George BAKER

BAKER, The Hon. George, P.C.

Personal Data

Party
Liberal
Constituency
Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Website
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=f6e5da54-c9c9-4020-9356-e92606d6b6c4&Language=E&Section=ALL
PARLINFO
http://www.parl.gc.ca/parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=f6e5da54-c9c9-4020-9356-e92606d6b6c4&Language=E&Section=ALL
Profession
assistant clerk, chief clerk, chief law clerk, chief legislative librarian, editor of hansard, radio & tv announcer & producer, title searcher

Parliamentary Career

July 8, 1974 - March 26, 1979
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment (October 10, 1975 - September 30, 1976)
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue (October 1, 1976 - September 30, 1977)
May 22, 1979 - December 14, 1979
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
February 18, 1980 - July 9, 1984
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
September 4, 1984 - October 1, 1988
LIB
  Gander--Twillingate (Newfoundland and Labrador)
November 21, 1988 - September 8, 1993
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
October 25, 1993 - April 27, 1997
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
June 2, 1997 - October 22, 2000
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) (August 3, 1999 - October 16, 2000)
  • Minister of Veterans Affairs (August 3, 1999 - October 16, 2000)
November 27, 2000 - May 23, 2004
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)
November 27, 2000 - March 25, 2002
LIB
  Gander--Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 379 of 380)


August 1, 1975

Mr. George Baker (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment and Minister of Fisheries):

1.

This question does not relate to matters officially connected with either the federal government or parliament (See Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, citation 171

(y).

2. Direct: $1.47 million federal costs of mutual studies by federal-provincial agreement. Indirect: $4.5 million for federal studies of oceanography, anadromous fish, and migratory birds.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
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August 1, 1975

Mr. George Baker (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment and Minister of Fisheries):

lawyers who performed services for the Department of the Environment in 1973 and 1974 were hired through the Department of Justice.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
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August 1, 1975

Mr. George Baker (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment and Minister of Fisheries):

No.

The Salt Water Fishing Regulations, both commercial and sport, and any regulations pertaining to salmon sports fishing in B.C., wherever conducted, are administered by the Federal Government, and are summarized for easy reference by the public in publications issued each spring by the Fisheries and Marine Service of the Department of the Environment in Vancouver.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   QUESTIONS ON THE ORDER PAPER
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June 3, 1975

Mr. George Baker (Gander-Twillingate):

Madam

Speaker, it is not my intention to talk out this bill, but it seems to me so important that it will require 15 or 20 minutes of my time. I have done some research into the proposed amendment and have some ideas regarding its effect on the Unemployment Insurance Act. I should like, also, to deal with what is wrong with other sections of the act which pertain generally to the situation to which the hon. member referred.

In 1971 there were fundamental changes to the Unemployment Insurance Act which among other things reduced the minimum insurable weeks required for eligibility to eight in the previous 52. This feature, in conjunction with the payment of sickness benefits, significantly reduced the need to provide for extensions to the qualifying period. The significance of the reduction to the requirement for eight weeks of insurable employment was that claimants would be paid benefits on a combination of recent labour force attachment and the difficulty in finding employment at the particular time he or she was unemployed. This is in contrast to the previous act which was based almost solely on the number of insurable weeks worked in the qualifying period.

I understand that experience with the new act since 1971 indicates that extensions to the qualifying period could be useful to the following categories of claimants: extended sickness, workmen's compensation, imprisonment, labour disputes, courses of occupational-vocational instruction. Studies on the potential advantage to extend benefit periods in these circumstances are under way in the Unemployment Insurance Commission but are not yet complete. Completion is dependent upon other in-depth studies being carried out that might bear either directly or indirectly on the suitability of reintroducing the extension of the qualifying period concept. Therefore, to proceed independently with proposals for amended legislation in this regard would be premature.

