Bill C-13 (Historical)
Budget Implementation Act, 2006
An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Jim Flaherty Conservative
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Jobs and Growth Act, 2012
November 29th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.
Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the Conservatives' latest omnibus budget legislation, Bill C-45, at report stage.
I will focus my remarks today on: one, how the New Democrats worked closely with and supported, helped, aided and abetted the Conservatives in their ramming of this omnibus bill through committee; two, a very dangerous precedent that was set at finance committee during the study of Bill C-45; and, three, some of the flaws in Bill C-45 that were identified by Canadians during the committee's study.
As members know, Bill C-45 is a mammoth bill. It is over 400 pages long and would amend over 60 different laws. It includes a large number of provisions that simply do not belong in a budget bill: rewriting the laws protecting Canada's waterways; redefining aboriginal fisheries, without even consulting first nations peoples; and eliminating the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. These are just a few examples of what is in Bill C-45 and examples of measures that would really have nothing to do with the fiscal situation of the country.
Canadians overwhelmingly disapprove of the Conservatives' use of omnibus budget bills to ram a large number of unrelated measures through Parliament without sufficient study or debate. A recent poll by Forum Research shows that 64% of Canadians oppose the Conservatives' omnibus legislative approach. Even a majority of Conservative supporters oppose the Conservatives' use, overuse and abuse of omnibus bills.
The Prime Minister once opposed the use of omnibus bills, but under his watch we have seen a clear trend toward the use of omnibus legislation. In fact, Bill C-13 in 2006 was 198 pages; Bill C-28 in 2007 was 378 pages; Bill C-10 in 2009 was 552 pages; Bill C-9 in 2010 was 904 pages; Bill C-13 in 2011 was 658 pages; and Bill C-38 earlier this year was 452 pages.
To put this in context, the largest Liberal budget bill was Bill C-28 in 2003, which was 144 pages in length, and it focused on fiscal measures, not on unrelated measures.
I will also speak about the NDP in this case. The NDP actually helped the Conservatives in passing Bill C-45 as quickly as possible through committee. The New Democrats say that they oppose Bill C-45 and they say that they oppose closure. However, their actions speak louder than their words. While they talk the talk, they do not walk the walk when it comes to actually standing up to the Conservatives and their abuse of Parliament. Instead of standing up to the Conservatives and providing any real opposition to Bill C-45, the New Democrats have actually been helping the Conservatives.
Here are a few examples. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to impose time allocation to limit the debate on Bill C-45 at committee. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to overrule the finance committee chair, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, a chair who is respected by all members of the House for his judgment. To have him rebuked by his own colleagues was bad and it was terrible to see the New Democrats gang up with the Conservatives against the member for Edmonton—Leduc. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives to throw out the rules at committee and to shut down opposition to Bill C-45. The New Democrats then gave up one of their votes at finance committee and worked out a schedule with the Conservatives so the finance committee could get through Bill C-45 as quickly as possible. The New Democrats voted with the Conservatives almost 2,000 times at the finance committee to oppose measures that could have delayed certain parts of Bill C-45.
May 30th, 2012 / 9:30 p.m.
Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB
It's important that I clarify this because that's the problem with people who have outside interests. I just ask that we be very clear about both sides of the story.
When we talk about third-party delivery, I appreciate that Mr. Bergevin said he doesn't take issue with that, as long as there are rules. The rules are there. The inspectors are accredited. There are no two ways about it. That is clear.
I also want to correct the record with regard to the size of the budget bill. Let's get to the facts. Bill C-10, which was Budget 2009, was bigger than this one. Bill C-9, Budget 2010, BIA number two, was 880 pages. Bill C-13, Budget 2011, BIA number one, was 644 pages. They were all bigger than this one. This is not unusual in any way, shape or form.
These studies are done over years. One of the witnesses mentioned that. I just want to make that clear so Canadians understand the full picture on some of these issues.
April 17th, 2008 / 3:20 p.m.
Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other amendments).
I should note that the bill was originally introduced as Bill C-13 in the first session of the 39th Parliament. It passed all stages in the House of Commons, was sent to the other place and is back here now with some amendments, which I and my colleagues believe enhance the bill. I will be supporting the bill, and I expect my colleagues on this side will as well.
We support the bill because it would a number of positive things to improve and enhance our criminal justice system. Some of these matters are quite procedural and technical in their nature, but, nonetheless, they are very important to ensure the system in the country works efficiently, effectively and brings justice to all.
