House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to continue in the same vein.

There is something I do not understand in all this. If their action plan is working so well, then why did 60% of Canadians not support this type of action plan? Why is it that all of us here, the entire opposition, currently want to talk about it, debate it, discuss it and introduce concrete measures? The only thing the government is saying is that it does not want to listen to us, that it will steamroll over anything that happens or anything we say, and that it does not care about those who do not agree with it.

That is the only message I am getting in all this and I find that absolutely offensive.

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, again, Canadians gave us a strong mandate to move forward with this measure. We have talked with Canadians. They have said that the volunteer firefighter tax credit is absolutely important. Parents are asking to share their RESPs with different siblings. Doctors and nurses are waiting for these important measures.

It is time to move forward. Let us get this budget through.

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am tremendously impressed with and confident in the good work done in the finance committee by that member. Having served on that committee, I know a tremendous amount of consultation has been done with Canadians across the country. Many members of the opposition have been saying that no one has really had a chance to provide input, but that is absolutely absurd.

Could the member tell us what kind of consultations go on across the country and from whom she has heard information in addition to the departmental and government agencies?

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the question from my hon. colleague because the finance committee is in prebudget consultations right now.

Prebudget consultations means that we travel across the country and we hear from Canadians. We have had over 400 submissions. All of that will go together in preparing our next budget.

It is important to recognize that we have some challenging times ahead because of what is happening in Europe and the United States, but Canada has done exceptionally well.

The consultation process with Canadians on where we are going to go with next year's budget is happening now.

We are talking about something that happened over a year ago. We are talking about measures that Canadians want. These measures were debated across the country for many months.

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I see some members are not that enthused that I am delivering this speech. I swear that I will not take any offence.

Since I only have a few minutes, I would love to talk about my riding of Bonavista--Gander--Grand Falls--Windsor. It is the most beautiful little gem on earth. In fact, a lot of the commercials about Newfoundland and Labrador are shot in my riding, with its beautiful cliffs.

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

And it has a great MP.

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Sure, it has great representation. On division, right?

I want to follow up on a comment that was made, because I think there are some misconceptions in the debate. I do not think I ever went against the government because it was not consulting enough. I always thought that the consultation process, which was there prior to this government and others, was always substantial enough. Access to one's member of Parliament has always been substantial enough to affect any budget. The problem is, if we are looking at certain costs, and we want to bring the deficit down to a manageable level, we start cherry picking. We have to face up to the fact that we are not going to invest in other things that Canadians want because we cannot afford it.

For example, we would love the volunteer firefighters tax credit to be a refundable tax credit, but it is a non-refundable tax credit. Yet let us not pretend that all Canadians want it. It is the type of thing where we say that we will do this when the deficit is down to zero.

The other issue occurs when we do not fulfill a promise. We might as well be honest and tell people that we cannot do this at this time. A certain amount of respectability needs to be brought back into the level of debate in the House, and certainly in the way the government is acting upon this particular issue.

There are great things in this budget, but the problem is there are a lot more things that need to be done. That is what we debate in this House.

I assume my time for debate has now expired, Madam Speaker.

Report Stage
Keeping Canada's Economy and Jobs Growing Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have seven minutes left when the bill returns to the House.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Financial Literacy
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should help improve financial literacy in Canada by: (a) working to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Financial Literacy; (b) creating, promoting, and continuously upgrade a single source website for financial literacy to increase public awareness and ease access to information for Canadians; (c) requiring federally regulated financial institutions to publicly disclose their contributions to financial literacy initiatives; (d) ensuring the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada works with willing provinces and territories to promote financial literacy to youth through the educational system; and (e) designating November as “Financial Literacy Month”.

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the thunderous applause on the very exciting topic of financial literacy.

I am very pleased to rise today to speak to my private member's motion, M-269, on the topic of financial literacy, and I would, for the record, like to read it into the House of Commons Hansard:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should help improve financial literacy in Canada by: (a) working to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Financial Literacy; (b) creating, promoting, and continuously upgrade a single source website for financial literacy to increase public awareness and ease access to information for Canadians; (c) requiring federally regulated financial institutions to publicly disclose their contributions to financial literacy initiatives; (d) ensuring the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada works with willing provinces and territories to promote financial literacy to youth through the educational system; and (e) designating November as “Financial Literacy Month”.

