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

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

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

In my riding, people are very worried about the big banks overcharging them. I am also shocked by this. It is unbelievable how much of our money flies out the window because of the banks.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what this bill could have done to genuinely protect consumers from the big banks.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Pontiac for his question.

The fact that we are discussing this bill so quickly, without additional information, means that we will miss many things.

For instance, when it comes to overcharging, the association and its member banks have a voluntary code. The voluntary code can be useful in many cases, but it is still a voluntary code. Accordingly, businesses, particularly banks and financial institutions that do not comply, will not be punished by laws or regulations, but rather through internal discipline.

I have no problem with leaving a voluntary code in place if it is working, but the legislation needs provisions to ensure that if the voluntary code is not enough to prevent certain excesses—in this case, it might be financial institutions and in other cases, it could be other businesses—we will be able to ensure that the government can and does intervene, once again, in the interest of protecting consumers and not for the sake of gratuitously interfering in the economy. There are specific times when the government has not only the right but also the duty to enforce regulations in the interest of all Canadians. This could be one such time.

Would I support specific regulations? Perhaps not exactly that. I hope that the committee will have the opportunity to address this matter, which is not in the bill but deserves to be considered.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-5. I have been listening to the debate this afternoon and the comments of my colleagues. Although the NDP has been supporting the bill, we find that it has a very limited form and it misses a big opportunity to address a whole array of consumer issues and consumer protection for Canadians, which is unfortunate. However, that, unfortunately, is what we have come to know of the government.

It is rather surprising to know that the bill originated in the Senate. We would be interested to know why it started in the other place that is unelected. As members of the House of Commons are directly elected, it seems to us that it would only be legitimate that a bill would begin in the House of Commons, go to committee and follow the usual process. It is very concerning that the bill began in the Senate. We would have thought the government would have given respect to the House of Commons and given the bill first reading and second reading here.

The bill is being portrayed as a very technical bill and would change the Bank Act and 12 other acts, which is all the more reason to go through it carefully because often the devil is in the details. When we look at amending a large number of acts, some significant changes can take place. I have noted that when the bill went to committee, the committee only had three sessions, which was a very limited time review and very few witnesses were called.

I would put this in the context of a larger pattern that is emerging with the government, which is that if bills are introduced here on the floor of the House of Commons they are rushed through. We have seen time allocations, gag orders and closure to limit debate. Now we are seeing bills being introduced and debated in the Senate as opposed to the House of Commons and then dealt with in a very perfunctory and rapid manner at committee.

I would say that is not a good sign, especially for a bill of this nature. It reminds me of a budget bill where, because of the enormous amount of technical details, it is easy for important details to be overlooked.

The NDP has paid an enormous amount of attention to consumer protection. Jack Layton, our former leader, pressed this, and our consumer affairs critic, the member for Sudbury, has done an enormous amount of work in bringing forward in the House of Commons the issue of consumer protection and how people are being gouged and ripped off by financial institutions.

For example, last year the bank profits were a whopping $25.5 billion, which is astounding. The financial sector industry is not only healthy but incredibly profitable while, at the same time, many people are getting laid off.

This afternoon my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan did a brilliant job of pointing out how fewer and fewer people now qualify for employment insurance. I think she said that only 39% qualify. While the need for EI goes up and the qualification period goes down, the length of the waiting time is also going up to about four months.

I wanted to say that because it is part of the growing income inequality that we are seeing in our country. We are seeing more and more people working in part-time jobs, minimum wage jobs or getting laid off. They cannot qualify for EI because of the government's incredibly onerous limitations and restrictions. On the other side of the coin, so to speak, we see major financial institutions making an exorbitant amount of money. It does create a society where there is a widening gap between wealth and poverty. There is a growing gap in income inequality.

When we put into that picture the corporate tax cuts that have been granted, the billions of dollars that we have lost in public revenue that could be providing for public services, when we look at the budget that we know is coming on Thursday and our fears about that budget and its impact on ordinary people and their ability to access needed government services, it is a picture that is very disturbing. We look at Bill S-5 in that context.

I am very proud that we in the NDP stand on a principle and priority of protecting people, of protecting consumers and people's jobs, in saying that we do have to have an economic plan, a jobs plan, a financial plan, and fair and progressive taxation. This bill, which presents itself as a technical bill and brings forward some changes that I think are useful, is a massive lost opportunity overall to provide much better protection for consumers.

I know that most consumers feel completely powerless when it comes to dealing with financial institutions. I speak to people who have made complaints. They come to my riding office and we write letters to the banks on their behalf. We often will write to the ombudsperson of a bank or the banking system overall and put forward a person's complaint that in the overall scope of things is not massive, but for that individual the fact that they feel they have been ripped off or gouged or not listened to by the banking institution is something that I think really plays into the feeling of cynicism they have about the people who run financial institutions and make very powerful decisions.

