Bill C-41 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Competition Act
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Maxime Bernier Conservative
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
May 30th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
Maxime Bernier Beauce, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's very important for me to be here today. I'm pleased to be here with you. I'm pleased to be before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I'm happy to be here because it's all important, industry in Canada, and I know that it's important to you also.
As you said, I'm here with Richard Dicerni and Ron Parker. Richard is the deputy minister and Ron is the visiting assistant deputy minister.
Mr. Chairman, I am proud to say that my Department and other organizations that make up the portfolio, and for which I am accountable, have accomplished many significant achievements in the last number of months. It is these accomplishments and some future business that I would like to take the next ten minutes to talk about.
Recently I was pleased to join the Prime Minister and the finance minister to release our government's new science and technology strategy. Our strategy can be summed up in two words: excellence and commercialization. Our plan builds on Canada's research excellence, and it improves the ability of researchers and entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into innovative commercial products.
As most of you know, another major undertaking has been the work we've done on telecommunications. Our government telecommunication package includes varying a CRTC decision on access to an independent voice-over-Internet protocol; issuing a policy direction to the CRTC asking them to rely on market forces to the maximum extent possible rather than regulation; establishing the framework for the CRTC and the industry to work together to develop a consumer ombudsman; and, most significantly, varying the CRTC decision on forbearance to introduce true competition to Canada's local telephone markets.
As well, I introduced Bill C-41 to further protect consumers as the telecom regulatory framework moves to a more deregulated and market-based system.
In short, we have reformed the way in which our telecommunications are regulated in Canada, and I'm proud of the work we've done on this file to date.
In all areas of our economy, our government is strongly committed to improving competitiveness and prosperity. Last November we presented an ambitious long-term plan called Advantage Canada to create a positive economic climate. In March, with Budget 2007, we started implementing major elements of that plan. To create a positive economic climate, our government delivered on elements that will work for the economy as a whole.
In Budget 2007 our government increased the capital cost allowance rate on investments for manufacturing businesses. As you know, that was one of the major recommendations of your committee, and I thank you for this recommendation. I'm proud that we followed all the important recommendations in your report.
We also, as a government, reduced the federal debt while making substantial investments in education, research, and training programs, and we put more than $16 billion into infrastructure investments. These measures assist all industrial sectors as they are designed to drive our economy and make Canadian companies international leaders.
As you know, the Canadian aerospace and defence sector is an example of an industry that competes globally every day.
On April 2, we announced the launch of a new, transparent research and development initiative.
We came to office with a very significant piece of legislation—the government accountability bill. Accountability applies across government, as well as to Industry Canada, and specifically to a new program we have introduced, called the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative.
This is a highly transparent program based on new criteria, and aimed at promoting research and accelerating innovation in the Canadian aerospace, defence, security and space industries. This program is expected to invest $900 million over the next five years into new projects. It will support strategic research and development, and new commercial products and services. It will result in significant spinoffs for industry, and it will be my job to ensure that those spinoffs are as positive as they can be and are linked to high technology.
While we've seen positives in the aerospace and defence sectors, the North American automobile sector is experiencing some challenges. Despite these challenges, the Canadian auto sector continues to attract billions of dollars in new investment and new product mandates. Last year, Ontario automobile plants produced more cars and trucks than any other auto-making region in North America. Canadian auto workers are consistently noted for the quality of the cars they make.
Another area we are watching closely is our forest products sector. Canada's forest products industry is an integral part of our nation's economy. Our government is working closely with the industry to enhance opportunities for this sector. We will help the industry grow offshore markets, promote value-added manufacturing, and help protect it from the growing threat of forest pests.
The manufacturing sector is also facing its own challenges. Although there have been job losses in this sector, as I was saying earlier, those job losses have been offset in many regions by strong job gains—jobs that are full-time and pay well. So far this year, close to 153,000 new jobs have been created in Canada. Our unemployment rate is 6.1 per cent, an historic 33-year low.
