House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order adopted Monday, April 21, all questions required for the disposal of the second reading stage of Bill C-75 will now be put, without further debate or amendment.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House would agree I would propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yea.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

We agree, Mr. Speaker. Members of the Bloc Quebecois will vote yea.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Reform Party members present have to vote no on this.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

New Democrats vote yes on this motion.

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jag Bhaduria Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting yea on this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

First Nations Land Management Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business.

Broadcast Act
Private Members' Business

April 22nd, 1997 / 6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-216, an act to amend the Broadcast Act (broadcast policy).

Broadcast Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Broadcast Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill has been debated in the House and studied by the heritage committee. It has been debated in the other place and studied by its committee. If members of the opposition really believe in democracy they are going to allow it to go to a vote. If they care to represent interests greater than Quebec, they will allow it to go to a vote. If they care about seniors, families and people who are struggling to get by they will let it go to a vote.

I would like to suggest that the time has come to end this debate now and let us get it to a vote.

Broadcast Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House that this bill, standing in the name of the hon. member for Sarnia, was basically well intentioned.

As far as protecting the consumer is concerned, we have always said in this House that one of the objectives of this bill was to prevent negative option billing, in other words, the consumer should be able to decide whether he wants certain specialty channels provided by cable distributors.

However, although the hon. member brings up the issue of democracy, and I will do so as well, although he argues that we want to protect the interests of consumers and our fellow citizens in Quebec and in Canada, I remind him of what I said in my comments on March 27, 1996, and September 16, 1996, which included arguments that have gained in strength since the bill was considered by the Senate. Many organizations and experts told the Senate that this bill went beyond its original purpose and that in fact it would have a negative impact on the public.

I will outline the sequence of events. If I could speak to them directly, I would ask all members who wish to talk to do so outside so I can make myself clear-

Broadcast Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would ask the hon. members who are having conversations in various parts of the room if they would please move them. It is much more comfortable in the lobby with coffee, juice and everything else.

Broadcast Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your co-operation, and I want to thank my colleagues for giving me a chance to explain why we should vote against this bill.

The purpose of Bill C-216 is to prohibit cable distributors from providing an optional service without the consent of the subscriber. It is intended to prevent negative option billing. This is a marketing technique that puts the onus on the consumer to indicate that he does not want the service.

For instance, when a consumer is offered specialty channels, he is offered them as a service by the cable company, which tells him that if a month from now he is no longer interested, he should give them a call and they will remove the service. So the onus is on the consumer to accept or refuse the offer, and if he does neither, the

cable distributor providing the service bills the consumer. This is called negative option billing.

The bill provides for two exceptions. First, if the new service is substituted for an existing service with no increase in the amount billed, and second, if no distinct separate charge is levied for that service. The Senate, when it considered this bill, proposed an amendment.

The purpose of this amendment is to give the CRTC the power it already had and did not wish to use, which is to allow negative option billing in the case of specialty channels. The CRTC already had that power, and an amendment was proposed to confirm that it had the power and should use it.

I may recall that this bill came on the heels of a revolt among consumers in English Canada. It started in the Vancouver area where there was an outcry in 1995 when a new package of services was introduced by Rogers Communications. In January 1995, six new English specialty channels came on the air, as authorized by the CRTC. Rogers Communications took advantage of this opportunity to change the packages it offered to consumers and, in the process, subscribers lost some of the channels they liked.

They were going to have to pay extra to have them again. The subscribers also had to tell the cable company they did not want to take the new channels. This is called negative option billing.

Consumers in the west were penalized by the fact that Rogers insisted on adding new channels, as a marketing strategy, and the channels consumers enjoyed were withdrawn. Consumers had to pay extra to get them. This obviously drew a loud outcry from western consumers and from consumers in the Toronto area.

What was happening in Quebec at the time? Vidéotron was not offering a tiered service. It simply added new specialty services to its basic service at no extra cost. COGECO and CF Cable reached an agreement with the office of consumer protection after demonstrating the importance of the billing. This is one way of achieving desired penetration, that is, selling the product to enough subscribers to make it cost effective. In Quebec, because the market is so small, 85 per cent penetration is necessary. In other words, 85 per cent of customers must subscribe to cable for it to be cost effective.

Why did the office give its approval and allow the billing, as long as flexible arrangements were in place for consumers who did not understand their obligation to cancel their subscription and avoid being penalized? Simply because, in Quebec, legislation prohibits negative option billing. The same legislation may be found in two other provinces. Billing is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. Product availability and client invoicing are provincial matters. This is why cable companies in Quebec agreed with the consumer association-they wanted to obey the law-and why COGECO did not ask its customers for a cent. This was not the case in the west.

I should add there were no optional services in Quebec at the time, and they did not arrive on the market until 1995.

So some of my colleagues and I are going to take this hour to explain in detail how this whole practice of negative option billing must be opposed and how there must also be respect for the fact that it comes under provincial jurisdiction.

Second, it must also be said that, if passed, the bill will have the effect of preventing any new French language specialty services from broadcasting in Quebec or in French Canada.

My colleagues will back this up and show how this bill has an impact on all francophone communities in Canada, and especially in Quebec.

Finally, they will also show how many organizations, how many specialists have demonstrated here in the House, before the committee and in the Senate that the scope of this bill is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, as you are indicating to me that I have only two minutes left, I would like to move an amendment to this bill. I move, seconded by the member for Drummond:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

A message be sent to the Senate to inform their Honours that this House rejects the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-216, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (broadcasting policy), because, in the opinion of this House, it does not bring the Bill into conformity with the objectives of the Broadcasting Act with regard to French-language services.

That, Mr. Speaker, is the amendment I wished to move, and I will invite my colleagues to continue the debate by pointing out how many experts have opposed the bill, beginning obviously with Quebec's Minister of Cultural Affairs, Louise Beaudoin, who spoke out strongly against it, raising the important issues of distribution and dissemination of cable services for francophones, particularly in Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, if you will approve this amendment, I will move it. My colleagues will continue, in this debate, to show, argument by argument, that this bill should be rejected, because it poses a threat to all francophones in Canada, including Acadian francophones and francophones in Quebec.

Broadcast Act
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman

The amendment moved is in order. The debate is now on the amendment.