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

March 1st, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, this is a wonderful opportunity to kick off debate at second reading for Bill C-28, the financial literacy leader act.

Before continuing, I would like to acknowledge and applaud the work of the chair of the finance committee and the member for Edmonton—Leduc for championing financial literacy in Parliament through his Motion No. 269. Today's legislation is a clear indication that his motion has helped to draw attention to the issue and has highlighted the need for swift action.

This is relatively short and straightforward legislation designed to establish the position of a financial literacy leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Nevertheless, today's bill is very important because it gives Canadian families what they need: the right tools to make the best financial decisions.

We live in a world with a growing number of increasingly complex financial products and services, all with different rewards and risks, which may not be the easiest to understand: insurance, mortgages, investments, online banking, savings accounts, loans, lines of credit, retirement savings accounts, cellphone contracts, debit and credit cards, and the list just goes on and on. What is more, the list of products and services available to Canadians gets longer every year, making it even more difficult for busy moms and dads to stay on top of the risks, fees and potential returns.

In such a rapidly changing environment, financial literacy is vital to help Canadians make informed and responsible financial choices. Improved financial literacy can translate into higher savings levels and decreased indebtedness. It gives consumers the tools and knowledge they need to pick the products and services that are right for them.

As the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has said:

Financial literacy is an important life skill. Canadians make financial decisions throughout their lives, many of which involve significant risks and rewards. Improving financial literacy helps consumers act knowledgeably and with confidence in managing their personal financial affairs. Informed consumer decision-making, in turn, contributes to the maintenance of a well-functioning and stable financial system and a stronger economy.

The Canadian Association of Credit Counselling Services has said:

By embracing financial literacy, individuals and families can discover a new sense of personal control and mastery over their financial matters.

Our government is in complete agreement. That is why we have taken major steps since 2006 to improve financial literacy in Canada. The first of these steps was the creation of the task force on financial literacy under Canada’s economic action plan, as set out in the 2009 budget.

The task force, composed of leaders from consumer groups, the financial sector, the media and academia, got down to work. However it was not content to hold closed-door meetings in Ottawa. It went out to meet directly with Canadians, and more importantly still, to listen to them.

It launched a public consultation tour from one end of the country to the other, going to every province and territory to hear from Canadians themselves what they think about this important issue.

In the course of these wide-ranging consultations, public sessions were held in over a dozen Canadian cities, ranging from the big urban centres such as Toronto, Calgary and Montreal to more remote places like Iqaluit and Yellowknife.

The task force thus had the opportunity to meet in person with close to 200 individuals and organizations. It also received briefs, through its website, and even held an online forum for those who were unable to attend the public sessions.

I am happy to note that the consultation process was very positively received by Canadians, leading to tremendous feedback. By the end of the consultation period, the task force had received more than 300 submissions. In addition to what it heard from Canadians, the task force also drew on its review of Canadian and international best practices and conducted additional research on financial literacy.

Combining the feedback received from its consultations with its additional research, the task force then produced a final report. The report is entitled “Canadians and Their Money: Building a brighter financial future”. It was publicly released in February 2011 and outlined 30 key recommendations to improve the financial literacy of Canadians. I encourage all Canadians watching at home to take a moment to visit the website at www.financialliteracyincanada.com.

On the website, Canadians can learn about the work of the task force, review its detailed research and read the final report. The report highlights the importance of improving financial literacy in Canada and the urgency to get it done. The task force states:

Financial literacy is critical to the prosperity and well-being of Canadians. It is more than a nice-to-have skill. It is a necessity in today’s world--and, moving forward, should be treated as such by policy-makers, educators, employers and other stakeholders across the country. The time for action is now.

As I mentioned, the report outlined 30 recommendations to support its call to action. The task force's number one recommendation was as follows:

The Task Force recommends that the Government of Canada appoint an individual, directly accountable to the Minister of Finance, to serve as dedicated national leader. This Financial Literacy Leader should have the mandate to work collaboratively with stakeholders to oversee the National Strategy, implement the recommendations and champion financial literacy on behalf of all Canadians.

The task force's rationale for this recommendation was that while excellent work was being done across Canada to improve financial literacy, it was clear long-term improvements would:

—require a focused, centrally recognized champion. Clear leadership and coordination are needed at the national level. Sustained, steady progress over the long term is unlikely to be achieved without dedicated stewardship.

