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

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the 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.

Speaker's Ruling
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill S-5. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now propose Motion No. 1 to the House.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill S-5 be amended by deleting Clause 212.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to talk about our amendment, which seeks to delete clause 212 of Bill S-5, which reads:

The Superintendent, any Deputy Superintendent, any officer or employee of the Office or any person acting under the direction of the Superintendent, is not a compellable witness in any civil proceedings in respect of any matter coming to their knowledge as a result of exercising any of their powers or performing any of their duties or functions under this Act or the Acts listed in the schedule.

This clause is a concern for us. This aspect of the bill gives the institution immunity with regard to the transparency of its decisions. This is something that affects us and with which we disagree.

When we talk about Bill S-5 in its ensemble, I would like to say that the NDP is supportive of Bill S-5 and will be voting in favour of the bill. However, I would like to mention our concerns about the process regarding the bill and the results that are before us today.

The government is obliged to make revisions to the Bank Act and revisions to financial institutions on a regular interval. It is very important for the government to actually look at the situation of the banking industry in our country, look at its impacts on ordinary families and to hold a broad degree of public hearings to come forward with a bill that provides those substantial revisions to the Bank Act while protecting the fundamental stability of our financial institutions. The government has failed to do that.

The NDP has been the foremost advocate of maintaining strong and rigorous financial accountability around our banking system. Members will recall the many times when the previous Liberal government and the current Conservative government talked about weakening those regulations we ensured that we had rigorous accounting within our banking system. It has always been the NDP that has stood foremost for stability in our banking sector and ensuring at the same time that there are rigorous regulations that apply.

It is because of the defence that the NDP has mounted in the House of Commons that we continue to have stability in our financial institutions. When we compare it to some of the others around the world, when we look at what happened in Iceland and the meltdown that occurred in the United States, we can understand the risk that comes when the government moves to reduce regulation in our banking sector.

We certainly are the strongest proponents in the House of having rigorous regulation governing our banking sector. Anyone on the other side who doubts that only need look at Hansard over the past few decades to see that tradition which we have established in Parliament.

We also believe in protecting the public interest and the interests of ordinary families. The way Bill S-5 was brought forward, the fact that very few were even aware that these revisions to the Bank Act were taking place, the fact that the bill originated in the Senate, that it was brought forward in the House at a late time and had to be adopted in April did not allow for rigorous analysis of our current banking sector. That simply did not happen.

The finance committee did have some hearings. I want to get back to some of the comments that were raised in the few hearings the finance committee had on the subject. However, the reality is, when a bill is brought forward at a late date, when the deadline is a fixed date in April when the bill has to be adopted, although the NDP has co-operated, we have raised concerns about how remarkably late and how few public hearings could be held into what is such an important matter. Some of the witnesses who appeared before finance committee raised these issues as well.

The coordinator of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition flagged the fact that with record first quarter profits we have seen in the banking industry, banking profits are up 5.3% compared with 2011. These profits have occurred while raising bank fees and cutting jobs in the sector. The coordinator of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition also said that past government actions have been ineffective in ensuring Canada's big banks are not making excessive profits from gouging customers, cutting services and failing to lend to job-creating Canadian businesses. This view was also shared by Option consommateurs in Quebec. Jean-François Vinet said that the bill does nothing to protect consumers from criminally high interest rates on credit cards.

This is why we object to how the government has brought this bill forward at a late date, in a scattered fashion, without any real intent to get public feedback on revisions to the Bank Act.

It is the end of March and this bill needs to be adopted within a few weeks' time, and yet, there are issues around how ordinary families are impacted by the Bank Act and by the government's failure to take action. We feel that is profoundly unfortunate.

We are not talking about a situation that is unimportant. Under the Conservative government, we see that Canadian families are experiencing a record level of household debt, a level of debt that we have never seen in our entire history. People might say that Tory times are tough times. It is very true that under the Conservative government, Canadians are poorer, when we look at the high debt levels and the real wage reduction that Canadians have experienced over the last year or two.

It is a matter of broad concern to us that while Canadian families are struggling under a record level of debt, the government did not choose to bring forward in a public way revisions to the Bank Act to allow Canadians to have their say on what is happening with the current structure of the Bank Act and financial institutions and how current levels of high interest rates are impacting them.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney warned that the ratio of debt to income will rise within Canada from an already alarming record 153% that was reached last year. Many think it will approach the landmark 160% hit by the United States before the United States tipped into crisis more than three years ago.

