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Canada’s big banks wrote of $16 billion this year

MUCH MORE BANK ACCOUNTABILITY NEEDED! As you have probably heard, Canada’s big 6 banks have lost or written off a total of $16 billion in the past year in losses mainly caused by their own irresponsible investments. Unless the federal government takes action right now, the banks and investment companies will very likely gouge Canadians, and cut essential banking services, to recover their losses. But because of weak bank accountability laws in Canada, the big banks are not required to prove whether they are making their profits through fair prices and service, and responsible loans and investments, and banks can keep secret key information about gouging service charges and credit card interest rates, unjustifiable bank branch closures, and irresponsible and unfair loans and investments. As you know, 10 years ago Democracy Watch brought together more than 100 citizen groups in Canada to form the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC) to push for bank accountability measures. The CCRC led the campaign to stop the big bank mergers in 1998, and also won many key bank accountability measures in changes to the Bank Act in 2001. However, many key bank accountability gaps remain. You can read all the details about the bank accountability measures the CCRC is pushing for, and how you can support the push, on the following CCRC webpage: http://www.cancrc.org/english/Draftletter.html OR SEE THE SAMPLE LETTER SET OUT BELOW

I know you understand that if banks gouge Canadians, withdraw service from communities by shutting down branches, and lend and invest unfairly and irresponsibly, then individuals, communities, job-creating businesses will all be hurt while large corporations continue to receive financial support for their irresponsible activities. Please support the leading campaign for effective bank accountability in Canada right now by going to: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/support.html and PLEASE SEND A LETTER using the SAMPLE LETTER SET OUT BELOW or the letter at: http://www.cancrc.org/english/Draftletter.html l All together we can increase bank accountability so that Canada’s big banks are required to provide fair service to all Canadians at fair prices, and to lend and invest our money fairly and responsibly. Thank you in advance for your support.

Take care, Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch Chairperson of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition (CCRC - http://www.cancrc.org)


SAMPLE LETTER Please use the letter set out below to send a letter to federal political party leaders, the Finance Minister and key politicians on the House and Senate banking committees by email – copy and paste the following addresses to send your email: pm@pm.gc.ca, harper.s@parl.gc.ca, flaherty.j@parl.gc.ca, ignatieff.m@parl.gc.ca, jack@fed.ndp.ca, laytoj@parl.gc.ca, laytoj0@parl.gc.ca, ducepg@parl.gc.ca, leader@greenparty.ca, fina@parl.gc.ca, Pallister.B@parl.gc.ca, Pacetti.M@parl.gc.ca, Paquette.P@parl.gc.ca, McCallum.J@parl.gc.ca, brisos@parl.gc.ca, McKay.J@parl.gc.ca, Ablonczy.D@parl.gc.ca, Dykstra.R@parl.gc.ca, St-Cyr.T@parl.gc.ca, wasylcia-leis.J@parl.gc.ca, mulcat@parl.gc.ca, mulcat0@parl.gc.ca, banking_banques@sen.parl.gc.ca, grafsj@sen.parl.gc.ca, angusd@sen.parl.gc.ca, bironm@sen.parl.gc.ca, eytonj@sen.parl.gc.ca, fitzpr@sen.parl.gc.ca, goldsy@sen.parl.gc.ca, harbm@sen.parl.gc.ca, massip@sen.parl.gc.ca, meighm@sen.parl.gc.ca, moorew@sen.parl.gc.ca, ringup@sen.parl.gc.ca, tkachd@sen.parl.gc.ca

Dear Prime Minister Harper / Finance Minister Flaherty / Opposition Party leader / Committee member: The federal government strengthened bank accountability in Canada by including some good measures Bill C-8 (passed in June 2001). However, some key gaps have been left that will continue to make it difficult to ensure banks and other financial institutions serve all Canadians fairly and well. I’m writing to urge you and the government to close these gaps and to ensure our big banks remain Canadian-owned and controlled. We need a banking system that meets our needs. The federal government can help bring about badly-needed improvements by making the following key changes: * Facilitate the creation of a Financial Consumer Organization (FCO) to help consumers, as the Task Force on the Future of the Canadian Financial Services Sector recommended in its September 1998 Report (See Recommendation #56(b) on page 208 of the Report) by requiring banks and other financial institutions to enclose an FCO flyer in their mailings to customers, inviting people to join the watchdog group, and prohibit bank takeovers and mergers until the FCO is set up using this method; * Require banks and trust companies to provide detailed information on loans, investments and services to customers, as required in the U.S (we need to track whether banks are meeting the needs of individuals and businesses on a community-by-community level and, as in the U.S., require corrective action if banks are not meeting customer needs) and prohibit bank takeovers and mergers (such as TD Bank’s takeover of Canada Trust) if the disclosed information shows that they do not serve all customers well; * Prohibit any service charge or credit card interest rate increases until the banks prove (through an independent audit conducted by the Auditor General of Canada) that they aren’t gouging us with excessive service and credit card charges, and lower fees and interest rates if audit reveals gouging; * Require banks and trust companies to disclose the profit/loss record for any branch proposed to be closed, to allow for a full review of the reasons for the closure; * Require banks and trust companies to prove that they have a fair and very good service, lending and investment record every year for the past 10 years as a mandatory condition for any financial institution bidding on federal government contracts; * Require the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Commissioner to disclose the name of the financial institution and the terms of settlement whenever the Commissioner finds that an institution has violated the law (currently, the Commissioner can only disclose the name of the institution if the Commissioner prosecutes the institution); * Give customers access to the money they deposit by cheque as soon as the cheque clears (Bill C-37 only reduces the cheque hold period from the usual 10 days to 4-7 days, even though 98 percent of cheques clear in one day), and; * Increase the maximum penalty for violating the Bank Act to $50 million (currently, the maximum penalty is $100,000, a meaningless penalty for Canada’s big banks which each make $15 billion in revenue each year).

Canadians have made it clear in every poll conducted over the past 15 years that they need, and want, better banks. Please close these gaps by passing a law to ensure that all financial institutions in Canada serve all Canadians fairly and well, and can be held accountable for poor lending, investment or service records. And please do not let Canada’s banks take over any other financial institution, or merge together, before you have set up the Financial Consumer Organization, and the strict bank lending, investment and service disclosure and evaluation system outlined above. Please let me know what steps you are taking to introduce and pass bills to close these bank accountability loopholes, and if these bills don’t pass before the next election, to ensuring your party’s election platform will contain promised measures to close these loopholes. My vote in the next election will very much depend on your response. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Your name, postal address and email address

PLEASE SEND A COPY of your letter to the CCRC at cancrc@web.net and PLEASE SEND A COPY of any responses you receive also to cancrc@web.net

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