House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bank.

Topics

Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food--Speaker's Ruling
Privilege
Government Orders

December 7th, 2006 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Malpeque on November 28, 2006, concerning the alleged intimidation of witnesses before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Malpeque for raising this important issue, as well as the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the hon. member for Wascana for their comments.

In raising this question of privilege, the member for Malpeque alleged that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food intended to intimidate witnesses scheduled to appear before the agriculture and agri-food committee. He argued that the intimidation of witnesses constitutes a contempt of the House.

The minister, in his reply, indicated that while the government had made clear its views on how the Canadian Wheat Board should conduct itself, he had no intention of interfering with the rights of Wheat Board directors to express themselves before the committee or anywhere else. In response to a concern raised by the member for Wascana, the minister indicated that this position applied to officials employed by the Wheat Board as well.

I indicated at that time that I was unsure that sufficient grounds existed for the finding of a prima facie breach of privilege, but undertook to look into the matter.

Having now done so, I first wish to point out that the issue of intimidating witnesses who appear or are to appear before a committee of this House is a very serious matter, and members, particularly the hon. member for Malpeque, are to be commended for exercising vigilance in this regard.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 862, states:

Witnesses appearing before committees enjoy the same freedom of speech and protection from arrest and molestation as do Members of Parliament.

It continues on page 863:

Tampering with a witness or in any way attempting to deter a witness from giving evidence at a committee meeting may constitute a breach of privilege.

In light of this, I have carefully reviewed the exchanges on this matter. In his answers during oral questions and in his responses when the present question of privilege was raised, the minister has consistently denied interfering with the potential witnesses in any way. As Speaker, I accept that. In the present case, it is clear that the member for Malpeque and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food disagree about the significance of the answers provided by the minister during oral questions. In the circumstances, in the view of the Chair, that is a topic properly dealt with as a matter of debate or during exchanges during oral questions.

With regard to concerns about the actual appearance of the witnesses before the agriculture and agri-food committee, it will be up to the committee to examine such concerns in due course and take the action it judges appropriate. At the present time, based on the arguments presented, the Chair hesitates to intervene in the matter.

As the House of Commons Procedure and Practice indicates on page 128, and I quote:

Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will only hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings upon presentation of a report from the committee which directly deals with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual member.

For the reasons stated above, I must rule that the issue raised by the member for Malpeque does not constitute a question of privilege.

I thank the hon. members for their comments on the matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-37, An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Bank Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise before you to speak on behalf of Canada's banks. Yes, that is right, I am empowered to speak on their behalf. I am in fact their member of Parliament. Canada's major banks and most of the insurance companies all have their dazzling, beautiful towers in my riding of Trinity—Spadina. So does the Toronto Stock Exchange, at the fabled intersection of King and Bay.

I am their member of Parliament, so I must speak up on their behalf.

Technically they are not citizens and do not have a vote, although they have certainly bought plenty of influence with the government over the years. They have poured, I am told, thousands of dollars into the coffers of the Liberals and the Conservatives, though none to the NDP, I must admit, and none to my campaign in the last election.

However, I am fair. I represent every constituent. The banks are constituents. If we read their annual reports and corporate responsibility statements, we see that they all claim to want to be good corporate citizens. I am here to plead on their behalf, to encourage members to help them to be good corporate citizens, to consider the bank act amendments as a golden opportunity to help the banks come to terms with their role and to help further the role of government in fostering a healthy economy and economic opportunity, prosperity and security for every single Canadian.

That is what the banks say they want, so let us help them. Let us show them how they can do a better job and enshrine the right regulations in legislation to keep them from going astray of their ideals. Let us ensure they are guided to make the best possible investments, and investments in Canada, not in offshore tax havens.

Let us ensure that we protect the sovereignty of the financial system that is so important to our independence and role in the world. That would be good citizenship.

The banks have grown and prospered. Surely citizenship demands reinvestment in every geographic region, community and sector, and for all Canadians, regardless of income level.

