Mr. J. R. Ellis (Prince Edward-Hastings):
Mr. Speaker, first I would ask that someone check the sky carefully. I know there is a full moon, but there must be at least two to have that kind of rhetoric this late in the day.
I agreed to speak on this Bill in the name of my good friend, the Hon. Member for Scarborough West (Mr. Stackhouse), because I want to perform a bit of subterfuge on the House. I know the Speaker will have a deaf ear on this side for at least a minute and a half.
I came into the House some 16 years ago next month. This will be the last chance I will have to speak here. In fact, as my good friend from Newfoundland said, this is very likely the last half hour of this Parliament.
I want to take some time to say a special thank you to my electors, my staff, my colleagues-both pre and post TV-the
Chair and all the people who sit in it, the Table and all the staff who work with the Table, the administration staff of the House of Commons with whom I have had a particularly close relationship, the committees and their staff and the pages particularly. I took part in the initial page program. To my left there are some fellows who are grown up pages now. We appreciate the help they give us as well.
I want to comment on the Bill put forward by my friend from Scarborough West and comment particularly on a superb speech he made just recently in support of this Bill. I want to recognize the Hon. Member's contribution to the public discussion of credit cards and interest charges thereon.
In the next election his electors should know that he is largely responsible for the recent Government investigation into this issue, especially those by the House of Commons Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. I am sure that many Canadian consumers are now more aware of the interest costs associated with credit cards because of the public debate that he initiated.
In introducing Bill C-226, a Bill to limit credit card interest rates, in September last year, there can be no doubt that my colleague was attempting to protect the interests of credit card users. However, the Government believes that the Bill does not quite do what it would like to see done.
As a result of the Government's investigation of credit card interest charges, everyone's understanding of such interest charges has increased. Initial public concern regarding credit card interest charges focused upon the apparently high interest rates of credit cards as compared to the interest rates on consumer loans and mortgages.
However, the standing committee found that the issue is considerably more complicated than it first appeared. I think the Member would be the first to agree that that is the case. Indeed, the first five of the seven recommendations in that committee's 1987 report concerned measures intended to enable consumers to understand credit card interest charges.
A number of the committee's recommendations for measures to facilitate consumer understanding of credit card interest charges concern matters of overlapping federal-provincial jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (Mr. Andre) initiated joint federal-provincial activity on the issue, and this has resulted in publication of a joint federal-provincial discussion paper.
This discussion paper shows that because the interest rate is only one of the factors involved in the calculation of credit card interest charges, the credit card interest rate is not a reliable indicator of the interest charges associated with its use. The discussion paper uses an example to show that a credit card with a relatively high interest rate can sometimes involve much lower interest charges than a card with a much
September 30, 1988
lower interest rate. This clearly represents a very confusing situation for consumers.
The discussion paper outlines a number of alternative approaches which can be used by Government to help consumers make informed comparisons of the interest charges from competing credit cards. The objective of the current federal-provincial activity on credit card interest charges is to promote consumers' ability to make informed decisions on a competitive card market.
The Government has demonstrated its intention to proceed as quickly as possible to institute measures regarding credit card interest charges, which will be of great benefit to Canadians.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs tabled its report on March of 1987. In June of that year, federal-provincial activity in the area of credit card charges began.
In December of that year, the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs made an announcement concerning the Government of Canada's approach to the issue and, in accordance with a committee recommendation, released the first of regular consumer information materials on this issue.
The federal-provincial discussion paper was released in April of 1988. Even now, government officials are presumably preparing to report on consultations with the private sector concerning the policy options outlined in the discussion paper.
My good friend, the Hon. Member for Scarborough West, will know that not infrequently members of Government who have a particularly good reason for bringing forward a Private Member's Bill and who do a tremendous amount of work on it do not necessarily get their Bill through. I stood in this House about three years ago with a recommendation and had it talked down by my colleagues. I felt some considerable hurt at that time, because I felt then, as I do now, that the intent of the Bill was absolutely essential. In my zeal to have my Bill put through, I was quite discouraged when my colleagues talked it out. I am happy to say that the essence of my Bill is now in place. I will not talk out this Bill this afternoon. We are in the dying minutes of a Parliament that, with all things considered, has been very productive.
I think, when he comes back, as most assuredly he will, that he will be able to follow on with his quest for fairness for consumers in this particularly difficult area, and I am confident that despite the technocrats, as he made the point in his speech, he will eventually be successful. 1 want to go on record as wishing him every success, both in his election and in his work in this House in the future.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for giving me these few minutes to say again that when I came into this House the first day as a very young Member, the House was full to capacity. As I stand here today, there are very few of us here, but at least I have had a chance in the dying minutes to go on record and say how much I have appreciated being here. Thank you.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-BILLS CREDIT CARD INTEREST RATE ACT MEASURE TO ENACT