Let us consider benefit period extension. A significant consideration that must be taken into account in dealing with this general subject is the parallel requirement to also study the need for extensions to existing benefit periods for similar categories of claimants. For example, an individual who initiates a claim for benefit and is then incarcerated for an extended period of time should be treated with the same advantages as the individual who was incarcerated before he had established a claim for benefit. This effect compounds the degree of study that must be entered into before extensions to the qualifying period can be agreed upon.

Let me now say a word concerning workmen's compensation. At this time, working level discussions are being

June 3, 1975

Unemployment Insurance Act

undertaken with provincial workmen's compensation boards in order to determine the extent to which unemployment insurance should be co-ordinated with payments from these agencies. These interrelationships not only deal with eligibility for benefit but also with dissemination of information to potential claimants vis-a-vis their rights to unemployment insurance. Except for permanent settlements, any moneys received from workmen's compensation boards are considered to be earnings and therefore deductible from unemployment insurance benefits. At the same time, since these earnings are not from employment they do not constitute insurance earnings for unemployment insurance purposes. However, an individual would have to have a period of incapacity while in receipt of workmen's compensation benefits for a period in excess of 42 weeks before his eligibility for unemployment insurance had expired.

My first point on the motion, Madam Speaker, is that provincial governments are already involved in workmen's compensation. The hon. member for Nickel Belt (Mr. Rodriguez) raised an interesting point which strikes at the very heart of unemployment insurance. The question as I see it, having read his motion, is whether unemployment insurance benefits should be taken out of the realm of insurance and considered as being in the realm of or form of guaranteed income.

In my short time as a member for this House I have seen the shortcomings of unemployment insurance. I have seen the self-defeating aspects of unemployment insurance and I have also seen the real worth of unemployment insurance. Let me state emphatically that the federal government, rightly or wrongly, appears to me to be shouldering all the blame for what sometimes should be a provincial responsibility. For instance, I do not think the federal government should be held solely responsible for the housing crisis in this country. Neither should it be held solely responsible for the unemployment figures in this country. I am amazed to observe that in provinces of high unemployment, politicians blame the federal government, but in provinces of low unemployment politicians give credit to the provincial government.

This obvious lack of consistency is never attacked by the Prime Minister (Mr. Trudeau) or the cabinet. They appear to accept the total responsibility for all wrong and accept no credit for what is right. That is an admirable trait, but its one shortcoming is that inevitably provincial elections are fought in the provincial arena and the federal government is the main issue. The same holds true of this motion.

Provincial governments have a clear mandate to augment federal policy. They have the right to introduce budgets and thus hold in their hands the key to success in such areas as workmen's compensation. Every year provinces, in bringing down provincial budgets, must decide on their social welfare policies. For instance, how much should someone on welfare get? How high should be the minimum wage? What provisions should be included in the provincial workmen's compensation act? How much money should be allocated to blind people's allowances? How much can the province spend on day-care centres? To what extent can the province make use of the federal

government's 50-50 formula under the Canada Assistance Plan?

Unemployment insurance is a blessing in some cases but a curse in others. The question which must always be asked is, "How far should we go?" It should not be, "How far can we go before we exhaust the public treasury or overtax the working man." There are areas in which the unemployment insurance scheme needs changing. If the hon. gentleman for Nickel Belt were suggesting that we should amend the act so that overpayments which are the fault of the interviewing process or of the computer are not charged to the recipient, I would wholeheartedly support it.

How you can ask a seasonally employed man to repay a $1,000 overpayment for which he was not responsible, I do not know. But that is the law, Madam Speaker. That is what the act we are discussing says must be done. How anyone can expect a person living in a rural area to commute 200 miles to work, to a job that pays the minimum wage, I do not know. The hon. member noted this point in his argument. Yet under the act, if a worker refuses work in the closest industrial centre, which could be hundreds of miles away, benefits are cut off immediately. That, too, is part of the act. At present the Unemployment Insurance Act discriminates against people in the outports of Newfoundland or in the rural areas of other provinces.

