Bill C-29: A vigorous debate about consumer protection
Among other changes, this budget implementation legislation indexed the Canada Child Benefit for inflation and closed tax loopholes.
In December 2016, the Senate began deliberation over Bill C-29, budget implementation legislation that indexed the Canada Child Benefit for inflation and closed tax loopholes, among other changes. One of those changes would have provided uniform consumer protections — such as the regulation of credit card fees — across the country.
The Senate’s Role
When Bill C-29 arrived in the Upper Chamber, some Senators argued that, in the federally regulated banking sector, the bill could override provincial consumer protection laws of general application. Many Senators believed that certain provincial regulations were more robust than those proposed by the federal government. Independent Senator André Pratte led the challenge to this provision in the bill. He argued that the Quebec Consumer Protection Act already provided legal recourse for consumers who believed they had been wronged by a financial institution and that implementing the federal regime would eliminate those avenues of added protection.
The Government gave the issue further consideration. The Government Representative in the Senate, Senator Peter Harder, then moved an amendment at the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance to remove measures in Bill C-29 related to consumer protection in banking. The Government indicated it would revisit the issue at a later date. Senator George Baker, a Senate Liberal (now retired), who was then a member of the Finance Committee, stated, “I congratulate the Government of Canada for looking at this again and saying, ‘Let’s have some sober second thought.’” Senator Pratte was quoted at the time saying the situation demonstrates that there is a new political dynamic present in the Senate.