Yesterday, our government, along with Canadian manufacturers and exporters, responded in a very positive way to the recommendations made by your Committee on manufacturing. We are now taking action to help manufacturers. In Budget 2007, we came forward with measures to address the short-term priorities and long-term competitive needs of this industry sector.
Part of building a competitive and efficient economy is ensuring that goods and services can move to where there is demand. North-south trade, while vital to the Canadian economy, is not the only direction this government is looking at.
As a government, it is our goal to build a stronger Canadian economic union. I'm pleased to report the federal and provincial governments are working together on the removal of internal trade barriers. A key component of this plan is an agreement to implement full labour mobility within Canada by April 2009.
On going forward, Budget 2007 gave me the mandate to establish an independent expert panel to review Canada's competition policies. As the telecommunications policy review panel was helpful in setting a course for telecom reform, it is my hope that we will see the same types of constructive recommendations from the competition panel on how to improve the state of Canadian competitiveness.
We will soon have Bill C-47, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act, before this committee for your consideration. This bill will meet the Government of Canada's commitment to the International Olympic Committee to protect the Olympic and Paralympic brands. It is balanced legislation in line with what other countries have done and are doing when they host similar kinds of international sporting events.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, as an update, I'm pleased to say that Bill C-26, the payday loan legislation we introduced to help protect consumers, received royal assent on May 16. Already several provinces are passing their own consumer protection legislation to apply this exemption and regulate the payday loan industry.
Mr. Chairman, in closing, I'd like to thank the Committee for its diligent work these past months. I can assure Committee members that they will have my full cooperation.
I would now be very pleased to answer any questions you may have over the course of the next hour. Thank you.
May 11th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
Pauline Picard Drummond, QC
Mr. Speaker, in addition to his fear campaign, the minister also began a campaign of misinformation. Yesterday, he tried to create confusion by saying that, if we want to give the Competition Bureau greater investigative power, we just had to vote for Bill C-41. However, the investigative powers covered by Bill C-41 relate to the telecommunications sector, not the oil and gas sector.
Rather than trying to fool everyone, does the minister plan to address the problem of the appalling increase in the price of gas by giving the Competition Bureau the investigative power it needs to do its job in the oil and gas sector?
Business of the House
May 10th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, this week is strengthening accountability through democratic reform week. It has been a busy week for the democratic reform family of bills.
We sent out invitations for the first birthday of Bill S-4, the Senate tenure bill, which Liberal senators have been delaying for almost a year now.
While we are disappointed with the behaviour of Bill S-4's caregivers, we did have some good news this week with the successful delivery of two new members of the family: Bill C-54, a bill to bring accountability with respect to loans; and Bill C-55, a bill to expand voting opportunities.
There is more good news. We are expecting.
Tomorrow, I will be introducing an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867, on democratic representation, which is on today's notice paper.
Bill C-16, fixed dates for elections, was finally allowed by the clingy Liberal-dominated Senate to leave the nest when it was given royal assent last week.
With respect to the schedule of debate, we will continue today with the opposition motion.
Friday, we conclude strengthening accountability through democratic reform week with debate on the loans bill, possibly the Senate consultation bill and, hopefully, Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill.
Next week will be strengthening the economy week, when we will focus on helping individuals, families and businesses get ahead.
Beginning Monday, and continuing through the week, the House will consider: Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill; Bill C-33 to improve our income tax system; Bill C-40, to improve the sales tax system; Bill C-53, relating to investment disputes; and Bill C-47, the Olympics bill, which help us have a successful Olympics. Hopefully, we can get to Bill C-41, the Competition Act.
If time permits, we will also call for third and final reading Bill C-10, the minimum mandatory sentencing bill.
Thursday, May 17 shall be an allotted day.
Wednesday, May 16, shall be the day appointed, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a), for the purpose of consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under Canadian Heritage of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008.
Thursday, May 17, shall be the day appointed for the purpose of consideration in committee of the whole of all votes under National Defence of the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008.
