I call the meeting to order.
This is the 73rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance this session. Our orders today are pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, June 20, 2012. We are continuing our study of Bill .
Colleagues, we have four organizations before us today, and I want to thank all of these organizations for coming in, especially on very short notice. The committee did want to begin its work immediately this session with this bill.
First of all, from ABC Life Literacy Canada, we have the program manager, Mr. Mack Rogers. Welcome.
From the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, we have the president, Mr. Gary Rabbior.
From Junior Achievement Canada, we have with us here today the president and acting CEO, Mr. Stephen Ashworth.
From Social and Enterprise Development Innovations, we have the program manager, Mr. Adam Fair.
Welcome to all of you.
For your opening statements you have between five and ten minutes, and we will go in the order I outlined. Then we'll have questions from members of all parties.
We will begin with Mr. Rogers, please.
Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.
I am pleased to represent ABC Life Literacy Canada in response to the request from the Standing Committee on Finance to address Bill and to establish a financial literacy leader in Canada.
At ABC we envision a Canada where everyone has the skills they need to live a fully engaged life. Our mission is to mobilize and inspire Canadians to improve their literacy skills and support lifelong learning. We believe financial literacy is a critical life capacity.
A financial literacy leader, a national leader who helps us strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians, has the potential to help Canadians in this regard. Financial literacy is part of the spectrum of essential skills all Canadians need to thrive.
The 2003 international adult literacy and skills survey found that 42% of the Canadian population has a reading comprehension level below that of a high school graduate, the recognized standard for dealing with the demands of everyday life in our complex society. In numeracy, 49% of the population scored below the recommended level. For these country-wide challenges, the link to improvement can be found in the financial literacy field.
We at ABC believe that the financial crisis in 2008 was as much a reflection of low financial literacy skills as any other cause. Canada is not out of the woods yet. We believe the worrying levels of debt currently held by Canadians should be addressed to ensure our nation's prosperity, security, and financial safety. A key component of the answers to these challenges can be found in increased financial literacy, education, and awareness.
The financial literacy leader has the potential to strengthen these skills of Canadians through leadership and collaboration with others involved in this work already, such as FLAG, the Financial Literacy Action Group, and including, of course, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, which ABC Life Literacy Canada wholly endorses.
ABC has engaged in financial literacy awareness and education through our communications outreach and through our innovative adult literacy education program, Money Matters.
ABC was an active participant in the inaugural 2011 financial literacy month, providing Canadians with tools and resources they needed to increase their financial literacy. ABC also created an innovative social hub where Canadians could share financial literacy tips and pledge better financial literacy habits for themselves and their families.
Money Matters, our adult education program, generously funded in part by the Government of Canada, has been a tremendous success in the adult learner community. Money Matters has been activated in over 30 learning centres across Canada, reaching more than 600 learners and engaging more than 200 volunteer tutors from the TD Bank Group. More than 5,000 hours of financial literacy learning have already been completed by our learners. We expect to more than triple the reach by the end of this program.
It is here, on the ground of financial literacy training, that we see the biggest impact. We at ABC have witnessed the individual impact of financial literacy improvement through our programs with adult learners. Every day we are witness to the real-life impacts of these increased financial literacies. From starting RESPs for young Canadians to building a financial plan for the aged, our learners experience growth and empowerment at all levels of financial literacy. These are real-life experiences for individual Canadians and communities across the country.
Here is what some of our learners have told us.
Joanne from Hamilton told us, “If you save as little as $5 a week, it can make a big difference in your life.”
Asif from Kitchener says, “I now think about managing my money. I can tell the difference between my needs and my wants.”
A learner from Toronto said, “My family needs me to understand this stuff better, and now I do.”
Finally, Ally from Halifax says, “Banking is not as scary as I used to think. Now I can talk to bankers better.”
It is these messages we want all Canadians to understand, to talk about, and to share. It is these lessons that will improve life for all of us. We are confident that the financial literacy leader can help deliver these lessons.
To wrap up, Bill , is an important foundational step in helping Canadians achieve a higher standard of financial literacy. It builds on the recommendations from the task force on financial literacy from February 2011.
As a contributor to the task force process, ABC believes that our voice and, more importantly, the voices of the clients we serve were heard, and we support the recommendations wholeheartedly, including the establishment of a national financial literacy leader.