We live in a world today where technology is constantly changing, as is personal finance. Only a few decades ago, credit cards were a luxury item. Debit cards did not even exist. Online banking and buying could not even be conceived as they happen today. Mortgage products were standard and choice was limited.

Today, technology and personal finance have advanced tremendously. Canadians are among the most avid users of debit and credit cards in the world. Online banking and buying are part of everyday life. Mortgage products are multiple and choices are diverse.

Canadians are faced with increasingly complex financial decisions that have greater potential consequences, and at a younger age than ever before. Each financial decision has consequences, for individuals and families and for our economy as a whole. It is imperative that Canadians gain the knowledge to understand personal financial matters and the impact of broader economic issues, the skills required to apply financial knowledge in everyday life and the confidence to make responsible financial decisions in a manner that is appropriate to their own circumstances.

The reality is that Canadians who lack financial skills and financial knowledge are unfortunately more likely to be spending beyond their means, saving less than they need, building up too much debt and ultimately becoming less able to save sufficiently for their retirement.

Canadians are capable of making good financial decisions, but they want and need the tools to make the right choices.

Increased financial literacy, especially for Canada's youth, can help people with major events, such as saving for college or university, buying a new home, getting married or looking after aging parents. It can help ensure that the investment products that we hold in our RRSPs and other retirement savings are the ones that best match our financial goals and needs. It can make us smarter consumers of financial products so that we do not waste our hard-earned money on services and fees that we do not need.

Increased financial literacy can also make us less susceptible to being duped by fraud artists or by unethical or unregulated financial products that can lead to disastrous loss.

I want to recognize the work that has already been done by the Minister of Finance, for the very significant steps he has taken to protect consumers on various initiatives, such as the changes he has made with respect to credit and debit cards.

I also want to commend him for establishing the Task Force on Financial Literacy. In fact, the impetus for my motion comes from the real necessity to improve the lives of Canadians through financial literacy, but it is a natural extension of the work done by the Task Force on Financial Literacy. I want to thank all the members of the task force for their excellent work and their recommendations, in particular, through their chair, Mr. Don Stewart.

This report released by the task force is a culmination of significant stakeholder consultation and expert analysis. The recommendations and priorities act as a foundation for this motion, and I would like to outline them for colleagues in the House.

The task force's comprehensive strategy is defined by five priorities. The first priority is a shared responsibility for the financial literacy of Canadians among families, governments, educators, financial services providers, employers, labour organizations, businesses and voluntary organizations.

The second priority is leadership and collaboration. Leadership must come from the Government of Canada in the form of appointing an individual focused on executing this strategy, including initiating a formal collaborative partnership among stakeholders.

The third priority is lifelong learning. Financial literacy training begins in the home and should extend to the formal education system and beyond. It should include teachable moments during decision points, such as the purchase of financial products or joining a pension plan.

The fourth priority is delivery and promotion. A sustained public awareness campaign must be developed, focusing on relevant and understandable communications to ensure that all citizens are aware of targeted initiatives that are aimed to benefit them.

The fifth priority is government accountability. The task force recommends that the government appoint an individual who is accountable and reports to Parliament on all these actions.

I want to return to my actual motion and outline the points in specifics.

I encourage members of this House and all Canadians to review the 30 recommendations of the task force. I think it is a very comprehensive report and the task force has done an excellent job.

The second part of the motion is creating, promoting and upgrading a single-source website for financial literacy to increase public awareness and ease access to information for Canadians. There should be a special emphasis on establishing this website to consolidate and disseminate financial literacy programs and initiatives. The Government of Canada does this with seniors' benefits, so that a senior can go to a single-source website. We have a former minister for seniors in the House today, who was instrumental in forming this website.

Many people have commented on the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and its website. Its website is excellent. However, that could be enhanced and broadened through a single-portal website that would provide information on the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the government and other organizations.

For example, Junior Achievement, which does a lot of work even in my riding in the community of Leduc, sends people who work in the financial sector into junior high schools and high schools to talk to the students about financial literacy. There is the Jr. Economic Club of Canada, ABC Life Literacy Canada and the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education. A lot of these groups do excellent work on their own and we need to pull it all together so Canadians can access them through one site.

