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House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bank.

Topics

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

In New Westminster too.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

In New Westminster too, my colleague from New Westminster--Coquitlam tells us.

I do not know if Bill C-37 satisfactorily addresses the one compelling issue facing Canadians and that is access to banking services. This has led to the proliferation of payday lenders. Every single vacancy in every strip mall across the country is being filled with another Money Mart or Payday Loans, et cetera. Why? Because they can charge 1,000% to 10,000% interest per year. Show me another business enterprise that receives 1,000% interest. Selling coke for God's sake does not provide 1,000% interest. Prostitution or any other illegal activity does not provide 1,000% interest.

The province of Manitoba did a study on payday lenders in my riding of Winnipeg Centre. One case study documented 10,000% per annum interest on some of the loans as a result of a series of surcharges and fees and roll-over loans. No wonder the Hells Angels are involved. No wonder terrorists are looking to this kind of activity to launder money. I trace it back directly to the banks and the abrogation of their duties to provide basic financial services. By abrogating their duties, they left a vacuum for these rip-off outfits to spring up.

Without getting too over the top on what these reprehensible companies are doing in my riding, one thing they are doing is charging to cash cheques. If people knew their banking rights and if the charter banks were living up to their obligations, people should know that the banks have to open a bank account for them. If people have one piece of ID, even if they do not have any money, a bank has to open a bank account for them. It is in the Bank Act.

Yet poor, low income people do not know this, so they get maybe a government cheque and have no place to cash it because they do not have a relationship with a bank because the bank has abandoned their community. They wind up at a payday loan outfit where they are charged 3% or 4% of their social allowance cheque to cash it. It is illegal to charge to cash a government cheque. Another thing people do not know about their banking rights, and the present and past governments have made no effort to tell them.

Governments have allowed this burgeoning mini-industry of preying on the misery of poor people by taking a chunk of their meagre paycheques to provide basic financial services. I am not overstating it to say that it is morally and ethically reprehensible to be in the payday loan industry. It is morally negligent for the government not to police this industry and not to prosecute anybody who would exceed the usury laws in the Canadian Criminal Code and charge 1,000% per annum. They should be locked up. They should be led away in handcuffs. They should be dragged away in a paddy wagon and locked up, and the key thrown away because there is no lower form of animal in my view than someone who would prey on human misery by exploiting the poor and the desperate in the inner cities.

I am no big fan of the big banks. We do not need to do a tag day for the big charter banks in this country, but we should be holding their feet to the fire and make them live up to their basic commitments, their basic obligations under the Bank Act.

Bill C-37 would have been an opportunity to remind the charter banks of their obligations. In the inner city of Winnipeg where I live and at the corner of Portage and Arlington where I had my campaign offices two elections in a row in two different vacant buildings there are six payday lenders on that one intersection within a half a block in any direction and they are open all the time.

For low income people in my riding, because these firms have been around for almost a decade, people carry their Money Mart card in their back pocket as if that is their ID. That is a poor man's credit card today which is a licence to cheat that person. It is not a credit card. It is not even an ATM card where people can get money using it. It is their identification because payday lenders are smart. They have nice clean tile floors, they are well lit and illuminated. People are treated with some dignity because they want to cheat them. People are sucked in that way, but that used to be the type of service that banks offered legally to neighbourhoods and communities. They were big clean places too where people could go with their paycheques and be treated with some dignity. All that is gone.

We have to remind our charter banks that there was a reason why we gave them the exclusive monopoly on certain very lucrative financial transactions and that was so that they would provide basic services whether we were in Plum Coulee, Manitoba or New Westminster, British Columbia, or in the heart of downtown Toronto, or wherever they are needed.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

Tuktoyaktuk.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Let's not forget Tuktoyaktuk.

The deal was not that they could run those banks as long as they were profitable. The deal was that overall this would be one of the costs that they would assume in their overall activity, namely providing basic financial services. It seems to me the banks do not want ma and pa business any more. They are pawning it off to the credit unions.

There is this idea of the right wingers, the Conservatives, the neo-conservatives in this place. The right wing neo-conservatives have this idea that they should privatize the profits and socialize the losses. That seems to be their basic philosophy. They should privatize all that they gain and let the big banks have all the real good paying business, and they should pawn off the less profitable services such as mortgages, basic banking services, and let the credit unions have those. Somehow the non-profit sector can have all that non-profitable stuff and that will streamline our activities.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Just nationalize it.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Bigger and bigger profits for the banks.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Bigger and bigger, there is no such thing as too much profit for the banks.