We at ABC believe the FCAC is a strong organization to house this individual. The FCAC's strong commitment and leadership during the 2011 Financial Literacy Month and their ongoing development of financial literacy programs and initiatives reflect the recommendations as set forth and as discussed with the Financial Literacy Action Group.
We believe that the more support we give the financial literacy leader and the FCAC, the more Canadians will be empowered to increase their financial literacy. It is for these reasons that ABC wholeheartedly endorses the amendment proposed in Bill .
Thank you again for the opportunity to present ABC Life Literacy Canada's views on the importance of improving Canadian financial literacy and how Bill will work towards improving that. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here with you. Thank you for the opportunity.
I'm going to structure my comments in two parts. One is just to give you a brief introduction to the foundation—CFEE, as we're affectionately known—who we are, and where we came from. Second, I'm assuming that we will have a leader, so I'm going to give you some thoughts on what we think may be important in terms of leadership at the national level in this field.
CFEE, the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, has been around since 1974. We're a not-for-profit, non-partisan charitable organization. We work with the schools. We work with newcomers to Canada. We work with community service agencies and the general public. I've been with the foundation since 1978 and running it since 1981, so we've both been around a long time.
Here are just a few things that we're doing. Right now, we're working on a project called the Building Futures project, in which we're working with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta to integrate financial literacy and education into their compulsory curriculum for grades 4 to 10. We're in discussions with other provinces, but this is a first in Canada, and we're delighted with that.
We've been working with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, HRSDC, and Scotiabank to produce a day planner for newcomers to Canada to help guide their settlement and integration activities. We have over 500,000 of these now in distribution through 1,000 immigrant service agencies across the country.
We've been working with the Bank of Montreal in putting together a new program to help parents give better education to their own kids about money.
We'll be working with our fellow FLAG organizations here, and a few that aren't here, to organize a summit in the spring on financial literacy to try to put together a group action plan for what we can do collectively and collaboratively to support further improvements in financial literacy.
We work with The Globe and Mail to produce the classroom edition, and we put out a monthly edition for schools with lesson plans on current issues related to money, finance, business, and entrepreneurship. We've worked with the Investors Group to produce the publication Money and Youth, shown here. We're doing a new edition right now. There are over 300,000 copies of it in schools across the country as well.
Last but not least, just as another couple of examples, we worked with the Department of Finance back in the mid-1990s to help Canadians better understand the debt and deficit issue that we got into. It was a demonstration, I think, of what we can do in public education, because we put them in the role of finance minister. We asked, “If you were in this situation, what would you do?” We had 400,000 copies of a workbook put out across the country to engage Canadians as participants in learning. I think it had a contributory effect on Canadians coming around to understand why we had to do something about the debt and deficit.
We also worked with the Bank of Canada, as I think the only outside organization ever contracted to write anything for them. We did a layperson's guide to money and monetary policy, which the board of the bank had wanted to have happen since the 1930s. We finally pulled that off. It took us four years to do it, but we finally did it nonetheless.
So we've been around a while and I've been around a while, and I think we have some experience to draw upon. I thought I would draw upon that just to share with you a few thoughts on the importance of leadership at the national level.
I was going to circulate to you a visual, but I don't think we can do that, so I figured I would hold it up—I'm not sure if you can see it. This is a test for your vision and eyesight. As a good educator should, I wanted to give you a test. I wanted to challenge you to look at this and pick the figure that you think does not belong. If you had the opportunity, and if you were like 90% to 95% of people in this world, you would pick figure B, because figure B is the right answer. However, figure A has no points of discontinuity; figure C is the only one that's an asymmetrical figure; figure D is the only one with a straight line, not a curved line; and figure E is the only one that looks like a projection of a non-Euclidean triangle in Euclidean space.
The reality is that they're all right, but we have created an education system that pushes us to look for the most obvious right answer. We want to maximize rightness, because if you're right eight or nine times out of ten, I'm going to give you an A; seven times, I'll give you a B; six times, I'll give you a C. What are our schools doing? What are our kids doing? They're trying to maximize being right. What do they go for? The most obvious right answer. Why take the risk of being creative? Why look, speculate, or take risks to find a better right answer when there's such an obvious right answer?
