Mr. Maurice Gingues (Sherbrooke):
Mr. Speaker, at the start of this important session, while we are on the address in reply to the speech from the throne, will you kindly allow me to join the other members of the house in offering my best wishes to you and in pointing out how able and dignified has been
your chairmanship of the proceedings of this Canadian parliament. You bring to the discharge of these difficult duties remarkable tact and fairness. Your knowledge of parliamentary law and of the rules of the house, and more particularly the way in which you apply them in practice, place you in the first rank of the eminent Canadians who have preceded you in the Speaker's chair.
My most sincere good wishes also go to the right hon. Prime Minister of Canada (Mr. St. Laurent) whose magnificent good health and fruitful labour are such as to forecast more happy and prosperous days for the whole Canadian people.
May I also heartily congratulate the mover and the seconder of the address (Mrs. Shipley and Mr. Laflamme). Their constituents may rightly be satisfied with them and must be proud, after seeing them at work, of having asked them to represent their constituencies in the parliament of the nation.
I rise today, Mr. Speaker, because I feel it is my duty to submit to the house and to the members of government a few practical suggestions, a few constructive ideas which, to my mind, are likely to help my electors and those of all constituencies of the country.
I must first express regret at the absence in the speech from the throne of any indication of the government's intention to propose, at this session, health insurance legislation, a measure which would add to the impressive body of social security legislation put forward by representatives of the Liberal party in recent years and later adopted by parliament. I know the feelings of the right hon. Prime Minister on the matter. I know that the members of his cabinet understand the urgency and necessity of this essential measure, that already they have long debated its advantages and foreseen the difficulty of putting it into force.
The question of a health insurance plan has been discussed in Canada for a long time.
I believe that the time has come to put the project into effect so that our people may without further delay benefit from this salutary legislation. We have now come to the point where something must be done to protect the large number of our fellow citizens who are suddenly taken sick.
When a child or a mother is sick, the cost of medical and hospital care may be heavy, but when sickness suddenly strikes the father, the head of the family, the cost of the necessary care becomes almost prohibitive. There is no use in trying to hide the truth, Mr. Speaker; at present, in a country that enjoys
Canada's prosperity, only two classes of people are in a position to get the necessary care, the needy and the rich. People who come under the public assistance act, or those who are personally well off can afford the luxury of going to the hospital. There is no alternative. As for the average Canadian, the middle class man, the one we usually call the white-collar worker, the man who has a small income, who is on a fixed salary-and that group includes the great majority of our workers and farmers-is no longer able to pay alone the cost of medical, surgical and hospital care. This fact cannot be challenged. The farsighted head of a family who has painstakingly managed to put a few dollars away for a rainy day is ruthlessly ruined when illness strikes him or anyone in his family. A few weeks in hospital and his property is mortgaged, his savings gone and he must then ask for credit and borrow money often at prohibitive rates.
Every day some good people come to my office to ask for assistance, because they cannot afford to pay their hospital bills, or those of the doctor, the surgeon or even the druggist. Hundreds of others, as I have just said, fall prey to lending institutions and have to pay interest up to 24 per cent to fill the gap left by a recent illness.
Some time ago, a respectable man whom I know very well and with whom I have been associated, a man of temperate habits, in other words a man like the hundreds of thousands of others in this country, came to me to tell of his sad experience. Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to repeat this story to my colleagues as it shows the necessity of a protecting health insurance legislation, of an immediate, well drafted and truly generous act, one which, if I may say so incidentally, will allow the hon. member for Three Rivers (Mr. Balcer) to convince his colleague, the member for Three Rivers in the Quebec legislative assembly, to co-operate for once for the general welfare of the population. He must know or rather we know that, by itself, the federal government can do nothing in that field; it has to rely on the full co-operation of all the provincial governments without exception. After this little digression I now turn to my story.
