The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to rise again to complete my response to the NDP motion being debated here today regarding ATM fees.
Our government has a solid record on introducing measures to protect consumers, but our job is not done. Perhaps the NDP missed our government's recent Speech from the Throne. If the NDP members had paid attention, they would have noticed a number of commitments by our government to further enhance affordability for Canadians.
These include ending pay-to-pay policies, so customers will not have to pay extra to receive paper bills; expanding no-cost basic banking services; working with the provinces and territories to crack down on predatory payday lenders by supporting ongoing efforts to make consumer protection regimes more robust; empowering consumers by requiring disclosure of the cost of different payment methods; and taking further action to end geographic price discrimination against Canadians.
Clearly it is this Conservative government that puts consumers first. While we are the ones who are actually finding solutions to the issues facing consumers, all the NDP can do is oppose measures that are actually helping consumers.
For once, it would be refreshing to see the NDP actually support consumers by standing up and voting for our consumer protection measures. That is why I find it somewhat ironic that the NDP is so concerned about what is in the budget. History has proven that all they end up doing is voting against it anyway. They continually vote against our positive economic measures to support job creation and economic growth, measures that have made Canada the second-best country in the world in which to do business, according to Bloomberg. Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio and the best employment record in the G7, thanks to solid policies.
The New Democrats are not fooling anyone. We know that all they want to do is engage in reckless spending and impose higher taxes on Canadians. Not only would they impose a $20 billion carbon tax that would raise the price of everything, but the leader of the NDP is determined to impose new taxes on job-creating businesses. How will this help consumers?
If New Democrats were actually concerned about consumers, they would not be advocating for higher taxes that would make life less affordable and cost Canadians their jobs.
Thankfully, our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians: helping to create jobs and supporting economic growth. That is why economic action plan 2014 will help grow Canada's economy and create jobs, while keeping taxes low and returning to balanced budgets.
While New Democrats do not understand the concept of balanced budgets, they should know that it was our government's prudent fiscal management that helped Canada weather the 2008 global economic recession better than any other country in the G7.
Balanced budgets keep taxes and interest rates low. They help attract investment and they give us the fiscal room to manoeuvre to ensure sustainable social programs for generations to come. Balanced budgets signal stability, and there can be no real affordability without stability.
Our economic action plan has seen Canada through the worst recession since the Great Depression. Despite this, we cannot become complacent. Economic action plan 2014 is the next chapter in our government's long-term plan to strengthen the Canadian economy in an uncertain world and create jobs and growth, while keeping taxes low for families and businesses and balancing the budget in 2015.
Taken together, the measures our government has introduced since 2006 and those in economic action plan 2014 will continue to keep taxes low and help Canadians succeed in the global economy, creating jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to rise today and speak in support of the motion put forward by my colleague from , a hard-working member of Parliament who has travelled right across the country and listened to Canadians as they explained to him the pressures they are feeling in their pocketbooks.
I have been at a number of those meetings, and I have seen how quickly he connects with them. Today the motion specifically deals with capping the fees on ATMs, automated teller machines. We are calling on the government to take action on this immediately.
Before I go on much further, I would like to say that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for , another MP who works incredibly hard to represent his very diverse community.
In the last few minutes of the debate, and even this morning, I have been hearing talk about how the Conservatives are the champions of consumers, asking how dare the NDP vote against some of the measures they read out. However, the Conservative members forget to say that those measures were buried in omnibus budget bills that were thicker than a telephone book for most of the cities around this country. I think it is a little disingenuous to use that particular argument.
Getting back to the capping of these fees, it is a very small measure that would go a long way. We are not really talking about businesses that are struggling to make ends meet. We absolutely recognize that our banking system is secure. It has seen us through the depression years. During that time, we have to remember that the banks were the recipients of some largesse from the government.
However, in 2012, the banks recorded profits totalling $29.4 billion, and yet these same banks are gouging Canadians when they go to take their own money out of their own accounts. There is a way to do this differently. We can look at examples from other countries. Let us look at some international examples.
In Ireland, the central banks actually forbid all ATM usage fees. That is a step in the right direction to protect consumers. In Australia and Finland, cash withdrawals are free for those with ATM cards. Not only those with ATM cards can withdraw money; I know people with VISA cards can.
In the U.K., 97% of cash withdrawals are free, due to public pressure. The Reserve Bank of India has issued a directive to all commercial banks to abolish ATM service fees. Here in Canada, with a banking sector that makes profits in the billions, we have fees being charged that go as high as 39.5% in the private sector and as high as 29.5% in the regulated banking sector. That is gouging. I just do not know how else to explain it.
I also heard the arguments earlier today from one of my colleagues about how people can get special deals with their banks if they negotiate a service fee. Paying those service fees is a huge burden on many Canadians, including many students who maybe cannot afford the ultra-deluxe package that would give them free ATM, only at their own banks. There are many who do not have that privilege. These ATM fees, once again, target those in our communities who are the most vulnerable.
Members have heard me talk about the rising debt that our students leave universities with. We also know that students, once they graduate, are spending longer and longer periods in part-time jobs and are not able to make a sustainable living for a number of years after they have graduated. When these students are in university and college, and even in high school, they do not all have the money to buy cars and run to their own banks, so they are forced to use ATM machines. They do not have a lot of money and are paying these huge fees. Most students cannot afford to take out $500 at a time, so they only pay flat fees that go anywhere from 5% to 29.5%. If they take out $20 and $4 out of that disappears into ATM fees, that is a huge burden.
ATM fees also create a huge burden for those who have middle to low incomes. Not everyone has the ability to get into a car and drive to a bank. For many people, whether single moms or people with low incomes, they rely on going to local corner stores or shopping malls where they can get their money out of ATMs. Once again, they are not going to be drawing hundreds or thousands of dollars. They are going to be withdrawing $20, $40 or $60, and once again, the charge on that is a huge burden. I would like my colleagues across the way to think about that.
Of course, technology has changed. When we look at it, the actual cost to the banks is around 38¢ or 39¢ for that transaction, and yet they are making a huge profit on the people who are taking their own money out of their own accounts. To make that kind of a profit from those who cannot afford it, or even those of us who work very hard to put money in the bank and are struggling to make ends meet, is just not right.
The NDP proposal is fairly straightforward. At 39¢, the banks can still make a little profit. After all, is $29.4 billion not enough? We are saying that it should be made a flat fee of 50¢. In order to be reasonable, we have not said that there should be no fee, which is the case in some countries. We are saying it should be 50¢, which would more than cover the costs and remove the burden from working families.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know about you, but I live in a very diverse riding that is not only culturally diverse but also economically diverse. I deal with local residents all the time and a growing number of seniors are beginning to feel the pinch. Their pensions are just not going as far as they thought they were going to go, and they do not have the extra $4 or $6 to pay the bank. This is money that could be in their pockets to help them buy food and the other necessities they need.
We are talking about a Canada where the individual debt burden is growing. It was a shock to me when I learned that the average family's household debt has nearly doubled in that last 20 years. Canadians now owe, on average, $1,600 for every $1,000 of disposable income, which is huge. That is why, when we address ATM fees, it is one small way of addressing some of the strain that families are feeling when they live payday to payday.
As we know, there are other pressures on families. First, the number of decent-paying jobs in Canada is actually on the decline. There are a growing number of part-time jobs that do not pay a livable wage, so there are more and more families having to work a couple of jobs. There are rising housing costs. I do not know about where you live, Mr. Speaker, but in my riding there are incredibly high costs for housing, never mind the gouging that happens with credit cards. There are all kinds of pressures on families. I urge my colleagues to think about the Canadians I have talked about and for their sakes to support this motion the NDP has put forward.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy today to lend the support of Nickel Belt and my constituents to this opposition day motion that would cap the banks' ATM fees.
