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House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was loan.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Is there unanimous consent?

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1:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of the legislation before us, Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate).

The legislation seeks to amend section 347 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which criminalized the charging of usurious interest rates. Section 347 limits interest charges on loans to 60% per annum.

When it was enacted, section 347 contemplated larger long term loans. As such, this section of the Criminal Code requires the interest on a loan to be calculated annually, even if the loan is for a short term, such as only five days. Therefore, the interest is calculated by compounding daily over 365 days, even if the loan is only held for a few days. One hundred dollars lent for five days at a cost of $1 therefore amounts to 107% annual interest. This would be the equivalent of requiring hotels to post their annual room rates at $55,000 per year, rather than $150 per night. Similarly, this would be the same as requiring a car rental agency to post its rates at $13,000 a year rather than $35 per day. We use many such short terms devices in our daily lives and we calculate the services using short term pricing, not annual rate, a meal in a restaurant or a tax trip across town.

Payday loans are also a short term product, so annualized rates are the wrong measure of the products cost.

What is a payday loan? This is defined as an advancement of money in exchange for a post-dated cheque, a pre-authorized debit or a future payment of a similar nature, but not for any guarantee suretyship, overdraft protection or security on property and not through a margin loan, pawnbroking, line of credit or a credit card.

In order to qualify for a payday loan, the borrower generally must have identification, a personal chequing account and a pay stub or other proof of a regular income. Payday lenders typically extend credit based on a percentage of the borrowers net pay until his or her next payday. The borrower provides the lender with a post-dated cheque or authorized direct withdrawal for the value of the loan, plus any interest or fees charged.

Who uses payday loans? In early 2005 the Consumer Agency of Canada placed questions on the Canadian Ipsos Reid Express, a national omnibus poll of Canadian adults, about Canadians experiences with and motivations for using cheque cashing and payday loan services. The survey found that approximately 7% of survey respondents had used a cheque cashing or payday loan company. Cheque cashing was the most frequently used service at 57%, followed by payday loans at 25% and tax refund anticipation loans at 5%.

Certain respondents were more likely to have used these services, including men, those between the ages of 18 and 34, urban residents, residents of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, those with household incomes less than $30,000 and those with some post-secondary education. Some of the reasons cited included that it was faster, it was more efficient and they needed the money more immediately, that the hours were more convenient, that they were open later than other financial institutions and that they had previous credit card problems, no credit card or no chequing account.

Although I personally never needed to use a payday loan, I can imagine how the service could be very helpful. There are so many scenarios that would require such instantaneous access to cash such as car repairs on a long distance trip, provision of a rental deposit to secure that just right apartment, a sudden illness or death of a family member that requires an unexpected trip to another province.

For those who are living through the challenge of a previous bankruptcy, life is a cash only society, with no access to credit cards to help bridge the wait between paydays. Clearly, payday loans are a required services for many Canadians, but they need to be regulated to ensure that consumers are protected.

The Canadian Payday Loan Association indicates that the payday loan industry first emerged in Canada in the mid-1990s. As of 2004 there were nearly 1,200 outlets, and as the parliamentary secretary advised, there are more than 1,300 right now. In my riding of Thunder Bay--Rainy River, I have recently witnessed the opening of nearly half a dozen payday loan businesses where just 10 years ago there were virtually none.

Why are amendments needed?

As stated earlier, section 347 makes it a criminal offence to charge more than 60% per annum. Section 347 was initially introduced to combat the practice of loan sharking and its links to organized crime. It was not intended to be a consumer protection tool for economic price regulations.

If the rate of interest on a payday loan transaction is calculated according to the definitions and methods specified in the Criminal Code, some payday loan companies appear to be charging in excess of 1,200% per annum. However, it is clear that interest rates on such short term loans should not be calculated the same as those on long term loans. It is also clear at the same time that there is increased demand for payday loan services.

The problem arises because of shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. Financial institutions are regulated either federally or provincially and territorially, depending upon which order of government incorporated them. The federal government has jurisdiction over interest rates, but the day to day regulation and licensing of payday lenders most likely falls under provincial jurisdiction as part of the provinces' power over property and civil rights.

Because of this confusion in jurisdiction, payday lenders have been left essentially unregulated. Provinces are unable to regulate the price of a loan, since any attempt to do so would conflict with section 347 and could therefore be challenged. However, section 347 has not been used in a criminal context to curtail the activities of payday lenders because the consent of a provincial attorney general is required to prosecute an offence.

Provincial governments are wary to prosecute a payday lender for fear that the lack of a payday loan company alternative would result in consumers using illegal alternatives such as loan sharks. The payday lending sector is one of the only segments of Canada's financial services sector that remains unregulated.