We are talking about a crisis level in household debt. We are talking about a crisis level in how Canadian families that we represent in communities across the country from coast to coast to coast are coping with these record debt loads. A not unimportant element of those record debt loads is the high interest rates that are charged by the financial institutions.

Bill S-5 originated in the Senate and was brought to the House of Commons at a late date and after very little public input. The finance committee was not allowed to conduct the kind of public hearings that could lead to changes in the Bank Act. As the few consumer representatives that were able to come before the finance committee stated very clearly, nothing in the revisions contained within the bill deals with the fundamental questions that we have been raising in the House on what Canadians are feeling form coast to coast.

Every single member of the NDP caucus is acutely aware of the crisis levels of household debt. We have raised the issue in the House, and yet the government does not seem to think it is important. These record levels of household debt, unparalleled in our history, that Canadian families are experiencing seem for the Conservatives to be a normal manner of living.

Given the profound job loss that has been experienced over the past few months, the tens of thousands of jobs lost and the reduction in real wages that Canadian families have experienced, we think that the government should be looking to help Canadian families.

We brought forward a series of amendments in committee to address some of the issues that we felt were not being addressed by the process around Bill S-5. I have already mentioned the lack of public input, the late date at which the entire process was begun, the late date by which the government brought the bill from the Senate to the House of Commons, allowing for scant debate.

Understanding as we all do that there is a fixed deadline when the bill has to be passed, we endeavoured to bring forward a series of amendments. Every single one of those amendments was refused by the Conservative government. We think the Bank Act revisions should be treating Canadian families—

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. Questions and comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I found the member's comments somewhat interesting as he tried to portray the NDP as some sort of saviour of the banking industry. We all know that is not quite true. I can appreciate that many New Democratic MPs want to be Liberals; they just do not want to proclaim themselves as Liberals.

Having said that, I am wondering if my colleague recognizes that the banking industry in Canada in comparison to other countries around the world is doing exceptionally well. There is no doubt about that. However, those regulations were put into place by individuals like Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin. They are the ones who built the banking industry to the degree that it is envied around the world. Instead of trying to rewrite history, would the member acknowledge that it was in fact Liberal Party administrations that built the system we have today, which is the envy of the world? That is the reality.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the member is new to the House and I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt because he obviously was not in the House of Commons when the former Liberal government pushed to deregulate the banking sector and pushed for bank mergers. It was the New Democratic Party in the House of Commons that fought that, with the support of the public across the country from coast to coast to coast. We pushed back at the Liberal government that wanted to deregulate and promote bank mergers.

Every single member of the NDP has continued to support rigorous banking regulation. That is what we stand for because it protects the public interest. That is why we have been such a vocal team in the House defending rigorous banking regulation. After we have seen what has happened—

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Western Arctic.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, my colleague is on the right track when he talks about the state of Canadian home debt. He could have mentioned as well that our housing market is in a bubble. The price of housing has escalated to a point where, if the interest rate moves up over the next couple of years, many young Canadians will be severely impacted by it. We are in a situation now where, with any change in world politics, we can see a huge increase in the price of oil. The price of oil is already at record levels. All these things are pointing to the fact that we are living in a world where we think we have a solid and sustainable economy, but that is simply not the case right now.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, that is a valid question. We are at crisis levels of household debt, unparalleled in our history under the Conservative government. We have seen real wage reductions. Under the current government, Canadians are poorer than they were a few years ago. That is an undeniable fact. There have been job losses across the country. There have been factory closures from British Columbia through to Atlantic Canada, Ontario and Quebec. There is an erosion of our manufacturing sector.

The Leader of the Opposition, the member for Outremont, spoke yesterday in the House about half a million manufacturing jobs being lost. The member for Western Arctic is absolutely right to point out as well that any jobs the government has created actually pay $10,000 a year less than the many hundreds of thousands of jobs they have lost.

The member for Western Arctic is right that under the Conservatives, Canadians are poorer.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The member for Compton—Stanstead for questions and comments. He has 30 seconds to ask a very brief question.

Motion in Amendment
Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I believe that the amendment is perfectly relevant because the clause would grant immunity to people who have power over extremely important legislation in Bill S-5.

Once again, senior bureaucrats would hide behind the iron curtain that the Conservatives are erecting to thwart anyone who does not agree with their party. I support this amendment, and I would like my colleague to explain why the House should agree to it today.