I use that as a lead-in to the comments I have about leadership in this particular field. A lot of people—and there have been a lot of efforts in the past—feel that the simple notion is that if we know stuff, other people should know, and that if we tell those people that stuff, things will be different. The reality is that this is what I've been doing for 40 years and it hasn't changed anything. I really want to hope that when we put leadership in place, it is not to miss the fact that this challenge is much greater than people might anticipate, and that there have been many efforts to do it. People might think the answer is obvious, but the answer is very much more complicated than that.
The most commonly asked question I had in my class when I taught school was, “Do we need to know that?” If we need to know that, I'm going to write that down, they would say. If not, they'd say, tell me something that you say I need to know, I'll write that down, and I'll give it back to you on a test.
We have systems right now—I've been through it, you've been through it, our kids are going through it—that challenge them and force them to look for those right answers. It doesn't breed the kind of creative, insightful, and ambitious minds that we want. To try to get my kids to think in grade 12 was an unbelievable challenge. All they wanted to do was, “Tell me what I need to know so I can get out of here”.
Neil Postman had a great quote. He's a noted U.S. educator. He said that kids enter school as question marks and leave as periods. Somehow we take that wonderful creativity in the early years and we put blinders on them by the end. They're just streaming through to get what they can to get out of the system.
I say that because we don't have a problem with financial education; we have a problem with education. If we can't solve our problems and challenges of education, we can't improve financial education. We have an opportunity here, because financial education is the new kid on the block. It hasn't been there before. It has a chance to enter, doing new things, both in our schools and among adults, where we recognize the challenges that learning actually entails.
There's an organization out of the U.K. called the 21st Century Learning Initiative. It looked into everything we've learned about learning in the last 60 years and found that we've applied almost none of it in our schools. We still do the same things, largely, that we did back in the fifties and sixties. My father-in-law is 91. His report card, with the exception of Latin, had the same subjects my kids took in school.
The problem is that we have created a situation where so many people have come through the system and they aren't prepared for this world of opportunity that's out there. Others of us are, because we have a left brain-dominant, linear, right-answer, logical processing system that says to a bunch of us, “You're good. You can get an A. You go on.” We bolster our self-confidence. But the other kids, they drop out. They don't get that message because they are right-brain kids. As such, it's showing up in the disparity within our society, because we have those who are able to prepare themselves and do well and others who are suffering the consequences of being pushed out and not being motivated and not having the self-confidence to go through.
I know. I just wanted to make sure I didn't take up more time. I will slow down.
I've had that.... Actually, I could give you another story about that, but I won't.
There is another quote, too, that nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you've got. I would be concerned if we put leadership in place that looked for easy right answers; thought there were right answers; didn't realize the complexity of the challenge; and didn't seek out, among such organizations as those here and others across the country, the various ideas that we might have to put in a pool to find out what really does work.
It will be a challenge. It will be a challenge for us to change what we do not just in financial education but in education in general. But I think there is an extraordinary opportunity for us, and through the leadership, if it doesn't try “to do” but instead “helps to get things done”.... That is what I think we really need at the national level—to reach out, to be a collaborator, to be a catalyst for change, to tap the synergies that are available, to reach into the creativity and experience that are there, to look into why things haven't worked, to find out what we don't know that we need to know, to generate that research, and to be the leader that draws upon the talent that this country has to make a difference in this area of learning and be actually a leader in the world.
Thank you very much, Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Finance. Junior Achievement is extremely pleased to be here with you today to discuss an issue of great importance to our organization: financial literacy. Before I specifically address Bill , I would like to provide a brief overview of Junior Achievement and highlight why financial literacy is so important to our organization.
Junior Achievement is a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing youth to succeed. Junior Achievement's educational programs on financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship are delivered at no cost to elementary, middle, and secondary schools coast to coast—every province.
Each day, we have the opportunity to see the positive impact financial literacy education and Junior Achievement have on youth. In Canada, Junior Achievement reaches over 226,000 students in 9,472 classes. That is over 232,000 hours of instruction annually from over 13,500 dedicated mentors in over 400 communities. Since 1955 over 4 million students have participated in Junior Achievement programs.
Junior Achievement recognizes the need and importance of support for financial literacy education within our schools. Junior Achievement is a trusted resource in the education space. For over 55 years, Junior Achievement has established relationships with teachers and schools, and they have invited us into the classroom to help ensure that our youth develop the financial literacy skills that are critical for their personal success.
