Mr. W. H. McMillan (Welland):
Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre (Mr. Knowles) give a former prime minister, Mr. St. Laurent, credit for introducing the Disabled Persons Act. I recall that the bill was introduced in the house by the present Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Martin) when he was minister of national health and welfare. Prior to that time the Canadian welfare council in 1954, I believe, submitted a brief to the government, probably in anticipation of such legislation, and they attempted to classify unemployed persons under three heads. Under the first one they included the group who were obviously permanently and totally disabled and had no prospects of any improvement or cure. These people in future, they thought, would obviously receive payments under the act.
The second group comprised those persons who had some handicap but were able to do some work and thus support themselves in whole or in part. The third group consisted of those people who fall between the extremes of the other two groups and about whom we are concerned here. They are those people who cannot be classed as totally and permanently disabled but are unable to work and make a living. In presenting his resolution today I suppose the hon. member for Simcoe North (Mr. Smith) is proposing to include some or all of this particular class of people under the act.
Last year the act was before the house for amendment and the purpose of the amendments was twofold. One purpose was to increase the maximum monthly allowance to $65 and the other was to increase the over-all earnings that a person might have. In the case of a single person the increase was $180 and in the case of a married person it was $360. I remember that at that time members of the house urged the minister to go a little further and enlarge the definition. He read the definition to us and I think that the definition, which has already been read by two members today, would cover the particular cases that the hon. member for Simcoe North has in mind. It would include those with a physical or mental disability or impairment.
So far as age is concerned, persons cannot qualify for a pension under this act at the present time unless they are 18 years of age. I could not conceive of any province wanting to share with the dominion and making of
payments to anyone 70 years of age and over because the federal government bears the full cost of old age security in this area.
I have been somewhat concerned over the years with the difficulty we have had in getting some of these people included under the act. I know that medical men are not aware of the different cases that might be included. We fill out a form for the applicant, and it is a rather extensive form. We send it in to a review board. The review board may send back for more information or may refer the case to a specialist. If there is any difference of opinion between the applicant's medical man and the review board, then the case is sent to an appeal board which is made up of a doctor appointed by the federal government and one appointed by the provincial government. If these two doctors do not agree, then another provincial medical man is appointed.
Since this is a cost-sharing program, the payments are made after a means test. The provincial government sends out an investigator to look into the financial situation of the applicant. I do know that these investigators inquire into other things as well. I recall that last year one hon. member stated that a particular patient, and he was a patient because he had been sick before making application, had incurable heart disease. He was declared to be permanently and totally disabled; yet because this particular investigator found he had walked out into the garden, his application was disallowed. I do not think this sort of thing should be permitted.
Topic: INTERIM SUPPLY
Subtopic: DISABLED PERSONS ACT