House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, I am quite aware that this position is incorporated, in part, in another agency. I was not suggesting that the government was creating another agency. I said that it was creating another level of bureaucracy, without any definition of what that bureaucrat would do or how the individual would accomplish tasks. He or she would have a salary, an office and staff. The person may require French-language training if the individual does not have the required bilingualism.

It is not creating another agency, I agree, but it is creating a position with very little to do.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I heard the presentation yesterday by the Conservative member for Saint Boniface, who mentioned a number of different things that would be accomplished within the financial literacy leader's role. I understand the nature of what is going ahead and yet, when I read the bill, I see nothing that indicates any surety that these things are going to become part of the financial information and direction that the government provides to corporations that lend money to Canadians or engage in financial transactions with Canadians.

How can we agree to this position when the government seems intransigent on the needs of consumers? How can we expect anything good to come out of the bill?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, we want good things to come from the government, but the bill does not do it. The bill does not deal with the fact that credit card interest rates are one of the biggest scourges in this land. There are credit card interest rates of 30% and 40%, yet the prime rate is around 1.5% or 2%. The rest of it is pure profit. There are systems in our country that actually pick on the poor and vulnerable. Nothing in the bill would deal with those issues.

The bill, apparently, would simply create an office. Without any of the other things in the recommendations, it will not accomplish what we want it to accomplish.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act, which would create the position of financial literacy leader to strengthen Canadians' financial literacy. This initiative was inspired by a report from the task force created by the Conservative government and chaired by bankers, including Donald Stewart of Sun Life Financial and Jacques Ménard of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

I went through the literacy report that was released in February 2011. To my great surprise, it contained not a word about credit card companies' quasi-usurious interest rates, not a word about financial institutions' lack of transparency concerning their fees, not a word about the questionable practices of banks that demand exorbitant fees when people try to pay off their mortgages early. Do not expect to find a mea culpa in this report from bankers who have sold highly speculative toxic financial products for years and continue to do so. Honestly, I was very disappointed.

The Conservatives keep telling us that consumers get themselves into debt because they do not know how to read a credit contract. But the government is ignoring the fact that annual interest rates on credit cards are often around 20%.

I would like to quote from the evidence given by a few individuals who expressed concern about this bill. First of all, Ken Georgetti of the Canadian Labour Congress said, “Canadians need better government policy rather than lectures on how to save money.... This report heaps blame on 'uninformed' individuals, and completely ignores the predatory behaviour of financial institutions.”

Jim Stanford of the CAW said,“Many financial literacy programs devolve into admonishments for individuals to save more. This is misplaced....”

Lauren Willis, a professor at Loyola Law School in the United States, also denounced the government's approach. She said, “When consumers find themselves in dire financial straits, the regulation through education model blames them for their plight, shaming them and deflecting calls for effective market regulation.”

The ministers of this government like to rise here in the House of Commons and tell us that it is up to Canadians to save and plan for their futures. Those same ministers then turn around and slash social programs like the ones designed to ensure a decent retirement for our seniors.

For instance, instead of strengthening the public pension system, they created a pooled registered pension plan, which will only encourage investors further to choose risky private funds and stock markets.

We also know that the Prime Minister told the bankers in Davos that he was going to make cuts to the old age security program and that one way he was going to do so was by increasing the eligibility age from 65 to 67.

Last week, I held a public consultation in the town of Boisbriand in my riding. I can tell you that people are very worried about the fact that the government refuses to take responsibility where the financial security of our seniors is concerned.

It is not up to the public to pay for the Conservatives' F-35s. It is not up to the public to pay for the tax credits that are given to corporations.

With the creation of pooled registered pension plans, the dismantling of old age security and the reinforcement of tools for small investor autonomy, the Conservatives' message is very clear: the government, as they see it, does not need to look after the financial security of seniors and retirees. That approach makes no sense.

For Barrie McKenna of the Globe and Mail, “Looking to financial literacy to fill the void is like asking ordinary Canadians to be their own brain surgeons and airline pilots. The dizzying array of financial products, mixed with chaotic and increasingly irrational financial markets, makes the job of do-it-yourself financial planning almost impossible—no matter how literate you are”.

The other problem is that households with a high debt load often do not have the means to use these individual retirement planning mechanisms. Some 30% of Canadian families do not have any retirement savings outside the Canada pension plan.

As Jim Stanford of the CAW clearly observed, personal savings will never be a significant source of financial security for most Canadians since they are unable to save as a result of their low incomes.

