Thank you, Mr. Chair, and welcome, gentlemen.
Our government understands the importance of small business to our economy. We understand that most merchants are small businesses. For example, that's one of the reasons we decreased the GST by 2%, which had a big benefit to retailers across Canada.
I certainly want to acknowledge the important role that Visa and MasterCard, and other credit card payment mechanisms, provide to enhancing the business and consumer spending, and therefore the success of merchants. We also acknowledge that consumer spending is a big part of the success of our economy. Of course, we want to do everything we can to encourage consumer spending to help bring us out of the current economic situation.
Having said that, I have some questions for you about your request to enter the debit market, and also some questions on the credit card side.
We heard from the Retail Council of Canada and the CFIB that the lowest-cost payment form that their members have access to is the debit payment mechanism. They showed us some statistics to show that. They also gave us some statistics on the percentage of consumers who have availability of using the Interac system and the debit system in Canada. Will the percentage of Canadian consumers who have access to debit increase if your company and, for example, MasterCard are allowed to enter this market? That's one question.
What will the effect of the entry of your company into this market be on the cost of transactions to merchants? We heard from MasterCard just a few minutes ago, and they told us their proposition for debit is a flat fee and lower than Interac rates. Is that your model as well?
The fourth question on this is, why would the retailers not want to have you enter the debit market if by entering the market you gave access to more consumers to the debit system, which is a lower-cost form of payment for them?