The hon. gentleman who proposed this motion is concerned perhaps about the same things I am concerned about, namely, that what is effective in Alberta may not be appropriate in Newfoundland; what may be a practical insurance scheme in a province which has high standards of social legislation may not be practical in a province which does not have those standards. To be truly effective, the Unemployment Insurance Act would need to stipulate different regulations for different parts of this country and for different classes of working men and women. Should the regulations for western Canada be the same as those for Newfoundland? In western Canada thousands of jobs remain unfilled, but in Newfoundland no jobs are vacant. I do not think they should be the same.

By the same token, provincial government policies must be different in different areas of Canada. Should we not consider the economic deprivation of Newfoundland? What should the policy of that provincial government be? Perhaps we could take a lesson from progressive areas of Liberal policy or from the professed policy of the party of the hon. gentleman who proposed this motion.

As far as I am concerned, unemployment insurance should only be used for someone who is looking for a job but cannot find one. He or she should be capable of working. The only exception I would make would be for cases of pregnancy. The unemployment insurance regulations should be open for those people who honestly cannot find work. The workmen's compensation acts should guarantee someone a salary in case of sickness or injury and it should be an adequate compensation. It should be part of the social legislaiton of each province. The working man who pays in to these insurance schemes deserves consideration.

I also believe that the provincial governments are responsible for their own social policy best suited to their province. They are also responsible for developing policies that will guarantee employment. In areas of high unemployment, government initiative may be the only answer for development and perhaps nationalization of industry should be considered. The federal government should stick to certain limits or it will eventually become so involved in provincial matters as to warrant the presently unjustified criticism it is experiencing with unemployment figures and housing.

I will agree with the hon. member on one point, that where a provincial government has been lax, where it has fallen down on social legislation, has got itself into serious trouble financially or is off base spending the hard earned money of the people, some mechanism should exist to make up for that inadequacy, for the sake of the people. Provincial and federal government are elected to protect the people with the workingman's hard earned money, but each government should shoulder its own responsibilities.

Topic:   PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic:   UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT
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December 16, 1974

Mr. George Baker (Gander-Twillingate):

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Red Deer (Mr. Towers) has presented a motion with the single objective of providing for the early retirement of female registered nurses who constitute a small and specific group in the over-all labour force. The hon. member's oversight in neglecting the male members of this profession is indeed worthy of regard, since it represents a rare instance of discrimination against the members of the male sex.

On the subject of early retirement there is considerable doubt as to how far it goes in promoting enjoyment of life. You all know of friends, I am sure, who looked forward for years to their well-deserved days of leisure, suffered through sentimental retirement presentations, and then dropped dead from heart attacks six months later. Others may take their honourable retreat comparatively early, then wander through city parks and streets dissatisfied with life and inactivity, and wishing they once again had purpose.

People about to retire are frequently unaware what their pension levels will actually be, and what fringe benefits and other provisions their retirement plans are able to provide. Very often they do not know what they are going to do with their new-found leisure, and have not planned ahead for an active retirement in keeping with their longstanding lifestyle. Most people under 60 have not yet really begun to think about retiring. There are many arguments for and against early retirement. Some of the very factors operating against premature inactivity include limited income, boredom, lack of planning for leisure time, higher risk of illness and the huge costs to government and industry as well as to individuals themselves in implementing retirement schemes for people still in the prime of life.

The thought of retirement at 60 sounds like a guaranteed income for a very small and select group of the female population. Were the idea to be approved in principle, it would behoove every group of employees in the country to insist upon similar provisions for their members. Certainly, initial havoc in existing plans would result and great

December 16, 1974

difficulty would be created for people in the business of providing retirement benefits, particularly in the insurance field, if compulsory early retirement measures of this type were instituted generally. Some of those who would be affected have already pointed out the problems that would be experienced in the extra funding required to pay out inadequate pensions five years early, the reduction in benefits for those who stay longer in the labour force and the inability to upgrade pensions now being paid which are locked into previously made arrangements.

The people most strongly in favour of early retirement are probably the labour unions. A number of early retirement provisions have been written into labour contracts, notably the UAW's "30 and out" provisions. The justification is primarily economic, to free jobs for younger and presumably otherwise unemployed workers. However, the UAW does not bother to supervise the promise made to retire from the labour force, and if they did they would undoubtedly find numerous allegedly retired persons who are actually holding jobs. Being inactive does not appeal to most people after a lifetime of work.