Finally, there is an agreement with respect to the debate tomorrow on the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion.
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the debate pursuant to Standing Order 66 scheduled for tomorrow be deemed to have taken place and all questions necessary to dispose of the motion to concur in the 13th Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts be deemed put and a recorded division be deemed requested and deferred to Wednesday, May 16, 2007, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.
May 10th, 2007 / 2:20 p.m.
Maxime Bernier Minister of Industry
Mr. Speaker, if my friend wants to give the Competition Bureau more power, I invite him to vote for Bill C-41, which gives the Competition Bureau greater power to conduct investigations. The Bloc Québécois has been blocking Bill C-41 for some time.
That said, the Bloc Québécois should also know that gas prices are due to a shortage of inventory in the United States, a breakdown in the production chain. Oil inventories are being built up, and you will see that market forces will soon drive down gas prices again, if Bill C-288 is not adopted.
March 28th, 2007 / 5 p.m.
Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON
We're not in camera. Yes, we're out in public, of course. It's been a long day.
So we're back with an offer saying that we, as the Liberal Party and other parties, have made twelve recommendations to make this thing work on April 6. You then proposed not to give it to us, conditional upon this motion. Our response has been that this motion has to be there because we have no other way of guaranteeing that what you're going to propose is something we will agree with. What if you, for instance, take out something along the lines of a market analysis, or what if you go back to the dates and say it's contingent on Bill C-41? I don't know what you're prepared to offer, but this cat-and-mouse game is unprecedented. Tell us what you've got; it may very well work. You've been talking about this for 45 minutes, and we have no idea what you have proposed.
We've been forthright in terms of providing you with what we thought would make this thing work. We haven't received your proposal. Therefore, we're going to the motion. We're going to the motion because, as you know, Chair, this thing kicks in on April 6. If the House of Commons, in all of its deliberations within this committee, and the witnesses, who have come before us and pointed out the faults, the frailties and the shortcomings of the minister's rush to make a decision, are not taken into consideration, then we're going to wind up with a flawed decision, which would be irresponsible for the opposition, Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP to proceed with in terms of a blank cheque.
So what I'm suggesting you do, Chair, if you are prepared to do this—because you received a letter from the minister saying he'll give it to you if you don't have the motion criticizing them.... But I'm not interested in criticizing the minister; the Liberal Party is not interested in criticizing the minister. We're interested in making sure the regulatory framework he's proposed is consistent with the TPR report, the telecommunications report, which came out last year. If he could do so, that would be great, but we're dealing with a deadline of April 6. This is the last day the committee is going to sit. Chair, if we have to sit all night to try to hear where you're prepared to make those compromises, we'll do that, but I haven't heard them yet. We in the opposition, at the very last in camera meeting, gave the government an opportunity to provide us specifically with what they could work with. We offered those in good faith and never made those public, yet you're concerned about criticism. Well, chairman, there's going to be criticism if this motion goes to the House, because this won't be the end of the line. What I'm more concerned about is making sure we get the regulatory framework correct. Now, we know there are problems.
Let me, Scott, if you don't mind, read the recommendations you had put forward to deal with this:
(1) Come forward with policy legislation to move forward on the rest of the TPR recommendations; (2) Introduce a plan and/or program to expand Broadband for rural and remote areas; (3) Undertake to propose measures to ensure local telephone rate stability in rural Canada; (4) Move forward on the recommendation to have an ombudsman for consumers; (5) Entrench the role of the Telecom Competition Tribunal (TCT) to capitalize on their expertise and ability to safeguard the telecommunications industry rather than rely on your proposed but potentially ineffectual competitor presence test; (6) Conduct a thorough market analysis that ought to consider the impacts on economically disadvantaged communities and Canadians with disabilities before proceeding with any measure designed to deregulate the telecommunications industry; (7) Make allowances for additional time before “forbearance” impacts the small, independent cable operators in their areas; (8) Undertake to address the concerns raised about the possible negative impact of unfettered winback strategies on new entrants in the market;
Now, we've said to this end that a motion could be provided. You're saying that motion should be off the table before you present us with what you'd like and dislike.