My colleague, the hon. member for Winnipeg North, has already pointed to the problems in many communities. They have been abandoned by the big banks. They are denied fair and equal access to banking services. This is the result of mergers. We need to protect against this and help banks fulfill their duties as corporate citizens.

Bank charters provide a protected privilege, but Canadians are owed something for this privilege. Let us ensure availability and access. Banks used to pride themselves on the fact that it costs the same for services in Yellowknife as it does at King and Bay. My constituents demand it. Let us ensure that bank profits are fair and fairly taxed. That would help.

Let us look at credit card rates. As I said earlier, this bill is an opportunity for renewal and change in the way banks work with Canadians. Canadians, particularly low income Canadians, are gouged daily by ridiculously high credit card interest rates. The gap between the prime lending rate and the rate most credit cards charge has never been bigger. It is time to cap credit card interest rates to five points above the prime rate. Five points is quite a lot.

The prime rate today sits around 6%. At the same time, the banks are charging upward of 18% to 19% for credit card interest. It is time to reduce the interest paid on the almost $44 billion in credit card debt owed by average Canadians. That is right: $44 billion. That is higher than Brian Mulroney's record federal deficit in 1992-93. I would like everyone to remember that. A $44 billion debt is carried by average Canadians because of huge credit card interest rates.

The Liberals refused to protect consumers from outlandishly high credit card rates. They argued that there were lower credit card rates available elsewhere. However, far too often, lower income people who have poor credit ratings cannot qualify for these lower interest cards. This is the time for the government to take real action to protect average working families from high interest rates and real action to improve our national economy by improving the disposable income of average Canadians.

There is simply no justification for maintaining high credit card interest rates during this period of steady and declining interest rates, thus making the need to cap credit card rates at 5% above prime a necessity today.

I also want to speak about affordable housing and mortgage insurance, which is also part of Bill C-37. I noticed that deep within this bill are amendments to the National Housing Act, the act that legislates the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

The former prime minister, as part of his government-wide commercialization initiatives in the 1990s, steered through some amendments to the National Housing Act in 1998 that were widely opposed by affordable housing advocates and cities.

Those amendments limited the role of CMHC in working with municipalities and community based housing providers in developing innovative new ways to create desperately needed new affordable homes, while at the same time opening the CMHC mortgage insurance business to the private sector.

Mortgage insurance has been very lucrative as Canada's housing market has been secure for the most part. Because of the Liberal era restrictions on CMHC, the housing corporation has been generating huge surpluses without being able to spend those on new affordable homes. In fact, we know the surplus to be $5 billion. Basically, it is taking this money, billions of dollars in premiums, and paying out almost nothing. We know that affordable homes are desperately needed in cities across Canada.

What this bill does is further commercialize or privatize CMHC. That includes opening mortgage insurance business to even more private sector businesses. The problem with this is that it cuts into the lucrative and desperately needed revenue stream for CMHC. This stands, even though it has not been able to invest this revenue, which makes it almost impossible for CMHC to gain any more future dollars.

The current amendments appear to seek to further privatize CMHC, and we must oppose that. CMHC has made a lot of money in recent years and has been providing good service at a reasonable cost and every bit as efficient as the private sector. There is no reason that CMHC should be squeezed out or forced to share this business at all.

We should be able take the funds that are in CMHC and use those funds to build more affordable housing. It is good for our economy and it is good for Canada. We know that we need to invest and we need to change the previous Liberal government policy and allow CMHC to invest a portion of its mortgage insurance earnings into building affordable homes.

We heard earlier today that the affordable housing crisis is something that brings our country together. We are in a desperate situation and we must build affordable housing. We are seeing increased homelessness, massive housing insecurity and substandard housing which, in turn, is leading to a heavy burden on individuals and massive disruptions of communities and local economies and increased costs for government.

We also need to look into small business lending, at service charges and at huge profitability and ask if it might be time to look at the concentration in the financial district, a district that graces my riding. We also need to look at employment, as well as at the loan shops that are popping up in poor neighbourhoods. We need to look at all of those things.