All other countries that have experienced rapid growth in the industry, including the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, have rules in place to protect consumers. The United States, for example, has 22,000 retail store outlets. Forty states have put in place consumer protection rules. To date, no fewer than five provinces have openly called upon the federal government to change section 347 so that they can move ahead with provincial regulation of the industry.

If the payday loan industry is not regulated, its future may ultimately be determined by a number of class action lawsuits that are currently proceeding through Canadian courts. These lawsuits claim that consumers were charged fees in excess of the Criminal Code rate and seek to recover hundreds of millions of dollars worth of interest. Should these class action lawsuits succeed, they could potentially bankrupt the payday loan industry.

There have been significant federal-provincial-territorial consultations regarding regulation of the payday loan industry. Through this consultative process, they have all agreed that section 347 is an inappropriate control for payday loans and that it should be amended to enable provincial regulation of the industry.

In October 2005 the Liberal federal minister of justice acknowledged that section 347 does not make sense and should not apply to payday loan companies. The minister sought and obtained cabinet approval to amend section 347 accordingly.

I am very pleased to see that that Conservative government has chosen to follow through with the introduction of this legislation, which was developed through the hard work of the former Liberal ministers of justice and industry. The dropping of the writ and subsequent election are its own story.

What has been changed with Bill C-26?

The bill adds a definition of payday loan. This is an important addition because it provides a clear definition of a second kind of loan where previously there was no differentiation and all loans were treated equally.

Clause 2 introduces new subsection 347.1(2) which exempts a person who makes a payday loan from criminal prosecution, if the loan is for $1,500 or less and the term of the agreement--

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my riding is another one with a very long name that describes the whole of the area where the people I represent in this House make their homes.

I listened with interest to the remarks of my colleague. I know that the work has been done by the Standing Committee on Industry and not the Standing Committee on Justice. Perhaps he is not aware of how these things were done, but I would still like to ask him a question.

In Quebec, as opposed to what has happened in the rest of Canada, the matter of payday loans was dealt with in the 1990s—if not, indeed, the 1980s—with the creation of the Office de la protection du consommateur. In Quebec, the maximum rate of interest that can be charged is 35%. When this bill was tabled, we expected, therefore, that the federal government would say that any provinces that already has similar legislation, with adequate protection, has only to declare that and it will be automatically designated. That would have made it possible to adopt the bill very quickly in one day of parliamentary debate. However, in committee we encountered fierce opposition—not just mild opposition—from representatives of the other three parties because they absolutely insist that the federal government must have the right to give its blessing to the provincial legislation.

I would like to ask my colleague, instead of demanding that there be a designation made by the governor in council, and in the final analysis, the Prime Minister, would it not have been more reasonable to decide whether Quebec's act is acceptable on the basis of the provisions in Bill C-26?

Would it not have been possible to accept an amendment that was suggested not only by the separatists in Bloc Québécois but also by the Government of Quebec, which represents all Quebeckers and which has administered the current act for 25 years?

Could the Conservatives not have shown that much flexibility when they are so fond of proclaiming that they respect provincial jurisdiction? In this case, they show no sign of that respect.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, there has been widespread media attention to this. Some of the provinces, such as New Brunswick, state that they welcome the news about the introduction of legislation at the federal level. Others say handing the regulation of payday loans over to the provinces is the best thing the federal government could do to fix the situation that has allowed financially troubled consumers to be victimized by predatory lenders.

When the hon. member makes his case, he does it very logically and fairly. I hope that hon. members of the House would consider that.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-26, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate).

The bill was reported back to the House from committee on December 13. It very seldom happens that a bill is reported back without amendments. That shows what can happen when there is strong cooperation between the parties. Actually this is one of six bills the official opposition has called upon the government to work with all parties to pass as soon as possible.

We believe with just a little more cooperation, especially from the government, that in addition to Bill C-26, the following bills could be reported back to the House: Bill C-9, which would restrict the use of conditional sentences; Bill C-18, which would strengthen the DNA data bank; Bill C-19, which would amend the Criminal Code on street racing; Bill C-23, which would amend the Criminal Code and criminal procedure in languages of the accused and sentencing, in other words, update Canada's Criminal Code; and Bill C-22, which would amend the Criminal Code with respect to age of protection, with the importance of protecting children. We believe with a little more cooperation from the government, we could in fact be getting those six bills approved in the House.

In summary, Bill C-26 amends the Criminal Code of Canada to exempt payday lenders who operate in provinces and territories having measures in place to protect borrowers from the application of section 347 of the Criminal Code of Canada, and require jurisdictions that regulate the industry to place limits on the cost to consumers of payday borrowing.