Last fall, an honest man whom I have known since childhood, a man of 60 who has worked all his life and has managed to save some $8,000-you will admit that $8,000 is
The Address-Mr. Gingues not very much but it is a rather considerable amount for a man who earns a modest salary and has to save this money bit by bit-came to my office. Two years ago, his wife was taken ill. She was taken to the hospital where she underwent an operation. She was in and out of the hospital for a period of two years. He came to my office, crying like a child, to tell me that in the short period of two years all the money he had saved in order to have some security in his old age was gone, and that he was now sick himself and could no longer do his usual work. Well, Mr. Speaker, this would mean that, at 60, this man who is still young, will be unable to obtain the old age pension and will be forced, owing to sickness, to depend on public relief.
I admit, Mr. Speaker, that this is a special case, but I could mention many others which strangely resemble this one.
That is why I say, at the beginning of this 1956 session, that the time has come to enact legislation in that field.
I know that certain doctors, certain specialists-not all, fortunately-fear the inroads of health insurance legislation. Still, to my mind, the common good must prevail over particular interests. I am speaking here today in this house, on behalf of the community as a whole. When anything has become a national scourge the duty of the lawmakers is to take whatever means are necessary to set matters right.
The one and only means, in this case, is federal legislation supported by similar provincial legislation.
This measure has become necessary, I repeat, not because our hospitals abuse their privileges and overcharge their patients. That is not the case. In hospitals, as everywhere else, everything is more expensive and like all well organized corporations they have to balance their budget. However, when this law is assented to, the very great majority of Canadians who, I repeat, earn enough to live from day to day but hardly enough to make any savings, even when they are in perfect health, will feel they are protected and will enjoy thereby a greater feeling of security. If anything should happen to them, their morale will remain good and their chances of getting well again will be better. Under the present system there are large numbers of poor people who have to shorten their period of
The Address-Mr. Gingues convalescence so as to reduce costs and who undergo serious relapses a short time later.
I know that thousands of sick people go back to work too soon because that is their only means of earning a livelihood for their family. Hence the great number of premature deaths in these families, because the last link in the chain of social security legislation given the country by the Liberal party has not yet been welded.
Since my election to this house in 1940, I have had the pleasure to vote for great social enactments of this government. First, it was the marvellous Family Allowances Act, then the Unemployment Insurance Act, the amendments to the Old Age Security Act, to the Blind Persons Act and to the Disabled Persons Act. I was happy then to advocate and support these basically Liberal measures. I shall be happier still, Mr. Speaker, to vote for a health insurance act for, if there is in life a time when we need help and the solace of human fraternity, it is when illness strikes us and when misfortune knocks at our door. I shall not insist any more, because I know all my colleagues share this feeling.
Mr. Speaker, last week, when I was listening to my hon. friend from Brantford (Mr. Brown), my speech was all prepared in French. When I heard him address himself to the house in my maternal tongue, and this for quite a few minutes, I decided to do likewise, and that is why I shall continue a part of my remarks in English. I hope that effort of my hon. friend and mine at this moment will contribute to good understanding amongst us members.
There is another suggestion which I would like to submit to the government, and particularly to the Minister of Finance. I should rather say two suggestions, because the matter with which I wish to deal concerns both the budget and the income tax.
In income tax return forms there is an item dealing with charitable donations made by every individual, by every taxpayer during the year. It is stated therein that a maximum of 10 per cent of the net income may be deducted for that purpose. In order to benefit from these exemptions, one must attach to the income tax reports receipts signed by charitable organizations, members of the clergy or other authorized persons. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, this entails additional inconveniences for the taxpayer. He
is not only compelled to figure out his income to the last cent, but he must endeavour to obtain a receipt which will justify, so to speak, a great number of small or negligible donations, the amount of which is rather difficult to remember. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that all this paper work be done away with and that these proceedings be simplified by putting everyone on the same footing, that is, by simply allowing everyone a 10 per cent deduction of net income for charitable donations.
This is the practice in other countries. Why should we not do the same in Canada? This would simplify matters and would be fairer to the taxpayer and easier for the income tax department. I therefore request the Minister of Finance (Mr. Harris) to include this amendment or improvement in his next budget. I believe everyone will benefit therefrom.
