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House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was banks.

Topics

Canadian Multiculturalism ActRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal ConservativeMinister of State (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I am pleased to present, in both official languages, the annual report of the operations of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act for 2012 and 2013.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Canada PostPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, petitions are flooding in from people who are concerned about Canada Post and have a sincere desire to save Canada Post because they know that the changes that were announced will mean the loss of 6,000 to 8,000 jobs and that five million households will lose home delivery over the next five years. They also know that the cuts will hurt seniors and disabled Canadians the most. They are concerned about the drastic increase in postage rates. As a result, they call upon the Government of Canada to reverse the cuts to services recently announced by Canada Post and to look instead for ways to modernize operations.

Experimental Lakes AreaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Green

Bruce Hyer Green Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure today of presenting a petition on behalf of the residents of Thunder Bay and Kenora who are concerned about the current status of the Experimental Lakes Area.

They are quite worried as to whether this pioneer in whole ecosystem research, not only in Canada but worldwide, will be transferred in a timely fashion. The centre does very important work on ecosystems and freshwater environments, and without adequate resources this centre's research will be lost. Therefore, they ask for recognition by the current government to continue that work and transfer the ELA in a timely and efficient manner.

UkrainePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition signed by many concerned Manitobans in regard to what is happening in Ukraine today. The people of Ukraine have become outraged with the ongoing protests, which have proven to be violent and deadly. The petitioners are asking for Parliament to stand with the Ukrainian people during this difficult time and to continue to forcefully oppose all efforts to repress their rights and freedoms.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure and an honour to present two petitions today, the majority of signatories to both being residents of Saanich—Gulf Islands.

The first petition is primarily from residents of Pender Island, and some from Victoria. They are calling upon the government to refuse the Enbridge northern gateway pipeline. It is a risky pipeline and tanker scheme. The overwhelming consensus of the community members in my riding, based on numerous town hall meetings through the month of January, is to say no to this project.

Lyme DiseasePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 3rd, 2014 / 3:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from residents of Galiano Island and Victoria in support of my private member's bill, Bill C-442. I am pleased that it has now been set down for second reading. It is the bill I will put forward as a private member's bill for a vote in early March. These residents call upon the House assembled to create in a non-partisan fashion a national Lyme disease strategy to deal with this dreadful illness.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

On debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance. The member has seven minutes remaining on his speech.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to rise again to complete my response to the NDP motion being debated here today regarding ATM fees.

Our government has a solid record on introducing measures to protect consumers, but our job is not done. Perhaps the NDP missed our government's recent Speech from the Throne. If the NDP members had paid attention, they would have noticed a number of commitments by our government to further enhance affordability for Canadians.

These include ending pay-to-pay policies, so customers will not have to pay extra to receive paper bills; expanding no-cost basic banking services; working with the provinces and territories to crack down on predatory payday lenders by supporting ongoing efforts to make consumer protection regimes more robust; empowering consumers by requiring disclosure of the cost of different payment methods; and taking further action to end geographic price discrimination against Canadians.

Clearly it is this Conservative government that puts consumers first. While we are the ones who are actually finding solutions to the issues facing consumers, all the NDP can do is oppose measures that are actually helping consumers.

For once, it would be refreshing to see the NDP actually support consumers by standing up and voting for our consumer protection measures. That is why I find it somewhat ironic that the NDP is so concerned about what is in the budget. History has proven that all they end up doing is voting against it anyway. They continually vote against our positive economic measures to support job creation and economic growth, measures that have made Canada the second-best country in the world in which to do business, according to Bloomberg. Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio and the best employment record in the G7, thanks to solid policies.

The New Democrats are not fooling anyone. We know that all they want to do is engage in reckless spending and impose higher taxes on Canadians. Not only would they impose a $20 billion carbon tax that would raise the price of everything, but the leader of the NDP is determined to impose new taxes on job-creating businesses. How will this help consumers?

If New Democrats were actually concerned about consumers, they would not be advocating for higher taxes that would make life less affordable and cost Canadians their jobs.

Thankfully, our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians: helping to create jobs and supporting economic growth. That is why economic action plan 2014 will help grow Canada's economy and create jobs, while keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets.

While New Democrats do not understand the concept of balanced budgets, they should know that it was our government's prudent fiscal management that helped Canada weather the 2008 global economic recession better than any other country in the G7.