I would like to commend certain members of the media who do excellent work with respect to financial literacy. Jonathan Chevreau of the National Post has recently written a book on financial literacy. I recommend it, and his regular column, to all colleagues in this House. This is one of the priorities in terms of lifelong learning. If people read the National Post, the Globe and Mail or The Toronto Sun, they can understand the concepts that are being discussed.

The third item in the motion would require federally regulated financial institutions to publicly disclose their contributions to financial literacy initiatives. This would increase the transparency and public awareness of financial institutions' educational efforts. I know institutions already do a lot of work, whether it is the credit unions that I met with today in my office or the traditional big banks.

I would like to compliment, in particular, one person from a bank, Craig Alexander, who appeared before the finance committee today. He has been a true volunteer in this area. He points out that there are people who believe that financial institutions want to take advantage of people. In fact, good institutions, which we have in Canada, have a strong interest in Canadians' increasing their wealth. These institutions have an interest in reaching more Canadians as consumers. If those consumers increase their wealth, the institution has more wealthy customers, so they both benefit.

The next point is ensuring that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada works with willing provinces and territories to promote financial literacy to youth through the education system. I would like to compliment the FCAC. Canada is often complimented for its financial regulatory system, for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, our capital ratios and our leverage ratios. However, one of the real gems we have is the FCAC. It does an excellent job in terms of educating consumers. I encourage all Canadians who may be watching this debate to go to its website and see its excellent initiatives. I would like to expand its role and get it to work with the provinces and territories.

In drafting the motion, some people raised the issue of education being within provincial jurisdiction, especially kindergarten to grade 12, which is a viable concern. However, I am asking that the FCAC, through a curriculum that it has already developed, make it accessible to the provinces and encourage them to adopt it as a formal part of their curriculum, not wait until high school level but actually get it in at the junior high level or even earlier so that Canadians will know from a very early age what kind of decisions they should be making.

The motion that I am presenting here today is in the same spirit that I presented the motion on identity theft two Parliaments ago and the motion on Alzheimer's in the last Parliament. I hope all members will see it in that spirit, read through it and view it as a serious issue that needs to be addressed and something that we can unite around as parliamentarians on both sides of the House. I look forward to their support.

Financial Literacy
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, while the hon. member did talk about some of the initiatives that we as New Democrats would like to see in financial literacy, if we look through the report, something stands out to us on this side of the House. Although there is some mention about supporting financial literacy for low-income individuals, it does not address the day-to-day meat and potato financial literacy that is needed to support low-income families.

I am wondering what the hon. member can speak to in relation to how we can provide better financial literacy to those who might not have the income necessary to look at stocks, for example, or pensions. What they are worrying about right now is getting through the day and balancing their chequebooks. The financial literacy they do not have relates to debit cards and credit cards. There is not a lot of talk about that in this huge report. If the member could show us where that is and talk about how the government wants to bring that forward, that would be fantastic.

Financial Literacy
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague has done a lot of work in raising awareness on issues with respect to credit cards and debit cards. He has had some influence in causing the government to take real action in terms of the voluntary code for credit cards. In fact, it was endorsed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. This was a huge step forward, as was the 21-day grace period that was introduced by the Minister of Finance, and the protection of the debit system, as it currently is in Canada, not moving toward a percentage base but keeping it at a flat fee. These were all excellent decisions made by the Minister of Finance and I think the member would certainly applaud them as being good initiatives.

In terms of the actual recommendations in the report, I would point to a couple of them. Recommendation No. 9, in terms of the Government of Canada promoting financial literacy through federal programs to reach Canadians directly such as employment insurance, old age security, CPP, universal child care benefits and that the provincial and territorial governments do the same.

A lot of these programs help very low-income Canadians. This recommendation is specifically saying that we need to get information, not only in terms of how to access the benefits but in terms of how best to use those benefits. These are actual issues that impact Canadians very directly.

I would encourage the member to review the recommendations in full because there are some initiatives that have a direct impact at the bread and butter level.

Financial Literacy
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the member made reference to the FCAC, which is a great agency that does provide a lot of the services regarding financial literacy, which this motion hopes to do. I recognize that right up front.