The unique learning experience provided to our participants is rooted in more than 13,000 volunteer mentors who deliver our programs. Our mentors provide experiential learning to offer students real-world knowledge of financial literacy. By delivering engaging education programs to young Canadians, Junior Achievement is helping to fulfill the need for financial literacy education in schools.
Based on third-party research done by the Boston Consulting Group, we know these programs are having a positive impact on today's youth by putting financial literacy into practice with programs like “Economics for Success”, “Dollars with Sense”, and the “Company Program”, to name a few. I encourage you to actually look at that report. It shows the return on investment from investing one dollar.
Our past participants, who we call achievers, credit Junior Achievement programs with being the driving force behind their financial literacy skills of budgeting, long-term planning, and investing. In fact, over 75% of achievers believe Junior Achievement Canada programs have a significant impact in developing their financial literacy skills. Achievers save more, borrow less, and do better financially than the average Canadian. As a result, they are more self-reliant, put a lower burden on the social safety net, and provide for their own retirement.
Junior Achievement plays an important role in financial literacy education, but the fact is that we all play an important role in improving financial literacy. There is no doubt that early behaviour and skills development are essential in ensuring lifelong financial success. By building youths' knowledge at an early age, we are preparing them to make sound financial decisions and informed choices throughout their lives. By providing tools and programs that put financial literacy concepts into practice, we can help youth connect basic economics to their daily events.
We strongly support the efforts of the federal government to improve financial literacy. Junior Achievement's goals are closely aligned with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's mandate to promote consumer awareness and ultimately improve financial literacy.
Junior Achievement was pleased to be a participant in the consultations undertaken by the task force on financial literacy. As you know, the task force report clearly identified the need for action to improve financial literacy and to drive Canada's future success.
Further, it highlighted how non-profit organizations like Junior Achievement and those of my other colleagues at the table today can play not an optional but an essential role in ensuring a financially secure future for Canadians. That is a vision we support, and we feel it needs to be reflected in the financial literacy leadership role put forward in Bill .
Junior Achievement supports the objective of Bill to appoint a financial literacy leader at FCAC. Strengthening financial literacy must be a key priority for FCAC, and appropriate resources need to be provided to support the key initiatives.
Junior Achievement believes that the role of the financial literacy leader will further encourage collaboration and coordination on financial literacy across the country. Having a financial literacy leader at FCAC will ensure continued focus on and measurable results in improving the financial literacy of Canadians.
Junior Achievement is one of those organizations working to make a positive impact on improving financial literacy. We believe there is a great opportunity to support and build on the efforts that are taking place across the country. We believe the financial literacy leader should leverage the work of national organizations that already have national bilingual distribution. Leveraging existing work will ensure consistency and will help to reach Canadians. Junior Achievement strongly believes that an important commitment within this new role must be to work with organizations and experts across the country to ensure that all Canadians can benefit from the work that has already been done. Junior Achievement sees great opportunity to work collaboratively with the new financial literacy leader towards our mutual goal of strengthening financial literacy of Canadians.
We are pleased to support Bill , and Junior Achievement looks forward to working with the federal government's efforts to encourage financial literacy for our next generation of leaders.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak on this important issue.
There are citizens and community organizations across the country that are watching this process with great interest because they have a passion for the topic of financial literacy. Today I want to talk about a few things. First I want to talk about what SEDI and the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy are. I want to talk about why we think financial literacy is really important. I want to have a quick discussion on the principles that we think are important in a national strategy and to give some updates on how the community is moving forward with some of these strategies. We also want to discuss our support for having FCAC house the future leader as well.
First, what are SEDI and the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy? SEDI is a national non-profit, charitable organization that was founded in 1986. SEDI expands the economic opportunities of Canadians living in poverty through program and policy innovation. We envision a society where everyone has a lifelong opportunity to enhance their social and economic well-being. We accomplish our goal by using social innovation, a process that identifies, market tests, and brings good social policy ideas to scale.
Since our inception, SEDI has achieved significant large-scale policy and program impact in the area of self-employment, savings and asset building, and financial literacy. We don't do this alone. All of the successes SEDI has had have been in partnership with community organizations. We have 800 partnerships, and the number is growing.
