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House of Commons Hansard #119 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

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-37, An Act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters or, in other words, the bill that represents a statutory five year review of the Bank Act.

I would like to state that during the finance committee's deliberations or hearings on Bill C-37, I had the pleasure of chairing the committee because of the problem with the chairman having to excuse himself. I would like to take two minutes to thank all the members who were quite understanding that this important piece of legislation with over 450 clauses had to be passed in a relatively short period of time.

I would like to thank the witnesses who appeared before the finance committee on short notice and gave us pretty detailed presentations. I would also like to thank those people who participated in the deliberations.

I would like to talk about the current session of Parliament where the Standing Committee on Finance, of which I am the vice-chair, has seen its share of contentious issues and serious studies.

First, committee members undertook the long, cross-country prebudget consultation with Canadians that spanned over months, eight provinces and one territory.

Thanks in part to the diligence of the Liberal members, the finance committee also reviewed the finance minister's astounding decision to tax income trusts. This unbelievable policy reversal has taken $25 billion from the pockets of hard-working Canadians and billions of dollars in income taxes that would have been collected on the capital gains to pay for some of the requirements that will be needed by the government in its next budget.

The committee has not tabled its report, just in case anybody in the House is unaware. We will table that tomorrow. This controversy is probably the most contentious piece of legislation related to tax legislation that I have seen since I have been here in the House.

The committee is also not adverse to controversy and is now studying the tax implications on the oil sands sector, an initiative that was also supported by the Liberals. The committee, with the support of the Liberals, is also once again studying how ATM fees are charged by the banks, their subsidiaries, other financial agents, and other networks that provide these financial service organizations, and any other things related to these communications services outlets.

To this I am hoping to add as well that the whole issue of the timeliness and charges that relate to electronic payments also get addressed during the study in finance committee.

With all these issues before us during the last few months, it is understandable that the finance committee members breathe a small sigh of relief when a straightforward bill like Bill C-37 comes before us.

Bill C-37 represents legislation that is likely to receive support from all parties. Recently, I heard the Prime Minister complain about the difficulties of receiving the will of Parliament to pass legislation, but with Bill C-37, it seems that the Conservative Party has finally discovered the secret to obtaining unanimous support for one of its bills, and that secret is easy. All the Conservatives have to do is introduce Liberal bills.

The Conservative government has presented a bill that mostly follows Liberal policy. Just to give a little bit of history, in 2005 the Liberal government commissioned a white paper to make recommendations for the review of the Bank Act, which is what we are discussing today. I am pleased that the Conservatives have seen the wisdom in these recommendations and have adopted most of them. They have ended up in what we are seeing today, Bill C-37.

The purpose of the bill is to ensure that Canada continues to be a world leader in financial services and I believe that the current bill takes important steps toward that end. As technologies related to financial institutions evolve, it is important that Parliament keeps our country's laws in step. We, as parliamentarians or legislators, must continue to keep our laws up to date as we did during the past 13 years of Liberal government in an ever changing global economy where Canada will quickly fall behind other more proactive nations if the Conservative government does not follow Liberal policy.

Bill C-37 amends a number of acts governing financial institutions as well as legislation related to the regulation of financial institutions. These amendments are essentially designed with three objectives in mind.

The first one is to improve service to consumers. For example, and I will speak a little bit more on it later, it is to harmonize online and in-branch disclosure requirements. We are looking at decreasing the hold periods for cheques from ten days to seven days and we hope it will get down to four days.

The second objective is to increase legislative and regulatory efficiency in the Canadian banking system. This basically means to allow foreign entities and allow more competition to come into the markets, and have what we call these near banks or entities that provide banking type services to be regulated on a national level as well.

The third objective of this bill is to give our financial institutions the ability and flexibility to adapt to changing trends and technologies in the industry, which also means allowing for cheque imaging and providing the financial institutions with the ability to process cheques at a quicker pace so that there is less of a hold period on these cheques.

