Conservatives to focus on consumers rights

The fall session in Parliament could see plenty of populist tussles

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

If consumers are the main beneficiary of the federal government’s next throne speech, to be read aloud by Governor General David Johnston in October, expect a record-setting marathon of populist bragging in the House of Commons. This morning, the National Post‘s John Ivison writes that, according to his Conservative source, the government will likely pursue a consumers-first agenda.

Among the rumoured shiny objects in the speech: an airline passengers’ bill of rights; limits on cell phone costs; and a reformed financial consumer code. Ivison also quotes government sources as saying Finance Minister Jim Flaherty may move to regulate credit-card fees in some capacity.

As NDP foot soldiers read the Post, they must be licking their lips. They’ve already introduced an Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights, legislation that received the support of everybody except the Conservative benches. Earlier this year, Conservative MP Larry Miller said the bill would actually hurt consumers. “It’ll drive up costs, which in turn will drive up fares. And that’s the last thing we need.”

Flaherty’s consideration of credit-card regulation stemmed from a Competition Tribunal decision that dismissed retailers’ complaints about billions in processing fees. When the decision came down, the NDP’s Glenn Thibeault rushed to the side of, you guessed it, consumers. “The NDP has long advocated changes to merchant fee regulations,” he said. “We call on the government to now start putting consumers first and work with us to better protect consumers and small businesses.”

It could happen that consumers-first populism is but a small piece of the government’s throne speech. But the front benches are well aware of the NDP’s various appeals to consumers. No doubt the government will poke holes in the NDP’s proposals, and the Official Opposition will poke right back. This could turn into the head-to-head, ideas-driven autumn that everyone thought could grip the nation’s capital way back in 2011. Perhaps it’s finally arrived.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Alberta will dramatically alter its publicly funded pension programs.
National Post A shooting in a Washington, D.C., navy yard saw at least 13 killed.
Toronto Star The feds plan to introduce a public database of sex offenders.
Ottawa Citizen  34-year-old Aaron Alexis was identified as a D.C. shooter.
CBC News  Salvage crews successfully turned the Costa Concordia upright.
CTV News  The operation to lift the cruise ship lasted 19 hours.
National Newswatch  Stephen Harper’s throne speech will focus on consumers.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Chocolate. Cadbury, Hershey and Nestle have all reached settlements that will pay out $23 million to consumers who complained the companies engaged in a price-fixing scheme. Each company denies the charges, but decided the expense of going to trial wasn’t worth the cost. Consumer claims under $50 won’t require proof of payment.
THE GLOBAL Libya. The United Nations says political assassinations and threats to diplomats still “plague” Libya, two years after a military intervention that removed dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The UN says militias run rampant, particularly in the country’s eastern region, and illegal guns—as well as ingredients for chemical weapons—are “easily accessible.”
THE QUIRKY Jet packs. The maker of a long-developed jet pack in New Zealand, who calls the vehicle “a motorcycle in the sky,” claims it can fly up to 7,000 feet in the air and 50 miles per hour. Bureaucrats had a difficult time trying to classify the vehicle—it’s neither helicopter nor aircraft—and concluded it’s a “microlight.” Users will require licences.