We need to address the act and give it a total overhaul for the good of my bank constituents, for Canadians and for the country. We have the opportunity right now with Bill C-37 to reform the Bank Act and we should take this opportunity. We should not just tinker with the Bank Act. We need to reshape it to reflect current realities and future opportunities right here and now in Canada.

Bank Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I make a few very brief comments on Bill C-37, An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters, I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Trinity—Spadina, who just pointed out some of the consequential matters that arise in relation to the proposed changes that the government has placed before the House of Commons.

I particularly want to commend her for drawing attention to the implications for affordable housing, which we desperately lack, in the bill that is before us, following on the appalling record of the previous Liberal government in having basically pulled the plug on any federal commitment to affordable housing.

I wonder if I might ask the member for Trinity—Spadina if she could explain, in perhaps a little bit more detail, what the implications are of the changes to the National Housing Act that will make the likelihood of affordable housing being made available to those fantastic numbers of people who are currently in crisis even less available to them than it is now.

Bank Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-37 is squeezing CMHC out. CMHC is being forced to share this business.

If that happens, it means that CMHC will not continue to garner the money as it has been collecting in the last few years. It means that it will not have a large reserve fund. It also means that CMHC will not have the funds it needs to assist a lot of the co-operatives or social housing units that are now quite old and need repair and maintenance. These housing co-ops, these existing affordable housing units need the funds from CMHC to assist in maintaining their buildings. If CMHC does not assist, then some of these co-operatives and some of these affordable housing units may end up going bankrupt and, therefore, we would be shutting down on some of these affordable housing units.

If CMHC has no funding left because of the privatization that is in front of us, it will not be able to provide funds to assist some of these co-operatives that are now in need of taking more funds to subsidize some of the tenants. The tenants need quite a bit of subsidies as they cannot pay market rents. If the tenants were asked to pay market rents, they would not be able to afford some of these co-operatives. The co-operatives are looking to CMHC to fix the section 95 question but for CMHC to be able to do that it needs a pool of money.

As I said earlier, CMHC does have $5 billion at this point but it needs to spend those funds to help build affordable housing, to assist co-ops, to bring in more subsidized units and to maintain and repair some of the older cooperatives.

All of that is required and that is what we need to do, which is why I believe we should strike out the part in this bill that would commercialize or privatize CMHC.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raised a certain aspect of the bill that relates to housing, an area in which I have some experience having served on the board of the Peel Regional Housing Authority for some time.

She also spoke about Canada Mortgage and Housing. I know we have had this discussion in a private member's bill that was recently before the House with regard to the accumulated surplus that CMHC has had. It is a very large number.

It is important for members to understand a little bit about CMHC but I will not have the time in a question. However, effectively, it relates to the same kind of principle that general insurance companies have. They must have sufficient reserve funds, through investment or whatever it would be, to have the coverage ratio necessary to meet the risk of loss, and CMHC is no different. It is not a matter that we can just simply take the resources that are there to provide the security that allows CMHC to provide the services that it does.

I would just ask the hon. member if she would maybe come to an understanding that CMHC does not have a surplus because it just wants to hoard cash, but that it is jurisdictionally and legally obligated to maintain coverage ratios. I do not know if she understands that concept, but there are coverage ratios that must be in place.

It is really important and appropriate in the House not to suggest that somehow the surplus is discretionary and can be invested elsewhere. I would encourage the member to ensure we get that straight so Canadians do not assume somehow that CMHC is hoarding cash.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Actually, Mr. Speaker, I do know that quite well because I remember opposing the amendments to the National Housing Act in 1998 that were put through by the former prime minister. Why did I oppose them? I opposed them because they concerned the commercialization of CMHC.

On the cover ratio, CMHC has $5 billion in its reserve fund. Surely it does not need $5 billion in the coverage ratio. The surplus has grown tremendously. Even if we take one-fifth of it, or 20% of it, we could use those funds to start creating some affordable housing.

