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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.

Topics

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, despite the opposition commentary today, the U.S. financial and mortgage crisis was caused by massive government intervention in the mortgage and banking business. According to a 2010 World Bank report on the U.S. financial crisis, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, both government-sponsored enterprises, bought an estimated 47% of the toxic mortgages that ultimately led to the collapse between 1980 and 2007, and backed debt that went from $200 million to $4 trillion. If I could quote that World Bank report, it states:

In the mid-1990s, the government changed the way the Community Reinvestment Act was enforced and effectively compelled banks to initiate risky mortgages.

So it is important for us to remember when we are debating banking regulation that it was massive government intervention that led to the problems that occurred in the U.S. system.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for that important reminder. Of course, he has been a point man in addressing many of these concerns. He rightly points out the excesses that happened in the United States, of government intervention, that contributed to the failure of institutions that people relied on and made unstable commitments to mortgages that were not sustainable and were not backed by real assets.

The changes that are being introduced in Bill S-5 are ones that would improve our system. They would make a very good system better.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the chance to address the House in support of Bill S-5, the financial system review act. For the information of Canadians and members of the House, the financial system review act is a mandatory and routine piece of legislation.

To ensure the stability of the financial sector in Canada, the statutes that govern federally regulated financial institutions must be reviewed every five years, a long-standing practice that has carried over from previous governments. As I mentioned previously, it deals with federally regulated financial institutions and, for clarity, those include domestic and foreign banks, trust and loan companies, insurance companies and co-operative credit associations.

The last similar legislative review was completed through Bill C-37 in the 39th Parliament. Prior to that, a similar review was completed in 2001 through Bill C-8 in the 37th Parliament. As with the previous five year reviews, there is a timeline for the process to be completed, as the sunset date for the financial institutions statutes is April 20, 2012. The present five year review, which has led to today's bill, commenced in September 2010 when the finance minister launched an open and public consultation process that asked all Canadians to submit their thoughts and ideas on how we could best improve Canada's financial system to make it even more stable and secure.

During the consultation process, I understand that many Canadians provided their feedback and much of that is seen in today's bill. Moreover, the public consultation process itself has been praised. For example, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association told the Senate banking, trade and commerce committee during its study of the bill, “The consultation process was very positive and reflected the technical nature of this review”.

The financial system review act, while largely technical, would take important steps to help guarantee that Canada's fiscal system is securely regulated and remains strong and stable for the sake of our economy. Among the bill's highlights are measures to: First, bring up to date financial institutions' legislation to support financial stability and ensure that Canada's financial institutions continue to operate in a competitive, well-regulated and secure environment; second, better protected consumers with an improved protection framework, including reinforcing the powers of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada; and third, improve effectiveness by reducing unnecessary administrative red tape on financial institutions and adding prudently regulated flexibility.

Again, today's bill is tremendously important in supporting the continued strength of our economy, the main priority of our Conservative government and an area where we are getting results. Indeed, while there are challenges ahead, Canada's performance during the recent global downturn has been strong when compared to other industrialized countries. First and foremost, since our government introduced the economic action plan to respond to the global recession, Canada has recovered more than all of the output and all of the jobs lost during the recession. Some 610,000 more Canadians are working today than when the recession ended, resulting in the strongest rate of employment growth by far among all G7 countries.

Furthermore, about 9 out of 10 positions that have been created since July 2009 have been full time and more than three-quarters of the jobs created over this period have been in the private sector. Fortunately, Canada has fared far better than the U.S. in this regard. Indeed, Canada's unemployment rate has been lower than that of the U.S. since October 2008, a phenomenon not seen in nearly three decades.

On top of Canada's solid performance on jobs, the real gross domestic product is now significantly above pre-recession levels, the best performance among the G7 nations. It is clear that Canada has weathered the economic storm relatively well. It is also clear that this resilient performance in a climate of global uncertainty has not gone unnoticed.

Both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that we will be among the strongest economic growth in the G7 over this year and next. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review of the best countries in which to do business. Three credit agencies, Moody's, Fitch, and Standard & Poor's, have reaffirmed their top ranking for Canada. Most significant, for the fourth year in a row, the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the soundest in the world. That is something we would reinforce with today's bill.

Clearly, this is a solid performance in volatile times and it will serve this country well. Indeed, in the recent words of Scotia Bank's chief economist, Warren Jestin, “When you look at what exists in Canada, this is still the best country in the world to be in.

To truly understand the strength behind this performance, we need to consider the hard work that took place through the actions that our Conservative government took to pay down debt, lower taxes, reduce red tape, promote free trade and innovation and ensure a stable financial system.

To start with, our government paid down significant amounts of debt when times were good and kept our debt to GDP ratio well below our G7 counterparts. As a result, when trouble hit, we had the ability to respond.

The International Monetary Fund projects that Canada's net debt to GDP ratio for the last year will come in at just under 35%. A net debt to GDP ratio of under 35% is excellent considering that these rates for other G7 nations are much higher. In contrast, Germany is projected to be over 57%, the United States and the United Kingdom at over 72%, France at 81%, Italy at 100% and Japan just over 130%.

Along with this strong fiscal performance, we introduced the tax relief required to create jobs and growth in all economic conditions. In 2007, prior to the impact of the financial crisis, Canada passed a bold low tax plan that helped to brand Canada as a low tax destination for business investment. This low tax plan, along with our sound and safe financial system, plays and will continue to play a crucial role in supporting economic growth and jobs.

Our Conservative government is under no illusions that our work is finished. Major challenges remain both here and around the world. As we know, the global economic outlook remains highly uncertain and the situation in Europe is still very fragile. The changes facing our global economy are far from over and Canada will not be immune.

Despite solid job creation since July 2009, too many Canadians remain unemployed. That is why our Conservative government's main focus will be the continued implementation of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan to support jobs and growth as we prepare for budget 2012. That includes today's bill, which would help to ensure the continued strength and security of our financial systems.

Once more, we will continue to focus on improving the well-being of Canadians by sustaining the economic recovery, eliminating the deficit and making investments that will fuel long-time growth. I strongly urge all members to support and vote in favour of this important legislation and help it progress in a timely manner to passage.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for my distinguished Conservative colleagues who just spoke, if I were to compare their economic reasoning I would say they are like a herd of cows watching a train go by. They are about as intelligent as that. I would not go so far as to say that they are ready to be put out to pasture, but pretty close.

How can they compare themselves to the most mediocre of the G9, the G7, to countries that have gone completely bankrupt through ultraliberalism? They should not be comparing themselves to the lesser countries, but to the best countries. Let them compare themselves to Norway, Sweden or even Germany, but not to the most mediocre countries that followed exactly the same policy they are following.

I will wrap up quickly. How can they say that their hero, George W. Bush, was anything short of a moron?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I heard what the hon. member had to say. He was kind of going in two directions from the middle and then ended up sinking.

We are not comparing ourselves to the lowest. We are comparing ourselves to the whole spectrum. We are saying that we are number one on that spectrum, ahead of all other countries. Unless we have data and numbers to validate that, as we had in the speech, then we cannot say that.

We are saying it like it is. You may not like it but it is what it is.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I would just remind hon. members to direct their comments and questions through the Chair.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Brossard--La Prairie.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague spoke about the fact that there was some issue with what happened in the U.S. with the banking sector. Some argue that some Canadian banks were bailed out in Canada. Obviously, it was not done directly. It was not a failure. However, the federal government, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, offered to trade the banks up to $125 billion in mortgage debt for safety in T-bills during the height of the financial crisis.

What is my colleague's position regarding that?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, it was a banking situation and the banks dealt with it in a manner that all people did not like. Nevertheless, that was the financial institutions' prerogative to deal with it as long as they fell within the regulations of the Bank Act, and they did.

Again, we may not like everything we see with banking but the banking program is in place, is regulated and is what we have to rely on.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, there were some comments this morning about the consultation process and that there was not a sufficient response. Would the member care to expand on the consultation process that was made available for comments?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, we know that the finance minister and finance in general consulted with over 30 different groups that submitted positions around the Bank Act when that was done back in 2007. From that input, the new bill is on the table here this morning. As to whether the bill was it well-consulted, it was indeed. Many groups presented their positions on it and we that here with the new bill.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that for every Canadian across the country the health of the banking sector is critical. The banking sector plays a critical role in all our lives, whether we are buying a house or applying for a credit card. Also, many of us get paid through our banks. Many people, not just those with a lot of money, have a vested interest in ensuring our banking sector is stable.

Knowing that a five year sunset clause was included in the legislation and knowing that the deadline for that review was April 20 this year, it interesting that my colleagues across the aisle would wait this long to table such critical legislation. Not only did they wait so long, but at the same time they tabled the legislation, they moved time allocation on it. Out of one side of their mouths they are telling us that this is critical and timely legislation and we must get it through the House. Out of the other side of their mouths they are telling us that they will not have open and transparent debate, where the opposition gets to take a look at the bill and could, and probably would, make some useful amendments.

I sat here for half an hour this morning and listened to the debate on the critical nature of the need to move time allocation. Once again, I would argue that time allocation is not needed. The bill requires thoughtful consideration because it would impact many Canadians. It would impact their savings as well as the homes in which they live.

Instead of us being given a reasonable amount of time to debate the legislation, the majority in the House once again used the duct tape approach of muzzling the voice of the opposition. Let me assure my colleagues that they might be able to move time allocation in the House, but we will send a message to our communities that we were not allowed to debate the bill in the thoughtful way we would have liked.

I am a new MP so the House will have to beg my forgiveness for saying this, but I was really taken aback this morning when a speaker on the government side said that the NDP opposing time allocation was like us bringing chaos into people's lives.

I am beginning to wonder what my colleagues across the way want. Do they want the opposition to just support any legislation they bring in? I am sure they would like that, but that is not the role of the opposition. If members of the opposition have things to say, we are immediately labelled, and some language is used that I find disturbing.

I am not a supporter of chaos, either in Parliament, in my personal life or back in my community. When I want to debate a legitimate piece of legislation, it is not because I want chaos. It is because I want to give thoughtful input as the representative of my community.

The government shows a lack of respect toward members of the opposition. I should not be puzzled by that; I should expect that. The legislation had its first unveiling in the Senate. It is a bill that would impact so many Canadians. I find it really disturbing that it was first put before an unelected, unrepresentative Senate. Why? What prevented that bill from being in the House first?

It also interesting to note that despite the patronage appointments and the payola that has gone into many of the appointments to the Senate, even that house commented that it had to look at a significant piece of legislation, with many technical components, and had concerns that with three weeks it did not have enough time and that the government was trying to rush the bill through.

We have until April 12, What is the rush? If the government knew it had until April 12 as the sunset clause, why did we not start talking about this last May, or June, or October, or November or December? Instead, we are today looking at this significant piece of legislation.

Despite all of those things, the NDP welcomes the review of the financial systems review act. We should be very proud of the banking regulations that are in place. It is because of those regulations that Canada was buffered from the worst aspects of the economic meltdown.

I also think there is an irony that has to be pointed out. We have a majority in the House that is absolutely committed to deregulation. When we look at almost everything else, like the gun registry, the Wheat Board and many of the other issues that have come before the House, they have all been for deregulation. Yet when it suits the Conservatives, they wax eloquent about the existing banking regulations. However, those regulations exist because of the work of some other governments. It was the opposition that prevented my colleagues across the way from deregulating our banking system at a certain time in our history.

When I look at the need to review the area of banking and banking regulation, I am also hit by what is missing from the legislation. I am not sure if members have read some of the newspaper articles and emails. There is nothing in the bill to limit and regulate user fees charged by banks.