It is all well and good to encourage personal saving, but it is this government that caused Canadians to lose well-paid jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector, and replaced them with unstable jobs. It is under this government that Canadians' quality of life has declined. Single mothers who struggle to put something away for retirement are not to blame. Students in debt who cannot count on secure employment when they graduate are not to blame. And the seniors whom the government is asking to work two more years even though it knows that many of them not capable of doing so are certainly not to blame.

The New Democrats have a better plan for financial security at retirement. We are proposing that the government strengthen the guaranteed pension plans in Canada and Quebec and gradually double benefits in an affordable manner, thereby giving Canadians an acceptable level of guaranteed income during retirement. These are the general circumstances surrounding Bill C-28.

In the time I have remaining, I would like to address two other issues: the bill adds a useless bureaucratic institution and it does not require the candidate to be bilingual.

Given that Canada's current consumer protection regime is extremely fragile, I fail to see how adding a new layer of bureaucracy will help consumers. Without any real political direction, guidance on how to increase financial literacy or accountability mechanism, there is no reason to believe that the financial literacy leader will have the tools needed to carry out his mission. As the hon. member mentioned, this bill does not even include a definition of financial literacy.

At a time when the Conservatives are preparing to cut government programs by 10%, it does not make any sense to create another bureaucratic structure responsible for protecting consumers. If the government really wants to invest in protecting consumers, why does it not simply support the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, Option consommateurs or the Réseau de protection du consommateur du Québec?

I am thinking of an organization in my riding, the Lower Laurentians ACEF, which does an excellent job of teaching budgeting on a low income. This organization really helps the people in my riding. As an aside, I cannot help but criticize the fact that the bill does not explicitly state that the financial literacy leader must be bilingual. The past actions of this government betray its insensitivity towards French. Members will recall that this government did not hesitate to appoint judges and an auditor general who do not know French.

In the circumstances, it is understandable that the official opposition will try to amend the bill to ensure that bilingualism is one of the job requirements. Yes, financial literacy is very important, but this is not the type of debate that we should be having right now in the House of Commons. Furthermore, creating the position of financial literacy leader is a false solution. This new bureaucratic creature does nothing to allay the growing financial concerns of small investors.

We believe that the best way to support consumers is to create a department or agency that would be a one-stop shop for all consumer protection issues. This organization would cut down on bureaucracy because it would consist of structures that already exist, but are scattered throughout government.

I will now take questions from my hon. colleagues.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her brilliant speech.

I realize that the Conservatives' bill is intended to help well-connected insiders rather than average people. With that in mind, I would like my colleague to explain why the NDP believes it is so important to help Canadian families deal with the current economic situation and to leave nobody behind, including young people, adults and seniors.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The NDP is worried about the fact that Canadians do not save enough money. That being said, our primary concern should be the disparity between the rising cost of living and wages. The Conservative government has presided over job losses in the manufacturing sector. Well-paid jobs that enabled people to support their families have been replaced by unstable, poorly paid jobs. We think that is the debate we should be having in the House.

Financial literacy is certainly important, but the real challenge Canadians are facing is the fact that the cost of living is going up, but wages are not keeping pace.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, with respect to financial literacy, most Canadians think about interest rates, consumer debt, banking fees, things of that nature. It will take a group effort by stakeholders, including consumer advocacy groups and different levels of government, the federal government in particular. We recognize the federal government has a leadership role in ensuring overall improved consumer financial literacy.

Would the member agree that the federal government's role is one of leadership on this file?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree that the government needs to take action, but leadership is not something we find in this legislation. As my colleague mentioned before, we do not find a definition of financial literacy. We do not find a clear mandate for this new bureaucracy.

The government keeps saying that it needs to cut bureaucracy and lay off people. Why is it trying to create new levels of bureaucracy that do not have a clear mandate or a clear idea of where they are going? Yes, this is a problem we need to deal with, but the legislation simply does not do that.

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate my hon. colleague on her speech on such an important topic.

In my speech yesterday on the same topic, I spoke at length about the government's reprehensible abandonment, which Bill C-28 will definitely not resolve. What really troubles me is that, because of this abandonment, and because of the complexity of the financial products coming on the market more and more, many people have become victims of their own lack of knowledge and inability to face the music.

Is the government not trying to heap blame on the very people who are likely to lose out here, who will become victims of abuse of these products?