The amendments that were put through in 1998 in the National Housing Act limited the role of CMHC in working with municipalities and community based housing providers, which prevented them from developing innovative new ways to create desperately needed affordable housing. At the same time, the amendments opened CMHC's mortgage insurance business to the private sector, which is what it is doing now.

What was started with the former prime minister is now being continued, and both of those trends are very bad trends.

In other countries around the world, their equivalent of CMHC provides that kind of bases. Every time mortgage interest rates go down, they take the money that is gained from that lower interest rate and reinvest it into building new affordable housing.

It has been done in Hong Kong, in Britain and in many parts of the world. It is only in Canada that we have a very reactive and negative way of dealing with CMHC. As a result, very few affordable houses were built after 1994-95 when the national housing program was cancelled.

I lament the complete walking away of the government from its responsibility of building affordable housing. It started with the former prime minister, Mr. Mulroney, and later on the former Liberal prime minister continued that trend and continued to cancel the national housing program.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-37. I found it very difficult to deal with the bill. First, the bill in itself is probably one of the larger bills I have ever seen in this place. It is some 237 pages long.

It is an omnibus bill of sorts, which means it provides a variety of amendments, technical and otherwise, to a wide range of bills. When people read the bill, they cannot understand what the provisions in it mean unless they have the bill to be amended beside them so they can see the provisions that are already in place and understand the context in which they relate to that bill.

I know the members know, but Canadians should know that when we get bills such as this, members, who are involved in the finance committee, have to rely on the work and due diligence of others to make absolutely sure the provisions are there. In fact, it is probably the most extreme example that I could cite.

I have a problem with the bill because it covers so many things. I suspect that if any government ever wanted to do anything to amend certain acts, this certainly would be the way to do it, to put through a bill in excess of some 230 pages, which affects maybe 20 or 30 different existing pieces of legislation.

In order to give people an idea, the summary to Bill C-37 indicates that it is an enactment that amends a number of acts governing financial institutions. At least it is in a pocket that we understand.

The bill also amends legislation related to the regulation of financial institutions. This place has been seized over the years with legislation related to financial institutions, particularly as it relates to bank mergers and the lines of business banks can get into. I must admit it conjures up some memories of clichés that some members would use in their speeches during some of the debates about banks being terribly bad. However, most people would say that their bank branches are pretty good.

The notable pieces of legislation that are being amended are the Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Insurance Companies Act and the Trust and Loan Companies Act. All of the amendments are aimed at achieving three objectives: first, enhancing the interests of consumers; second, increasing legislative and regulatory efficiency; and third, adapting those acts to new developments. These sound a little comprehensive, but they are envelopes under which these particular amendments could be placed. There are also amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act to provide for the introduction of electronic cheque imaging.

There are also technical amendments, which cover a broad range of acts: the Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Insurance Companies Act, and I could go on. There are at least 20 of them.

I think maybe I have made my point, that ordinary members of Parliament, who are not involved in the finance committee and maybe do not have some of the background and training, will have a very difficult time. A number of votes are taken on bills like this, whether it be at second reading, committee stage amendments, report stage, third reading. I think Canadians will ask themselves this. If this is so cumbersome, if there are 230-some odd pages, if there are virtually hundreds and hundreds of amendments to dozens of acts, how can a member of Parliament, with all the responsibilities, make an informed decision and cast a vote reflective of the due diligence that has been done?

How that happens here is probably the same way it happens in real life.

I can recall being the vice-chairman of the board of the Mississauga Hospital. Under the Ontario hospitals act, the board of directors is responsible for every aspect of the administration and operation of the hospital.

I remember giving a seminar on trustees of hospitals. As I recall, the title was “Hospital Trustee: Mission Impossible”. It is impossible because we can not possibly expect volunteer members of a board of directors to be fully informed about the day to day activities of the hospital, to take full responsibilities for what the doctors, nurses and administrative people do and, if anything goes wrong, to be personally responsible for those.

