Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill on lobbyists. The first question that comes to mind is how it is that we have a bill on lobbyists now, in 2003.
If we have such a bill, it is because the lobbyists have become so important to the way this Parliament operates that we now need to regulate them. That is the problem.
If they have become so important, it is because the MPs, the ministers, the decision-makers, and particularly the MPs of the party in power for the past 40 years have not played their proper role. They have avoided discussing issues and have not defended their constituents, the consumers against big business, but have let private individuals do it for them instead. That is the problem.
The problem is that we are here today discussing lobbyist legislation on which, not having much choice, the Bloc Quebecois will probably vote yea. But it is still an unfortunate situation. Whom do lobbyists defend? The ordinary consumer, the public, the majority of the people in our ridings? No. Most lobbyists are looking out for big business, and that is the problem.
I will give just a few examples, starting with the banks. I am an MP of the class of 2000, in other words the last general election. The first matters raised in this House that I found of interest related to credit card interest.
From time to time, MPs introduce private members' bills or motions in an attempt to bring the banks back into line, as they keep on making taxpayers' lives miserable with stupendously high interest rates on credit cards.
In the three years I have been here, interest rates on department store credit cards has gone up 1% a year. During that same time, MPs here in this House have been tearing out their hair and commenting “Look, this makes no sense whatsoever”. That is true. The same thing goes for the major banks, with their 19% credit charges as I speak. While the interest rate in Canada has never been as low, the banks and department stores have again managed to convince the members, the government, that they still need to charge exorbitant interest rates.
There are discussions and debates in the House about this. Why do we never manage to vote on these motions and bills? It is because lobbyists make representations to the ministers and government members so that in the end it is impossible to regulate credit card interest rates.
I cannot believe it. It is really something. For the past 40 years, the members have relinquished their powers to lobbyists. They prefer to see people working for them. I understand my hon. colleague from Jonquière. The hon. member has been here for several years, I believe.
Subtopic: Lobbyists Registration Act