One of the right-wingers said that we should nationalize the banks. What an extremist point of view. I am going to use that in my literature the next time there is an election campaign.

The segue between the last bill we debated on offshore tax havens and the bill we are presently debating on Canada's chartered banks and financial institutions is interesting, because there are no worse culprits for tax avoidance and being tax fugitives than the big banks that are abandoning the inner city of Winnipeg. They are abandoning the inner city of Winnipeg and setting up shop in Barbados, the Cayman Islands and everywhere else they can think of to avoid paying their fair share of taxes in our country.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

They are masters at it.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

They are masters at it. They have hundreds of tax lawyers working for them, looking for ways to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. I call them tax fugitives hiding out in tax havens. They certainly are not living up to their commitments to the good people of the riding that I represent. They abandoned my riding and I will never forgive them for it. Frankly, I will not bank in a major chartered bank in this country and I do not care who knows, although I guess everybody knows now.

There are many things that could have been done with this piece of legislation to try to impose some fairness into the financial institutions regime in this country. I remember when the former leader of the NDP, currently the member for Halifax, and I used to crash the shareholder meetings of the major banks. We had nine resolutions that we would put forward at every bank meeting. Two of them almost passed.

One of the resolutions that I moved at the Bank of Montreal failed to pass by less than 1%. In fact the result was 49.6 to 50.4. I remember because it was the same ratio as the Quebec referendum, 49.6 to 50.4. That resolution was gender parity on the board of directors. We came that close to dragging the banks into the 21st century kicking and screaming all the way, but the shareholders clearly wanted modernization of the banking system or they would not have supported gender parity on their own board of directors within one-half of one percentage point. We were very proud of that.

The other resolution that almost passed, and this one almost gave the CEO a heart attack, was that the salary of the CEO would be limited to 20 times that of the average employee. It would still be 20 times what an ordinary human being made, but CEOs were making 200 times and 300 times that of an average employee. That, sadly, did not succeed as a resolution.

It gives some indication of the amount of work that needs to be done if we are going to have a fair regime governing our financial institutions in this country, first to provide reasonable access to every person in this country. Whether people have any money or not, they deserve the right, and in fact they have the statutory right, to basic banking services. Even if people do not have any money but they want to open a bank account, they have to be allowed to open one. Do Canadians know that?

We would drive the payday lenders right out of business. People who have relationships with banks and need to borrow an extra $100 to get them through until their next paycheque could simply use their overdraft the way I or my colleagues do and pay a surcharge of a couple of dollars for that privilege instead of having to pay a surcharge beginning at 1,000% interest. Some of these institutions charge 10,000% interest on a simple loan. On title loans these companies are actually lending people $1,000 and making them sign over the title of their homes as collateral. If they fail to pay off the loan, they run the chance of forfeiting their homes.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Unbelievable in a civilized society.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

This is unbelievable in a civilized society, as my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam pointed out.

I do not know why the Liberals and Conservatives refuse to address these basic inequities in the financial sector. It used to be they relied heavily on the big banks to finance and bankroll their political parties. That is not allowed any more. News flash: They do not have to be afraid of the banks any more. The banks are not allowed to give political parties money any more.

The banks would always line up with wheelbarrows full of money. They would dump an equal amount on the Liberals and on the Tories, but the laws have changed. We no longer have to be afraid of the big banks. If we stand up on our hind legs we can actually demand service from the big banks without jeopardizing our political future. It is a liberating feeling to be able to tell the truth about the banks without having to worry about our donations drying up. That was the beauty of the changes to the election financing laws.

It begs the question, what is the barrier now? If it is no longer money, why do we not force the banks to live up to their obligations under the current Bank Act? Why do we not amend the Bank Act to make it even better so it serves the best interests of Canadians?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

I agree.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

My colleague from Nova Scotia, a Conservative, is agreeing with me. Now and then that Conservative member has the odd lucid moment I have noticed. It may be that in his home community he has suffered the same indignity as I have, that the corner banks are closing their doors, folding up their tents and abandoning us. They are bailing out. They have more investments offshore than they have in our own communities. We grant them a charter to exist and give them the exclusive monopoly to make a fortune on certain financial transactions and they refuse to live up to their end of the bargain. That is where I find fault. The little guy is not getting a fair shake from the big banks.

