House of Commons Hansard #339 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.


The House resumed from March 26 consideration of the motion.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Steven MacKinnon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate on Motion No. 166 regarding postal banking. The motion calls for the creation of a special committee to conduct hearings and develop a plan for a postal banking system to be administered by the Canada Post Corporation. Let me explain why the government opposes this motion.

I listened with care to the presentation made by the member for London—Fanshawe on why she moved this particular motion. I was disappointed that she gave so little attention to the hard work of her colleagues on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates who completed a review of Canada Post less than two years ago.

I remind the member for London—Fanshawe that the committee held public hearings in 22 communities, in every region of our wonderful country, from Surry to St. John's, Newfoundland, from Yellowknife to Montreal, and many places in between. Our colleagues on the committee heard more than 200 witnesses who shared their views on the future of Canada Post. The committee heard directly from communities, associations, unions, businesses and individual Canadians on a number of topics, including the postal banking system.

The committee also conducted an online survey, which gave Canadians another way to share their opinions. More than 5,000 individuals and 195 businesses responded.

In addition to the committee's awareness efforts, some of our colleagues in the House organized town halls, giving their constituents an opportunity to participate in the process. These comments were passed along to the committee. The committee members carefully reviewed all of the evidence in drafting their detailed report, which made 45 recommendations. This is likely the largest consultation on the future of Canada Post on record. This evidence reflected the hard work—

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. I apologize to the parliamentary secretary. Apparently, there has been some confusion. I should have asked the hon. member for Edmonton West to give her speech before the parliamentary secretary. I apologize.

If the hon. member for Edmonton West is ready, having had to wait, I will call upon him to speak now.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was content to have my colleague finish his remarks, because it is a momentous moment when myself and the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility actually agree on an item, this being one of them.

I am rising today on today's Motion No. 166 to establish a committee to study and propose postal banking. It is not to study it; it is to actually study and propose, putting the cart before the horse. I have a lot of problems with this motion, the largest of which is that I seem to be the party's point person on Canada Post and I would be afraid I would be stuck on such a committee if it actually went ahead.

This motion is well intentioned, but it is proposing an eighties solution to a sixties problem. A lot of this postal banking push, of course, comes from The Leap Manifesto, “delivering community power”. It is quite odd, watching the NDP carry the postal workers' water here, mostly because postal workers basically abandoned the NDP in the last election to support the Liberals and their promise to restore door-to-door delivery. It is also ironic that we are discussing Motion No. 166, postal banking on a day where the postal workers are starting rotating strikes across the country.

How did we get here, with Canada Post? My colleagues across the way promised a return to door-to-door delivery if they got elected. Of course, the Liberals would say that that is not what they promised or that is not what they intended. Actually we heard, during our Canada Post tour, the member of Parliament for Charlottetown testify that that was what the government meant, that the Liberals meant a complete return to door-to-door service. He said that to say otherwise would be lying. Interesting.

What happened? The Liberals did get elected but, oops, they found that Canada Post was in deep trouble, door-to-door delivery was dropping, there was a massively underfunded pension, and the only thing keeping Canada Post marginally in the black was the changes Canada Post made with its five points, including a change to community mailboxes, raising the price of stamps and a few other other issues.

What does the Liberal government do whenever there is a crisis? It proposes a study. The government struck a task force, and the task force came out with a report called “Canada Post in the digital age”. Here is another ironic thing. Minister Foote, when she struck the committee, directed the task force to find a way to justify postal banking in its study. We found this out through discussions, interviews and ATIPs.

The four-person task force ignored the political interference and did its job. What it found with Canada Post was quite worrying. It found, from 2016, projected forward to 2026, that Canada Post would be net $3.4 billion cash in the hole, and would be losing three-quarters of a billion dollars every single year. These are not numbers pulled out of the air by the task force. These are audited numbers from a major, well-respected, international auditing firm. This loss of three-quarters of a billion dollars every year includes about a quarter million dollars to $400 million a year it is saving from the community mailbox conversion.

The big problem is door-to-delivery is dropping and is being replaced by rush from Amazon parcel delivery. The problem with that is the profit on door-to-door delivery is about 70 cents on the dollar. For parcel delivery, it is marginal. It is cutthroat because of competition.

On top of the fact that Canada Post's main profit driver is dropping and the heavy cost of parcel delivery is rising, we have an $8-billion unfunded pension liability. We know about the Sears issue. We know about Nortel. Double that, and it would still not dent the size of the Canada Post pension problem. That is even with Canada Post being on a pension holiday, not having to address this with added money for the last four years, and it is still on that pension holiday.

What did the task force come up with? It basically came up with something the Liberals did not want to hear. It said that the government should stick to the original five-point plan that Canada Post had before, continue with the mailbox conversions, convert corporate stores to franchise stores, not in the rural areas but in the big cities. There is a Canada Post-owned store about 10 minutes from where I live, and between where I live and that 10-minute drive, there are over 30 franchise stores. They are talking about converting those to franchises as well.

What did the report say on postal banking?

The report says:

According to experts and stakeholders, Canada's financial environment is not conducive to the establishment and operation of full-scale postal banking. Postal banking is not likely to succeed in Canada as a result of the existence of a mature and competitive banking environment, as well as the extensive market coverage unions....Canadians in all economic circumstances in all regions of Canada already have access to one of the best, most inclusive financial systems in the world.

