Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-67. I thank my colleague for allowing me to share her time.
Bill C-67 was necessary to bring competition into the banking sector in our country. We have had for quite a few years banking centralized in the hands of a very few number of large banks which were subject to decreasing confidence in the eyes of the public. There is an increasing amount of scepticism as to what they are doing and whether they are servicing the Canadian public well.
By introducing these smaller banks or banks from other countries we are introducing an element of competitiveness that will actually decrease the monopolies we have had in the country for a long time. By doing that we will be able to hopefully decrease the cost to the Canadian public.
At the end of the day this is about trying to improve service and decrease costs to the Canadian public and to enable our economy to move in a much more aggressive and competitive fashion.
Unfortunately the new banks will be forced to receive deposits of more than $150,000. This is unfortunate because the banks will not be accessible to the average member of the public. That should have been changed in the legislation. Any new bank that comes into the country should be able to compete on a level playing field with other banks. All Canadians should have access to those new banks, not just small and medium size businesses and large corporations which will be able to derive benefits from them.
In the last 20 years the number of banks in the country has diminished. In the last 10 years the number has gone down by 10%. We do not think that is correct. Bill C-67 will increase competitiveness and thereby give companies a greater choice. As I mentioned the government could have and should have made a level playing field for the new banks so that the average Canadian would have access to this increased competition.
We applaud the regulations that there has to be the approval of the Minister of Finance, that there has to be an established customer compliance procedure, that all services have to be disclosed and so forth. However, I wonder whether or not the checks and balances the government is putting in place are good enough to ensure the solvency of those banks in their home countries.
We have seen banks in other parts of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, collapsing because of gross mismanagement. We do not want those types of banks to be allowed into this country. I have not seen whether or not the appropriate checks and balances are there to ensure the banks coming into our country are not some fly by night institutions or institutions that are on shaky economic and fiscal ground. This is information the government will have to bring to the House to ensure a clean passage of the bill.
The hon. parliamentary secretary has made some very cogent points about the banks in Canada. There are a lot of myths surrounding banks, both positive and negative. The negative myth is that the banks are not paying taxes, that they are somehow taking money from the public and that they are not employing many people. The fact of the matter is that the banks provide a lot of taxes for governments. Some 80% of the taxes they pay are paid in Canada and 90% of the people they hire on a global basis are here.
However all Canadians have seen service charges go up. They have seen the banks introduce things such a tied selling. This is bullying and is an unfair practice. If the banks want the confidence and the support of the Canadian public, they better do a far greater job than what they have been doing in terms of letting the Canadian public know that it is giving good service for its money.
With the downsizing which is taking place many individuals who frequent banks have found services to be decreased. They are not happy with that. If the banks want the increased confidence of the Canadian public, as the international community has in them, they better been seen to be acting in the best interest of the public. Anything less will prevent them from having the things they want in the future such as bank mergers.
The banks aggressively lobbied the House and the Minister of Finance for the government to introduce and approve legislation which would allow them to merge. They did not do a good job of explaining to us and the public how the public would benefit from bank mergers. We want them to be internationally competitive, as the secretary of state mentioned.
However, the banks must explain to the Canadian public how the average person is to benefit from their expansion into mega banks. We want them to compete internationally but not at the expense of the Canadian public.
Bill C-67 is rooted in globalization and free trade. Again there are a lot of myths around free trade. The last Conservative Party leadership race showed clearly that putting forth the argument that free trade is bad for Canada resonates well among a significant part of our population, but is it the truth? We have actually benefited from free trade.
However, Canadians could have benefited more if the government had be able to give our Canadian companies a level playing field with other companies from around the world. The high taxes we have, the overregulation and the culture of dependence that governments instituted and supported within our country are having a deleterious effect on Canadian companies to compete on a level playing field with other companies from around the world.
If Canadian companies had that level playing, the benefits to Canada in terms of employment and a healthier economy would have far exceeded what we are seeing today. Unfortunately the government only did half the solution. It opened up international and domestic markets to free trade but did not do the other side of the coin which would have enabled companies to be competitive in that environment. >It opened up these companies to competition but at the same time tied one hand behind their back.
