House of Commons Hansard #112 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.

Topics

First Nations Governance Act
Routine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The usual procedure, as the right hon. member is well aware, is to debate the matter. We have, as I indicated, a number of amendments. Some 60 have been selected for debate and are available for debate in this House on the bill.

There is a further opportunity at third reading to move amendments, as the right hon. member is well aware, to refer the bill back to committee with instructions to amend. There are plenty of opportunities for him to move amendments at a later stage on this matter and have those considered by the House. It may not be the most convenient or the most sensible way, but it is possible and the right hon. member knows this. He does not need lessons from the Chair in that respect. He has been here a good deal longer than the Speaker and is fully aware that these kinds of debates take place in the House.

What he cannot do is propose a motion that is out of order and expect an immediate debate on that. What I have suggested are other ways that he could have the matter raised. He could attend the next meeting called of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and ask if the committee would please consider some changes to the rules.

With great respect, I think he knows that however he may view decisions that are made by the committee and by the Chair in respect of interpretation of the rules of the House, in terms of the admissibility of amendments and in terms of what happens in committees when rulings of the chairmen of committees are appealed and overturned, it is a matter of numbers. The vote took place, the decision was overturned and so on.

First Nations Governance Act
Routine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

What about justice? Is the Speaker not interested in justice?

First Nations Governance Act
Routine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The right hon. member raised this matter and the Chair has given a ruling on it. There are various ways of fixing injustice and that would be things like changing the rules to prevent appeals of chairmen's rulings. The House has not done that. It did not do that. It did it in respect of the Speaker and it said that debates on Speaker's rulings are not permitted. Accordingly, the debate is not permitted.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 5th, 2003 / 11:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance presented on Thursday, March 27, 2003 be concurred in.

I would like to take the opportunity to debate this motion. I will not comment on the proceedings that have taken place in the last few minutes, but I have been in the House even longer than the member for Calgary Centre, and I find this to be a very interesting debate.

I will not take very long in the House today but I invite other members to respond to the motion for concurrence in the report of the finance committee regarding bank mergers, which was tabled in the House on March 27.

I also did a minority report on that, Mr. Speaker, and I would recommend it to you in terms of the wise counsel that I think I am providing to the House. On March 31 I put on the agenda before the House a motion to concur in the finance committee report.

I know today we are talking a lot about the first nations' issues and problems. This is not exactly something that is not relevant to first nations in how we organize financial institutions in our country. As I look around the country, the time has come to have a serious debate in the House on the whole question of the future of banks and bank mergers and whether they should be allowed. They are very important institutions for the future of our country.

The finance committee did a study on the public interest impact of bank mergers in Canada.

I want to go back for a minute. I remember that announcement in January 1998 that four big banks wanted to merge: the Bank of Montreal, the Royal Bank, the CIBC and the Scotiabank. I remember the chairman of the Royal Bank, Mr. Cleghorn at the time, Mr. Barrett, the chairman of the Bank of Montreal, and others thought they had a fait accompli when they announced this great merger.

There were a number of us in our party, in the trade union movement, the Council of Canadians and some other progressive people who decided we wanted to fight the merger because it was not in the interest of the Canadian public. Notably absent of course were members of the Alliance.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

David Orchard.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

The member for Prince Albert is talking about his favourite constituent David Orchard . I understand the member for Prince Albert received a lot of political lessons years ago from Mr. David Orchard, but those are stories I will tell at another time. I know he is very close to Mr. Orchard and part of the movement to unite the so-called right in the country.

I am getting a bit distracted on this because the member for Prince Albert was not part of this great fight against bank mergers, even though the Alliance is supposed to be a great populace party that speaks for the ordinary people, but it was not there.

We had a national campaign and we fought against the mergers of these big banks. The member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Churchill were part of that campaign. After eight or nine months, the minister of finance, who is now the private member for LaSalle—Émard, finally said, no, that these bank mergers were not in the public interest.

Since then, we have had some committee studies and committee reports. We had a study by the Senate banking committee and then of course the House of Commons committee report, which I am moving concurrence in today.

The interesting thing is one of the recommendations of the Senate banking committee was that there should not be a role for the Senate or the House of Commons when it came to looking at bank mergers. It wanted to take the House of Commons right out of making a comment on whether bank mergers should occur.

That is the audacity of people who are not elected. Maybe the Solicitor General across the way is hanging his head in shame about this. The audacity of people who are not elected, or accountable or democratic, to say that when there is a proposed bank merger, the House of Commons finance committee should not comment on that proposed merger.

