On May 31, the Minister of Finance having moved that the House go into Committee of Ways and Means, Mr. Stanley Knowles, a C.C.F. member, availed himself of the right accorded on such occasion to move the following amendment:
"That this House is of the opinion that consideration should be given to increasing the amount paid to our old age and blind pensioners under the Old Age Security Act and the Blind Persons Act."
This was a mild way — the only way a member outside of the Executive can word a motion to recommend a measure involving an expense of money — to say that the Government should raise the monthly pension paid to our aged and blind.
The pension was set at $40 a month in 1949. Since that date, the cost of living has increased tremendously.
The productive capacity of the country has equally gone up, in dollars, from 16 billion to 24 billion a year. If this increase must benefit all our people, it would be only fair to raise the monthly pension by fifty per cent, and make it $60 a month.
Other members spoke in favour of this amendment.
The minister of National Welfare, Hon. Paul: Martin, made the remark that the pension is not intended to provide full maintenance:
"There is no social benefit that provides full maintenance. All that a social security payment can do is provide a grant towards maintenance."
This would be all right, indeed, in an economical. world where the average citizen, in the producing span of his life, could set aside provision for his old age. Such may have been the case in former years. No more so today. In the words of Mr. Angus Mclinnis, another C.C.F. member:.
"'There are hundreds of thousands who have not got anything but the old age pension. The development of our economic system adds every year to that number who cannot save anything for their old age.
"Our system of large scale production has separated the people from the tools and the property by which once they made a livelihood. It has not only separated them from their tools and property, but it has really separated them from their skills. The machine has taken away their skill. Today when people reach the age of 45 or 50, in most cases they are no longer considered efficient in industry, and they have nothing upon which they can fall back, because they have not been able, in 95 and perhaps 99 cases out of a hundred, to put away anything substantial that will help them to maintain a decent old age."
We agree. The growing share taken by taxation, the increasing cost of living, cannot leave much for saving from the earnings of a man who raises a family and who is considered an industrial outcast at 50. And if some savings at all, what will remain of them fifteen years later, at the age of 65?
The amount of the pension is not kept low owing to an insufficiency of goods, but by financial considerations only. And Social Crediters know the solution.
As is usual when someone blames the Government for stinginess in some sector, the Minister insisted on"how much the Government has done for the people". Which brought the following reply from Mr. MacInnis:.
"This government has not done anything for the people. The people themselves have provided the means by which this government has paid out anything that has been paid out. There is no reason in the world why the people of this country should come hat in hand to this government, or any other government, to say: Let us have a better division of the great wealth we have produced and are increasingly producing."
A Social Crediter could have yet improved on these last words, showing both the unused and misused potentialities, paralyzed or directed to the production of non-consumable goods by the dictates of the Money Power.
Mr. MacInnis added some spicy remarks:
"If this were a measure affecting the members of this House, what a different attitude there would be. Could they get along on $40 per month? Could they get along on ten times $40 per month? Of course not...
"But the old people are not here. The old people are out of sight. We do not even have to meet them in an election campaign for a few years. Consequently we can say: We cannot do anything for you. We cannot do anything because it would cost so much money.
"We never think of what money costs when we are doing something for ourselves. We say we are entitled to a standard of living that will put us beyond the temptations of life. Well, surely if that applies to us,... it applies to everybody."
We believe that every member of the House, personally, would have been glad to vote in favour of the amendment. Not one of the $10,000-a-year members would be ready to say to the country: My opinion is that $40 a month is enough for an old man, or an old woman, or a blind man or woman.
But the amendment came from a member of the Opposition. Instead of a sincere vote, the House registered once more a party vote. All the Conservatives, C.C.F., and Social Credit and Independent members present in the House at that moment voted in favour of the amendment. All the Liberal members voted against it. This is sham democracy.