Madam Speaker, on the 22nd of October last I asked the Minister of Finance about bank service charges and whether or not he would work toward bringing down bank service charges on behalf of ordinary Canadians.
Since then, of course, a lot has happened. We have had reports of bank service charges being excessive. We all know they are very regressive. They hit all Canadians in the same way. Whether wealthy or poor, people pay the same for a particular transaction. That is why these service charges should be investigated, not just by the Minister of Finance, but by a parliamentary committee of this House representing all five Canadian parties which have been elected by the people of Canada.
These service charges are regressive. We should have a certain number of service charges which are free of cost to every single Canadian, like they have in some American states. After eight, nine or ten charges there could be a fee. I think that a basic life-line account such as that would be a very progressive step.
Since that time, of course, we have seen a number of other things occur. We have seen the profit reports of the banks. Their profits in the last year were the highest ever in the history of this country. The profits amount to $7.5 billion. Those are very high profits. Surely to goodness the banks can afford to reduce their service fees for the ordinary and poor people of this country. There is no excuse whatsoever for them not to do that.
It is interesting to see the government across the way defending the big banks, rather than saying to the big banks “Reduce your service charges”.
Since then we have had the proposed mega-merger between the largest bank in the country, the Royal Bank, and the third largest bank, the Bank of Montreal. It is the largest proposed merger in the history of the country in terms of corporate Canada. The two banks are worth about $40 billion in terms of their stock market value. They have assets under their control totalling over $450 billion. Yet the Minister of Finance will not give the Canadian people or the Parliament of Canada a parliamentary committee to look into the proposed mega merger until next fall. That is a real shame. The people of this country deserve to make a decision on whether or not this merger goes ahead.
If this merger goes ahead it will set off a chain reaction. There will be more mergers not only in banking but in other financial institutions including the insurance industry. The doors will also be open for more foreign banking into this country. If our banks are going to be in other countries around the world, then our doors will also be open to foreign banks coming into Canada. Eventually we will have the foreign takeover of the Canadian banking system and the establishment of financial supermarkets across this country.
That is why we need a parliamentary committee with full hearings into this merger, a parliamentary committee that would travel around the country and allow the Canadian people to speak their minds. I hope after we get that process going we can convince the Minister of Finance to say no to this merger. This merger should not go ahead. It is not good for Canada. It is not good for the future of this country. We need a public forum to help convince the Minister of Finance that is the way Canadians feel.
In my comments I wanted to wrap the merger issue and the bank service charges issue into one. We need that parliamentary committee with the power to travel the country, to hear witnesses, to subpoena the banks, to provide a forum for ordinary Canadians, to televise those hearings. That is what parliamentary democracy is all about. It should be the representatives who are elected to come here by the people of the country who make very important decisions. It should not be the Minister of Finance by himself.
The government must approve the mega merger. The competition bureau has to approve the mega merger. A new bank licence has to be issued, but that should be done only if it is approved by the Parliament of Canada in a very transparent, open and democratic way. That is what I am calling for in the House this evening.