If we look at how things have changed, in good part because of technology, the Internet and so forth, from the days when I was in grade 12 where we would have had a simple economics course. Nowadays there is so much more, as the member has pointed out.

How does the member envision the motion would accommodate the sharing of information or getting it to the different stakeholders? I am looking specifically at the school boards, the provincial governments, possibly the municipal governments and the banking industry. In the member's mind, does the FCAC have a specific role to help facilitate that? How does the member envision that being facilitated?

Financial Literacy
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, the motion actually builds on the excellent work that the FCAC has already done and, in fact, encourages it to do even more, which the FCAC is very much looking forward to doing.

The member is absolutely right in terms of the impact of technology. It is a great benefit for people to do their banking at home or in their office but the decisions they make are all the more important because a single decision could have much more of an impact.

In terms of working with the school boards, the feeling there would be that the FCAC, which has a curriculum developed, would make that available to the provinces, territories and school boards and ask them to implement it as part of their curriculum. Obviously, we cannot mandate that but, from the FCAC's point of view, the provinces have been willing to adopt it.

As well, schools in my community of Edmonton—Leduc are actually bringing in people who have worked in the financial services as mentors and teachers in the classrooms and teaching the students about some of the practical lessons they have learned during their work experience.

Financial Literacy
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, we in the NDP believe that financial literacy is a vital component of any consumer protection regime in Canada. Certainly this motion contains some changes that would help protect Canadian consumers but these recommendations, if accepted, would still only constitute, in our opinion, a small first step.

It is our opinion that the government is not properly addressing consumer protection in general and financial literacy specifically. I am surprised that this motion is even before the House. If the government had a real interest in pursuing these goals, it would not take a private member's motion from a member of the governing party to call the government to action.

It is clear at this point that the entire process of the Minister of Finance implementing the financial literacy task force is more about spin rather than substance. Since the task force reported back to the minister, we have had two budgets presented to the House and multiple opportunities for stand-alone legislation but instead of focusing on real changes that could help average Canadians, the government has been focused on an agenda that only seems to help well connected insiders.

A clear example of the government's failure to understand the issue of consumer protection is the voluntary code of conduct that the Minister of Finance negotiated with the credit card issuers and the banks behind closed doors. The explicit purpose of the code completely ignores the needs of consumers and vital policies that would have protected consumers are simply non-existent.

An NDP government would ensure that all the rules governing credit cards are mandatory, therefore ensuring that issuers, merchants and consumers all know their rights and responsibilities and ensures that consumers are properly protected.

I will now look at each of the five core pillars of this task force's recommendations in turn. The first pillar is shared responsibility. While consumers certainly have a responsibility toward their own finances, it is important to note that a collective responsibility is not the same as equal responsibility. We can take the global recession that started in 2008. This was commonly blamed on people taking on subprime mortgages. While each individual is responsible for his or her mortgage, it is the framework created by government and industry that allowed this to take place on a huge and destabilizing level.

Government and the wider industry have a greater responsibility because it is they that must maintain the financial system as a whole. That is not to say that consumers should act recklessly, but there needs to be safeguards for the system as a whole.

The second pillar is leadership and collaboration, namely, a national champion who is accountable to the Minister of Finance. It certainly makes sense to have someone who is accountable for these policies but the worry is that this simply adds another layer of bureaucracy to the system. The consumer protection regime in Canada is already spread between multiple agencies and departments, and adding this national champion could simply make the current system even more complex.

As well, this champion needs to be a champion for consumers, not a champion for the banking industry's desires. It would be all too easy to appoint a member of the banking community who then simply bows to the industry. Moreover, the government needs to show leadership. As well, trying to switch Canadians from guaranteed defined benefit pension plans to risky defined contribution plans hardly sends the right message to Canadians. Not only is this a bad message for Canadians, Canadians would be much better served in planning their personal finances if they accurately were able to predict their pension payments.

The third pillar is lifelong learning. With the continuing changes in investment vehicles and payment methods, which, in the industry committee, we are studying mobile payments, e-commerce and the differing requirements for Canadians at different points in their lives, lifelong learning is truly important. However, while the report talks of the foundations of lifelong learning, it misses the most important foundation and one that is missed too often, which is that without adequate numeracy and literacy skills, financial literacy education is often and, unfortunately, wasted.

