House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was literacy.


The House resumed from November 15, 2011 consideration of the motion.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by underscoring that we are supportive of this motion. I have worked very closely for some time with the member for Edmonton—Leduc and I am pleased he is bringing it forward.

It bears mentioning, so that folks can recall what is in the motion, that this is Motion No. 269 and it reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should help improve financial literacy in Canada by: (a) working to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Financial Literacy; (b) creating, promoting, and continuously upgrade a single source website for financial literacy to increase public awareness and ease access to information for Canadians; (c) requiring federally regulated financial institutions to publicly disclose their contributions to financial literacy initiatives; (d) ensuring the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada works with willing provinces and territories to promote financial literacy to youth through the educational system; and (e) designating November as “Financial Literacy Month”.

When we look at the recommendations of the task force on financial literacy, there is no doubt that they are helpful recommendations. We are talking about recommendations to enhance and spread financial literacy through a wide variety of communities in Canada.

There is no doubt, particularly at this time, given the record debt loads under which Canadian families are suffering, that having this sort of widespread work to ensure that Canadian families are acutely aware of their financial alternatives is something all members of the House would share.

I would like to disagree with the government, not the member, on one point and then I would like to test the government itself on the issue of financial literacy, given the criteria that were put forward by the task force on financial literacy.

First, the government seemed to indicate in the House in the past that somehow Canadians were to blame for record levels of financial indebtedness. In fact, as I know hon. members are aware, Canadian families have never lived under the degree of debt that they are suffering under today. However, surely this cannot be blamed on hard-working Canadian families. Canadian families are working harder and harder with fewer and fewer means. It has been said a number of times in the House, and it is a truism, that, under a Conservative government, most Canadian families are poor.

In the last year, the real income of most middle class and poor Canadian families actually went down by 2%. Therefore, it is not surprising, when we look at the overall poor quality of jobs being created, most of them being part-time or temporary in nature, and the kinds of jobs that this economy and the government has lost over the last six years, that 400,000 high end manufacturing jobs that have been lost over the past few years Any jobs that have come into the job market pay about $10,000 a year less than the jobs that have been lost.

When we look at all of that key criteria, the fact that the jobs the government has created are precarious jobs, part-time and temporary overwhelmingly, that they pay $10,000 a year less than the family sustaining jobs, the full-time jobs, the manufacturing jobs, the value added jobs that existed in the economy before, we cannot blame Canadian families for coping as best they can with what has been a series of government policies that have made Canadian families poor. That is a simple reality.

On this side of the House, we do not share the notion that somehow Canadian families are to blame for record levels of debt, when it has been government policies, a deliberate pushing down of salaries and a variety of means that have replaced good jobs with poorer quality jobs. Those are the factors we need to look at when we look at the overall crushing level of debt that Canadians are experiencing, and this is historic. We have never in our history experienced the level of debt that Canadian families are bearing now, the yoke that Canadian families from coast to coast to coast are bearing.

I will come back to the task force on financial literacy, as well as the overall strategy on financial literacy, and measure the government against the criteria and priorities that were set out in the proposed national strategy on financial literacy.

The first priorities are shared responsibility, leadership and collaboration. In September, we saw a federal government that was not being collaborative or sharing responsibility with the provinces in terms of funding health care. The government threw a bomb on the table in a meeting with the financial ministers in Victoria in December when it unilaterally imposed what will be less funding for the Canadian health care system, which will impose a greater burden on all the provinces.

When we talk about these priorities, the shared national strategies, responsibility, leadership and collaboration, we need to know how the government is faring in its collaborative approaches with the municipalities. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has indicated a crushing infrastructure deficit that the municipalities are bearing with a $120 billion shortfall. This means that the municipalities are struggling more and more to put into place programs with 8¢ of the overall tax dollar to repair the infrastructure, the roads and bridges which, in many parts of the country, are crumbling. Therefore, on shared responsibility, leadership and collaboration, I think we need to give the current government an F in all cases.

I will now move on to the third priority, which is lifelong learning.

Since the Conservative government has come to power, it is interesting that each year budgetary projections have been more and more out of whack with what the actual fiscal returns have been at the end of the year. We are seeing a government, far from using its lifelong learning to have more accurate forecasting and provisions around financial accountability, it is seemingly getting less and less accurate. So much for lifelong learning, the third priority of the proposed national strategy. Very clearly, there as well we are seeing a failing grade.

We then have delivery and promotion. We have seen in this House the cost of the F-35s, a contract that was untendered. They were supposed to cost $9 billion, which escalated to $20 billion and is now over $30 billion. Nobody on the Conservative side of the House actually knows what the total cost of the F-35 program is. Hopefully, we will get some answers soon. However, when we talk about the delivery of financial literacy, ensuring that we have accurate predictions around financial expenditures that the government is undertaking, we have a case example of the government doing very poorly.

We have the prison program, at a time when the crime rate is falling, and the government has no idea what the overall costs will be. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has put some figures forward that clearly contradict the rudimentary number crunching of the Conservative government. As well, some very credible organizations have estimated the entire cost at over $19 billion. Very clearly, on delivery, it is a failing grade again.

