I have to agree with journalist Don Martin on that one for sure.
Today the member's motion highlights an increasingly important issue for Canadians, financial literacy. With so many new financial products and choices out there today, including complex mortgage and loan forms, different retirement savings plans, the rise of online banking, online payment systems like PayPal, a growing number of debit and credit card options, and so much more, Canadians must ensure that they have the right tools and knowledge to make the best financial decisions for themselves and for their families. So many new and developing products can make it very difficult for Canadians not only to balance their online chequebooks but also to fully understand the risks, the fees, and the consequences of what is available. That is where strong financial literacy comes in as an important part of the solution.
I would like to share a somewhat lengthy commentary from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that really speaks to the importance of this issue, not only at the individual level, but as part of the economy as a whole. I am going to quote this lengthy commentary:
Financial literacy is an important life skill. Canadians make financial decisions throughout their lives, many of which involve significant risks and rewards. Improving financial literacy helps consumers act knowledgeably and with confidence in managing their personal financial affairs. Informed consumer decision-making, in turn, contributes to the maintenance of a well-functioning and stable financial system and a stronger economy.
Simply put, the better one learns to manage one's own finances the better the economy can work as a whole. When people don't do a good job of managing their own finances it can have dire consequences.
Our Conservative government could not agree more. That is why we are supporting today's motion and its call to continue the work we have done to improve financial literacy here in Canada.
A big part of that work is something we started in 2009 as part of Canada's economic action plan, when we announced the establishment of a task force on financial literacy to make recommendations to create a cohesive national strategy. Over the next few years that task force, headed by Don Stewart, went across Canada to hold open public hearings to hear first-hand from Canadians on this issue.
Thanks to the great feedback the task force received from that consultation, and other research it conducted, it produced a final report called “Canadians and Their Money: Building a brighter financial future”, which was publicly released this past February. That report outlined 30 key recommendations to improve the financial literacy of Canadians, including many referenced in today's motion. I would strongly encourage all Canadians watching at home to visit the website at www.financialliteracyincanada.com to learn more about the work that the task force did and to review the very detailed research it produced, including its report.
The task force report was extremely well received. For example, Social and Enterprise Development Innovations, which is a major Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to helping low income Canadians, applauded the report. It said:
We commend the federal government for recognizing the critical importance of financial literacy. We also commend the diligent and thorough work of the Task Force members, who engaged Canadians in every province and territory in building a much-needed national strategy on financial literacy. There is no better time for government to take the lead in helping Canadians increase their knowledge and skills to manage everyday finances.
As a first step, and as committed to in the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, we will move forward on the first ever financial literacy leader to promote and improve financial literacy in Canada. We are doing even more. We are also providing $3 million a year in new funding to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to support financial literacy initiatives to help consumers make the best financial decisions to suit their and their families' particular needs.
I am going to take a moment to echo the comments made by the member for Edmonton—Leduc with regard to the FCAC. Its efforts have been tireless in trying to promote financial literacy, particularly among our youth. I commend the member for disclosing to Canadians how they can reach this information, how they can learn from the FCAC by visiting its website.
Today's motion encourages our government to stay focused on this important issue and implement the recommendations of the task force, and we appreciate that.
Only a few weeks ago, the Minister of Finance attended, along with the member for Edmonton—Leduc, a kickoff event for Financial Literacy Month. This is an initiative developed by the Financial Literacy Action Group, a group of seven non-profit organizations all devoted to working to improve financial literacy in communities across Canada. By supporting today's motion, especially by Parliament endorsing Financial Literacy Month, we are showing our appreciation for the group's work and efforts. This is something our American neighbours have already done through a bipartisan resolution unanimously passed in Congress, which hopefully we can replicate here in the House of Commons.
Our Conservative government has been working hard since 2006 to make financial services products more transparent and consumer friendly. We believe Canadians should not need a magnifying glass or a dictionary to read a credit card statement or application. They should not need a lawyer or an economist to understand them.
That is why we have taken measures like protecting consumers with new credit card rules that will require consent for credit limit increases, a minimum 21-day grace period on new purchases, full disclosure for consumers, and that will limit other anti-consumer business practices. We are banning negative option billing for financial products, and of course, shortening the cheque holding period.
In the next phase of Canada's economic action plan we want to build on that record with more consumer friendly measures, such as banning unsolicited credit card checks and moving to protect consumers of prepaid cards.
I thank the member for Edmonton—Leduc for today's motion and his commitment to improving financial literacy.
Other members across the way have stated very clearly how they intend to vote on this matter. I encourage members of the NDP and the Liberal Party to think very hard when they stand to vote, hopefully in favour of this motion.
The member for Edmonton—Leduc has worked hard on this measure for many years. This is a measure that Canadians across the country have asked for and need. As a mother of five, I can assure the House that I want my children to learn from this. I applaud the member for Edmonton--Leduc for moving this motion, for helping me to educate my children, and for helping other Canadians to educate their children. I hope the NDP and Liberal members will support that effort.