Mr. Speaker, what an interesting debate we are having here, where the NDP are claiming to be Liberals and Liberals NDP. The leader of the NDP was a Liberal and the leader of the Liberals was an NDP. I am confused about it. I am just happy to be a Conservative.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the House, and to all Canadians, on Bill S-5, the financial system review act. Bill S-5 would make improvements to one of the key components of Canada's economic success, our financial system.
Before I continue, I just want to remind members of the opposition that, unlike in Europe and the United States, not a single Canadian bank collapsed or had to be bailed out by Canadian taxpayers. The reason for this is our strong, stable and flexible financial system. Canada's well regulated financial system is universally recognized as one of the primary reasons for Canada's swift recovery following the global crisis.
Recently, an independent Financial Stability Board peer review validated this claim by praising actions taken by the Conservative government to ensure that Canada's financial system remains strong, enabling Canada to emerge from the global financial crisis in a position of strength.
In its review, the board highlighted the resilience of Canada's financial system, calling it a model for other countries around the world. The board's review said the strength of Canada's economy and its financial system meant that no Canadian financial institution failed or required government support in the form of a capital injection or debt guarantee during the global financial crisis. The report said:
The good performance of the financial system both during and after the crisis provides further evidence of its soundness and resilience.
As the board's report also noted, since 2008, the Conservative government has taken steps to make our financial system more stable, reduce systemic risks and ensure that we have the flexibility to protect the financial institutions when needed. The report went further, citing Canada as an example that other jurisdictions should emulate in developing financial sector policy.
Clearly, these sentiments are felt by jurisdictions around the world. A recent report from the United States congressional research service identified our financial system as a model for others to build on. It said:
... Canada’s supervisory system and regulatory structure have proven less susceptible to the bank failures that have loomed in the United States and Europe and may offer insight for U.S. policymakers.
British Prime Minister, David Cameron, praised our financial system. He said:
[Canada's] economic leadership has helped the Canadian economy to weather the global storms far better than many of your international competitors.
The praise goes even further. Numerous observers have noticed and paid tribute to Canada's well regulated financial sector. For example, over the past four years the World Economic Forum has ranked our banking system as the soundest in the world. Forbes magazine has ranked Canada number one in its annual review of best countries to do business. Five Canadian financial institutions were named to Bloomberg's most recent list of the world's strongest banks. That is more than any other country.
At the same time that our system is receiving international praise, we cannot be complacent. Bill S-5 would make necessary improvements to Canada's financial system so it would continue to be the envy of the world.
As Canadians, we are justifiably proud of our financial services sector, which employs over 750,000 people in well paying jobs, represents about 7% of Canada's GDP and is a leader in the use of information technology. We are the world leaders in this field. We aim to keep it that way. It is for this reason that the government has the long established practice of reviewing the statutes governing federally regulated financial institutions every five years. This mandatory review helps to maintain the safety and soundness of our sector.
How would this legislation accomplish these goals? Under the proposed legislation, certain larger foreign acquisitions of financial institutions would need the approval of the Minister of Finance. This merely reinstates some of the historical oversight provisions repealed by previous Liberal governments in early 2001. In practice, it would require ministerial approval if a federally regulated financial institution were to acquire a major foreign entity which significantly increased its assets by more than 10%.
This is a move supported, not only by industry stakeholders, but also by Julie Dickson, the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
The legislation would also reflect the natural growth of the banking sector by increasing the large bank ownership threshold from $8 billion today, to $12 billion. This would have no impact on Canada's five large banks. They would continue to be subject to widely held requirements. This change would merely reflect growth in our financial sector.
Bill S-5 would also build on this government's proven record of improving consumer protection by making important changes to federal financial institution statutes. In particular, the bill would increase the maximum administrative penalty that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada could levy from $200,000 to $500,000. It would confirm that Canadians, including bank customers, would be able to cash government cheques of amounts less than $1,500 free of charge at any bank in Canada.
The legislation would also demonstrate this government's continuing support for credit unions. Building on the federal credit union charter, Bill S-5 would amend the Canadian Payments Act so credit unions would fall within the co-operatives class in the act rather than the bank class.
Speaking to this change, the Credit Union Central of Canada, which is the national association of credit unions in Canada, had this to say:
Placing the federal credit union in the cooperatives class will preserve and strengthen the credit union system representation at the CPA. It will ensure that a federal credit union will be represented by a director, who speaks for the interests of cooperative financial institutions in CPA matters.
In short, this change would promote a level playing field within the financial sector, which would generate competition in the industry, which would ensure a stronger, more stable system overall. Bill S-5 would also include a number of technical refinements to ensure the effective implementation of what is referred to as a bridge bank tool. This would build on our government's commitment in the 2009 budget to strengthen the authorities of the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation, to effectively preserve the critical functions of a financial institution in dire straits and to help maintain stability in the financial system.
I would like to finish by saying that it is constant improvements like those included in Bill S-5 that make Canada's financial system the envy of the world. Surely, even the members of the opposition can see that it is the routine fine tuning of Canada's financial institution legislation that would keep our financial system strong, stable and flexible for Canadians. On that note, I urge the members of the opposition to stand and support the swift passage of this very important legislation.