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The Senate banking committee has sent a strongly worded letter to Bill Morneau, telling the Finance Minister that Senators are “extremely disappointed” that senior officials were not made available to discuss controversial Bank Act changes.

Senate banking committee chair Doug Black said the committee made several requests and provided several possible dates for officials from Finance Canada and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) to appear, but all were turned down.

“I take an extremely dim of view of that, as perhaps the letter reflects,” Mr. Black said in an interview.

The senators were seeking additional information about provisions in the minister’s latest budget bill, C-74, that would give banks broader authority to enter into business arrangements with financial technology firms, or fintechs.

The provision is the heart of a controversy that was first reported last month by The Globe and Mail. Two officials with the Canadian Association of Mutual Insurance Companies told The Globe that they each received an “angry” phone call from Mr. Morneau’s office telling them that they should stop raising concerns about the provisions with MPs and Senators and that they should not appear before Parliamentary committees on the issue.

The minister’s office has acknowledged that two “frank and direct” phone calls took place, but denies that the insurance officials were told to stop talking to MPs or to not appear before committees.

As a result of the banking committee’s decision to hold extra hearings on those specific provisions, senators heard from Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, who said the section does raise privacy concerns and fails to strike the right balance between fostering commercial innovation and protecting consumers.

While Finance officials had appeared before the committee in early May, the senators wanted the department to return and answer questions specifically related to the fintech provisions. The committee also wanted to hear from OSFI, the federal banking regulator.

Critics have called for more study of the provisions given that, unlike banks, many fintechs are not subject to federal financial regulations. Bank executives told senators that any sharing of customer data with fintechs is only done according to their own high standards for data security and privacy protection and that the provisions would allow banks to work with a broader range of fintechs.

In the committee letter to the minister, Mr. Black notes senators were unable to reach a firm conclusion on the issue because they faced a tight deadline and were not able to hear from the relevant officials.

“The committee is extremely disappointed to have to make observations on this legislation without the important input that officials would have provided on the issues,” Mr. Black wrote on behalf of the banking committee. “The committee expects to receive better co-operation in the future.”

In a report, the banking committee said it “remains concerned about the potential cybersecurity risks that this bill may introduce” and called for further study of the fintech-related changes.

An OFSI spokesperson said officials with the relevant expertise were not available on the dates provided by the committee.

“We make every effort to make OSFI officials available when we receive invitations to appear before parliamentary committees,” Annik Faucher said.

The minister’s office noted that officials had appeared earlier and also answered questions on the issue this week when they came with the minister before the Senate national finance committee.

Mr. Morneau told senators on Tuesday that Canada’s privacy laws will continue to apply even if customer data is transferred to a fintech.

“I appreciate the anxiety around data and recognize that this is some place that we need to continue to be vigilant, but that has nothing to do with this particular measure,” he said.

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