Some of the aspects of the bill, for example, increase the maximum fine that can be imposed for a summary conviction offence from $2,000 to $10,000. The $2,000 limit had not been changed for some 30 years. The bill also calls for the suspension of a conditional sentence order or a probation order during an appeal. That enhances this law as well.
The proposed bill also provides the power to delay the sentencing proceedings so an offender can participate in a provincially approved treatment program. That is very important. In many cases we can lock people up and throw away the key, but eventually they will get out and have to be functioning and responsible citizens of our country. Therefore, if we can help someone deal with drug or alcohol abuse or some other social problem, this is to be very much encouraged.
In the case of a person serving a youth sentence who has received an adult sentence, the bill clarifies that the remaining portion of the youth sentence is converted to an adult sentence. This follows through on some of the changes that were made previously to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and something I think many Canadians often do not fully comprehend.
There is an impression that young people can commit crimes at will, flaunt the system and do not receive the types of sanctions that many Canadians think they should. However, we need to understand that if we put young people in jail, they can become hardened criminals. If they are not rehabilitated or given the appropriate treatment, in jail they will become even worse criminals. When they get out, they will offend again.
It is important that all criminals be rehabilitated while they are serving their time. At the same time, the youth criminal justice changes we made when we formed government allow a judge, at his or her discretion, to sentence a young person as an adult if, in the view of the judge, that young person deserves to be sentenced as an adult.
If I recollect correctly, the cutoff is age 14, and that is a very young. When people tell me that the age should be reduced further, I tell them that it is not something I would advocate. In fact, 14 is young enough. I think many judges would not be inclined to impose an adult sentence on someone of those young years unless the circumstances warranted it in the view of the judge. Nonetheless, it is important to have that provision so a judge can have the flexibility to do things like that.
One aspect that is not in the bill, although I hope it will come at some point in time, is an initiative that our government started. After two years of serving as government, I am surprised the Conservatives have not really acted upon it. It has to do with the modernization of investigative techniques.
I notice in the bill there are amendments which call for the use of telecommunications to forward warrants for the purpose of endorsement and execution in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction where the search warrant was obtained. Therefore, there are measures in the bill dealing with telecommunications, but we still do not have legislation to modernize investigative techniques for our law enforcement personnel. Let me describe what that is.
If we look at our Criminal Code today, if law enforcement officers can convince a judge that there are significant grounds, the judge can execute a search warrant. However, the search warrants and the wiretapping warrants are tailored to technologies that have been superceded, although not completely, and replaced by other types of media, other types of technology.
For example, wiretapping warrants on our books today, in terms of law, deal mostly with land phone lines. We know criminals today use wireless devices. They use cellphones, computers and the Internet. The problem is our laws are archaic in the sense that the police cannot tap these types of technologies. The problem, again, is criminals have moved ahead of law enforcement. In fact, some criminals will make a few calls on a cellphone and then chuck it away. They will do the same for other kinds of wireless devices.
When we were the government, we began a process to modernize these investigative techniques. It raised some concern in certain quarters that this was calling for a change in the ability or the power of the police to seek out a wiretap. The reality is it changed nothing in that regard. Law enforcement would still have to convince a judge that the wiretap was necessary. The only thing that it would do is it would allow the wiretap to be executed against a cellphone number, or a BlackBerry, or an Internet account, or some other telecommunications device.
While there is some confusion and some angst among citizens and others about what this type of legislation would do, in fact, it would do nothing more than what is on the books right now. It would not give the police the power or the authority to wiretap someone's line without a duly executed warrant by a judge.
The Conservative government talks about how it is getting the job done and how there has been 13 years of inaction. Here is something upon which the government should be acting.
There are a couple of other issues with telecommunications companies and servers. There are costs associated with adapting this technology or being in a state of readiness. If a warrant is executed by law enforcement officers, they need to have the capability and capacity, the technology within their own shops. There are costs associated with that.
There are also costs on a going forward basis if we require these telecommunications companies, like a server or mobile phone company, to retrofit to ensure their technologies are capable of putting these wiretaps on this technology. If this law were passed, companies would have to ensure the technology was engineered in such a way that if a warrant were executed, they could implement the wiretap on a cellphone, or on a BlackBerry, or on an Internet account. I believe this is holding the government back from doing something on this initiative, and that is a wrong reason.