Any long-term effort to improve financial literacy, lifelong learning needs to focus on improving the basic education of Canadian children, as well as ensuring Canadian adults have access to courses to improve their numeracy and literacy skills throughout their lives, otherwise, specific financial literacy curriculums are wasted. One of the things that we are also speaking to in the industry committee is that we have a need for financial literacy.

Then comes digital literacy. When those two combine, those who are being affected are those who do not necessarily have the education to understand. We need to ensure that both digital literacy and financial literacy come together on this.

The fourth pillar is delivery and promotion, focusing specifically on public awareness and on a single source website, which is echoed in the article (b) of the motion.

Of course, ensuring that there is public awareness of financial literacy programs is an idea that we, as New Democrats, support. However, moving to a new emphasis website for financial literacy could well end up being another level of confusion for Canadians. As my hon. colleague mentioned earlier, there is already the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website that contains a number of useful tools for consumers. The problem is simply that people do not know where to look when they have consumer or financial issues. Sometimes they go to the FCAC website, the Office of Consumer Affairs website or the Canadian Consumer Handbook.

Adding a financial literacy website on top of this patchwork may not actually help consumers find information. We need to ensure that consumers have all the information they need in one place, not separated by what can appear to average Canadians as somewhat arbitrary departmental jurisdictions.

The final pillar is accountability, specifically to Parliament through an annual report, as well as requiring financial institutions to make their financial commitments to financial literacy projects public. It, of course, makes sense to monitor the outcomes of such a program but, as always, we need to ensure that the monitoring techniques are objective and rigorous to ensure they are not open to political manipulation.

As we can see from these pillars, there are obviously a number of shortcomings if we accept this report as the final step in achieving financial literacy in Canada. However, the small step is better than doing nothing.

I can assure members that I, as the NDP consumer protection critic, will continue to hold the government to account on the issue of financial literacy. We need to be a world leader in this area. We will continue to push for a complete model of financial literacy, which includes ensuring that the specific needs of low-income Canadians are met, improving basic numeracy and literacy skills of all Canadians and providing a level of CPP to ensure that Canadians can properly plan for their futures.

The motion would not meet all of the requirements for a full financial literacy program but it is a start.

Financial Literacy
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise this evening to speak in support of Motion No. 269, financial literacy, from the member for Edmonton—Leduc.

I commend the member for recognizing the importance of this issue as a priority for the federal government; however, I would say that it is somewhat inconsistent with the Conservatives' decision to, first of all, cancel all the agreements on early learning and child care with the provinces, because one of the most important areas of literacy happens to be establishing a strong foundation for learning at the very earliest stages. Early learning and child care are fundamental in that regard.

It is also inconsistent in some ways with the Conservatives' decision to cut funding for adult literacy programs, which was one of its first decisions as government.

That being the case, I do commend the hon. member for his recognition of the importance of financial literacy. I would note that he is encouraging a great deal of work in areas that are often considered to be provincial jurisdiction.

I would say that encouraging greater co-operation with the provinces and territories and working together with the provinces and territories in areas of shared interest is a good approach. It in no way, shape or form diminishes our respect for provincial jurisdictions; in fact, I would say to the hon. member that he is demonstrating a level of pragmatism that is atypical of some of his brothers and colleagues when it comes to working co-operatively with the provincial governments.

The report does recommend that:

all provincial and territorial governments integrate financial literacy into the formal education system...

and

that all provincial and territorial governments provide financial literacy professional development opportunities for teachers

and

that the Government of Canada, in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, integrate a financial literacy component into the Canada Student Loans Program...

and

that the federal, provincial and territorial governments help Canadians maximize the financial benefit from government programs for which they are eligible...

I could go on about ensuring greater simplicity and clarity in the way programs are written and structured.

One helpful thing would be for the Conservatives to design their programs so that they would offer help to those Canadians in the greatest need. One constructive suggestion I have for the Conservatives is to look at some of the non-refundable tax credits they are offering for children's activities, for caregivers taking care of loved ones in the home and for volunteer firefighters.