What happens is the responsibilities of the board are seconded or delegated to other persons. Therefore, for the board's responsibilities, as is the case for members of Parliament, there is a delegation or a secondment of those responsibilities to others who specifically spend their time on them. They perhaps have the specific expertise and the support personnel, either within their offices or from parliamentary offices, to do the necessary due diligence, to do the checking, to ask the questions, to hear witnesses and to make some ascertainment as to the propriety of the amendments being made.

We have in this chamber always the presumption of honesty. We certainly have that as well in our committees as we bring witnesses forward. It is a process which the members of Parliament rely on their best judgment to ascertain that witnesses who appear before the committee are appropriate witnesses, that they cover the necessary areas and that they get the proper representations from the departmental officials who are responsible for having drafted this.

We also have the support of the Library of Parliament, which does some excellent legislative summaries to the extent that it can. In this regard, I suspect the legislative summary for a bill this size might very well be five times larger, maybe about 1,000 pages, but we have the resources available to us of the Library of Parliament to assist us in specific areas.

It is an onerous task. I do not purport to be fully knowledgeable and able to come here and argue the case of why members should vote for a particular clause in a particular bill that is to be amended, whether it be technical or otherwise. However, the job does get done and it gets done through a process of secondment, provided the committee is doing its work and provided the officials have done their work.

I must admit Canadians should be assured, and I wish they would get a better chance to see it, that the work done in committee is probably the most productive work that members of Parliament do. The work in committees is excellent. The quality and level of questioning of witnesses is excellent in terms of discharging the responsibility of due diligence or doing the detail with regard to the legislation before this place.

Being a legislator is an important responsibility. One of the things that I note in the bill is right at the very end. It is coincidental, but I just gave a speech a couple of days ago on a private member's bill that had to do with repealing acts that had received royal assent. They had gone through the entire legislative process of being tabled at first reading, debated at second, went to committee, committee stage amendments, report stage amendments back to the House, third reading, passed on to the other place and then went through an almost identical process and then received royal assent.

The public would think that when the bill receives royal asset it is law. It is not law until it is proclaimed. It must be in force.

The private member's bill I referred to was started in the Senate by Senator Tommy Banks. It was the third iteration of a bill that has been around since about 2002. It has to do with repealing legislation that has received royal assent but has not been proclaimed and put into force, and therefore is not active law in Canada.

I note the final provision of the bill found on page 237 entitled, “Order in Council” under the subtitle of “Coming Into Force”. It reads:

The provisions of this Act, or the provisions of any Act enacted by this Act, come into force on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

This appears from time to time in bills. It means there is no set date as to when the provisions of this bill will be put into place. Often that happens because other things must occur before the provisions of the amendments within the bill could be operative. It is almost like once we pass this, before we put it in force, certain other things have to happen. Once they have happened, then the governor in council, which is basically the cabinet, sets a date fixing that certain provisions of this act would come into force.

As an aside, in most of the cases bills would generally say that the act would come into force on the date on which it received royal assent. That is fairly straightforward. There are others which have provisos that the in force date will be on a specified date, for instance, January 1, 2007.

In the reproductive technologies bill, I believe there two key areas. One is called prohibited acts under the bill. The other is controlled activities. The prohibited acts were all in force on royal assent. The controlled activities were subject to being in force by a date set by order in council. The reason for that was the controlled activities required the establishment of a board of management that would do certain things. Until that was set up, the provisions of that could not go forward.

Another example is Bill C-11 from the last Parliament, the whistleblower legislation. This legislation received royal assent in November of last year. The legislation provides protection to civil servants who have allegations of wrongdoing within the public service or anybody who is within the definition of a public servant. The bill is not in force yet.

In this Parliament we have Bill C-2, and this can get complicated in non-financial bills. Bill C-2 prescribes amendments to Bill C-11.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

It just passed the Senate.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

I am advised by the President of the Treasury Board that it just passed the Senate. That is good news for everybody because the House unanimously supported the accountability act. There were some loose ends to be tidied up.

Bill C-2 has to come back to the House. As long as everyone is happy and this place can live with the compromises, it will pass. I will reserve judgment on that until I see the documents. It is like doubting Thomas.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

You are going to like it.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

That is a good thing. The President of the Treasury Board is a trusting person, I am sure.