To a great extent a lot of work was done on this bill by previous ministers of industry and justice. A lot of work has gone on with the provinces and territories to get the kind of collaboration needed to put forward this bill in the House of Commons. I congratulate all the folks, including members of the government, who were involved in those discussions to get us where we are at today.

There is certainly a need to ensure consumers that usury interest rates are not allowed in this country. There is no question that there is a lot of authority in the Criminal Code of Canada under section 347 to lay criminal charges for usurious interest rates. Section 347 makes it a criminal offence to charge more than 60% per annum.

As we all know, some payday loan companies have charged far in excess of that rate. In fact, we have heard of outrageous interest charges, when compounded and fees are added, in excess of 1,200% per annum, yet no charges under section 347 to payday loan companies have been made.

Yes, the concern is there, but the payday loan business is a little more complicated jurisdictionally, and I would say on an individual need basis, more than meets the eye. Jurisdictionally payday loan operations are considered to be commercial businesses. They are not banks, although I think many people believe they are. As commercial businesses, to a great extent they fall under provincial jurisdiction.

My colleague, the MP for Scarborough—Rouge River, explained it. I want to quote from his remarks in the House because he gave best explanation on this point:

We are going to keep a Criminal Code provision, but we are going to allow an exemption for a lawful business that lends money using this payday loan mechanism. The exemption will be based on the premise that a province or a territory is regulating the commercial operation.

He went on to say:

Placing this amendment with section 347, will allow the provinces to assume their proper jurisdiction in the regulation of the commercial affairs of their citizens. However, at the same time, we maintain the criminal prohibition with the 60% per annum cap where there is no provincial regulation. We are assuming that a province will provide a form of regulation that will essentially keep the same level of protection the consumers have had up to now.

It is important to mention that because it explains the jurisdictional problem and the difference between the commercialization as a business.

Therefore, the bill does cover off the jurisdictional question under clause 2 by the person being licensed by the province to enter into the agreement, and second, the province has been designated by the governor in council or cabinet under the proposed new section 347.1.3.

On an individual need basis, it is obvious from the demand for transactions, estimated to be $1.3 billion or more, and in fact the parliamentary secretary said it is as high as $2 billion now, and also the increase of payday loan companies that are estimated to be over 1,300. It is obvious from these shocking figures that individual Canadians have an urgent need for short term cash for whatever reason.

Yes, I recognize the amounts are in the low hundreds of dollars, but the cost, as others have said before me, are very high.

Mr. Jenkin with the Department of Industry, who was a witness before committee, indicated:

It's a form of short-term lending through which the consumer typically borrows several hundred dollars for 10 days to two weeks. The borrowing costs are very high, as you probably know. They are usually in the range of, for example, $40 to $75 for a $300 loan for two weeks or less.

I must emphasize that while I support the bill as a way to improve the situation for people who are in need of immediate cash, I still am worried about the impact of the financial strain on individuals. There is no question in my mind that the individuals who are basically forced to use these services are the ones who can least afford to pay these high fees. Maybe they need the dollars to provide food, buy groceries for the family. Maybe they need the dollars for a medical bill or maybe they even need the dollars to pay the minimum payment on a high interest bearing credit card.

Whatever the reason, there is clearly a problem out there that needs to be addressed beyond this bill. I certainly would advise the government and others that we really need to be doing as a country, both at the provincial and federal level, some research into the social or economic reason why people think they are forced to go to these services for those kinds of money. They are the people who can least afford it and I believe that needs to be looks into and addressed.

The bottom line is that we are in favour of this bill. We do believe it is a step in the right direction However, there are other underlying causes that we need to recognize are out there in a social and economic sense and issues that really affect people in their daily lives that forces them to use these services. That is the worrisome point.

The bill is good but I believe the House and the government need to look at the underlying causes of the need to use these services more so.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in what my colleague said in his speech, particularly in the fact that he said there will have to be further complementary studies not only to address the disciplinary aspect of this issue, but also to identify the causes and implement the most appropriate measures.

That is why I would invite him—as well as provincial government representatives—to learn more from the Government of Quebec about the current practice that the Office de la protection du consommateur has overseen for almost 20 years, a practice that limits payday loan interest rates to about 35% in Quebec and that has helped curb development in the payday loan sector. This may also be due in part to the fact that the Desjardins group has a particular interest as a lender, as a cooperative lending institution, in ensuring that its members receive the best possible service. In any case, these measures have worked together to prevent the problem from emerging in Quebec as it has done in the rest of Canada.

