Mr. R. J. WOODS (Dufferin):
member for East Calgary (Mr. Irvine) has so ably and fully covered the ground in his admirable presentation that there does not appear to be very much left to say. However. I wish to corroborate some of his statements, and, if possible, to present some new thoughts in connection with the banking system of Canada. Money as it circulates through the community may be regarded as the life blood of the country. Trade and commerce, all the varied enterprises of the nation, are dependent upon an efficient and stable currency. To my mind it is beyond question that our people generally have regarded the banks as safe places in which to deposit their money, and parliament in any legislation touching banks should do its utmost to protect the interests of the public. If parliament fails to do this, then it is undoubtedly lacking in that proper regard which it ought to have for the welfare of the people. We as members of parliament should thoroughly realize the responsibility that devolves upon us as legislators to do our utmost to protect the public interests in this respect. Canadians have been in the habit of depositing their money in banks, not as an investment but in order that it might be safe and available when they needed it for immediate use. In that respect deposits of savings are very different from deposits of money required for investment in industrial enterprises or for purposes of speculation. The people felt when they were making these deposits that the banks were perfectly safe, and that they could get their money at any time they needed it. The failure of the Home Bank came to them as a terrible shock. We have heard this afternoon what happened, by reason of that failure, to various classes in the community who had placed their savings in the Home Bank quite confident that the money was secure beyond all question. We have heard this afternoon of many people who have deposited money in this bank for safe keeping who have lost it all. We have heard about the labouring classes,
5 p.m. young men and young women, who deposited their money expecting to be able to withdraw it when they required it and who have been unable to do so. Alas, the failure came. Men and women, widows, hardworking men, old men and old women who desired to withdraw their money from this bank found the door closed, and a sign above it "No admittance". Some of these widows,
I believe, had deposited the life insurance of their deceased husbands which was probably their sole means of sustenance, and it was all lost. Old men who had retired had deposited in the bank the little bit of money they had saved, and these men were unable to obtain even a portion of their deposits. I believe many of them turned away in tears. The ones who are suffering most are not the wealthy class, or the ones who could well afford to lose a little money; but the greatest sufferers were those who depended on their deposits in the bank to sustain them in their old age when other things failed, and they were shut out. I think it is very important that the hard-earned money of the working men and women, upon which they are dependent for their old age, should be properly safeguarded, so that they would be assured of it when required for necessary use. In the locality where I live a great many have suffered. In a little town not a great distance from where I live, very close to $400,000 was deposited by people of that class. In another town quite close to my home over $100,000 was deposited by the same class of people.
It is very important that the people should have confidence in our financial and banking institutions of the country. Last year we revised the Bank Act. I am not going to say that there were not important amendments to the Bank Act placed on the statutes at that time, or that some of the amendments were qpt an improvement, but it appears to me they did not go far enough.
The 'hon. member for East Calgary (Mr. Irvine) has referred to bank inspections. One amendment in regard to inspection was urgently pressed before the committee last year, but the Bankers' Association was unfavourable to it. The bankers have their own audit system and appoint their own auditors to do the work. What for? Not primarily to safeguard
Home Bank Investigation
the interests of the public, but to safeguard the interests of the bankers and the shareholders of the bank. So far as the depositors and the general public are concerned, they have not that same safeguard of their interests as the bankers have. If an inspector or auditor who was independent of the banks, not appointed by the banks but by the government, were charged with the investigation of the banking system of this country, I cannot see why it would not to a great extent safeguard the interests of the depositors and those who did business with the banks.
With reference to the amendments which were made to the Bank Act, as I view it, as a member of that committee, I think the amendments went possibly as far, and no further in my opinion, than the Bankers' Association was willing to concede.
Subtopic: MOTION BY MR. IRVINE FOR APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL COMMITTEE