High up on the political agenda

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The federal NDP are borrowing a page from the Conservatives’ policy handbook – or was it the other way around?

The party with official Opposition status in Parliament is in the midst of a caucus strategy session, and on the list is a number of consumer-friendly items, such as the ridiculous fees we can be hit with using an automated bank machine, also outrageous interest rates on credit cards.

This comes as parties gear up for a winter session – and a year and a bit before Canadians will go to the polls.

If those topics ring a bell, they are reminiscent of the package of measures introduced by the Conservative government last year in the throne speech, relating to the way cell service providers can gouge customers, or the way cable TV can package its products so you have to pay for stuff you don’t care about to get the stuff you do.

This might or might not be a case of political copyright infringement. The NDP say in tackling these issues they are simply living up to their traditional role as champion of the consumers.

It’s not hard to see how these can be bread and butter issues for a lot of people. They can’t help but notice the ever-increasing totals on the monthly bills they receive. And what about paying a fee, on both ends, for using the wrong ATM if you don’t have the chance to go across town to your own bank? Standing up to the banks will help anybody’s street cred.

The Conservatives going to bat for consumers aroused confusion for some, who noted the party’s usual stance is to stay out of the way of business and let market forces and consumer choice hold sway.

There’s a good point in that. The main business of legislating is typically outside this subject area, and is often complex to the point that average people don’t readily comprehend – with the unfortunate result, they don’t care.

An agenda favouring consumers, if successful, would help some people. But there’s another fringe benefit: it might also get people paying more attention.

Organizations: NDP, Conservatives

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