In light of this visit, this experience, this exchange, the federal government should recognize that Quebec has developed this approach within its jurisdiction. Furthermore, it should simply make note of the results and accept that there is already legislation in place in Quebec. A letter from Quebec's minister of Justice to the federal Minister of Justice explaining that Quebec has a law that meets this goal and that, as such, he considers the requirement fulfilled should suffice. There should be no need to subject a province to an assessment in an area that is already under its jurisdiction.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any concrete evidence to prove the point that the job is being handled well in Quebec. We know they are not being used as much in Quebec but we do not know the underlying reasons for that. It would require a lot more research than the typical Bloc Québécois approach, which is that it is basically due to the issues as they exist in that province. Some national research needs to be done in that area and that can be done with this bill in place. With some provincial jurisdictions operating a little differently than others, there would be the foundation to do that research in the future to get concrete results.

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague from Malpeque would agree that the reason these payday loan outfits have popped up like mushrooms in virtually every town and community in the country is that the banks have abandoned many places. We have had 15 branch closures just in my riding of Winnipeg Centre in the last five years. In their place, these payday loan ripoff outfits, and I do not hesitate to call them that, have popped up to provide for the basic needs of people who might need financial services.

Would he not agree that while we are trying to regulate and rein in these payday loan outfits, we should also be reminding the banks of their obligations under their charters to provide basic services for Canadians? For instance, under the Bank Act the banks must allow somebody to open a bank account even if that person has no money. Maybe these people would not need to go to a payday loan outfit if the bank had a branch somewhere within miles of where these people live and allow people to open a bank account so they can cash their cheques without paying 3% or 5%. Would he not agree that we need to get after the big banks to live up to their obligations at the same time as we are trying to rein in these ripoff payday loan outfits?

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is not only in downtown Winnipeg where banks have withdrawn services and centralized their banking operations. I have had the opportunity to travel a lot in rural Canada and I have seen a lot of that happening there as well.

I actually think it could be a factor because people do need to go somewhere to cash their cheques. At one time banks were a very important part of many rural communities. They have withdrawn their services at a time when we see their profits going through the roof. They not only charge high enough interest rates but their fees are absolutely ridiculous. I do not think many Canadians recognize how much the fees stacked on top of fees have escalated within the banking sector.

I see the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food over there. If the government continues it moves on the Canadian Wheat Board, we may see farmers themselves using payday loans. The government is withdrawing dollars right out of farmers' pockets with its attack on and undermining of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-26. After examining this bill in the parliamentary committee, I thought that it would be very favourably received since the Government of Quebec has had legislation for the last two decades that manages the payday loans issue through the Office de la protection du consommateur.

Quebeckers who are listening to the debate today must be wondering why this question has still not been resolved. They must be asking themselves, "Is there not legislation under which this issue could be dealt with?" The answer is no. In the rest of Canada, that is not the case.

I saw this in committee. The representatives of the three federalist parties joined together and systematically, and very firmly, opposed a slight amendment being made to provide that in the event that a province—such as Quebec—already had a law that addressed this issue adequately, no in-depth study would be done. The jurisdiction of the province would be respected. The provincial authorities have decided that this is the right approach. At that point, notice would simply be taken that the law and the mechanics were already in place. That is the law that would prevail.

The payday loans question is important because it often affects people with very low incomes or people who suddenly need financial loans. In the rest of Canada, a flourishing industry has developed that engages in all sorts of conduct. Some work according to all the rules, others less so. I perfectly understand that there would be a desire to deal with this issue. The Bloc has never objected to this kind of legislation being applied in the provinces where there is not already legislation in this area and where the provinces decide to apply it.

Our opposition to the bill arises out of the fact that there is already a law in Quebec. My colleague said earlier that he had a problem with the Bloc's approach and that he needed proof. This is not the Bloc's approach; it is Quebec's approach.

The present federalist liberal government in Quebec City is of the same view as the Bloc on this point. We have checked with the office of the minister. The office of the minister wanted Quebec to be able to say, by giving notice to the federal government, “We already have legislation that deals with the question of payday loans, and accordingly it is that legislation that will apply in Quebec.”

In actual fact, though, this is not the answer we received. The provincial government will have to submit its legislation to the federal government. There will be studies of the appropriateness of the bill and how we are dealing with this problem. Then it will be referred to the Governor in Council. It is quite a production.

Although this is a provincial jurisdiction, that is to say, an area that is Quebec’s responsibility, and although Quebec has had 20 years of experience and there are no problems with the application of the law, we still have to go and seek the blessing of our big brother in Ottawa.

It is totally incomprehensible that a Conservative government like this one, which claimed that it would show more respect for areas of provincial jurisdiction, would act in this way. There is even talk of a bill to provide a framework for the federal government’s spending power.

They say that Quebec is a nation. The Prime Minister himself introduced a motion in the House to this effect. But at the first opportunity, when they finally have a chance to show they are going to do things differently, the bulldozer is there ready to go. The steamroller is right there. They are going to standardize everything all across Canada.

The provinces will all be required to justify their legislation. Even 20 years of experience in this area does not matter. According to the federal government, that is not how these issues can be resolved.

It is important to know that under the practices developed in Quebec over the years, the maximum currently acceptable rate is 35%. That is very different from what is seen in the rest of Canada. Thanks to the Office de la protection du consommateur, the various roles are well defined and understood. We do not have any problems with this industry. To the extent that it exists, particular practices have been accepted and excesses are prohibited. Quebeckers are legally entitled to a maximum rate of about 35%.

People who want to make a pile of money in a hurry on the backs of those who are not very well off financially by providing these kinds of services have less incentive to try to do so.

The Criminal Code refers to a rate of 60%. Now, the government wants each province to pass legislation in this area if it sees fit, whereas Quebec has already done so.

The bill states that the federal government will designate provinces. It is therefore giving itself the right to veto the measures taken by a province that requests an exemption. A province cannot just send a letter to say that it already has legislation in place. A province that has legislation like what Quebec has had for 20 years must come, hat in hand, and ask for an exemption from a government that has been unable to solve this problem for 25 years. It is like saying, “We have a law. Will you let us enforce it?” This is typical of the federal government, especially senior bureaucrats, who want to have “One Canada, One Nation“ here in Ottawa.

The reality is quite a different matter. Obviously, jurisdictional legislation will not change the world, but this is an example of a situation where, in a year when the federal government recognized Quebec as a nation, it is also telling Quebec: “You are a nation, but when it comes to payday loans, we do not recognize what you are doing and we want the right to give our OK”. This is the federal government's double standard.

In its policy statements and in its day-to-day behaviour, the government is taking the old approach that Quebeckers have often criticized. We hope that payday loans can continue to be dealt with the way they have been by the Government of Quebec and that the federal government will end up giving its blessing very quickly. The fact remains that this is written in law. This is something that is inconsistent with sharing jurisdictions and does not respect the expertise developed over the years.

There is no doubt that in the rest of Canada it is important to have a way to deal with this situation. We know this by the letters received from people who tell us about what is going on in the rest of Canada. There truly are behaviours that need to be brought into line. There needs to be a framework. Quebec has had this framework for 20 years now. If the provinces want to see how it works, they can contact the Government of Quebec to see the method that was developed. If they want to use it, all the better. If they decide to do something else, that is their choice. There is no problem. We will respect their jurisdictions.

The position the Bloc Québécois is defending today is not one of “sovereignists”, it is the position of the Government of Quebec, the current federalist government and the previous governments of Quebec. It is governments and people who have witnessed the role of the Office de la protection du consommateur. These are people who represented very different opinions on a national level, people such as Ms. Bacon, who is in the other place, and Ms. Payette, who was a Quebec minister for the Parti Québécois. She brought about some significant changes in our society and continues to do so today through her writings. These were people with very different opinions, but they had a frame of reference at the Office de la protection du consommateur, which is an example and a very interesting model. Today, Quebec is getting a rather discouraging message from the federal government.

I was even more surprised by the attitude in committee. Tomorrow in the Committee on Industry, a report will be tabled on the manufacturing sector and, without revealing the content of the report, it will be quite unequivocal about the action that should be taken in this sector.

Now, when a question of jurisdiction arises and a tiny change is needed in our legislation to ensure that Quebec's areas of jurisdiction are being respected, the three federalist parties rise to say: “No, we cannot spend time on a small amendment. There is no satisfying Quebec on this. Quebec must conform to the same requirements as the others”. This is an example of what we have seen in the past, and there are many such examples. We did not think we would see it again here today in a bill such as the one now before us.

With respect to the payday loan industry, we are told that it arose in Canada mainly in the early 1990s. I believe the Office de la protection du consommateur was already regulating the loan sector to some extent. This is likely why Quebec did not experience any serious abuses in this industry.

Jurisdiction is shared to a certain degree, since Quebec and the provinces have responsibility for local trade and commerce and civil law. There is also shared jurisdiction over contracts and consumer protection.

The federal government estimates that this industry now comprises more than 1,300 points of sale. Their distribution is very uneven and Quebec has very few such businesses. In practice, anyone in Quebec who is listening to this debate likely believes that this issue has already been resolved and must be wondering why a new bill has been introduced on this topic. I would like to explain to them that the industry grew at very different rates in Quebec and in Canada.