Recently a senior citizen came to my constituency office. I have many of them coming in these days because they are getting very disturbed. This is what the senior citizen told me. She put her money in the bank, and when the bank wanted to automate and introduce the ATM machine, she started to use that thinking it would save the bank and her money. Remember, bank profits are very high now, yet there is always a threat of new user fees or increased user fees. This senior citizen is so puzzled because she believes she has saved so much money for the bank by it not needing the personnel in place, which I think is a huge mistake, and it being so automated. However, her fees keep going up.

This was an opportunity, with this legislation, for the government to start looking at regulating user fees that banks are gouging their customers. Some banks are even beginning to introduce fees for people to get their own money out of their bank accounts. At one time, it was only if they went to a different ATM. Now one of the banks has put out the idea that there could be user fees even if customers uses their own bank's ATM machines. That makes no sense. Canadians look to us to regulate things like that.

The other concern I have is the interest rates on credit cards. It is time the government put regulations in place that are tighter and more closely regulated to ensure banks do not charge the kinds of rates they are. People who put their money in banks are lucky to get 1% interest. With that money, the banks get to play with it and make money on it. On the other hand, if people use their credit cards, which are banking credit cards, banks charge interest rates from 12% up to 22%. If that is not gouging, I do not know what is. As far as I am concerned, a critical component that is missing in this is tackling the area of user fees for citizens who are being hurt by them. We also have to look at the rates banks charge for people who use those credit cards.

I know some people will say that people should not use credit cards. However, in today's reality some people live from paycheque to paycheque. They often end up having to spend on their credit card, hoping they can pay part of it back if they get some money coming in within the following month. I am talking about just a few people. A lot of people survive like that and not because they go out to buy some big fancy toys or go on big holidays. They are trying to make ends meet from month to month.

I would be the first one to argue that if we are getting into luxury items, then we are looking at choices. I am talking about credit cards people are using because they have no other choice. They need that flexibility to survive. Because of that, I feel the scope of this bill is really limited and needs to be widened.

I was also interested in finding out what kind of consultation occurred. I heard that 30 groups were consulted. For a country the size of Canada, only 30 groups were consulted, and 27 of those were anonymous. What kind of consultation is that? Was this consultation open and transparent?

One thing I do not like about anonymous submissions, or whatever, is people get to say whatever they want and they are never held accountable. I have a primary rule that if I get something that is not signed, I put it aside. The government has had consultations with three groups, three groups for a country the size of Canada on an issue as important as banking.

The other area we do not often talk about is the co-operative banks in our communities and how we need to support them and find ways to do that. The co-operative banks in my area do an amazing job of giving back to the community in many different ways. I am a bit saddened that this is not being addressed in the bill.

Once again, Bill S-5 is being used by the government as a prop to hold up the banks. It is being rushed through the House. From what I have read, the profits of banks has increased incredibly. It has not really gone down. We should take a look at the consumer debt, which is at a record level of 151% of disposable income. I want every one of us in the House to take a second to comprehend that. Consumer debt is at record levels of 151%, which is so high.

It is because this debt level is so high that we are becoming increasingly concerned about some risky mortgage lending practices and home equity credit lines by banks and other lending institutions.

Currently, if I go through websites or look at some of the mail that comes through my door, it is clear that a person can actually get his or her house financed fairly easily for up to 90%. That is an advantage for some, but in the long term it is also the basis for potential instability. Right now our interest rates are fairly reasonable and low, as many would say, but if they were to go up by even half of 1%, that would put many of these people in jeopardy.

To avoid the kind of housing slump that happened in the United States, surely we should be taking the time with this legislation to put protections in place. When we take a look at our regulations, we absolutely must take our time.

