IN THE HOUSE ~ Conservatives shut down Parliamentary debate again, this time on the Bank Act, S-5

41st Parliament, 1st Session

Context : Questions and Comments

    M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Madame la Présidente, je remercie mon collègue pour son discours sur ces questions. Il a mentionné le fait que les conservateurs imposent le bâillon pour ce projet de loi. Effectivement, il sont en train de clôturer les débats. C'est vrai que du côté conservateur, ils n'ont absolument rien à offrir. Ils n'ont que le même discours. Mais chez nous, on a fait une analyse, comme le député a fait dans son premier discours et aujourd'hui. On a discuté et on regarde l'ensemble de la législation, y compris l'augmentation du seuil d'actifs indiquant qu'on peut avoir une main-mise sur les institutions financières allant jusqu'à 12 milliards de dollars, ce qui n'est pas souhaitable dans le contexte actuel.

    Alors, j'ai quelques questions pour mon collègue de Brossard—La Prairie. D'abord, que pense-t-il de ce bâillon qui vient des conservateurs encore une fois, même s'ils n'ont rien contribué au débat? C'est certain que les néo-démocrates, eux, en ont beaucoup à offrir. Deuxièmement, que pense-t-il de l'augmentation du seuil d'actifs des institutions financières à 12 milliards de dollars? Qu'est-ce qu'il pense de ça? Est-ce qu'il pense que...

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I need to follow up on the parliamentary secretary's comments. It is absolutely absurd. In this House, in the last few weeks, we have seen closure moved, in some cases, after 14 minutes of debate. Fourteen minutes of debate and the Conservatives say, “Well, this isn't in our talking notes that we got from the Prime Minister's Office. We can't stand having too much information, so we're just close the whole thing down”. That is what they do systematically.

    We have been raising important points. We have been asking questions in the House and we have simply not received a response from the PMO's talking points.

    My question back to the parliamentary secretary, she should know better about this use of closure, is, why they are moving the limits on control, complete and exclusive control, that can happen to Canadian financial institutions with $12 billion of assets or less. It is a simple question. They have not given us an answer.

Context : Debate

    M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, j'aimerais commencer à parler de ce processus bidon que les conservateurs ont mis en place et où ils ont présenté finalement ce projet de loi il y a quelques jours. Après un jour et demi de débat, le gouvernement dit qu'il ne veut plus rien savoir des députés, qu'il ne veut plus discuter et qu'il impose le bâillon. Cela est absolument un outrage à ce Parlement. Étant donné l'importance de ce projet de loi et de chacun des autres projets, on sait très bien qu'imposer le bâillon, à chaque fois, c'est un manque de respect total au Parlement.

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, that is a question that we have been raising with the government. It raised it from $5 billion to $12 billion in the space of a few years without due regard for consequences, without any examination of what exactly all of this entails and what it means for our financial institutions. I would put the ball right back in the government's court. At this point, it has not adequately explained why it is raising it from $8 billion to $12 billion. It says that banks have grown.

    The reality is, we all recall that this is a government that wanted to cut on our bank regulations a few years ago, at a time back in 2008 when everything was rosy and the government did not believe we were going into a recession. We remember that. We were in this House raising these concerns and we had a government pushing ahead with bank deregulation and speculating about bank deregulation. We thought it was irresponsible at the time and held the government to it. Time has proven the NDP right on that account.

    Now we are asking the Conservatives to prove themselves and explain why they are raising the threshold. Let us have a debate on that issue. That is all we are asking for.

Context : Debate

     Members of the Conservative party will say this is routine. That is what they have been saying over the last day and a half, and the last few hours of debate. Each time, they have been saying it is a routine bill, not to worry about it, not to examine it, just pass it. Given that what we have routinely is Conservative members of Parliament reading from their Prime Minister's Office speaking notes, I simply feel that that is not doing the due diligence that is required to look at legislation, particularly legislation as profound as the legislation before us.

    As my colleague, the member for Sudbury, mentioned just a few minutes ago, we are talking about legislation that amends 14 different pieces of current law, that is 105 pages in length, and that has an impact on our banking system. Yet, we have a government that says we are not going to have debate on this, it is not going to listen to concerns that have been raised about this, it is just going to impose closure, for the 16th time, the 5th time in a matter of a few weeks, because it just wants to get the legislation through.

    The problem with that is that the government has not done its due diligence. There has not been due process. That is when problems occur. We have seen it before with the Conservative government. We saw it with the prisons agenda. We saw a bloated bill of $19 billion because there was no homework and no due diligence done. We see that as well with the pension now and the concerns that so many Canadians have because due diligence has not been done. The government is just throwing out ideas that cut into pensions.

    For the government to say, after all these problems that have occurred with government legislation because due diligence was not performed, that there is nothing to see in the 105 pages, nothing to debate, and it is not concerned about this, to just ram it through, particularly in light of the process that the government has adopted on this legislation, is something that the NDP, the official opposition, simply cannot accept.

