After years of fighting to end “pay-to-pay” fees, the NDP is pleased that telecommunications companies have agreed not to gouge certain customers, but is still pushing for an outright ban on this unfair cash grab.
“Not charging some consumers is a step in the right direction but it’s taken far too long to see action on something that is really an easy fix,” said NDP MP Andrew Cash (Davenport) who has led the fight to end these fees. “Instead of punishing Canadians who receive paper bills, reward customers who switch to online billing.”
The telecommunication industry has agreed not to charge seniors, persons with disabilities, people without Internet access and members of the military. However this appears to be a voluntary decision with no method of ensuring compliance. Conservatives have failed to deliver on their 2013 promise to end all “pay-to-pay” policies and their planned legislation will only apply to the telecommunication sector.
“The Conservatives can’t be trusted to protect consumers,” said Cash. “We’re looking forward to seeing their bill but we’ve learned that with this government, the devil is in the detail.”
Despite widespread calls for action on retirement security, and growing concern amongst Canadians, Conservatives continue to mismanage one of the most pressing economic issues facing Canada today.
“Canadians and provincial governments understand the urgent need for action from the federal government to address the looming retirement security crisis,” said NDP Pensions critic Murray Rankin (Victoria). “While The Conservatives keep blocking progress to boost the CPP/QPP, Canadians are growing increasingly concerned about their retirement security.”
A new EKOS survey found that 69 per cent of Canadians believe the federal government should take a leading role to ensure Canadians can retire – either through savings programs or income supports. Fully half of Canadians surveyed said they were concerned they wouldn’t have enough money for their retirement. Unfortunately Conservatives have blocked all efforts to boost retirement savings and increase the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) benefits.
“While the Premiers meet to discuss this pending crisis, Conservatives are actually making matters worse by blocking increases to public pensions and eroding access to good quality company pensions,” said Rankin.
Offshore drilling will begin shortly in Cacouna, home of the endangered beluga whale, and New Democrats are wondering what Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are hiding? NDP requests for scientific documents concerning the drilling have been delegated to the Minister of Natural Resources — not the Minister of the Environment.
“It’s the Environment Minister’s job to protect endangered species,” said François Choquette, the Official Opposition’s deputy critic for Environment. “The fact that the Minister for Natural Resources is replying to our request, and not Leona Aglukkaq, says a lot about the way this Conservative government handles environmental issues.”
New Democrats have called on the Conservative government to publicly disclose the scientific advice on which it based its authorization of work in the port of Cacouna. Until this is done, the Official Opposition in Ottawa has called for a moratorium on all activities in the area.
“It’s a really simple request — it’s a question of transparency that the government can quickly act upon,” said MP François Lapointe (Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup). “It was right there in black in white in the Minister’s response: ‘Canadians expect their government to make decisions based on independent scientific studies and not on irresponsible ideologies.’ Well, we completely agree, that’s exactly why we want to see these scientific analyses.”
The NDP is reiterating its request and hopes that this time the Environment Minister will actually bother to reply.
“Instead of calling the NDP radical, Conservatives should simply unveil the documents they have in their possession,” added MP Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les-Basques). “If the advice says that drilling activities won’t affect the belugas, they can go right ahead. But the more Conservatives stubbornly insist on keeping secrets, the more we get the sense that they’re hiding something.”
Enough is enough. The Conservative government has to eliminate pay-to-pay billing for all industries under the federal jurisdiction.
“This is an easy fix. Consumers should be rewarded if they switch to online products, not punished because they are receiving their paper bills in the mail”, said NDP Consumer Affairs critic, Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury).
The Public Interest Advocacy Center published a report yesterday that estimates that Canadians pay between $495 and $734 million dollars every year in fees for paper copies of their telecommunications bills and bank balances.
The poll shows that 75% of people oppose the pay-to-pay fees and that about 33% of the population is uncomfortable with making the switch to e-billing and e-banking.
“This is a clear cash-grab worth millions of dollars that affects low-income families and seniors the most. It is not ethical for banks and telecommunications companies to make a profit on the back of the most vulnerable people in our society”, added Thibeault.
New Democrats are calling for a moratorium on offshore work near Cacouna until Conservatives make the scientific advice they based their decision to green-light drilling and seismic surveying public — noting that the area is key to the survival of local beluga whales.
“We have called for a moratorium on all work underway within the belugas’ home environment,” said NDP deputy critic for the Environment, François Choquette (Drummond). “This is an endangered species, and several independent experts believe that it is being affected by these offshore activities. If the government has scientific proof that drilling and seismic surveying will not endanger these animals, it needs to be made public.”
Last June, Choquette visited the Cacouna region, only to find that the advice offered by many scientists, environmentalists and regular citizens had not been taken into account at the worksite. That has led New Democrats to call for the immediate publication of the scientific studies upon which the Conservative government based its decision to allow seismic surveying to begin this past spring, as well as continuous geotechnical drilling.
“We believe that the work should not go ahead as long as the public has not been allowed to see the advice upon which the Conservatives based their decision to authorize the work,” said MP François Lapointe (Montmagny-L’Islet-Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup).
The NDP has also sent several requests to the Committees on the Environment and on Fisheries and Oceans to meet with marine-life specialists to hear how this offshore work will impact the waters off Cacouna. But these Committees—which are controlled by Conservative MPs—rejected our requests.
“This most ridiculous part in all this is that the TransCanada pipeline project has yet to be formally tabled, and has therefore not been subject to a full evaluation. The work near Cacouna is therefore premature and should not have gone ahead without a full assessment of environmental impacts,” added NDP MP Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette-Témiscouata-Les-Basques).