One of the innovative items in this bill is the writing of electronic cheque imaging into law. We finally got it in this bill. It will require the banks to use new technologies to better serve the needs of Canadians. As it stands right now, the maximum hold period on a deposit cheque is 10 business days.

That can be an excessively long time for some Canadians, especially as we have heard from low income Canadians who need access to these funds much quicker in order to pay their bills, buy food, and whatever else they deem a necessity. Bill C-37 will immediately lower this hold period to seven days, allowing Canadians faster access to their own money.

This can be done even faster. I am speaking specifically to electronic cheque imaging which Canada's banks have already begun to implement. By adopting electronic cheque imaging, banks will no longer need to physically exchange copies of cashed cheques with other institutions. Instead, a captured electronic image of the cheque can be sent instantaneously to other financial institutions.

While we were discussing imaging we heard that banks easily clear about 20 million to 30 million transactions a day. We heard of the logistics involved of having to transport a cheque from one part of the country to another part of the country and having to criss-cross and decide which cheques go to which institution. Now with this ability to electronically image a copy of the cheque, we should be able to speed up the process. Hopefully, we will cut down the holding period to a matter of one or two days, instead of the seven days that is in the legislation, and the four days which the finance minister has promised us will be the norm of financial institutions.

A second aspect of Bill C-37 that I approve of is the provision for an increased disclosure regime which will provide Canadian consumers and businesses alike with the information that they need in order to make the most informed investment decision possible.

Bill C-37 will ensure that the savings product disclosure regime is just as effective for the millions of online bankers as it is for in-branch customers. We have spoken about this before. I think it makes sense to have that in the bill.

Strong competition and information disclosure are two of the best tools available to ensure that the needs of Canadian customers are being served well by our financial institutions.

On the disclosure front, however, I am disappointed that the Conservatives have ignored one strong suggestion from the white paper regarding the complaints process that financial institutions use.

I imagine that many Canadians are not very familiar with the complaints process that they have at their local bank or anywhere actually. It should be legislated. By legislating the complaints process, it would have been readily available and a good idea. I can guarantee that there are not too many Canadians who even know that there is an ombudsman for banking services and that they can use those avenues when the opportunity arises.

The Canadian banking ombudsman and his office do fine work from what I understand. It is a question of knowing that it actually exists. I would have liked to have seen a requirement for information about its services being made readily available and more money being spent so that its services are actually put on websites so that people know about its services.

Canada's mortgage loan insurance threshold will also be changed by this bill. Currently, any homebuyer who provides less than a 25% deposit is required by law to ensure a mortgage through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation or similar private sector providers.

Bill C-37 will reduce this minimum required from 25% to 20%, allowing more Canadians to secure a home mortgage without having to pay for the additional cost of mortgage insurance. Obviously, it is sensible to have some sort of legal threshold under which Canadians must purchase their mortgage insurance.

During the Mulroney years of uncontrolled inflation, it was far more than sensible. It was both prudent and necessary. After a decade of strong Liberal leadership, however, this country is enjoying both low inflation and record low unemployment. As a result, I think it is more than reasonable to reduce the minimum deposit that Canadians must have in order to secure a mortgage without insurance.

In conclusion, I am pleased to support Bill C-37 at this stage. I am glad to see that the Conservatives are continuing to implement the Liberal agenda on so many fronts. It is, after all, the same Liberal agenda that saw Canada make a complete economic U-turn after years of Conservative fiscal mismanagement. It was not that long ago when The Wall Street Journal referred to Canada as a third world economic basket case because of the damage done by the previous Conservative government.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's remarks regarding the Bank Act and I share some of the frustration and concern that I heard him express. In the inner city riding that I represent, the banks abandoned, systematically over the last decade, 15 bank branches. My colleague from Winnipeg North experienced something similar. I believe she counted 13 bank branches that folded up their tents and took off from that inner city community.

The point I am trying to make is that the banks were given the exclusive monopoly on some very lucrative financial services in exchange for the duty and the obligation to provide basic financial services to all Canadians whether it is small town rural Manitoba or the inner city core areas of Surrey, Vancouver or Toronto.

