House of Commons Hansard #164 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was telemarketing.

Topics

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

In so far as the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada is concerned, the answer is as follows: The subject matter of these questions involves an ongoing criminal investigation. The information requested cannot be released at this time.

Question No. 64-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Can the Solicitor General indicate the precise dates for the commencement and termination of the Airbus related investigation initiated as a result of the complaint lodged by the Minister of Justice in November 1993?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Windsor West
Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

In so far as the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada is concerned, the answer is as follows:

As is a matter of public record, on December 2, 1993, the Minister of Justice wrote a letter to the Solicitor General of Canada regarding allegations of wrongdoing by the former government. On December 9, 1993, the Solicitor General of Canada forwarded the letter to the RCMP.

Upon receipt of the informatiom, the RCMP undertook a review of the allegations in the Minister of Justice's letter, which it should be noted, did not refer to Airbus. Having undertaken this review, by letter of February 22, 1994, the RCMP advised the Minister of Justice that there were insufficient grounds to commence a criminal investigation.

Question No. 65-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Can the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office indicate whether anyone within those offices, or on contract, was involved in any way in the Airbus affair, or the ensuing investigations, and the nature of their involvement?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

No one in the Prime Minister's Office was involved in the Airbus investigation.

The Privy Council Office did not know of the September 29, 1995 letter of request to the Swiss authorities, or of the RCMP investigation of Mr. Mulroney until after the letter became public knowledge on November 18, 1995.

If the Royal Canadian Mounted Police approached any department of the public service, it was as part of the investigation. Accordingly, the information requested cannot be released at this time.

Question No. 67-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

April 25th, 1997 / 12:25 p.m.

Lethbridge
Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker Lethbridge

Can the Minister of Justice indicate any/all individuals he, or his executive assistant, met with pertaining to the Airbus affair, including the name of the individual(s), the date(s), and the subject matter of their meeting?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Prince Albert—Churchill River
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

The Minister of Justice had no knowledge of the Airbus investigation that was the subject matter of the lawsuit commenced by Brian Mulroney until November 4, 1995 when he was contacted by Mr. Mulroney's counsel, Roger Tassé.

Subsequent to the initiation of the lawsuit on November 20, 1995, the Minister of Justice and his executive assistant received briefings concerning the status of the litigation as required.

Question No. 97-

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC

Within the framework of its mandate to coordinate the activities of the Canadian intelligence community, can the Privy Council Office (including the intelligence agencies directly or indirectly under its authority) specify, for the 1995 and 1996 fiscal years: ( a ) what persons or agencies it authorized to carry out intelligence studies, ( b ) what subjects were covered by these studies and ( c ) what were the costs of each of them?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

In so far as the Privy Council Office is concerned, the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (IAS) has commissioned the studies listed below.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-67, an act to amend the Competition Act and another act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

St. Paul's
Ontario

Liberal

Barry Campbell Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I was speaking about some changes to the act concerning deceptive advertising and marketing practices.

The Competition Act will offer the bureau two avenues, criminal prosecution whereby the bureau will refer cases to the attorney general if an infraction has occurred, or civil resolution to rectify conduct which, though problematic, has occurred unintentionally. Under the new civil regime most of the deceptive practices now prohibited under the act will remain practically unchanged and will become reviewable matters.

The bureau can call upon either a judicial member of the competition tribunal, the Federal Court of Canada or a provincial superior court. Redress can be obtained through a court order or by way of consent. Orders to publish information notices as well as to pay administrative monetary penalties of up to $200,000 for companies and $100,000 for individuals may be issued. Consent orders may be entered into and will then be legally binding.

Measures such as these will expedite decision making and ensure it is done consistently and by a specialized body in the vast majority of cases. At the end of the day we will have quicker and more effective resolution of instances of misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices.

I now turn to regular price claims, essentially comparisons between regular selling prices and cut rate prices. As we all know consumers like to wait until products they want are on sale rather than buy them at the regular price. Advertising showing how much one can save over the regular price can therefore be a powerful tool to attract consumers. The Competition Act already prohibits materially misleading regular price claims.

Representatives of the retail sales sector as well as some consumer groups have asserted that the act does not give clear guidelines on what kind of regular selling price claims may be made.

Under the amendments the government is proposing, representations as to the ordinary selling price will be valid if they meet one of two tests. One is based on the price charged for a substantial volume of sales. The other is based on the price at which the product has been offered for sale for a substantial period of time. According to the new provisions, when determining whether an order is called for the judge will take into account the nature of the product and the relevant geographical market. Even if the representations fail to meet either test no order will be made if such representations are not otherwise misleading.

