House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, note that the one-half recommendation of the financial literacy report in the bill is the appointment of yet another civil servant to oversee something. We are not exactly sure what, except to collaborate and coordinate activities with unknown stakeholders. Many other recommendations having to do with financial literacy have apparently been completely ignored by the government, such as training people, actually including it in school programs and including it as a skill that is required of the federal government.

What does the member say to all of the things that are missing from the legislation that makes it very difficult for anyone to support it, if this is all we are going to get?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with the spirit of what my colleague is saying. The only way I can explain a bill that contains virtually nothing is that the Conservatives did it at the last minute. Maybe they thought that since next month would be financial literacy month, they had better have an announcement, so they decided to make a bill. It has a bill that says one person who will report not to the minister, as the commission suggested, but to someone else. They have nothing on the 29 recommendations, many of which make a whole lot of sense.

We are left knowing essentially nothing about whether the person in this job would actually carry out those recommendations or not, or whether as I said earlier, $1 million, or $100 million or $100,000 would be spent. We know virtually nothing and I can only conclude that the bill must have been written on the back of an envelope to prepare for an announcement in financial literacy week.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed my colleague's remarks and the facts that he laid out and how he indicated that maybe the finance minister should take financial literacy 101. He is the biggest spending finance minister with the biggest deficit in Canadian history with more wasted money during the last couple of years, everything from gazebos to whatever, with no open tendering in terms of the F-35s and the list goes on and on. I agree with the member's comment.

Is this just another bill of smoke and mirrors, which we see so often from the government, where it tries to allege it is really doing something, when in effect it is doing nothing? One thing that is clear in the bill is the appointment of another person. We have several boards with patronage appointments where the appointees are virtually doing nothing but spending money.

Is this really another bill in which the government will try to message that it is doing something when it really is not?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his very convincing preamble. There is a risk that he is right, that we might just be creating yet another empty office. Remember other cases where new jobs were created but never filled, so taxpayers would be spending millions of dollars on an office that was empty and not doing anything.

There is a risk of this, especially when we are told nothing about the mission, the parameters around this or the number of employees. There is a real risk that the government is trying to create the impression of activity using at least some taxpayer money and potentially creating nothing.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, we could spend the afternoon poking accusations across the floor. There are $40 million still unaccounted for under Liberal budgets. I am sure Canadians would like to know that.

I would like to get back to the essence of what the legislation tries to do. I have two daughters, both successful young ladies. My hope is they will be financially successful and understand the mechanisms available to them to make wise choices with their money, to be educated about those opportunities and to have the opportunity to invest their money to create their own futures.

Because much of what my colleague said earlier rests with the provinces, because of a curriculum for schooling being a provincial responsibility, does he have any suggestions for the government as to how we might work with those partners to ensure that the financial portion of this education could be included in perhaps high schools or in college education? Does he have any suggestions for the government to work on?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, in relation to the member's earlier comments about her daughters, of course, we on this side agree that financial literacy is very important not only for her daughters but my children and all Canadians. There is a lack of it and a need for more.

Our question is not that. Our question is whether the bill would make any difference or whether the existing agencies, which I described in my speech, are doing the job. There might be duplication and it might not make the situation any better. Since the bill does not tell us anything about how many people or what the mandate would be, it is unclear to me what the answer should be.

Working with provincial governments to improve financial literacy, including in areas of provincial jurisdiction, through some sort of national committee might be a good idea, but there is no statement by the government in the bill as to whether that is involved or not. Its absence suggests it is not involved.

If the member is asking whether, in principle, a co-operative body involving different levels of government to address financial literacy in different areas involving both levels of government jurisdiction is a good idea, yes. However, if that is the case, why was it not in the bill?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on this subject. I especially want to take the time to thank the member for Edmonton—Leduc, the chair of the finance committee, who was very instrumental in the initiation of this bill.

I understand why the member from the Liberal Party does not want this bill to go forward, a seriously co-operative bill resulting from working with the provinces and territories. The Liberal Party's idea of co-operation was to take $25 billion from the provinces back in the 1990s for social care, education and infrastructure.

As we know, when the Conservatives came to power, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities actually identified that there was a $123 billion deficit. The Liberals are the third party and they clearly indicated that the $123 billion deficit on infrastructure in the country was as a result of past practices of federal and provincial governments. For the most part, we all know why provincial governments could not invest in infrastructure. It was because $25 billion were taken by the previous federal Liberal government, of which the member was an active participant.