Unfortunately, these tax credits are non-refundable; as such, they do not benefit the low-income Canadians who need the help the most. I would argue that it would be important, as part of financial literacy, for the government itself to have programs that are literate in terms of actually meeting the severe needs in many Canadian families. Clearly, simply understanding that lower-income families need help the most would instruct and hopefully educate the Conservatives as to the importance of making these benefits refundable.

Some of this work is already ongoing. As many members of the House know, the month of November is already financial literacy month. The site is sponsored by the Government of Canada's own financial consumer agency. There is a national calendar of events on the website.

For instance, on November 1 in my own riding of Kings--Hants, the workshop called “financially fit for the holidays” was held in Kentville at the Kings Regional Development Agency boardroom. This event was hosted by Credit Counselling Services of Atlantic Canada, a non-profit organization that provides confidential credit and debt repayment counselling services.

There is a growing need for credit counselling services across the country. The reality is that under the Conservative government, we have seen household debt soar to record highs; in fact, a new record was set in the last quarter: the average Canadian now owes $1.51 for every $1 of annual income.

A number of factors have contributed to this ballooning of household debt. Unemployment is part of the problem. A lot of Canadians have seen their full-time jobs disappear and be replaced with part-time work. According to Statistics Canada, there are now 578,500 fewer full-time jobs than there were in Canada in August 2008.

At the same time, the cost of living has gone up. Prices have gone up. It costs more for people to feed their families or heat their homes today, so many of them have turned to credit to try to make ends meet. They are worried today about their ability to pay their bills at current interest rates and terrified to think of what will happen to them as rates in the future will inevitably move up.

There is much discussion in Canada about rising housing prices. One of the reasons Canadians have taken on more debt is an overheated housing market in many Canadian cities and markets. One of the first actions taken by the current finance minister was to throw out some of the prudent rules for residential mortgages that were put in place by the previous Liberal government.

The Conservatives actually followed the lead of the Americans and introduced 40-year mortgages with zero down payment. I do not think that sent a very good message to Canadians, and it did not reflect sound principles of financial literacy from the government at that time. They have since done an almost complete reversal on those mortgage rules, and that is a good thing. They have scaled back the amortization period from 40 to 35 and then to 30 years, while reinstituting the minimum 5% down payment that the Liberal government had in place.

Some international economic commentary suggests that Canada does have a housing bubble in certain markets. The Economist magazine has opined on this, and when Martin Wolf of the Financial Times of London was in Ottawa earlier this fall, he said that despite what Canada's finance officials are saying, in fact there is a statistical housing bubble in Canada.

There are issues around retirement. The TD Bank recently published a report entitled “Canada's Aging Household Debt Burden”. The report has some startling revelations. It states:

The bigger surprise is that older Canadians have been growing their debt-loads at a considerably faster rate than their younger counterparts.

In Canada, average debt loads in the past 10 years have increased twice as fast as income, but the rate is three times as fast for older Canadians, and many older Canadians simply cannot afford to retire. That is important.

It is also important to recognize the leadership provided by some international organizations in this area. The World Economic Forum has set up a task force under their YGL, Young Global Leaders, organization entitled “Learn Money”. It is focused on promoting access to financial literacy programs around the world. In fact, I would very much like to speak to the hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc about this to see if there are ways that we can potentially incorporate some of those ideas here in Canada and plug in nationally to what the World Economic Forum is doing.

World Economic Forum YGL member John Hope Bryant serves as an adviser on financial literacy to the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council and has also served as vice-chairman of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. He argues that following the global economic crisis, financial literacy is the new civil rights issue in the United States, and has said that:

To not understand the language of money, financial literacy, and to not have a mainstream bank account (or credit union account) in the 21st century, clearly an economic age, is to be an economic slave.

In fact, he is saying that financial literacy is an issue of rights. Equality of opportunity is something we all take seriously as a rights issue, and clearly financial literacy and access to financial literacy education are fundamental to equality of opportunity. Whether it is helping Canadians to buy a house, manage their debt or save for retirement, there is a clear need for greater financial literacy in Canada.

We also know it is important that Canadians set aside enough to retire on, and there is a real question as to whether Canadians have been and are setting aside enough to retire on.

Even if they make that important step, where do they invest? It is a very complicated and complex investment decision. This is one of the reasons that opening up the CPP to a voluntary supplemental CPP would give Canadians access to a low-cost, well-diversified financial opportunity.