On quite another subject, we are proposing amendments to the provisions requiring advance notice to the bureau of large merger transactions. An efficient pre-notification process is essential to allow the bureau to determine whether a transaction would have a negative effect on competition before the transaction is finalized.

A number of measures are proposed that would improve the process for businesses by reducing the regulatory burden for no issue transactions. This will be achieved through reduced information requirements and greater flexibility to waive the requirement for pre-notification or for some of the information required under certain circumstances.

Other measures are directed toward facilitating the review of transactions raising potential concerns. For example, the amend-

ments will provide more realistic conditions for the issuance by the tribunal of a provisional order to delay the completion or implementation of a proposed transaction.

It is widely recognized by experts that some provision for requiring pre-notification of mergers is essential to preserve the effectiveness of the merger review process. A more efficient process will benefit the players directly involved: the bureau and the merging parties. Ultimately improvements are beneficial to society as a whole if they help to safeguard competition, which is still the best way to provide consumers and business with a wide choice of products at the best possible prices.

I will say a few words about the amendments dealing with prohibition orders. The Competition Act provides that the court may, when it has found a person or company guilty of an infraction, issue a prohibition order enjoining the offender from continuing or repeating the offence. Independent of any finding of guilt, the prohibition order can also be issued if the parties consent and upon resolution of a contested case.

Amendments proposed in this area open up some new possibilities. In some cases it may be preferable to require defendants to commit themselves to the adoption of acceptable behaviour. That is why we propose to allow the courts to issue orders requiring defendants to take specific measures to conform to the requirements of the act. Among other advantages this may help avoid lengthy and extensive litigation.

In the past amending the Competition Act has been along and difficult task. The amendment procedure we have adopted is based on partnership and respect among stakeholders often with differing views. The amendments we are proposing reflect a consensus among stakeholders. We hope to build on the choices we have made to provide for a more regular review of the vitally important Competition Act.

As I said in my earlier remarks before we broke for question period, the act is functioning generally well but these changes will enhance its operation.

The details of the bill under review will be considered in detail in due course. I have merely provided an introduction to some of the principal changes contemplated and an indication of the benefits that may result from its passage. This package of amendments is balanced and achievable. It is the result of extensive consultation with stakeholder group representatives and consumers. The private sector, the judicial community, academia and law enforcement agencies took part in the deliberations of a consultative panel created to make recommendations to the government. I thank all individuals and organizations that have worked with dedication to review the Competition Act, as well as those who have provided us with the benefit of their opinions.

Before coming to the House on being elected in 1993 competition law was an area of practice for me. I can say from my experience as a practitioner in this area that the consultation that goes on with the private sector, with people interested in the strength and operation of the Competition Act, is one of the best examples of the system working properly.

The amendments to the act at this time, as did earlier revisions to the act, represent a considerable effort on the part of government and stakeholders to arrive at valuable and timely solutions to sometimes complex issues. The proposals before us today have been carefully developed and considered. I believe they merit the support of the House.

That concludes my remarks on the Competition Act, but I might just take a moment while time still remains to me to say this may well be my last speech before the House. I will not be seeking re-election. As such I wanted to take a moment, first and foremost, to thank the people of St. Paul's riding in central Toronto, for putting their confidence in me and asking me to come here in 1993 to represent them. It has been an honour and privilege to do so.

I also recognize the staff of the House, table officers, pages and all those who assist us in the functioning of our work. If people watching our proceedings on television think it is easy and straightforward, they really need to know the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, behind the curtain, at the table and in the Speaker's chair to assist us in moving business along in the House.

I also thank members of my personal staff in Toronto and in Ottawa who have contributed enormously to my ability to serve my constituents. They have my gratitude.

In closing I will say a word about serving in the House and about my colleagues. Some people refer to serving in Parliament as serving in an exclusive club. I think that is a confusing description. It is exclusive only in the sense that it provides Canadians from all parts of the country the opportunity to meet, work together, share views, learn, grow and do a better job as a result. In that sense it is very exclusive and a privilege.

The House is a microcosm of our great country. It has been my honour to serve.

Competition Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was an eloquent ending to a speech by the parliamentary secretary when he talked about his departure from Parliament.