They broke that compact. They tore that agreement up and threw it out the window, yet we still call them charter banks. They still enjoy the exclusive monopoly on these very lucrative financial transactions, yet they broke their end of the deal.

The point I am making is that when they fled the inner city, they left a financial services void, a vacuum that was filled very rapidly with what I call fringe bankers, the payday lenders that sprouted up like mushrooms, like a scourge on the inner city.

They offend the sensibility of every Canadian when they charge 10,000% interest on a basic loan. People think I am making that figure up. A study done by the University of Winnipeg studied fringe banking. It ranged from 1,000% at the low end to 10,000% interest. A person cannot make that kind of money selling cocaine.

It is organized crime that is behind a lot of these payday lenders. I say that with no hesitation and no fear of being sued. We know that for a fact. There is nothing else that can be done in this country to make the kind of financial return as payday lenders receive with their loan-sharking practices.

My concern and what I wanted to raise with my colleague, whom I know probably faces similar issues in the Montreal riding that he represents, is that the banks are not serving us well. We have one opportunity every five years or so to have a statutory review of the Bank Act and we fail to address some of these fundamental issues.

Why do we not force the banks to live up to their obligation to provide basic services? Why do we let them close bank branches that are still profitable, they are just not profitable enough, or they are not as profitable as their branch out in the suburbs?

Why do we let them put up ATMs that mystify and baffle people like my mother who has banked at the same street corner of Grosvenor and Stafford since 1948 until that bank branch closed? Now there is this nameless, faceless, cold ATM that she is supposed to try to figure out how to use, and then to add insult to injury, they start charging these exorbitant banking fees just to access her bank account.

Really, when we add up all these things, the banks have been raking it in making record profits. Every quarter they set new records. There are not many industries, not many sectors, that have set record profits every single quarter, year after year after year. Why can we not rein these guys in?

Why did this committee not have the guts to take the banks on and tell them they are not living up to their end of the deal with their charters, and to start doing it or we are going to tear up their charters?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member made a lot of comments and I am not sure how many questions he asked but I will try to answer him as best I can.

If the hon. member had asked me the question about bank closures a couple of years ago I would have agreed with him. I am not about to defend banks but in the last couple of years there has actually been an increase in bank openings in my riding. They have actually increased the number of hours.

We have Caisse Populaires in Quebec. Credit unions would be the equivalent. The Caisse Populaires have put together a great network of banking systems which have enabled them to compete against banks. This has the banks worried. We are receiving a lot of services in my riding.

I have gotten to know some of the regional managers in my area and when I hear a complaint I tell them about it and tell them that I do not like what I am hearing. We have had problems with some of the banks in terms of banking with individuals and businesses and we have been able to rectify those problems. We also have a very competitive BDC bank that is doing a lot of good work in my riding. I disagree with the member in that aspect.

We do not have payday lenders in my riding but a lot of cash-chequing services are sprouting up, and that worries me a bit. We do not have pawnshops but we have something similar and I do not like what I am seeing. The problems and issues are there.

We addressed that issue in the finance committee during our deliberations on Bill C-37. I want to remind the member that we were just looking at the statutory five year review of the Bank Act so it did not really fit in. We tried to fit in certain amendments to address bank closures. We requested the banking association to provide us with an analysis of the different branches and banks that closed during the year. We asked for this by geographical location and the reasons behind the closure. We hope to get that information. If not, we can always bring bank officials back before committee. They will be appearing before committee for ATM fees and the way the whole system works for electronic payment services.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I forgot to ask my colleague's views on something that is important to me, which is the issue that we are dealing with at the privacy committee under PIPEDA. We are thinking of changing the personal information protection legislation to include the duty to notify. Thirty-four U.S. states have an absolute duty to notify individuals if their personal information has been compromised or if there has been a breach of identity.