We've heard from you, Chair. You mentioned nine recommendations, which I presume would include another one of the proposals made perhaps by the Bloc or the NDP. But we don't know what they are; we're literally farting in the wind. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to buy a pig in a poke.
So this motion stands. I'm going to defend this motion, because it's the only other way to get the government to respond to what, in our view, is an erroneous step taken prematurely that will have the unintended consequence, I'm sure, of reducing competition in Canada and hurting consumers. The Liberal Party will not stand for that.
February 27th, 2007 / 5:25 p.m.
February 27th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
Maxime Bernier Minister of Industry
moved that Bill C-41, An Act to amend the Competition Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House to address Bill C-41. This bill amends the Competition Act regarding the application of provisions dealing primarily with the telecommunications sector. This amendment—the bill only has two clauses—will allow the Competition Tribunal to impose administrative monetary penalties if telecommunications service providers abuse their dominant position.
Bill C-41 will therefore be a powerful deterrent against the anti-competitive behaviour that some players in the industry may display.
The government wants to ensure that consumers and businesses in Canada fully benefit from the deregulation of telecommunications and the creation of competitive markets right here in Canada. To that end, it is essential to provide a credible recourse to punish and deter anti-competitive behaviour which could—and I emphasize the word could—surface during the transition from a regulated to a non-regulated environment.
This is basically the purpose of Bill C-41: to ensure that users of telecommunications services in Canada get the benefits of a competitive market.
In order to properly address this issue, it is important to consider the proposed change in a broader, more global context. The telecommunications sector is experiencing a rapid evolution because of the emergence of new technologies. Telecommunications markets are very competitive and are important to a strong economy.
As we know, competition forces businesses to become more efficient, to invest more in new technologies, to offer new products and to provide services that benefit all consumers.
We are living in a new era of communications shaped by constantly evolving technologies, such as the Internet and the wireless technology. These new telecommunications technologies determine the way we, in Canada, work and live.
Every day, businesses come up with new products and innovative services. In March 2006, the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel acknowledged, in its report, the costs generated by useless and ineffective regulations in these sectors. As I just mentioned, the panel provided us with a copy of its report in March 2006. It urged the government to regulate only if necessary. It also recommended that appropriate measures be provided to deal with anti-competitive behaviour. The panel expressly recommended using fines to ensure that telecommunications companies comply with the Competition Act.
More recently, the Minister of Finance published a document titled "Advantage Canada—Building a Strong Economy for Canadians".
In this document, the government commits itself to taking additional measures to ensure that Canadians will continue to benefit from competition in the telecommunications sector as well as in all other sectors in Canada.
In the document, we stress the importance of making the Competition Act as modern as possible.
In its report, the task force also reminded us rightly that some measures to regulate telecommunications in Canada date back to the beginning of the last century. Moreover, the report says that even though Canada remains a leader in telecommunications, other countries are catching up and are even starting to get ahead of us.
Canada's new government is determined to take measures to reverse this trend. Our goal is to create a new regulatory framework that will be modern and flexible and will allow consumers to take advantage of new technologies as well as competition.
For example, Canada's new government tabled in the House a set of proposed policy directions to the CRTC, directing it to rely as much as possible on market forces. As well, on November 15, I announced the decision to change the way the CRTC regulates voice over Internet protocol services, known as VoIP.
Canada's new government has instructed the CRTC to begin deregulating access-independent VoIP services. There are few obstacles to entry into this market and there is no reason to retain regulation in this area.
In the end, I proposed a variance to the CRTC decision regarding local forbearance which outlined the criteria for determining when to refrain from regulating local services.
The government proposed replacing the CRTC criteria for market share with a criterion that would emphasize the presence of a competitive infrastructure in a given geographic area.