I am very proud that we in the NDP have always made it a priority to stand up for consumer rights and protections. We do know that Canadians get gouged by service charges, user fees and abusive credit card rates. Again, this is something that the hon. member for Sudbury has raised so many times in this House.

The idea that there are voluntary systems in place is almost laughable. We have seen that with the drug shortages that we have been debating in this House. We had an emergency debate on those shortages two weeks ago. It is the same thing. When we have a very serious systemic problem, whether it is drug shortages because the marketplace is controlling what is going on or now when we see people being gouged by financial institutions, the response by the government has been to let the parties get together and to see what they will do on a voluntary level. That is just not good enough. Therefore, as a piecemeal approach, I do feel that the bill falls far short of what we actually need to do with consumer protection in this country.

This worries me. Just from reading the background on the bill, it is very clear that there was very little consultation done. I think there were about 30 submissions and they were mostly from associations or from a technical point of view. We have to ask why there was very little consultation done on this bill. Is it because the government knew that if it actually did engage in an adequate public consultation, it would be opening up a Pandora's box and getting a whole mass of feelings and complaints and frustrations from Canadians in response? It is very unfortunate there was not proper consultation done for this bill.

In wrapping up I would say that we support this bill for the limited progress it makes, but it is very disappointing that yet again the government has missed the mark and failed to take into account adequate protections for consumers in this case.

People will still be out there, left out in the marketplace, feeling like they do not have a voice. I hope they know that they do have a voice in the NDP and that we will continue raising these issues in Parliament to ensure there is proper regulation and protection and that the rights of consumers will be upheld.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver East for her great speech and all the great work she has been doing in the House.

I can recall a specific scenario a few months back in her riding, where a constituent of hers was very concerned about some mortgage insurance and how that mortgage insurance was being paid but was never actually paid for by the insurance company when needed.

We on this side of the House have been talking about what is not included in this bill. I can think of many people who have written to my office. A person named Craig wrote about how he had the same type of unfortunate circumstance relating to mortgage insurance and consumer protection.

The government completely drops the ball when it comes to this file. I can see the work the hon. member has done with her constituents and how this issue affects people from coast to coast to coast. I would like to hear the hon. member's comments on this subject.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is entirely correct that we actually both worked together on that case, which was a difficult case in one way but not in another.

It involved a constituent of mine whose parents had bought mortgage insurance. When one of the parents died, they thought they had mortgage insurance, only to find out that they did not because of the way the rules worked. It was a really huge shock to the family to find out after buying what they thought was protection or the ability pay off their mortgage with the insurance that it was in fact not worth the paper it was written on. It was worthless.

It is a very good example of how consumers can act in good faith and believe that they are operating the way they are meant to operate and are hopefully getting clear, honest and frank information from financial institutions, only to find out that, literally, the small print is so difficult to understand or the way it is being presented that they actually get ripped off.

That is a very good example of what the bill could have done. I know that we both wrote to the minister, raising this issue and urging that changes be made. It did involve provincial jurisdiction as well, but there was a federal role. It is a great example of the kind of thing that should have been done with this bill to protect consumers.

These are elderly people who put some money aside based on the belief they would be protected, only to find out that they got ripped off. When we hear these kinds of stories, and that is just one story, we realize that the system is not working properly. It is too bad that this bill is not focusing on the needs of those people and the fact that we could be helping them, if the bill were genuinely looking at consumer protection.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for her speech. She is very knowledgeable about this matter, as are my other colleagues.

I would like to ask her if she feels, as I do, that our friends opposite have once again listened carefully to the corporate lobby instead of taking care of the average citizen, just as they favour the all-American way with which they are fascinated.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think that is an excellent point. I wholeheartedly agree with my colleague.

Again, this has become a too familiar pattern. It is a scary place out there. People try to navigate the marketplace. They try to play fair and to figure out what is a good deal and what is not, but unless there are proper regulations in place for consumer protection, people do end up getting ripped off.

When we have a government that is hell bent on basically listening to its friends and paving the way, sometimes through deregulation and sometimes legislation that actually helps these financial institutions, then we can see that it is just ordinary Canadians and consumers who get left behind. I think that is very worrying. Again, I think the pattern of that, with the income inequality involved and the people feeling they have fewer and fewer resources and information to actually deal with the marketplace and to have a sense of integrity about what is going on, is very concerning. It is something that we will keep pressing in this House.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is the House ready for the question?

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I declare Motion No. 1 defeated.

(Motion No. 1 negatived)

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

March 27th, 2012 / 5:25 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?