We create our own credit unions and we are left with the least profitable side of banking that nobody else seems to want. We seem to make it work. We are making it work in the non-profit sector through a vibrant credit union system throughout the land, but that is still no excuse. We cannot afford to backfill every place the banks have abandoned us, we simply cannot. No credit union can.

Imagine how devastating it is to represent an old established neighbourhood like mine and see 15 bank branches close their doors. There is another place in which they are failing to live up to their commitment. Right in the Bank Act it says that if a bank wants to close a branch, it has to have public meetings. It has to deal with the inconvenience to the long-standing customers. It has to help them find alternate banking services within a reasonable distance. One of the banks was even ordered to provide a van to drive seniors from the existing branch to the new branch, which was all the way across town. That lasted exactly four months. The van disappeared and the seniors at the Blue Bird Lodge in the inner city of Winnipeg are without service. It is just not working.

I am here to serve notice that the current Bank Act lets Canadians down. The Bank of Canada had Arthur Anderson as its auditor of record for the whole time of the Enron scandal. I have no confidence in that particular system.

I am very concerned though that Bill C-37 is a lost opportunity, because the very things that I point out as being urgent needs for the communities that I have cited I do not find anywhere in the hundreds and hundreds of complex amendments to complex acts in here.

I would urge the government to get back to the basics and listen to what Canadians are saying. They are sick to their stomachs. Get back to the people. Let us do what is best for ordinary Canadians for a change, not for whoever gets affected.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Let's do what is right.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

My colleague from Surrey is saying let us do what is right. What better way to summarize why we were sent here. My colleague from New Westminster says it is despicable and my colleague from Surrey is suggesting that we do things right.

I do not think that is too much to ask. We were sent here on a mission to represent the views, the needs and the concerns of the people we represent. In the inner city of Winnipeg, one of the primary concerns of people is the complete lack, an absolute paucity of basic financial services. They are being forced to use payday lenders who I think are morally and ethically reprehensible. There is no lower form of animal than someone who would prey on human misery and exacerbate the poverty of low income people, stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

The last thing I would point out is if we are serious about putting a lid on organized crime, we should cut off their ability to raise money and cut off their ability to launder money. I say without any hesitation, without any fear of contradiction whatsoever, money, ill-gotten gains, is being laundered through these payday loan outfits in my riding and every riding in this country. If government were serious about stemming that tide and choking off their ability to carry on organized crime, this would be an important step that it should take.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When debate resumes on this matter, there will be 10 minutes of questions and comments for the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Red Deer, AlbertaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to congratulate the citizens of my constituency of Red Deer.

A week ago, the Festival of Trees was held, which involved a great many events. The volunteers were honoured on this first evening. Without them and their months of hard work, this event could not have occurred. Then the sponsors banquet was held, one of the highlights in our community every year. This 13th annual event was no exception. The big event was the live auction of a house, including the lot and furniture. A total of $660,000 was raised on this one evening alone.

The next night was the Festival of Wines, and Don Sim, the auctioneer, successfully auctioned off a wide selection of wines and auction items. The Santa breakfast and final closing again went well.

The events were all sold out and all the money went to the operating facilities at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

This level of support and volunteerism in our community is something we are very proud of. I congratulate Red Deer.

Senior WomenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives continue their relentless assault on the vulnerable. This time it is senior women.

After the income trust fiasco, they tried to offer amends by allowing income splitting for pensioners. That is terrific, but just under half of all pensioners are single and nearly three-quarters of those are women. What about them? Worse, close to half of these women live at or below the official poverty line.

Yes, there is an increase in the age credit but this pales in comparison to the handouts provided to well-off senior couples who could see tax reductions of tens of thousands of dollars. This is a disgrace. After $1 billion budget cuts in September, they have now added to their hit list impoverished, senior single women.

We know they have another $1 billion in cuts to come. Canadians should be asking who they will attack next.

Status of WomenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am outraged by the draconian cuts to Status of Women Canada as we approach the 25th anniversary of the ratification by Canada of the UN Convention on the elimination of discrimination against women on December 10. What rhetoric will the Harper government use to justify wrecking the foundation of an organization still needed to improve the well-being of women?