And since I am talking about the budget, I should like to put before the Minister of Finance another request, and a very important one, the immediate granting of which could bring about happy results. By this, Mr. Speaker, I mean that the national budget should be presented sooner. I believe that the budget should be presented to the house in January every year, and I shall tell you why. Most merchants, industrialists and businessmen take inventory after the festive season, that is, at the beginning of January. After that they must wait weeks and even months before finding out whether changes will be made in the Customs Act, Excise Tax Act, the sales tax or otherwise.
Owing to this state of uncertainty most merchants wait before making purchases, and I believe that this situation is greatly responsible for the increase in seasonal unemployment which occurs mostly during the months of January, February, March and April. The unemployment insurance commission, together with municipalities, chambers of commerce and other public bodies, and also individuals, are doing constructive work in order to alleviate this idle period which we call seasonal unemployment. If the budget were presented in January I believe this situation would not be as bad.
I am asking the Minister of Finance to study this matter carefully. We would indeed be entirely justified to act accordingly if thousands of workers could be retained in their jobs who otherwise must rely for their livelihood on their unemployment insurance benefits. I would be curious to find out the opinion of merchants and manufacturers about this scheme.
After submitting these suggestions, which I believe are in the general interest of all
Canadians, may I, Mr. Speaker, put forward a request which concerns especially my district, the eastern townships. I am asking this now of the Minister of Transport (Mr. Mar-ler), whose sympathetic disposition we all know. In Quebec, as you know, the eastern townships are a small province within a province, and Sherbrooke, which I am privileged to represent in the house, is its capital. Writers and poets compare Sherbrooke to a queen and certain neighbouring towns to pearls and other jewels. They are right because Providence has showered its favours upon this privileged district which is represented by a dozen members in this house. We have rich mines, a great variety of industries; our population is progressive and alert, we have wonderful agricultural domains, an attractive countryside, magnificent mountains, large lakes teeming with fish, excellent hunting grounds, a prosperous tourist industry; in other words, prospects for a most brilliant future.
We also have numerous land transport facilities. The eastern townships are served by the large railways, the Canadian Pacific, the Canadian National and the Quebec Central which runs from Sherbrooke to Quebec City, via the rich mining district of Thetford Mines and Black Lake. We have numerous highways which, of course, could be improved but nevertheless help in expanding trade and industry. However, something is lacking. The eastern townships need air services which would speed up transportation between Sherbrooke, Quebec city and Montreal, and consequently with the rest of the world.
The minister knows that strong representations were made to his department for the building of an airport near Sherbrooke. Trans-Canada Air Lines were approached and, if I am not mistaken, they are making a survey at the present time of the passenger potentialities which the eastern townships would offer. I do not want to prophesy, but I can assert that air lines which would call at Sherbrooke would find it to their financial advantage.
As I have already said, the population of the eastern townships is progressive and full of initiative. They do not like to be behind the times. But in the field of air communications we are lagging behind other districts in our province and in the rest of the country. Therefore I request the Minister of Transport to provide in his 1956 budget sufficient estimates for the construction of at least two runways at the St. Frangois airport, a few miles from Sherbrooke. In asking him to act as soon as possible, I am talking not only on behalf of the citizens of Sherbrooke but also on behalf of the population of the whole district.
The Address-Mr. W. M. Hamilton
I am convinced that the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent), who is one of the most illustrious sons of the eastern townships, will support my request with his colleague and that when I go back to Sherbrooke I will be able to assure my constituents that the airport for which we have been waiting for such a long time will be built this year.
I conclude my remarks, Mr. Speaker, with a word of gratitude to the Lord, for He has been kind to Canada. Under the aegis of those in authority, under the leadership of the real patriots who are guiding our party, Canada is gaining in importance every year. Its vast economic wealth is envied by the rest of the world. In the international field, the wisdom of our statesmen is recognized by all, and people from all parts of the world now come to consult with the heads of the Canadian government with regard to the complex problems upsetting other nations.
Canada has become a great nation, a country where we know the joy of living, where our children will be able to grow up and prosper in peace, we hope, saying, as we do now, that they are proud to be Canadians.
Topic: SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY