Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the NDP opposition day motion. I would like to indicate that I am sharing my time with the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I am sure he will have much to add to this debate in his indubitable fashion, as always, as our international trade critic, who understands the issues facing Canadians at home as well.
As I stand to speak about consumer debt and credit cards, I would like to put it in the context first of myself. I have to admit that I have never had any personal debt throughout my whole life. I have always operated on the positive side of the ledger. In later life when I finally obtained a credit card, I always made sure that the payments were made on time and that interest would not accrue. My wife was very diligent in ensuring that happened. I want to thank her today because her hard work in ensuring that our family remained out of debt has made it possible for me look forward to a good life in my retirement.
That is the message I want to deliver to all Canadians. What we have seen in this country and the world has been an explosion of debt over the last 25 years that has driven the economies of many countries into rack and ruin, but it has also driven Canadians and other consumers throughout the world into great hardship.
Yes, there are problems of financial literacy, as the hon. member from the Conservative Party pointed out, but there is a far more important issue. That is why the New Democratic Party can look south of the border now with some degree of confidence when we hear the new president of the United States and his new administration talking about new ideas to bring the American economy around. That is why we can look there and ask whether they have good ideas that we can pick up on.
Does the United States have ideas within its administration or Congress that Canada can take advantage of? In fact, in some instances we are probably able to move more quickly than the United States in putting forward legislation for change, and more likely in the future to offer up solutions to the United States. With the economy that exists now in North America, we have to understand that it is very integrated.
For us to take ideas from other legislators in this grand continent I do not think is inappropriate. We are going to be seeing more of that in the future from the New Democratic Party, because the President of the United States sounds more like a New Democrat than I have heard from anyone there before. There is someone in the United States who we can count on to provide us with advice. George Bush is not there anymore, whose policies and directions were totally repugnant to the New Democratic Party and to most Canadians and our supporters across the country.
This is a different time and we have the opportunity to pick up new ideas. The New Democratic Party right now is the mainstream of economic reason in this country.
I had the opportunity the other day to speak with John Rodriguez, who was the financial institutions critic for the New Democratic Party in the 1980s. What did he say? He said we fought long and hard against the Conservatives and the Liberals to ensure that the banks in Canada did not expand their scope beyond what needed to be; our financial institutions were kept in line. That work is playing out today.
For the party opposite or the Liberals to call us, in the NDP, Luddites is nonsense. We have been standing up for Canadians' financial security in Parliament the entire time that NDP members have been here. Whether there are five members or 30, we stand up for Canadians to ensure their interests come first and are protected. That is what we are doing here today with the introduction of this motion by the hon. member for Sudbury.
In this time, when we look to the future and at what people need in this country, do we need our consumers continuing their path of greater and greater consumer debt in this country? No, we do not. We do not need that. That is not good for Canadians. That is not going to work for Canadians.
The fallacy of the extension of debt among consumers in Canada has come home to roost. It was apparent to every individual in this country. Why does the Conservative Party not recognize that the importance of these issues to consumers and to Canadians is paramount?
I really want to congratulate the member for bringing this motion forward. We need to bring sense back into the lives of Canadians. We need to take the institutions that provide them with financial resources and make them understand that their job is to ensure that their customers are well protected with their financial dealings with those companies.
The concept of a bank as being a secure and good place to get financial advice, to understand how to use credit and to ensure that the people who run the banks have the concern of their customers first are concepts that we have to go back to and that should drive the economy once we come out of this recession.
We do not want to look back two years from now and consider that nothing was really wrong with what we were doing, that nothing was wrong with the extension of consumer debt to a point where there were no savings left in this country, there was no security for individuals in what they were doing with their money. We want to change that and move forward so that Canadians will progress, so they will gain after the downturn is over, and so they will have a new economy that will be less reliant on their personal suffering and more on a system that delivers them the resources they require, that can make their lives work and that they can afford to use in their day to day practices.
To talk about consumer debt and credit cards, and to understand the nature of what is happening with this system, I think for some of us is very difficult. Of course it is, but it is not difficult to understand when someone pays his or her credit card down at the end of the month, misses $10 and ends up paying interest on the whole amount. We understand how usurious that is. It does not take a degree in economics to understand that that is not fair.
That is one of the things we are working on here, to limit abusive fees and penalties, to ensure that credit cardholders understand the terms and conditions of their contracts, and that the terms and conditions of their contracts work for them as well. That is the job of the regulatory agency, the government of this country, to provide that assurance to consumers that what is offered as a basic method of payment for so many different products in this country has the terms and conditions that can work for both the consumer and the lender.
What we are working with here is a good resolution. It has many parts to it. It is something that Parliament should take hold of and work for. The government cannot simply increase the font on the back of the credit card application form as its step toward ensuring the health and well-being of the financial future of Canadians. That is not good enough.
We need to understand where we want to go in this country with credit. We need to understand that credit can be just as much of a problem as alcohol or drugs.
We need to protect consumers in the long-term from what has happened to them. That has not been the case for past 20 years. That is why we are in the situation that we are in today. We need to change. We need to move forward.