Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to the bill particularly surrounding the manner in which it affects credit unions. As my colleague from Regina—Qu'Appelle has already indicated when he addressed the House, we have serious reservations about the bill generally but do support it to the degree that it deals with credit unions. Some recommendations for additions to the bill have not been accepted by the government.
It is really important to set in context the role the credit union movement from our viewpoint and that of the government's needs to play in the country. That role is one of the only alternate systems of financial services we have. Those services unfortunately are spotty across the country because of the history of the development of the credit union movement.
Although the bill is designed to provide some strengthening of the movement to allow and permit for some expansion of the credit union movement, it simply does not go far enough.
It would allow for the development of what is being called a national services entity, or potentially even more than one. It would allow credit unions from various provinces to come together in a strengthened position. It is still fairly late in the game. They are at a distinct disadvantage with the banking system as it exists because of all the privileges and rights the banking system has been given historically in Canada.
It is important to draw to the attention of the country the role credit unions can play. Last week I asked one of my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois about the role the Desjardins movement has played in Quebec in solidifying a financial service sector that is broadly based in response to the needs of its communities. In Quebec, and to a somewhat lesser degree in British Columbia, it has been very successful.
I also draw attention to something that I do not think is fully appreciated: the small and medium enterprise area which it has been of great of assistance to these communities. There have been a number of surveys which have shown that small or medium size businesses get much better services from the credit union movement. Unfortunately, with probably the exception of Quebec and maybe British Columbia, in the rest of the country's small and medium sized enterprises simply do not have sufficient services available from the credit union movement and institutions to meet their needs. These amendments in the form of Bill C-8 will go some distance in strengthening the movement across the country. However, as I indicated, it is not enough.
The other area where I think it is really important to note the strength that the credit unions have provided is direct services to individuals. In that regard, it brings to mind the movement by the big banks to close local branches. Of course, we have heard protests and opposition to the banks when they do this.
An area where the credit union movement helped was in one of the western provinces when one of the big banks was closing a large number of local branches. I think it was 13 or 14 branches. The credit union movement moved in and in effect bought the services, took over those branches and kept them alive and open for a number of small communities in western Canada. That, in smaller scales, has occurred right across the country.
One of the recent credit unions in my home province of Ontario got started specifically because the big banks were pulling out of a small community in southwestern Ontario. Nobody was going to be there to provide services, either to individuals or the small local businesses. As a result of a movement on the part of that local community, a new credit union was formed and is flourishing after several years of operation.
It is important to acknowledge those types of endeavours by the credit union movement at the same time this bill is passing through the House.
Again, it does not go far enough. I will not take up my full 20 minutes, but I want to make a few more points with regard to perhaps encouraging the government to look a little into the future at other programs and policies it might implement to facilitate the further development of the credit union movement, in particular, outside of the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia where they are already quite strong. However, in the rest of Canada, the maritimes and Ontario in particular, if endeavours were made and policies implemented, they might very well be able to duplicate the success and provide alternate services we so badly need in the financial services sector.
In that regard, I draw the attention of hon. members to one of the things the province of Quebec did to assist in expanding the caisse populaires and the Desjardins movement. It recognized the need for additional funds to be available to the movement and to be used in the community to foster local business and allow the development of smaller communities. It turned the pension funds traditionally controlled by the government over to the Desjardins movement. That put at its disposal a huge amount of additional liquidity.
Although one can argue that no system is perfect, it certainly had the effect of making that movement in that province very competitive with the big banks. Small and medium sized enterprises had alternatives. A financial service was available to get better services than they traditionally received from big banks.
I am aware of another area that could be considered in terms of enhancing the strength of the credit union movement. That has been to allow them to provide to their members insurance services such as home insurance, auto insurance and others. This has been done to some degree in the province of British Columbia. From my personal knowledge of the experience in British Columbia involving some very large institutions, they have been able to use the insurance financial service sector as a profit making centre, one that in the smaller credit unions and smaller branches has made them financially viable in small communities.
This allowed a small branch of a credit union to continue to function by providing all the other financial services such as mortgages, personal loans et cetera, as well as house and auto insurance. By combining the two, they were quite viable as an economic institution. They could service the community by providing all those financial services. This is something the government should look at as a way of providing some incentive, initiative and strengthening of the credit union movement across the country.
We recognize the resistance the government has in allowing banking institutions to deliver insurance services. The same need not be true for the credit union movement. The credit union movement is dedicated to its members and its communities, not just to the bottom line. The authority for credit unions to move into that area would be a boom for them and a very large plus for their communities.
In conclusion, it is obvious that the bill is going to pass with the form being proposed at this time. Some of the suggestions I made with regard to credit unions need to be pursued by the government. It is very important to Canada that an alternative source of funding for the financial sector be available to both small and large communities. Some of the proposals we made as a party and that I recounted today would take us somewhere down that route.