Little is heard about this issue in Quebec, because it has been resolved for several years now, in fact, for decades. The new situation in the rest of Canada must be corrected. We agree with the substance of this bill. However, when it comes to respecting jurisdictions, the bill does not in any way meet Quebec's requirements.

When I was working in committee on this issue, thanks to the marvels of modern communication technology, I received notices from the Government of Quebec, calling for a debate to pass the proposed amendment.

Meanwhile, members of the various parties said that it was not an important issue. The deputy minister of the department, the senior public servant, had just told us that this would not have any implications for Quebec and that it was wrong to believe that federal approval would be required. Just then, I received a cabinet memo from the Quebec Minister of Justice on my Blackberry stating the exact opposite.

Such a striking example shows us that there are still too many things to be changed in this system for there to be true respect. If there is no respect for our jurisdiction in matters such as this one, which is very important, imagine what will happen with even more significant issues.

Individuals are forced to borrow money against their wages and have to deal with people who charge ridiculous rates. There must be oversight in this area.

On this matter I agree with my Liberal colleague from Prince Edward Island who spoke earlier. We must also examine the overall implications and what must be done. It is not true that the issue will be resolved by a mere rap on the knuckles of those who do wrong. An enforcement component must be put in place. However, there is also the question of the environment in which people work, as well as what is required of banking institutions.

My NDP colleague was saying that the banks have not done their job. I think there is some truth to that. In Quebec, we have the Desjardins movement. In recent years, profitability has been a major consideration, but it has nonetheless developed a means of helping individuals who are having a little more difficulty. This has prevented an unhealthy industry from emerging.

In my riding, credit unions have a special committee that looks at such issues when it is urgent. This has led to a more humane approach to these situations. This is what will have to be put in place by the provinces that need to develop legislation. With the bill before us, they will require federal government approval when they table their legislation. Perhaps this does not bother the other provinces and they agree with this way of doing things.

The government should have respected the fact that each province moves at its own pace. If the government truly respected jurisdiction in this matter, this bill would have contained an amendment making it possible for us to adopt it immediately. I sent amendments to each member of the committee. Making them would have indicated a change in attitude on the government's part toward recognizing Quebec's expertise in this matter, which is not currently the case. At the same time, the legislation would have been adopted faster so that the situation could be addressed appropriately in all Canadian provinces.

In light of these factors, I believe you will understand why the Bloc Québécois cannot vote for this bill in its current form: it does not respect Quebec's jurisdiction. There is still time for the federal government to amend the bill. We can easily reach a compromise. I would ask the government to check its source within the Quebec government because that government's position on this issue is the same as the Bloc Québécois'. The bill would be much more acceptable if it were amended to take into account Quebec's expertise and to respect its jurisdiction. It that were to happen, we would have the opportunity to adopt a functional bill as soon as possible, one that respects provincial jurisdiction and Quebec's jurisdiction in this matter and that recognizes the expertise we have developed.

Today, a quick look at every province reveals that there is one province where payday lending is not a problem: Quebec. The other provinces have a serious problem. That is clear from the members' eagerness to pass this bill even if it means encroaching on Quebec's jurisdiction in committee.

Today's debate in this House will make the public aware of this situation. Quebec is being treated like a child with respect to this practice. Quebec has the expertise, the jurisdiction and the power to implement its legislation, but the federal government is imposing its own way of dealing with the payday loan issue.

I hope that the members of this House will pay attention to what we are saying. I will be available to answer any questions and address any comments from colleagues who are not members of the committee but who would like to have a say in this matter.

FirefightersStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, firefighters risk their lives every day in the line of duty protecting Canadians. Without hesitation they enter dangerous situations because they are dedicated to preserving the lives of others. They serve their communities with courage and uncompromising devotion.

It is with great sorrow that I rise today in the House of Commons to announce that two firefighters lost their lives while battling a fire in Winnipeg last evening. Both gentlemen were captains, each with over 30 years experience.

I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of these two heroic firefighters, along with their families at Fire Station 1 and Fire Station 2.

There are no words to express my gratitude for their bravery. Their heroic actions remind us of the risks they all face every day. This is a sad day for Winnipeg and for Canada. I ask that we all remember.

Jack Frost WinterFestStatements By Members

February 5th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House and all Canadians about an exciting event that will soon be taking place in my riding of Charlottetown.

From February 16 to 18 the third annual Jack Frost Children's WinterFest will be taking place in various venues around our city. This event has grown to be the biggest winter weekend east of Quebec City.

