The House of Commons finance committee will kick off hearings into the practices of Canada’s big banks on Monday with testimony from former bank employees ready to blow the whistle on some of the things they have witnessed.
In an interview with CBC News Wednesday, shortly after the committee drafted its witness list, Liberal MP and committee chairman Wayne Easter said he is hoping the former employees will shed light on the practices of the country’s major financial institutions.
“I understand that they are retired and they’re not fearful of expressing their point of view, and I think that will be helpful to the committee.”
While Easter didn’t provide names of those being invited to appear, he said some are retired and some have moved to other employers. Those who testify before the committee will have parliamentary immunity, he said.
The hearings come in the wake of a series of stories by CBC’s Go Public in which bank employees described questionable practices by some of Canada’s biggest banks. The employees have alleged things like pressure on employees to meet ever-increasing sales targets, signing clients up for services without informing them, and forging signatures and initials.
To date, thousands of bank employees have contacted CBC, describing stress-inducing pressure to increase sales.
Easter said the hearings are expected to stretch over three meetings of the finance committee. Government agencies that regulate the banks, as well as the Canadian Banking Association, are being asked to appear Wednesday afternoon, while representatives of Canada’s big banks are to appear the following Monday.
Beyond shedding light on what is happening in the banks, Easter said the committee will also look at who should be regulating the practices being alleged, and whether it is a question of financial practices or labour issues.
“I’m still trying to determine who has the authority to deal with this problem. Is it the regulators? Is it the labour code? Is it the Bank Act? Just what can we do at the end of the day.”
If the committee finds there are problems, Easter said it can recommend that the government act.
“Part of the responsibility of the committee, at the end of the day, is if there are serious concerns here, is to find the road map or to propose a road map [so] that there can be a resolve to the issue — if in fact there are bad practices taking place.”
NDP MP Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who initially proposed the hearings, said the former bank employees who will testify are people who were on the front lines.
“When I talk about those who have worked in the banks, I’m not talking about former presidents of the banks, executives or managers. I’m talking about people who experienced those kinds of practices daily from their employer.”
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org