Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to rise today and speak in support of the motion put forward by my colleague from Sudbury, a hard-working member of Parliament who has travelled right across the country and listened to Canadians as they explained to him the pressures they are feeling in their pocketbooks.
I have been at a number of those meetings, and I have seen how quickly he connects with them. Today the motion specifically deals with capping the fees on ATMs, automated teller machines. We are calling on the government to take action on this immediately.
Before I go on much further, I would like to say that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Nickel Belt, another MP who works incredibly hard to represent his very diverse community.
In the last few minutes of the debate, and even this morning, I have been hearing talk about how the Conservatives are the champions of consumers, asking how dare the NDP vote against some of the measures they read out. However, the Conservative members forget to say that those measures were buried in omnibus budget bills that were thicker than a telephone book for most of the cities around this country. I think it is a little disingenuous to use that particular argument.
Getting back to the capping of these fees, it is a very small measure that would go a long way. We are not really talking about businesses that are struggling to make ends meet. We absolutely recognize that our banking system is secure. It has seen us through the depression years. During that time, we have to remember that the banks were the recipients of some largesse from the government.
However, in 2012, the banks recorded profits totalling $29.4 billion, and yet these same banks are gouging Canadians when they go to take their own money out of their own accounts. There is a way to do this differently. We can look at examples from other countries. Let us look at some international examples.
In Ireland, the central banks actually forbid all ATM usage fees. That is a step in the right direction to protect consumers. In Australia and Finland, cash withdrawals are free for those with ATM cards. Not only those with ATM cards can withdraw money; I know people with VISA cards can.
In the U.K., 97% of cash withdrawals are free, due to public pressure. The Reserve Bank of India has issued a directive to all commercial banks to abolish ATM service fees. Here in Canada, with a banking sector that makes profits in the billions, we have fees being charged that go as high as 39.5% in the private sector and as high as 29.5% in the regulated banking sector. That is gouging. I just do not know how else to explain it.
I also heard the arguments earlier today from one of my colleagues about how people can get special deals with their banks if they negotiate a service fee. Paying those service fees is a huge burden on many Canadians, including many students who maybe cannot afford the ultra-deluxe package that would give them free ATM, only at their own banks. There are many who do not have that privilege. These ATM fees, once again, target those in our communities who are the most vulnerable.
Members have heard me talk about the rising debt that our students leave universities with. We also know that students, once they graduate, are spending longer and longer periods in part-time jobs and are not able to make a sustainable living for a number of years after they have graduated. When these students are in university and college, and even in high school, they do not all have the money to buy cars and run to their own banks, so they are forced to use ATM machines. They do not have a lot of money and are paying these huge fees. Most students cannot afford to take out $500 at a time, so they only pay flat fees that go anywhere from 5% to 29.5%. If they take out $20 and $4 out of that disappears into ATM fees, that is a huge burden.
ATM fees also create a huge burden for those who have middle to low incomes. Not everyone has the ability to get into a car and drive to a bank. For many people, whether single moms or people with low incomes, they rely on going to local corner stores or shopping malls where they can get their money out of ATMs. Once again, they are not going to be drawing hundreds or thousands of dollars. They are going to be withdrawing $20, $40 or $60, and once again, the charge on that is a huge burden. I would like my colleagues across the way to think about that.
Of course, technology has changed. When we look at it, the actual cost to the banks is around 38¢ or 39¢ for that transaction, and yet they are making a huge profit on the people who are taking their own money out of their own accounts. To make that kind of a profit from those who cannot afford it, or even those of us who work very hard to put money in the bank and are struggling to make ends meet, is just not right.
The NDP proposal is fairly straightforward. At 39¢, the banks can still make a little profit. After all, is $29.4 billion not enough? We are saying that it should be made a flat fee of 50¢. In order to be reasonable, we have not said that there should be no fee, which is the case in some countries. We are saying it should be 50¢, which would more than cover the costs and remove the burden from working families.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know about you, but I live in a very diverse riding that is not only culturally diverse but also economically diverse. I deal with local residents all the time and a growing number of seniors are beginning to feel the pinch. Their pensions are just not going as far as they thought they were going to go, and they do not have the extra $4 or $6 to pay the bank. This is money that could be in their pockets to help them buy food and the other necessities they need.
We are talking about a Canada where the individual debt burden is growing. It was a shock to me when I learned that the average family's household debt has nearly doubled in that last 20 years. Canadians now owe, on average, $1,600 for every $1,000 of disposable income, which is huge. That is why, when we address ATM fees, it is one small way of addressing some of the strain that families are feeling when they live payday to payday.
As we know, there are other pressures on families. First, the number of decent-paying jobs in Canada is actually on the decline. There are a growing number of part-time jobs that do not pay a livable wage, so there are more and more families having to work a couple of jobs. There are rising housing costs. I do not know about where you live, Mr. Speaker, but in my riding there are incredibly high costs for housing, never mind the gouging that happens with credit cards. There are all kinds of pressures on families. I urge my colleagues to think about the Canadians I have talked about and for their sakes to support this motion the NDP has put forward.