Does the member agree that there should be a mandatory duty for the banks to notify people, even if they suffered no injury and even if the bank corrected the mistake before any material loss was suffered, so people will know how the bank is handling their personal information?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, customers should know about any type of information banks have on them. It is a big problem. We know that sometimes financial institutions do trade information but they tell us that they do not. I would be in favour of any type of disclosure that banks could provide the consumers on what is in their file so they could at least make comments if that information is not accurate. That was not an issue in the committee but we did have issues regarding criminality and theft and identity theft, but again that did not seem to be within the scope of the bill.

I am all in favour of better protecting the privacy of Canadians.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-37.

The Bloc recognizes that this bill has some merits. The Bloc also has some concerns about this bill. Bill C-37 will not address some issues. We have heard many speeches in this House. There are aberrations. There are excesses on the banks' part. This bill will not correct these excesses or aberrations. By aberrations, I mean the interest rates on credit cards issued by the major banks, among other things.

I have been a member of the House of Commons since 2000. Believe it or not, although the Bank of Canada rate has occasionally gone down, it has risen slightly in the past few years. Still, it has never gone above the level it reached in 2000.

The interest rate on credit cards issued by the major banks and other financial institutions has risen by 6% since 2000. Obviously, people who pay their credit card bills before the deadline do not have to pay these significant charges. But people who, for various reasons, are having trouble making ends meet and do not make their payments by the deadline will have to pay interest.

Costs are going up in Quebec. The Charest government has raised hydro rates. It was cold in February, so people will notice an increase on their next bill. They will see how much their rates have gone up in the past two years—nearly 15%. Sometimes, we see sharp increases. I say “sharp increases”, because in the past two years, we have enjoyed relatively mild weather in January and February, but this year has been cold.

Citizens will see on their next bill, which will arrive in March, probably a little before the election date, the real increases in charges and costs that the Charest government will have had added on to their hydro bill. Then they may have to use their credit cards to pay their hydro bill. It is hard, especially when the rates charged by the credit cards issued by the big banks are getting close to 20%, with rates such as 19.9%, 18.9%. Not to mention the department stores whose interest rates may be as high as 24% or 25%.

Bill C-37 will not fix these aberrations, no more than it will fix the high bank fees for ATMs.

For some time now, when someone is the client of a bank and they use one of its ATMs, no fees have been charged. But if someone uses another financial institution’s ATM, there is a fee charged. The ATM that took your request charged you a fee, but the financial institution did not. For the past few years, when someone uses a competitor’s ATM, they are charged fees by their own bank for using a competitor’s ATM.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the banks streamlined their service centres. So today we are paying for the closures of points of service. Well established banks closed their client services saying that ATMs would replace them. On top of their being replaced, fewer services are offered and fees have been added.

Banks have disappeared from certain areas. In rural areas, in some communities, branches have been closed and moved to a neighbouring town. This is what happened in my community. We have an independent ATM, one that belongs to an independent company.

The bank that used to offer services to the population now charges us fees on top of those taken by the competitor’s ATM. In some communities, points of service have closed their doors. The institutions suggested that their clients use the ATM, claiming it would not cost them anything and would be cheaper. In addition to saving themselves money, they take our money away from us. Such is the banking reality. This is not something that will be fixed by Bill C-37.

Bill C-37 takes a somewhat broader approach, that is, it looks at broader banking strategy. Among other things, it will reduce the regulatory burden on foreign banks, credit unions and insurance companies, thereby making the regulatory approval regime more efficient. Furthermore, the government would increase the equity threshold from $1 billion to $2 billion, thereby making it possible for a single shareholder to wholly own a bank, thus encouraging new competitors on the market.

Once again, this is not targeted at small investors, as I was saying earlier. Bill C-37 is targeted more at bank administration. Although the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-37, that is, to open the market to greater competition, we believe that it may allow for more service centres and therefore possibly fewer fees. However, we must ask ourselves some important questions. This is what my colleagues of the Bloc Québécois will do within the committee that is tasked with examining this bill. We will make certain that any changes to the regulations do not allow the kind of uncontrolled mergers and acquisitions we have seen before in the banking sector.