I can see the Solicitor General across the way is shaking his head in shame about what the Senate said about this proposal. I hope the Solicitor General will get up and give us a few comments on why the House of Commons should have a major role to play when it comes to proposal for bank merger in Canada.

When I look at big banks, they do have special rights and special privileges. They operate under a charter of the House of Commons. They are held in a great deal of trust by the Canadian people. Therefore, when we look at a bank merger, it is very important that we look at a number of factors. One is access for all Canadians, regardless of where one lives.

In the previous bank merger campaign, I remember hopping on a small airplane with the member for Churchill and flying up to Lynn Lake, a community that had lost its last remaining bank. I remember sitting down with her and meeting the town council, members of the chamber of commerce and ordinary citizens. This was a community that had lost its last bank.

Access to the Canadian people is extremely important, yet we have a government majority across the way which is now going to facilitate the merger of banks in Canada. Of course the Alliance, on the other hand, would just do anything the banks want. I am very surprised the member for Prince Albert would agree, particularly since one of his best friends is David Orchard. That is one important point.

Another important point, and this is a factor that social democrats raise all the time, is the access of banking and equity capital for business. A social democratic party is a party that is very concerned about access to capital by small and medium sized business. We have heard many stories over the years of big banks pulling out of the market in terms of--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

I rise on a point of order. There has been specific reference to me on two occasions here, and both are incorrect.

The first one is that David Orchard is one of my constituents. David Orchard lives in Borden, Saskatchewan. That is not in the Prince Albert constituency.

The second point is that David Orchard has been referred to as one of my best friends. I want to make it clear to my constituents back home that David Orchard is not one of my best friends.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The record stands corrected. The hon. member for Regina--Qu'Appelle.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I may have to go back a long way before I can find a member of Parliament has had the House of Commons put on record that someone is not one of his good friends.

I know Mr. Orchard ran against the member for Prince Albert the last time around and perhaps that is why he is referring to it. That is very strange. He runs the risk of losing Mr. Orchard's vote the next time around if he happens to move into the new riding of Prince Albert.

I mentioned the importance of access to capital. I am surprised to hear a so-called free enterprise party such as the Alliance not being concerned about the big banks and how they sometimes pull back on providing capital to small business. I have seen many cases over the years where banks have withdrawn from the market of providing adequate small business equity financing to small businesses.

One thing that has happened many times is the credit union movement has moved into that void and provided capital for small businesses. That is another concern I have. That is why we should have a full fledged debate in this country about capital.

The other thing I have noticed about small business capital is that there are more and more first nations people who are interested in small and medium sized businesses. I think of my province of Saskatchewan and some of the small business activity by first nations people. They need access to capital as well. I think this really ties into the debate on Bill C-7, where first nations people really want to run their own affairs. They want respect to determine what kinds of institutions they want to govern themselves. They want to ensure that more of their people get training and skills and get professions where they can develop their own communities and people. They want to give their own people jobs that are well paid. They want their people to be entrepreneurs, professionals, teachers and social workers.

One way of doing that is to ensure we have more capital from banks for first nations people, for community development, for their own cooperatives and small businesses. I think for example of the First Nations Bank of Canada that is based in Saskatoon and some of the work it is doing.

An area we have to look at when we talk about bank mergers is the access to capital, if there is a big merger among two or three big banks for small business, for first nations and for farmers across Canada? These are some of the very important things about which we should talk.

I was reminded of this just a minute ago when the member for Churchill talked about access to reasonably priced services by banks. She mentioned that these services should be reasonably priced. She was talking about going to an ABM machine and hearing people complaining about the high prices. We see this now in bank service charges.

I do not have my files with me today. If the House wished to extend the time I am allowed to speak, I could go on for a couple of hours and tell members about the horror stories I have heard about ordinary citizens who have been charged time and time again by banks for service charges. These are ordinary citizens who cannot afford this kind of hidden taxation.

There should be a certain number of transactions that any citizen can have, be it 20 or 30 or how many per month, without charge. Then low income people and people with modest incomes would not be penalized when they have to use a bank a couple of times a week.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

An hon. member

Surely the banks deserve to make a profit though.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

We have concern about banks making a profit. If we look over the spreadsheets of banks, banks do extremely well.

It is interesting that a lot more of their profit now is coming from bank service charges than in the past. It is important that we have the access to services at a reasonable price. I think of many communities that have this problem.

I think of the branches that have closed. Branches tend to close in rural communities and the inner city. They tend to be in places where people have to drive a lot further to get services after a bank closes.

I think of my own riding, for example, where bank branches have closed. The credit union has taken over these bank branches now and provides those services. These are factors that should be considered. I am talking about access to banking in all regions.