Finally, I will talk about accountability. We learned a few weeks ago that the President of the Treasury Board was looking to hide the cuts that may take place in the budget being delivered on March 29. We have a Treasury Board and a government that is attempting to hide what should be the facts of the extent of the cuts and what the impacts would be on service delivery for hard-working Canadian families who depend on those services. We are seeing here again that the government is saying that it will not disclose that information, that it will cover it up.

The irony is that, while we talk about the private member's motion, which we support, and we look at the task force on financial literacy, on the priorities of the national strategy, we see that the government has failed on every count. When we are talking about financial literacy, who could learn most from the perspectives that were brought forward by the task force on financial literacy?

My colleagues on this side of the House would all agree that the government would profit most by putting in place those key principles around financial literacy, putting in place the priorities around the strategy for financial literacy, and ensuring that the practices it does now, which contradict financial literacy, are thrown out and it brings in new practices that would lead to financial literacy and financial accountability in our government and in our country.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate today on Motion No. 269 brought forward by my hon. colleague from Edmonton—Leduc on financial literacy.

I will read the five components in the motion that my colleague is recommending:

--the government should help improve financial literacy in Canada by: (a) working to implement the recommendations of the task force on financial literacy: (a) creating, promoting, and continuously upgrade a single source website for financial literacy to increase public awareness and ease access to information for Canadians; (c) requiring federally regulated financial institutions to publicly disclose their contributions to financial literacy initiatives; (d) ensuring the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada works with willing provinces and territories to promote financial literacy to youth through the educational system; and (e) designating November as financial literacy month.

Those are all worthwhile objectives generally because there are things to be concerned about, whether it is helping Canadians pay for their education these days, which is getting more difficult as we see young people struggling with the higher cost of tuition let alone the cost of living as a student, or whether it is people who are trying to buy a house, manage their debt or save for retirement. There is a clear need for greater financial literacy in Canada.

All of us I am sure can think of times in our lives when we would have benefited from a better understanding of how things work in finances, such as understanding how to budget, how a mortgage works and how interest is calculated.

When I was practising real estate law, I found that people often did not understand the rules if they wanted to prepay a mortgage. If they were in a position at some point during the term of the mortgage to pay part of it down early or pay it all off, they did not know the rules ahead of time unless they were explained to them. I always took time to tell them what rules in the mortgage document would apply to them and the penalties that would need to be paid by them if interest rates had gone up between the time they signed the mortgage and received their loan and the time they were trying to pay it off. From the bank or lender's point of view, it would lose money because it would need to lend that money out at a lower rate and, therefore, would charge a penalty. People did not always understand that going into a mortgage. That is just one small example of why people need to understand financial rules.

Financial literacy is a vital component for our consumer protection regime. I would agree that the federal government should be taking leadership and working closely with the provinces and territories to improve financial literacy, especially among young Canadians.

It is important to note that what we are talking about here is a matter of education, a matter primarily within the responsibility of the provinces. In a sense, it is an odd issue for a member to bring a motion on. On the other hand, I am interested and pleased to have the chance to debate this issue as we are all concerned about what is happening with Canadians' finances, with their high debt loads, which I will talk about more in a moment.

There is, among other things, a growing need for credit counselling services across the country. That is unfortunate because it is often the people with high debt loads who have difficulty managing them.

The reality is that, under the Conservative government, household debt has soared to record levels. The debt of the Government of Canada has also soared. The Conservative government ought to learn some financial literacy itself when we consider that it inherited a $13 billion surplus and, by April and May of 2008, about six months before the recession began, the government had put Canada back into deficit, which is a shocking fact. There is certainly a need for the Minister of Finance and others on that side of the House to learn some financial literacy.

A new record was set for household debt in the third quarter of last year. The average Canadian now owes $1.51 for every dollar of annual income. That is a worrisome figure when we consider how much that has gone up in recent years. However, the measures proposed in my hon. colleague's motion are only the first steps in promoting greater financial literacy across the country.

When we think of literacy and education, there has to be a strong base for whatever kind of literacy we are talking about. That is why the Government of Canada ought to be investing in affordable early childhood education and in adult literacy programs.

For example, Senator Joyce Fairbairn has throughout her time in Ottawa been a very strong advocate for literacy programs across the country. I think back to several years ago when the Conservative government made substantial cuts. It gouged out a lot of funding from literacy groups across the country. That was a very short-sighted and unfortunate thing to do. Early childhood education is really important for our future. We know that children who get a head start, learning their ABCs and their 123s before the age of five, have a huge advantage. The records of people who have had that experience show they are far less likely to get into trouble with the law and far more likely to have a job throughout their lives because they had that good, strong head start.

We need to create a culture of lifelong learning. All of us can benefit from learning on an ongoing basis, of course. However, we have to make sure that all Canadians have the skills to manage their finances. There is a role that, with the provincial governments, can be played.