Before I continue, I would like to move the following motion. I move:

That this question be now put.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, having read the bill, I am curious as to how big the envelope was that the Conservative Party wrote this on. It seems to be very hastily and shabbily put together legislation that does not do justice to the report of the financial literacy task force, which made 30 recommendations, not 1, a report that had a great deal of depth and detail to provide a framework for financial literacy in Canada. We believe that framework for financial literacy is not met by this bill. The bill therefore is woefully lacking in detail, its objective, the mandate of the individual and in any of the other 29 recommendations made by the task force.

Where are the remaining 29 recommendations?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see this particular New Democratic member not criticize the issue as it relates to financial literacy, as the Liberal Party did previously. We all clearly know now that the global economic recession is causing significant problems in the world economy as a whole. That is a result of personal finances primarily and the inability of people to keep track of their personal finances and to be able to manage those properly. That is why this bill is so important.

However, before we start with the entire 30 recommendations, I would say it is just like picking a coach for a hockey team. Before one picks the entire team, one first picks the coach so that the coach can be part of the rest of the team. In this particular case, I would say that is exactly the issue, and I hope that answers the member's question.

If people do not know that, though, I would point out that this particular bill deals with the importance of having tools and knowledge so that Canadians will be able to make responsible financial decisions for their future. Clearly, our belief as a government is that Canada's future is based on Canadians as a whole and their success depends on their own good management decisions, and we are going to help them with those decisions.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am a little surprised by the motion that the question be now put. Just as we were starting to really get into the meat of the bill and to find out what was wrong with it, the government found another way of invoking closure, shutting down debate so that questions could not be asked on this bill.

I would suggest that this bill is really a shell with no meat in it, other than to perhaps appoint someone else in a patronage appointment and leave the impression that the government is doing something about financial literacy when it is not.

Financial literacy is important; we know that and we agree with it. The problem and the question that we need answers for, which the member is now trying to shut off debate about, is that the bill really does nothing to add to the tool chest of recommendations that a former member talked about and to actually exercise financial literacy and get that job done.

Could the member answer two questions? Why is he in a roundabout way trying to invoke another method of closure and shut down debate? Could he also tell me what else is in this bill from his perspective, because I do not see it, other than making another appointment and spending money without providing the tools to do the job?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always find it amusing when the member for Malpeque stands on his feet because, of course, I am from western Canada and that particular member wants to make it legal to sell marijuana but wants to keep it illegal to sell wheat. I have always found that to be interesting from that member's perspective.

I am not going to take any lessons from that particular member who was part of a government that cut $25 billion in social transfers to the provinces and, certainly, I am not going to take his expertise—

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

What about the $40 billion health transfer? Do you remember that?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad he brought up the amount of $40 million, as I think I heard, because that is still what is missing as a result of the sponsorship scandal of a government he was a member of at the time. I am not going to take lessons from him.

However, we have a government with a Minister of Finance who is the number one finance minister in the world. We have a country that is the best off of any country in the world, and that is under the leadership of this Prime Minister, this Minister of Finance and this cabinet. We do not need to take lessons from someone who left us far behind and left the provinces far behind. We are going to move forward with a government and a cabinet that shows leadership in the world and clearly has a strong economy for Canadians.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, we can say a number of things about this bill, things that the hon. member is unfortunately incapable of saying. There is a reason that he insists on cutting off debates.

The bill talks about financial literacy, but the reality is that it contains no definition. The government does not even care about finding out what it is. There is no accountability mechanism for the financial literacy leader, and there are no initiatives to increase financial literacy itself.

I really wonder where we are going with this. Frankly, we are going to provide Canadians with a fake institution, with a puppet that will not even be able to help them. What is that? It is a waste of public money and an abuse of the trust of all Canadians.

I would like to ask the hon. member to reassure me on another matter. With the government in such a rush, does it at least have a financial literacy marketing plan for its puppet in order to improve the government's image? I even worry about that.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but snicker when the member talked about this government wasting money, because nothing could be further from the truth. An NDP member suggesting that a Conservative government would waste money is bizarre indeed.

We know that many of these initiatives are currently under way in Canada and have been for some time. In fact, some things are taking place in high schools across this country with web-based systems.

Clearly, the task force that launched public consultations with Canadians in February 2010, with its over 17 sessions in 15 communities across this country, did receive input from Canadians.

We are not starting off from ground zero. We clearly know what caused the global economic recession. We clearly understand that we have to help Canadians educate themselves on how to move forward with their own personal finances and how to be more successful, so that we can continue to have that leadership position in the world not only as a government that is keeping a strong country and keeping Canadians safe, but also as a country that continues to enjoy an excellent quality of life, second to no one else in the world. Canadians can do that by being educated with our help.