Mr. Speaker, the points of order we heard are very technical but yet very interesting.
First, with your permission, I would like to share my time with the hon. member for Pontiac. It is always an honour to speak in the House about bills, in this case, Bill C-28, the Financial Literacy Leader Act. The incumbent of this position would report to the Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Given that I already spoke about this bill at second reading, today, I am going to speak more specifically about the amendments that were tabled by my colleagues when this bill was examined by the Standing Committee on Finance.
I can only express my sincere disappointment that the Conservative members rejected the six amendments that were tabled by my NDP colleagues. It is always sad to see how little the Conservatives are willing to co-operate. Although all six amendments were relevant, two of them were particularly vital: the one pertaining to the bilingualism of the financial literacy leader and the one pertaining to the creation of an advisory council.
The following are comments by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance when my colleague from Sudbury tabled our three amendments during the committee hearing. The third amendment would ensure that the financial literacy leader would be bilingual.
In answer, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance said, “That's a huge priority for this government. This is why we continue to put forward policies that support that”. She also mentioned, “I would also say that in choosing a financial literacy leader, we do want to make sure there is merit that goes with any appointment”.
With both of those comments, there is a blatant contradiction between the fact that she acknowledged that the literacy leader should be bilingual, but on the other hand that the language skills were not mandatory for that position. We have seen that contradiction in many nominations by the Conservative government. It demonstrates that, for the government, language skills and namely the ability to speak French are not part of the merit that is required to get these positions.
For Quebec members of Parliament, this is a real problem because it gives us the impression that the government is always telling us the same thing about bilingualism—that it is going to appoint a person based on merit and then ask that person to learn French. This sends a message that linguistic ability is not among the prerequisites and skills required to be appointed to these positions. As a member of Parliament from Quebec, I find this to be a completely unacceptable message. That is what I had to say about the first amendment.
The second amendment that the hon. member for Sudbury proposed involved the creation of an advisory council in accordance with the second recommendation of the financial literacy task force. This was one of the 30 recommendations this task force made. We see that, in this bill, only one of those recommendations was taken into account, that of creating the position of financial literacy leader.
Once again, this bill leaves much to be desired. In fact, it is really just an empty shell, considering that, out of 30 recommendations, the government acted on only one: the creation of this position.
We often hear the government argue that this bill calls for the creation of a website. The government seems to think that websites have magical powers. That is the answer we always get any time we ask the ministers about the cuts made to public service positions responsible for answering questions from the public. We are often told that people can simply consult the website, because all of the information is there. That is more or less what we have heard from the government members who have spoken on this.
Furthermore, people have a tendency to forget that we can teach financial literacy to Canadians and enhance their knowledge, but there is no point in explaining how to manage their money if they have no money to manage. Sometimes they have no money because the banking system is sucking up such a huge amount of money.
I would like to give some of the figures from Canadian banks, which, as we know, have a virtual monopoly. Let us look at the banks' profits after taxes—not the total business but the profits. The profits of Canadian banks have increased from less than $10 billion—or to be more specific, $9.7 billion—in 2000 to over $25 billion in 2011.
Twenty-five billion dollars for a population of approximately 35 million represents $700 per person. In other words, on average, a family of four gives $3,000 to Canadian banks. I see that the members opposite find that completely acceptable. They would say that this is a sign that the banking system is well managed. However, for me, it is a sign that we are all being swindled by the banks since they are charging ridiculous interest rates in certain cases, particularly in the case of credit cards.
I would like to remind you of a proposal that was made and has been supported by the NDP for a number of years. We proposed that credit card interest rates be limited to 5% above the Bank of Canada's key lending rate, which has been at 1% since September 2010. Then, instead of having interest rates of 25% or 26% in some cases, an NDP government would legislate to have these rates limited to 6%.
This would allow credit companies to continue to be very profitable and make huge amounts of money while ensuring that people with the worst credit ratings, the most disadvantaged in our society, would not be charged exorbitant credit rates. These people have to borrow money through channels that give them the highest interest rates. Since they do not have a good credit rating, they cannot take out a line of credit, for example, which has a much lower interest rate.
In conclusion, since I have only 30 seconds left, I would like to say that it is with great disappointment that I am going to support this bill at third reading. The main reason for my support is that we cannot oppose the basic principle of at least creating the position of financial literacy leader. I think this bill is an incredible waste of time and energy for Parliament. The bill looks good but it does very little.