The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre says that the number is 2,319. Of course there are many more who get amounts ranging up to $100 a month or over. I could list all the figures, but I am particularly concerned with those in that very low income group. I sought for the answer to the minister's argument in that paper of January 26. It is quite obvious that the minister will not want to set a wrong precedent in this connection, and I think that is his real fear.
I looked up the debates on the pension increase given in Great Britain in 1944, and I found there very clearly the principle that they went on in increasing the pensions for their former civil servants, on account of the increased cost of living. I want to quote to the minister what Sir John Anderson, who was then the chancellor of the exchequer, said in this connection, because it will give him a principle upon which he can find his way around the argument that he advanced a year ago in refusing the application of the superannuated civil servant.
It is quite obvious that we have financed the war to a certain extent by inflating the currency, a certain amount by borrowing and a certain amount by taxation. We all share that inflation together; but it hits very hard particularly those in the groups to which I have made reference tonight, namely, those who are getting less than $40 a month. I do not think it is at all unfair that they should be relieved of the joint burden that we all
carry in respect of inflation of the currency. I believe that is the view that was taken in Great Britain when this matter was up because Sir John Anderson said, as reported on page 1761 of volume 367 of the United Kingdom debates:
That will be essentially the approach which the government propose to make, that is, to take account, as in the legislation following the last war, of the position of the pensioner and to provide increases for the lower ranges of pensions, in order, so far as may be practicable, to mitigate really severe hardship.
That was the principle behind their increase and it is one I suggest the minister could follow without in any way setting a bad precedent or making a bad comparison with others who may also have been hit by the same problem.
I want to call to the attention of the Minister of Finance two other things that Sir John Anderson said. He said:
In the view of the government, the arguments for and against doing something were still fairly evenly and nicely balanced, but, on the whole, the government considered that there was a case for some action.
I think that is exactly the position that we are in in this House of Commons. Where the arguments are nicely and evenly balanced there might well be some action. The last thing I want to call to the minister's attention, again quoting from Sir John Anderson, is his answer to the minister's own argument in refusing the increase:
For example, the recipient of interest on government stock cannot claim an increase on similar grounds, although there may be hardship in both cases. But the government rightly take a sympathetic view of the difficulties of their own pensioned servants.
With respect to these in the very low categories of pension this government could very easily take a sympathetic view of their own pensioners without in any way disturbing the relationship of other groups in the country.
Topic: DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Subtopic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS