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 financial.

Topics

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to the amendment, which is what the debate is on right now. It is particular to clause 212 regarding proposed section 39.1 which would give statutory immunity to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions in respect of any civil proceedings.

My question is very simple. Will the government support our amendment that would actually provide more transparency and accountability?

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this has been debated in committee. I sit on the finance committee. No, I will not be supporting the amendment. I do not think the amendment is in the spirit of what this bill is trying to do, and that is to strengthen our banking system.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, in this House today and previously, we have heard a lot about all of the consultation that went into this process, but let me start by talking about the process.

I believe that the members across the aisle missed a magnificent opportunity when they addressed this bill by focusing only on its technical and very narrow aspects or revisions. This was their opportunity to address the banking legislation and our financial statutes in a significant way.

Be that as it may, they erred very seriously when it came to process. First of all, this legislation has come from the other house, the Senate, which only had three weeks to consider it. Then the legislation came over here with all kinds of time allocations and was then sent off to committee. It is with a great deal of distress that I read that even at the committee stage, there were only three sessions. I know many people at home are going to think that each session lasts a day, but each committee session is only two hours long.

To do a detailed study of a very technical bill, and I am not a very technical person, and to look at its implications and to examine it and make amendments, a total of only four hours was provided. Out of the three days the bill was before committee, one was to hear from witnesses. I really cannot understand how my colleagues sitting across this aisle can see this as truly democratic and transparent. How can they disrespect the parliamentary system so much, not only by calling time allocation over and over again but also by then cutting debate short at the committee stage?

I have heard the argument that the timing of this bill is sensitive and that a clock is ticking. I also know that the government could have tabled this legislation as soon after May 2 as it could, but it choose not to do so because at no time did it want to give either the public or the opposition a chance to study this legislation in any detail.

Not only that but I also heard earlier from a very well-respected speaker from across the aisle, who shares a panel with me every Thursday, about the consultation that had occurred. However, when I looked at the consultation report, most of those inputs by email were anonymous. Since when have we started to take and pay heed to anonymous input on significant pieces of legislation that actually address our banking industry? It is just so bizarre. Plus, this kind of consultation was by invitation only. Let us not pretend that real consultation took place.

Let me recap. Time allocation pushed things through; the legislation went to the Senate first; consultation was practically non-existent; and the committee stage was cut short, with no serious time given.

What are the Conservatives trying to hide in this legislation? I believe what they were trying to hide is what they have not addressed in the legislation, something that concerns Canadians right across this beautiful country. One thing they have not addressed is the regulations around the ever-growing debtload that Canadians are being burdened with because of the economy and the lack of decent paying jobs in Canada. Indeed, we seem to be giving our jobs away to other countries. Where there were jobs that used to pay a decent wage at one time, now there are $9 and $10 an hour jobs. We know it is hard to sustain a family on that kind of an income.

Families are really taking on more and more debt, and we are not paying attention. I have learned from an analysis done of the debt load of Canadians that in some cases family debt is as high as 151% of disposable income. That is disturbing. It surpasses the debt load of Americans before a collapse in their economy. We should be addressing that, and so this is a missed opportunity.

What is also adding to consumers' debt load is not the fact they choose to buy big entertainment systems or super-duper cars. Rather, it is because of the lack of decent paying jobs, which have left this country because of the government's policies, that many people are struggling and trying to make ends meet from paycheque to paycheque and are reliant on their credit cards. The banks, through credit card interest charges, are gouging Canadians. They pay next to nothing in interest to those who are fortunate enough to have money to put in the bank, and they think nothing about charging 18% or more in interest on credit cards. That is a shame and a golden opportunity that the government has once again missed addressing. It has failed Canadians in a significant way.

I want to quote one of the witnesses who came before committee in the two hours allotted to them. Tyler Sommers, a coordinator for the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition, questioned why the government had not done more for consumer protection. He said the following:

Canada's big six banks have reported new record first-quarter profits totalling over $7 billion, which is up 5.3% compared to 2011, and have done this while raising bank fees and cutting jobs in this sector....

Shame on us that we have failed to address this issue now. I say that because the government has not given us the opportunity to debate this in the House and to take action on it.

Duff Conacher from the CCRC has explained that past government actions have been ineffective in ensuring that Canada's big banks and other companies are not making excessive profits from gouging customers and cutting services, and they are failing to lend to job-creating Canadian businesses.

I do not know about all members, but most of us now use either Interac or online banking, which would make us think that has led to the loss of many jobs. However, have the related bank charges gone down? Have the credit card charges gone down? Absolutely not. Those costs keep going up. The government had a golden opportunity during the debate on this legislation to address that in a significant way.

Our banking industry has survived because of regulation. While consumer debt is going up and consumers are being penalized by banks because they have no disposable income and are living from paycheque to paycheque and are having to use their credit cards to buy food to put on their table, we know that this government has once again failed to address those high interest rates.

To sum up, there are citizens in my riding who had high hopes that the government would address the key issues facing them. Instead, it has once again turned its back on middle-class, working-class and struggling families and failed to provide them the protection they were looking for in this legislation.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really want to thank my colleague for her insightful speech. She has hit it right on the nose in discussing our concerns about the processes used with this particular bill.

As members know, there were some amendments that the NDP actually put forward with respect to the legislation. Of course, the members on the government side are basically not supportive of transparency and efficiency. They are not supportive of controlling foreign acquisitions, which I think is extremely important. My colleague touched on that with respect to the jobs that are going out of the country.

With respect to jobs and foreign acquisitions, could my colleague indicate how important it was that the bill come through the House of Commons and not through the Senate?

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her very insightful comments.

I covered this process in my previous speech and again today. Once again, I am at a loss why a government that has experience in this House, and here I would note that it not as if its members were all parachuted in, has so little respect for parliamentary democracy and the processes of this House and why, every single time, it tries to close debate in this House and not follow the process as it should.

In British Columbia, where I am from, we see truckload after truckload of logs leaving our province and with them go the jobs. When I had the pleasure of visiting most of the communities in B.C. in my previous life, I would see whole towns being shut down. Those are not the only jobs that are leaving B.C. When we look at some of the plans for the oil industry, once again a lot of good-paying jobs will be going overseas and we will be creating a lot of $9 and $10 an hour jobs, which is not enough to survive on.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, in this debate there are few things that we do know. One is that the new leader of the NDP is a supporter of higher taxes on Canadian families. Indeed, he wants to slap a new tax on every banking transaction and appears to be proud of that. To quote directly from his leadership policy platform, he said he would “Make the implementation of a Financial Transaction Tax a key priority....”

Does the NDP member support a new tax on everyday banking? Would a GST hike be next?

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I see the comment by my colleague as having very little to do with the legislation before us. The legislation has nothing to do with the question he has asked.

However, I will say that I am opposed to the government not addressing the very high interest rates on credit cards and the consumers who are being gouged by banks. I am against the billions of dollars being given to banks in tax breaks. I am against the lack of job creation in the banking industry and the many jobs that are being lost.

I am absolutely against the processes the government uses to mute democracy and to push legislation through this House. I am against the lack of respect for parliamentary democracy.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives introduced this bill, they said it was a technical bill. The fact is that this bill touches on a limited number of issues.

Can the member comment on the failure to address the co-operative sector?

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to talk about the co-operative banks in my community. I am so impressed by the amazing job they do and the kind of support they give to our youth, to our education system and our seniors.

I actually had the pleasure of visiting the Kennedy Seniors' Recreation Centre last weekend when I was home and saw the amazing things that were happening there. I also talked to a few seniors who were telling me how much they liked going to their co-operative banks and their absolute dislike of high interest rates and the profit-making mantra of the banks.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to thank the constituents of the great Kenora riding for giving me the opportunity to speak on their behalf with respect to Bill S-5.

This is an obligatory and largely routine piece of legislation, but it is essential for the continued strength and security of Canada's financial system that our constituents rely on every day, be it to cash a cheque, to apply for a mortgage or to buy that first home.

As background for all Canadians, legislation governing federally regulated financial institutions is reviewed every five years by the government to ensure the stability of the Canadian financial system. The last legislative review was completed in 2007 through Bill C-37 in the 39th Parliament. In 2001, a similar review was completed with Bill C-8 in the 37th Parliament.

I should also let the House and our constituents know that it is crucial that today's act be passed by April 20, 2012. This is the legislated sunset date, and passage must be achieved by then to allow the Canadian financial system to function in the manner that it has been doing.

In September 2010, the present five-year review began. This was kicked-off with an open and public consultation process. The Minister of Finance invited all Canadians to give their views on how to improve the financial system. Throughout that consultation, many Canadians gave their ideas and suggestions on how to further reinforce and strengthen our financial system. Indeed, much of that comment is reflected within the financial system review act that we are debating today. To be sure, today's act takes into consideration the feedback from industry groups, consumer groups and other Canadians to make measured, technical adjustments to strengthen Canada's regulatory framework.

I would also draw the attention of Canadians to the fact that today's act has already been reviewed and approved by the Senate banking, trade and commerce committee as well as the House of Commons finance committee and the great work of those members. Both committees undertook a comprehensive and efficient review of this act. It included talking to organizations like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the Credit Union Central of Canada, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, the Canadian Bankers Association and the Canadian Payments Association. This was an impressive catchment of stakeholders.

I want to thank each of the witnesses who spoke on the financial system review act in front of both committees for providing their important input. I will note that witnesses, while acknowledging the act's technical nature, were very supportive of it overall. For example, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association declared, “Bill S-5 represents a welcome fine-tuning of the various financial institution statutes”.

At this time I will quickly review some of the initiatives taken in today's act.