Activities for all ages are planned. There will be a snow kingdom, an indoor playground, sled runs, children's entertainers, snow and ice sculpting, outdoor skating and numerous concerts, to name a few.

I would like at this time to applaud the organizing committee for its tremendous efforts in arranging this year's Jack Frost Winterfest.

Offering world class children's entertainment and winter activities for all ages, this event is sure to be the highlight of Charlottetown's winter season.

Ghislain PicardStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to acknowledge in this House the re-election by acclamation of Ghislain Picard as Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. For the sixth time, the first nations chiefs of Quebec and Labrador have placed their trust in him and I sincerely believe he deserves it. Mr. Picard is a remarkable leader, which is certainly one of the qualities that resulted in him being inducted as a Knight of the National Order of Quebec.

During his last term of office, and for the first time in history, the First Nations of Quebec held a socio-economic summit in Mashteuiatsh, and it was a great success. For more than 15 years, Mr. Picard has worked to improve living conditions for aboriginal peoples and help them achieve greater autonomy. The Bloc Québécois congratulates Mr. Picard on his re-election and will continue to work with him.

Border CrossingsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, with the passage and royal assent of the International Bridges and Tunnel Act, the Windsor-Detroit gateway, Canada's largest trade corridor, has finally started to receive some of the governmental oversight and regulation that was sorely lacking for the last 80 years.

Now is the time to move to the next stage, one of governance and mitigation, which is necessary to end the chaos once and for all. A public border authority needs to be established to manage and coordinate all crossings. This is the only way the public interest will be served while ensuring that the profiteer's greed is not overridden by political weakness.

A community reinvestment fund is also needed to create the mitigation of the negative impacts of the border crossing, but also to compensate the communities for hosting these border crossings. These are not novel or unique ideas, but rather what other communities are receiving across this country.

In the weeks and months that follow, I will introduce legislation for a public border authority and a reinvestment fund. Now that the glass is half full, I am even more determined to ensure that the job is completed and done.

PassportsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, in preparation for the introduction of the U.S. western hemisphere travel initiative I hosted four passport clinics in my riding of Tobique--Mactaquac.

I want to thank the towns of Woodstock, Grand Falls, Hartland and the village of Perth-Andover for hosting us.

In addition, without the help of the volunteers from the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and its president Dana Harper, the Grand Falls Chamber of Commerce and its president Curtis Halley, along with mayor Karen Titus of Perth-Andover and the member of the village office, we would not have been able to process the hundreds of documents as we did.

I also want to take the opportunity to thank my staff, Wendy Marr, Gilberte Michaud, Denise Pelletier and Sandy Martin for giving their time and expertise to assist the hundreds of people who attended these clinics.

What a great way an MP's office can work with the municipalities and the chambers of commerce. I am happy to say that based on demand we will be holding more of these in the future. I invite residents to contact my office and my website.

Cruelty to AnimalsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, more than 100,000 Canadians have signed petitions supporting effective animal cruelty legislation such as Bill C-373. They reject Senate Bill S-213 as inadequate and a step backwards.

I wish to thank Tamara Chaney, Saranna Arthur-Erickson, Miles Albrecht, Ron Watmough and many others for all their hard work to raise awareness on this issue.

One of these advocates, 12-year old Shyanna Albrecht from Medicine Hat, asked me to read her letter to the House. She wrote:

I am writing to you because on Friday, October 13, 2006, somebody came into our yard, took my rabbit Midnight out of his cage, stepped on him and mutilated him. I'm also writing to you because of the incident that happened in Didsbury where a dog got dragged behind a car and then got beaten almost to her death. Frustrated and mad is how I feel toward the killers. I am a very strong supporter of the petition to have tougher penalties for cruelty toward pets. It would be wonderful if Bill C-373 could be made into law before the government changes or an election is called.

International Development WeekStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw attention to International Development Week, February 4 to 10, which celebrates the difference Canada and Canadians are making in the world. International Development Week has as its theme this year: “Equality between women and men. To have a voice. To have a choice”.

Through CIDA, the Government of Canada works in tandem with its many Canadian and international partners for the equal participation of women and men in the development of their societies.

Canada has and will continue to demonstrate international leadership in promoting equality between men and women. What this requires is increasing the participation of women in decision-making; promoting the rights of women and girls, including their right to health and education; and providing women with access to and control over resources.

The policies and programs of Canada's government and its partners aim to achieve no less than this.

AfghanistanStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, one year after the London Conference, we have to admit that nothing has really changed in Kandahar. In the words of CIDA's development director in Kandahar, aid is being granted far too slowly. Out of the $400 million promised for 2002 to 2006, Canada has, so far, committed just $290 million.