We will try to ensure that the purpose of Bill C-37, which is to promote competition and not concentration among the banks, is respected. The Bloc Québécois' goal is not to support legislation whose purpose is to ensure fewer banks. Indeed, what we want to ensure is greater competition. We want to open up the market and allow more major players in the field, in order to have more competition and more services. We do not want to see the opposite.

We hope that our colleagues in the other parties will understand the position taken by the Bloc Québécois. We want a more open system. We do not want concentration or the kind of uncontrolled mergers and acquisitions we saw in the early years of this century. At that time, the banks were determined to become major global players, to the point that ultimately the public was no longer getting service. For the big banks, this was not a problem as long as they were able to go and do business with the big players all over the world and finance the big capitalists of the world. It is easier to do business with one than with one million. Obviously, I can understand the bank president. I hope that he will understand me. Me, I work for the people. I am sorry but what I want is for the people to have service. If the bank president only wants to have to buy one dinner, that is his problem. I hope that one day he will have to buy a million dinners to do business with every member of the public, as we do, as the Bloc Québécois members of this House do, when we go out to meet with the public in the street. I hope that the bank president is going to come down from his tower from time to time and go and see what the people have to endure and live with.

So it is with that goal, that objective in mind that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill. It will support the bill on the condition that there be more service to the public, not less.

You have gathered that Bloc Québécois members will be following Bill C-37. We will be in committee to propose amendments so that we have more players in the banking game, hoping that with this bill we will succeed in reducing fees and making services more accessible to the public, at a better price. Too often, the public has to endure increases, as is the case in Quebec at present with the rise in electricity rates that is coming in March because of the Charest government.

We hope that we will be able to offer a little salve for their wounds by trying to reduce banking fees.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I had the interesting opportunity to attend the shareholders meetings of two of the major Canadian chartered banks, the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank. I was accompanied by a colleague from Quebec, Mr. Yves Michaud. Mr. Michaud is a well-known shareholder activist who is seeking to change the way banks conduct themselves, to add an element of democracy into the shareholders movement, to mobilize shareholders through a shareholders' rights movement to where we can actually effect change in corporate Canada. Seeing as corporate Canada is outside the jurisdiction of Parliament and seems to operate as an entity unto its own, we wanted to introduce some elements of democracy.

One of the motions that we moved at the shareholders meeting of the Royal Bank was to require gender parity on the board of directors of the Royal Bank. I thought this was an exciting idea. The motion was moved by Mr. Michaud and was seconded by me. There were 1,300 people at the shareholders meeting and the only motions moved at that meeting by any shareholder were those moved by Mr. Michaud and seconded by me. None of the other shareholders seemed motivated at all into shareholder rights activism that we were seeking to achieve.

The other motion that we moved would have limited the salaries of the CEOs of those banks to 20 times that of the average employee. In other words, if the average employee made $50,000 a year--and I do not think that they do in the banks; the figure is probably less than that--it would be 20 times that and in round figures it would be $1 million a year.

That year John Cleghorn made $11.2 million. We figured that was 130 times the salary of the average employee. The average CEO in Japan makes 13 times that of the average employee.

Does my colleague agree with this kind of shareholder activism? If we have failed to include things in the Bank Act to make sure that the banks are serving the needs of Canadians, whether they live in Quebec or the rest of Canada, does he agree that we need to take that activism to the streets, to the shareholders meetings? Does he agree that we need to exercise the power that we have as shareholders to make sure that we are getting good service from our banks as per their obligations under the Bank Act?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Yves Michaud is very well known in Quebec. He is a great social democrat. We know that he has the advantage of being a recognized sovereigntist, a member of the Parti Québécois and of the Bloc Québécois. He is obviously a man who has the interests of the people at heart.

It is a well known fact that Mr. Michaud's suggestions to the boards of directors of big banks have always been in the interests of the people, who are once again having their property taken away from them. When we see bank fees go from $1.50 to $2.50, we know that part of the increase is being used to raise the salary of the bank's CEO.

I think that the idea that the remuneration of a bank CEO should be 20 times that of the average salary of employees should be considered. The government should show that it has a little backbone but the Minister of Industry has none and never will have. We will never see that, but the government could nonetheless show a little firmness and tell the banks that enough is enough and that they must change their ways.