Why should we be compromising the safety and security of Canadians because some telecommunications companies are anxious and nervous about the costs they would be faced with to adapt and execute this type of technology?
When we were the government, there were a lot of discussions and negotiations back and forth. My recollection is that there was some compromise, some meeting of the minds, as to how to move forward in this particular environment.
If my memory serves me correctly, these companies indicated a willingness on a going forward basis to build in the technologies and infrastructure needed so they would be in a state of readiness for warrants like this to be executed. I am not sure where those discussions went finally, but it is a matter of negotiation.
As for retrofitting, that is a bigger issue. It is a question of making the law come into force so the companies would have to retrofit all their technology, which is a big ticket item, and that is a matter for negotiation with the government.
However, I am surprised that it has taken two and a half years to negotiate something that would be reasonable in the circumstances. With the passage of time, the safety and security of our citizens have been put at risk. I do not think that is acceptable.
In fact, when we had the new civilian Commissioner of the RCMP, Mr. Bill Elliott, come to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, I asked him if the tools he needed to deal with this type of technology were there to make sure we were up to date with the technologies the criminals were using. He indicated that it would be an improvement if enabling legislation were in place so that we could beat the criminals at their own game.
Therefore, I encourage the government to bring forward legislation such as this, which would modernize our investigative techniques and give the police the same tools that criminals have. Does it make any sense for police officers to be using land line phones when the criminals are using not land lines but other technologies? It seems to me that this is an initiative that could have been incorporated into this bill, but it was not. I do not know where that particular item is.
We find in this bill that there are some improvements in the process that deal with our justice system. As I said earlier, I think some of them are more housekeeping in nature, but it is important housekeeping. It is something that I would encourage this House to support.
As an example, the amendments say that a summary conviction trial with respect to co-accused can proceed where one of the co-accused does not appear.
Another feature introduces changes to the process with respect to the challenge of jurors to, among other things, assist in preserving their impartiality.
It also brings in other amendments with respect to language rights provisions of the Criminal Code. This is a very important part of this legislation.
It means that an accused is informed of the right to be heard by a judge or a judge and jury who speak the official language of Canada that is the language of the accused, or both official languages of Canada. The amendments to this bill codify the right of the accused to obtain a translation of the information or indictment on request.
These are very important elements. We live in a bilingual country. We value our bilingualism. It is part of our national heritage. It is part of our strength as a nation. We also respect the right of individuals to be heard and listened to in the official language of their choice, one of the official languages of this country. I think that is also a very important part of Bill C-13.
I encourage the House to get on with this bill. It has been here before, it has been in the other place and it is back. Again, while sometimes the members in the other place are criticized, or that institution itself is criticized, there are many fine and competent people over there who can add value to legislation. In this case, I think they have done that.
I would encourage members of this House to support Bill C-13 in its current form. I certainly will be voting for it.
Canada Transportation Act
June 14th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-58 on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.
I will summarize this briefly for the benefit of our constituents who are listening. The main purpose of this bill is to clarify the Transportation Act and strengthen the existing provisions that protect shippers against any abuse of the commercial power of the railways. It relates mainly to western Canada and has to do with grain producers and grain transport. Although this has less to do with what goes on in Quebec, the Bloc Québécois stays informed about various situations across Canada. We are always interested in participating in the debate so that we can stand up for anyone who is oppressed by the commercial power of the railways, as an example.
Today, we have two fine examples of this. Earlier, the representative of the government who gave a speech about Bill C-58 said that the bill was one of three pieces of legislation to modernize the Transportation Act. Today, we discussed Bill C-11. The idea was to modernize the Transportation Act in relation to the noise pollution and vibration produced by the railway companies. The Conservative government has caved in to the power of the railway lobby. The lobby had its standard bearer, the Senate, which decided to carry the torch for the interests of the poor little railway companies.
And the end result is that the government supported an amendment to the bill that had been passed unanimously, Bill C-11. In committee, the noise pollution provisions and the bill had been supported unanimously, clause by clause, by all parties.
Today, the Conservatives have caved in to the Liberal position adopted in the Senate. I hope that we will not see the same thing happen with Bill C-58, that we will not see the Conservatives caving in to the Liberal majority in the Senate if the Senate decides to amend the bill.
Bill C-58 is an attempt to strike a better balance between the power of the railway companies and the people who produce and ship products, including grain producers, who do not own the rails and who have to get their hopper cars to destinations all over Canada. They feel oppressed by the railway companies.
