Pressing the Senate for Action on Financial Literacy

On February 7th, I made a joint presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce to reinforce the value of appointing a national financial literacy leader.

The Committee was holding a hearing on Bill C-28, an Act to amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act, which I consider a sign of steady progress on improving the financial literacy of Canadians.

Together with my co-presenter, Eleanor Farrell, Director, Office of the Investor at the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), we said that research must be used to guide financial literacy activities. The Task Force on Financial Literacy took this approach: it remains our view at Investor Education Fund (IEF) that there must be a fact-based rationale for taking action.

As I said to the Committee, a convincing rationale needs to be developed to prioritize topics that will have the most impact on Canadians. Further, having the office of the financial literacy leader as the main information and knowledge repository on financial literacy in Canada will help this individual demonstrate thought leadership and develop the authority he/she will need to lead financial change in Canada. Developing a co-ordinated research plan among government, industry and not-for-profit associations would be a significant improvement over what we have today as it would help us develop new insight where it is needed most.

I emphasized that an effective communications capability will be essential for the new champion to be effective: both traditional and social media must be used to reach Canadians directly and persuasively. Eleanor and I also recommended that the financial literacy leader adopt the game plan of the Financial Literacy Action Group (FLAG), which we co-authored. It provides a detailed set of priorities to consider, and we believe that this course of action will start the office in the right direction.

Further, we must never forget that how we present this topic must be considered as carefully as what we present. This office needs to talk in the language of Canadians, rather than the language of the government.

On reaching this milestone, I want to credit the OSC for its strong support of IEF and its foresight in establishing this organization to pursue our mandate. I also want to recognize Ted Menzies, Minister of State (Finance) and James Rajotte, MP for Edmonton-Leduc for their steady support for financial literacy for Canadians and appointing the federal financial literacy champion. Their goal is our goal.

We’re not quite there yet. The new leader must be hired and the office must be developed before an effective national plan can be executed. However, the Senate committee hearing is a key stepping stone in the right direction and makes us confident we will get there.

Please demonstrate your support by communicating with your MP about the importance of financial literacy and of having the federal financial literacy leader appointed as soon as possible. You have everything to gain from doing so.

That’s my take. What’s yours?

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