House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.

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Division No. 1258
Government Orders

March 30th, 2000 / 11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from February 14 consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-6, an act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act.

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties and pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), I believe you would find consent for the following motion. I move:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on the consideration of Senate amendments to Bill C-6, all recorded divisions to dispose of the said motion be deemed requested and deferred until the end of Government Orders on Tuesday, April 4.

Division No. 1258
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11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the chief whip have unanimous consent of the House to move this motion?

Division No. 1258
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11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Division No. 1258
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11:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say a few words about Bill C-6 dealing with electronic commerce that is before the House.

As we all know the bill we are dealing with today has already passed third reading in the House of Commons and our party voted in favour of it at third reading stage. We think it is the right way to go.

The bill is supported by a number of consumer groups and by a number of other groups and agencies around the country, such as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and so on. It is a bill that is seen as going in the right direction. It sets out a legal framework for electronic commerce, commerce on the Internet, commerce online in this country and it deals with such issues as privacy and security for individuals who are dealing on the Internet.

The reason this bill is back again before the House is because the Senate has dealt with this particular legislation and has submitted amendments to the bill, in particular one dealing with medical records. This amendment is actually a good amendment that we support in terms of medical records being part of this legislation. That is the right way to go.

I find that very difficult to say because I do not think in principle that the Senate should be amending any legislation that comes out of the House of Commons for the very simple reason that the Senate is not elected, it is not democratic and it is not accountable to anyone. The Senate is an appointed body made up of cronies and friends of the Prime Minister of Canada. Therefore, I do not feel very comfortable supporting anything that the Senate has done, even if it is a good amendment to this bill. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you feel the same way because you are a true Democrat.

It is very unfortunate that we have in this country a legislative body that is not elected, a legislative body that is appointed and a legislative body that will spend $60 million in the next fiscal year and not be accountable to anyone in the country, in the House or anywhere as to how it will spend that money. It was with those caveats and those reservations that I rose to support this amendment that is before the House today.

After seven years in office, the Liberal Party, which at one time was very critical of an unelected Senate, is now very silent on the Senate. Every time the Senate wants an increase in its estimates, the Liberals just get up and support the estimates of the Senate. I see the member for Saint Boniface who is a cabinet minister. I am sure that at one time he would have stood up and complained about a legislative body in this country that is appointed.

The Senate is not an ordinary commission like the Canadian Wheat Board, the CRTC, the Canadian Transportation Commission or what have you. It is a legislative body that can make legislative change without accountability. It is a throw back to the last century, a throw back to the old British system, a system we should be getting rid of by abolishing the Senate.

I think my good friend from Calgary West will probably rise in this debate a few minutes from now and say many similar things about the Senate and about it initiating amendments and legislation. Maybe the member for Saskatoon-Humboldt will do the same thing.

I look forward to those speeches. I see that they are getting edgy and agitated. They are ready to get to their feet to say a few words about the legislation before the House today.

That being said, we support the amendment and we support the bill. Electronic commerce is becoming a more important part of our country and the world. We have evolved from an agricultural society into an industrial society. We are now in the so-called post-industrial society, or the technical age, the online age, the digital age, however one wants to put it, and it is growing by leaps and bounds.

Currently it is still only a very small part of our economy. Online commerce is estimated to result in the sale of goods and services of about $3 billion in the year 2000. That is less than 1% of the $600 billion of goods and services that will be purchased by Canadian consumers in 2000. That is a small amount proportionately but that amount is going to grow very rapidly in the days, weeks and years ahead. It is very important to have legislation that deals with electronic commerce.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you would be very interested in that the first province to pass legislation to deal with electronic commerce was Saskatchewan. The justice minister, Chris Axworthy dealt with it. When Mr. Axworthy was a member of the House of Commons he sat right behind the member from Burnaby and I. He was very concerned about electronic commerce, about protecting privacy and providing security for people who used the Internet for the purchase of goods and services. He has become the first minister to introduce legislation that passed a legislative body. Once again it is another first for the Government of Saskatchewan.

When looking at electronic commerce one is reminded that the world is getting smaller. Indeed we are living in a global society. The time has come to not only deal with security and privacy issues around electronic commerce but also to deal with a new vision about the global society we are now living in.

One thing which is obvious is that commerce has become globalized. Big corporations and companies have globalized. On the other side of the ledger a lot of the people's organizations have not globalized. For example there are no international standards for the environment, labour issues or social programs.

In the world of tomorrow many of the things that used to be done by the nation-state are going to be done at the international level. That is something which is very important. I am sure the member for Calgary West would like to say a few words about that when he rises to speak in a few minutes.

That brings me to the whole issue of the Tobin tax. This House made a step in the right direction a year ago March 23 when it endorsed by a vote of 164 to 83 the idea of a so-called Tobin tax. This is a small tax on the speculation of currency in order to bring some order to currency rates and values around the world. The proceeds would be used to build up a development fund to help the third world, to help clean up the environment, to help get rid of land mines and to do other useful things for human beings around the globe.