SEDI has been involved with financial literacy since we started. In 2009 we started the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy, which will work with community partners to bring financial literacy supports to 230,000 low-income Canadians by 2015. In the first two years of operations alone, the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy has trained over 1,500 front-line staff in over 500 community organizations across the country to provide financial literacy programs and supports to their clients.
Why is this topic really important to us? Financial literacy matters in the context of people's everyday lives more today than ever before. These lives are growing more complex with more opportunities and choices, but this also comes with challenges and perils for those who are not financially literate. The choices that people make today can have lasting consequences for the rest of their life and collectively for the whole economy.
We'll be launching a paper during Financial Literacy Month called, “The Case for Financial Literacy”, which makes an evidence-based case to show how financial literacy can support other social policies like helping newcomers settle in Canada, helping Canadians successfully navigate through different life transitions, helping low-income families access appropriate benefits, and helping low-income families improve their housing situation.
We think a financial literacy leader is vital to creating a national strategy on financial literacy. Countries like the U.K., Australia, the U.S., and New Zealand have already started moving this forward, so we're trailing.
The following are some key principles that I think will be essential to creating any national strategy. The first is that the strategy should not be a substitute for regulation or consumer protection. The government will need to achieve a fair balance between regulation, financial literacy, and consumer protection. I like to think of the analogy of sports. In a sport you have good rules. You need a referee to enforce those rules. You also need people to teach you the game. You also need coaches to help nurture you along the way. Financial literacy is the same thing.
The second principle is that one size does not fit all. The strategy should be inclusive and accessible by design to low-income and vulnerable Canadians over the life cycle. We've learned over and over that financial literacy content and education must be tailored to specific needs of individuals to be effective. The issues that face low-income Canadians, newcomers, first nations, and youth are drastically different and should be so treated.
Financial literacy for those who are vulnerable and for those who have low incomes should be given specific attention in the strategy for the following reasons. There's currently a lack of readily available financial literacy information and education targeted to the unique needs of low-income people. Low-income people do not have resources to pay for financial advice and support. They have less room to make mistakes—a lot of us learn by trial and error—and they are required to stretch their dollar further. Let's be clear: this doesn't mean there's a correlation between low income and being financially illiterate. Actually, there's evidence that is starting to show the opposite.
The third principle is that supporting community organizations to provide financial literacy will be vital to achieving scale and sustainability. Most of the innovative work that's happening out of the financial literacy realm is currently coming out of community organizations. They were the first to identify this as being a problem and have been responding actively ever since. The infrastructure of community organizations across the country is a unique Canadian asset that should be nurtured to help bring financial literacy to all Canadians, specifically those with low income.
In partnership with FCAC and other community partners that are here today, SEDI has started, in the absence of a financial literacy leader, to make some headway on some of the task force recommendations. I'll give you an update on a few achievements that we've been working on.
First, the task force recommends that the Government of Canada as well as the provincial and territorial governments invest in the capacity of the voluntary sector to offer financial literacy information, learning, and guidance to Canadians. This is at the heart of what we do at the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy, to provide this education and support. The challenge is that most agencies are doing this off the corner of their desk right now. The Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy has not been able to meet the demand across the country because of resources as well.
There has also been an ask for incorporating financial literacy into the settlement of newcomers. Over the last three years, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has sponsored SEDI and the Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy to run the financial literacy for newcomers project, where we've been piloting and creating specific content for newcomers. We have a proposal in right now to expand this to all newcomer agencies across the country.
We're working with first nations communities right now across the country. We're creating tools and resources around evaluation so that community organizations can start measuring the impact of what works and what doesn't.
Finally, I just want to talk about why we think FCAC is a good home for the financial literacy leader. In 2002 we concluded that financial literacy was a basic skill that all Canadians required, and we approached the FCAC about collaborating on developing a national strategy for Canada. The partnership produced relevant research and two major national and international financial literacy events in 2005 and 2008.
In our task force submission we stated that we would support the leader being part of an existing government agency or being a new agency. There are pros and cons for both approaches. We made it clear that we would support the decision of the government, but in our opinion, FCAC makes sense for the home of the leader. FCAC has a mandate for financial literacy and has been collaborating with all sectors towards the common goal of improving financial literacy of Canadians. They are passionate, knowledgeable, and credible on the topic. They are also well placed to bring the right stakeholders to the table to hash out a strategy that involves other government departments, different levels of governments, and private sector and community representatives. This will be key for a national strategy.