The government must also help people save for retirement. That is certainly a federal responsibility. It is surprising that older Canadians have been growing their debt loads at a considerably faster rate than younger Canadians. That is not what we would expect. We would think that those of us, say over the age of 50, would be less likely to be growing debt levels. This is an indication of how difficult people are finding it these days to prepare for retirement. It is very worrisome that older Canadians are growing their debt much faster than younger Canadians. What does that mean in the next 30 years when they are heading toward retirement age and the government is talking about increasing the age for the old age supplement and the guaranteed income supplement? It is very disturbing that people are having a tough time and yet the government is saying it is not going to help them.

We know, for example, that 50% of the people who receive OAS are making less than $25,000 a year. In fact, 40% of them earn less than $20,000 a year. These are not people who are well off. These people really need the help. To make them wait two more years is unconscionable. It is certainly not good for the future of the country.

In Canada, the average debt load in the past 10 years has increased twice as fast as income. That is a scary thought. However, the rate is three times as fast for older Canadians. Many older Canadians simply cannot afford to retire. They need all the help they can get. That is why the Liberal Party has proposed a voluntary supplemental Canada pension plan that would give Canadians access to a low cost, well diversified financial opportunity. I hope that members can see the advantage of doing that. People would feel much more comfortable knowing that they can have those retirement funds managed by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, by people who have real expertise and great knowledge of the investment world, which is a mysterious place for many people.

The Conservative government has missed an opportunity. It failed to follow up on the report of the financial literacy task force in the last two budgets. It failed to protect consumers with the voluntary code of conduct the Minister of Finance negotiated with the credit card issuers and the banks behind closed doors. There is real room for improvement there.

It concerns me that I heard the Royal Bank and the Toronto-Dominion Bank are planning to withdraw from the services of the banking ombudsman. Considering that that institution is already just a voluntary one, and not binding on the banks, to think that they are actually going to withdraw from that is very disturbing. I would hope they would reconsider that decision.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss Motion No. 269, sponsored by the member for Edmonton—Leduc. In his decade-plus period of service to his constituents here in Parliament, the member has become highly regarded among his colleagues and observers across Canada, especially in his current capacity as chair of the finance committee. I was proud to serve as president of his constituency association. I am proud to vote for him as my own MP. I also applaud him for his work today in promoting and increasing awareness of an important issue affecting all Canadians, financial literacy.

That is enough sucking up to one of my colleagues. Today we want to talk about the motion that presents constructive ways to improve financial literacy in Canada. It is good news, and I appreciate that my colleague from across the floor mentioned it. We would respond to the recommendations of the task force on financial literacy. We would create, promote and continuously upgrade a single source website for financial literacy to increase public awareness and improve access to information for all Canadians. We would require federally regulated financial institutions to publicly disclose their contributions to financial literacy initiatives. We would ensure that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada works with willing provinces and territories to promote financial literacy to youth in particular. As well, we would designate November as financial literacy month.

Everybody agrees that those are things to do, but surprise, surprise, the folks across the floor do not think we are doing it properly. Welcome to Parliament.

Our Conservative government supports today's motion, as we support improving financial literacy to assist Canadians achieve greater control over their own finances.

Our economy is built on the millions of financial decisions that Canadians make every day. More than 60% of total spending in Canada's economy, which is the lion's share of our economy, is consumer spending. Investment and consumer spending go hand in hand. They create jobs, growth and wealth. Improving financial literacy helps consumers act knowledgeably and with confidence in managing their personal financial affairs. That is why ensuring that all Canadian consumers have access to the right tools and the right information is so important. It will allow them to make choices that best serve their interests, especially younger Canadians.

As Steve McLellan, head of the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce recently observed: element of the whole person certainly is the writing and the reading, but it's also to be able to plan their own life and manage their own [finances]....

A good foundation of financial literacy, including an understanding of personal budgeting and the impact of interest rates, can help our young people successfully manage their money now and build a higher quality of life in the future.

Whether it is a question of saving for retirement, financing a new home or balancing the family budget, improving the financial literacy of Canadians would add to our competitiveness, the stability of our financial system and the strength of our economy. That is why, as outlined in budget 2009, Canada's economic action plan, we put a plan in motion to build a cohesive strategy on financial literacy, starting with the creation of a task force on financial literacy. This builds on our government's already strong actions in this regard.

For example, in budgets 2007 and 2008, we provided the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada with new funding to undertake financial literacy initiatives, focusing initially on youth. This included a partnership with the British Columbia Securities Commission in developing The City, a web-based high school financial literacy program available across the country. This strategy of boosting the financial knowledge of Canadians goes hand in hand with our Conservative government's ongoing leadership to enhance consumer protection for Canadians using financial services.

For instance, to help out consumers of credit cards, we introduced measures in 2009 that require clear and simple information on credit card application forms and contracts, and timely advance notices of changes in rates and fees. Just today it was announced that we are taking action on unsolicited credit card cheques, something that is overdue. We also limited credit card business practices that are not beneficial to consumers. We established a 21 day minimum grace period for new purchases made with a credit card and limited some debt collection practices. These measures were widely applauded by consumer groups. The Consumers Association of Canada gave them high marks remarking, “they will address the key consumer concerns in the market without having unexpected adverse consequences for consumers”.

