Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to all of the others and wish you a Merry Christmas and to thank you for enlightening us every day that we spend with you. I would also like to thank my amazing colleagues on this momentous day.
I think that the people who watch this debate will understand why this is so important on the last sitting day of the House before Christmas. We are doing something special for Canadians, and something they will remember.
My speech this afternoon might interest all parliamentarians because it is a speech in favour of the middle class, Canadian families, and people in every one of Canada's ridings who sent us here to Ottawa.
I am very pleased to be here to talk about Bill C-29, budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2. Before going over the many major benefits of this bill for Canadians across the country, I would just like to reiterate the government's commitment to strengthening the current protection system for consumers of financial products and services. We have talked about this at length and in this speech I want to clarify the government's position.
Part of our commitment is to ensure that there is a solid, effective, and consistent system in Canada that guarantees the highest protection standards for all consumers of financial services in the country, regardless of where they live in Canada and regardless of the bank they do business with.
As a member from Quebec, I would like to commend the extraordinary work of the 40 Liberal members of the government, who do a great job of championing Quebeckers and their position on this important issue. I thank them for that. They have done the work their constituents sent them here to Ottawa to do. They greatly contributed to ensuring that we consider every point of view that was expressed in this important file. I sincerely thank my colleagues.
As everyone knows, we have listened to our colleagues from Quebec and to Quebeckers, who told us how important it is for them to have a high level of protection in the banking sector, in Quebec and across the country. We have listened to the Quebeckers who sent us here, to the House. That is why the leader of the Senate, the hon. Senator Harder, has tabled an amendment that will remove from the bill the current provisions for the banking sector, namely the consumer protection measures, so that we can ask the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, the FCAC, to ensure that the federal protection system is as solid as any provincial protection system. That way we can see to it that our objective, the one we have had since the beginning, of having the highest overall level of protection for Canadians all over the country, can absolutely be achieved in a way that will meet our goals and ensure that Canadian consumers are protected.
What has driven us from the beginning is that, thanks to the work of all my colleagues, we succeed in putting in place the best possible system, in order to defend the higher interest of consumers.
Canadians deserve to have access to a consistent national banking system that is easy to understand, a banking system that has high consumer protection standards, is designed to meet the needs of consumers of financial products and services, and is applied in the same way regardless of where consumers may live.
We remain strongly committed to organizing and strengthening consumer protection measures, making access to basic banking services easier, and improving the rules surrounding current business practices governing the way that banks deal with their customers.
We must not forget the creation of new obligations for the banks to strengthen disclosure provisions, improve complaint processing, and reinforce governance and organizational accountability for consumer protection.
Our objective is simple. It is to make the consumer protection system easier to understand and to prevent consumers from having to consult several sets of rules that apply to the same financial products and services, whether they are doing business in person or online.
We want to increase the obligations imposed on banks and hold them accountable for improving outcomes for consumers and for treating those consumers fairly all across the country.
That is why we will be working together with stakeholders and the provinces to ensure that the framework is strengthened so as to meet the highest standards, as was our initial objective, and we are going to achieve this with the sole objective of protecting consumers all over the country.
Under the Constitution, the banks lie within federal jurisdiction, and that is how it has been in this country for 150 years. This responsibility includes that of ensuring that the banks are solid and that of establishing standards governing their operation to ensure they meet the needs of Canadians, of course.
To that end, we have to oversee the establishment of a rigorous system for protecting consumers of financial products and services that is applicable in the same way throughout the country. I know that this is an issue that the House fully understands. The proposed improvements would make it possible to employ a broader spectrum of personal identification documents to open an account or cash Government of Canada cheques, and this is one of the measures that affect the people who sent us here, to Ottawa.
I can say that this measure is going to benefit people in the regions north of my riding, including certain indigenous communities, because they are having difficulty accessing banking services and cashing federal government cheques. This system will give them easier access to certain banking services.
The rules we are introducing also add a new prohibition on imposing undue pressure on consumers, and apply cancellation periods to a wider range of products and services.
Summary information boxes would be mandatory for a larger number of banking products and services, and accountability would be improved, notably thanks to requirements for banks to report on measures taken to meet the challenges faced by the most vulnerable Canadians.
Improvements would also strengthen the current complaint management requirements, so as to require banks and external complaint processing bodies to report on the number and nature of complaints received. All of these measures would guarantee that the banks are answerable for their actions.
We know that consumers are better protected when rules and rights are clearly laid out for all stakeholders. Similarly, it is easier to ensure that banks are accountable when the rules to be followed are clear and exhaustive, when they are national in application and when compliance is ensured by a designated federal regulatory agency such as the FCAC.
Our government has promised to protect the interests of middle-class Canadians and those of persons working hard to join the middle class, and we will continue to do so, particularly with regard to the protection of consumers of financial products and services.
I would also like to note how the amended budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2 would continue to make a very substantial contribution to the achievement of our objective of growing the economy, to the benefit of families, workers, and the most vulnerable members of our society.
The strengthening of the middle class and the establishment of conditions conducive to sustainable economic growth are the main priorities of our government. Tax fairness is an important part of our commitments in this regard, as is the adoption of a tax system that functions as planned and contributes to fostering an economy that works for the entire population.
As there are only a few moments left in this momentous day, I invite all members to reflect about who sent them to Ottawa, whether they are young, old, workers, families, or the people working in their riding, because these people all sent us here with a mission, and that is to properly represent their interests.
Members will find in C-29, budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2, measures that will help the people who sent us to Ottawa. All members should vote for this bill as they will be voting to support the people who sent them here.
This is a momentous day for Canada, and everyone will remember the day when we rose to work for Canadians.