Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this opportunity, albeit brief, here today.
I had a chance to go through the legislative summary for Bill S-5, and I must say that I am always very impressed by the lot over at the Library of Parliament. I want to thank them for their research and mention, for the record, Mark Mahabir and Adriane Yong who are both from the International Affairs, Trade and Finance Division, Parliamentary Information and Research Service. We do not always give them the credit they are due, and I hope this goes in just a small way toward acknowledging the work they do for us here in the House of Commons and the Senate as well.
The committee reported Bill S-5, an act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters from the Senate on December 15, 2011. There were no major amendments made in the Senate, but certainly it came with, as described here, observations.
The bill amends four primary statutes under which federally regulated financial institutions are governed. They would be the Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Insurance Companies Act and the Trust and Loan Companies Act. There are also major amendments to other provisions regarding the financial institutions of our country.
Bill S-5 contains various measures to update the law governing financial institutions, as I have mentioned. The shares of a Canadian financial institution being held by foreign financial institutions controlled by foreign governments is one of those and it is certainly a timely matter given the world of finance we are in. We experienced this several years ago when we slid into a recession initially sparked by some financial tools in the United States in many cases. Of course, that wreaked havoc around the globe for all financial institutions such as in Asia and the European Union, which is now suffering through this, and austerity measures have followed suit as a result of that.
This illustrates to us and the entire country that we are certainly intertwined with the rest of the world as far as financial institutions are concerned. When something causes headaches for people in one part of the world, those headaches will reverberate around every corner of the world, given the financial institutions and the technology we use to trade currently. It gives us an idea of how important this is when it comes to international institutions.
On the acquisition of foreign entities by Canadian financial institutions, as a matter of fact, we are now seeing financial institutions in this country, banks, for example, with bigger investments around the globe. We certainly see it in the United States currently with institutions such as Toronto Dominion and others, as well as in Europe and Asia. In a country the size of ours, it gives us an idea of how good we are and how large our financial institutions are, as we are able to be a major player around the globe.
On the widely held ownership threshold for banks, it was always a contentious issue. It certainly was contentious when I first came here in 2004-05 and it continues to be.
The authority of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions over certain types of transactions, the administration of unclaimed insurance deposit accounts by the CDIC and the Bank of Canada, the insolvency of financial institutions and the liability of the CDIC when acting as a receiver during receivership of insolvent financial institutions are also very important at this point. There is also the restructuring of insurance companies and the liability of officials and employees of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
When we look back, this bill really got its roots from Bill C-37, which was back in June 2006. There was a paper entitled “Financial Institutions Legislation Review: Proposals for an Effective and Efficient Financial Services Framework”. The legislative changes included greater disclosure for consumers in relation to investment products, very important, and complaint procedures, the introduction of electronic cheque imaging and clearing, and an increase in the widely held threshold for large banks from $5 billion to $8 billion in equity.
This reminds me of the legislation we dealt with not too long ago when we talked about copyright. We are seeing the proliferation of technology right now that allows us to transact around the world instantaneously. As a result, the legislation has to keep up with the changing technologies around the world in, as I mentioned, copyright, banking and financial institutions. It shows not only the speed and brevity by which financial transactions are able to go around the world, but it also gives us an idea that the scope has become much larger, as well as the depth of the banking institutions. Therefore, we have to look at this and update legislation, as we did with the copyright bill. It is somewhat of a new concept when we have to review it after four or five years. Nonetheless, it is a concept that is certainly necessary.
We are seeing that now with the sunset provision. The Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the insurance companies and trust and loan companies contain a statutory sunset date set out some time ago. The legislative changes will include greater disclosure for consumers in relation to investment products and complaint procedures. We went through the updating measures that were contained in Bill C-37, which was introduced in the House on November 27, 2006. In order to have sufficient time, we went through this review, which went from the October 24, 2006 to April 24, 2007, to accommodate that.
That puts us in the place we are now as we go through the review once again, as it was introduced in the Senate as Bill S-5. It went through the three readings and the committee procedure and came back with some of those observations.
Clauses 53(2) and 53(3) require a Canadian bank to obtain approval from the Minister of Finance prior to acquiring control of a foreign entity, and this is important, if the bank has equity of $2 billion or more and the value of the foreign entity's consolidated assets in combination with the value of the consolidated assets of the bank's other foreign control acquisitions in the past 12 months exceed 10% of the value of the bank's consolidated assets prior to the preceding 12-month period. I hope everyone got that because there will be a test at the end of the speech, though probably not, as I excite the masses talking about financial institutions.
The minister, in contemplating the acquisition, can take into account all matters considered relevant in the circumstances, including the stability and best interests of Canada's financial system. We go back to Canada's financial system and the emphasis that we put on this to ensure it is suited for Canadians. We know that in the past we have faced this primarily from breakdowns in financial institutions around the globe. If one finds trouble or turbulent waters, that ripples throughout the global system. Therefore, we have to ensure our system is able to withstand some of the shocks that occur around the globe. The sunset clause is to renew the acts, as I mentioned earlier.
Let us take a look at Bill S-5. It does not represent a significant change in policy, per se. It is crucial that the existing sunset clauses are extended so Canada's statutes for financial institutions do not expire, which is around April 20. Bill S-5 is not what I would call an ambitious bill. It does not significantly change Canada's banking policy or address Canada's record levels of household debt. However, Canada's banking laws are set to expire.
There is one thing I can point out about the government. The Conservatives called on the previous Liberals to follow the U.S. example and deregulate the Canadian banking sector. I remember at the time there was quite a debate and there were certain stands that all members of the House took in 2003 to 2005. I am sure they wish they had them back in light of what has happened around the globe when financial institution measures such as these become critical and very important for us to consider.
Liberals will support Bill S-5 at report stage and third reading because of this. Again, I revert to what I said earlier. Given the intertwine nature of the financial institutions around the globe, it certainly falls upon us in the House to have this debate so we can ensure the regulations are updated in light of certain troubles around the world and certainly with the advent and proliferation of technology that allows us to pass our money around the world and invest.