A strong and stable financial system also depends on the ability of its users to make informed decisions. That is why our Conservative government launched the task force on financial literacy, to make recommendations on a national strategy to improve financial literacy in Canada. The task force delivered its final report in February 2011. We are working to implement many of its recommendations.

In fact, Bill C-28 is before Parliament as we speak. Bill C-28, the financial literacy leader act, responds to the central recommendations of that task force report by calling for the appointment of a financial literacy leader to spearhead the government's ongoing role in strengthening the financial literacy of all Canadians.

While the task force acknowledged that excellent work was being done across Canada to improve financial literacy, more can always be done. In fact, the report's number one recommendation was as follows:

The Task Force recommends that the Government of Canada appoint an individual, directly accountable to the Minister of Finance, to serve as dedicated national leader. This Financial Literacy Leader should have the mandate to work collaboratively with stakeholders to oversee the National Strategy, implement the recommendations and champion financial literacy on behalf of all Canadians.

I believe that our Conservative government's outstanding record of promoting financial literacy and consumer protection would only be enhanced by this appointment which would coordinate our efforts to ensure that they remain effective.

As the task force report tells us, improving financial literacy in Canada will “require a focused, centrally recognized champion. Clear leadership and coordination are needed at the national level. Sustained, steady progress over the long term is unlikely to be achieved without dedicated stewardship”. I am confident that the appointment of a financial literacy leader would achieve these goals in coordination and bring us further to the worthy goal of the member for Edmonton—Leduc of improving financial literacy in Canada.

I spent 12 years before coming to Parliament as an investment adviser, stockbroker and branch manager. My wife and son are still in those roles. Most people are too busy to pay close attention to their investments. That makes sound financial advice very important. Financial literacy though, makes the average investor more comfortable with what that financial advice means.

If an investment adviser cannot explain an investment to the understanding of the average investor, then the investment is probably a bad idea. Sound and effective investing is not rocket science. Neither is financial literacy. It simply takes an effort by those giving advice and a reasonably informed investor. At the very least, people should read books like The Wealthy Barber.

Our government's commitment to financial literacy through programs that will be started as a result of Motion No. 269, and the expertise of a financial literacy leader will provide an important step forward for Canadian families. Statistically, only 51% of Canadians maintain a budget and 31% struggle to balance their books and pay their bills.

Let me conclude by saying that our government has shown its faith in the long-term effects of financial literacy on the well-being of Canadians and the Canadian economy by increasing funding of financial literacy initiatives on an ongoing basis. We remain committed to doing everything we can to help Canadians as they prepare for a healthy financial future. We are doing things almost on a daily basis. I just mentioned the unsolicited credit card cheques. We also took action today to introduce a mortgage code to help Canadians better understand what a mortgage means because that can be a fairly confusing financial transaction. Obviously, it is probably the most important or biggest financial transaction that most people will make.

I certainly applaud my colleague from Edmonton—Leduc for bringing this motion forward. It is one that I sense will be supported, notwithstanding the typical rhetoric we get that is just part of this place and I understand that. I strongly recommend that all members vote in support of this motion.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak in support of the principle behind this motion brought forward by the member for Edmonton—Leduc.

There is no question that financial literacy is extraordinarily important for Canadians to be able to make fully informed decisions with regard to their financial futures. However, I would suggest that this motion is a half-hearted attempt by the government to move forward with an important initiative begun by the financial literacy task force, which brought down its report with recommendations two years ago. The best we have been able to get from the government after some considerable hard work and lobbying by the member for Edmonton—Leduc is a motion that talks about the government moving forward with good intentions. I would suggest, frankly, that it is not good enough.

We in this country are faced with a situation where the average family's debt load in the past 10 years has increased twice as fast as incomes, and three times as fast for older Canadians. It is important to bring that up because there is no question that understanding the rules of the road, the various financial vehicles, the terms and conditions of credit cards and various loans and mortgages, is important for all of us. At the moment, however, there is a situation in this country where older Canadians are experiencing debt levels at historic levels.

We have talked about this in the House over the past number of weeks and months, with the government contemplating extending the eligibility period for OAS from 65 to 67 years of age. I want to take this opportunity to bring to the government's attention the fact that seniors are already seriously struggling to make ends meet. There is an increasing number of seniors who, as a result of losing their jobs and of downsizing and poor health, are unable to work. The figures show that at the age of 62 there seems to be a bulge in the number of seniors finding themselves unemployed. They are piecing things together with credit cards and personal loans in trying to make ends meet until they reach the age of 65, when they are eligible for the Canada pension plan, GIS and old age security.

Understanding the implications of credit cards is not going to help those people because they are simply trying to cope. They are trying to keep their heads above water and maintain what they have. Being responsible contributors to their communities for their whole lives, they are not wanting to default or to go bankrupt, so they are trying to use every tool available to try to deal with their situation. This motion does not help them deal with that.

I absolutely support the intent of this motion to make available to Canadians, including to children and other Canadians throughout their lifelong trajectories, increased resources for financial literacy at all levels and to work with the provincial governments on that, et cetera.