First, I want to congratulate my colleague for introducing this motion. His work on behalf of consumers is a reminder of why the good people of Greater Sudbury elected New Democrats in both the Sudbury and Nickel Belt ridings in 2008.
The Sudbury Star editorial last month noted the change in colours in the region from red to orange. The editorial stated:
The NDP influence is gradually sweeping over the city, with [my] taking the federal riding of Nickel Belt, succeeding [a] Liberal...and [my colleague in Sudbury] knocking off [a] long-time Liberal...in 2008. What was once a city of Liberals and New Democrats, is becoming a city of New Democrats and some Liberals.
I believe this happens when people see their MPs actually working for them. They want representation that stands up for northern Ontario, representation that stands up for consumers.
Today we do it again, dealing with this question of how more and more people find life so unaffordable. Affordability is a real issue for Nickel Belt. It is a question for Canadians at the kitchen table as bills pile up. It is a question for Main Street, not Bay Street, something our former late leader, Jack Layton, noticed in 2007 when he went to bat for folks against the banks and these fees. Our current leader has returned from a tour that confirms how big an issue this still is with Canadians.
Let us do the math here. On the one hand, some members over there in government, or down the aisle here, might simply shrug at a couple of dollars here or there in people's budgets. What could be so wrong with throwing a toonie at a bank? Well, the banks' own figures tell us how wrong it is. The estimated real cost of this transaction has been put at 36¢. Charging $2 or $2.50 or more to give people back their money becomes a 600% or 700% profit margin. It is not fair and adds to the nickel and diming of people struggling to get by. We need the banks and credit unions. We need private enterprise. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we also need fairness and limitations on run-away profits when and if, as they often are, they are gained on the backs of people who increasingly find they are taking one step ahead only to fall three steps back.
I want to address this broader question of helping average Canadians deal with these mounting bills so that little is left behind. The Conservatives love to tell Canadians to save, to use their RSP and other investment vehicles. They offer breaks for corporations or those people who are well off. However, they too seldom create opportunities for real savings, when we have to pay these fees to the banks or rising gasoline prices at the pumps. Again, New Democrats offer a sensible solution there, wanting an ombudsman and some reasonable regulation of these gas prices that all magically go up simultaneously from all the companies just before a long weekend.
New Democrats are committed to making life more affordable for Canadians. This motion to cap fees is one such example, and it is finding support across the country. Just seeing all the media attention this weekend and today on the NDP motion reminds me of how popular our campaign is.
On the other hand, the government opposite and its and believe in a trickle-down economy. Generate wealth at the top and the theory says it trickles down to the rest of Canadians. This is utter nonsense. Canadians do not see the wealth in their bank accounts. They do not see the wealth given to their Conservative friends reach them anytime soon. What is trickling down is disdain from most politicians. The Conservatives take care of their own and a handful of people on Bay Street and former cabinet ministers. Their wealth, along with the growing income gap, is a testament to how little actually trickles down. It would take decades for people in the middle class or those living below the poverty level to share in any generation of the wealth meant for a few vested interests.
In truth, the government that prides itself on being a good economic manager blows money hand over fist. The current government is more interested in self-congratulatory billboards and ads for fictitious programs than in helping Canadians.
Susan Delacourt's new book, Shopping For Votes, demonstrates this well, noting that we now have Canada's first marketing prime minister. As we know, there has been an avalanche of ads trumpeting supposed achievements that are not there. We have recently learned about the government spending $2.5 million to plug a job action program that does not exist. We learned that the government, with its sorry record on actually helping soldiers and vets, now has officials looking for vets who have good news stories on what the government has done. Good luck on that one. One would think that with the and all the bad news that the government would use the time of civil servants to fix the problems.
The government passed reasonable regulations that protected Canadian banks during the financial crisis. The problem is that it refused to do anything to protect Canadian consumers.
Today, the big banks are making record profits. Last year, they made $29.4 billion. There is no reason banks should be allowed to keep exploiting consumers by charging unfair fees. That simply does not make sense. Low-income Canadians do not deserve to be punished because the banks close branches in their neighbourhoods.
Hearing about the motion to cap bank ATM fees, one gentleman named Andy told me this on social media:
Any type of fees from the banks are outrageous. They profit in the billions and all we get in return for interest is nickels and dimes. The matter was brought up by the NDP and [all the Prime Minister] said was “instead, focus on the economy”. With an answer like that, he wants the banks to get richer, and we get poorer.
It is time for the government to stop the fiction on the great job plans and actually focus on the real economy.
In more competitive banking markets, like the United Kingdom, ATM fees are very small or have been waived. Ireland has no fees. Other European countries regulate them. However, in Canada, in less competitive markets, Canadians can be charged $2 or $3 to access their own money. These fees are a double whammy for low-income Canadians and many people in my large and partly rural districts.
Canadians are punished as bank branches are closed down in their neighbourhoods. There are fewer banks and fewer bank branches, forcing them to use ATMs and pay those fees. One would think that with more and more ATMs, this might have led to some competition and lower fees. However, prices have increased. The nickel and diming of Canadians, with $2 and $3 fees, adds up in this weak economy. Incomes of middle-class Canadians are simply not growing. The cost of living goes up each year, but income for a typical Canadian family has fallen by 7% in the last 35 years.
Listening to the Conservative finance minister in 2007, one would think there would have been some action on these fees. In 2007, in response to the NDP campaign to ban ATM fees, the told the House of Commons finance committee, “We agreed that the banks ought to do something in terms of consumers with respect to ATM [fees]”. However, the government has done nothing and the banks continue on their merry way.
Our motion, and other measures in the NDP affordability campaign, would help address the alarming concerns about growing household debt. Former Bank of Canada governor, Mark Carney, said that household debt now represents perhaps our greatest and most immediate threat to Canada's economy. Household debt is at a record high of 166% of disposable income, and evidence suggests that consumers may have reached their limit. Canadian household debt now stands near the same level as U.S. household debt just before the financial crisis in 2008. It makes real economic sense to reduce the household debt so we can stimulate the economy in other ways.
Let us help Canadian seniors, people with disabilities, and other people with limited mobility. They too should not face huge fees for using the limited number of ATMs that are accessible to them. I invite the government and all parties today to stand with Canadians who support a cap on ATM fees.
Together, we can put an end to banks ripping off consumers. With this government, we have already put an end to unfair payday lending practices and fees for paper billing. Now we have to do something about excessive bank fees.
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to be here today to speak to the opposition day motion. I want to say nice things about my colleague from . He is concerned and has spoken many times in the House about consumer issues, and I believe he has done a good job representing his party on some of those issues here today.
It does not mean that I have to agree with what the New Democrats have brought forward today. I have not been here all day, but I have heard a number of speeches that have talked about capping, which seems to be around the 50¢ mark. The motion itself reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian consumers face unfair Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fees as a result of an uncompetitive marketplace and that the House call on the government to take action in Budget 2014 to protect consumers by limiting ATM fees.
I want to thank the NDP. I was a member of the finance committee for six years, and I cannot remember New Democrats bringing forward concrete budget ideas. This is one. They have brought forward a budget idea. However, with eight days left before the budget is produced, it is a wee bit late and a little bit thin.
Today's motion is focused on ATM fees, which consumers have to know are charged through chartered banks. They are also charged through what I think are called “white machines”, or private sector companies that are not banks but provide machines in restaurants or bars where they charge money to get one's own money out.
I will congratulate the members. They have an idea for a budget, and I appreciate their focusing on some financial and consumer issues, as the Conservative Party has been focused on consumer issues since we have taken office.
We have done a number of things on a variety of issues, from banks and credit cards, which I will highlight in a few minutes, to the telecom business. We have been trying our darndest to make sure we have a very robust and competitive marketplace. We believe that competition is what will drive prices down and give consumers more choice.
I am a little confused by some of the comments, and I want to make sure it is on the record as to how I understand that an ATM works at a chartered bank. I am a member of chartered bank A. When I go there to take money at any of its branches, I do not get charged for removing my money from the account. However, because of convenience and timing, if I go to a branch of another bank, I would be charged for taking money out of my account. Yesterday, I made a conscious decision, as a consumer, to take $200 out. There was a $2 charge, 1%. I made the decision that the 1% was the amount I was willing to pay to take money out of my account at a different bank so that I could get to my appointment at a more convenient time.
As with the mover of the motion, my town also has a population of 170,000 to 180,000 people. We have a branch at every corner. There is a branch of one type or another virtually everywhere in my community. I can easily access my own brand of bank that I have chosen for my personal accounts, and I pay zero fees. If I had a credit card or a card from a department store, let us say Winners, for example, I have an agreement with Winners and bank A. I do business with that particular bank. I do not do business with other banks in my area. I cannot use my Winners card if I go to Fortinos, which is my grocery store. The store does not allow it to be used there.
We are very lucky in this country that we are able to access our money from different banks and different machines. We have a world-renowned banking system. During the recession, other countries, even our neighbours, had difficulties with their banking systems. Canada's banking system has been ranked number one, and part of the reason is the relationship our banks have with each other and other financial institutions. They are able to share information. They can tell each other that someone has x dollars in an account with bank A. Bank B will accept a bank A card and bank B will allow money to be taken out. There is a small fee.
I agree that consumers have to make a conscious choice. Do I spend that 1%? If I only want to take $20 out, it would be 10%, and I would think that was way too high. I would walk across the road and go to a branch of my bank and pay no fee. I make the choice as the consumer.
We on this side of the House believe that we need to provide the infrastructure and the system. We need to provide business with the ability to do business. We need to provide consumers with the ability to make choices. All we are dealing with today is the ATM.
We need to be able to make choices. I can give the House some examples of how we recognize that.
I was never a fan of reverse billing. People would not be forewarned that their contracts were up. A company would automatically re-bill people without asking if people wanted to continue with the contract. We outlawed that. We changed the law so that consumers had a choice. Individual Canadians, looking at their needs, could make the choice. We changed the law so that the company could not make it for them. Canadians had to decide whether they wanted to continue to do business with that company or go somewhere else.
That is a concrete example of us taking action on behalf of consumers, which was the appropriate approach for us to take.
We have, without having to regulate, made some changes to the banking system. The white label ATMs are in a different bailiwick altogether. The motion before us today deals with banking institutions that have ATMs.
We have indicated to the banks that people need a cooling off period when they use credit cards from a bank. We have introduced a 21-day cooling off period. Why? We did that to protect the consumer. It was not to protect the bank or the credit card company.
We have indicated to the banking industry that we do not think it has done a quality job when looking at its customer base in terms of students and seniors and making sure that they have access.
I have two daughters in university. Access to their bank machine is a big deal to them. Access to a bank machine on their campus made a difference with respect to which bank they would deal with. They made the choice of which bank to choose.
The motion says that it is “uncompetitive”. I have to differ with that opinion. There is choice for consumers. Do we have thousands of banks in Canada? No. We have five big banks, seven other banks that are close, and a number of credit unions. We do have choice.
The other thing we have is considerable confidence in our banks and banking system. The bank will be there tomorrow. Our money is safe in that bank, and we can rely on access to our funds, which does not happen, including in this past year, in some banking systems around the world. All of a sudden, a bank was closing up and people were lined up trying to get their money out. That has never happened in Canada, not in my lifetime. I am not sure what happened during the Depression, to be frank, but in terms of the modern banking system we have now, we do not have those concerns, which is an important piece.
The opposition says in its motion that it is uncompetitive. We on this side of the House encourage competition, particularly in the banking system, as we do in other areas. That is one reason we have looked at trying to open up the market to an approved national credit union system.
At present, the credit unions are under provincial jurisdiction. We have offered to make some changes. I continue to talk to the lobbyists groups with the credit unions to see if they are taking up the cause. There are a few that are big enough to branch out across the country to provide further competition. I am not saying that there cannot be more competition, but I would not phrase the present situation as uncompetitive. However, we are doing some things in this area.
My wife works for Easter Seals, which helps physically disabled children in the province of Ontario. She has indicated to me in the past that there are some important services in the banking area that could help physically disabled people. I know that we on this side have indicated to the banking system that it needs to improve in that area. It needs to make it much more accessible for those who are disabled. That number, unfortunately, is not going to go down, as we have an aging population, including me. There are going to be more people with physical needs accessing these branches and ATMs.
I have heard today that branches and ATMs are closing and that the service is not quite there. It was not that long ago that I was a bank employee. I lasted six whole weeks with the bank. I did not really like it, and so I left. The branch I was in opened at 10 a.m. and closed at 4:30 p.m., and it was not open on Saturdays or Sundays. It was a main branch in a major city in Ontario.
Things have changed, and we have improved access. There is access now through the Internet, which all the banks have for paying bills. I have not paid a bill by mail or at a teller in probably five or six years. I pay everything online out of my account.
In terms of access, the banks are working on it. We need to keep pressuring the banks on that, but I have no issue with it.
There are other things we have done to protect consumers in this realm. For example, the bank used to send me a cheque with my credit card bill. I could use the cheque, and it would go against my credit card. We have ended that practice. We understand that there have been issues. The has been clear that there have been issues.
The other thing that is very important is to make sure that these issues are brought to our attention by our constituents. We also need to put pressure on the banks and the financial system to improve their customer service and to provide more transparency and information.
There needs to be an understanding of financial literacy. There needs to be an understanding by all of us, including me, of financial literacy so that I understand that when I go to bank B and use my card, it will charge me extra, but if I go to my own bank, they will not. Those kinds of issues need to be taught.
I know it is hard to believe, but as I said, I have one daughter in university. At her school, the one area that has been excellent is that it has a required course on financial literacy. They are university kids. They are managing lots of money, paying their bills, and financing their education. It is an important piece. I think it should be done at a younger age so that people do not get into bad financial habits and go to those white machines to get cash and pay well over $2 or $1.50, just because they are convenient. People have to think about what their financial goals are and how they can manage their money more effectively.
I am working on putting on a financial literacy seminar in my riding. I am finding it a little more difficult than I anticipated to attract people to come to that seminar, but we are working on it, because it is terribly important to make sure that we do.
One other area, particularly with young people in a household, is unsolicited credit cards. We have ended that practice. Nothing drove me crazier than when a bank or a credit card company sent a card to people's houses and said that they had been pre-qualified for an x limit, without actually asking for one iota of information about people. That was, in my view, a formula for disaster for those who were not able to understand what they were signing up for. Our side, looking out for consumers, decided that it was not an appropriate program, and we ended it.
Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the motion before the House moved by the NDP. I would also like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
This motion does not promise anyone the moon. What it does is put forward extremely concrete and practical measures that could make a difference in the everyday lives of average Canadians. As I see it, this is what sets the NDP apart a little. We are mindful of the impact that we can have on people’s day-to-day lives. The NDP is constantly looking at what it can do to improve people’s lives and put forward concrete solutions.
The subject of today’s debate is ATM fees. ATM fees have been around since 1996. Since they were first introduced, they have continued to increase at a relatively rapid pace. Moreover, these fees are not regulated. This is something the federal government could do. However, it has deliberately chosen not to act on this matter. That is its choice. This is what this opposition motion aims to demonstrate today.
The NDP is proposing with this motion to bring in regulations to protect consumers from abusive, unregulated fees charged to them. These fees continue to rise daily. It is a well-known fact that banks do not necessarily need all of this revenue to survive. They continue to post ever-growing record profits. The fees charged to consumers who use ATMs add up. Various fees can total from $2 to $6 per transaction. Allow me to elaborate further.
On the one hand, banks charge fees for regular accounts. Institutions charge a fee when a customer withdraws funds, regardless of the ATM used. Often, these fees are rolled into the monthly banking fees charged by the institution. A fee is also charged to access the network. By that I mean the banking institution charges the consumer a fee specifically when money is withdrawn from an ATM that does not belong to that particular institution. These are fees over and above those I mentioned earlier. In addition, we have convenience fees, network fees and fees charged by ATM operators to non-clients.
Clearly, this adds up. Once again, people have to pay to access their own money. Is this necessary? From the beginning, my colleagues have been arguing that without this system, people would not have services or would lose the ability to withdraw money from ATMs whenever they want. Those are the arguments the Conservative Party often uses. The banks are saying they have to charge extra or make cuts and that we have no choice. On the contrary, we do have a choice.
In other countries, in many European countries for example, there are no fees for withdrawing money from ATMs. In the United Kingdom, 97% of withdrawals are free. Why? The public had had enough. They decided to lobby the government on this and regulations were put in place.
Is our country exactly the same? No, of course not. However, what I can say is that it is not so far-fetched to propose that this be regulated. Of course doing so requires a study and consultations. What we are proposing with this motion is to work on a similar concept and come up with a concrete measure that is suited to our country and our situation.
Over the past few weeks, I have talked to people in my riding about the cost of living in general and about certain concrete measures that the NDP and I are proposing in order to protect consumers and improve the cost of living. Among other measures, I was talking about ATM fees.
I think it is always important to speak on behalf of the people of Pierrefonds—Dollard in the House, in this Parliament. I would like to share with the House some of the comments people have shared with me. They are very interesting and relevant to this debate.
One woman said to me:
The cost of living keeps going up. I am not sure who is responsible for that.
Maybe a change will make a difference.
These are people who do not know where to turn to any more because they are promised the moon, but they have not seen any change from year to year despite the elections and all the election promises. The cost of living keeps going up. That woman said she would accept any change if it produced concrete results.
Another person wrote to me about the cost of living. That person said:
I do really support your efforts and sentiments, indeed the cost of living has gone up. I urge and encourage you to push forward hoping that a meaningful change will be forthcoming.
This is another example of someone saying that the cost of living is going up, that something must be done and that meaningful changes must be made.
In fact, over the past 35 years, the Canadian economy has grown. We can be proud of this, but the incomes of middle-class Canadians have not kept up with economic growth. The cost of living has increased, but the incomes of typical Canadian families have dropped by 7% over the past 35 years. Middle-class families are feeling the pressure, and household debt has reached record levels.
There is no silver bullet. I am not saying that this motion, with a wave of a magic wand, will do away with household debt and the concerns of Canadian families, but there are things that can be done, tangible measures that, one at a time, will ultimately provide some relief for Canadian families in terms of their household debt and for the middle class in general.
It is the people in my riding who want to see these changes. These changes are possible if we work together.
Here is another comment from a woman who is discussing the cost of living, and it brings us to other matters. Perhaps her comment can give the House some ideas about other ways of making life more affordable for middle-class Canadians:
I am a pensioner since I was 60 years old and now soon 70 years old. My Quebec pension and OAS is inadequate for me to survive.
This senior citizen is asking us to do something because she cannot go on, because she is drowning and because the income she receives is not enough for her to live decently.
This is a good example of other things that can be done. They will not necessarily be implemented with today’s motion, but the NDP has fought to keep the age of entitlement to old age security at 65, in order to increase retirement income. Improving the Canada Pension Plan and provincial pension plans is another measure that can be taken to make life more affordable for people and help them make ends meet.
Here is a comment that comes from a mother:
The middle class is being killed by the cost of living. Gasoline is outrageously expensive and continues to be. I am raising my daughter, single mom, and my budget can barely be met. Food costs more now, too. Help us out. Roll back the cost of gas and cap it.
Her statement suggests real solutions, but it is also a passionate appeal from a single mother who wants to give her daughter a decent, affordable life.
It is not easy to implement those kinds of measures on gas prices. It is very difficult, but the NDP has other suggestions to bring a little more transparency and regulatory clarity to gas prices.
It is possible to do so. Canadians are fed up with having a government that is not on their side. Of course, all of the businesses that have a great deal of power and great deal of money will threaten parliamentarians by telling them that, if such measures are taken, businesses will have to cut jobs and reduce services, but ultimately, it is possible. The only thing we need is a little bit of political will from the people’s representatives. This is why we are here, to take a courageous stand and set limits so that ordinary Canadians no longer have to shell out to institutions that make billions of dollars year after year, without any kind of regulation.
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud today to once again defend my constituents who are fed up with seeing their purchasing power disappear like melting snow while the government stands idly by and does nothing.
The people of are fed up with having to pay all kinds of ridiculous fees at a time when household debt in Canada is increasing at an alarming rate while salaries are stagnating or shrinking.
The fees charged by the major banks and white label ATM owners are part of the price Canadian families pay simply to access their money. This situation is patently unacceptable. For that reason I rise today to support the motion by my colleague from .
Among other things, this motion calls on the government to take action in budget 2014 to protect consumers by limiting ATM fees. Canadian consumers face unfair ATM fees because of an uncompetitive marketplace.
In order to fully understand the issue before the House today, it is important to review certain facts and look at where matters stand in other OECD countries.
ATM surcharging is not regulated in Canada. ATMs come under federal jurisdiction, whereas white label ATMs fall under provincial jurisdiction.
The ban on ATM surcharging was lifted 18 years ago, further to a ruling by Canada’s Competition Bureau. The lifting of the ban opened the door to abusive practices on the part of the banks, which have regularly increased ATM withdrawal fees.
Furthermore, in 2000, many banks began charging convenience fees to their depositors who use another institution’s ATM or a white label ATM, over and above the Interac fees charged. According to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, ATM withdrawal fees currently range from zero to $5.90 per transaction.
Three different types of fees are charged to consumers who only want access to their own money on deposit with a financial institution. There are standard fees charged by banks to consumers for withdrawing funds from any bank. These fees are often included in the overall services provided by the consumer’s banking institution.
In addition, the consumer’s bank charges a network access fee when its depositors withdraw money from a non-bank-owned ATM. These fees are over and above standard bank account fees.
Finally, white label ATM owners as well as financial institutions charge “non-depositors” convenience or network fees for using their ATMs. These convenience fees are in addition to the network access fees and standard bank account fees.
An ATM user is considered a non-client when he or she uses a debit card from a different financial institution.
To look at a very concrete example, we could say that a client who withdraws $20 from an ATM belonging to another bank, because his own financial institution has no machine in a given area, may be charged between $1 and $5.90 to make a single withdrawal. This represents a cost of 5% to 29.5% for a single withdrawal.