As such, the task force concluded that the government should create a position to lead and champion financial literacy and to successfully implement its own recommendations going forward.

The financial literacy leader act would do exactly that by proposing to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act to allow for the appointment of a financial literacy leader.

Furthermore, the amendments proposed in the bill under consideration will allow the agency to work together with various stakeholders to support and contribute to financial literacy projects.

The bill also establishes the duties, powers and functions of the financial literacy leader. It will among other things enable the leader to conduct activities in support of this objective and it sets out the conditions of employment.

The appointment of someone to this important position, and the implementation of the other recommendations made by the task force, will lead to enormous progress towards improving financial literacy here in Canada.

This act, together with the many other steps taken by our government, will contribute to the financial security of all Canadians.

This includes the $5 million we invest annually in the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, sometimes known as the FCAC. By making this investment, we support FCAC in its efforts to help Canadians increase their knowledge and confidence in managing their personal finances. In carrying out this role, the agency also ensures that federally-regulated financial institutions, like banks, provide required information to their consumers in a transparent and timely manner and comply with all other consumer laws and regulations.

There are so many ways in which the Financial Consumer Agency is already hard at work helping Canadians, making it the perfect home for the financial literacy leader. For instance, the agency provides consumers with useful information about which credit cards may or may not be right for them, including comparison charts outlining the rates and features of the many credit cards offered in Canada.

It is an important service as there are more than 200 credit cards available on the market for Canadians to choose from. While having so many choices can benefit consumers through greater competition, decisions about which card is best can be challenging if the information is unclear. That is why it is vital that consumers have access to initiatives like those already provided by the agency, which can help them increase their understanding of different interest rates and potential fees.

To even better help Canadian consumers understand the forms they are signing, the FCAC has also created a new consumer-friendly model credit card application form that many major credit card providers have adopted.

The agency has also developed innovative methods of helping Canadians, such as a tool for rapidly calculating mortgage payments and potential savings that can result from accelerated payment plans. It also provides targeted online information to help consumers choose those bank products that best suit their needs.

Young people also benefit from FCAC financial literacy programs. The City, an educational program, is a very good example of this. It is an interactive Web tool designed to help young Canadians between 15 and 18 years of age to acquire financial skills. I highly recommend to all Canadians that they visit the FCAC site at www.fcac-acfc.gc.ca to familiarize themselves with the tools available to make their lives easier.

FCAC will also be the perfect home for the financial literacy leader as the leader can quickly build on the important work the agency has already started. For instance, a number of community-based and non-profit organizations collaborated with the FCAC to make November financial literacy month. In fact, 75 organizations in all presented at 200 events and outreach initiatives across the country. This type of grassroots level collaboration will go a long way toward improving financial literacy in Canada, especially with the added support of the financial literacy leader.

I would, however, note that our Conservative government understands that even with the appointment of a financial literacy leader, sometimes even more will be required. While we do not believe, like the NDP, that the government should dictate and excessively regulate every aspect of a private business, we do believe in the importance of transparency, proper monitoring, consumer choice and competition. Indeed, when necessary, we have shown that we are ready to act to defend the rights of consumers.

That is why only recently our Conservative government acted to protect Canadians who used credit cards. After all, the last thing Canadians need is a surprise on their credit card statement at the end of the month.

The measures we introduced mandated that clear and simple information be displayed on credit card application forms and contracts and required companies to provide advance notice of changes in rates and fees. We also limited credit business practices that did not benefit consumers.

We introduced changes that required credit card issuers to provide consumers with a minimum 21-day interest-free grace period on all new purchases when consumers paid their balance in full by the due date. We also required a minimum 21-day grace period on all new purchases in a billing period, even if consumers had an outstanding balance they carried forward.

We moved important information, such as interest rates, grace periods and fees, off of the fine print buried in credit applications and contracts and into a prominent summary box so consumers would know exactly what kind of financial arrangement they were agreeing to when they signed an application. This measure also provides a clear picture of their debt load as they pay it off.

These initiatives are in effect today and are providing Canadian consumers with precisely the kind of improved financial information that leads to better decision making. Indeed, the president of the Consumers' Association of Canada welcomed these moves, declaring, “All of the things that the Finance Minister has done are actually just what we asked for...overall I've got to congratulate him”.