However, we have to recognize in this House that there are some very critical problems at stake that make understanding the problems associated with debt levels more important than simply understanding their terms. On a matter like credit cards, if the government would do what the former leader of the NDP, Jack Layton, talked about for so many years and bring in a cap on credit card rates, that single action would do so much for seniors and average Canadians trying to make ends meet.

I want to talk about the financial literacy issue specifically as it relates to the fact that 50% of adult Canadians, according to the task force, struggle with simple tasks involving math and numbers. Therefore, when we talk about putting information on a website or about sending information out in pamphlets or putting it on billboards, we have to recognize that over 50% of Canadians are having basic literacy challenges as it is. That fact needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to the means by which we deliver information on financial literacy. Forty-two per cent of adult Canadians struggle with reading, and 20 per cent of Canadian households do not have access to the Internet. Not only are there problems with literacy but at least 20% of Canadians also do not even have access to computers or the Internet. This issue needs to be taken into account when we consider how to move forward with things like literacy programs.

When I began, I said that this was a weak attempt at implementing some important recommendations of the task force. I want to highlight a couple of things the government could be doing right now and should have done already. Here are a couple of key recommendations.

First is working with the provinces and territories to integrate financial literacy into all levels of our education system, including primary, secondary, post-secondary and adult learning curricula. That is key, and it has to start now and start young.

Second, the government should be implementing financial literacy through key programs that already exist, including EI, OAS, CPP, the youth employment strategy, the urban aboriginal strategy and the immigrant settlement and adaptation program. Those are areas where the government has contact with many Canadians, some of whom are Nova Scotians, and an opportunity for it to present information in clear language so that people are more likely to understand it. I get a chuckle from that when I think about the problems we have been dealing with at my office in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, from people struggling even to get access to some Service Canada offices and dealing with the EI and CPP backlog and the fact they are only getting a recording on the phone and are having trouble getting a response.

Third, the government should implement a financial literacy component to the Canada student loan program for students receiving funding.

Finally, the government should intensify efforts to raise awareness with regard to financial fraud among vulnerable Canadians.

Those are key recommendations that the task force came up with. The government could and should have been moving on these already. They are very specific strategies and I would urge the member who has moved this motion, which we support, to continue to work with his colleagues to ensure that very specific actions begin to take place on the important initiative begun by the task force and its findings.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario


Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

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.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all the members of Parliament who spoke to this motion today and in November. I certainly appreciate all their thoughts and words on this.

We delved a little into financial literacy and fiscal policies of the government. It is certainly possible for there to be people who are financially literate but who disagree with the fiscal policies of the government. We ought to ensure that we are focused on financial literacy when members come to vote on this motion and also when discussing Bill C-28.

In wrapping up, I want to thank all of the individuals and organizations that have been working in this area for years. Most of them have been doing so on a voluntary basis. I have been amazed by the number of people who have contacted me by email or letter and who have come to my office to talk about the initiatives they have been working on. The non-governmental organizations have talked about the work they are doing in schools. They are bringing mentors into schools to teach young people about financial literacy.

In fairness, I should point out that people in the media have been doing a lot of work in this area. Many journalists have been writing about financial issues for years and making some real efforts to educate Canadians about financial literacy and to educate and inform them as best as possible in terms of making their own financial decisions.

I have to point out I received many emails, calls and letters after Jane Taber wrote an article in the Globe and Mail on this issue, much more than after the original debate in the House of Commons. I am somewhat surprised that she has a wider readership than Hansard on a daily basis, but I do tip my hat to her because that article certainly did cause a discussion nationally.

What has been driven home to me in discussing it with people is that there is a lot of effort being made out there and a lot of outstanding work, but there is a lot of duplication and overlap.

I want to emphasize the second priority of the task force report, which is leadership and collaboration. Why this is so important is there are so many people and organizations doing so many good things across the country that we need to have some collaboration with all of these groups. That is addressed in the motion in terms of having the one website portal working with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. It is also why leadership is so important.

I strongly encourage members in the House to do as the member for Edmonton Centre suggested, which is to vote for Bill C-28, because that is the first recommendation of the task force report. It is the very first recommendation and the one in my view which must be put into play.

I want to acknowledge the work of organizations such as the Financial Literacy Action Group. I will list the seven organizations for members' benefit: ABC Life Literacy Canada, the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, Credit Canada, Financial Planning Standards Council, the Investor Education Fund, Junior Achievement, and Social and Enterprise Development Innovations. There are other organizations as well. The Economic Club of Canada has started an initiative where it takes students to the TSX or to another institution to teach them about financial literacy. It should be commended as well.

I want to thank the members of the task force, the chair, Don Stewart, and others. I encourage people to read the report. It is very readable. It is an excellent report with 30 recommendations and five priorities. I encourage members to read the report and to work on implementing it as best we can. That is obviously the first point in my motion, which is to work to implement the recommendations of the report, to work toward a single source website for financial literacy, to require federally regulated financial institutions to disclose their contributions, that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada curriculum be in schools, and to designate November as financial literacy month.

I take the point members have made in the House and others have made by email. This is very much about lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is one of the five priorities identified by the task force. This will very much be part of it. It does not simply stop at high school and leave people on their own. It is very much about lifelong learning.