While there is some support by the public for the idea of early retirement, polls have shown that it is not the first choice for leisure and people generally would prefer a shorter work week and more flexible hours of work. It also appears that few are willing to give up financial advantage for any leisure option. No one seems to want early retirement if it means a pension reduction and living on narrowed means.

Perhaps the hon. member has noticed that International Women's Year commences on January 1, 1975. If so, his singular motion in support of the earlier retirement of female nurses only is a magnificent gesture to emphasize his support not only of women's liberation but also for a few working women in Canada. I am still, however, mystified by the way in which he has neatly detached a portion of one small group in the total labour force on which to focus his attention in what appears to be a classic example of tunnel vision.

Hon. members know that the Minister of National Health and Welfare (Mr. Lalonde) recently assumed responsibility for the status of women. In addition, the Department of National Health and Welfare has been responsible for the Canada Pension Plan since its inception in 1967. We should, therefore, feel flattered by this noteworthy expression of interest by the hon. member in what the Minister of National Health and Welfare is actively working to accomplish.

What we are trying to do is to ensure that all members of the Canadian labour force can retire with dignity, in the fullness of time, secure in the knowledge that their main needs and those of their families can be met without severe hardship. The thought of earlier retirement can create pleasant pictures in our minds. For hard working Canadians, during moments of stress and pressure in their jobs, it sums up happy visions of islands in the sun, days on the golf course, or sitting in a garden that never ceases to bloom, surrounded by friends and grandchildren. However, visions of leisure pleasure have proven to be barren

Nurses' Retirement Age

mirages to many people who have had to face the problems that retirement often brings.

One crucial factor that must be taken into account is that lowering the eligible age for government pensions under old age security or the Canada Pension Plan would soon affect the mandatory retirement age in the general work force. Certainly, when the age for retirement becomes involuntary and automatic at a certain age, regardless of a worker's wish to stay on in employment, a complex question is raised. Is it desirable to start the move toward a lower eligibility age, which may drastically affect the normal retirement age throughout the economy, before the capacity has been developed in the population to plan for retirement and the use of leisure time well before the age of 65?

Turning the possibility of early retirement into a reality works to the advantage, in particular instances, not only of the employee but, equally, the employer. Many people have family responsibilities which continue well beyond the age of 60, including the education of children, the care of parents or an ill spouse, the need to pay for homes and travel and new cars-all of which have become part of a normal way of life in our highly motivated society. However, if old age security at the age of 60 were an approved measure, employers could simply retire people on their sixtieth birthday without a single possibility of repercussion. Long-term employees, still actively wanting to continue working, would be forced into unwanted retirement. The fact is that most people do not want to retire before the age of 65: for example, despite the excellent pension plan available to qualified federal government employees who retire before that age, only 15 per cent of those eligible exercise their option and actually take early retirement.

What would be the impact on the economy if large numbers of people retired early in order to accept the benefits of a lowered eligibility age for old age security and the Canada Pension Plan? A large number of highly skilled and highly productive workers would leave their jobs either voluntarily or involuntarily. We must not underestimate the abilities of our older workers. Less and less of the work that is done in Canada is manually performed where the premium is on youth and physical strength. More and more, increasingly automated industries and agencies depend upon technical and administrative skills where long years of training and experience pay extra dividends and cannot easily be replaced. It cannot be proven by any reliable method of evaluation that younger workers are more able or productive than older employees, even in highly technological enterprises.

The condition of people in retirement must especially be considered. First and foremost is the income question. While government pension plans have been substantially improved in the last ten years, it remains a fact that these programs are designed to provide a basic standard of living. They cannot fully replace a worker's current salary. Nor can private pension plans completely fill the gap. For one thing, they cover only 40 per cent of the present labour force. They are also affected adversely if a worker has been very mobile, especially in his or her later career. Moreover, major adjustments would be necessary

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December 16, 1974

Nurses' Retirement Age

if these plans were required to provide for retirement at age 60 rather than 65.