The purpose of this bill is to strike a balance. The proposed amendments respond to the concerns of shippers, and particularly western Canadian grain producers, about prices and railway service, while also providing the railways with regulatory stability. The amendments to Bill C-58 will deal with arbitration, charges for incidental services, notices of changes of tariff, sidings for producers' railway cars, leased railway lines and obligations in respect of the level of service. It is time we had some balance, in the interests of those who use the railway system, including grain producers, to get the railway cars that belong to them to their destinations.
The Conservative government and the Liberals have this strong tendency to let the free market do as it wishes. In such conditions producers are over-exploited. That is what this bill seeks to correct. When we refer to the various amendments, we refer, among others, to arbitration. The objectives of the Transportation Act, prior to these amendments, require that the Agency take into account the matter of substantial commercial harm. Bill C-58 proposes that the reference to substantial commercial harm be removed because whenever we hear from the railway companies there is always some substantial commercial harm. In the end, those who do not own the rails lose every time. The railway companies always succeed in proving substantial commercial harm where there is none. That will now be subject to arbitration, which will be a means of settling disputes between a shipper and the railways involving the rates and conditions of transportation service.
If merchandise is shipped by railway under a confidential contract, the matters subject to confidentiality cannot be submitted to arbitration without the consent of all parties. Still, there are some safeguards. It will be possible to make a joint submission for arbitration to settle a dispute concerning the rates and conditions for movement of goods, where the matter submitted to arbitration is common to all the shippers.
Finally, all those who are experiencing the same problem will have recourse to arbitration. They can join in a class action and the Transportation Agency can hear the case and render a decision.
The bill also provides for suspension of any arbitration proceedings if the two parties agree to accept mediation. In fact, this will also encourage use of mediation. That is one reason the Bloc Québécois is in favour of these amendments.
The rates charged for incidental services will be discussed. The railways earn most of their income from the rates charged for transporting goods, such as the carloads of grain from the Prairies to Vancouver, but charges also have to be paid for services that are incidental to the conveyance of goods or that are not directly related. These are known as incidental or associated charges; the cost of parking, additional charges to a shipper who requires more than the scheduled time, the cost of cleaning and or stocking cars and weighing the goods are examples of incidental costs.
In recent years, the rates charged by the railways have become a burden to shippers. However, the means of dealing with this problem are limited, since arbitration does not apply as a distinct remedy for incidental charges or associated conditions. The act will be amended to permit the agency to investigate a complaint from any shipper who is subject to a general application tariff that provides for rates and conditions. Finally, incidental charges invoiced by the railways could be subject to arbitration.
There is also the notice of change of tariff. The act defines the tariff as being a schedule of rates, charges, terms and conditions. At present it requires that the railway publish any changes to this tariff at least 20 days before raising rates. Such notice is not required for rates pertaining to incidental services or related conditions in the section on tariffs. This will be amended. The act will be amended so as to extend the period of notice from 20 to 30 days so that shippers can receive sufficient notice of any increase in the rates for transportation. Notice is therefore extended and incidental charges will be included.
There are also the sidings for producer cars. During the consultations, some parties asked for tighter regulation on abandonment of sidings used for loading grain or loading producer cars on the Prairies. Sidings are not subject to the provisions of the act on discontinuing a line. Complaints about the closing of sidings used for loading cars arise in part from the fact that shippers do not know which sidings are in service, since at present the railways are not required to inform those concerned.
The act will be amended so as to require the railways to publish the list of sidings available for loading grain producer cars and to give 60 days’ notice before putting a siding out of service.
All this means that, on their own lines, the railway companies used to operate as though they were the only ones using them. That was the problem. As far as I am concerned, the federal government failed in its original mission. Over the past 20 years, it has got rid of all the railway tracks that belonged to it and transferred them to private companies: to Canadian Pacific and Canadian National. Today we realize that that has created a problem. The people to whom they were transferred, often for paltry sums, are today making incredible profits. In the end they regard this asset as their own. When the time comes to make the rails available to other users, they know that tracks cannot be laid just anywhere. There needs to be a corridor across Canada and such a thing cannot be created on a whim. The government, as far as I am concerned, made a mistake in this regard. It should have kept them.