This is my first Parliament. I was rather surprised at the lack of surprise in the calling of an election when in actual fact we do not have a fixed election date. Many things have to be put in place to run the electoral process. I know I am off topic but it all points to the fact that a fixed election date is probably a pretty good idea. It works in a lot of democracies and I think it would work very well

here as well. It would certainly level the playing field in terms of all parties knowing exactly where they stand.

I am joining in the debate today on Bill C-67, an act to amend the Competition Act. From the outset I would like to say the Reform Party has no serious reservations with the bill. In fact we are pleased to see the inclusion of some of the amendments to the Competition Act. It is important that we keep the debate about competition open for discussion, what it is and how it could or should function. In this way we could continue to respond to a changing business environment and to ensure the legislation set out is both flexible enough to respond to the marketplace and efficiently administered in order to be effective.

The Reform position on competition is clear. We support vigorous measures to ensure the successful operation of the marketplace, such as promoting competition and competitive pricing and strengthening and vigorously enforcing competition and anti-combines legislation with severe penalties for collusion and price fixing. The intent of Bill C-67 supports this philosophy.

It is useful to review the Competition Act to see how it works and what it is designed to do. It is designed to promote competition and efficiency in the Canadian marketplace. It forms the legislative framework for some of the basic principles for the conduct of business in Canada, applying with few exceptions to all industries and levels of trade.

We can all agree the act is honourable. The act contains both criminal and non-criminal provisions. Criminal offences include conspiracy, bid rigging, discriminatory and predatory pricing, price maintenance, misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices.

As we see in Bill C-67 the issue of telemarketing falls under these provisions. Other areas that fall under the act are reviewable matters including mergers, abusive dominant position, refusal to deal, consignment selling, tied selling, market restriction and pricing. This would include such areas and items as gasoline pricing.

The enforcement and administration of the Competition Act are carried out by the director of investigation and research who heads the competition bureau at Industry Canada. At present that individual is Mr. Konrad von Finckenstein. When the bureau becomes aware of a possible competition offence, the facts are examined to determine whether they raise a concern under the act. If the director believes on reasonable grounds that an offence under the act has been or is about to be committed, an inquiry is commenced.

Inquiries can also commence when the minister so directs or when six Canadians make an application for an inquiry. Recently we saw an inquiry commence on the issue of gas pricing in the Ottawa area, for example.

Although the director can use formal investigative tools to gather information, in cases where the director believes a criminal offence has occurred matters are referred to the Attorney General of Canada for prosecution before the criminal courts.

Bill C-67, which the Reform Party supports, enhances the current Competition Act. We are pleased to see the issues of misleading advertising and deceptive marketing enhanced and the issue of deceptive telemarketing addressed. The act currently addresses deceptive marketing. Bill C-67 provides for a more effective means of punishment and is an improvement.

If consumers find themselves victims of deceptive marketing, for instance false advertising, the bill sets out new provisions that will make the system more effective both in terms of administration and cost. Under the current act, when infractions are committed criminal prosecution is obligatory. The new provisions will create a dual regime of civil and criminal offences.

In the case of serious infractions involving repeat offenders or fraud, a criminal regime will be maintained. In less serious cases where an individual or corporation was unaware of the law, the amendments would allow for the infractions to be addressed through civil court by means of fines, cease and desist orders and information notices. This means that civil offences could be addressed without lengthy court delays which can only be an advantage to both the consumer and the taxpayer.

Another area which catches our attention is that of the provisions set out to address deceptive telemarketing. Telemarketing as defined by the bill is the practice of using person to person telephone communications for the purpose of promoting directly or indirectly the supply or use of a product, service or any other business interest.

We can all attest to the growth of the telemarketing industry, somewhat ruefully perhaps. I am sure we can all tell stories of being interrupted once or twice by an eager telemarketer during dinner or at some other inconvenient moment. How best to handle the interruption is a subject for discussion. In my case, I am thankful for the invention of the answering machine and private listings.

Whether we appreciate the work of telemarketers or not, there are serious issues concerning telephone marketing which should concern us all. It is safe to say for the most part that telemarketers are above board, but as with any industry, there is the possibility of deception. Many people, particularly seniors, are at the risk of being taken advantage of at the hands of unscrupulous people.

In the buying and selling of products over the phone there are rules of logic we must all follow. It is wise for instance to be suspicious of anyone who might offer money or grand prizes over the phone for a small fee. As well, many of us know it is inadvisable to give a credit card number to anyone over the phone.

