Mr. Speaker, to hear the last member say that their government consistently brought in balanced budgets before and after the recession, those kinds of remarks are almost as dumb as saying that budgets balance themselves.
I would like to share my time with the member from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
I am thrilled to get an opportunity to speak to this very important issue affecting nearly all Canadians and the majority of my constituents in Scarborough Southwest. After 10 years of Conservative rule and 13 years of the Liberals before them, families back home are struggling to make ends meet.
These pay-to-pay fees hit vulnerable people the hardest: seniors, people living with disabilities, new Canadians and anyone who cannot do online banking. Now the notion of charging people money just to pay their bills is absurd, but, then again, so is charging someone $4.50 to withdraw $40 from the bank as in the case brought up by my colleague from Davenport, which is just simply insane. That worked out to a fee of 11% just for an individual to withdraw his or her own money.
Bank fees hit those with modest incomes even harder because they are forced by circumstances often to make a larger number of small dollar withdrawals. It is like a tax on being poor because the bank will not make more money from them on mortgages, investments and loans, so they gouge them with these usury fees.
Going back to online banking, Statistics Canada reports that 20% of homes in Canada have no Internet and that number rises to 46% of households with incomes below $30,000. This should make it clear that these fees hit those who can least afford it the most.
The big five banks make around a half a billion dollar a year profit off ATM fees. They are now making almost $180 million each year on pay-to-pay fees. How long before those numbers rise to $1 billion just for Canadians to access their own money and to pay their own bills?
I will move on to the Conservatives' famed voluntary code of conduct and why we need to change it to a mandatory one and make it stricter, frankly.
Last year, the government introduced changes to force the banks to offer more free and low-cost accounts. These accounts come with a very limited number of debits per month. Therefore, to get around this the banks now are starting to include things like bank transfers, bill payments, student loan payments, credit card payments into the number of debits so it will jack up the number of debits that each individual will make.
Many people with those low-cost or no-fee accounts with only seven or eight debits allowed per month are going to end up getting hit with even larger fees for going over the number of allowed debits, which means they are going to have change what type of account they have and pay more for it just to get more debits so they in fact reduce the cost per transaction.
This is why we need to move to a mandatory code of conduct with stricter rules. Every time the Conservative bring in these voluntary codes of conduct, it is really just a suggestion to the banks. Then what the banks will do, because they always will ensure they make whatever bottom line they want, and we just have to look at the first two-quarters of this year where the banks in Canada turned $15 billion in profit, is find ways to sneak around the different changes that are made if they are only voluntary. We need to make them mandatory and we need to make them stricter.
The Conservatives keep talking about how they keep trying to do things to save people money and to help businesses, but nowhere in the last 10 years has the government moved to address one of the most ridiculous merchant fees that exists.
An example is a small business like a restaurant, which accepts credit cards because many people use credit cards nowadays. When people pay the bill, they put the tip on the bill. Let us say it is $30 and they put a generous $4 on the bill. Depending on the card used, the merchant will pay anywhere from 2.5% to potentially up to 6% in merchant fees on that transaction for $34.
In places like Ontario, where it is required by law for the employers to remit the tips back to their employees, and that is exactly how it should be, that business is then paying a merchant fee on that $4 tip it has to give to the employee. It is in fact giving that $4, but it is really costing it $4 to $5 because it has to pay that merchant fee on it as well.
Nowhere has the government ever suggested that we should remove this fee, despite suggestions from the opposition. This would be a tangible measure that would help a lot of small businesses make ends meet.
The banks are always a pleasure and a joy to deal with. I was talking to someone at my bank today while I was writing this speech. It worked out pretty well because I noticed all of a sudden that I was getting hit with more fees. I called the bank to see what was happening. It took me 35 minutes on the phone. Most Canadians do not have that kind of time to waste. I was sitting typing my speech, so I was doing two things. I talked to someone about what was going on. Sure enough, the bank had raised the minimum thresholds on my accounts in order to not pay those monthly fees. I asked when I had been informed about that and was told a letter had been sent. No, it had not. I was then told there should be a message in my online inbox. There was no message.
This again is a case where if the banks are not required to do something and properly inform consumers about what is going on, consumers then have to waste their time, energy and effort just to get fees back that should never have been charged to them in the first place.
All of us in the chamber are blessed with very high salaries compared to average Canadians. In many cases, we should be able to keep minimum balances in our bank accounts to avoid those fees. However, most Canadians cannot do that. Most Canadians would not be able to find another $1,000 all of a sudden to put in different bank accounts to not get dinged with these fees. Then they could end up losing another $20 or $30 a month. A single parent in my riding, with two children and child care, cannot afford that.
Child care is prohibitively expensive, and neither of the two parties will do anything about that. They want to put a little money back into people's pockets, while they continue to pay $15,000 to $20,000 a year in child care fees. They get $5,000 but then fork out $20,000. That is $15,000. That is not more money in their pockets. That is more money out of their pockets, whereas the NDP is planning to create $15 a day child care. That would make the total child care costs for those families $5,000 to $6,000 a year. That means families would end up with $10,000 to $15,000 back in their pockets. That is how we make a more prosperous Canada, a more equal Canada. It is also by getting rid of ridiculous pay-to-pay fees.
I have heard several members talk about how their government brought it up in the Speech from the Throne in 2013. That was only after the NDP had been hammering on it for a year. There was no equivocation in the Speech from the throne. The government did not say it would do it in this industry but not in this sector. Then when it actually came up with the rules, it excluded the banks. We asked the Conservatives why. They said that it was because the banks were not charging those fees right now. All of a sudden, the banks are now charging those fees. Why? Because they are allowed to. They will do whatever the market can bear and they will try to maximize their profits in every instance.
I am thrilled to hear that the government will actually support the motion. It is supporting a lot of our motions these days. It must mean we are ready to govern or something. However, will it actually implement the changes?
There was a unanimous vote in the House on feminine hygiene products. The government will put that into effect July 1. However, will it bring this change in for July 1? Will it bring this in legislation or accept an amendment to the budget implementation act to include it? That question remains. Therefore, supporting the motion is all fine and good, but it is the action required afterward that matters.