As I said, some amendments in Bill C-2 of this Parliament amend a bill that was passed in the last Parliament, which has not been put into force yet. It is kind of reverse order. One would think that Bill C-11 would be in place and then Bill C-2 would be passed.

I could talk for some time about Bill C-11 and why it would have been important to have it in place because there is so much work to do before it gets up to speed and is operating efficiently. We could have had more accountability within the public service and the Government of Canada had it been in force when the Conservative Party took office. However, that is the Conservatives' choice. I do not think they really wanted to have too many people with the protection to blow the whistle on a government that was not doing things properly.

Before Bill C-2 gets royal assent and comes into force, Bill C-11 must be proclaimed. Because Bill C-2 amends Bill C-11, Bill C-11 must exist in law before Bill C-2 can be proclaimed.

I am glad to hear that Bill C-2 is now in the last stages of becoming law and is ready to receive the go ahead in terms of coming into force, which means that Bill C-11 also would be proclaimed and be in force. We will see the beginning of the establishment of the human infrastructure of an effective accountability mechanism and protection for our public servants.

I thought it was important to raise with members that we are now considering a bill which has a very large number of amendments. Today in the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations which I chair, we addressed an issue where a regulation has been bouncing back and forth. It passed in this place, but on review it was found to have a flaw. We sent it back to the department saying that it should be fixed. The first piece of correspondence on that matter actually took place 23 years ago. A problem in a regulation was cited 23 years ago. The departments are still bouncing back and forth as to who is to blame and why it cannot be done.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

The Fisheries Act.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

It has to do with the Fisheries Act; the member is quite right.

Here we have the same kind of thing. There are hundreds of amendments, many of them technical, some of which will lose the continuity of the knowledge of the people who are here. We can see how important this is. When we have a bill like this, we have the assurances, the sign off by the minister and all of the clearances, but technically, with regard to parliamentarians, there are more changes in this bill than any one person could possibly be responsible for or track to ensure that their implementation received the proper attention.

The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations will have to review some of these to the extent that they are amendments to regulations which currently exist to make absolutely sure that the bills to which they relate have enabling provisions within them for that amendment to happen.

We have seen cases, for instance, in the Broadcasting Act there was a regulation which allowed the charging of fees for services provided to the cable industry. As it turned out, the fees were far in excess of the costs that were incurred by the CRTC and in fact were creating surpluses because the fees were excessive. It is currently before the courts. If it is on a cost recovery basis that is fine, but if the amount recovered is more than the costs, it is effectively a form of taxation. Taxation is not enabled in the legislation. In the Broadcasting Act a tax cannot be levied.

Members can see why I hesitate to attempt to try to provide some insight into even one of these because it would probably take an entire speech to explain one of the technical amendments in a way in which all hon. members could understand. That is something we cannot do, but I wanted members to understand that I am confident that the changes that have been made have been followed in due process and the departmental officials have given us the necessary assurances.

I believe members will find there is strong support to pass many of these amendments, most of which I agree very much are necessary to bring up to date the important legislation affecting the daily lives of all Canadians.

Bank Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the last six years while the Liberals were in government the total debt load carried by Canadians grew by 50%, the median load 38% to $44,500 per family. The line of credit debt grew more than double to $68 billion and the median line of credit debt jumped 56% to $9,000. For average Canadians that means almost $14 in debt for every $100 in assets. That is a huge jump.

The Government of Canada is loading the debt onto ordinary Canadians. Whether they are students who are graduating with $20,000 in student loans and they are carrying that debt, or ordinary families, that debt load has jumped by 50%.

For 12 years the Liberals did nothing to cap the credit card rates. Would the member be willing to support the NDP motion to begin to cap credit card interest rates at 5%? There is absolutely no reason when the prime rate right now is 6% that the credit card interest rate would be 17% to 18%. Ordinary Canadians are being gouged. Would the member support an NDP initiative to cap credit card interest rates?