Out to make life more affordable

This past week, NDP leader Tom Mulcair wrapped up his tour across Canada that focused on consulting with individuals, families, small businesses, and local governments to find ways to make life more affordable for Canadians.
Let me explain the kind of things we heard during his stop in Thunder Bay—and what positive ideas we’ll be putting forward to help those who are struggling.
I was happy to host Tom during his Thunder Bay stop last Wednesday. The first meeting was a breakfast discussion at the home of Poverty Free Thunder Bay chair Terri-Lynne Carter.
Terri-Lynne explained what life is like for those who are forced to live on a fixed income, and increasingly those who only are able to find part-time work or who make the minimum wage while trying to support themselves and their family.
A small increase in bank fees, their hydro bill, credit card interest rates, or other debt can cripple the household budget and lead to monthly shortfalls that feed the cycle of poverty.
Tom and I then met with Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs and his message was clear. The federal government can—and should—have a role to play in making life more affordable and should be contributing more towards affordable housing development.
Messages received.
What has become clear to Tom throughout his travels is that New Democrats must continue the hard work we began under Jack Layton. We must continue our work to reduce poverty and boost the economy while making life more affordable for all Canadians.
As his tour wrapped up, Tom identified five priorities that we will carry forward to make life more affordable: fair pricing for ATM and banking fees, tackling high credit card interest rates, ending gas price gouging and collusion, ending the “pay-to-pay” billing practice, and reining in the payday loan industry.
Here are some examples:
•ATM fees
New Democrats believe no one should have to pay $2 or $3 to withdraw their own cash from a bank machine. Canadians pay $420 million each year in ATM fees—and most of that is pure bank profit.
We’ll start by capping ATM fees so they’re never more than 50 cents per withdrawal, which still is nearly double the banks’ costs per transaction.
•Credit cards
Sixty percent of Canadians are now living paycheque to paycheque. Many turn to credit cards to make ends meet—only to be trapped by excessive interest rates and unexpected fees.
We’ll make sure you have reasonable access to a “no-frills” credit card with a fair interest rate—no more than five percent over the prime rate.
•Gas pricing
Under the Conservatives, we keep paying more for gas, for groceries, and for just about anything that’s shipped to us by land, air or water. And who doesn’t wonder why gas prices always seem to spike right before a long weekend?
We’ll stop illegal price collusion among oil companies by enforcing Criminal Code and Competition Act provisions that past Liberal and Conservative governments have chosen to ignore.
•‘Pay-to-pay’ billing
Look carefully. Over the last couple of years, many companies started charging you up to $2 each month to keep receiving your own bill by mail, and those fees add up fast.
Phone, cable, utilities, banks—they’re all doing it now. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a loyal customer for years—they’re making you pay in order to pay your bill.
With your help we can end this multi-million dollar rip-off.
•Payday loans
Not everyone can qualify for an immediate credit-limit increase. So 1-in-20 Canadians have resorted to “payday lenders,” who trap people with effective interest rates as high as 1000 percent.
It’s a crime in Canada to charge more than 60 percent interest, yet successive Liberal and Conservative governments have refused to regulate this industry that exploits loopholes to charge much more through hidden fees and rollovers.
New Democrats will change that.
Together, we can get the job done and make your life more affordable.

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