We have also introduced many other measures to better protect consumers. For example, we have prohibited negative optioning for financial products. We have also made mortgage insurance more transparent and reduced the hold period for funds deposited by cheque.

Before concluding, I would like to emphasize the importance of financial literacy and the need to pass the bill currently under review. Improving their knowledge of financial matters will help Canadians who want to save for retirement, buy a house or simply balance the family cheque book, and will also make our financial system more competitive and stable and our economy stronger.

That is why the government has set a priority on improving the financial skills of Canadians and why it plans to appoint a financial literacy leader.

In view of the growing number of financial services, it is essential to ensure that Canadians have effective tools and sound knowledge so that they can feel confident in their financial decisions.

In the words of Peter Nares, the executive director of Social and Enterprise Development Innovations:

[This] is the first step in a process that could help Canadians make better financial decisions. It could also help Canadians better weather the economic storms that will inevitably blow through the global economy from time to time.

That is why I urge the House to vote in support of the financial literacy leader act. I implore members of the opposition to take under consideration the fact that many consumers groups and consumers have been asking for these protections and that it is only fit for them to vote in favour of moving forward on this very important recommendation made by the task force. We intend to see this through.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, we are here discussing an issue that I believe is important to both the hon. member and me, as well as both of our parties. However, I liken this bill to cotton candy. It is very sweet, it smells good, it looks good, but there is absolutely no substance to it.

The hon. member talked about the recommendations and how the government is bringing forward the bill based on the recommendations. The original recommendation coming from the task force was that the financial literacy leader needed to have an advisory council that would include labour, voluntary groups, educators, as well as business stakeholders. That is not in this bill. Here is an important aspect of what the task force talked about and once again the government is ignoring it and just following through on what its ideology is.

I would like to hear the hon. member's comments on that.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, both the NDP and the Conservatives talk a lot about consumer debt and how we might protect consumers. It is only this side of the House, though, that actually votes in favour of measures that will protect consumers.

I would remind the member that this act will in fact put in place a financial literacy leader who will be tasked as the champion for making sure that the other recommendations in this report are seen and moved forward.

We cannot put the cart before the horse, which is what the NDP member is asking. Therefore, I would expect that he and his party do the right thing and vote in favour of this legislation so we can in fact get that cart and buggy moving forward to protect consumers. They have to stop putting forward obstacles that make absolutely no sense.

Therefore, I would recommend that the member speak to his party and vote in favour of our measures.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, most of us in the House and elsewhere recognize that financial literacy is important at this time, especially as we try to deal more seriously with the issues of pensions and so on. However, given the times that we are in, with the layoffs and job losses of many public servants here in Ottawa and throughout the country, I am questioning the timing. How do we deal with the issue of the laying off so many public servants throughout the country and establishing other departments?

Second, I see that the Parliamentary Budget Officer is starved for resources, as are Elections Canada and many other parts of the federal government family. How is the government going to rectify that?

Is the new office going to have enough resources and what costs are we are looking at? Will the government just create that office then not give it the resources it needs to do a very important job?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, it did not sound like the question had anything at all to do with the subject, that is, the financial literacy leader being put in place to act on the 30 recommendations of the task force, but I will answer the member's question.

The answer to the jobs problem is not what the Liberals have proposed. It is definitely not increasing corporate taxes. It is definitely not increasing CPP. It is definitely not supporting a 45-day work year as proposed by the member's party, the Liberal Party. Much of that is actually supported by the NDP.

We have a low tax agenda to create jobs and to give people hope and opportunity to make sure that they can thrive in Canada. We will not destroy that hope and opportunity by further taxing Canadians and destroying the job creators out there. We will not kill jobs as proposed by the Liberals and NDP. We are going to continue on our fiscal track for prosperity. We are going to continue on a track of economic growth. We are going to protect all Canadians with the budget that will be announced very shortly.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, after the work the task force has done, I think we all know how terribly important a financial literacy leader is to all Canadians. People in my riding of Simcoe—Grey, particularly older ones, want to make sure that things are crystal clear to them from the information they are receiving. As the member mentioned, we need to make sure that we have the horse before the cart: we need to make sure that we have the leadership in place first before we move forward.

I wonder if the member could please expand upon what the financial literacy leader will mean for Canadians.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I know how hard my colleague works to help us move forward our agenda with regard not only to jobs and economic growth but also to protecting Canadians' social services and programs. I do want to take a moment to thank her for her dedication.

