will acquit himself honourably in this chamber. Those who have had earlier associations with him will agree that he will add much to the discussions in the days to come.
I can readily understand that the introduction of this resolution is only the begin-ing of much that will be said in the house respecting legislation for the care of persons who have reached the point where they are unable to support themselves. As the days and weeks pass it will be expected that the government will introduce something along the lines suggested in the resolution. In fact, already some notice has been given of future action. The hon. member who moved the resolution has developed in to-day's debate a discussion which may be of guidance to the government in its task.
The Old Age Pensions Act and associated legislation is a dominion-born statute. It was passed, I believe in 1927, in cooperation with the provincial governments and with some minor modifications it has remained on the statute books almost in its original state.
The fact that this statute during those years has been permitted to remain more or less in a static condition is one which might well be criticized. Because of their administrative arrangements with the federal government, and to ensure their provincial autonomy, the provincial governments have exercised certain powers. In turn they have been assisted by the municipalities and by local boards which have been set up in the municipalities. To all intents and purposes the clerks of municipalities have been the media through whom the applications have been developed. Originally the Old Age Pensions Act operated on a fifty-fifty basis. That has been modified to the extent that it is now placed at seventy-five for the dominion and twenty-five for the provinces.
Quite recently the federal government has discovered that it can spend well over $200 million per year to look after the younger citizens of the country, and it has found a way to do that without consulting the provinces to any great extent. The money is paid from the federal treasury to persons who are not expected directly to benefit. If this can be done in one instance, then it is quite probable that ways and means could be found to do it in respect of old age pensions, and in other instances. Ways and means are being found to do these things.
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The conference between the federal and provincial authorities is to continue, and flowing from it one would expect further legislation. It is to be hoped that the legislation affecting old age pensions will be changed materially, so that at least the charity feature of the present act will be eliminated.
I do not pretend to have had the vast experience the hon. member for Spadina has had. On the other hand I recall being in his office some years ago at a time when some of us carried municipal responsibilities. I have always remembered his generous attitude and his endeavour to try to meet the problems so as not to humiliate unduly the people who form the most deserving group of citizens in our country. The responsibility now rests upon the federal government. I ask the federal government to tell this house what they are going to pay these persons of either sixty or sixty-five years of age, and what fuller measure of security they are going to give these worth-while residents and citizens of this country. I expect that the new minister, under whose supervision any revision would take place, will tell this house why there has been no revision of this matter up to the present time. I am quite satisfied that he will admit that for many years there have been representations of the strongest kind to the federal government asking for changes in the legislation.
I want to point out to the minister or whoever is going to be responsible for the change that there is one thing that must be looked into. I have tried at times to assist in establishing the age of persons who have resided in this country for many years. Section 18 of the act reads:
Any pension authority shall have the right for the purpose of ascertaining the age of any pensioner to obtain without charge,
(b) subject to such conditions as may be specified in the regulations made under this act, from the dominion bureau of statistics, any information on the subject of the age of such pensioner which may -be contained in the returns of any census taken more than thirty years before the date of the application for such information.
I know that this matter has been brought to the attention of the federal authorities many times, or at least I am so informed. This information is given only to the municipal authorities. I know of many people who came to this country in 1912, 1913 and following years, from the motherland and other countries. Often they find that the record of their birth has been destroyed, or perhaps it was not established in the first place. These people have lived in this country for thirty years or more, but are unable to establish their exact age. Under the present act, the dominion
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bureau of statistics is unable to give anything beyond 1911. As a humble representative of one section of this country I know of several instances in which British subjects, by birth or naturalization, who have proven themselves good citizens, were unable to prove their age. If by a modification of the act we can assist them to prove their age and thus get their just rights, it is our duty to do it and we should do it immediately.
I pass on to another phase of the matter that I should like to bring to the attention of the government. To a large extent the federal treasury will have to find the money, and I suppose they will tell us what they propose to do and how much it is going to cost. It seems to me that a broad policy should be laid down. Reference has been made by the hon. member for Spadina and others to the means test. In my opinion this means test is abominable. As the hon. member said, if he had had anything to do with it years ago he would have thrown it out the window. I assume we shall be told what is to be done about doing away with the humiliating experience that these old citizens of the country are subjected to.
Members in every part of the house know of people in the humblest walks of life who by working hard have saved sufficient to buy a little four-roomed cottage. Many such people are faced with the humiliating experience of being deprived of passing that on to a crippled son when they leave this earthly abode. I have had experiences of that kind. If we do not wipe out the means test, we should modify the act" so that those who apply for old age pensions will be able to retain a reasonable part of what they have struggled a lifetime to get, and still be given their just rights by way of a pension. I know the government have heard this story for many years, but nothing has been done. We go along in a state of lethargy and do not seem to realize that these people have not been getting their just rights.
Topic: OLD AGE PENSIONS
Subtopic: AGE AND INCOME REQUIREMENTS-PROPOSED INCREASE IN AMOUNTS PAYABLE