Clearly, the consumer should not have to pay such a staggering proportion of the amount of his withdrawal to get his money, when it has been shown that the actual cost of a transaction for the financial institution is about 36¢.
These are the same financial institutions that reap billions of dollars in profits every year, while families keep tightening their belts more and more. We are talking about $29.4 billion in profit in 2012, representing a 5% increase over the previous year, despite the weak economy.
Other countries have also seen major changes in the banking sector and their citizens’ consumption patterns over the past few decades. If we look at how these countries have handled the transformation, it seems obvious to me that Canada has plenty of models that could serve as inspiration for establishing a better balance between fair treatment for consumers and profits for the banks.
Indeed, in a number of European countries there are no fees for withdrawals from ATMs. In the United Kingdom, 97% of withdrawals are free of charge, as a result of pressure from the public. The Central Bank of Ireland bans ATM user fees. In Austria and Finland, cash withdrawals are free for any owner of a card for the national network of ATMs.
For their part, the banks contend that caps on ATM user fees lead to a significant reduction in the number of machines they make available to Canadians. However, it should be noted that Canada already has the highest number of automated banking machines per capita in the world.
There are over 60,000 bank machines in Canada and 18,303 of these are bank-owned ABMs. According to the World Bank, Canada has the highest number of ATMs per 100,000 people, that is, 204. The average for OECD countries is 74 ATMs per 100,000 people.
I think that rather than closing ATMs in order to save money to the detriment of people living in rural areas, banks should find a fair balance between profit, physical access to ATMs and appropriate fees imposed on the consumer.
It is the NDP’s opinion that a cap of 50¢ per transaction is a reasonable way of reaching this fair balance, as it will enable the banks to maintain a certain profit level for an activity that of course does cost money, while at the same time giving consumers a bit of space. This is only one in a series of changes that the NDP is proposing. It is a step forward in defending the interests of Canada's middle class.
If the government really meant what it said in its last Speech from the Throne, it would not wait until the next election to give Canadians election-style gifts. It has to act now with the 2014 budget to show Canadian families that it can take meaningful action to ensure they have more cash in their pockets at the end of the month.
Canadians deserve better. They deserve a little breathing room. They deserve a paycheque that covers their needs and allows them to live decently without going into debt. We can take practical measures now to make life more affordable for Canadian families, and that is what the NDP wants to do.
Is the government ready to do that? I hope that we will all vote in favour of this motion to stand up for the interests of the people we are supposed to serve: our constituents.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak on such an important topic. Let me begin by saying that I find it passing strange that the NDP members are trying to label themselves as the party of consumer protection when it has been our Conservative government that has actually taken action to protect Canadian consumers.
What has the NDP done for consumers? The answer is nothing. Unlike the NDP, our government recognizes that financial decisions are some of the most important choices Canadians make. At the same time, we also recognize that financial products are becoming increasingly complex. Our government believes that the cornerstone of any consumer protection framework is one in which there is competition, fees are disclosed, and consumers can exercise choice.
That is why our government has engaged with the banking industry on many occasions on the issue of ATM fees. In fact, we have highlighted that some consumers such as seniors, the disabled, and students may not have access to different banking options. Several banks acknowledged our concerns and responded by expanding ATM access in or near colleges and universities to help students avoid fees, unveiling low-fee accounts for seniors and students and improving access for the disabled.
The NDP may not be aware, but we have an entire federal agency devoted to consumer issues, the Federal Consumer Association of Canada, or FCAC as it is frequently referred to. Through the FCAC, consumers can access information on banking costs such as ATM fees. The FCAC developed innovative tools to help Canadians understand the different types of financial products in the marketplace. For example, in addition to information on ATM fees, the FCAC has resources to help consumers shop for the most suitable credit card, as well as banking packages that most effectively meet their needs. The NDP should know that this objective, reliable, and free resource is available to all Canadians to help them make sense of the everyday financial questions they face.
I would encourage the members opposite to take some time today and visit the FCAC's website. They will see how this service is helping Canadians acquire the skills they need to be informed financial consumers. However, that is not all we are doing to help consumers.
The NDP might be interested to know that in 2010, our government introduced regulations to enhance Canada's consumer protection framework. These regulations protect consumers by requiring clear and timely disclosure of financial information related to credit frauds. Specifically, these regulations mandate an effective minimum 21-day interest free grace period on all credit card purchases when a consumer pays the outstanding balance in full; lower interest rates by mandating allocations of payments in favour of the consumer; allow consumers to keep better track of their personal finances by requiring express consent for credit limit increases; limit debt collection practices at financial institutions used in contacting a consumer to collect on a debt; provide clear information in credit contracts and application forms through a summary box that sets out key features such as interest rates and fees; help consumers manage their credit card obligations by providing information on the time it would take to fully repay the balance if only the minimum payment is made every month; and mandate advance disclosure of interest rate increases prior to their taking effect, even if this information has been included in the credit contract.
In addition, these regulations require that any disclosure by financial institutions be in plain language and presented in a manner that is clear, simple, and not misleading. However, for a reason known only to themselves, the NDP members did not think that clear and transparent disclosure is important for Canadian consumers. That is right: the NDP voted against each and every one of these measures.
I find it the height of hypocrisy for the NDP to stand here today and pretend to be on the side of consumers. What party that claims to defend the interests of consumers votes against increased transparency and disclosure on credit products? Apparently the NDP does.
Not to worry, we will not be discouraged by the NDP. Our Conservative government continues to introduce measures to protect consumers. For example, in action plan 2010 our government committed to bring greater clarity to the calculation of mortgage prepayment penalties. However, in typical NDP fashion, it voted against this as well. Clearly the NDP does not want Canadians to have important information at their disposal when they want to purchase their home, possibly the most important financial decision a family will ever make.
Now let us take a close look at what NDP members have voted against.
They voted against providing families an explanation of the differences between mortgage products and the prepayment privileges that they can use to pay off their mortgages faster without having a prepayment charge. They voted against providing families with an explanation of how prepayment charges are calculated and a description of the factors that could cause prepayment charges to change over time. They voted against requiring banks to provide clear disclosure on the amounts families must pay to the lender if they prepay their mortgage and on how the amounts are calculated. They also voted against allowing the borrower the opportunity to speak with a staff member who is knowledgeable about mortgage prepayments.
I have asked this question already, but I have to ask it again. How can NDP members pretend to be on the side of consumers when they opposed our government's action to provide Canadian families with clear information before making the most important financial decision of their lives?
Thankfully, our Conservative government understands the importance of having this kind of information available, and others agree. Here is what the Canadian Bankers Association had to say:
With the new Code, every year bank customers will receive information that will help them better understand mortgage prepayment charges and how they are calculated if they want to pay their mortgage off early. The Code also builds on the advice that banks have always provided to make sure the customer is making an informed decision.
Thanks to this code, a young family can make the decision to buy a first home with confidence. Now that is what I call real action for consumers.
Unfortunately, there are still more examples of our government's consumer protection measures that the NDP voted against.
As part of economic action plan 2011, our Conservative government built on our strong record of consumer protection by introducing even more measures that benefit consumers. The NDP may not realize this, but a number of credit card issuers offer what is referred to as “credit card cheques”. These credit card cheques allow funds to be withdrawn directly from a credit card and are considered to be cash advances, which can accrue higher interest rates and fees and do not allow for an interest-free grace period. To ensure that consumers were not taken advantage of by these products, our government banned the unsolicited use of these credit card cheques.
Clearly, if NDP members really cared about protecting consumers from high interest rate products, they would have voted to ban this practice with us. Rather, they voted against restricting the use of these products. However that is not all they opposed; there is more.