In Canada 99% of its population have bank accounts. Canada in the developed world has the highest number of bank accounts among those who live in the below 40% income percentile. Therefore, we are very well served. We do not get great service, but we are well served by the banking industry.

The report continued, “...postal bank today would be entering a highly competitive market and an expensive endeavour requiring significant investments in infrastructure, IT, security, acquiring new skill sets....”

We are thinking that the same people who came up with Phoenix and Shared Services is going to somehow roll out the banking system from Canada Post. “Postal banking is unlikely to generate a profit.... Furthermore, having a government entity competing in the financial sector would contravene Canada's trade agreements”. Payday loan services “require customers to have bank accounts”. Adding a postal bank is not going to provide any alternative.

In light of the conclusive report from the task force, the Liberals said let us do another study, so they sent the operations committee out on the road and we travelled from Surrey to St. John's learning about Canada Post and postal banking. In case anyone thinks it is lavish travel, we were on a plane so small that for the seven of us that my colleague from St. John's East had to sit on the toilet in the plane, although it did have seatbelts and I am sure he could have used the seat as a life support.

From the experts we heard on the road, payday loans is a dying industry and most are within blocks of a bank anyway, so doing postal banking is not going to do anything with that. Some postal outlets get as few as two visitors a day, so it is not exactly a thriving business we pay to the bank. Also, 99% of Canadians have bank accounts. Bank outlets are growing in the country and one-third are in rural towns already. Credit unions are thriving with 10 million members. We have the highest number of ATMs per capita in the world, so Canadians are well served.

At the meetings with postal workers, CUPW stacked our meetings to give their side of the story and they talked about other countries having postal banking. Every single one except New Zealand that had postal banking had privatized their postal services. We asked if they wanted to privatize it and the answer was of course not. We discussed payday loans and asked how we would do it. Payday loans have predatory high costs. The answer was to do free chequing. How would we make money to support Canada Post with free chequing? They did not know. What would happen the first time we lend money to Johnny Lunchbox and we have to repossess his truck? Oh, we will forget the loan. What happens when grandma does not pay her mortgage? Well, we would just forgive her loan. We mentioned that setting up a bank is going to be very expensive, how would we capitalize the bank? Would we put forward the pension from the postal workers? Well, of course not, taxpayers will do that.

We see we have a situation where Canada Post is in a dire situation financially. We recognize that, but having a postal bank run basically on unicorns and fairy dust is not going to change things. We have a very robust, very competitive banking system that will be near impossible for outside, U.S. competition to establish instead of a bricks-and-mortar banking system in Canada, much less a system by Canada Post, which does not have the expertise. Perhaps as The Leap Manifesto says, we will put charging stations at every post office. I imagine some guy pulls up in his Tesla, plugs in his Tesla, walks into Canada Post, buys some stamps to send a Christmas card to his mom and then takes out a $2-billion derivative trade. It is not going to happen.

What we need to address Canada Post is action from the government, not sticking its head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away until the next election. We need action to address its pension issues. We need action as proposed by a task force, real day action, not actions to address issues from the sixties or issues from perhaps some fantasy land.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to talk about the motion moved by my colleague, the member for London—Fanshawe. I thank her for moving Motion No. 166 concerning a committee study and the creation of a Canadian postal banking system. I am honoured to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on a matter related to my former workplace.

I was a member of the committee during its study of Canada Post. The NDP even moved a motion to look into Canada Post's infamous postal banking study. Unfortunately, we were unable to dig into as deeply as I would have liked because the copy we received was almost entirely blacked out. As a result, we were unable to learn more about Canada Post's study or develop a clear understanding of the issue.

With respect to Motion No. 166 on appointing a special committee to come up with a plan for a Canadian postal banking system, I would like to talk about the services such a bank would provide.

Canada currently has more post offices than Tim Hortons restaurants. Many municipalities already have buildings and other places where people pick up their parcels and their mail, places that already have employees on duty.

As things stand today, and I heard many of my colleagues talk about this, Canada Post needs to innovate and find new ways to generate revenue. Canada Post is moving toward more parcel delivery, a market that is already working very well. Every day, Canada Post employees work hard to provide delivery service. According to the municipalities, most of the time people go to the post office to pick up their parcels and take advantage of other Canada Post services.

Why, then, not offer banking services, too? Employees are already there, trained and qualified. They have their security clearance. A greater variety of products could be offered if financial services were provided at post offices. Loans and various financial services could be offered. That is actually part of the Canada Post Corporation Act, which requires the mail service to adapt to the public's communication needs as they evolve.

Canadians across the country have always been able to count on high-quality mail service, going all the way back to colonial times. That is why we want to bring back Canada's postal banking system. Employees working in post offices offer high-quality service and are fully qualified to provide banking services.

We could look at what other countries are doing. Many have innovated and diversified their postal services. In the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Brazil and Italy, postal services offer effective banking services that help rural, remote and low-income communities by providing them with income stability. The postal services in Russia and China are currently adding banking services. The fact that all these countries are doing this proves that there is an existing need and that this can be done.

Japan has expanded the range of services it offers. This was proposed during study in committee when we met with the public, unions and even FADOQ. It was proposed that Canada Post diversify its services and include home support services for seniors. Japan, for example, delivers food and provides services to seniors. Our senior population is growing in Canada. With all the mail carriers on the streets and in municipal offices every day, we, like Japan, could diversify the services we provide.