The bill before us today would allow the financial literacy leader to move forward on those recommendations to make sure that we are protecting consumers and that financial institutions understand how very important it is to make sure things are clear, to make sure that consumers understand what they are buying into, when dealing with either credit cards or contracts or mortgages.

The bill would allow the financial literacy leader to start taking those steps forward. We have spoken with so many different stakeholders but we have not heard any complaints about moving this forward. The task force did a fantastic job. We should take this priority recommendation of theirs and make it happen. We need the support of the opposition to do that in a timely manner. I suggest those members vote in favour of the bill.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the speech given by the hon. member for Saint Boniface.

The OECD report “Financial Literacy and Consumer Protection” says that financial literacy has to be a complement to, rather than a substitute for, a framework for the regulation and prudential supervision of capital markets.

What does the hon. member think about the OECD statement?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

As I said earlier, we are talking about a financial literacy leader who will take into consideration all the information available. As I said, we need the NDP to vote in support of this act, so that the financial literacy leader can implement the measures that the hon. member is referring to.

Once again, I suggest that he vote with us to move the bill forward.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

There are two minutes remaining in questions and comments for the hon. parliamentary secretary. However, the time for government orders has expired.

Closing of RockTenn
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with bitterness that we learned yesterday of the closing of the RockTenn factory in Matane, a profitable plant at the cutting edge of technology. This closure will result in the loss of approximately 100 jobs in my region, which has already been hit hard by the forestry crisis.

The Gaspé stands behind its workers, who are the victims of RockTenn's greed. This latest closure also reminds us, unfortunately, of the Conservatives' complete and utter incompetence when it comes to the forestry industry. It is high time that this government started working for the people and helping this vital sector for many regions of Quebec.

The Minister of Industry must also guarantee that no public money or federal grant is used to facilitate the relocation of RockTenn's equipment to the United States. Finally, the government must ensure that workers affected by the closure will have access, as soon as possible, to concrete support measures.

Order of Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Order of Canada is the most prestigious honour our country can bestow. From artists to academics, scholars to humanitarians, the order celebrates the best about Canada.

Along with other Canadians, I was proud to see Christopher Plummer, when receiving his Oscar at the Academy Awards last week, proudly display his Order of Canada pin on his tuxedo lapel. Today, I wish to honour one of Canada's finest citizens and London's most recent recipient, Hanny Hassan. He is a testament to what makes my city and our country great.

Hanny's parents emigrated to Canada from Lebanon almost a century ago. They instilled in their 11 children a belief that they could go wherever their dreams inspired them. Hanny has spent his life bridging cultures and religions through his tremendous capacity for collaboration and co-operation. An engineer by training, he has been active in everything from organizations that help immigrants to the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee and its important efforts to facilitate dialogue between Muslims and Christians. He is a humanitarian of the highest order.

I share with the House my thanks for Hanny Hassan making our country a better place for all Canadians.

Tropicana Campground in Granby
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Réjean Genest Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it will be a sad summer for 50 families in Granby. These families have received an eviction notice and must vacate their homes by September 1, and not because their taxes have gone unpaid, nor because they are unable to meet their mortgage payments. There has been no natural disaster, such as an ice storm or a flood. It is simply because the Tropicana campground, where these people live in their mobile homes, will only be open six or seven months of the year.

Fifty homes is tantamount to a whole neighbourhood, a northern village or an aboriginal reserve. In many cases, a lifetime’s savings is vanishing, like leaves falling off trees in the fall.

The residents of these mobile homes are workers for whom this kind of accommodation is the only way of obtaining property and housing without going bankrupt. Low-income earners will be directly affected by this measure. Let us sincerely hope that the mayor and the Granby municipal council will reverse this decision.

41st General Election
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, recent allegations about electoral misconduct in the federal riding of Guelph during last May's election have generated a lot of concern from Canadians. As a Conservative member of Parliament for Wellington county, whose county seat is in Guelph, I condemn in the strongest terms this reprehensible activity. The individual or individuals responsible for such activity should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That is why I call upon Elections Canada and the RCMP to expeditiously conduct and conclude their investigation, so that those responsible can be held accountable.

As member of Parliament for Wellington—Halton Hills, our local campaign has always upheld the highest standards of ethics and accountability. The kind of subversion alleged in Guelph has no place in a first-world democracy like Canada.