Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's great to be back in a place where I spent an awful lot of time and for which I have some fond memories.
Congratulations on being re-elected, Mr. Rajotte, obviously uncontested, for which there is good reason. Congratulations as well to Ms. Nash and to Mr. Brison for your roles in support of a great chair. Thank you for your work.
I will introduce Jeremy Rudin, from the Department of Finance, who is no stranger to this committee, as well as Eleanor Ryan, also from the Department of Finance. I also have with me Ursula Menke, who is the commissioner of FCAC. I am sure any questions I can't answer she will be quite well prepared to answer.
With that, thank you once again for the opportunity to be with you as a committee and to speak on what is a very important element of the financial system, which is financial literacy.
Before I get too far into my introductory remarks, I want to acknowledge and say thanks for the work of the chair of this committee for his work in championing financial literacy in Parliament through his private member's motion, M-269, by which he was able to raise awareness on this important issue, including the formal designation of November not just as a month to grow moustaches but also as Financial Literacy Month in the House of Commons, and that is a substantive achievement. We applaud his efforts, as improving financial literacy has long been a priority of our government.
Whether it's parents or grandparents saving for a child's education or for the child himself or herself, planning for retirement, or financing a new home, Canadians know that informed financial choices are vital for securing their family's financial future. In an area of constant technological advances and new consumer product innovations, the range and selection of financial service products available to Canadians gets longer and longer, which can make it more challenging for Canadian families to understand and evaluate the benefits as well as the drawbacks to all of these offerings. That is especially true if they do not have the right tools or information or knowledge at their disposal.
As the Canadian Association of Credit Counselling Services, which is the national organization for not-for-profit credit counselling agencies, has noted, and I quote, “By embracing financial literacy, individuals and families can discover a new sense of personal control and mastery over their financial matters.” When Canadian families become more knowledgeable about their finances and their household budgets, when they fully understand their credit card statements, the true long-term cost of a loan, or their investment options, not only do their personal finances benefit but so does the entire Canadian economy.
Improved financial literacy helps support higher savings and discourages personal indebtedness. Financial literacy is about empowering Canadians with the tools they need to pick the products and services that are right for themselves and their family's bottom line, not necessarily what's right for the bottom line of the bank or the credit card company.
With the right knowledge, along with clear and transparent information, busy soccer moms and hockey dads will more easily be able, first of all, to find the lowest-cost banking option, stay clear of the wrong financial investments, or do much more that will allow them to keep and save more of their hard-earned money. That's why, since forming government, we have taken major steps forward to improve financial literacy in Canada.
Early in our mandate we provided additional funding to the federal Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, or the FCAC, which Ursula represents now. We provided them with the tools to undertake financial literacy activities, especially with young Canadians, but we realized that much more needed to be done. For that reason, we established the task force on financial literacy in 2009. That task force, composed of leaders from consumer groups, the financial services industry, media, community organizations and academics, talked with and listened to Canadians through a landmark cross-country, open, public consultation tour in every province and territory and similarly held open, public, online consultations. All across Canada they heard of excellent examples of financial literacy education. In fact, the task force met with nearly 200 individuals and organizations face to face, hearing first-hand their thoughts as well as their ideas.
In early 2011, combining all of that feedback received with the original research they had conducted, the task force produced a final report, entitled “Canadians and Their Money: Building a brighter financial future”, and I would encourage those who have not read it to visit financialliteracyincanada.com to be able to read that report and learn more about the work that they accomplished.
The report was widely applauded. As Social and Enterprise Development Innovations, the noted non-profit organization that helps low-income families in Canada gain financial independence, has remarked:
We...commend the diligent and thorough work of the Task Force members, who engaged Canadians in every province and territory in building a much-needed national strategy on financial literacy. There is no better time for government to take the lead in helping Canadians increase their knowledge and skills to manage everyday finances.... It is vitally important that government recognizes financial literacy as an essential skill and makes significant investments in the Task Force recommendations.
The report spotlighted the pressing need to better financial literacy in Canada, outlining 30 recommendations to support their call to action.
The report's number one recommendation was the creation of a position in the federal government to lead and champion financial literacy, ensuring the implementation of other recommendations going forward. Nearly a year ago, our government did exactly that with the introduction of the Financial Literacy Leader Act, which is exactly what we're discussing today.
Specifically, the act will amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act to allow the appointment of a financial literacy leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. The leader would spearhead financial literacy efforts within the federal government and work with individuals, public interest groups, and others to further build financial literacy initiatives.
The act also set out the duties, the powers, and the functions of the financial literacy leader, enabling him or her to carry out activities in support of this goal and in establishing terms of employment.
The financial literacy leader will be essential to our government's financial literacy efforts and is another example of our strong commitment to help consumers navigate in an increasingly crowded and complex marketplace of financial services and products.
In conclusion, today's act is about helping Canadian families and making it easier for them to save their money and save for their future.
I would ask the committee to undertake their consideration with that in mind and to support the Financial Literacy Leader Act, as have a wide range of organizations that we have heard from all across Canada, especially the youth organizations.
In the words of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, and I quote:
CASA believes that this Bill is an important and proactive step forward in addressing the financial literacy needs of all Canadians.... [The establishment of the position of Financial Literacy Leader]...creates an opportunity for the government to assist a group of Canadians who will maximize the benefits of greater financial literacy: students.
With that, I, along with the officials from the department and with Ursula, would be pleased to take your questions.
Thank you, Chair.