There is also the example of the bridge at Quebec City that we are having so much difficulty getting painted. The Quebec bridge belongs to Canadian National and it says it does not have the money to get it painted. That does not matter very much. The Liberals tried legal proceedings to force CN to paint the Quebec bridge, especially in view of the 400th anniversary. It will be great to show visitors Quebec, the oldest city in America, with a rusty bridge. But that is how it is.
When the Liberals were in power, they fell flat on their faces. They could not get anything done and instituted legal proceedings. The Conservatives, thinking themselves more intelligent, said that they would set the legal proceedings aside and change the legislation. But no, the minister had to do the same thing six months ago. He too launched legal proceedings to try to force CN to paint the Quebec bridge. I predict that it still will not be painted in 2008. They will not get it done, unless they pay what CN has been asking since the very beginning. If they want it painted, they should get out their money and pay for it. That is the hard truth.
Today, once again, the federal government has given up. The free flow of goods and services between the provinces is a federal responsibility. This always makes me laugh because we have been trying for decades to get a new bridge built right here between the Quebec Ontario banks of the river. I have always wondered what use a Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is if we cannot get goods, services and people moving freely between provinces. No new bridge or new infrastructure is being built to join the two banks.
The federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities cannot serve as an referee or as anything at all. He dare not get involved because he is powerless. The problem today is that they are trying to give some powers by means of the Canada Transportation Act. It is good that we are here because one day they got rid of the railways and now they are forced to regulate a bit or else the railway owners are going to decide to operate their way and, often, raise rates without warning. That is what we are telling the House now.
In all these regards, it is evident that the Bloc Québécois is very sensitive to the problems of farmers, including western grain growers on the prairies.
We have always been very sensitive to the problems of Quebec farmers. That is why we always defend supply management so staunchly. If the Conservative government defended the supply management interests of Quebec farmers as fiercely as it defends the transportation of grain in hopper cars, they would probably be doing pretty well. The problem is that there is always a double standard in this country. There is one standard now for western farmers and another for eastern farmers, especially those in Quebec.
We in the Bloc Québécois do not make such distinctions and when we feel that our constituents are being exploited by private enterprise, we do not hesitate to take action. That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-58 in order to help the western grain producers and shippers.
March 1st, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
The scope of Bill C-13 has been broadened to add to the list murder and one of the sexual offences. For example, all persons having dangerous offender status are included in this list. Manslaughter has also been added.
The bill also adds to the list attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Under the current act, the person must be serving a two-year sentence for the offence in question. The legislation only says that the person must be in the process of serving the sentence. These sentences are only rarely handed down, in fact, there are only about twenty cases. Overall, the offender may be serving a 15-year sentence for kidnapping or some other crime, and three sexual assaults. However, the judge will only add one year to the sentence for each sexual assault. This individual will now be subject to the new regime.
With BillC-18, approximately 200 more people will now be subject to the retroactive provisions of Bill C-13, which is already in effect and which targeted 4,000 individuals.
March 1st, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
Greg Yost Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Just give me a few seconds to find the relevant provision in Cournoyer.
Bill C-13 adopted by the previous Parliament created 16 offences of such an egregious nature that the judge has no choice but to make on order. Subsection 1(5) on page 2 of this bill lists these primary designated offences of an egregious nature: living off the avails of prostitution of a person under the age of eighteen years; murder; manslaughter; attempt to commit murder; causing bodily harm with intent -- firearm; causing bodily harm with intent -- air gun or pistol; administering noxious thing with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm; overcoming resistance to the commission of an offence; assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm aggravated assault; unlawfully causing bodily harm; sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm; aggravated sexual assault; kidnapping; robbery; and extortion.
These are the 16 designated offences for which there would be no judicial discretion to refrain from making a DNA order.
March 1st, 2007 / 9:05 a.m.
The Chair Art Hanger
I'd like to call the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to order, pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 4, 2006, regarding Bill C-18, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to DNA identification.
We'll be going through clause-by-clause as a committee this morning. We have witnesses on standby: Mr. Bird, senior legal counsel for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and from the Department of Justice, Mr. Greg Yost.
I believe everyone has the agenda before them as well as any explanations dealing with many of the clauses. I see there was an additional information form passed around on Bill C-13 and Bill C-18, as to how they are connected to one another, should anyone have any further questions.
I'm not sure if there are any questions or comments on the bill, but to date, no amendments have been received by the chair.
I would ask if the committee members wish to vote on all clauses at once, given the fact that there are no amendments.