Balanced budgets keep taxes and interest rates low. They help attract investment and they give us the fiscal room to manoeuvre to ensure sustainable social programs for generations to come. Balanced budgets signal stability, and there can be no real affordability without stability.

Our economic action plan has seen Canada through the worst recession since the Great Depression. Despite this, we cannot become complacent. Economic action plan 2014 is the next chapter in our government's long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy in an uncertain world and create jobs and growth, while keeping taxes low for families and businesses and balancing the budget in 2015.

Taken together, the measures our government has introduced since 2006 and those in economic action plan 2014 will continue to keep taxes low and help Canadians succeed in the global economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague, and there was a lot of yackety-yack, but there was no substance. Of course he hides behind the Conservatives' line, “oh, bad NDP carbon tax”. The Minister of Foreign Affairs stood on January 24, 2008, and said that the Conservative government would put “a price on carbon”. It was $14 a tonne. Conservatives promised Canadians that they were going to be the ones putting the price on carbon.

This is just another broken promise, like when the Minister of Finance said he was going to deal with the pricing of the big banks on ATM fees. He said there was a problem and he was going to deal with it. That was in 2009. What happened to that promise? Nothing happened.

When Conservatives talk about the economy, they do not talk about average Canadians. They talk about the GDP, but they do not talk about the fact that we have the highest debt ratios in history, that people are not able to access banks in many parts of the country. When people go to an ATM, they are being gouged to a level of up to $7.90 for a $20 transaction.

I have not heard yet from any members of the Conservative Party if they have a problem with seniors being gouged. They seem to think that is the wonders of the market.

Is there any fee, any level that would actually cause the Conservatives to say enough is enough? I would certainly think that a 39.5% fee on a $20 withdrawal is outrageous and should be dealt with, but I know the Conservatives will flip over backward for big industry on any given day of the week; so 39.5%, 40%, 41%, 42%—is there any level at which the Conservatives think Canadians are being unacceptably gouged?

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the NDP members really cared about protecting consumers, they would get onboard and start supporting our consumer protection measures, but they have not. If fact they voted against every single one of the consumer protection measures that we have introduced since 2006. However, do not take my word for it.

Here is what the NDP has voted against. It voted against introducing new credit card rules that require consent for credit limit increases. It voted against requiring a minimum 21-day grace period on new purchases. It voted against shortening the cheque holding periods. It voted against more than doubling the maximum fine on financial institutions that violate consumer provisions. It voted against banning negative option billing for financial products. It voted against requiring greater disclosures of mortgage prepayment charges. It voted against making mortgage insurance more transparent. It voted against banning unsolicited credit card cheques. It voted against better protecting Canadians using prepaid credit cards issued by federally regulated banks by ensuring more unused balances never expire.

The NDP is very good at voting against every single consumer protection measure that our government has introduced. It is about time the members got onboard and started walking the walk.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance is about services to rural and small-town communities, where often access to banking services in general are non-existent. For many citizens of rural and small-town Canada, an ATM in a local convenience store may be their only option.

Does the member have some public policy prescriptives that the government is considering to help address the high cost of bank fees in some of these bank machines in rural and small-town Canada, in convenience stores, as an example? Can it be implemented in such a way that will not actually reduce the number of these machines over time? Is there a way, perhaps through income support, to effect a change that would ensure the continuation of the access to bank machines in some of these communities but at the same time protect some of our most economically vulnerable Canadians from usurious fees?

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question from my hon. colleague because, in fact, we have engaged with the banks to get more access to more ATMs, and the banks have responded and acknowledged our concerns. They have expanded ATM access, for example, to more colleges and universities, so that students will have access to the banks they bank with, so that they will not have to pay extra fees. They have also responded by unveiling low-fee accounts for seniors and for students and also improved access to ATMs and to banking services for disabled Canadians.

We will continue to work with the banks and engage the banks, so that they will continue to expand their ATM networks and continue to expand no-cost or low-cost banking options available to all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate with great interest. We just had a question from the member for Kings—Hants, and he talked about small towns and villages and how convenient ATMs are.

Some of us in this place are old enough to remember a time when it did not cost us any money to get our money out of the bank, but we could not do it on the weekends. We had to attend between Monday and Friday during banking hours and in many cases between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Then modern technology came along and we have banking machines. Now we can access the money we have in our accounts 24 hours a day almost anywhere in Canada, even in small towns and villages.