I encourage people and members in the House to support this motion. I thank them for their words thus far. This is an increasingly complex world for all of us and we need to empower people. This motion on financial literacy is about empowering individuals, families and businesses so that they can make better decisions for themselves. I thank members for their comments and I hope they will support this motion when it comes up for a vote.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members



Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Financial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 7, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingFinancial LiteracyPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will now suspend until 12 o'clock.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:57 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders



Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) honour the service of Canadian military and RCMP veterans and their families by committing to not cut Veterans Affairs Canada in the upcoming budget; and (b) provide programs and services to all military and RCMP veterans and their families in a timely and comprehensive manner.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the federal NDP for the opportunity to use one of our rare opposition day motions to highlight the very serious concerns facing our military and RCMP veterans and their families. I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time today with the great member of Parliament for Québec.

The motion says very clearly that we are trying to help the Minister of Veterans Affairs maintain the fiscal budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that all programs and services will continue and so military and RCMP veterans and their families will have access to those services right now.

It is no secret that the last few Fridays I have mentioned in the House the situation of 90-year-old Ted Shiner from Bedford, Nova Scotia, who was denied VIP service to assist him. Ninety-seven year old Louis Dionne, a World War II veteran from North Vancouver, was told that it would take up to 16 weeks to get an answer as to whether he was eligible for VIP service, the veterans independence program, that would help him with housekeeping and groundskeeping services. This would allow him to stay in his home longer. That is the current level of service. If the department is cut, future military and RCMP veterans and their families will have a harder time accessing the benefits and services they so richly deserve.

Dan Slack of the Veterans Advocacy group told me something that I thought was very poignant. We and the government say that we send the very best to Afghanistan. We give the men and women the best training, the best equipment and the best mission in the world to deal with the situation. That is three bests in a row, but when they come back and ask for services and benefits, they do not get the best. What happened? We send them over there and praise the fact that they are the best in all aspects, but when they come back, a lot of them end up homeless. A lot of them struggle to get the benefits they require.

Bear in mind, we are talking about the proudest, bravest and most honest Canadian citizens there are, including their families. Our best and brightest serve in the RCMP and military. Simply calling the 1-866-522-2122 number looking for help is a tremendous feat, admitting they may have a problem, either medically or psychologically. Instead of telling them that they require these forms and that we will get back to them in 16 weeks, we should be asking them, very clearly, how we can help them. We should be asking them what they need to get back on track. However, that does not happen.

I want to praise the front-line staff members of VAC. I have met many of them across the country. The front-line workers of DVA do an outstanding job with what they have and they deserve our credit. The problem is they are restricted on what they can give. Certain things have to go up the chain for authorization and in many cases military and RCMP veterans have to go before the Veterans Review and Appeal Board and that is the crux of the problem. This politically-appointed board, and very few members of which have any military service and none are medical doctors, adjudicate on behalf of the Government of Canada through DVA on cases before them.

We remember all too well the case of Steve Dornan from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, who fought for nine years to get the benefits he required because he had cancer, which the doctors and everyone else admitted may have been caused by his exposure to chemicals and depleted uranium during this tour in Bosnia. He had to go to Federal Court to get the DVA to admit that it was not qualified to adjudicate medical evidence because the members were not medical doctors. What did VRAB do? It sent it back to the minister of the day and just before the election, the minister indicated that Mr. Dornan could receive benefits.

Why would a hero of our country, a sergeant in the military who has cancer, not be eligible for benefits? His wife had to stage a sit-in in the office of the member for West Nova to get the attention of the government. They have already fought for our country once. Why should they have to fight again?

The motion proposed motion today did not originate from the NDP. It came from every veterans advocacy group in the country. The Royal Canadian Legion, The Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada Association, the National Council of Veteran Associations, the National Aboriginal Veterans Association and the Canadian Veterans Advocacy Group support the motion. Many men and women in the service, although they cannot say publicly, have called to support the motion.

Every veterans advocacy group supports the motion and they did so in writing to the minister, asking that the department be exempted from the cuts in the March 29 budget. It was not us, but we are advocating on their behalf in order to help the minister ensure that the current level of benefits to the services will be maintained.

Later on members will hear the minister and others say that there will not be cuts to the programs and services to our current veterans. They may be correct, but the question is this. How do they get the service in the first place? That is the difficulty.

Right now the average case worker has over 900 cases with which to deal. Some of those cases are veterans with multi-injuries from psychological to severe physiological changes. Some have lost arms or legs and there are psychological injuries that create problems within families. They need an intensive amount of help, not just a “hi” and get passed on to someone else. They need time in front of someone in order to get help. Unfortunately, a lot of these case workers just do not have the physical time to do that.

Although I wanted to ask for an increase in the budget, my party said, no, that we would go with this and fight for further increases down the road. If the we can maintain what we have, that is a start.

I know the Minister of Veterans Affairs in his heart of hearts truly cares about the men and women of our services, in the RCMP and their families. I know a lot of these decisions come from the Treasury Board. I would often like to put a prophylactic barrier around the Treasury Board so it would stop doing to Veterans Affairs what sometimes Veterans Affairs does to our veterans.