In my closing statement I just want to leave you with a few things to chew on. I encourage you all to think about financial literacy more broadly and with a sense of urgency. Financial literacy is not just about budgeting or knowing what interest you have on your credit card. It's about providing Canadians with an opportunity to access good financial information, education, and supports in a timely way throughout life's course. It's a complement to regulation and consumer protection. They are not at odds.
Building financial literacy in schools makes sense, but the message needs to be reinforced throughout life's course, at key moments in people's lives—when they need to make important decisions. We are currently building a body of evidence that shows financial literacy can help support other important social policies, such as helping newcomers settle, helping new Canadians successfully navigate important life transitions, helping low-income families access appropriate benefits, and helping low-income families improve their housing situation.
Let's be clear, financial literacy is not going to give a newcomer a job. It's not going to pay for a kid's education. On its own, it's not going to help a youth successfully transition into adulthood. It's not a silver bullet. It's not going to ensure the prosperity of our economy or end poverty. But it's difficult to imagine how we will achieve a strong economy and reduce poverty without the availability of appropriate financial information, education, and supports.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for your presentations. I believe all of us here at the committee tip our hats to the great work you're doing to support individuals with learning more about finances and financial literacy and everything that goes along with that.
In relation to Bill and the financial literacy leader, we have some concerns with the bill.
Mr. Rabbior, you talked about the importance of leadership. Those are some of the things that we're talking about as well and some of the concerns we have. Of course, we supported the motion that was presented earlier by our chair in the House because we think the task force on financial literacy is making the right recommendations.
There were 30 recommendations. The first one was to appoint the financial literacy leader. The second one was the advisory council. The third one, and so on—all great recommendations. What we see here in Bill is only one, with no guidelines or framework as to what we should be looking at when it comes to creating a leader to support all of the great work that you're doing and the great work across the country.
Is that similar to some of the things you were saying about the importance of leadership, about making sure that there's just not an easy answer, and that you can seek out those answers from an advisory council?
I did a presentation last week for a group of young people, and I had to inform them that right now more than $600 billion in debt will be transferred to them unless this current generation does something about it.
I think the whole notion is that the group you're talking about, the group in their 50s and 60s, the sandwich generation, is increasingly stressed They're having to care for parents who are outliving their good health, and are having to be stretched to take care of them at the same time as they're paying higher costs to get their kids through school.
If you look at that generation, the demands upon them are extraordinary. People did a horrible job of creating appropriate expectations for this generation. We were supposed to be working three days a week. We were supposed to be retiring at 50. What has happened is that all their expectations and hopes have been confounded, and yet they have still tried to obtain them. They have sought ways, through debt, to live in houses they couldn't afford, to borrow to put kids in schools they couldn't really afford, and beyond it, because that was the way it was supposed to be. Now they've caught themselves not well prepared for retirement, having to care for their parents and having kids come back to live at home.
If you want to look at one generation that is really anxiety-prone and stretched, it's that generation that you've identified. And sure, government has the same kinds of challenges. How will it attend to the needs of this generation, which are exploding at the same time as the level of indebtedness is handicapping what it can do?
Good afternoon to all the witnesses. Thank you for being here. Thank you for the work you do.
We've had a couple of discussions about financial literacy in different forums. We, of course, supported the task force and its 30 recommendations. The chair of this committee, Mr. Rajotte, had a motion on financial literacy that we were supportive of.
We've been critical of this bill because it took the first recommendation about creating the financial literacy leader but didn't bring any of the other recommendations from the task force report. The FCAC does terrific work and award-winning work, including work on financial literacy, but our concern is that this leader will be there, as my colleague said earlier, without terms of reference and without a very clear mandate. With that kind of openness, perhaps you're able to achieve things and perhaps not.
The statement was made earlier that we should enshrine the leader in law. We do support that, but we're wondering whether you also agree that another recommendation, which was to enshrine the advisory council in law, would be a good step as well, to make sure that those of you who are experts in the field of financial literacy are there to guide and provide ongoing support for the leader when he or she is in place.
That's for any one of you.
I thank the witnesses for attending today.
I have to tell you that I have a special affinity for Junior Achievement. I actually taught in Fort McMurray for five years. I found it a very rewarding experience—and at different levels. I had one class that was made up of disadvantaged youths who for the most part were aboriginal, and I found it very rewarding to speak on their level and to educate them. To be honest, I found them to be much more practical in some aspects. I want to applaud you and your group. You do great work all across this country.