Once more, even though the majority of these initiatives are largely technical, they are indispensable for the security of Canada's financial system. That is why today's act would make the following alterations: modernizing legislation to uphold financial stability and guarantee that Canada's financial institutions continue to operate in a competitive, efficient, effective and stable environment; improving the consumer protection framework, including expanding powers for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to better protect consumers; and reducing the red tape and regulatory burden on financial institutions.

Other measures contained in today's act include the following: clarifying that all Canadians, including bank customers, are able to cash government cheques under $1,500 free of charge at any bank in Canada; removing duplicative disclosure requirements for federally regulated insurance companies; offering adjustable policies in foreign jurisdictions, thus cutting their red tape burden; encouraging competition and innovation by allowing co-operative credit associations to provide technology services to a broader market; and improving the capacity of regulators to efficiently share information with international counterparts while respecting the privacy of clients.

There are more, but I want to emphasize that the significance of this act provides for a safe and secure financial system.

It is a system that has endured for Canadians during the recent global economic crisis that saw the failure of some of the best known banks around the world. Indeed, in recent years Canadians have recognized just how important a sound financial banking system really is for our country's economy.

Undeniably our system has been a model for countries around the globe. Canada proudly did not have to bail out, nationalize or buy equity stakes in its banks, in stark contrast to the U.S., the United Kingdom and countries in Europe. In fact the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's financial system as the soundest in the world for four straight years. Our safe and secure financial system is envied the world over.

It was remarked in the well-known publication Forbes, “With no bailouts, it is the soundest system in the world, marked by steady and responsible continuation of lending and profits”.

Constantine Passaris, a University of New Brunswick economics professor, adds:

The financial tsunami of 2008 swept around the world with devastating economic consequences. Banks proved to be particularly vulnerable to the credit crunch that followed....

There is no denying that our Canadian banks proved significantly resilient....

The Canadian way is to record our national achievements in a low-key and understated manner. There is one economic achievement however, that has made the world stand up and notice. Indeed, in this case, we cannot hide from the international spotlight and we can proudly accept the global applause....

We appreciate these comments. Indeed, many of the financial sector solutions now promoted internationally are modelled on our Canadian system. With today's bill, Canada's financial system will remain secure and serve as a fundamental source of strength for Canada's economy moving forward.

The financial system is one of the most important aspects of Canada's economy and jobs, totalling approximately 7% of Canada's economy. What is more, it provides employment, good, well-paying jobs for more than 750,000 Canadians. Our financial sector also provides financing to the housing markets and other markets that rely on borrowing, and in that respect the financial services sector is a significant presence in the day-to-day lives of all Canadians.

The Financial System Review Act will help support a proven framework that benefits all Canadians who use or are impacted by the financial services sector.

The long established practice of regularly reviewing the financial institution regulatory framework is also a distinctive and positive practice that sets Canada apart from the world. Indeed, it has been vital to ensuring the stability of the sector. All Canadians would acknowledge the significance of frequently examining how we can better ensure our financial system's safety and soundness for the benefit of all Canadians. Today's bill accomplishes just that.

I encourage members to support today's bill and ensure it passes in a timely manner. I appreciate having the occasion to support this important piece of legislation.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his speech.

I have a question. This bill leaves out an element that is very important to building a stronger economy: regulation of financial speculation and derivatives. Billions are regularly wagered on the stock markets, which destabilizes the economy and does not benefit Canadians.

Should the Conservative government not use this opportunity to work with other governments to put an end to disastrous speculation in Canada and other countries? Is that what the Conservatives intend to do?

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's question.

The bill includes measures to update the laws governing financial institutions, measures that will promote financial stability and ensure that Canadian financial institutions continue to function in a business environment that supports competition, efficiency and global stability.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's remarks today on Bill S-5.

First, in recent weeks when the Minister of State for Finance appeared before the finance committee, he acknowledged that in fact credit for the prudential strength of the Canadian banking system belongs to more than one government. He acknowledged that the stewardship of the previous Liberal government had contributed to the governance of the Canadian banking system, and I am being modest when I say that.

Would the hon. member agree that in fact the Liberal government of Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin was responsible for the decisions at the time in the nineties, which resulted in not following the global trend to deregulation, which led to the challenges and the disasters faced by other countries in their financial services sector and the resultant relative strength here in Canada? Would the hon. member agree it was those decisions during that period of time that helped us today?

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I might be inclined, if it were not for the fact that this member decided to send a standard form letter to the editor of a newspaper in my riding, which was factually incorrect, reprehensible and does not speak to the calibre of person I have come to know him as in this place.

That said, I can speak to this government's record over the past four years in being recognized by major financial organizations and commentaries by editors around the world as being the most sound system. That is what I can account for, having been a member of this place now almost years.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

March 27th, 2012 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the parliamentary secretary for his presentation. He has done a lot of work on this.

The NDP introduced an amendment today that effectively removes the testimonial immunity. That concerns section 212 of the bill.

My question to the parliamentary secretary is: Why can we, as Conservatives, not support this?