The men and women of our country deserve the best. When the department picks up their numbers, the only response should be: “How can we help you and what is it that you need?” However, that is not how it works. Many veterans are told they can appeal, but they just give up on those folks and do not appeal at all. Let us not forget that we have close to 750,000 retired service and RCMP personnel along with their spouses. DVA admits that it only looks after around 215,000. Therefore, two-thirds of that community is not being serviced by Veterans Affairs.

Many veterans have not called in for a benefit yet. Many have said that they tried, but the department said no and they gave up. A lot said that they were not going to go through two, three, four or five years of fighting only to be told by people, who are politically appointed to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, that this was their final decision and if they did not like it, they could always go to the federal court. It is a shame.

I could go on all day and occupy the time of the House, but I know other people would like to speak to the motion. However, I ask the Government of Canada, the Conservatives, to join with us and all the veterans advocacy groups on the motion to maintain the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs so all veterans, RCMP veterans and their families will receive services in a timely and comprehensive manner. That is all we ask.

On behalf of my party, God bless all the men and women who serve and their families.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin with offering my condolences to Marion Beetham. Wes, a Korean veteran, passed away yesterday. The reason I raise his name in this place is because Wes was one of those people who was served so well by Veterans Affairs and the people who looked after his health conditions, of which he had several. I used to speak to him regularly.

I was at a press conference with some people from PSAC, RCMP and military retirees on the issue of cuts. They were talking about how devastating it would be for the department if cuts were to proceed. Is there any indication at all that the government is listening?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I know the Minister of Veterans Affairs is at least awake during this debate. That is quite an improvement over one Conservative member who was not listening the other day.

We know Ste. Anne's Hospital in Quebec is being transferred. There are 1,300 jobs, plus another proposed 500. That is a possibility of 1,800 jobs out of a department of 4,100, which is a proposed 40% personnel cut to the department. No other department in the country is facing that type of cut.

We think it is wrong. We hope the government is listening to the debate. I can only hope and pray that the government will do the right thing and vote with us tomorrow, at 5:45 p.m., in support of veterans and their families.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore would be well aware of the attempts that have been made to get the committee to talk about these budget cuts, which have been met with some mixed success. I also appreciate very much his reference to the front-line employees. He would know this from the veterans affairs committee cross Canada tour.

When Veterans Affairs Canada employees stand in front of the parliamentary committee, they dutifully, one might say robotically, repeat the talking points from the minister. However, when they get out in the hall, they say that they are very concerned about their ability to do their jobs and about the upcoming cuts.

I invite the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore to expand a bit on the pressure that has been put on the workforce within Veterans Affairs Canada.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Charlottetown is absolutely correct. There are over 900 cases per caseworker and that can only increase with further cuts. The president of the local union that represents Veterans Affairs employees, those who provide the front line services, has said unequivocally that these cuts will have a serious effect on the men and women who they serve, who are the heroes of our country. Its members have said that, and they are the ones who deliver the services.

What we do not want to see is a downloading of responsibility for the care of veterans, RCMP members and their families on to the provinces. We have already seen that in the case of 90-year-old Sarah Atwood from Sackville. In the final stages of her life, she was denied access to a bed at the Camp Hill Hospital. Why? Because DVA said that she did not serve overseas in World War II. She did not dip her toe in the Atlantic, so she did not get access to a bed at Camp Hill Hospital, even though beds were available.

I ask the Minister of National Defence this one question. When the last Korean overseas veteran dies, what happens to the 10,000 contract beds in the country that currently service them? The answer is the current personnel, the modern day veterans from 1953 onward, will not have access to those beds. That is a download to the provinces, and that is unacceptable.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my party for giving us this opportunity to debate a very important issue. I would also like to thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore, my party's lead veterans affairs critic, for his excellent work. He has been a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for many years. All across Canada, particularly in Halifax, where we went recently, I have met people who recognize and appreciate the work he does. This motion is his latest effort on behalf of veterans. Our party is proud to support veterans. We believe in honouring the heroes who went where nobody wanted to go. They went proudly, and they rose to every challenge brilliantly. I think we can all be proud of that.

This motion is actually very simple. It would exempt Veterans Affairs from the government's budget cuts. All departments and agencies are expected to cut between 5% and 10%. We want to spare veterans, as other countries, including Australia, the United States and even Great Britain, did when the time came for them to cut their budgets. Those countries spared their veterans. I think that we should do the same thing. We must support them and show them that we do not want them to feel abandoned and alone in this situation.

This motion has the support of the Royal Canadian Legion and the ombudsman's office, which are very worried about the government's looming budget cuts. We hope that the government will not proceed with cuts that would affect the care and services provided to our veterans.

As we know, 90% of the Veterans Affairs budget is spent on benefits, services and programs for veterans. Therefore, any cuts to the budget would clearly affect those services and benefits. Some 70% of Veterans Affairs staff provide direct services to veterans. With very limited resources, they manage to provide all necessary care. Although much remains to be done, they address these challenges remarkably well with very limited means. If the Veterans Affairs budget is cut, the services offered and the staff who provide direct care will be affected.