In recent years, many Canadians have come to rely on the use of prepaid payment products, commonly referred to as “prepaid credit cards” for their daily purchases. Our Conservative government believes it is important that, when Canadians use these products, they understand what fees and conditions apply. By having this information, they can make informed financial decisions. In many cases, there were fees associated with prepaid credit cards that were not entirely clear to consumers. Thanks to our Conservative government, new regulations were introduced to ensure consumers are informed on fees and requirements related to prepaid credit cards.
For example, our government's regulations require that fees be disclosed to consumers in an information box displayed prominently on the product's exterior packaging. Furthermore, they require that other information associated with these products is provided in a manner that is clear, simple, and not misleading, prior to the card being issued.
These regulations also limit certain business practices that could be harmful to consumers. For example, they prohibit the amount on the card from expiring and they prohibit any maintenance fees for at least one year after activation.
These regulations will ensure that Canadians get the full value of their hard-earned dollars when using these products. Unfortunately, this is yet another proposal that the NDP did not support. Shamefully, the NDP voted against it in yet another vote against Canadian consumers.
Not only do NDP members continually vote against the interest of consumers, but their love for high taxes clearly shows that they have no desire to save consumers money. If NDP members had their way, they would introduce a $21 billion carbon tax that would raise the price of everything.
Our Conservative government would never do that. In fact, we have been doing the opposite. The fact of the matter is that this government has kept more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadians and their families than any other government.
In fact, since 2006, we have cut taxes over 160 times, reducing the federal tax burden to its lowest level in over 50 years. Overall, our strong record of tax relief has meant that the typical Canadian family will save almost $3,400 in 2014.
We have cut taxes in every way government collects them. This includes personal taxes, consumption taxes, business taxes, excise taxes, and much more. Unfortunately, the NDP has voted against each and every one of these tax cuts.
Let us list off some of the tax cuts that the NDP has voted against. It voted against cutting the lowest personal income tax rate. It voted against increasing the amount Canadians can earn without paying tax. It voted against pension income splitting for seniors. It voted against reducing the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%, which has put over $1,000 back in the pockets of the average family. It voted against the introduction and enhancement of the working income tax benefit. It voted against the tax free savings account, the most important savings vehicle since RRSPs. It voted against increasing the age credit, the pension income credit, and more.
More Canadians and their families are keeping more of their hard-earned money in their pockets because of the low tax agenda of our Conservative government. Furthermore, this tax relief is helping families at all income levels. Our government's low tax plan has helped remove over 1 million low-income Canadians from the tax rolls, including 380,000 seniors. For the NDP to suggest that our government does not stand up for consumers is simply absurd. There can be only one explanation: the NDP must be ashamed of itself for voting against each and every one of these consumer protection measures and against each and every one of our tax cuts.
As I said earlier, the NDP's indifference toward Canadian consumers will not discourage our Conservative government. We will continue to stand up for consumers. We will empower consumers, and we are taking bold steps to do so.
In today's marketplace, financial literacy has become a necessary skill for Canadians. Financial literacy, however, is not just a skill for adults. It has to start at an early age, and it should continue throughout one's life. As technology marches forward, so has its effects on financial services and products. With financial markets innovating constantly, it can be difficult for Canadians to manage the exceedingly complicated financial decisions they need to make. That is why financial literacy is a skill more relevant today than ever before. Clear and concise financial information and increased financial literacy can translate into higher savings levels and decreased indebtedness. It gives consumers the information they need to select the financial products and services that are right for them.
Our government is firmly committed to strengthening financial literacy across the country. Let me be clear: with economic action plan 2009, we created the task force on financial literacy with a mandate to make recommendations for a comprehensive national strategy to strengthen Canadians' financial literacy. It was this report that resulted in our government introducing legislation to create the office of the financial literacy leader. The financial literacy leader will work collaboratively with stakeholders and coordinate their efforts across Canada to contribute to financial literacy initiatives.
It is clear that the NDP does not have the interests of Canadian consumers at heart. While it claims to be an advocate for consumer protection, the fact of the matter is that it has done nothing to help consumers. On the other hand, our Conservative government has, time and time again, stood up and taken action to ensure that consumers are protected and have access to the information they need to make informed financial decisions.
We have no intention of resting on our laurels. Our Conservative government committed in the recent Speech from the Throne to further expand Canada's consumer protection framework. Our government made a commitment to take further action to expand no-cost banking options available to Canadians.
The NDP should stop pretending to advocate for consumer interests. It is clear from its record that it has no interest whatsoever in consumer issues or protecting consumers in any way. If the NDP truly cared about the Canadian consumer, it would have supported the government on the countless consumer measures we have introduced.
It is because of the NDP's hypocrisy on this issue that I will be voting against this motion, and I urge all members of the House to oppose it as well.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time with the member for .
I listened to the member for . That takes some nerve. He gave the House a real million-dollar answer. The member just told us that businesses should make a profit and that the NDP is against that. A business is usually pretty darn happy if it makes a 10%, 15% or even 20% profit. We know what kind of profits stores and other companies make.
That is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the fact that it costs banks 36¢, but they are charging $3 or $4 instead of 50¢. That is not a 10%, 20% or 50% profit. That is a 200% profit. That is a massive profit, and for whom? The banks. Who are the banks? Friends of the Conservatives. These are the same banks that made $22 billion in profits, and the government lowered their taxes.
In the Conservatives' budget that the NDP proudly refused to support, there was $40 billion in tax cuts over five years. The banks were getting tax cuts. They are being given tax cuts after they generated $22 billion in profit and were handing out bonuses. I want the member for to hear this. They handed out $11 billion in bonuses.
The Conservatives are not here to protect the consumer. Banks are not the ones voting for governments. It is the public, consumers, ordinary Canadians, the people who get up every morning and build our country all day long. They work hard. It is the men and women from all classes of society who are forced to give 200% to the banks and financial companies.
Some countries have said that this will no longer happen. For example, in the United Kingdom, 97% of withdrawals are free, as a result of public pressure. That public pressure did not come from the banks. Not from the Conservatives' buddies. It came from the public, the ordinary people who get up every morning, the men and women who work hard for their money.
Now, if someone shows up with cash, they are not even welcome anymore. You need a debit card. Everyone wants that card. The debits are done right away and the store has its money.
The member for said that the reason credit card interest rates are high is that people get themselves in too much debt. Boy, does he have faith in Canadian consumers. Basically, he said they are irresponsible. What he really said was that if interest rates were lower, Canadians would run up unbelievable amounts of debt, but it is actually the opposite. Before, people could go to the bank and get a loan at 6% or 7%. Nowadays, banks are refusing to loan people money and are sending out credit cards with 19% interest rates instead. If people miss a payment, the interest rate goes up to 23%. They are crucifying Canadians. That is what the Conservative government is doing.
The Conservatives say that they are all for protecting consumers. They claim that the NDP says employers and companies should not have the right to make money. That is not what we are saying. We are saying that people have the right to live. People have the right to earn money so they can buy things for their families. That is what we are saying. People have that right, and they have the right not to be ripped off at the ATM. That is what is happening.
What is the NDP's motion? It is not an extraordinary motion. It simply says:
That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian consumers face unfair Automated Teller Machine (ATM) fees as a result of an uncompetitive marketplace and that the House call on the government to take action in Budget 2014 to protect consumers by limiting ATM fees.
It clearly states “by limiting ATM fees”. Right now, it is a free-for-all.
