Mr. J. E. FONTAINE (Hull) (Translation):
Mr. Speaker, I intend to be brief in my remarks. Having, however, set my heart so much on this question of old age pensions, I deem it my duty to state that I shall give this resolution my utmost support. I say, Sir, that I have at heart this question, and to give further proof, in 1922, as the hon. Minister of Labour (Mr. Heenan) stated a short while ago, I had the honour to move a resolution requesting the government to favourably consider the enactment of legislation with the view of providing for old age.
It was only in 1924 that a committee was appointed in order to inquire into the matter, and last year, in 1926, a bill was brought down by the government making provision for old age pensions. This act was based on the report of the committee appointed in 1924, and by which a pension of $20 per month was to be paid to destitute old people having attained the age of seventy.
It is true, as the hon. leader of the opposition (Mr. Guthrie) stated a short while ago, that the opposition of that -time did not
Old Age Pensions
oppose this measure; however, as in the present case, those who then formed the opposition put forth all kinds of arguments in order to criticize the bill, and slanderous tongues even went so far as to state that the leader of the opposition of that day -Mr. Meighen-had influenced his friends in the Senate in order to have the bill disallowed in the upper house.
As it was previously stated by the leader of the opposition, this question was freely discussed by the public in the course of the last electoral campaign, and so far as I am concerned, I know that in my riding and especially in the city of Hull, a large number of votes were cast in my behalf because I had stood up as the sponsor of this measure. It seems to me but just that the state should come to the relief of the workers and citizens who have laboured all their life, when their hands cannot render the same services and they find themselves unable to earn the same wages. Pensions have been provided by the government for various classes, namely for judges, civil servants, and I think it is but right. By providing a system of pensions, railway companies, among others, come to the assistance of their old employees. I think it is the duty of a country to look after their old servants whose only fault is to have worked for small wages, to have raised large families and not to have provided for their old age. I often hear it said that these people should have been more thrifty and wiser, that they should have set aside savings. But how can you expect people who earn wages of two or three dollars per day to lay aside savings when they raise large families and have to provide for them?
If there is a sad spectacle, it is to see people who have been good citizens all their life forced to take the road which leads to the poor house because they were unable to lay aside savings and because the government does not come to their rescue.
I think the resolution is well in order and I wish to thank the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) for the activity which he displayed to have this resolution carried. Moreover, an old age pension act is part of the Liberal program and I can recall that at the time of the 1919 convention, a special clause was adopted with such a view. I also remember that our old leader, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, at a large meeting held in Montreal in 1916, stated that one of the first questions which he would consider when he returned to power would be the enactment of a system of pensions for old people.
Mr. Speaker, I am entirely in favour of this resolution and I trust that it will be unanimously carried by this House. I also hope that this year the Senate will reconsider their decision and acknowledge that they made a mistake last year, and once for all will accept with good grace this old age pensions bill, thereby displaying not only patriotism but especially a philanthropic spirit.