Wednesday, August 10, 2005


I'm surprised to see the NDP willing to back bank mergers, but it does appear to have a strategic response to the issue:
(The NDP) says its approval comes at a cost. That price entails the minority Liberal government implementing a number of "stringent" rules aimed at protecting consumers, such as a cap on credit card interest rates and regulations governing the closing of bank branches...

There are seven elements to the NDP's bank merger platform, most of which would involve new legislation or amendments to existing laws. They include requirements that banks invest in communities where they offer loans; assurances that small businesses would face fewer hurdles in accessing loans; a cap on interest rates charged by bank credit cards; and protection for communities against bank branch closings and potential job losses.

Ultimately I like the strategy. Mergers were probably going to happen anyway if the Liberals managed a majority next time out; now, if the Liberals can be forced to accept the NDP's conditions, there'll be some benefit for consumers and small businesses which any future government would have to be wary of removing.

The potential problem is that with both other opposition parties also willing to back mergers, the Liberals may need to meet only one party's terms. If that happens then consumers may be much worse off for a time, but at worst the NDP is left with a solid consumer-protection platform for the 2006 election, along with a shining example of why such a platform is needed.

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