In the Upper North Shore, the Sacré-Coeur and Forestville women's centres are affected by these cuts. But it is all women in my riding, as well as throughout Quebec and Canada, who are wronged when they are so clearly not yet on an equal footing with men.

To deprive women of the means to defend their rights is to be indifferent to their claims. To deny them the main means of waging their battle is to be disrespectful. With Ottawa accumulating a surplus, the Harper government cannot—

Status of WomenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The member for Surrey North.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we rose in the House to remember and recommit to stopping violence against women. I rise today because this commitment is something we must do every day.

In the city of Surrey, we have seen the murder of three South Asian women in a short period of time. After these tragedies, there was a large public forum where many South Asian women spoke of their personal experiences of violence in their families. This led to considerable public debate about the South Asian community and violence.

It is important for me to say today that there is violence in every community, regardless of country of origin, and it must be stopped everywhere. I do know that naming, shaming and blaming any particular cultural community will not lead to change.

We must continue to follow the path of listening to women. We must provide education and supports that meet individual needs. These are our sisters, daughters, mothers and friends. When a woman's life is lost to violence, we are deprived of their love and support and their special gifts and talents.

Let us recommit ourselves daily to stopping violence in our communities.

Yseult Roy Raby and Jeanne Turgeon-LessardStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Conservative Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out the exceptional contribution to community life made by Mrs. Yseult Roy Raby, a woman who has dedicated 22 years to disadvantaged families and individuals in my riding. She has transformed thousands of lives in my riding and comforted many in need while director of community service delivery in Cap-Rouge.

Mrs. Raby will be retiring in less than two weeks and I would like to point out the excellent contribution she has made to community life in my riding.

I would also like to acknowledge the 100th birthday of Mrs. Jeanne Turgeon-Lessard, who dedicated her life to the people of my community. She will be signing the Quebec City livre d'or next week and I would like to express my heartfelt respect for her.

I can only hope that we will have the benefit of her wisdom for many more years to come.

Parliamentary Poet LaureateStatements By Members

December 7th, 2006 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of the riding of Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte along Newfoundland's west and northwest coasts, I proudly welcome Mr. John Steffler to the position of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate.

John is a long way from home, Mr. Speaker, but my constituents and I share in your confidence and your enthusiasm for this distinguished appointment.

My colleagues might be interested to hear that John Steffler adopted Corner Brook and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College as his home back in 1974 but his roots are in Toronto.

He is a long time literary contributor to our province of Newfoundland and Labrador and to the entire country of Canada. He is an acclaimed and gifted writer.

Mr. Steffler demonstrates that Canada's poet laureate is a shared treasure of all Canadians.

Amateur Radio on the International Space StationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, through a complex network of satellite radio signals and encrypted phone lines spanning two countries, nine students in my riding had an out of this world experience. They spoke live with NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria as he orbited the earth aboard the International Space Station.

These students are part of an amateur radio club shared between my alma mater, Centre Hastings Secondary School, and Madoc Public School.

ARISS, or Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, is a program that offers an opportunity for students to experience the excitement of amateur radio by talking directly with crew members of the International Space Station.

Centre Hastings Secondary School was the only school in North America that was granted this opportunity.

I would like to congratulate the local coordinators of the event, Rob and Liza Allan.

I would also like to recognize members of the local amateur radio club who provided their assistance. I would like to tell Liana Andrews, Tess Reid, Chelsea Freeman, Landen Kruger, Sara MacNeil, Megan Webb, Rebecca Bremner, Graham Wilcox and Sabrina Reid, the students of ARISS Club, how very proud they have made us.

Le RefletStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 4, the newspaper that represents the eastern part of my riding celebrated its 40th anniversary. Le Reflet, a veritable regional journalistic institution, marked four decades of relaying the events that have shaped the history of Châteauguay—Saint-Constant and the surrounding area. It remains a key player in circulating the news and opinions of the people I represent.

After 40 years, the team at this Montérégie newspaper is still doing an excellent job, putting the vitality of the people from my area front and centre and reporting accurately and with objectivity the news in the 38,000 copies that go out every week in Montérégie. This excellence has also garnered a number of awards, many nominations and much recognition for the work done by the members of Le Reflet.

I want to acknowledge the remarkable efforts of the journalistic team at Le Reflet, and I want to take this opportunity to wish many more years to this newspaper, which is a true reflection of my community.