In Switzerland, the public postal service offers an online payment service to businesses. In the past, it combined mail delivery with a public transportation service in rural areas. In Germany, the public postal service is now manufacturing three different sizes of electric delivery vehicles. The Germans are moving towards the use of green energy, which is what the Canadian Union of Postal Workers wants to do. In Australia, the public postal service has an online payment service that competes with PayPal. In Italy, the public postal service provides e-commerce services to businesses.

To conclude my speech in praise of the services offered in other countries, I will speak about France. It was not easy to establish the French postal service in 2000, but there has been an increase in demand for services offered to the entire population. It is often difficult for some people to open a bank account, but everyone in France can use the public postal service. It is open to all, and everyone can open a postal bank account. In France, everyone had to pitch in, but that was the key to success.

I also want to talk about workers. My colleague said that services have declined, but that we do not need postal banking because we have ATMs in credit unions. In my region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and in municipalities across Quebec, credit unions are closing down and ATMs are being removed. However, post offices are not closing down. They are always around, so the number of services they offer could be increased. Many Canadians are forced to travel thousands of kilometres to reach a bank, whereas they could find a postal outlet close by in their municipality. As I was saying earlier, there are more post offices than Tim Hortons outlets in Canada.

I will give you a specific example. In Welshpool, New Brunswick, some residents have to take a ferry from Canada to the United States to get to a bank, then cross the border again to get back to Canada. That is completely ridiculous, especially since there is a post office in the town. If there were a public postal banking system, these residents could just go to their local post office without having to plan a special trip. It would also increase the range of services available.

As we know, Canada Post has had to cut its opening hours. By diversifying the services it offers, and especially by providing banking services, Canada Post might be able to extend its opening hours, which would benefit the entire population, including those who go directly to the Canada Post counter to pick up packages, for example.

Things would change, but we have everything to gain by voting for Motion No. 166, carrying out a proper study—not one where information has been redacted, like the studies the committee received from Canada Post—and exploring the value of instituting a public postal banking system. I hope my colleagues in the House will vote in favour of the motion.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Steven MacKinnon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Madam Speaker, thank you for the privilege of making this long-awaited speech.

It is a pleasure to participate in this debate on Motion No. 166 regarding postal banking. The motion now is well known. It calls for the creation of a special committee to conduct hearings and develop a plan for a postal banking system that would be administered by the Canada Post Corporation.

Let me explain why the government opposes this motion. I listened with care to the presentations by my friend from London—Fanshawe and her colleagues, as well as by the official opposition critic on Canada Post, and their rationale for either supporting or opposing this motion. I was disappointed that the mover of the motion gave so little attention to the hard work of her colleagues, as detailed by my friend from the official opposition, on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, who completed a review of Canada Post less than two years ago.

I remind the member who moved this motion that the committee held hearings in 22 communities in every region across our wonderful country, from Surry to St. John's, Newfoundland, from Yellowknife to Montreal, and many places in between.

Our colleagues on the committee heard more than 200 witnesses who shared their views on the future of Canada Post. If memory serves, this was the largest consultation on Canada Post on record. The committee heard directly from communities, associations, unions, businesses and individual Canadians on a number of topics, including the postal banking system.

The committee already did what the motion calls for. The committee also conducted an online survey, which gave Canadians another way to share their opinions. More than 5,000 individuals and 195 businesses responded.

In addition to the committee's awareness efforts, some of our colleagues in the House organized town halls, giving their constituents an opportunity to participate in the process. These comments were passed along to the committee.

The committee members carefully reviewed all of the evidence in drafting their detailed report, which made 45 recommendations. This evidence reflected the hard work of an independent task force comprising four distinguished members with public- and private-sector experience.

The independent task force also met with representatives of unions and municipalities, postal experts, and other stakeholders, such as banking associations and credit unions. They studied international best practices and analyzed potential options for the future of Canada Post. The task force retained the services of experts in every field, such as financial analysis and international postal services. For instance, Oliver Wyman, a global management consulting firm, was contracted to identify and assess potential business opportunities, such as postal banking.

The task force conducted public opinion research in order to get a statistically representative view of Canadians and businesses from which conclusions could be drawn. They also solicited Canadians' opinions of postal banking. The results of those surveys, as well as other findings and analysis, were presented in a discussion paper entitled “Canada Post in the digital age: Discussion paper”.

Postal banking is addressed throughout the paper. Chapter 7 in particular focuses on this option. I encourage all of my House of Commons colleagues to read it.

I want to underline the contribution of the independent task force in helping ensure a comprehensive, evidence-based review of one of our country's most iconic institutions.

The government carefully considered the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, and the in-depth analysis conducted by the independent task force. Let me share with my colleagues what the committee and the independent task force had to say about postal banking.

I begin with the independent task force. It found that Canada has a mature and competitive banking system, with approximately 99% of Canadians having bank accounts and 69% paying their bills online rather than through the mail. It also found that Canada has over 6,300 bank branches operated by 80 banks, along with nearly 3,000 branches operated by more than 600 credit unions, as well as over 65,000 automated banking machines.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates also studied postal banking and found very much the same evidence as the independent task force. In addition to hearing that 99% of Canadians have a bank account, the committee heard that 55% of Canadians use the Internet to do most of their banking. The committee also heard that the number of credit union members who use their branches in rural areas has dropped significantly in recent years as more and more members conduct their financial transactions online or using smart phone applications. Moreover, it has been stated that Canada Post did not sufficiently pursue postal banking as a potential line of business. In fact, the standing committee had the opportunity to consider the evidence and recommended that “Canada Post focus on its core competencies to help Canada meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

It is fair to say that the matter of postal banking has been properly examined and consulted on, and that there is substantial evidence to support the conclusions reached by Canadians, the independent task force and the standing committee.

