Ontario girl's online banking speech goes viral

A 12-year-old Ontario girl is causing a stir in financial circles with an online speech that says banks and the federal government are 'enslaving' the people of Canada.

In many ways Victoria Grant is a typical 12-year-old. The straight-A, Grade 6 student from Cambridge, Ont., likes soccer, playing the piano and watching Survivor, but when it comes to international finance, she’s all business.

It started when Grant won a contest at her school with a five-minute speech in which she says "banks and the government have colluded to financially enslave the people of Canada."

Her message is that the government should borrow directly from the Bank of Canada instead of from private banks that charge high interest.

Her articulate, punchy speech took third place at a speaking conference in Toronto. Her father posted a video of her speech online which has led to speaking engagements in Philadelphia and Montreal.

Macro economics may not be a common discussion topic among 12-year-olds but in an interview with CBC News, Grant said she and her family regularly grapple with the world’s problems around the dinner table. Her mother Marcia, who is also her teacher, and her two younger brothers also like to join in the debate.

Victoria Grant, 12, is taking on the banking system with a YouTube speech that has gone viral. (CBC)

"Sometimes after dinner we'll go down to our living room and write stuff out on the white board and watch YouTube videos about it," she said. "It's interesting to hear about these things and know what's going on in the world.

"I’m trying to get people to notice that the government is doing something wrong to us and we need to change what's happening," she said.

Victoria’s father Zane acknowledges that some skeptics might feel the opinions expressed in his daughter’s speech are not entirely her own. Victoria said she wrote the speech while her parents helped edit it.

"It's a combination of both [of us]," said Zane, a project manager for Research in Motion. "There's no doubt she's been affected by my opinions. I'm teaching them how to think critically, how to ask questions. You can’t just trust people, you have to dig in and find out yourself and that's what I'm trying to get my children to do. I hope one day they challenge me.

"We have never forced our daughter to do any of this," he said. "Do I have all the answers? No, I'm still learning with our family."

Speech stirs debate

One lesson Grant has learned is that bold speeches often spark intense debate.

Walid Hejazi, a professor of international business and a banking expert at the Rotman School of Management, has seen Grant’s speech on-line. And while he was impressed with her delivery, he said what she’s arguing for has been tried by countries in the past and leads to hyperinflation.

"When governments simply print money, simply take money from the central bank and spend it, what you end up with is higher inflation and lower output growth," he said. "If it were that simple, why wouldn't every government in the world simply go out and print money?"

Victoria said skeptics and those who post negative comments beside her video don’t bother her.  For her it's about taking a stand, learning about the issues and sparking debate. It's something she vows to continue doing.

"If they disagree with me, that's their opinion. I stand with my opinion, they stand with theirs."

With files from CBC's Jeff Semple and Lorenda Reddekopp