We are doing this to ensure that Canadian consumers have the widest possible choices, the best services and the most competitive rates in the telecommunications sector. We wish to resort to regulation only when problems cannot be resolved by market forces. Competition is the main means of ensuring economic efficiency and promoting innovation and growth of productivity, as well as improving our quality of life.
I come from an area and a country where entrepreneurship is flourishing. The people of Beauce recognize the importance of individual freedom, autonomy and responsibility. Beauce businesspeople also understand, as do entrepreneurs throughout Canada, that individual freedom and competition are vital values in a democratic country and that all forms of regulation can thwart the innovation of which people are so proud.
Implementing this legislation is important. We believe that it is also important that steps be taken to deter behaviour that stifles competition and to educate citizens about this act. The Competition Bureau—
February 27th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC
I have the feeling that now that the minister has placed our hand in the grinder our whole body is getting dragged in.
If we accept the fact that there is a proposal to deregulate the local telephone service and another to increase the fines administered by the Competition Bureau, which is the purpose of Bill C-41... This is from the big report. Those are two of the steps and you say they are going in the right direction.
In your view, is it possible to take those steps without being concerned that the other measures will not follow? Last week, the minister told us he had prepared no legislation to amend the act. So it is very possible that we will make a few changes to the local service directive, if it ever happens, and that the rest will be delayed forever.
Do you not think it is dangerous to go ahead with these two steps only and to leave the rest up in the air? Is it essential to have the other part, the reform of the Telecommunications Act?
Business of the House
February 22nd, 2007 / 3 p.m.
Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform
Mr. Speaker, today we will continue the debate on the Liberal opposition motion.
Tomorrow morning we will begin debate on the procedural motion relating to the back to work legislation, to which the opposition House leader was referring. Also, we will have Bill C-45, the Fisheries Act, following question period.
On Monday, we would like to conclude the debate on the statutory order regarding the Anti-terrorism Act, which is very important for Canadians for public security reasons. We are also getting down to the deadline when certain provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act will sunset.
I have consulted with the other parties and I will propose a related motion at the end of my business statement.
Next week we will consider the following bills: Bill C-37, financial institutions; Bill C-41, competition; Bill C-11, transport; Bill S-3, defence; Bill C-42, the Quarantine Act; Bill C-36, Canada pension plan and old age security; Bill C-10, mandatory minimum penalties; and depending on developments regarding the railway strike, we may call the procedural motion relating to the back to work legislation.
Thursday, March 1 shall be an allotted day.
As I mentioned earlier, following discussions with the House leaders of the other parties, Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you would find unanimous consent of the House to adopt the following motion. I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, once the Statutory Order regarding the Anti-terrorism Act is called on Monday, February 26, and when no member rises to speak on debate or at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders, all questions necessary to dispose of the Statutory Order regarding the Anti-terrorism Act be deemed put, a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, February 27, at 5:30 p.m.
February 19th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
Maxime Bernier Beauce, QC
You are referring to the now defunct Bill C-19 tabled by the former government. That bill gave the CRTC the power to impose administrative monetary penalties on stakeholders in all the different industry sectors. You're absolutely right. That is why I am confident that Bill C-41, which is specific to the telecommunications industry, will be approved by the House at the appropriate time.
With respect to the Competition Bureau and the Competition Tribunal, Ms. Scott said a number of times, when she appeared before you, that she has the necessary resources to take action and would like to be authorized to impose administrative monetary penalties of up to $15 million. She said she would like this bill to be passed by the House and expressed her confidence that this would discourage abusive behaviour. At the same time, she said that if such behaviour were to appear, the Competition Bureau would have the tools it needs to issue injunctions with a view to ensuring that the Act is adhered to and that all industry players, particularly large players, comply with it to the same extent as new entrants.
The test that we are applying for the purposes of deregulation was used by the CRTC itself. It is different from the market share test. If we want consumers to benefit from deregulation and competitive pricing as soon as possible, we can use that test. It is based on facts, is easy for the CRTC to administer, and allows the rule to be applied where there is competition. That is our belief. We want this to happen as quickly as possible.