In response to this motion by the member for London—Fanshawe, I ask this. Do we really need further hearings and study on this matter? We believe the short answer is no.

As members of the House know, the government has already outlined a new vision for Canada Post. The government's priority is to renew Canada Post, ensure that it remains relevant and viable over the long term and that it continues to provide good middle-class jobs and valued services to Canadians. A new service-focused vision is fundamental to the renewal of this iconic institution. It also means that Canada Post will provide high-quality service at a reasonable price to Canadians, no matter where they live.

The government has already taken action to permanently terminate the conversion of home delivery to community mailboxes. Promise made, promise kept. We are also responding to the many concerns faced by seniors and others with mobility challenges vis-à-vis community mailboxes. That is another promise that we kept.

Canada Post is developing an enhanced accessible delivery program which will ultimately result in improved service for tens of thousands of Canadians.

We also know that significant changes are needed to ensure the long-term relevance and financial sustainability of Canada Post. That is why, as part of this renewal, the government has asked Canada Post to embrace innovation, experimentation and pilot projects, including in the area of some financial-related service, to adopt best practices and address market trends, new technologies and shifts in the needs and expectations of Canadians.

For instance, as more Canadians move to online shopping, more convenient parcel delivery options may be needed. We also need to be innovative in exploring partnership opportunities with the federal government, other jurisdictions and communities to leverage the unique retail network of Canada Post, in line with the advice of the independent task force and the standing committee.

Indeed, Canada Post's new leadership now has the direction from government to work with its dedicated employees, the private sector and the communities in which it operates to explore good ideas to support the services Canadians need in the years to come, including in the area of financial services, among many others. That is what it is doing. That is where the action should be, not in more talk in Parliament.

With 3,800 corporate post offices and 2,500 franchise post offices, Canada Post has one of the largest retail networks in Canada. In some communities, particularly in rural Canada, Canada Post is the only federal presence. In short, Canada Post is in the unique position to drive this innovation and change.

A more innovative culture and collaboration requires new leadership at Canada Post. We have also delivered that with the appointment of Jessica McDonald as chair of the board of directors.

We have embraced change at Canada Post. We have broken with the ways of the past. We brought forward innovative solutions. We now need to enable Canada Post and its employees to move forward together and to an innovative future.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for London—Fanshawe for introducing this important motion, Motion No. 166. Her work on helping low-income Canadians and her other work in the House have made her an invaluable member of Parliament. I would also like to take a moment to thank her for her service to our nation since 2006, which is 12 years in the House.

Postal banking is a concept that seems new, but is really very old. Some of our earliest banks were run by Canada's post office, which has always provided a secure, low-cost alternative to the commercial banks.

The cost of banking in Canada is a serious issue. We often identify the payday lenders as the worst culprits. After all, they charge extremely high fees for cashing cheques and charge ridiculous interest rates for short and long-term loans. They open up in low-income neighbourhoods where the working poor live. These are people who work hard, but who receive such a low rate of pay that they live a hand-to-mouth paycheque to paycheque existence.

Less than two blocks from Parliament Hill, a payday loan company is charging $45 for a $300 loan for a two-week period. That is a 15% interest rate over 14 days. It promises that no matter how poor one's credit, one can get a loan.

Why would people go to payday lenders instead of to of the big five commercial banks? Because they will cash their paycheques today. Banks will sit on it for five business days, waiting for it to clear.

A 2017 lpsos survey found that more than half of Canadians were living within $200 per month of not being able to pay all their bills or meet their debt obligations. Our working poor, half of all Canadians, cannot wait a week for their pay to be cashed. That would mean unpaid rent, no groceries, no school supplies, no bus passes.

Let me reiterate, we are talking about more than half of all Canadians. Sure we can discuss financial literacy and the need for savings, etc., but none of that is part of today's reality, and the big banks often do not help.

When I was young, people looked at banks to see which would pay the best interest rate on even small deposits. It was how we comparison shopped. At that time, consumers were considered to be valuable clients of the banks. That has changed today. Now we compare how exorbitant the banks' fees will be if we want to withdraw our own money. Will an overdraft cost $50 or $70? Will we need to pay extra for online banking? How good does our credit rating have to be to get a credit card?

Then we have credit card interest, which can be 20% or more. If the payday loan companies are engaged in usury, what can we say about credit card companies?

Out of interest, let us check what the good book has to say about moneylending. The Bible is not at all shy about taking a position on charging interest.

Ezekiel 18:13 states, “[He] lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.” I agree that is a little harsh, but we get the idea.

Deuteronomy 23:19 states, “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.”

We are no longer the valued clients we once were. Now banks see consumers as a resource to be tapped, holding our money so they can leverage it for profit, while charging us so much they profit again. Banks often do not work for us.

There is already one good alternative to the commercial banks. Credit Unions work with the community and are run by their members. However, they are limited in many ways by federal financial rules. We have recently seen attempts to make it even harder for credit unions to do their work.

Last year, the current government attempted to ban credit unions from using such commonplace words as “bank” and “banking”, and that fight is still not over. We are expecting the government's final decision on the matter within a few months.