    The bill was introduced in the Senate. The Senate paid lip service to providing due diligence. There was, as my colleague, the member for Sudbury, mentioned, a secretive little website announcement to say there was legislation coming and looking for a few replies from stakeholders and interested parties. In the Senate, there was no due regard for consumer protection, which is fundamental, nor for the changes and limitations around control of the banking institutions. There was no due diligence at all. It was brought to the House where, finally, light could be shone on this 105 pages and what each clause and paragraph means for ordinary Canadian families, and the government says no, it will simply ram it through. That is absolutely unacceptable.

     I think Canadians can see that what is happening very clearly and systematically is the government is not doing its homework, its due diligence, and is relying on its parliamentary majority to ram through often what is very problematic legislation. It is Canadian families that pay the cost of that.

    What is in the bill? The government has said it will only allow a few more hours of debate. The member for Sudbury had to cut his declarations in half around consumer protection. Every other speaker will have to do the same. There are so many speakers on this side of the House who wanted to speak to this 105 pages who will not get a chance to do so.

    There are components in the legislation that we support. As the member for Sudbury mentioned earlier, the FCAC component, broadening the supervisory enforcement powers, is a component that we do support. We also support some of the changes that have been brought in. However, the reality is, the devil is in the details, and the government has not responded on some of the key components that we raised already in the House, in the first few hours of debate. For example, the increase to the maximum fine from $200,000 to $500,000. Increasing that fine only works if the regulatory powers are actually being exercised. We have been raising concerns about the fact that the FCAC has not been using the existing supervisory powers. It has not been using the powers it has already to raise those minimums in terms of fines. It means nothing if we are still having regulatory problems with how consumers are being protected.

Context : Debate

    The other components that the member for Sudbury just mentioned are important components to note, and other speakers from the NDP have noted those as well. What we are not seeing is the kind of protections that Canadians want to see built into the acts that cover our financial institutions.

    For example, when we look at clauses 446 and 447, the whole concern about user fees and bank charges, something our former leader, Jack Layton, and the NDP caucus raised repeatedly over the last few years, consumers being gouged by financial institutions, and little or no oversight over the scale and scope of those user fees and transaction fees that are imposed on Canadians. Often Canadians pay hundreds of dollars a year because there is not that oversight. Yet there is no regulatory authority that actually allows in some way for consumers' concerns around transaction fees and user fees to be addressed.

    In fact, in clauses 446 and 447, all it says is that the banks can increase those charges, can add those charges, but they just have to disclose the charges.

    That is not consumer protection. All that is doing is saying to consumers that they would have to accept whatever the banks push on them. The banks just have to disclose that they are doing it. They are gouging consumers, but they have to tell consumers they are gouging them, and for the Conservatives, that is the solution. On this side of the House, it surely is not.

    Another concern we have raised repeatedly is now the threshold provisions around complete control. I will read the clause, clause 883 which says:

No person shall, without the approval of the Minister, acquire control within the meaning of paragraph 3(1)(d), of a bank holding company with equity of less than twelve billion dollars.

    That puts in the hands of the minister basically a blank cheque to approve any control over what are medium-sized banks, and $12 billion is a lot of assets. To our minds, that raises concerns about how that amount was arrived at and why we have seen over the last few years a more than doubling of the threshold to allow more and more banks to be under that potential cloud of a takeover.

    On this side of the House we have steadfastly, since our foundation, the previous CCF and the NDP, said very clearly and repeatedly that we do not believe having total control in one person is in any way helping to support our financial institutions and our banking industry.

    We know the importance of the banking industry to the country. The member for Sudbury said, we have got a quarter of a million employees, about $15 billion in purchases of goods and services in Canada, so what we are talking about is a very important industry.

    However, the government has not responded on the raising of that threshold, and why it has done it twice now in the space of a few years and what the consequences are.

    We wanted to raise these issues in the House. We believe firmly that this process has been completely the opposite of what is required for the due diligence of a bill that is so extensive in nature and has such an impact over so many pieces of legislation that govern our financial institutions and our banks.

    That is what we have raised in the House. What we have been told by the government is that it does not want any debate, it does not want to have due diligence, it does not want to do its homework, it just wants to ram the whole damned thing through.

    On this side of the House we say no to that. We believe there should be due diligence on a piece of legislation of this nature.

Context : Questions and Comments

    M. Peter Julian: Monsieur le Président, je remercie mon collègue de sa question parce que c'est une question entièrement valide. On a déjà vu les décisions que ce gouvernement a prises, à plusieurs reprises, dans plusieurs domaines différents: on a vu les faux lacs, on a vu les ministères qui sont mal gérés. Maintenant, on change ce qui appartenait, auparavant, aux organismes qui sont de façon importante indépendants, et on met ce pouvoir décisionnel directement sur le bureau du ministre.

    Même dans le meilleur des cas, est-ce que c'est une bonne idée de mette dans les mains du gouvernement une décision qui devrait plutôt appartenir à un organisme indépendant? Quand on regarde les actions de ce gouvernement, depuis quelques mois, depuis son élection comme gouvernement majoritaire le 2 mai, on voit qu'on ne peut pas faire confiance en ce gouvernement pour les prises de décisions qui sont dans l'intérêt public.

    Avoir dans ces 500 pages, ce pouvoir de véto donner au ministre, à plusieurs reprises, nous inquiète. Je suis bien content que le député de Compton—Stanstead m'ait posé cette question. C'est un élément important de la raison d'avoir plus de débats en Chambre.