Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to discuss Motion M-269.
My discussion will centre around three topics: first, the need for financial literacy; second, the funding of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada; and third, the task force on financial literacy.
I would like to begin by thanking the chair of the finance committee, the member for Edmonton—Leduc, for championing financial literacy in Parliament and for his leadership in Parliament since being elected over a decade ago.
As we have made clear over the past few years, financial literacy is a priority for our Conservative government, and we are taking action to help Canadians build these essential everyday life skills. We live in a world with a growing number of increasingly complex financial products and services, all with different rewards and risks, which may not be the easiest to understand. There are insurance products, mortgages, investments, online banking, savings accounts, loans, lines of credit, retirement savings accounts, cellphone contracts, debit and credit cards, and the list goes on and on. What is more, the list of products and services available to Canadians gets longer every year, making it even more difficult for busy families to stay on top of the risks, fees and potential returns.
In such a rapidly changing environment, financial literacy is vital for Canadians to make the most informed and best financial choices for their families.
Improved financial literacy means higher savings levels and lower debt. It gives consumers the tools and knowledge they need to pick the products and services that are right for them. As the Canadian Association of Credit Counselling Services recently declared:
By embracing financial literacy, individuals and families can discover a new sense of personal control and mastery over their financial matters.
I am proud of our Conservative government's commitment to improving the financial literacy of all Canadians. It is a commitment that we have honoured time and time again, through numerous pro-consumer protection measures and the legislation currently before Parliament to appoint a financial literacy leader and our continued support for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, also known as FCAC.
In our efforts to help Canadians increase their financial knowledge and their confidence in managing their personal finances, our government has strongly supported the important work of the FCAC. Indeed, our Conservative government announced in last year's budget that the FCAC would receive $3 million a year, in addition to the $2 million a year already provided, to further support improved financial literacy initiatives.
FCAC, the government's lead agency on financial education and literacy, has introduced an array of excellent initiatives in recent years. In fact, a number of constructive initiatives are under way in Canada to strengthen financial literacy, with the FCAC playing a lead role. These include developing a financial literacy program for northern aboriginal communities and providing educational material about money and finances for newcomers to Canada.
FCAC has other innovative tools to help Canadians, such as mortgage calculators that quickly determine mortgage payments and the potential savings resulting from early repayments. It also creates innovative online information to help consumers shop for the most suitable banking packages for their needs.
Young people in particular are benefiting from the FCAC's financial literacy initiatives, a perfect example being an educational tool called “The City”. This free, web-based interactive tool is designed to help young Canadians 15-to-18-years old acquire financial skills.
FCAC has also been instrumental in leveraging and coordinating private sector and voluntary sector initiatives already under way across Canada.
I would like to talk about the task force on financial literacy. Empowering people with financial know-how gives them the confidence to improve their access to financial services and enables them to choose the products that best meet their needs. Ensuring that people have the tools to make responsible financial decisions is important not just for their personal well-being but also for the strength and stability of our economy as a whole.
That is why our Conservative government established the task force on financial literacy to make recommendations on a national strategy to improve financial literacy in Canada. The task force has 13 members drawn from the business and education sectors, community organizations and academia. Our goal was not to impose a top-down strategy. All across Canada, there are excellent examples of financial literacy education at the provincial and community levels.
That is why our government sought to build on these individual good works by working together to further improve financial literacy throughout Canada. The task force delivered its final report, “Canadians and Their Money: Building a brighter financial future”, last February 2011, outlining 30 recommendations to improve the financial literacy of Canadians aimed at various levels of government and stakeholders.
The report was met with widespread support. Indeed, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada said:
We're delighted with the Task Force's report. We're pleased it recognizes and builds on existing efforts, stressing shared responsibility and cooperation.
The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education said that the task force:
--presented a series of recommendations that are reasonable and appropriate. If implemented, they should prove to be effective in significantly helping to improve financial literacy in Canada....The sooner the efforts proposed by the task force can get under way, the sooner Canadians can start to benefit from the learning opportunities these initiatives could provide.
I am happy to report that our government is currently acting on a key task force recommendation for the need for dedicated leadership by introducing legislation proposed to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act to provide a framework for the appointment by the Governor in Council of a financial literacy leader. This leader would be responsible for collaborating and coordinating his or her activities with stakeholders who contribute to and support initiatives that strengthen Canadians' financial literacy and to continue the progress already achieved by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
As Social and Enterprise Development Innovations recently remarked, the appointment of a financial literacy leader is:
--the first step in a process that could help Canadians make better financial decisions. It could also help Canadians better weather the economic storms that will inevitably blow through the global economy from time to time.
The financial literacy leader would be essential to our government's financial literacy efforts, but it is merely a single example of how we continue to boost Canadian consumers' knowledge and provide them with the tools they require in an increasingly complex financial marketplace.
In conclusion, clear and concise financial information and increased financial literacy supports higher savings levels and decreased indebtedness. It gives Canadians the information and therefore the power needed to select the financial products and services that best meet their and their family's particular needs.
The range of financial products available to Canadians is expanding rapidly and the complexity of such products can often make it difficult to fully understand the risks, fees and potential returns.
No matter our individual circumstances, improved financial literacy is vital to making sensible and responsible financial decisions. That is why I am proud to support the member for Edmonton—Leduc's private member's motion, which would help build on our government's commitment to improve financial literacy in Canada.