Federal elections cannot be bought. For everything else, there is Mastercard and Visa. And that bothers Quebec merchants more than a fourth wave of COVID-19. Because the fees they have to pay to accept credit card payments are so high in Canada that their main electoral demand is a promise to reduce them to a level closer to what is seen elsewhere in the world.

“This will be our biggest priority for these elections: the interchange fees demanded by what is effectively a duopoly in the Canadian credit card market,” says Jean-Guy Côté, Director General of the Quebec Council at the outset. retail trade (CQCD). “These fees represent several million dollars for Quebec merchants of all sizes. In the case of smaller retailers, where profit margins are sometimes very slim, these fees are a big deal that can change everything for them. “

The interchange fee is an amount that is remitted by the merchant to the issuer of the credit card used by their customer when the latter checks out. And, although other payment systems have emerged in recent years, Visa and Mastercard are still popular with consumers. And this popularity has been boosted by the explosion in online shopping since the spring of 2020: on the Internet, almost all purchases made by consumers are paid using a Visa or Mastercard.

Last year in Canada, these interchange fees were up to 3% of the transaction value. Faced with the discontent of many traders, this rate was reduced to 1.4%. It’s better, but it’s not enough, explains Jean-Guy Côté.

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“In another era, these fees covered the costs of developing the infrastructure behind payment by credit card. Nowadays, this development has been done for a long time, but there are few retailers who risk not accepting payment by Mastercard or Visa, he said. The issue of credit cards is the responsibility of the federal government, which is why we are making them our main election call. “

By the end of the month, the CQCD intends to send a letter directly to each of the federal parties in the running, urging them to promise to better regulate these costs and to reduce them to a rate comparable to that in force elsewhere.

In Europe, interchange fees are 0.5% or even lower. The federal budget released last spring by the Trudeau government promised to tackle this issue, but the September 20 election cut short the adoption of measures in this direction.

What the CQCD wants is for the government elected next month to settle the issue for good. “We see that other countries are capable of providing good [les frais d’interchange], we hope that Canada will achieve this after the election. “

In tune with the rest of Canada

The other electoral priorities of Quebec retailers are similar to those expressed by most Canadian companies.

Basically, Quebec inc. wants the most predictable possible exit from the pandemic crisis, where the focus will be on digital transformation and respect for the environment. Before that, the future government will also have to solve the problem of the scarcity of labor.

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For its part, the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ) recalls the importance of local purchasing in future economic recovery, especially when it comes to public investment. Buying from businesses here is a simple solution to more than one problem – helping to boost the economy, reducing pollution from transport, improving the country’s trade balance, etc. – says the CPQ.

The organization also believes that Ottawa should invest more in reviving the aeronautics, tourism and restaurant sectors. These three sectors, the most affected by the pandemic over the past 18 months, are crucial for the economic health of Quebec, he emphasizes.

However, this will be easier said than done, since all of this must be done without raising the price too much.indebtedness government, admits CPQ CEO Karl Blackburn.

“The postpandemic period will be decisive for many Quebec companies. We must ensure that barriers to economic recovery are released and the sectors which have not yet regained full growth are supported. Nevertheless, we must keep an eye on the state of public finances and the specter of inflation, ”he concludes.

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