I am talking about banks and I happen to see one of my favourite bankers walk in, a former vice-president of Yorkton Securities who is an MP from Nova Scotia. I know he too is concerned about the access to banking in all regions of this country.

What about access to banking? If someone is living in a small town or village and their branch closes, all they have if they are lucky, is an ATM machine in the corner cafe or grocery store. These are issues we should be talking about. Yet a Senate committee report said that the House of Commons should not have a role in terms of commenting on bank mergers in Canada.

One of the things that has been talked about is the size of Canadian banks in terms of the international community. Will our banks be internationally competitive? In general our banks have done very well internationally. One example is Scotiabank whose chair, Mr. Peter Godsoe, back in 1998-99 was one of the leaders in the argument against the mergers of the other banks. His bank has done very well in the United States and other parts of the world.

It is important that we keep our banks competitive internationally, but we do not have to have the merger of our banks domestically to make sure they are more competitive internationally. As Mr. Peters, a former member of Parliament for the Liberal Party said, there is nothing that says our banks cannot form a joint venture internationally or form a consortium of Canadian banks internationally to be bigger and to compete with Chase Manhattan, ING Direct, or the City Bank in New York.

Those are things that our Canadian banks could do to compete internationally. We have very competitive banks internationally. It also provides great opportunities for Canadians in terms of jobs and other opportunities.

I want to mention a word here about the role of the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Both of these institutions have a very important role to play. When a bank merger is proposed in Canada, which happened in 1998, it has to go through a process at the House of Commons finance committee. It has to go through the process at the Competition Bureau, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions and then of course have approval by the Minister of Finance.

It is still very important to make sure that the Competition Bureau has a thorough review of whether or not it will be good for the Canadian people in terms of competition.

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions must continue to have a thorough review in terms of whether or not it is a reasonable proposition for the Canadian people. In addition, the Parliament of Canada, the finance committee, has a very important role. The role of a parliamentary committee is crucial.

We have just gone through a debate on a point of order about whether or not there was adequate opportunity for members of the House to present amendments at the Indian and northern affairs committee. I want to have the same full-blown opportunity for the finance committee to study very thoroughly any proposed merger.

We need serious parliamentary reform where parliamentary committees have much more independence. It is ironic that we can choose the Speaker of the House freely, independently and secretly in a ballot, but we cannot have the free choice secretly of a committee chair. We need those kinds of rule changes where we have more independence on our committees, where a committee can timetable legislation or can introduce legislation to the House of Commons and where there is less interference from the government, from the cabinet and from the Privy Council Office. That is the kind of reform needed in terms of our parliamentary system.

If we had those reforms or a greater independence of committees, a greater research capacity for a committee in the House a Commons, then the committees could play a very lead role in terms of studying a proposed bank merger. It should be the parliamentary committee that looks at a number of issues to determine whether or not a proposed merger is in the public interest, because we are all elected to represent our constituents.

Going back to the member for Churchill, she was raising questions in the House about Lynn Lake when it lost its bank. That is the role of a member of Parliament. We need a parliamentary committee with greater independence that would sever the direct link from the government, from the Privy Council Office.

I fail to understand why the Liberal government is being so conservative, so reactionary, so cautious. Such a party is status quo when it comes to parliamentary reform.

I was pleased to note yesterday in the inaugural speech of the new premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, that he has proposed a system of partial proportional representation in the province of Quebec. That is a really serious electoral change in terms of electoral reform.

Along with that electoral change which I predict will happen in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, hopefully Ontario and soon right across the country, that electoral change will eventually happen here. Along with that electoral change we have to reform Parliament. Parliament has to change and reform as well to make this institution more meaningful for the Canadian people.

Canadians spend tens of millions of dollars a year on this institution. They want an institution with committees that represent the public interest. One area representing the public interest is deciding whether or not the huge financial institutions that are involved in everyone's life, the banks, have a right to merge. It is extremely important that we do that.

I read in Quorum today about a parallel Liberal caucus. The minister across the way from Montreal, the minister of immigration, apparently was at the parallel Liberal caucus last Tuesday night at a restaurant in Ottawa's Chinatown. Apparently there were more members at that caucus than there were at the so-called official Liberal caucus that meets here on Wednesday mornings.

It is absolutely incredible how irrelevant Liberal members of Parliament see their own caucus. In Quorum there are quotes from Liberal members of Parliament which say that it is a waste of time to go to their national caucus. What an admission for government members to say that it is a waste of time to go to their own caucus. They are spending the taxpayers' money, blowing the taxpayers' money. It is amazing that they would not want to be in favour of parliamentary reform. One area of parliamentary reform is the study of important public policy issues such as whether or not banks in this country should be merged.

