Family allowances, voted in 1944, became effective on July 1, 1945. The monthly rates were established for each child at $5.00 to the age of six years; $6.00 from six to ten years; $7.00 from ten to thirteen years, and $8.00 from thirteen to sixteen years.
$5.00 to $8.00 a month, even at that time, was not a tremendous sum. But, then, all social measures have had small beginnings (old age pensions, today at $55 a month, began at $20 and were limited to aged people without means of 70 years or more!). The trouble with family allowances is that the rates are still the small timid figures they were at the beginning, in spite of the rise in the cost of living. And what is especially aggravating is that family allowances alone have thus been left unadjusted to the increased cost of living.
It is true that last year, one paltry dollar was added to the allocations for a certain group of children; $6.00 instead of $5.00 for the six-years old and $8.00 instead of $7.00 for those from ten to thirteen years. No increase was granted children between six and ten and between thirteen and sixteen.
This insignificant increase amounted to an average, additional fifty-six and a quarter cents per child per month or less than two cents a day. It was granted with considerable reluctance by the Liberal government much in the fashion that one might throw a small bone to a dog to keep him quiet. And it was granted just before the elections of June 1957. It did more to irritate than conciliate the electors, and the Crediters and others demonstrated their irritation with the Liberal party on election day.
Now, we are living in 1958, not 1945. The mother of a family in Montreal, and in other cities, no longer pays eight cents a quart for milk, but twenty three cents — almost triple what it was. A loaf of bread in 1958 — no bigger than it was in 1945 — costs twenty-two cents, instead of ten, or more than double what it was then.
The cost of living has increased in every field, but especially where products most needed by the family are concerned.
The government, ministers and representatives alike, know very well that the cost of living has gone up, as is witnessed by the fact that under the last government, Liberal, there was an unanimous vote from all parties for an increase in the pay of representatives. In 1945 they were paid $4,000.00 a year; today they receive $10,000. Do our parliamentarians think that the cost of living has not gone up for families which include children? If the family allowance rates of 1945 were doubled it would mean only that for each child there would be the same quantity of goods as there was in 1945. This increase in rates would certainly not break down our production machinery. In fact it would constitute no strain at all since productive capacity has increased since 1945.
The 1945 scale of rates — $5, $6, $7 and $8, according to age — averages $6 a child per month ($6.56 since the slight increase of last year). To balance with the present cost of today's products, that average should be $12.00 a child. That is, the rate should be one of $12.00 a child from birth to the age of 16, or a scale of rates double those of 1945.
The Diefenbaker administration, during the short session of last Fall, made generous increases in old age pensions, disability allowances and pensions for the blind. We congratulate them; all have benefited and the country's production does not seem to have suffered.
To keep the family allowance rates at the same level as in 1945 is not only to decrease by half, that which they can procure, but it also prevents families with children from sharing in the accrued production of the country. These allowances should make it possible for families to have not only the same quantities of goods they had in 1945 but greater quantities, since the produce of the country has vastly increased.
We refuse to acknowledge the validity of the objection that insufficient funds is an obstacle to the increase of family allowances.
It is goods and services that the family needs. And no one can object that there is a lack of products or produce. The spectacle of the store shelves being filled as soon as they are emptied, the fantastic advertising campaigns of the merchants of the country's products and services, the appeal of Prime Minister Diefenbaker himself to the consumers to engage in a spirited buying campaign (during his speech at Winnipeg on April 25) — all these facts demonstrate that there is not only a sufficiency but a superabundance of consumers' products on the market with a million hands available for still further production.
As for finances, it is merely a question of making adjustments for the financial system exists to help and not to obstruct.
Furthermore, Mr. Diefenbaker has already declared, with right good sense, that he will not permit Canadians to suffer merely for the sake of a balanced budget; though he was thinking primarily of unemployment when he made this statement. But little children, those small Canadians who will be the country's builders tomorrow, do they not merit equal consideration? Would not an increase in the purchasing power of families through readjusted family allowances, be a most practical and speedy means of answering the prime minister's appeal to realize a vigorous campaign of buying, and thus help to lower the unemployment figures?
This matter of family allowances, which has almost reached the point where it becomes a penalization of families, is a flagrant injustice which has been allowed to stand too long and should be remedied immediately at the present session of Parliament.
(Translated by EARL MASSECAR).