Gary Mauris had a one-on-one sit-down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and asked him about one issue that seems to perennially be on every broker’s mind. Did his answer satisfy?
“The biggest issue and the biggest challenge that I see in this country right now and the one area I believe you can really, really help with is regulating credit card debt,” the president of Dominion Lending Centres said to Trudeau during a special CBC segment, entitled Canadians interview the prime minister about issues that matter to them. “If you’ve looked at a credit card statement these days, if you make the minimum payment, it takes you 125 years to pay off your credit card.”
Mauris continues: “Canadians are getting absolutely buried, strangled in credit card debt and it’s the one area that no government has actually focused on and you could actually leave your DNA in this country, you could make such an impact, just by shoring up that one area.”
Excluding mortgages, Canadians hold an average of $21,028 in debt.
And while the government has implemented various plans to curb mortgage debt, brokers have long been frustrated by the government’s inaction when it comes to minimizing this more cumbersome debt.
It’s an issue Trudeau said the government is taking seriously.
“You highlight the challenge of household debt and personal debt. We’re working with banks and making sure regulations are in place that will keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau told Mauris. “Get people the financial literacy needed to know that you can’t borrow now and hope that you’ll be OK later.”
Trudeau failed to go into specifics, even after being asked by Peter Mansbrige in a followup question whether the Prime Minister is worried about the amount of credit card debt in Canada – and what he plans to do about it.
“This is a real challenge but the easy solution of suddenly legislating something like that is not necessarily going to have the consequences people want,” Prime Minister Trudeau said. “We have to be very, very thoughtful about when and how we regulate financial institutions and banks and make sure we’re doing it in a way that is actually going to help Canadians.
“And scapegoating different institutions when it’s about personal responsibility as well … these are things that all go together.”
For his part, Mauris was unsatisfied with Trudeau’s answers.
“He gave a political answer by putting some of the responsibility back on the consumer,” Mauris told MortgageBrokerNews.ca. “I would have liked to hear him say he will get the ministers together to review this and see how it is impacting Canadians, as well as an action plan to say steps are being taken to learn more about the impact, and to put together a framework to oversee it.”
Still, he was impressed with the Prime Minister’s willingness to subject himself to such a rigorous interview process.
“It was unprecedented in this country – most politicians are well-insulated and avoid the tough questions,” Mauris said. “Doing this was a real feather in his cap.”