Mr. Speaker, how much longer do I have?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There are three and a half minutes remaining.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am appealing to my colleagues across the way. Not often is there much love in this House, but this is Valentine's Day, so I am pleading with them to let us take the time to fix this legislation in a way that would give Canadians more security and assurances about their financial houses, so they can keep their places straight and so that seniors, for example, who come into my office and are being gouged through credit cards or user fees will not have all of those complaints. Remember the banks involved are the same ones that get incredible tax breaks from us as well.

Mr. Speaker, it is Valentine's Day, so with the indulgence of everyone in the House, I will wish the constituents in my riding a wonderful day with their loved ones, their families, their friends and their neighbours.

I would also like to say that I am thinking a lot about my three wonderful grandchildren, Jacob, Jessica and Emily, and that I wish them a happy Valentine's Day. I wish I were there to eat the cupcakes they have made, because when they phoned me this morning, they told me they had made me a cupcake. It is going in the freezer for when I go home, and I will enjoy it at that time.

As I was saying earlier, there are a number of problems with this piece of legislation, including in the process or way it is being rushed through this House with unseemly haste, and substantively with some problems with it. I believe this is our opportunity as parliamentarians to address issues like the very high interest rates and to have some regulations around those, and to address issues around user fees and issues around foreign takeover of some Canadian assets.

With that in mind, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to clarify that the purpose of the bill derives from the government having to review the statutes governing federally regulated financial institutions every five years and that the bill will ensure that Canada remains a global leader in financial services and will maintain the safety and soundness of the sector.

It is the government's commitment and need to look at the bill, particularly its implications and timing, which is important. I would like the member to recognize that the timing of the legislation is very important. It is not a time to review domestic policy as much as policy that makes us global leaders, so that the financial sector does indeed remain a stable sector globally and so that we do not confuse the debate with day-to-day regulations involving credit cards and financing.

I just want to see if the member really understands the legislation she is talking about today.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely understand that this piece of legislation has a sunset clause of April 12. The government has known for five years that this legislation has a sunset clause, and since May 2, when this newly constituted Parliament was put in place, the government has had the opportunity to introduce this bill and discuss it in a thoughtful manner. However, once again the government has used bullying tactics to shut down debate, to push through a piece of legislation using the argument of the sunset clause to do so. I would argue that it is doing this so that we do not have time for a detailed debate.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the fact this bill was actually introduced in the Senate. Here, the question of transparency is something that we on this side of the House and members of the general public are always asking ourselves about. Was this important bill tabled in the House via the Senate because the Conservative government was trying to avoid transparency?

Even more, the Conservatives have tried to tell us that they had heard from plenty of witnesses on this. Instead, the government conducted online consultations and collected about 30 submissions, which it cannot make public because it did not acquire the necessary permissions. Of the 30 submissions, 27 respondents remained anonymous and only 3 identified themselves.

Could my colleague talk about the transparency aspect? How can we accept such testimony without being able to tell the public where we got it from?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we hear a lot from the other side of the House about the need for transparency and accountability. When we look at the online consultation, I know that in this age of technology we think that everyone is online, but I would argue that they are not.

There were 30 submissions and we did not get permission to share them, not even with parliamentarians. That causes me concern. Out of those 30 submissions, 27 are anonymous. As far as I am concerned, these should be set aside, because no one should be able to have that kind of an input and be given that kind of weight when they are not willing to put their names to the submissions they are making. How can we hold people accountable for these?

Once again, this is an example of the lack of accountability and transparency by the government, and a real push by it to rush legislation through with the pretext of it having held consultations already. However, when we look underneath the layers, very little consultation has taken place.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on her speech.

What does she think about the fact that the middle class has been forgotten once again? As she put it so well, a slight increase in the interest rate in Canada could have a disastrous impact on the middle class. The middle class has also been affected by the financial scandals of the past few years and, yet again, we are not talking about including these sorts of crimes or monitoring the banks. What does my colleague think about that?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think if I were not a parliamentarian today and were instead sitting at home in my riding listening to this debate and looking at the significant piece of legislation we are debating, I would be shaking my head and saying, these are the problems I am facing day to day.