February 27th, 2007 / 12:15 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks on Bill C-37, I would like to add a few comments on the issue of public finance.
The Liberal finance critic who just spoke reminded hon. members that the Mulroney years were extremely disastrous as far as public finance was concerned, with major deficits including the last one of $42 billion.
Nonetheless, I want to provide a few facts for the public's information and so that everyone knows the whole story. The first deficit recorded in 1975 was run by a Liberal finance minister, John Turner. Then a whole series of deficits followed until 1993-94. The Liberal solution was to offload the problem to the provinces, Quebec in particular, by creating the fiscal imbalance. If we look at the true public finance story of the past 20 or 30 years, neither side has anything to teach us.
Let us come back to Bill C-37 , An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters. The Bloc Québécois will obviously be in favour of this essentially technical bill and we will have no problem supporting it.
Precisely because this is a technical bill, it does not address the substantive questions that we would have expected the Conservative government to provide us with some answers to, some possible solutions, or even that it raise issues. I am thinking, for example, of the entire question of electronic transactions. There is absolutely no reference to that, apart from cheque imaging, which I will come back to.
We know that this is a major issue in the economic development of Canada and Quebec and all of our economies. Failing to address this question, failing to provide solutions, at least in terms of regulation, means that we run the risk of hitting a ceiling over the next few years in terms of electronic transactions. The regulatory framework is inadequate. We would therefore have expected that this question be addressed in Bill C-37.
The same is true of bank fees. It may be appropriate for there to be fees for certain transactions. But do fees need to be charged for all transactions? Some transaction charges are surely somewhat questionable. An example might be a cash withdrawal at an ATM that belongs to a bank other than the one that the person ordinarily does business with. There are relatively high fees for that transaction. This might at least have been given some thought.
In fact, the Minister of Finance will be meeting with the banks in a few days to discuss these questions. It would have been useful, before they are discussed with the banks, if we could have had a substantive discussion at the Standing Committee on Finance, based on various information that both the Department of Finance and the Minister of Finance could have provided to us. But no, the question had to be raised by one of the members of the Standing Committee on Finance and the committee had to take it upon itself to initiate a study of bank fees.
Once again, on questions of this type, we must not take an ideological approach, whether on the right or on the left. We must first try to understand why banks charge these fees, what they are for, and to establish rules or limits, to regulate this practice based on information and facts, and not based on preconceived notions.
The work on this will be done by the Standing Committee on Finance. We would have expected, however, in a bill to revise the Bank Act, something that happens only every five years, that these subjects, which have been widely debated in Canadian and Quebec society, would have been addressed.
There is another matter that should have been included in this bill. That is the entire question of reinvesting in the community. We know that discriminatory practices sometimes occur on the part of our banking institutions. I would say that they are not even committed intentionally. It is simply a certain way of doing things that is referred to as systemic discrimination.
Here is an example. Every year, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which is hardly a left-wing institution, as we know, speaks out against the discrimination that women entrepreneurs suffer, particularly small and medium-sized business owners. March 8 will be International Women's Day, and they will probably speak out against it again this year.
This is a known fact that even the business community recognizes, and we must therefore find ways to counter this systematic discrimination.
In the United States, community re-investment is a practice that forces financial institutions to take stock of their loan and credit applicants, and how the banks approve the applications. If it appears that certain groups are under-represented despite their applications, a special fund makes money available to those investors who have been discriminated against by the banks based on their profile. It is even better when there is no discrimination and the financial institutions take stock of the ratio of loan applications and approved loans.
However, I repeat, this is common practice in the United States, and this forces the financial institutions to re-invest in the community, in those groups that have the greatest difficulty obtaining credit, in particular, to start up a business.
Another question should have been addressed during the examination of Bill C-37 and that is the issue of tax havens. How is it that Canadian banks are such frequent users of tax havens? The Bank of Nova Scotia comes to mind, among others, since I discovered that it has locations in nearly all the tax havens in the West Indies, including Bermuda and the Bahamas. Why? Is it simply because it does not have the choice, given the global economy? We would like to know. The question has not even been asked. Is it because Canadian laws and regulations are not stringent enough? The Standing Committee on Finance began examining one possibility and will delve further into this over the coming weeks.