People work to pay the salary of the CEO, whose only aim is to increase the bank's profits to get a bigger bonus at the end of the year. Not only does the CEO's salary increase but he or she also gets a bonus for reaching the objectives of the current year and exceeding those of the following year. It is not surprising then that the good folks who pay transaction fees at ATMs see those fees increase. On the one hand, it ups the CEO's estimates and, on the other hand, it increases his or her salary at the end of the year. The CEO is very happy to get a raise but that leaves less money in people's pockets. You can understand then that the Bloc will support any request or any legislation change that the government could introduce to call the banks to order.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague for his speech on the bill on bank regulation.

He talked briefly about the main objective of the Bloc Québécois concerning this bill, which is intended to promote competition. When there is more competition, there is necessarily a better service provided to the citizens. Competition is also essential to provide services at low costs.

As he said, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. I would like to hear him on the following question. Could he tell us about the protection that citizens would have, through this bill, against the hungry banks that charge fees on all banking transactions?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his question. I see that the member is and always has been an ardent defender of the people. That explains why he has been re-elected time after time. I understand.

We can create that better balance right here in this House. That is the Bloc Québécois' goal with respect to Bill C-37. We want to see more services and we want to encourage competition. That is why we are ardent defenders of our fellow citizens.

The proposed bank mergers were unrestricted. The banks wanted to get bigger and bigger as fast as possible to take over the world market. They did not care about serving people and were ready to charge citizens as much as possible. We will oppose that.

An entire section of this bill deals with fee disclosure and forcing banks to be transparent. Even members of this House do not find out about fee increases until we go to a bank machine.

We must ensure that the population is aware of the facts so that they can pressure boards of directors. That is happening. Shareholders must be informed and encouraged to take action. Action must be taken with respect to cooperative financial institutions. Quebec must be given the tools to look after its own affairs. We must ensure that citizens see costs go down rather than up because bank profits are skyrocketing. Everyone knows those profits come from people's pockets. We want to ensure that the banks take as little as possible from them.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure Canadians know their banking rights. I am not sure that they insist on having their rights respected in the context of banking. For instance, some of the payday loan companies, those rip-off outfits that have taken the place of banks in the inner city, are charging people 2%, 3%, 4%, even 5% to cash a cheque, even a government cheque. It is against the law to charge a fee to cash a government cheque and yet they do.

Also, one of the reasons people have to go to these rip-off alternate banking companies is that they do not have an account with an established bank. Banks have to open accounts for people, even if they have no money. In the trade we made with the chartered banks, we granted them the exclusive monopoly privileges on certain very lucrative financial services in exchange for providing basic needs to Canadians. One of those things is they have to open a bank account for people. All people have to do is show some ID, even if they have no money, and then they have a relationship which enables them to cash cheques.

Does the member share my concern that perhaps we have not informed Canadians of their banking rights so that they know enough to demand their rights and that they be respected in the context of banking?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right.

The interest rate established by law is 60%. This rate is already unreasonable. The government allows this. It allows interest rates of 60%. To go higher than this rate is a crime.

First, I believe that we must do something about this. We must do so because 60% is already a crime, in my opinion. That is the reality. When a bank charges 3% or 4% to cash a cheque, we can calculate it in this way: 4% a day, over 365 days, comes to more than 1,200% a year. Thus, it is a crime.

The member is absolutely right. We must be able to make all these things public. People must stop being exploited and they should file criminal complaints against people who do these things. That is the reality.

Once again, we had a Liberal government and we now have a Conservative government that continues to support all this movement of credit that enriches the wealthiest and makes the people poorer. That is what the Bloc Québécois will try to fight against.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is the House ready for the question?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The vote is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I declare the motion carried on division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Competition ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Beauce Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier ConservativeMinister of Industry

moved that Bill C-41, An Act to amend the Competition Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to address Bill C-41. This bill amends the Competition Act regarding the application of provisions dealing primarily with the telecommunications sector. This amendment—the bill only has two clauses—will allow the Competition Tribunal to impose administrative monetary penalties if telecommunications service providers abuse their dominant position.