There is a role for parliamentary reform in this country. There is a role for the finance committee in determining whether or not bank mergers should go ahead.

I made a reference a few minutes ago to Dr. Doug Peters, a former Liberal member of Parliament who is the vice-president of a bank. He sat in the Liberal cabinet in 1993 and 1997. As I said, he was a former chief economist and the vice-president of a bank. The bank happened to be the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

I know that Dr. Peters is very frustrated with some of the economic policies of the government across the way. When he appeared before the finance committee, he raised a number of questions which I think the finance committee should consider when it comes to the merger of big banks.

Among those questions were whether or not the merger of banks would lower the cost of banking services to individual Canadians. One, if banks merged, would it lower banking service costs for individual Canadians? Is the answer yes or no? The answer was no according to Dr. Peters. Two, would the merger of banks improve the level and quality of service that Canadians receive from banks? The answer again was no. Three, with the merger of banks in this country would it increase the choices of the Canadian people for banking services? If there are fewer banks does it increase choices? It is a very important question. The answer again was no.

These are Dr. Peters' questions, the former minister of financial institutions in the Liberal government across the way, a former Liberal member of Parliament.

Four, he asked whether or not it would improve the availability of credit and lower the costs of credit for small and medium size businesses in Canada. Again, the answer was no. Five, would the merger of banks lower the cost of credit to Canada's large business community? The answer was no.

I have two more questions by Dr. Peters who is a very distinguished Liberal, a former member of cabinet, a privy councillor. Six, would it increase the profitability of Canadian banks for international operations? Again, the answer was no. Finally, would it improve the Canadian economy by increasing employment and economic growth? Again the answer was no.

Mr. Speaker, if I have run out of time, I would like to ask for unanimous consent to continue for another hour or two.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Indeed, you have a very indulgent Chair this morning. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Durham.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member went on at great length about the relevancy of this institution and so forth, but at times when I was listening to his speech I could not quite understand that he was talking about bank mergers and the reform of Parliament. I guess that is why people in this country get concerned about their legislators. They are not sure what we are talking about as we do not stay on the topic very long.

There is one thing I would like to ask the member on the whole issue of bank mergers. There was a recent statement by the chief executive officer, I believe it is of the Royal Bank, Mr. Gordon Nixon. He was talking about the fact that the Royal Bank, our largest financial institution by a long shot, feels that there has been a weakening in its competitive position in the sense that it is unable to finance corporate mergers because often these corporate mergers unfortunately come from the United States. For instance, I think MacMillan Bloedel is a company that was bought over by Weyerhaeuser.

When those kinds of mergers occur, companies often look to the financial institutions to provide institutional financing to make the merger work. Because of the sheer size of the Royal Bank relative to some of its American competitors, such as Citicorp and others, it is unable to compete in these mergers and acquisitions.

I know possibly the position of the member's party is it does not like mergers of any kind, but I would like to know what the stand of the member's party is on the fact that our Canadian banks are continuously becoming uncompetitive internationally. Their arms are tied behind their backs in their ability to finance these new acquisitions that are coming up.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, the question was about whether or not our banks are competitive internationally. Once again I would refer to Dr. Peters who was the former minister of financial institutions. I think his comments were that our banks are very competitive internationally.

If we look at all the evidence that has come before the committee, we will see that our banks do not have any problem when it comes to competition internationally. Our banks are large nationally and are still a good size internationally. There is no reason that they cannot form a joint venture, a consortium for international competition that would put them up there in the size of the larger banks around the world. I do not think many contracts have been lost because they are not big enough to finance them.

The member mentioned the takeover of MacMillan Bloedel by Weyerhaeuser. There have been many other big mergers in the country and Canadian banks are capable of doing that. Sometimes one bank by itself does not finance a larger financial project, but sometimes two or three banks will go together to help finance a large project in this country. I do not think there is any real problem with that.

I am not concerned at this stage about international competition because our banks instead can form a joint venture, a national consortium, and therefore be big and very competitive.

The question we have to answer is whether or not a bank merger is good for a small community in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. Is a bank merger good for a small community in central Ontario? Is a bank merger good for a small community such as Wynyard in my riding in Saskatchewan? Those are the questions we have to answer as parliamentarians. The last time around we said no very decisively. In the end the former minister of finance, the member for LaSalle—Émard, also said no.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the New Democratic Party for his comments on bank mergers. He has just asked a question about whether this kind of bank merger is good for his constituents? Is it good for consumers?

I know that he mentioned it in his speech, but I would like him to briefly repeat the highlights.