As we say in English, it is a free for all. When we go to an ATM, it is not normal that we want $20 and pay $3 to get our own money. It is not normal that we want $50 and pay $3 to get our own money. It does not make sense. That is what is happening right now in Canada, where some other countries have abolished the fee or brought it right down to 97% that they just cannot charge anymore, or do not charge. That is what we are saying. We have to put a limit on that.
We have to put a limit on the credit card, as I said a few minutes ago. At one point in time, we used to walk into a bank and the manager would ask if we wanted some money. They do not ask if we want money anymore. They send us credit cards to our homes. It is so easy to get credit. They are saying the reason that the interest rate is high is to stop people from using their credit cards. That is not what is happening. They are putting people in debt, which is unbelievable. Instead of giving them a loan at 6% or 9%, they give them a credit card, which is easy to get. Instead of bothering to go to the bank to borrow money, it is easier to take a credit card with a limit of $20,000 or $30,000 and buy what we want. After that, we get charged an interest rate of 19%. If we miss a couple of payments, they bring the interest rate up to 24% or 28%.
It is unbelievable that the Conservative government that says it is here for the consumer does not do anything to save the consumer money or protect the consumer. The Conservatives do not do anything to protect the consumer, other than speaking words in the House, saying that companies have the right to make money and people have the right to make money. Yes, they do, but not on the backs of the citizens in the way they are doing it now, by gouging them when they go to the ATM. They do not have that right.
Many countries stand up for their consumers because they are the citizens of the country. They are the people, the men and women who get up in the morning and work hard for their money. They are working hard to earn money, and they have banks making billions of dollars of profit. We have the CEOs of the banks paying themselves millions of dollars of wages on top of it. A few years ago, the banks made $22 billion of profit and the CEOs paid themselves $11 billion of bonuses in this country. That is where the government should say that this is not right in our country; the banks do not have the right to do that. They are there to help consumers. They are there to help small and medium-sized businesses to build business instead of doing what they are doing right now.
That is why I believe the citizens will see that we have a good motion and that it should become the law of our country. They will see where the NDP is coming from with this, to protect the consumer. It is not like the Conservatives saying that they are protecting the consumer.
They are not protecting consumers, and this is becoming increasingly expensive.
Today we are asking this government to vote in favour of our motion, to support it and really support consumers and the citizens of this great country.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today in the House to support the NDP motion by the member for , which proposes a measure that will make life more affordable.
I would like to start with an anecdote. About thirty years ago, in the 1980s, the job market and the economy were somewhat precarious. However, my mother and father had taught me that debts had to be repaid, which was done by cheque at that time. I was always very careful when I wrote a cheque. I always made sure that there was money in my bank account.
Near the end of the month, one of my cheques bounced, as they say. I could not understand why because I knew that there was money in my account. I bounced over to the bank where a woman simply told me that administrative fees were debited every month. If my memory serves me well, the fees were $12 a month. Then the woman told me that if I had $1,000 in my bank account, I would not be charged administrative fees. So I told her that if I had $1,000 in my bank account, I would have no problem paying the administrative fees. That is the banks' logic. However, I understand that we have to pay for services.
Some 30 years ago, I went through periods of financial difficulty. In 2012, a large portion of the population went through the same thing, and the situation is not getting any better. A few years ago we had the Occupy movement: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Montreal, Occupy Toronto and Occupy Vancouver. This is an excellent example of the 1%. It is worth repeating that since 2007, the profits made by the six biggest banks in Canada have risen from $19.1 billion to $28.1 billion, an increase of over $10 billion.
In many respects, Canadians are tired of paying to pay or to access their own money. Furthermore, I am not just talking about the economic situation of the 1% and the profits the banks are raking in. I am also talking about the 99%. I am talking about people whose economic situation is becoming more and more precarious. I would remind the House that the debt load is currently 166%.
The Conservative members say that they have made sure that people understand the financial situation better and that fees are not hidden. These are all good measures for financial literacy. However, the fact remains that the average Canadian debt load right now is 166%. Canada has been lucky, because the gap between rich and poor was not that big.
However, the OECD criticized the fact that the gap between rich and poor in Canada is growing and is increasing more quickly here than in other OECD countries. That has been the case for the past 10 years, and it is extremely disconcerting.
There have been announcements about factories closing and well-paying jobs being lost. They are not always connected. Last May, 9.7% of people worked in the manufacturing sector. Earlier in the decade, in 2003, that number was 15%. I am using the example of the manufacturing sector because the sector had stable jobs that paid very well, and it still does. At first, we lost a large part of our manufacturing sector to China, for example, because production was moved there. More and more, production is being moved to the United States. In addition, a number of Canadian companies have been bought by foreign investors. We are not opposed to foreign investment, but when an increasing number of Canadian companies are bought by foreign investors, the sector and, in turn, a large part of our economy become weaker.
Statistics show that well-paying jobs have been lost. The manufacturing sector has lost scores of jobs and plenty of ground in the past decade.
However, when we look at the picture that Statistics Canada paints of the workforce, we can see what has replaced those manufacturing and public sector jobs. Quite often, they have been replaced by more precarious part-time positions in the retail sector. Far be it from me to say that those jobs are not gratifying. I have worked in retail, and I must say that it is demanding work that requires versatility in dealing with the public and providing customer service. Those are very important jobs, but this sector is the largest in Canada right now.
That means that some jobs may not pay as well or that they are more precarious because they depend on the current economic climate. Families who move from sector to sector have unstable income.
In my riding of LaSalle—Émard, a large segment of the population lives under what is known as the low-income cutoff. Forty per cent represents a lot of people who find it difficult to make ends meet, experience financial difficulties and have fewer and fewer options, such as choices about credit or ATM fees, and so on.
As the critic for co-operatives, I would like to point out the lack of choice that we talked about. That is often a fact of life in the regions.
The banks have abandoned the regions. Fortunately, there are more than 2,000 credit unions in various communities. Over 1,100 of those constitute the only financial service available in their communities. I am very pleased that they are there.
I would also like to acknowledge the excellent work done by the Association coopérative d'économie familiale, which helps put people on a solid financial footing.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start off with the comments of the member for . When he is in debate on this issue, one gets the impression that he might be somewhat nervous about the Liberal Party. I do not quite understand why he feels obligated to give misinformation. At the end of the day, I can assure the member and others that there are many advocates for consumer legislation and ideas in the House. A good number would be within the Liberal Party caucus and in other caucuses also.
When we talk about consumer prices, there are the big three, if I could put it that way. The price of gas is an issue that comes up constantly. Constituents want to hear what members have to say about the price of gas and what can be done. The price of cellphones is a huge issue that constantly comes up, and of course, banking fees is another issue that comes up quite frequently.
I recall back in November 2011 feeling very frustrated about gas. A number of constituents were asking what they could do. It is a very tough issue. It was suggested that what might be best is for consumers to target a particular station and declare that they will not purchase gas if it exceeds $x for a litre of gas. The point is that it is very frustrating. A lot of people believe that gasoline is nothing but a huge tax. The amount of tax on the retail sale of a litre of gas is a smaller percentage than what most people actually think it is.
I could go on forever talking about cellphones and some of the frustrations with cellphone pricing, such as the length of contracts, the way things are advertised, the exceptionally small font, and so forth.
Banking fees, again, is a very important issue. People who consider themselves consumer advocates, as I do, want to ensure that not only my constituents but all Canadians have reasonably priced fees for the services they are getting. There is an important role for government in monitoring to make sure that there is healthy competition. We also need to recognize that there are pockets, which is why we have talked about targets, that need to be looked at or taken into consideration.