We know that the ratio of consumer debt to disposable income is a critical factor in the stability of a nation's well-being, and we can see that is very high now. We can also look at the kinds of practices out there for granting mortgages, which are actually resulting in a play on the housing market, a market that has not slowed down at all. In this regard I would point out that most young people in my community cannot even afford to buy a house because house prices are so high.

When I look at all of these things, I keep thinking, why do my colleagues across the aisle not want to take the time to do a comprehensive and meaningful review but just deal with technicalities instead, and why do we not want to hold the banks more accountable for their actions?

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of the legislation and how critically important it is that it pass by April. It is in the industry's best interests for that to occur. Just as the member stated in her comments, we expressed disappointment at the government taking so long to bring the bill forward and now at it bringing in time allocation.

However, I want to pick up on one of the points the member made, that being the other alternatives such as credit unions. I want to take the opportunity to at least acknowledge that in Winnipeg North, the Assiniboine Credit Union has really filled a significant need in the north end, in providing alternative banking opportunities for people. I think this industry has great potential in communities throughout Canada.

Perhaps the member might want to comment on how important our credit unions are to the population as a whole.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when I look at the credit unions I have had experience in dealing with, as well as other credit unions in my riding and province, I am so impressed with the incredible amount of work they do in their communities. I call them the heart and soul of my community because of the way they support not only programs for seniors but also for youth by way of scholarships. They also give their members a real say in the operations of the credit union. I have looked at, for example, the Vancity Credit Union and the many others in my riding that do an amazing job.

We absolutely need to support credit unions right across the country.

Financial System Review ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Yellowhead.

I stand today to speak in favour of Bill S-5, the financial system review act, at second reading. The bill, while largely technical in nature, is nonetheless a very important development as it is fundamental to ensuring the security and strength of the Canadian financial system. This is important not only because we depend on our financial system for day-to-day transactions like purchasing something from a store with a debit card or making a deposit in one's savings account, but because of the tremendous economic impact the financial sector has on the Canadian economy.

Indeed, Canada's financial sector is a key jobs driver providing employment to over 750,000 Canadians. This is especially important in my home province of Ontario and my riding of Richmond Hill where the financial services industry is a crucial part of the provincial economy.

The financial services sector employs nearly 400,000 people in Ontario directly. In addition, as noted by the Ontario minister of finance, the sector “supports an estimated 280,000 ancillary jobs, including in high-paying business service jobs, such as software design”. Its positive impact is especially important in the greater Toronto area where I live.

As stated by the Toronto Financial Services Alliance:

Toronto is the business and financial capital of Canada. It is the hub of Canadian commerce with a financial services infrastructure that has a reputation for safety, soundness and stability.

Toronto is home to the vast majority of Canada's largest financial services companies...and makes one of the largest contributions to the local economy.

In fact, according to Invest Toronto, the city's financial services sector contributes 13.2% directly and 7.9% indirectly to the GDP of the entire Toronto region. What is more, between 1999 and 2009 alone, the financial services sector added almost 70,000 jobs in the greater Toronto area, a cumulative growth rate of 42% or 4.2% per year on average.

Clearly, a strong and secure financial sector is vital to the economy and good, well-paying jobs in the greater Toronto area. The financial system review act would help to ensure the continued stability of the sector and the significant jobs and economic growth that depend on its health. It would accomplish this by undertaking a series of chiefly technical but very important modifications to the framework governing our already well-regulated financial system to further guarantee its stability.

I want to emphasize that these modifications and indeed this bill are the result of a mandatory process. Specifically, it is a direct product of Canada's long-established practice of undertaking mandatory five-year reviews of Canada's financial sector legislation. This review started in September 2010 when the finance minister initiated a public consultation process, open to all, where he sought the views of Canadians about our financial system. The regular review of the financial sector statutes allows the government to amend the framework so that the financial sector legislation and regulations continue to be as effective and efficient as possible.

