Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by talking about the farcical process that the Conservatives have set up. After a long wait, they finally introduced this bill a few days ago. After a day and a half of debate, the government says that it does not want to hear anything more from members, it does not want any more discussion, and it is invoking closure. That is out-and-out contempt of Parliament. Given the importance of this bill and all of the other bills, invoking closure time after time indicates a total lack of respect for Parliament.
Members of the Conservative Party will say that this is routine. That is what they have been saying over the last day and a half and the last few hours of debate. They have been saying that it is a routine bill and not to worry about it, that there is no need to examine it, just pass it. Given that Conservative members of Parliament routinely read from speaking notes handed out by the Prime Minister's Office, I simply feel that is not doing the required due diligence to look at legislation, particularly legislation as profound as the legislation before us.
As the member for Sudbury mentioned a few minutes ago, we are talking about legislation that amends 14 different pieces of current law. The legislation is 105 pages in length and has an impact on our banking system. Yet the government says that we are not going to have a debate on this legislation. It is not going to listen to concerns that have been raised about this; it is just going to impose closure for the 16th time, the 5th time in a matter of a few weeks, because it wants to get the legislation through.
The problem is that the government has not done its due diligence. There has not been due process. This is when problems occur. We have seen it before with the Conservative government. We saw it with the prisons agenda. We saw a bloated bill of $19 billion because there was no homework or due diligence done. We see that as well with the pensions and the concerns that so many Canadians have because due diligence has not been done. The government is just throwing out ideas to cut into pensions.
There all these problems that have occurred with government legislation because due diligence was not performed. For the government to say there is nothing to see in the 105 pages, nothing to debate, that it is not concerned about this bill and to just ram it through, particularly in light of the process which the government has adopted on this legislation, is something that the NDP, the official opposition, simply cannot accept.
The bill was introduced in the Senate. The Senate paid lip service to providing due diligence. There was, as the member for Sudbury mentioned, a secretive little website announcement to say there was legislation coming and looked for a few replies from stakeholders and interested parties. In the Senate, there was no due regard for consumer protection, which is fundamental. There was no due regard for the changes and limitations around control of the banking institutions. There was no due diligence at all. It was brought to the House where, finally, light could be shone on these 105 pages and what each clause and paragraph would mean for ordinary Canadian families. The government says no, it simply will ram it through. That is absolutely unacceptable.
I think Canadians can see what is happening very clearly and systematically is the government is not doing its homework. It is not doing its due diligence. It is relying on its parliamentary majority to ram through often what is very problematic legislation. It is Canadian families that pay the cost of that.
What is in the bill? The government has said it will only allow a few more hours of debate. The member for Sudbury had to cut in half his declarations around consumer protection. Every other speaker will have to do the same. There are many members on this side of the House who want to speak to this 105-page bill but who will not get a chance to do so.
There are components in the legislation that we support. As the member for Sudbury mentioned earlier, the FCAC component, broadening the supervisory enforcement powers, is a component that we do support. We also support some of the changes that have been brought in. However, the reality is, the devil is in the details, and the government has not responded on some of the key components that we raised already in the House in the first few hours of debate.
One example is the increase in the maximum fine from $200,000 to $500,000. Increasing that fine only works if the regulatory powers are actually being exercised. We have been raising concerns about the fact that the FCAC has not been using the existing supervisory powers. It has not been using the powers it has already to raise those minimums in terms of fines. To raise that amount means nothing if we are still having regulatory problems with how consumers are being protected.
The other components that the member for Sudbury mentioned are important to note. Other speakers from the NDP have noted those as well. What we are not seeing is the kind of protection Canadians want to see built into the acts that cover our financial institutions.
For example, we look at clauses 446 and 447 and the whole concern about user fees and bank charges, something our former leader, Jack Layton, and the NDP caucus raised repeatedly over the last few years. Consumers are being gouged by financial institutions. There is little or no oversight over the scale and scope of those user fees and transaction fees that are imposed on Canadians. Often Canadians pay hundreds of dollars a year because there is not that oversight. Yet there is no regulatory authority that actually allows in some way for consumers' concerns around transaction fees and user fees to be addressed.
In fact, all that clauses 446 and 447 say is that the banks can increase and add those charges, but they only have to disclose the charges. That is not consumer protection. All that is doing is saying to consumers that they have to accept whatever the banks push on them. The banks just have to disclose that they are doing it. They are gouging consumers, but the banks have to tell consumers they are gouging them. For the Conservatives that is the solution. On this side of the House it surely is not.
Another concern we have raised repeatedly is the threshold provisions around complete control. Clause 883 says:
No person shall, without the approval of the Minister, acquire control, within the meaning of paragraph 3(1)(d), of a bank holding company with equity of less than twelve billion dollars.
That puts in the hands of the minister a blank cheque to approve any control over what are medium-size banks. Twelve billion dollars is a lot of assets. To our minds that raises concerns about how that amount was arrived at and why we have seen over the last few years a more than doubling of the threshold to allow more and more banks to be under that potential cloud of a takeover.
On this side of the House we have steadfastly, since our foundation, the previous CCF and the NDP, said very clearly and repeatedly that we do not believe having total control in one person is in any way helping to support our financial institutions and our banking industry.
We know the importance of the banking industry to the country. The member for Sudbury said it has a quarter of a million employees, and about $15 billion in purchases of goods and services in Canada. We are talking about a very important industry.
However, the government has not responded on the raising of that threshold and why it has done it twice now in the space of a few years and what the consequences are.
We wanted to raise these issues in the House. We believe firmly that this process has been completely the opposite of what is required for the due diligence on a bill that is so extensive in nature and has such an impact over so many pieces of legislation that govern our financial institutions and our banks.
That is what we have raised in the House. What we have been told by the government is that it does not want any debate. It does not want to have due diligence. It does not want to do its homework. It just wants to ram the whole damned thing through.
On this side of the House we say no to that. We believe there should be due diligence on a piece of legislation of this nature.