I'm interested in what our progress has been thus far as a government. I think you would agree with me that so far, in relation to our main goal, the financial literacy task force report and the consultation process have been good. Would you agree with me?
Unfortunately, the mikes can't hear you nod.
Mr. Brian Jean: Yes? Thank you.
The other issue, of course, is that financial literacy is probably the most important thing that we as a government could train people on in Canada—to take care of their own finances. Would that also be true?
Mr. Stephen Ashworth: Yes.
Mr. Brian Jean: As well, it's probably something that has the most repercussions on them and their personal lives if the government gets it wrong.
Mr. Stephen Ashworth: Yes.
Mr. Brian Jean: Absolutely, and I agree. And this is not to say that governments ever make mistakes, but certainly it's important that the government gets it right, does proper consultation, and comes out with a step-by-step procedure to make sure not only that it's the right procedure but that Canadians understand it and have the ability to have due process in it. Would that be fair?
It's all free and open. We're a national organization, and we're....
I'll give you one example, because it started with Manitoba. We do all the work for Manitoba. Manitoba has all the final say. We work with a stakeholders group to determine what's going to be integrated into the curriculum. We work with the curriculum people to determine where it's going to be integrated. We develop the lesson plan material for them to use for integration. We do the teacher training for them to implement it in the schools. We do that all in collaboration with Manitoba. We're doing it now with Saskatchewan. We're just about to sign an agreement with Alberta.
The provinces don't have expertise in this area. They welcome us as a national organization, bringing that expertise and our contacts with other organizations, because we bring all those resources to bear. Working in collaboration with organizations like ours, I think the federal government would find the provinces very open to how they could assist the provinces to do this in a better way.
One of the areas in which I can foresee it happening is that the schools are starved for capital equipment in terms of the new technologies that are needed to bring the new learning methodologies into the schools. They can't afford it, and we see them suffering for it. The things we can do for the schools, if they have the capital equipment in place for us to be able to put it into each classroom, are phenomenal.
I think if there were a deal between the federal government and the provinces for how we could put a laptop and an LCD projector into every classroom, so that from the Internet we could deliver teaching lessons into those classrooms by the best of the best that we have, you could transform things.
I think there's extraordinary opportunity, and I think the provinces are willing.
Gentlemen, I want to thank you once again for appearing today.
In this case, the lack of depth is one of the reasons we are somewhat reluctant with respect to this bill. Ms. Nash also discussed that. The Canadian Bar Association, in its letter dated September 14 regarding Bill , says the following: “It is not clear whether the Financial Literacy Leader is intended to fulfill the role of the national leader recommended in the Financial Literacy Task Force Report.”
The Minister of State Finance was also asked some questions about the recommendations made by the task force, on the one hand, and about the bill's content, on the other hand. What came to light was that the leader had the possibility or the option to follow those recommendations, but that was not really set out in writing.
In addition, the Canadian Bar Association pointed out that the bill is not specific enough. It said the following: “[...] it is difficult to see how the activities of the Financial Literacy Leader could be evaluated. Too much generality can lead to unfocussed activity.”
I am sure you have read the second recommendation, which talks about an advisory council that would make a broader approach possible.
I think you said, Mr. Rabbior, that this report has been available for a long time. It has taken a long time for us to get to the first stage. We have indicated our willingness by strongly supporting the motion moved by Mr. Rajotte, as we feel that this is very important in terms of financial literacy. What we want is an applicable system that would work quickly to really tackle the problem.
Could you tell us about how the leader's role could be judged or evaluated? What would be the way to do so? Was the second recommendation a good one in terms of that? Do you want me to read the recommendation?
And sometimes it happens before that. I think it's obvious that we need to get into the public schools to make sure that the students are prepared for that eventuality—the bank coming after them to try to get them into the credit card system.
If we do need to get into the public school system, of course, the role of the financial literacy leader will be to work with the provinces and try to make sure we implement some sort of curriculum.
In my background as a principal, I've implemented lots of curricula, and it goes back to what you were saying, Mr. Rabbior. I've implemented curricula to make friends, cooperate, read, write, type and text, dress appropriately, eat healthy, exercise, think critically; to learn basic math, history, geography, a second language, or English; and to learn about public speaking, self-esteem, self-discipline, cooperative learning, music appreciation, not bullying, valuing other's opinions, avoiding gangs and crime, caring for the environment, and becoming religiously tolerant.