What can we do? One very good option is postal banking. Until 1968, Canadians could go to their local post offices to deposit or withdraw money. They could transfer funds to another person.

Today, we see the role of Canada Post changing. Few people receive their bills by mail, few people mail anything at all, except holiday cards and packages. There are opportunities to expand the mandate of Canada Post into new areas.

In fact, earlier this week, I attended a government-sponsored meeting on the issue of bus transportation in western Canada over the cancellation of Greyhound service. Over 75% of post office managers have offered to extend their services to include being bus depots, an excellent use of existing facilities and infrastructure.

Similarly, we should reinstate the use of post offices as banks. Postal banking is a sustainable solution that provides accessible banking services across Canada where no service is currently available and for those who cannot afford corporate bank fees. Today, thousands of towns and villages across our country do not have a bank, including many smaller communities in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia. Many of them have post offices that could provide access to financial and banking services.

Over 139 countries around the world have postal banking, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand. This is not a new idea. Canada has the existing resources and infrastructure needed to bring back postal banking. We certainly have the need because our current financial institutions are failing many Canadians.

If we look at the report released recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we are a world in crisis and postal banking, being able to use the local post offices to do banking, reduces greenhouse gases and helps the environment for those citizens who have to drive to get to banks.

I would like to close by quoting from a study conducted on behalf of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association, which states:

“The government wants to help boost women's economic empowerment. Postal banking is the natural fit. Our members from the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants Association are 95% women, who operate 3,260 rural post offices. Our study showed that there are almost 1,200 rural communities in Canada that have a post office, but no financial services. Worst yet, only 54 indigenous communities out of 615 in the entire country have a banking outlet. These community members are at the mercy of corner stores, subject to exploitation and must travel long distances to the closest bank. Postal banking is good for communities, it's good for the environment, it's good for local businesses, as well as maintaining and creating good jobs in rural communities where employment with fair living wages and benefits is often difficult to find.”

Let us get postal banking back on track.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Cree]


I rise in support of this motion. This issue has been raised countless times by the people in my riding of Winnipeg Centre. They have raised it because they believe it is important to have equity in our communities, not only in suburban middle-class communities but also in indigenous and rural communities and inner-city communities, where people often do not have as much access to banking services as others.

Postal banking is an excellent idea. I have had hundreds of communications from citizens in Winnipeg Centre about this. We have conducted town halls on this issue, and time and time again people have come out to say they want this for Canadians and for Winnipeg Centre.

Over the last two decades, we have seen a major decline in the number of bank and credit union branches and locations. In 1990 there were 7,964 branches, and by 2002 that number had fallen to 5,908, a decline of 26%.

This is not a good thing for Canadians, particularly rural Canadians. People living in rural areas should be asking their MPs to look into this issue to a greater extent, whether Conservative, Liberal or even NDP.

The decline of branch banking is not only linked to banks' rationalizing of their brick and mortar locations, but also to the rise of ATMs, the Internet and telephone banking. However, we must not forget that even though there is greater access to Internet, many rural communities do not have access to high-speed Internet, which is often required for the use of online banking, or do not even have any Internet at all. This is also true for inner-city communities. I know many people who have a cellphone but do not have access to free Internet service, and it takes them a long time and costs them a lot to access online banking services.

Today there are more than 58,000 ATMs across Canada, and 61% of them are so-called “white” machines owned by non-bank companies. Online banking has grown at a tremendous rate in recent years, with 67% of Canadians now using this form of banking, according to a CBA study. This study also noted that 47% of Canadians now use the Internet as their main means of banking, up from 8% 12 years ago.

While this is a good thing for many Canadians, it does not include all Canadians. We need an inclusive way of banking for all Canadians. For instance, we can look at some of fringe financial institutions. Indeed, many institutions are on the fringe, such as payday loan companies, the Wonga website or Zippy Cash, which can offer loans for 30 days with an interest amount of $40.10 or a rate of over 240% per year, which is an incredible amount of interest in a year.

There are a number of Canadians who do not have access to a bank account. If we take the lowest figure of 3%, which is often put forward, there were an estimated 842,000 people in 2005 without a bank account. Today the number of unbanked Canadians, using the same method of calculation, approaches 910,000 people.

Aboriginal communities remain largely without banks or credit unions across our country. Over the past decade, the aboriginal population has increased dramatically, growing by 21.1% between 2006 and 2011. Some 1.4 million people are now identified as aboriginal, or 4.3% of the Canadian population. However, banks and credit unions have lagged behind in providing them with services. While all the major banks have aboriginal services, there are very few branches on reserve.

There are at least 615 first nation communities in Canada today, and many other Métis and non-status communities. A quick tally of bank and credit union branches on reserve shows there are only 54. That is an abysmal service level by banks, which make an incredible profits year after year in this country. I believe it was $32 billion last year by all of the major banks combined, yet they offer no services to many Canadians who need them. How is one supposed to have economic development if one does not have access to banking services? How is one supposed to cash cheques from the band office if one does not have access to banking service? This is extremely important not only on reserve, but also in inner-city communities.

Many people cannot access or do not have a bank because they sometimes do not have the proper identification. However, if they could find a place to cash a cheque at a low rate of interest instead of having a large charge, then maybe they would be better off in the long term.