If we look at it from the perspective of banking as an industry, I believe we would find that there has been movement from within the Liberal Party to deal with that particular industry. In fact, a member commented earlier about how healthy our banking industry is today. Many, including me, would go back to the 1990s, when the Chrétien government made significant changes in regulations that ultimately prevented the banking industry from becoming larger through the acquisition of other banks, such as TD maybe amalgamating with the Royal Bank. I am not suggesting that those would have been the two banks. However, there was a push by the banking industry to become larger.
We know about the issue of loans, in particularly mortgages. We saw a change in policy by the Government of Canada with regard to loosening the amount of money required to get a mortgage. I believe it went from 10% to 5%, something the Liberals opposed. We argued that it was not in the best interests of the economy or consumers. We are glad to see that the government has reversed that.
The point is that the Liberal Party has a history of recognizing the need for the Government of Canada to play a role in the banking industry. We have seen that in terms of consumer products. My colleague, our critic, referred to low-cost banking. That was something put into place during the 1990s, when, through legislation, we were able to virtually guarantee low-cost banking services. That would have ensured, for example, that with a low-cost banking account, people would get free bank cards. It put in some minimum transactions to take place. We needed to ensure that the consumer was in fact being protected and that, yes, the government did have a role to play.
I have asked government members about how they feel regarding the whole issue of banking, particularly ATM fees. The response has not necessarily been surprising. It has been somewhat disappointing. If we listen, for example, to the member for , one would take away from his comments that the Government of Canada has absolutely nothing to worry about and that it should not get directly involved in any fashion. Leave it the way it is. There is enough competition that one does not have to worry about it.
That is the wrong attitude to have about such an important industry. There is no choice. If we live in a modern society, we have to engage with the financial industry. There is no choice, living in Canada.
It is important that members of the Conservative Party recognize, as we have recognized, that there is a role for the government to play. Unfortunately, I do not think that the member for is alone within the Conservative caucus. Many within his caucus believe the same. I find that to be somewhat unfortunate.
We need to look at the issue in its simplest form. In Canada, we have an estimated 60,000 automated teller machines scattered all over the place. A number of speakers before me stood up and said that within a five-minute walk or drive, there are a few accessible ATMs. In certain areas, there is a very high concentration of ATM services and a good sense of competition. However, we need to recognize that there is different service being provided by the industry.
We have the banking industry, and this is where the NDP seems to be focusing all of its attention this afternoon. Within the banking industry, we might have one third of all the ATMs out there, so if there are 60,000, it is probably just under 20,000. For example, in the province of Manitoba we have somewhere in the neighbourhood of just over 500 ATMs, making up approximately one third of the total number of ATMs.
Within the banking industry, it varies quite significantly. If people do their banking at a particular institution and withdraw or deposit money there, quite often they will find there is no ATM fee.
Hypothetically speaking, if one banked at CIBC and went to the TD bank, there is a higher risk that one would in fact pay some sort of fee to use that ATM. I have not heard of a $6.00 to $8.00 charge for withdrawal of money through our banking industry or our big banks. I do not mean to sound overly naive about it, and I am open to others giving some examples of where there is a $6.00 to $8.00 fee. I am aware that there are other ATMs throughout the country, and quite often the service fees at those machines are quite high. I suspect that when we hear from time to time about charges of $8.00, that is most likely where those fees are being charged.
Individuals or corporations that use those machines vary quite significantly. For example, someone who has a corner grocery store may have made the decision that it is in his or her best interest to get an ATM installed in a corner of the store and would use it as a source of income subsidizing that particular store, or it might be for a multitude of reasons. Some might want to have it so people could withdraw money to spend in the community store.
I do not necessarily claim to understand why it is that everyone out there makes the decision to get an ATM in their store, but I do know it is a growing area. We have more and more independent operators wanting to acquire ATMs.
We need to recognize that there is a substantial difference. For example, NDP members are saying they want to put a cap on ATM fees, but it is important we recognize that they are talking about the smaller percentage of ATMs. All they are talking about are the ones that are regulated federally. If they want to deal with the majority of them, I would suggest they would have to start working with the provinces, which have jurisdiction, to try to see if there is in fact some sort of consensus that could be achieved.
However, there is no one-price-fits-all, which would even apply to the smaller number, those within the banking industry. I do not believe there is a one-price-fits-all, which is something that needs to be taken into consideration.
We in the Liberal Party recognize that there is a need for us to advocate for and protect our consumers. Therefore, in principle, we will be supporting this particular motion. However, I think we have to be very honest with Canadians in terms of exactly what it is that the motion is purporting to do.
In fact, there have been some changes, which I put in terms of a question to the previous speaker. At one time the NDP did have a position. Jack Layton did say there should not be any fee whatsoever. The NDP has now made a change and is saying that there should be a 50¢ flat fee, which is based on the fact that it is resentful of the billions of dollars that banks are making on an annual basis.
What I am most concerned about in terms of Winnipeg North is the banking industry as a whole and the impact it is having in my riding and communities across Canada. I can say that, yes, people are concerned about banking fees—there is no doubt about that—but there are many communities that are concerned about banks closing branches, as a major issue, and the impact that has on our communities.
When a bank closes a branch, quite often it then puts individuals in a position where they have to go to ATMs where they will be charged these huge fees.
I think it would have been a healthier discussion if we would have had today's debate more on the bigger picture. If we wanted to deal with ATM fees, maybe it should have been with respect to the banking industry as a whole. There are many aspects of that industry we could talk about that actually have an impact upon consumers. I think there is a great deal of merit for that.
We need to recognize that the banking industry has changed considerably over the years. There were the limited hours during which we could go to the bank; some suggested 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., from Monday to Friday, which was very real. Then there is today, where it is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week because now it can be done online. From having to wait in long lines in banking institutions to being able to sit in front of a computer in our homes, and everything else that has happened in between, we recognize that the industry has changed tremendously over the years.
I especially appreciate our credit unions and the phenomenal role they have played in terms of moving into areas where the banking industry has pulled out. Here, I am talking more about locations because that is of concern to my constituents.
We need to take a look at how we can ensure these fees that are being charged are appropriate. The bigger issue, I believe, is looking at where we might be able to improve, by working with the different levels of government, our provinces, and taking more of a holistic approach at dealing with the issue of banking fees, in particular the ATM fees. That is why I posed the question earlier today in terms of my home province of Manitoba, which has a New Democratic government. I posed the question in terms of what it has done to deal with the ATM fees because that is the larger percentage of fees in the province of Manitoba. I had thought that the member might have been able to inform me, as I do not know the details. However, to the best of my knowledge, it has not.
I do believe that if we take a holistic approach at dealing with the financial industry and how it services our constituents, we might be able to learn something from that. If we base it on the past, we will find there is a need from time to time for the Government of Canada to play a leadership role in providing guidance within our financial industry.
We have done that in the past, whether it was Paul Martin or Jean Chrétien or others. Legislation has been brought in and third parties have been brought in to ensure there is competition. There is that need, and that need is very real.
As much as the Conservatives will likely end up voting against the motion, as many of them have implied, I think they are being shortsighted. They could do consumers and all Canadians a favour, at the very least by recognizing a need for the Government of Canada to watch over and ensure there is competition, that there are reasonable rates, and to work with the different levels of government to see if there might be something that could be done.
It is called having an open mind. I do not see an open mind coming from the Conservative government on this issue.
I understand that we will probably end up having a vote on this tomorrow or whenever the vote is. I trust that the government members might have an opportunity to rethink their position and put the consumer first, along with Canadians. I think we could—