People will remember some interesting debates we had in the House on how companies like Canada Steamship Lines Inc. were using tax havens to avoid their responsibilities as good corporate citizens. As I was saying, we should at least have touched on this, although we still can. The Bloc Québécois intends, by the way, to introduce a motion in the next few weeks that the committee should pursue its work on tax havens.
Another aspect is identity theft. We know now that criminals can access our entire profile using social insurance cards. There are about five million too many of them in circulation.
With a certain amount of credit information, these people can go to a financial institution, take out a mortgage on someone’s house and disappear with the money. Unfortunately, these things happen every day. There is nothing about this crime, which is still not recognized as such. Sometimes people discover from one day to the next that they are indebted to the banks.
Who is responsible when this kind of thing happens? Are the banks not responsible for ensuring that when someone comes to them with certain information, he or she is the right person?
I think that we could have an interesting debate on this. We did touch on it when Bill C-37 was being studied. However, the department officials told us that it would have to be listed first as a crime in the Criminal Code before it could be included in the Bank Act.
We should have suggested a number of possibilities. The opposition parties, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, have obviously tried to fix some things. However, most of their amendments were deemed out of order because they went beyond the bill before us.
As I was saying, this bill severely restricted parliamentarians’ ability to do their job and review the Bank Act. Unfortunately, this opportunity only presents itself every five years. I hope that the department, the minister and the Conservative government will not wait five years to do something about these issues of considerable concern to the public.
Some other things too would have deserved further consideration, such as the question of the bank ombudsman, for example.
I quite liked the debate that started up where bank representatives explained what this system was and why the banks financed it. These representatives also explained that the ombudsman is quite independent and the banks have complied with fully with his decisions since the position was created.
Nevertheless, some consumer associations and individual consumers still appeared before the committee and said they did not think they had the protection they needed to proceed with some of the outstanding legal actions between consumers and the banks.
I for my part will not prejudge the issue. However, it seems to me that we should have pursued this further. Even after Bill C-37 has gone through the study phase, consumer associations will continue to think, whether rightly or wrongly, that the Bank Act does not protect consumers sufficiently. I think that they are right at least in regard to the fact that we have not studied this issue enough and did not go into it further. To this extent, their questions remain unanswered.
As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-37 is very technical and has limited debate on a number of questions. Furthermore, this bill was studied very quickly, I must confess. The committee did this work in three sessions. I do not think that the members of the committee needed a great many more sessions, given the technical framework of the bill. However, in my opinion, in future, when we study a bill like this one, we should have much more substantial debates, especially since the Bank Act is only reviewed every five years.
As I have already mentioned, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this bill. Although it does not affect the big societal debates surrounding banking institutions and the Canadian banking system as a whole, Bill C-37 will nevertheless introduce a number of measures on which the Bloc agrees. For example, it will introduce mechanisms for conveying information to consumers, and this will enable them to get more information so that they can make informed decisions regarding their use of bank services. This is a step in the right direction. More remains to be done, but we are headed in the right direction.
Also, a regulatory framework allowing the use of digital data in the processing of cheques has been introduced, and this will reduce the length of time cheques are held by banking institutions.
There too I do not think anyone will complain about the fact that, instead of their cheque being frozen for ten days or seven days, as provided under the voluntary agreement between the banking institutions and the Department of Finance, the funds will only be frozen for four days, if I remember correctly. I will come back to this. The members of the committee nevertheless wondered why the banks were continuing to freeze the funds of deposited cheques for more than 24 hours, in spite of all the electronic means at our disposal.
We will have to wait till digital imaging is put in place. We have not had any answers on this.
The time during which such funds are frozen must be reduced to a minimum. This creates a lot of problems, particularly for small investors and small and medium-sized businesses. Still, the possibility of imaging will be there. Let us hope that the banks will use it to reduce waiting times for releasing funds as much as possible.
There is a provision for reducing the regulatory burden on foreign banks, credit unions and insurance companies in order to make the regulatory approval regime more efficient. Obviously nobody wants regulations for the sake of having regulations. Everyone agreed that this was a good step, especially for the credit unions.
Facilitating the establishment of foreign banks in Canadian and Quebec markets can only be beneficial for consumers. We know that our banking market is extremely concentrated in Canada, with only five major players. Despite the efforts that have been made to create competition, in particular with the passing of Bill C-8 a few years ago, we have to acknowledge that there is not much competition, particularly in the regions.