Earlier retirement would obviously entail a significant drop in income and, if pension entitlements were small, social assistance would be needed. A drop in income also entails a change in status which must be assimilated by the retiring worker. Desirable or not, our society is strongly work-oriented. Individual prestige and high evaluation by others often result from a person's job. In older age brackets, this identification of work with social value is particularly strong. Early retirement, especially when involuntary, can drastically harm a retiree's self-image, pride and self-esteem.

Successful retirement depends to a considerable extent upon the amount of preparation for it, including the development of outside interests and hobbies which can replace the work focus. It is a fallacy to expect that "just relaxing" will satisfy people who have been active all their lives. Hobbies and artificially cultivated interests cannot simply be minor items but must have the potential of becoming full-time absorptions. Yet preretirement training is at present still a very underdeveloped field. The requirements of a new and younger-aged population would simply add to existing deficiencies and gaps in these services.

There is also the important question of social interaction. Work provides a daily set of human contacts and it offers friendship and shared interests. Retirement removes this meeting place and can bring great loneliness, especially for people who are alone as are some widows, widowers and people without close relatives. Both physical and social mobility are likely to be more limited as the period of retirement lengthens.

It is evident that all these factors can have an impact upon a person's physical and mental health. Loss of income, loss of status, loss of friends and loss of the sense of accomplishment are all determinants affecting the health of older segments of the population. Removing what has been the focus of life for 40 years and replacing it with a void can be extremely harmful. Moreover, dropping into retirement status, highly trained professional people like registered nurses who are younger, more vigorous, energetic and endowed with a highly developed social conscience may just accentuate the sense of alienation and uselessness which can become a malaise in our society. The stress and self-questioning which unfilled time can carry could well outdo the pressures of a busy and fulfilling job as causative factors in physical and mental illness.

An analysis of the personal factors involved in early retirement does not exhaust the administrative problems which arise. There is difficulty, for example, in determining whether or not a person is in the labour market. Would a person be permitted to work at all, or even part-time, without loss of old age security and Canada Pension Plan benefits? If so, what number of hours would be considered appropriate? What controls should be developed to ensure that people meet the criterion of not being in the labour market? And how should those controls be administered?

The probable effect upon the employment market of implementing the hon. member's proposal needs to be

weighed if possible. One justification for earlier retirement is that it would free jobs for younger, unemployed workers. In reality, fighting unemployment never involves a one-to-one relationship whereby one person leaves forever and is immediately replaced by a younger individual. Many people who retire do not wish to stay retired; they try to re-enter the labour force-openly or secretly-if not full-time, then part-time. In this way, retirement of healthy workers actually increases competition for jobs rather than reduces it.

In addition, managers might not replace every retiring employee. They may choose, instead, to consolidate positions and reduce production costs or automate some tasks. It may come as a surprise to think of a female registered nurse being replaced by a computer, but this is far from fantasy. Many routine laboratory tests are being done by automated procedures. Invoicing and patient records are now computer input. Drugs can be mixed and dispensed in computerized doses, and we are living in an age when computer diagnosis is fast becoming a reality.

I personally believe we have to keep our physical and personal assets in the labour force as long as it is feasible to do so. It takes many years of education and experience to build sound knowledge and good professional practice. It would be discriminatory as well as extremely costly and impractical to set the wheels of government in motion to provide for retirement five years earlier of female registered nurses, to the exclusion of their male colleagues and other women and men who make up the millions of Canadians in the living, working, human labour force. We owe them all fair treatment and the opportunity to work if they see fit, and are fit, without being faced with the necessity to retire.

I find myself unable to support this motion for early retirement of female registered nurses, for the wide variety of reasons I have just given. I would hope that other, more realistic measures can be planned to enhance the status of women, particularly during 1975 which the United Nations has designated as International Women's Year.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS
Subtopic:   CANADA PENSION PLAN
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