Parliamentary tricks can stop any time now
November 15th, 2013 - 11:56am
One of the most infuriating things that happen with regularity in parliament are government claims that voting against something means that an MP finds no redeeming value in the subject matter. Omnibus budget bills are a good example of this. They are too wide sweeping and full of negative initiatives that make it impossible to support the items that an MP does find reasonable. That is to say the price is often too high and opposition MPs are forced to vote against the good along with the overwhelming bad.
It doesn’t have to be that way and there is an opportunity for the government to reverse the trend that will come about during this parliament based on what we heard in October’s Throne Speech.
In that speech we learned that the government has been listening to New Democrats and will put an end to pay-to-pay fees. These are surcharges added to bills that customers receive in the mail. It is cash grab practice that punishes people who prefer to receive their bills in the mail instead of in e-mail.
Pay-to-pay fees are relatively new, but many companies are gouging Canadians in the absence of regulations that could put an end to this practice. But thanks to pressure from the NDP and people all across the country, the government says they will put a stop to this unearned cash grab.
It makes sense in so many ways, but motivation is in no short supply since two out of three Canadians are barely making ends meet and live from paycheque to paycheque. To allow companies to charge additional fees to customers who want to continue receiving monthly statements in the mail amounts to piling-on for those Canadians who need everything they earn. It is also unfair since pay-to-pay fees target Canadians who don’t have Internet access or who don’t feel comfortable carrying out their transactions online. On average the practice forces these people to pay a $2 fee just to get their bill.
As they defend themselves, some companies claim that the fees are intended to help the environment by reducing paper. This doesn’t hold much water though and if these institutions were truly concerned about going green they could offer a discount to customers who use online billing.
That didn’t happen and Canadians are justifiably outraged by this blatant cash grab. In an effort to put forth practical solutions to make life more affordable for Canadians, New Democrats called on the government to end the rip-offs and prohibit companies from charging pay-to-pay fees. We followed that up with a national campaign to eliminate these extra charges.
After a year of hard work, and with the help of 10, 000 Canadians who signed our petitions, the government finally listened. Now we wait to see how they bring it to parliament. If it is a stand-alone item it will likely get unanimous support. If they hide it as a sweetener in an omnibus budget, it will be another victim of semantics.