In the case of Quebec, for example, it could be said that, in the regions, the Desjardins movement practically has a monopoly because the major financial institutions have decided to desert this market as it is not lucrative enough for them.
We find ourselves in a situation where competition does not have all the results expected and the arrival of foreign banks and credit unions provides an opportunity for real competition in the financial sector, which is quite desirable.
Regulations governing mortgage loans are also revisited: the insurable portion of a mortgage will be reduced. At present, up to 75% of a mortgage does not have to be insured; the remainder does. Naturally, that leads to additional costs for consumers who wish to purchase a home. The uninsured portion is being increased to 80%. Reducing by 5% the portion to be insured will make it easier for a number of individuals to purchase property and lower the cost of borrowing. We obviously cannot be against this measure.
Various other matters were also reviewed. They relate to the proportion of equity of a bank held by a single shareholder or groups of shareholders. This should make it easier for small banks to enter the market. That is desirable. As I mentioned, past legislation adopted has not yet led to the desired competitiveness in the financial market.
Therefore, we will support this bill. In the time allotted to me I would like to talk in more detail about certain matters found in Bill C-37.
My presentation will address the bill's objectives.
The first objective covers all matters affecting the interests of consumers. A certain number of measures in this regard were taken by Bill C-37. As I mentioned, we do not go far enough; however, some measures are headed in the right direction.
The second objective is to improve legislative efficiency and there are a certain number of measures in this regard in Bill C-37.
The last objective pertains to a group of varied measures in Bill C-37.
The first key objective, which is enhancing the interests of consumers, includes a first main element, namely to improve the system of disclosing information to consumers. I talked about it earlier, in my introduction. This will help consumers make informed decisions about the investment vehicles that they choose.
It was decided to set higher standards for disclosure of charges and obligations. Penalties that apply to various accounts and investment vehicles are also heavier. Moreover, once the act is passed, it will require institutions to clearly disclose this information in all their branches, through the Internet, and also in writing to any individual who requests it.
Some might think that it goes without saying, but these provisions were not yet included in the Bank Act. Since one can hardly be opposed to virtue itself, we will support this measure.
There is a second element in this key objective of enhancing the interests of consumers. It is, as I mentioned, the change made to the regulatory framework to provide for the introduction of electronic cheque imaging. This will allow financial institutions to reduce the hold period on cheques. That is also a change that was asked for.
As for legislative efficiency, I already talked about reducing the regulatory burden for foreign banks and for credit unions. We will have to streamline the regulatory approval process, and provide a more flexible framework for credit unions.
Finally, as regards the other measures, the most important one is, as I mentioned, to increase from 75% to 80% the loan-to-value ratio for which insurance is mandatory on residential mortgages.
In conclusion, as I said at the outset, the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-37.
February 27th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
Senior Legal Counsel, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The DNA Identification Act does not prescribe where crime scene profiles will come from. It simply obliges the commissioner to deal with what he receives for entering into the convicted offender index, and as a matter of policy and as a matter of the amendments to Bill C-13, that analysis would need to be done by the commissioner himself or someone he would contract to. However, at this time my understanding is that it is done entirely by RCMP officials, and I understand there's no policy change to permit this information, for the convicted offender index, to be contracted out.
With respect to the crime scene profiles, the problems are really related to policy on the use of the CODIS system to transmit information to the National DNA Data Bank. The labs' use of the CODIS system--this is a combined DNA analysis system that the FBI have developed and allow the world to use--allows for a consistent transfer of information, at least domestically, and that's essentially the system we use for exchanging information with the 27 other countries--I believe--that use the FBI system.
It makes for an easier transfer of information internationally, but that's not the primary purpose of it. It's really to allow the internal domestic data bank to operate effectively from the network of labs in Canada. So you have labs in Quebec and Ontario, separate from the RCMP labs, all using the same system to transmit their profiles to the DNA data bank.
My understanding is that if a private lab were to do this work, it would require, under the CODIS rules, that one of the official provincial labs or the RCMP lab validate the results of the research that was done, but that research would not go the other way. You would not be seeing information in the DNA data bank being sent to private labs for their use.
All the information is sent to the National DNA Data Bank, and once it's there, it's under the restrictions that allow for the communication of profiles. The convicted offender index could not be used to transmit information out, except in the case of a moderate match when there's a discussion between perhaps contractors of the police to determine whether or not they have a convicted offender match, but it would be used only for that purpose.
February 27th, 2007 / 9:35 a.m.