House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.

Topics

Member for Hull—Aylmer
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to salute the member for Hull—Aylmer for her work as her party's interim leader.

It is not easy to follow in the footsteps of Jack Layton, a politician who was well liked in Quebec and Canada. Inspired by Jack's principles, his vision and his determination, and drawing on her own experience as a union leader, she took on the challenge of keeping the troops united, helping new members figure out our parliamentary system, dealing with the press every day and coordinating her party's priorities. In a word, she took on the challenge of preparing the way for the new leader.

Congratulations are due to the member for Hull—Aylmer for her dedication, generosity, diplomacy, and desire to serve her party well.

In closing, I would also like to congratulate the new NDP leader, the member for Outremont.

Member for Hull—Aylmer
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is also my pleasure to rise in the House of Commons to say a few words in homage to my colleague from Hull—Aylmer.

I had the pleasure of working with the member before either of us entered federal politics. I know of her struggles for pay equity and the great work she did through PSAC and other national unions.

I recognize that I am now losing the only other woman leader of a federal political party. I do not want to make the member for Toronto Centre nervous, but I certainly hope it will not be long before there is another woman leader of a federal political party in this place.

All of us know the member for Hull—Aylmer took the reins as interim leader in times that could not be more difficult, more emotionally draining, more challenging. I do not know that anyone could have done it better. I give her my congratulations.

I extend thanks from all of us for maintaining the discourse in a way that was both respectful and inspiring. I am glad she is not leaving this place. It can almost sound like we are saying goodbye, but we are not. However, those of us in this chamber who value integrity, passion and commitment are grateful that she served as she did as interim leader.

Member for Hull—Aylmer
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the parties and my leader for their kind words. I am very proud of what we have accomplished. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to serve. Even though Jack is no longer with us, I would like to thank him. I would like to thank him for the honour of serving our party. It was a wonderful, emotional, stressful experience, just as my colleagues described it.

It is a great pleasure and honour to serve our country, to serve Canadians. It has been a constant pleasure to meet people from across the country who expect so much from us and our political parties, who want us to support their causes. That is the purpose of our work. I sincerely thank everyone.

I thank everybody for everything, for all their support, especially my caucus which has been behind me all the time.

Member for Hull—Aylmer
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Member for Hull—Aylmer
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to the order made earlier today I wish to inform the House that because of the statements made earlier today, government orders will be extended by 15 minutes.

The House resumed consideration of Bill S-5, An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters, as reported without amendment from the committee, and of Motion No. 1.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. parliamentary secretary has seven minutes left to conclude her speech.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

London North Centre
Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to finish this important speech.

This government has also made improvements to Canada's financial system by introducing effective consumer protection provisions for the consumers of financial products.

Unlike the NDP, this government understands the needs of Canadian consumers and has a proven track record of standing up for them. That is why since 2006 this government has protected consumers with new credit card rules that require consent for credit limit increases; a minimum 21-day grace period on new purchases; full disclosure for consumers and limits on other anti-consumer business practices. It has also introduced a code of conduct for the credit card and debit card industry to help small businesses deal with unfair practices, and has banned negative option billing for financial products.

More recently, as part of budget 2010, the government took action by introducing new measures to empower consumers of financial products. These included implementing a new code of conduct on mortgage prepayment information; beginning to implement the recommendations of the task force on financial literacy, starting with the creation of a financial literacy leader in the government; and banning the distribution of unsolicited credit card cheques. That last initiative has been warmly welcomed by consumer groups.

Indeed, at the finance committee, a consumer group stated:

[The government]...touched on the credit card cheques, and the reduced period of access to your money. That's a very good step forward for Canadian consumers, of course. The amount of money that Canadian consumers can access is also a good step forward.

As a result of these actions, Canadians can be confident that they will be provided with clear and relevant information when faced with important financial decisions that impact not only themselves but also their families.

Bill S-5 builds on the government's proven record of improving consumer protection by making important changes to federal financial institution statutes. In particular, this bill increases the maximum administrative penalty that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada can levy, from $200,000 to half a million dollars; and it confirms that Canadians, including bank customers, are able to cash government cheques of amounts of less than $1,500 free of charge at any bank in Canada.

Again, this is only a continuation of this government's long and proven record in standing up for Canadian consumers.

We all recognize there is always work to be done to ensure the continuing stability of the Canadian financial system and that ongoing vigilance is vital. Indeed, that is why we are pushing for the timely passage of the financial system review act. The renewal of Canadian financial institution legislation on a regular basis has resulted in a robust and effective financial system that is aligned and more responsive to developments in the financial markets and the broader economy.

Moreover, passage of this legislation would maintain the long-standing practice of ensuring regular reviews of the regulatory framework for the financial institutions, a unique practice that sets Canada apart from almost every other country in the world, and one that is supported by those in the industry.

Commenting on Canada's unique practice of having mandatory reviews, the Canadian Bankers Association stated:

We believe strongly in the importance of ensuring that the legislative and regulatory framework is reviewed regularly and for that reason, we were pleased to see that the Bill proposes retaining the sunset clause for financial services legislation at five years.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association stated:

The industry is very supportive of this Bill and urges that it be passed in a timely manner.

Clearly, today's bill provides a framework that will benefit all participants in the financial services sector, both financial institutions and everyday Canadians. As I noted, renewing Canadian financial institution legislation on a regular basis has resulted in a robust and effective financial system that is aligned with and responsive to developments in financial markets and the broader global economy.

In summary, I would encourage all members to join in our efforts to ensure the strength and stability of Canada's financial system and support the financial system review act.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Conservative member for her speech.

My question is very simple. The Conservatives are saying that this is a very important bill. Basically, it is a review of the financial system. This bill has a major impact on economic stability. We know that the government is very much in favour of a stable economy and that this is something very important.