The education system is inundated by all kinds of different groups trying to throw curriculum in and to jam curriculum in. It's probably one of the reasons that in Ontario you don't know what, where, or when.
In order for this to work—and I do believe it's very important—it's going to have to become a priority. I think that's a role for this leader.
As a principal, to cut through that, I said to my staff at the elementary level, “I want you to focus on one thing. If you do one thing, make sure we make our students literate.” I was talking, of course, about the ability to read, primarily, because if you have the ability to read, you can teach yourself anything else at any given time. I believe that the ability to read is the newest human right. I really do believe that.
It goes back to what you were saying, Mr. Rogers. You talked about the target of this primarily being our newcomers, our first nations communities, our youth in care, and our low-income people. All of those groups have a lack of literacy to begin with. If they don't have the ability to read, it's going to be very hard for them to pick up financial literacy later on.
If I were going back to being a principal now, after becoming a member of Parliament and going through the recession we went through and seeing the difficulties people are having with their finances, I think I would tell my teachers to focus not only on becoming literate and being able to read but also on becoming financially literate. I think I would make that a priority in my school, cutting through all those other things.
But it's going to be a difficult thing to implement in schools, in curriculum, because of all the things it's competing with. It's going to take a driving force.
Do you think a role for this leader would be to become that driving force across the nation to work with the provinces to make this a priority for curriculum implementation? I'm going to start with Mr. Rabbior and move down.
Welcome to all the witnesses.
I'm going to do two things. I'm going to read a couple of things to you, and then I'm going to ask you for your opinion on what I've read.
First of all, I'm going to read out the first recommendation of the task force report, in its entirety. I want you to pay close attention to the words, because then I'm going to read out something that Mr. Thibeault and Ms. Nash wrote recently in The Hill Times about their interpretation of this bill. I'm going to ask you, given that this bill focuses on recommendation number one, do you agree with the statement made by the NDP about the bill? So listen to both, and then you give me your opinion.
This is the first recommendation:
The Task Force recommends that the Government of Canada appoint an individual, directly accountable to the Minister of Finance, to serve as dedicated national leader. This Financial Literacy Leader should have the mandate to work collaboratively with stakeholders to oversee the National Strategy, implement the recommendations and champion financial literacy on behalf of all Canadians
Here's what was said by Ms. Nash and Mr. Thibeault, as written:
Bill C-28 excluded these very important recommendations
—following number one—
and only created the financial literacy leader position, making C-28 more of an expensive job posting, rather than a bill addressing the need for in-depth financial literacy. Without these key recommendations, the financial literacy leader could become nothing more than a cheerleader for new financial products that benefit the banks, not Canadians.
I don't see how that has anything to do with Bill C-28 or that first recommendation. Do you see it?
An hon. member: Welcome to politics.
Voices: Oh, oh!
We're almost at five o'clock and we have to go to future business. As the chair, I just wanted to follow up on a couple of things, if I could.
First of all, Mr. Fair, I think it was you who really pointed out the fact that you have different groups and you have to approach them differently.
I think all of you have touched upon that, whether it's school children, aboriginal communities, new Canadians, or adults.
I'll tell you a little story. In a school in Windsor, I was visiting teachers and students who did a fantastic financial literacy program, especially in terms of money management. At the end of it, this little girl comes up to me and says: “I've really enjoyed it. I've learned so much about financial literacy. One thing I've learned is that my mom and dad don't manage their money well at all.”
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: She said to me, “So, Mr. Rajotte, how do I educate my mom and dad to manage their money better?” It really struck me.
Mr. Rogers, your organization does a lot of work with adults, which shows that it's very different in terms of how you actually approach this issue. But I do want to address a point, because one reason for this bill is that there are a lot of excellent organizations doing outstanding work, but there's an awful lot of overlap. If you have this overlap, what would be your advice to the financial literacy leader in terms of, say, three or four organizations doing work with adult financial literacy? Do you allow them so that you have some options, or do you actually sit them in the same room together and ask if we can come up with one standard curriculum, one standard practice, and one best format?
Maybe we'll have Mr. Fair and Mr. Rogers start on that.