Postal banking has deep roots internationally and it is entering a period of expansion. This was shown by a major global study of postal banking carried out in 2012 by researchers of the Universal Postal Union, which Canada is a member of. The UPU report shows that after banks, postal operators and their postal financial subsidiaries are the second biggest worldwide contributor to financial inclusion, far head of microfinance institutions, money transfer organizations, co-operatives, insurance companies, mobile money operators and all other providers of financial services. This is important around the world and it can be important here in Canada.

There are many large and important postal banking operations around the world, from Japan Post Bank, the world's largest deposit holder with 203 trillion yen or $2.15 trillion Canadian in assets, to the Postal Savings Bank of China, the fifth largest commercial bank in China with over 400 million customers, to the Deutsche Postbank, which is now owned by the Deutsche Bank but remains one of the largest in Germany, with its own network of over 100 branches and 4,500 postal outlets.

The study did not examine these banks but looked at five successful models in industrialized countries: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand, which have all maintained an important relationship between the financial services offered through postal office outlets at their post offices. These countries have been chosen because of their relevance to Canadian operations.

Postal banking is extremely important. First, there are many Canadians living in large parts of Canada who lack physical access to banks or credit unions. The number of banks and credit union branches has shrunk over the past two decades. In rural Canada, many bank branches have closed in small towns, and while credit unions have purchased some of these branches, this process has slowed markedly in recent years. Because postal outlets are present in both rural communities and inner-city neighbourhoods, new postal banking could offer to citizens and businesses in many communities banking services that do not currently exist. In northern and rural Canada or on aboriginal reserves and in three northern territories, there have always been fewer banks and credit unions than are needed. There are no credit unions in the territories.

Second, it is estimated that some 3% to 8% of Canadians do not have a bank account. This represents potentially more than one million new customers for postal financial services. Many Canadians use fringe financial services at a high personal cost. New postal banking services could be combined with legislation requiring the immediate rollback of FFI interest rates to bring them in line with existing banking rates.

The Kiwibank and La Banque Postale in France are both excellent examples of how a postal bank can offer special services to low-income people for things such as home mortgages, rent to buy, or even social housing loans.

Canada Post has the largest network of retail outlets already in place across Canada. It has a total of almost 6,400 postal outlets in 2012. Of 3,800 Canada Post outlets, 60% are in rural areas where there are fewer banks and credit unions. The post office in these locations could provide key services for individuals and local businesses. Indeed, some communities in Canada have a postal outlet but no other or limited banking services, especially since the closure of 1,700 bank branches and hundreds of credit unions over the last two decades.

Canada Post has a high trust factor among Canadians and an already existing skilled and stable workforce of 68,000 employees, some of whom could easily be trained to handle limited financial services. Thus, it would not mean starting from scratch, but rather building on what already exists.

Also, for a lot of newcomers, postal banking would allow them greater access to services to remit their money back to home countries like the Philippines, India or China, and would ensure that they have access to excellent services as well.

In closing, I would like to highlight some of the comments by the hundreds of people who like the idea of postal banking, such as Candice Feilbert, who says that postal banking is a very smart business plan. Jonathan Klassen says it is an excellent idea. Norris Norden says, yes, banks and all credit unions must do more and allow for greater accounting. Helen Procner Mr. Baltesson say it is a fantastic idea.

[Member spoke in Cree]

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Resuming debate, the member will have about four minutes to speak before we have to go to the right of reply.

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very privileged to rise today to speak on behalf of the residents from where I live. In Windsor—Tecumseh, people are very astute and look around and shake their heads at a legislature's approach many times.

Canada Post is a perfect example of infrastructure that has been built and developed across this country, in every corner, but that is not being maximized. As a matter of fact, the private sector is looking at the profit-making areas of Canada Post in a very predatory fashion and is eroding Canada Post.

We have a perfect example today of how we should be maximizing this existing infrastructure. We have over two million Canadians who do not have access to a bank within their community. We have people who are subject to predatory lending. They have to go to payday cash lenders because banks have decreased the number of branches in their communities by some 20%. We have 45% of rural communities with a post office but not bank branch.

Today, we know of Canadians who have to take their government cheque to a payday loan operation and pay an exorbitant fee to get their government cheque cashed. There is something wrong with that.

The fact of the matter is that many of the comments today are based on a task force report that was done two years ago. There has been critical evidence in response to that task force and its premises in approaching postal banking with the aim of recommending that it not be pursued.

The first premise of the task force was not based on how we could improve Canada Post. It was based on how we could cut costs and services at Canada Post. That is a key distinction. The second premise of the task force was that it studied postal banking with the view that private banking sector was serving Canadians very efficiently. As a matter of fact, they called it “great service”.

Those two premises of the task force were wrong. They were erroneous. We have the expertise and evidence from over 60 countries with successful postal banking. We also have our own evidence and experience. People know that postal banking could be a springboard.

When we are on vacation and want to mail a postcard home, we see this when we are in these rural communities. For Canadians living in the real world, our wheels get turning when we see how that service could be maximized in that space. It could be a kiosk for Service Canada. It could be a starting point for Nutrition North delivery. There are all kinds of things the government does that we could maximize within Canada Post.

The problem that we have is that we are looking at everything in silos. Postal banking is a perfect example of how we could increase the well-being of Canadians. That social cost when we remove it does become, ultimately, an economic cost.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, there is no better time to make investments in Canada Post that would ensure healthy profits for the corporation than now and into the future. Postal banking under Canada Post would provide profits and a secure source of revenue to enable the government to actually keep its campaign promise to restore home delivery to those who lost it under the previous Conservative government. A promise kept—imagine that; what a switch.