Canada's practice of conducting such mandatory five-year examinations has been one of the key reasons we have maintained our reputation of having the safest and most secure financial system on the planet. Indeed, as we all recall, for four straight years the World Economic Forum has declared our country's banking system to be the soundest in the world. This has been a tremendous advantage for Canada and Canadians, especially during the recent global economic turbulence. While the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe has had to nationalize or bail out many of their banks, Canada's financial system has remained strong and secure.

Because of our resilience, Canada's financial system continues to be singled out as a model for other countries. As noted Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington remarked:

Canada's banking system is now widely recognized as arguably the world's best. No Canadians fear for their deposits as many Americans do.

This is what the Irish newspaper, The Independent, had to say:

[Ireland's] financial regulatory system is in line for a radical overhaul, with the Canadian system being held up as a model.

The Canadian system is undoubtedly an excellent model....

Even U.S. President Barack Obama has admitted that Canada's system is far superior, noting:

Canada has shown itself to be a pretty good manager of the financial system in the economy in ways that we haven't always been here in the United States.

Finally, this is what Great Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron declared when he addressed Parliament last year:

In the last few years, Canada has got every major decision right. Look at the facts. Not a single Canadian bank fell or faltered during the global economic crisis....Your economic leadership has helped the Canadian economy to weather the global storms far better than many of your international competitors.

Indeed, the financial system review act would build on and further reinforce Canada's sound and safe financial system with a range of important modifications. Specifically, the legislation would: modernize financial institution legislation to further assure financial stability and ensure that Canada's institutions continue to operate in a competitive, efficient and stable environment; provide important protection to consumers by boosting the powers of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada; improve effectiveness both by cutting down on duplicative administrative red tape burdens on financial institutions and adding much needed regulatory flexibility.

The financial system review act contains numerous important measures that would make our financial system stronger which I would like to briefly highlight. They include: improving the ability of regulators to share information efficiently with international counterparts while respecting the privacy of Canadians; ensuring that Canadians, especially those who may be disadvantaged, are able to cash government cheques under $1,500 free of charge at any bank in Canada; promoting competition and innovation by enabling co-operative credit associations to provide technology services to a broader market; reducing the administrative burden for federally regulated insurance companies; and, offering adjustable policies in foreign jurisdictions by removing duplicative disclosure requirements.

In summary, the financial system review act would further strengthen our already world-leading financial system by reinforcing stability in the financial sector, fine-tuning the consumer protection framework and modernizing the regulatory framework to adapt to new developments.

As I mentioned earlier, the financial services sector is of critical importance to the economic health and jobs in the greater Toronto area and indeed for all of Canada. That is why I strongly urge all members of the House from all parties to vote in favour of this bill, in favour of a strong financial sector, and in favour of the jobs it supports for Canadians.

I have appreciated the opportunity to speak to an issue important to my riding and to the economic well-being of all Canadians.

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NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague who spoke about the importance this will have for jobs, but the government is actually reducing jobs at Service Canada, the department that helps Canadians who find themselves unemployed at this time.

We have known for quite some time about the sunset clause, so why is it that the government took so long to send this bill to committee? Why did the government send it to the Senate as opposed to the House of Commons committee, where it should have been? There was only a three-week window of opportunity for the Senate to study this, and the Senate also said it was not enough time.

Why is the government in such a rush to pass a piece of legislation without really taking into consideration the impact it will have and without further debate on the issue?

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Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that this review is mandated by law. It is legislation that we need to do. It must be renewed by April 20, 2012 to allow the financial institutions to carry on business.

Indeed, the consultation process began in 2010. The government invited the views of all Canadians on to how to improve our financial system. Approximately 30 submissions were received from a wide range of stakeholders. The proposed bill takes into account the concerns of major interest groups, including consumer groups, stakeholders, policyholder groups and financial industry associations.

I would urge the hon. member to consider how important it is to have a strong financial system in our country. By supporting this bill—

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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. There may be other hon. members who wish to put a question. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.