Bill C-41 will therefore be a powerful deterrent against the anti-competitive behaviour that some players in the industry may display.

The government wants to ensure that consumers and businesses in Canada fully benefit from the deregulation of telecommunications and the creation of competitive markets right here in Canada. To that end, it is essential to provide a credible recourse to punish and deter anti-competitive behaviour which could—and I emphasize the word could—surface during the transition from a regulated to a non-regulated environment.

This is basically the purpose of Bill C-41: to ensure that users of telecommunications services in Canada get the benefits of a competitive market.

In order to properly address this issue, it is important to consider the proposed change in a broader, more global context. The telecommunications sector is experiencing a rapid evolution because of the emergence of new technologies. Telecommunications markets are very competitive and are important to a strong economy.

As we know, competition forces businesses to become more efficient, to invest more in new technologies, to offer new products and to provide services that benefit all consumers.

We are living in a new era of communications shaped by constantly evolving technologies, such as the Internet and the wireless technology. These new telecommunications technologies determine the way we, in Canada, work and live.

Every day, businesses come up with new products and innovative services. In March 2006, the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel acknowledged, in its report, the costs generated by useless and ineffective regulations in these sectors. As I just mentioned, the panel provided us with a copy of its report in March 2006. It urged the government to regulate only if necessary. It also recommended that appropriate measures be provided to deal with anti-competitive behaviour. The panel expressly recommended using fines to ensure that telecommunications companies comply with the Competition Act.

More recently, the Minister of Finance published a document titled "Advantage Canada—Building a Strong Economy for Canadians".

In this document, the government commits itself to taking additional measures to ensure that Canadians will continue to benefit from competition in the telecommunications sector as well as in all other sectors in Canada.

In the document, we stress the importance of making the Competition Act as modern as possible.

In its report, the task force also reminded us rightly that some measures to regulate telecommunications in Canada date back to the beginning of the last century. Moreover, the report says that even though Canada remains a leader in telecommunications, other countries are catching up and are even starting to get ahead of us.

Canada's new government is determined to take measures to reverse this trend. Our goal is to create a new regulatory framework that will be modern and flexible and will allow consumers to take advantage of new technologies as well as competition.

For example, Canada's new government tabled in the House a set of proposed policy directions to the CRTC, directing it to rely as much as possible on market forces. As well, on November 15, I announced the decision to change the way the CRTC regulates voice over Internet protocol services, known as VoIP.

Canada's new government has instructed the CRTC to begin deregulating access-independent VoIP services. There are few obstacles to entry into this market and there is no reason to retain regulation in this area.

In the end, I proposed a variance to the CRTC decision regarding local forbearance which outlined the criteria for determining when to refrain from regulating local services.

The government proposed replacing the CRTC criteria for market share with a criterion that would emphasize the presence of a competitive infrastructure in a given geographic area.

We are doing this to ensure that Canadian consumers have the widest possible choices, the best services and the most competitive rates in the telecommunications sector. We wish to resort to regulation only when problems cannot be resolved by market forces. Competition is the main means of ensuring economic efficiency and promoting innovation and growth of productivity, as well as improving our quality of life.

I come from an area and a country where entrepreneurship is flourishing. The people of Beauce recognize the importance of individual freedom, autonomy and responsibility. Beauce businesspeople also understand, as do entrepreneurs throughout Canada, that individual freedom and competition are vital values in a democratic country and that all forms of regulation can thwart the innovation of which people are so proud.

Implementing this legislation is important. We believe that it is also important that steps be taken to deter behaviour that stifles competition and to educate citizens about this act. The Competition Bureau—

Competition ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I must interrupt the debate on Bill C-41.

The House resumed from February 22 consideration of the motion.

Opposition motion—Citizenship and immigrationBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, February 22, 2007, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #125

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from February 26 consideration of the motion.

Anti-terrorism ActOrders Of The Day

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, February 22, 2007, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the statutory order.