Corporate banks have abandoned rural and urban Canada, leaving too many without access to a bank or credit union. Fewer than 10% of indigenous communities have a bank or credit union branch. Thousands of bank branches have been closed in the last 20 years, and nearly 400 since 2012, with more every day.

Without access to services, people in rural communities must travel hours to access their own money or rely on private business owners to provide cheque-cashing services at their discretion and at a high premium. In urban areas, payday lenders prey on people of low income who cannot afford the service fees charged by big banks. Access to our own money is not a privilege; it is a right, a right that no Canadian should be denied.

Postal banking works. We know this from the experience of countries whose economies are similar to Canada's. In the U.K., New Zealand, France, Italy, and even Switzerland, postal banking is part of the community, and it is profitable.

Over the past few months, I have received overwhelming support for Motion No. 166, support from municipalities and individuals across the country, in urban and rural communities alike. I have received thousands of postcards in support of reinstating postal banking in Canada from constituents represented by 136 members of this House. I am certain that every MP in this House has received postcards from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers in support of Motion No.166. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the National Pensioners Federation support postal banking, because it is good policy.

However, we have heard reservations from members who fear that credit unions and banks will experience unfair competition. They seem to overlook the fact that banks and even credit unions are already gone from rural and low-income communities.

I have even heard reservations from Liberal and Conservative members who object to the word “banking” in the proposal. However, consider this. Switzerland has a postal bank. If the banking mecca of the world does not object to the name “bank”, why should we?

Motion No. 166 provides flexibility for the committee to propose a name. Perhaps it could be something like “Canada Post financial services” or “Canada Post savings and loan”.

I urge members of this House to avoid getting caught up in semantics and the misinformation we have heard today and to examine the true merits of providing financial services to those who have been abandoned by banks. People in indigenous, rural, and urban communities deserve affordable services. Access to personal finances is an undeniable right, a right that should be protected in a functioning democracy by providing it as a public service.

Finally, we have heard from some Liberal Party members who claim to support the idea of postal banking but cannot support the motion, because it is somehow technically flawed and therefore not worthy of support. I have yet to hear what exactly that flaw is, except perhaps that postal banking is a progressive idea that did not originate with the government.

In the past three years, this Parliament has heard NDP proposals to enshrine housing as a human right, implement a poverty strategy and close loopholes in conflicts of interest. There is no real problem with these NDP ideas except that they did not come from the Liberal benches. Canadians should expect to see these same NDP proposals as part of the 2019 Liberal platform.

Sadly, Canadians cannot wait until 2019 and beyond. We are still waiting for the 2015 broken Liberal promises to be honoured. We cannot wait any more.

Finally, I would like to remind members of this House of the Prime Minister's October 2017 letter to the Minister of Public Procurement, which stated:

We made a commitment to grow our economy, strengthen the middle class, and help those working hard to join it. We committed to provide more direct help to those who need it by giving less to those who do not. We committed to public investment to spur economic growth, job creation, and broad-based prosperity....

I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these improve economic opportunity and security for Canadians.

Once again—

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Unfortunately, the time is up.

The question is on the motion. Shall I dispense?

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members



Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

[Chair read text of motion to House]

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members



Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

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

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business


Some hon. members


Postal Banking SystemPrivate Members' Business



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, October 24, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Opposition Motion—TerrorismBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.


Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

moved: That the House support the sentiments expressed by Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who in her book entitled The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, stated: “I dream about one day bringing all the militants to justice, not just the leaders like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but all the guards and slave owners, every man who pulled a trigger and pushed my brothers’ bodies into their mass grave, every fighter who tried to brainwash young boys into hating their mothers for being Yazidi, every Iraqi who welcomed the terrorists into their cities and helped them, thinking to themselves, Finally we can be rid of those nonbelievers. They should all be put on trial before the entire world, like the Nazi leaders after World War II, and not given the chance to hide.”; and call on the government to: (a) refrain from repeating the past mistakes of paying terrorists with taxpayers’ dollars or trying to reintegrate returning terrorists back into Canadian society; and (b) table within 45 days after the adoption of this motion a plan to immediately bring to justice anyone who has fought as an ISIS terrorist or participated in any terrorist activity, including those who are in Canada or have Canadian citizenship.

Madam Speaker, I will start off by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill.

We have just heard the motion that we are moving today and will spend all day debating.

First of all, I want to talk about the words of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad. She said that what the fighters and terrorists of the Islamic State have done is an act of genocide that should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

The problem right now is that our Prime Minister is not demonstrating any political will to bring these people to justice. There is no getting around the fact that most of them are Canadian. One hundred and sixty Canadians, most of whom were born in Canada, decided to go to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State and commit atrocities and acts of genocide. We know that 60 of them have come back to Canada, but only four have been charged. We have no other information on the rest of them. We have had information about the 60 fighters for two years. We do not know where the others are, nor what is going on with them.

We learned recently that Muhammad Ali was captured by the Syrian army. Syria wants to send him back to Canada. Meanwhile, the RCMP is saying they probably would not be able to lay charges against him. That kind of news is really unsettling for Canadians. Going overseas to fight one's own country, to fight against Canada's allies, is called treason. We simply cannot understand how such traitors can come back here, without penalty, and continue to live their lives as though nothing happened. What is worse, many of them try to play the victim. They say that, looking back, it was not what they wanted to do and they claim to be victims.

