Budget Implementation Bill, 2016, No. 2—Ninth Report of Banking, Trade and Commerce on Subject MatterPublished on 6 December 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Paul Massicotte
Hon. Paul J. Massicotte:
Honourable senators, as you know, I’m a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce. We deposited a report yesterday as to Bill C-29, relative to certain sections of Bill C-29 that we were asked to review in detail and report to the Senate for consideration by the National Finance Committee. I think the report is quite complete.
I want to use this occasion to talk to you about a certain section of Bill C-29. It is proposed section 627.03 in Division 2, and it deals with consumer protection.
The reason I raise this matter is that this section, as amended, makes it clear that from here on, after approval, the federal government would have exclusive and total authority to deal with consumer complaints relative to our federal banking system.
As it is today and as the Supreme Court ruled under Marcotte in 2014, the court made it very clear that jurisdiction is shared by the provinces and the federal government, and therefore a citizen, let’s say of Quebec, gets protection from the federal rules relative to consumer protection, but it also has a right to the protection provided by the Province of Quebec and all its provisions.
I make the observation that the protections afforded by the Province of Quebec, and I’m sure it’s the case for many other provinces, exceed by far the protection being proposed under Bill C-29. Bill C-29 does make improvements to the rights and recourse of consumers, but their only recourse is effectively to go through a process where an ombudsman, basically paid for and selected by each respective bank, rules.
As you would appreciate, these ombudsmen have developed significant relations with the banks because they deal with them all the time, but every time a consumer comes across it is a new relationship. So we’re not convinced that the relationship is fair and satisfactory.
The concern I have is why take away the rights of clients of banks to have recourse to their provincial rights? In Quebec, you have all kinds of rights, of class action and so on, but with the passage of this bill it makes it exclusive that the province has no further jurisdiction for these matters.
I have difficulty with that. I think you’re reducing a significant amount of the rights of clients and customers of our federal banks. I know the federal banks appreciate these amendments, but why not provide consumers the best of both jurisdictions, as has been the case? In other words, the government could have clearly improved their rights and recourse but without saying specifically from here on that they have exclusive rights. That is the difficulty we have.
Earlier this afternoon the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance met with Minister Morneau. Senator Pratte and other senators raised this issue. The minister was not prepared to back off and said that this is the total bill, this is a take it or leave it, and we want to pass it as is.
Why not give the clients and customers maximum protection? What is the issue? Certainly the banks would love the federal approach. It makes it clear; they deal with one federal system and not all provinces. But I’m quite concerned it doesn’t satisfy our responsibility to the consumers and clients of banks.
In closing, I would simply ask: How does your province feel? Does your province realize what this bill is all about, whereby their rights relative to bank customers will be diminished and nullified? Is that appropriate? Is that satisfactory? Does that make you happy? Does that make your province happy? And more importantly, does it make all these clients and consumers happy? I suspect not. I urge you to do your research and follow up as we study this bill further. Thank you.