Madam Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank the voters and constituents of Richmond, which is I think the best place to live in the lower mainland of British Columbia, for giving me this opportunity to represent them and to be here today to talk about this technical but very important piece of legislation.
It is interesting that my maiden speech will be a rather technical one. However, I think it is important to say, as my friend from Surrey Central has mentioned, that the Canadian Alliance supports the general thrust of the legislation. We hope to offer constructive amendments to it at committee stage.
I will take this opportunity to go point by point in a little bit more detail than my colleague and talk about the position of the Liberal government and how we will be helpful in supporting where we believe support is necessary, and opposing in a gentler constructive way where we believe that opposition is necessary.
The member for Surrey Central talked about the Canadian financial services ombudsman. We all know that this agency would be responsible to the finance minister. It would be designed for all financial institutions. The Canadian Alliance believes that it will simply be another bureaucracy with no powers and filled with Liberal appointments. What we should have, and what the Canadian Alliance will follow through on at committee stage, is an independent ombudsman selected by the House with our colleagues, with the powers of penalty enforcement and also with the power to make binding directives to the banks.
I will also talk about the holding company structure. The Canadian Alliance does support this new structure because it would allow Canada's banks to more effectively compete against foreign non-bank competitors and other alternative financial institutions.
We have many financial institutions in Richmond. We have credit unions, the TD Bank and the Bank of Montreal. I was actually discussing this proposal with the bank manager of the TD Bank. We are in complete agreement with the bill on this and we will work very closely with the government to pass the legislation.
With regard to expanding the credit union role, I reiterate that we are disappointed that the government did not take the MacKay report into consideration when dealing with this point. The Canadian Alliance supports the move to restrict widely held ownership to 20% because we think it will strengthen the global position of Canada's domestic banks.
To go back to Richmond riding again, we have the TD Bank and the Bank of Montreal. We have a wonderful opportunity to move in not only south of the border, where we have many integrations occurring in the financial services, but if we are able to pass the legislation, we can be world players in the international field, particularly in the Asian market.
On the issue of allowing smaller banks, we are talking about the minimum capital requirements to establish a new bank, trust company or insurance company. We support this initiative because it would provide more consumer choice, which basically is what this is all about.
We can talk about percentages and holding requirements. Even though we are in opposition we believe we are a constructive force. Ultimately we are trying to give the greatest choice to consumers at the lowest possible price. The greater the competition, the greater will be the incentive to have lower costs on service charges and on a variety of issues.
With regard to restrictions on auto leasing and insurance, the Canadian Alliance believes that the auto leasing and insurance markets are currently very vibrant and competitive industries. The banks must continue to be restricted from offering auto leasing and insurance products directly through their branches to avoid unduly concentrating financial power in their hands. We are talking about competition where we do not want a monolithic entity stifling competition and where we can have a variety of players in the field such as local brokers.
I have a variety of local insurance agents in Richmond. They work very hard to give the best possible price and products to the people of Richmond. I am sure we have hard working brokers across the country. I take this opportunity on behalf of the Canadian Alliance to congratulate the hard working men and women who work within these industries.
With regard to regulating access, my friend talked about the new regulations that would set lower ID requirements for opening accounts and proof of employment would not be a requirement. This is excessive red tape. It is an issue that is not being properly addressed. Let us allow the industry to address it. We believe it is an area that the government should not be delving into. Let us allow the forces at play to deal with it.
We applaud the government side for finally dealing with this issue. As my friend from Surrey Central mentioned, we must have a very strong and vibrant financial service so that our whole economy can function properly. We are a bit disappointed and saddened that the seven year process has occurred with a lot of political manoeuvring rather than sound business economic decision making. However, I am sure that in committee stage we will be able to work very closely with the government to make sure we come up with a top notch bill.