Let us talk about cuts. The Minister of Veterans Affairs said he wants to cut red tape and make it easier for veterans to access these programs and services. Yet he also announced the transfer of Ste. Anne's Hospital, the last hospital dedicated to veterans' services. This will cut 1,800 jobs. This means 40% of the department's staff will be cut. And 40% is huge. It is unbelievable.

Furthermore, the government is saying that despite the budget cuts, it will maintain the same services, if not do better. That is impossible. That logic is absolutely absurd. Everyone knows that, except perhaps this government, unfortunately. That is why we are sounding this latest wake-up call, to ask all the parties to come together to adopt this motion on behalf of our veterans, in order to put an end to that.

After taking a closer look at the problems facing our veterans, we think it is appalling that veterans have such a hard time accessing programs and services. There is also a shortage of resources. According to the ombudsman's latest report, that is precisely where we should be focusing our efforts. Of course, there is a shortage of human resources, for instance, but the department does not have the financial resources needed to provide all services. Problems in terms of mental and physical health also need to be considered.

Far too often there are waiting lists. In that regard, allow me to say a few words about Ste. Anne's Hospital, which is considered to be a hospital for veterans, mainly those from the second world war and the Korean War. We know that their numbers are decreasing. However, a few beds—I can count them on one or two hands—have been reserved for young veterans. Not only would we like to have more beds for young veterans, but we have every reason to believe that more beds are needed because there is a waiting list.

There are no long-term services provided for our modern-day veterans, and that is a problem. That is what we need to work on, by deploying more resources and certainly not by making budget cuts, as this government is doing.

These cuts have an impact on the quality of the services provided and how quickly they are delivered. We have very few resources right now. The department is dealing with that, but it still takes far too long before a veteran is able to receive benefits. Sometimes we are talking about months, even years before veterans get their benefits. If the government were to cut staff and resources, that would obviously have a very serious impact on our veterans.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the great importance of conducting health research for veterans. There is a desperate need. Although the claimants may fewer in number than during World War II or the Korean War, the complex nature of the cases of today's veterans requires a certain number of resources that really must not be overlooked. We must not think that we need fewer resources. Quite the opposite is true. These modern veterans need more resources. Information must be obtained and research must be conducted on mental and physical health.

If I may, I would like to provide some context. A few months ago, during Veterans' Week, a number of veterans spoke out about this situation. In my riding, Pascal Lacoste stood up to denounce the fact that he was having difficulty receiving care, as were many other veterans. These veterans' actions at the time, during Veterans' Week, showed that from coast to coast to coast, throughout Canada, many veterans are having problems obtaining care.

At that time, the Minister of Veterans Affairs indicated that he was aware that problems existed and that improvements needed to be made. He thus set up the scientific advisory committee on veterans’ health. To date, we still do not know exactly what this committee does. We know that it has met several times. The minister promised that the first subject that the scientific advisory committee on veterans’ health would address would be exposure to depleted uranium. He did this to reassure our veterans—including the veteran from my riding, Pascal Lacoste—and to let them know that this was important and that the problem would be looked into.

However, since that time, there has been complete radio silence. I was told to stay tuned. I remember asking a question, here in the House, to find out how all this was going to work, what the mandate of the committee was going to be and whether the committee would be tabling a report in the House, but we have heard nothing. There has not been any response from cabinet. It is absolutely shameful. This is a problem.

We are not going to abandon our veterans. We are going to push harder for more health research and more investments to support these veterans. We want to send a message to those who want to join the army: when they become veterans, we will not let them down. We will not leave them without care and services.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I liked what the NDP member had to say, and I want to ask her a question. I support the motion, but I find it a bit vague. Can the phrase “ a timely and comprehensive manner” be more specific? In my riding of Vancouver Quadra, a 90-year-old veteran waited one year for a specific service and, during that time, he was confined to his house. Is this considered timely? How could the motion be a bit more specific?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member very much for the question because it highlights one of the problems that we have noted. Veterans, the families of veterans and Canadians who are worried about veterans may be watching us at this time. They feel completely alone. They do not know if they are entitled to services. They do not know why they cannot access services more quickly. All too often, they end up having dark thoughts that I will not mention here, which is completely unacceptable. It is unacceptable to let them struggle with all those thoughts. We are here and we can provide the services.

It takes effort to quickly provide quality services and programs for veterans. It is imperative that the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs not be cut. We are not asking for more money for veterans; we simply want the budget to be maintained in order to ensure that they receive services.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must congratulate my colleague from Québec on her speech and her hard work together with my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore on the veterans file. Our veterans feel terribly abandoned and neglected. That is a disgrace.

This is not the only area in which the government has been negligent and adopted questionable tactics. Consider seniors, who are so swiftly referred to websites even though they do not have Internet access. They also have a hard time figuring out which of the various programs apply to them.

It gets worse. All of this window dressing is just another way for the government to avoid providing services. The government wants everyone to see that services are available, but it does not help people benefit from those services. What does my colleague think of that?