“Where did CIDA go?” asks a desperate humanitarian worker in a refugee camp near Kandahar who is overwhelmed by the extent of the problems. We are concerned about this slow pace.

The minister seems to be denying reality and is doing nothing to remedy the situation. The government keeps using the lack of security as an excuse for the slow pace of humanitarian aid and reconstruction. It is precisely this slow humanitarian action that explains the return of the Taliban. This vicious cycle urgently needs to be broken.

During this International Development Week, the minister should do more than give fine speeches. She should keep her promises and those of her government and take action as soon as possible.

Oil and Gas IndustryStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, as one who is opposed to the Liberal leader who claims that working in the oil patch is easy money, I would like to commend these dedicated workers.

It is all too easy for the Liberals to assume that there is nothing to do but wait for the oil to spurt out of the ground, like some low budget western film. In reality, the typical day for an employee in the oil patch begins well before 5 a.m., lasts for 10 to 12 hours, and can only be described as back-breaking, heavy and dangerous work.

In this most Canadian of ways, those who are willing to roll up their sleeves, work hard, wake up early in the morning and work late into the evening, spend weeks away from their families and their loved ones, for those who are willing to do this, they can succeed.

From coast to coast, young Canadians are building their lives and their dreams through the energy sector. Let those of us who are fortunate to work here indoors in the halls of power instead of the tar sands and in the freezing wilderness of the north never forget that it is because of these Canadians, these real people and their unsurpassable spirit, that Canada is free and prosperous.

Pierre FortierStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that I rise today to recognize the passing of Mr. Pierre Fortier, at the age of 75, on January 30, following a brief illness.

Emeritus professor of French and French Canadian literature in Saint-Boniface, at Laurentian University, and for 30 years at York University's Glendon College, Mr. Fortier worked relentlessly for the francophone communities of Ontario and Toronto. In 1984, he co-founded the Toronto Historical Society, to which he dedicated time and energy until the very last few weeks. He also did volunteer work for over 20 years with the Centres d'accueil Héritage.

Mr. Fortier was honoured on a number of occasions for his excellent work and contribution to Toronto's francophone community. In 2004, he received the Ontario senior achievement award from the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario for his major contribution to the francophone community after the age of 65.

On behalf of that same community, we thank Mr. Fortier for everything that he did throughout his life.

Émilie Paquet and Ariane FortinStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, it takes discipline, talent, willpower, courage and perseverance to join the elite and become world champions. Today, I want to mention the achievements of two athletes from Lévis-Bellechasse, who are the best in their fields.

First, there is Émilie Paquet, from Pintendre, who recently won the traditional kata competition at the worlds, in Spain. Émilie, who is only 12 years old, has been practising karate since the age of 5 and, through perseverance and determination, she is continuing to aim for nothing less than the ultimate level.

Ariane Fortin, a member of Lévis' olympic boxing club, is the new world champion, following her victory at the world championships held in New Delhi, India. The 22-year-old athlete is increasingly establishing herself as a leader on the Canadian team.

These two young women are examples for us all. I wish to highlight their victory, because, in addition to excelling in strength and power disciplines, they are making efforts and sacrifices while also displaying maturity to reach the world's top levels.

We thank Émilie and Ariane for making us so proud and we wish them good luck.

FirefightersStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, today we are all reeling with the news of the terrible house fire in Winnipeg that resulted in a flashover and saw the death of two brave veteran Winnipeg firefighters, and resulted in the injury of at least four others, one very seriously.

Our thoughts and prayers today go out to the families of those who died and those who were injured, and to the members of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg Local 867, who are in mourning for their comrades.

This incident is a vivid reminder of the extraordinary bravery and sacrifice that firefighters offer to our communities year in and year out to keep Canadians safe. They know the risks yet that does not stop these brave men and women in Winnipeg and across the nation from stepping forward to put their lives on the line.

Today we acknowledge this heroism to ensure that we never view the extraordinary as ordinary. Today we honour their memory. We will never take this sacrifice for granted.

Student ActivistsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate members of the JACtivists, a student run advocacy group at John Abbott College in my riding that campaigns for human rights and environmental sustainability.

The JACtivists have come together under the leadership of Devon Willis to push the Government of Canada to rally countries around the world toward strong, coordinated international political, diplomatic and military action to save the people of Darfur from further genocide and crimes against humanity. The JACtivists have gathered over 1,400 names on a petition in support of this goal.

I support the JACtivists in this call for action on Darfur. I urge the government to take note and show greater international leadership on this most vital of issues.