Let us recall how the Liberals replied recently. They told us they were able to charge four individuals, while the Conservatives did nothing. I would remind the House that our CF-18s were bombing ISIS, but the first thing this Prime Minister did was withdraw our CF-18s from the region. Why? We never did get an answer to that question.

Today we are asking very specific and clear questions. These are questions that every member of the House gets asked. I am pretty sure that the Liberals across the way get the same questions from Canadians. What are they doing? What are they doing to bring these traitors to justice and to make victims feel like Parliament and their government are listening to them? That is currently not what they feel. It is not what they are experiencing.

The Conservatives are calling on the Liberal government to take immediate action to bring Islamic State terrorists to justice. The Conservatives are calling on the Liberals to recognize that the vast majority of Canadians understand that whoever travels abroad to commit genocide or terrorist acts should be prosecuted under local and international law. The Conservatives strongly defend that principle.

We are also calling on the government to focus its efforts on bringing those responsible for genocide or terrorist acts to justice and on protecting Canadians from those who return to Canada who are suspected of committing terrorism or genocide abroad, while ensuring that Canada's security agencies have the resources they need to closely monitor these individuals and their activities in Canada.

We are also calling on the government to promote the use of the tools that impose conditions on persons suspected of carrying out terrorist or genocidal activities, such as peace bonds, ankle bracelets and house arrest. We are also asking that their use of social media be monitored.

The Liberals are making it more difficult for those responsible for security to monitor presumed terrorists by changing the rules around the requirement to keep the peace.

We are calling on the Liberals to examine ways to reform the judicial system to ensure that the courts have access to evidence collected against presumed terrorists.

The procedures for bringing to justice the perpetrators of atrocities are slow and do not make it possible for victims to return to their communities. The Conservatives want Canada to lead global initiatives to reform and strengthen these procedures.

We are also calling on the government to support initiatives and take concrete action to bring about justice for women against whom rape was used as a weapon of war.

Furthermore, we are calling on the Liberals to recognize that ISIS has committed atrocious crimes against ethnic and religious minorities, including the Yazidi people, Iraqi Christians, Coptic Christians and Shia Muslim minorities.

We are also calling on the government to support the investigators and prosecutors mandated by United Nations Security Council resolution 2379 to support national efforts to hold ISIS responsible for its war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

We are also calling on the Liberals to take action to respect Parliament's unanimous support for the Conservative motion to bring justice to victims of the Yazidi genocide.

Lastly, we are calling on them to support initiatives like the ones proposed by Premier Doug Ford to prevent terrorists from returning to Canada and taking advantage of its generous social programs.

When I got up this morning, I was very happy to see an article by Manon Cornellier in Le Devoir, which addressed this very problem. I want to read three paragraphs from her article that highlight what is going on right now.

Some 190 Canadians are active in overseas terrorist groups such as Islamic State, mostly in Syria and Iraq.... About 60 have returned to Canada, but only four have faced charges to date. Three Canadian jihadists and their families, currently in the hands of Kurdish forces in northern Syria, want to be repatriated to Canada even if that means being tried here, though that is not guaranteed.

According to Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Canada must not allow Canadian fighters to return to Canada or be repatriated without holding them responsible for the atrocities they helped perpetrate. They must be prosecuted to deter others from committing such crimes.

Mr. Matthews condemns the Trudeau government for lacking the political will to prosecute returning fighters. Until recently, it has favoured monitoring and reintegration if possible.

Even a reporter at Le Devoir, which is certainly not known for its right-wing sympathies, does not understand what is going on. People at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies are also at a loss when it comes to explaining this government's soft touch.

I cannot believe that the government members do not think the same way we do. There are 40 Liberal MPs from Quebec, and I know that there is a lot of pressure from Quebeckers to take action against these Canadian fighters. The offices of those MPs must be getting a lot of emails, but we are not hearing anything from them. They are hiding and do not want to deal with reality.

To conclude my remarks this morning, I would like to repeat what I said at the beginning of my speech. The information we have about ISIS fighters is two years old. The last I heard, a report indicated that 60 fighters had come back to Canada. Have any others come back? We do not know since the government never wants to answer that question. How many Canadian fighters are still abroad? That is more difficult to determine, but we should try to find out.

Why does the minister not want to give a full report on the situation? Why does the minister always hide when we talk about ISIS terrorists and especially about the Canadians who fought over there as traitors?

We should have that information. I am sure that CSIS and the RCMP have it, but the government does not want to be transparent in that regard. We are calling on the government to take action, to be transparent with Canadians and to tell us when and how it intends to bring charges against these war criminals. We are asking that question today on behalf of the victims, because they do not understand why the Government of Canada is being so nice to these terrorists.

Opposition Motion—TerrorismBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Before we move on to questions and comments, I just want to remind the member that he cannot use the name of another member or of the current Prime Minister, even when quoting an article.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Opposition Motion—TerrorismBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Karen McCrimmon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I was wondering if my hon. colleague could tell me how many returning terrorists were charged under the previous government.

Opposition Motion—TerrorismBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

They're still fighting with your government. They haven't—

Opposition Motion—TerrorismBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would ask the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman to allow his colleague to answer. I know that he has a lot of experience in the House, but his colleague is quite able to answer that.