Since the government considers this bill to be important, can the hon. member tell us why it did not take advantage of this opportunity to conduct more extensive consultation than it did to review the financial system, as presented in this bill? Why did it not take this opportunity to engage in more extensive consultation?

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government began consultations in September 2010. We received 30 submissions from a wide range of groups, and the hon. member also knows that the review is mandatory and takes place every five years. I would encourage the hon. member and all of the opposition to do the right thing and stand up for consumers and support this legislation.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, could the member for London North Centre comment further on how this bill would affect constituents and Canadians who require financial products and services.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is making a number of changes to the federal statutes for financial institutions that will enhance the protection of consumers and financial services. These changes will confirm that Canadians, including bank customers, are able to cash government cheques in amounts of less than $1,500 free of charge at any bank in Canada and will increase the maximum penalty for a violation of the consumer provision consistent with penalties for other violations under financial institution statutes.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I ask my hon. colleague from London North Centre why the large bank ownership threshold has been increased.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the Government of Canada established a widely-held requirement for large banks. In 2007, our Conservative government increased the threshold from $5 billion to $8 billion to reflect the growth of large banks. Since then, the sector has continued to grow. To reflect that growth, the large bank threshold is being increased from $8 billion to $12 billion.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House to speak about Bill S-5, the Financial System Review Act, on behalf of all the people of LaSalle—Émard.

One can no longer look at a newspaper without coming across a headline about household debt in Canada. If the storm unleashed by the 2008 laissez-faire financial crisis did not hit Canada as hard as the United States, it is because of the way our financial sector is regulated.

There is an urgent need to maintain and reform the regulation of our financial institutions. In order to do so, the House must firmly commit to getting Canadians involved in the review process and thus help to protect the public, ensure the transparency of our financial institutions and promote the independent review of acquisitions. Finally, we must engage in public consultation to allow various stakeholders—more than just 30 or so— to express their opinions on the impact of the changes proposed by this bill.

I therefore address my remarks to the people of LaSalle—Émard to explain my position on the bill to amend the legislation governing financial institutions.

This Senate bill amends not only the Bank Act, but also 12 other acts. My colleagues in the official opposition have already described several technical aspects of the changes to regulations in the financial sector. I would simply like to go over some of the main points.

Under Bill S-5, large foreign acquisitions will require ministerial approval. The bill will raise the widely held ownership threshold for banks from $8 billion today to $12 billion.

Henceforth, banks controlled by foreign governments will be able to hold a minority interest in Canadian banks and financial institutions.

The bill enhances and expands the supervisory and enforcement powers of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Lastly, the bill tightens measures to prevent tax evasion in the case of Canadians who do business with subsidiaries of foreign banks.

That said, this bill raises a number of concerns. First of all, why did the government give the Senate, which is full of defeated Conservative candidates, the task of introducing a bill on an issue as important as the review of legislation governing our financial institutions?

Second, will the government give the members of the House the time needed to carefully examine this bill?

To deliver a bill that shows that it truly cares about protecting Canadian consumers, the government must consider adopting measures that are not currently in this bill. Here are some examples: approving large foreign acquisitions of financial institutions cannot fall solely to the minister, as set out in this bill. Such important decisions should be made by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions without any political interference.

We need to introduce regulatory mechanisms for the banking and financial sectors that are transparent in practice, and not simply in principle. This means we should examine the possibility of regulating all hidden costs and making their disclosure mandatory.

It is also crucial that the committee responsible for reviewing the legislation governing our financial institutions hear from witnesses who are experts on risky mortgage loans, which are of concern to the Governor of the Bank of Canada.

As elected representatives, we have a duty to protect consumers and our constituents. When Canadian financial institutions announced profits of $25 billion last year, debt had become a ball and chain for Canadian households. And if the debt being carried by Canadian households is the ball, middle-class wage stagnation, usurious interest rates, high service charges and incomprehensible loan agreements are what keep Canadians chained to those debts.

Unfortunately, too many people in my riding are among the ever-growing number of Canadians who are burdened by debt. The Association coopérative d'économie familiale du Sud-Ouest de Montréal, with which I met last fall, is on the front line and works with residents of southwest Montreal to find ways of improving their consumer practices and their spending. When people’s wages are stagnant, when their incomes are declining and their debts are piling up, things get more and more difficult.

That organization and the members who work there have heard every story. The people who come to see them are living in dread of the bailiffs who call them at all hours of the day trying to collect. They can no longer sleep at night and they shut themselves away during the day. Some of them have no choice but to consider declaring bankruptcy. The distress is real, and protecting our fellow Canadians must be our first concern.

The most important recommendation I have to make is that the government should use the review of our financial institution legislation to ask what Canadians think and find out what they are concerned about and what issues are of concern to them. In that regard, the government would do well to learn from the best practices developed by the NDP. For example, the NDP has just completed public consultations throughout Canada to find out what Canadians’ concerns are when it comes to the cuts the government is planning to make to the old age security program.

We organized local forums from coast to coast so the people who elected us could talk to us about the impact those cuts would have on them and their family members. For example, very recently, in Ville-Émard, we organized a public forum on reform of our pension system. We had a full house, and we met with 100 of our constituents who were worried about the government’s consistently vague allusions to the cuts it is planning to make to old age security. Our constituents spoke out and we listened to them. The NDP invites dialogue, and the government should do the same when it examines the legislation related to the regulation of financial institutions.

With that in mind, I would have preferred that this bill be drafted after a broader public consultation had been held. In spite of the concerns I have raised, I am going to support the bill, which still represents an adequate review of the financial system. I hope that committee members will have an opportunity to make the amendments that are needed so that the bill will be even more acceptable to Canadians.