Financial Literacy Leader Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, those less fortunate cannot afford to set any money aside for their retirement. We also know that single mothers, for instance, who are simply trying to feed their children, should not be expected to save. Of course, it is much easier for the wealthiest members of society to put aside some money for their retirement. We really need to take care of those less fortunate, those who are most vulnerable, and this bill does nothing to help that demographic.

Mennonite Central Committee Stores
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I congratulate the Mennonite Central Committee thrift stores. This year they are celebrating their 40th anniversary.

In 1972, the first shop opened in Altona, located in my riding of Portage—Lisgar. Since then MCC thrift stores have become a household name in many communities, where residents can donate and shop for new or used items.

Over the past 40 years, MCC has opened stores in Manitoba, as well as 40 more in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. These stores are run by dedicated volunteers who sort, price and sell the items while being a friendly face in their community.

Proceeds from these thrift stores are used locally and globally, and have gone to support relief projects that include disaster relief and sustainable community development. Last year the 16 stores in Manitoba raised just over $2.5 million in donations.

We congratulate the MCC thrift stores on their milestone. I wish them many more years of success.

Louise Penny
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to announce today in this House that Louise Penny's crime novel series is being adapted for the small screen by CBC Television. A drama series featuring Inspector Armand Gamache is coming soon to television. Ms. Penny's first two novels are being adapted.

Louise Penny lives in Sutton in my riding. Her novels have been translated into 23 languages. Her varied cast of characters deal with crimes set against the enchanting backdrop of the Eastern Townships in the imaginary village of Three Pines. Georges-Hébert Germain wrote in L'actualité about the author and her works that she is “a woman who kills. From her village in the Eastern Townships, Louise Penny exposes Quebec society in her detective novels that are becoming best sellers”.

Congratulations to Ms. Penny, a woman of talent. I look forward to watching the series premiere on television.

Religious Freedom
Statements By Members

March 2nd, 2012 / 11 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, today is the World Day of Prayer and the first anniversary of the death of Pakistan's federal Minister of Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti.

Mr. Bhatti, a Christian, was assassinated for being one of the country's few influential politicians prepared to speak out against Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. His visit to our human rights subcommittee shortly before his death left an indelible mark on many of us in this House, strengthening our resolve to fight for human rights and religious liberty around the world.

I call on members of Parliament and Canadians to promote religious freedom through the rule of law. The theme of this year's World Day of Prayer, “Let Justice Prevail”, reminds us of the sacrificial work of the martyred defenders of minority rights such as Minister Bhatti.

To honour and respect his memory, on April 2 my office will once again be hosting in Ottawa a parliamentary forum on religious freedom. We will be discussing the issues of religious freedom and governance. Everyone is invited to join with us.

Bernard Grandmaître Awards Gala
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the mood was festive at the Bernard Grandmaître awards gala held by ACFO Ottawa on February 23. This annual event recognizes francophones and francophiles who have distinguished themselves by their achievements, their dedication and their commitment to our community.

I want to pay tribute to Chanel Fournier, who won the young person of the year award; Kathleen Stokely, who was named francophile of the year; Najat Ghannou, who won educator of the year; and Gilles Laporte who was named citizen of the year. Congratulations also to the organization of the year, UMOJA Hope.

The Bernard Grandmaître award was presented to the hon. Jean-Jacques Blais, a former Liberal member of Parliament from 1972 to 1984 and a member of the Trudeau cabinet. He has been putting his heart and soul into the community for several decades, particularly during his time as chair of the board of trustees for the Montfort Hospital and chairman of the Heart Institute's board of directors.

Congratulations to Jean-Jacques and all of the finalists and award recipients. Congratulations also to the organizers of this wonderful evening, particularly Claudette Boyer.

International Year of Co-operatives
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the House that 2012 has been proclaimed the International Year of Co-operatives by the UN General Assembly, with the support of the Government of Canada.

The theme of this international year is “Co-operative enterprises build a better world”. For more than 100 years, co-operative enterprises have also been building a better Canada.

Across Canada there are more than 9,000 co-operatives, including credit unions, agricultural co-operatives, consumer co-operatives and housing co-operatives. Collectively, they have more than 18 million members, more than 155,000 employees and control more than $370 billion in assets. They make a significant contribution to the Canadian economy, creating jobs and keeping wealth in local communities.

The government is working with the Canadian co-operative sector to support the international year and foster the development and growth of co-operatives for the benefit of all Canadians.

I would like to wish all co-operatives, their members and employees a successful international year.