As we do more and more everyday activities by phone and as progress and technology make that more and more possible, the old rules simply do not apply across the board. It is not that simple. This can leave the consumer confused: Do I or do I not provide my credit card number to this individual?

The only solution is to ensure that laws exist to address unscrupulous practices. In order for both the industry and the consumer to benefit, the consumer needs assurance that the marketplace is being monitored to assure fair and legal practices. Where telemarketing is concerned, sound competition policy not only means a confident consumer, it means an educated consumer.

By setting out what is required in order to conduct fair telemarketing practices, Canadians will know what they can demand from any financial transaction conducted over the telephone. We are satisfied that the provisions set out in Bill C-67 address these issues sufficiently.

I mentioned earlier that it is important to keep discussion on competition open in order to ensure its effectiveness and efficiency, but the issue of competition has taken on a broader context in the last few years. This is particularly the case where global competition now plays a direct role in determining the economic policies of Canada.

Competition has become the mantra of the 21st century. Governments around the globe promote its merits and its values in generating wealth and in contributing to innovation. Competition dictates policy in everything from free trade in softwood lumber to the information highway and whether we have direct to home satellites in Canada.

If we look closely, we will see that competition is the reason given by governments to explain many things, including why they must spend money on business subsidies and infrastructure programs for example. In fact it seems that the notion of competition has dominated every policy paper, federal budget, government initiative, piece of legislation, committee report, study and countless conferences we have seen since the government came to power. Sometimes it is sad to say it is nothing more than a euphemism for political patronage and/or vote buying.

For the average consumer it must be confusing. As a voter trying to understand economic policy, the emphasis on competition has left many more questions than answers. Can competition be good if the result is downsizing and the loss of jobs? Can competition be good if it means lower wages? Is competition good, we wonder, when the success of the new Wal-Mart means the closure of the local business down the street?

The average consumer should not apologize for being confused or for asking questions or for feeling some anxiety. For too long voters have been left out of the economic process. The answer that because it is good for competition hardly suffices in their attempts to understand which government policies are sound. The truth is that fair competition is a good thing as long as competition in and of itself is not what dictates good economic policy. Fair competition is integral to sound economic policy.

The Reform Party is a strong supporter of the competitive marketplace but we are very aware that competition alone is not enough to ensure the economic stability we seek. Nor will it alone create the kind of marketplace that builds strong industries and businesses and protects the consumers.

Reformers do not accept that in order to have competition it must come at the expense of the taxpayer. Reformers believe in competitive strategies that have substance. We believe there are ways in which we can increase competition by allowing the taxpayer to function freely in the marketplace without compromising the interests of the consumer or at great cost to the taxpayer. In fact, our definition of a competitive Canada would not only save the taxpayer money but would also provide economic stability.

For the sake of good and fair competition, we would take the politics out of economic decision making in Canada. We would not use competition as an excuse for the unreasonable waste of taxpayers' money spent on business subsidies. We would eliminate grants and subsidies to businesses. A business should be able to survive on its own merits. Taxpayers should not support inefficient or ineffective businesses in this manner.

For the sake of good and fair competition, we would support the removal of all measures that insulate industries, businesses, financial institutions, professions and trade unions from domestic and foreign competition. That would mean dropping Canada's internal trade barriers once and for all.

In order to realize fair and good competition, Reform would orient federal government activities toward the nurturing of physical and human infrastructure. We would give greater priority to the development of skills, particularly those that would provide future job flexibility within a co-operative training environment.

We would base physical infrastructure spending on economic criteria rather than on the basis of artificial temporary job creation. In order to realize a fair and competitive marketplace, we would invest in basic scientific research and ensure grassroots investment

in research and development in order to keep Canada on the leading edge of innovation.

If Canada is truly competitive, we will see a better country where the entrepreneur is valued and the small business person is free to grow, where our children are educated and provided with the skills they need to succeed, where families are relieved from an unfair tax burden and where Canadians are free from worrying about their futures. Instead they must be empowered to reach out and grasp every opportunity that comes their way.

Competition must mean something to the average citizen, not just to bureaucrats and policy makers. Canadians must see real evidence of competition in their everyday lives and feel the effects that a truly competitive society provides. That means direct to home satellites. That means freer internal trade. That means prudent regulation of our financial institutions. That means reasonable interest rates on our credit cards. That means fair prices at the grocery store and at the gas station. For that is a country built on sound economic and social policies where the result is fair and good competition, and that is the kind of country Canada can be.