We have often heard in the House about the need to lower taxes, to decrease rules and regulations, to provide financing for education and to do innovative things to ensure our students will have the skills to be competitive in the future.
Finally, I would like to talk about the international financial institutions. The government, along with representatives from the IMF, should look at ways to deal with short term capital flows which were so destabilizing to the international economy last year. This will happen again. We need some kind of check and balance to make sure short term capital flows across the world will not have the destabilizing and destructive effect to not only economies but to people around the world.
There are some innovative things being done now. I challenge the Minister of Finance and the secretary of state to bring these ideas to the House now so we can have and support internationally a comprehensive plan to limit short term capital flows. Forty per cent of short term capital flows are moved in and out of countries within two days or less. In 48 hours large term capital can flow in and out of a country that can have a massive negative effect not only on the economy but on the people of that country. These can be long lasting.
Another issue concerns international financial institutions providing money to countries that are unstable and engaging in actions that profoundly affect international security. There are over 45 countries right now that are engaged in bloody, brutal conflicts where individual civilians are caught in the middle and pay the price 80% of the time. What fuels those conflicts and the purchase of those arms? It is cold, hard cash. Most of these countries rely heavily on international aid and moneys from international financial institutions.
By providing money through these organizations to countries that are purchasing arms to commit atrocities on certain groups within and outside their borders, we are actually providing the fuel that fires the wars and conflicts.
If we are able to deal with these conflicts, if we can prevent the situation in central Africa, the situation in Sierra Leone where people are having their eyes gouged out and their arms chopped off, the situation in Angola where the diamond producers and purchasers are fueling a conflict that is costing hundreds of lives every day, if we are to continue to support the regimes in the Sudan that are supporting a war that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, then we are almost as guilty as the people who are pulling the trigger in those countries.
If we are to deal with these situations in a pre-emptive way, if we are to prevent the bloody conflicts that are occurring around the world, we have to ask our representatives at the international financial institutions to prevent those moneys from going into the hands of those people who would purchase arms to fuel a fire to create international instability and conflict, death and destruction.
The last point I want to make is with respect to the United States. The United States I believe will not be paying up its dues to the United Nations as of May 1999. The money it owes is essential for the United Nations to function. If the U.S. does not pay up in May 1999, the U.S. will lose its vote. If the U.S. loses its vote, one can argue that it is a very unfortunate thing because it is a powerful country. More important, the billions of dollars that the U.S. owes to the UN will probably not be paid. What we will see is a potential significant collapse in the ability of the United Nations to engage in peacekeeping, peacemaking and international humanitarian operations in which it is engaging now that save millions of lives around the world.
I strongly advise the Minister of Foreign Affairs to work with the Minister of Finance and the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions to bring up these issues on the international stage. If we do not do that, all of us will pay a price not only internationally in increased demands for a defence budget and an international aid budget but also at home. When conflicts brew and take place half a world away, they come home to roost right here at home, because there is an egress of refugees, some of whom will ultimately come to our shore, and there will be an increased demand on our own social programs.
It is not to say that we are somehow against individuals coming to our shores, but certainly people would like to live in their own homes, in their own countries and in their own culture rather than come to a world that is alien to them.
The failure to deal with this now will cost all of us millions if not billions of dollars and potentially the loss of human lives and probably Canadian lives too.
I implore members and ministers on the other side to deal with these issues internationally and do it now. We cannot continue to fail as we have in the past. It is resulting in increasing international instability and increasing destruction to economies around the world, which also affects our economy.
In closing, we will support Bill C-67. I will ask again that the minister look at the international implications of this bill to make sure that the small banks, the banks that are coming here, will have checks and balances to make sure that those banks are solvent back home. They should make sure that without a shadow of a doubt, banks that are on unstable grounds do not come into this country and somehow create great instability within our own economic system.
Last, they should ensure that the banks ultimately will be able to provide better, cheaper service to the Canadian public, because at the end of the day the thing that counts the most is to make sure Canadians will benefit from this bill.