However, we know that in some small convenience stores there are companies that provide those ATMs. They are not usually owned by the bank, but by somebody else, and we pay a little higher fee for that. However, before, those people did not have the ability to access their money, period, unless they had a friend who had a few extra dollars they could borrow or something like that.

So what this debate is all about, and what the hon. parliamentary secretary can talk about, is a plethora of financial tools that the government has assisted Canadians with in order to reduce their costs and to do many things. However, it is necessary to keep in mind the way things used to be and the way things are today.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could expand on some of the things he has been saying about the good things this government has been doing.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for that question, and also for pointing out that banking services today are more accessible than they ever have been in history. In fact, 75% of all ATM transactions are charged no fee at all. As long as we use the ATM machine from our own bank, we will not be charged an extra fee. It is only when using an ATM of another bank or in a convenience store, for example, that we get charged that extra fee. I do want to point out that banking services are more accessible today than they ever have been. Our government will continue to work at solutions to getting more low-cost and no-cost financial services to all Canadians.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will speak slowly so the parliamentary secretary can understand my question.

Since the introduction of ATM user fees in 1996—that was supposed to be a temporary measure, by the way—banks have kept cutting costs, and their profits have kept on growing. In 2012, the banks made $29.4 billion. If they pooled their resources in the interest of civic engagement, they could put a dent in Canada's debt.

Banks have cut staff and front-line services, and cheques are becoming less common. Bank cards and payroll direct deposit have been introduced, and ATM fees have steadily increased, which means that profits have steadily increased.

Does the member agree that letting banks get rich at the expense of the poorest taxpayers has got to stop?

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really have to shake my head when I hear an argument like that. Here is somebody who is criticizing the Canadian banks who, for the sixth year in a row, have been ranked the number-one banks in the world. We should be proud of our banking sector. Our banking sector pays huge taxes to the Canadian government, so we can use those taxes for social programs and helping out those who need help.

It is those banks that also hire tens of thousands of employees. Many pension funds have their funds invested in banking stocks and, as a result, have done very well, so we should be proud of our Canadian banks and our Canadian banking system.

At the same time, our government, the Conservative Party, is the only party that is actually fighting for consumers. The NDP keeps voting against every single consumer-protection measure we have introduced. The New Democrats have voted against them, and it is time for them to get on board.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

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.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot from the Liberals and the Conservatives today about protecting the consumer, but here is the state of play after 20 years of successive Liberal and Conservative governments. The average family household debt has nearly doubled. Canadians now owe over $1,600 for every $1,000 of disposable income and so on.

In 2012, bank profits totalled nearly $30 billion. Yet, we are asked to believe that it would be an economic catastrophe for the banks to put some constraint on these ATM fees.

Meanwhile, overseas, we have other countries that have done so. The Central Bank of Ireland forbids ATM usage fees. In Austria and Finland cash withdrawals are free for those with ATM cards. The sky has not fallen.

How do we reconcile what we are hearing from the Conservatives and the Liberals today in the House about a potential economic catastrophe from this motion with what is happening overseas, where these kinds of measures have actually been implemented?

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the sky has not fallen in the other countries where they have got rid of ATM fees.

However, the critical part here is that we have a banking industry that is sound, that is making almost $30 billion in profit. Yet, I have colleagues across the way who do not find it in their hearts to change these fees, or who are speaking against a motion that would actually give the banks more money than the actual transaction costs at an ATM. They would rather support banks' gouging Canadians up to 30%-plus in the way of fees. That is just wrong. It is time to put consumers first, and the NDP will and always has done.

Opposition Motion—ATM FeesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I had the chance to speak earlier and the Liberal Party actually had a presentation on the motion, indicating its support in principle of it moving forward or voting in favour of it.

The question I have for the member is, to what degree does the NDP nationally want to be able to address all of the ATM fees? I am sure that the member would be aware that the most outrageous ATM fees are actually not associated with the regulated banks, which are federal responsibility. There is also provincial regulation and provincial responsibility, for example, for independently operated ATMs where there are many of these fees that the NDP oppose.

Are viewers and Canadians to conclude that the NDP would in fact impose a 50¢-levy on all usage of ATMs, whether they are the ATMs of banks or independent operators?