Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill S-5, an act to amend the law governing financial institutions and to provide for related and consequential matters, and to express my disappointment about the inadequacies of this bill.
The member opposite suggested that somehow we were against this kind of thing. We are not against it: we are in fact disappointed that it does not go far enough. I think we have heard their mantra over and over again throughout this entire Parliament. We are disappointed that the government does not do enough, that it does not protect seniors and immigrants and does not protect the rights of ordinary Canadians.
Again we are faced with a bill that does not seem to go far enough. It is our hope that these inadequacies can be addressed at committee, as has been suggested. So far we have not had a good track record of changing bills at committee. Unfortunately the government does not like to listen to our advice, does not want to hear debate, and intends through the time allocation motion it introduced yesterday and passed today to have only one further day of debate before going to the standing committee, which will then have about five weeks to go through this very complicated bill.
I say “complicated” because the bill amends the Bank Act, the Cooperative Credit Associations Act, the Insurance Companies Act, the Trust and Loan Companies Act, the Bank of Canada Act, the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation Act, the Canadian Payments Act, the Winding-up and Restructuring Act, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, the Payment Clearing and Settlement Act, and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act. Why are we rushing?
This is a pretty important thing. I do not think there is a person in Canada whose relationship with banks and financial institutions is not somehow touched by this bill. There are few in my riding who do not have bank accounts, I will admit, but as the member for Winnipeg Centre reminded us, they are being served by other institutions that are gouging them, the payday loan companies that have sprung up like mushrooms to replace the banks that have left.
It is very unfortunate that we are not going to get enough time to debate this bill, because it is going to deprive Canadians of a really comprehensive and transparent review of our financial system, unlike the cursory and rushed treatment this bill unfortunately received in that other house, the Senate. We are talking about regulating this country's financial service industry, which employs thousands of Canadians and handles trillions of dollars in assets, and the Senate review of this legislation took three weeks from start to finish. The bill was introduced in the Senate on November 23 of last year and adopted at final reading on December 16.
Several questions arise from that. Why did it take so long to get here? We are in the middle of February and are now dealing with this in a rush because we have to meet a time allocation motion. It is almost three months since it was introduced and two months since it was passed in the Senate. Is the banking system therefore less important to Canadians than guns? Is the banking system less important than copyright legislation? Is the banking system less important than the Wheat Board? These are all things that went before it, and the banking system is thus apparently not seen as important, not as important to ordinary Canadians. We disagree.
Why the Senate? Is the government trying to make work over there in the other chamber? Is that really what is going on? To justify its position that the Senate is an effective place of sober second thought, does it have to find ways to introduce actual government bills in the Senate to give that chamber work to do?
If this is so urgent, why did the government wait so long even to introduce it in the Senate? The deadline has been known for years. The deadline was always going to be the middle of April of this year. Why has it taken so long? It baffles us.
We certainly have time to do this correctly, or we should have had the time to do this correctly. However, the government's mismanagement of this file, given that the five-year review was well known, has contributed to this rushed process whereby the government invokes closure for the umpteenth time and limits our job as parliamentarians to do a proper review of this important sector.
It is as if the government were governing on the back of a napkin. Every time we turn around, there is something that it has forgotten, something it has forgotten to do. This is another one. It forgot about this: “Oh, we better do it in a hurry. We have to get it through.”
We owe it to Canadians to address some of the real problems with the financial institutions, such as by protecting consumers from excessive user fees, not only ATM fees but also remittance fees on transfers that many new Canadians in the diaspora send to families they are supporting back home. Those remittance fees are huge and they are charged by banks and other financial corporations alike, and sometimes they amount to as much as 30%, 40% and even 50% of the money they send overseas.
Why do they have to send money overseas? It is because their families cannot be reunified here in Canada. We now have wait times of as long as 106 months between the time an application is made and a parent or a grandparent is permitted to come back to Canada, and it is as long as 33 months for spouses and children. All the while, the people here who have recently immigrated to Canada and are trying to reunite with their families are trying to support their family overseas by working in Canada and sending what little money they can. When the banks, the financial institutions, the payday lenders, whomever, take 30%, 40% or 50% of that money, it is a crime, and it is not something that the government has addressed.
We need to review the treatment of financial derivatives. Nothing in the legislation talks about that. It was speculation, as we saw in the United States, in particular, that provoked the financial crisis from which we are still recovering. These practices do not contribute to the economy but to the financial volatility that threatens to destabilize economies, and yet there is nothing in the bill to deal with that. The housing bubble in the U.S. created by those derivatives has caused ordinary citizens to lose billions of dollars in the value of their properties, in large measure as a result of banks and other institutions trading and speculating. Canadian banks were not immune from this: Canadian banks lost money on these derivatives.
We need to review mortgage lending practices, particularly in light of the comments made by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, who said that record consumer debts are the greatest domestic threat to the country's financial institutions. Right now, consumer debt is 151% of disposable income, partly as a result of aggressive home equity loan marketing that has placed Canadians in vulnerable situations should interest rates rise. If interest rates rise, we are in for a huge collapse in our credit system in Canada. We do not want to see the disastrous practices witnessed in the United States' housing portfolio come here to Canada.
This is an inadequate measure, a missed opportunity to do better for Canadians. The consultation process has been pathetic, to say the least. Apparently, there were some consultations conducted by the government online. Some 30 people found out about it and submitted recommendations. The government cannot release the results of most of those to anyone because it forgot to get the required disclosures from those people for their information to be released. Therefore, we will never know what the feedback to the government was.
On our side, we will support the bill at second reading because we hope that the deficiencies in the bill can be corrected at committee. Some government members have actually said they want to listen and make amendments to the bill, where necessary, at committee. Thus far I cannot remember any bills coming to this House from committee with amendments. Maybe this will be the first. Who knows. I hope my colleagues on the government side will participate in the committee review of the bill in good faith to improve how our financial sector serves Canadians. This will be a challenge, given the time constraints imposed by the government today.
We owe Canadians this effort. I owe this to Canadians in my riding, as does every single member of Parliament here who represents all Canadians, all of whom will be touched by the measures that the government has put forward today in the bill.