There was overwhelming support in that vote. It was my private member's motion that the House voted on. There was overwhelming support from the government, from all the NDP members present, from one of the Conservatives, from a couple of Reformers and about a dozen or so members of the Bloc Quebecois. Even though the motion was opposed overwhelmingly by the Reformers and the Conservatives it still had supporters in the Reform Party and the Conservative Party. It shows that it is a growing issue around the world, that we have to bring some order and some regulation to the international marketplace on behalf of the common good globally.

Now that parliament has expressed itself, it is important that the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and other ministers and members of parliament in international forums express and advocate the will of parliament.

I am sure as true democrats even members of the Reform Party who talk about reflecting grassroots and reflecting the people of this country, when they talk internationally would advocate the will of parliament and advocate the Tobin tax. I look forward to hearing the member for Calgary West tell us how he has been advocating the Tobin tax or a small tax on the speculation of international currency, as he talks to people around the world.

That is the expression and the will of parliament. This body spoke overwhelmingly by a margin of two to one that we needed a small tax on currency speculation. Maybe it will be 0.1% or a $1 per $1,000 to cool down the hot money around the world and to develop an international fund to help deal with some of the important development issues we are faced with around the globe today.

These are the issues of the tomorrow. These are the issues we are going to have to deal with. These are the issues the churches around the world are concerned with. These are the issues young people are concerned with. These issues are going to have to be solved if we are going to have a globe where people live in harmony and peace. These are reasons the bill before the House is a positive one and one that is on the right foot and which is going in the right direction.

As I said earlier, the leadership on this issue came from the Saskatchewan government. It was the first legislature in the country to pass a bill providing a legal framework for electronic commerce. That will be followed very closely by the House of Commons passing a bill to protect the privacy and security of people who use electronic commerce. Let us use this debate to get into other international issues that are important for the development of humankind.

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but notice that the hon. member made reference to the fact that the bill has been amended by the unelected and appointed Senate. It is a Senate that the Prime Minister made references to in his 1990 leadership bid. He said he would do what he could to change the Senate. He said he wanted to see an elected Senate too. He even said it in Calgary.

The province of Alberta will have a resignation of a Senate seat on March 31. Bert Brown received more votes than any other federal politician in Canadian history and was duly elected by the people of Alberta in the second ever Senate election in the country. I wonder if the hon. member figures that Bert Brown would like to receive his seat in the Senate pending this whole vote. What exactly are the hon. member's thoughts on this whole idea of an unelected appointed chamber that is totally out of touch with what everyday Canadians want?

The hon. member and I have tried to draw representatives before the procedure and House affairs committee to hold the Senate accountable for its egregious increases which are well above and beyond the public service, the Government of Canada, the parliament and the House of Commons. I would like his perspective on the egregious spending with regard to the Senate and its total lack of accountability.

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with the member for Calgary West that there has been reckless spending in terms of the other house. I do not have my estimates with me but my recollection is its estimates for the coming year will see the Senate budget go up by 21% or 25%. That is much higher than any other government department or agency I am aware of. It does this without being accountable to anyone.

A year of so ago a few of us, including the member who just spoke, tried to get the chair of the Senate internal economy committee to come before the relevant House of Commons committee to justify its estimates. After all, departments such as agriculture, industry, HRDC or whatever have to. Of course, the senator refused. He said they were not accountable to anybody in the House of Commons. It is not right or proper that the Senate can get this increase in funding without being accountable. I agree with the member on that.

Where the member and I disagree is that the member wants to reform and elect the Senate and I want to abolish the Senate. Public opinion today is split roughly 50:50 between those who want to abolish the Senate and those who want to reform it. That debate should continue. In the last few years public opinion has been shifting more and more toward the abolition side after having gone toward the reform side before. It is a debate well worth pursuing.

The one thing we do agree on is that the existing Senate should go. All the polling I have seen shows that about 5% of the people in the country support the existing Senate. Five per cent would be the senators, their families, a few friends, a few others and not many more.

The member asked me about Bert Brown. I am sure Bert Brown would like to take a seat in the Senate. Why would he not? But that is the wrong way to go because I do not think the place should be reformed and elected. It should be abolished. I am also concerned about the Alberta solution, about the provincial government having elections for the Senate under the present powers and composition of the Senate.

For example, New Brunswick has ten senators and Alberta and B.C. have only six each. If we started electing senators under the present structure and representation in the Senate, what would happen if Ontario and Quebec started to do the same thing? They each have 24 senators. All of a sudden we would be locked into a Senate that is legitimate because its members are elected and Ontario would have 24 senators and Alberta, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Manitoba would have only six each.

We would have a very unfair Senate locked permanently into our structure. That Senate would be elected. Therefore it would be more difficult to change and more difficult to get rid of it because it would have been legitimized by virtue that those people were elected.

If we followed the Alberta solution the existing Senate powers would also be legitimized. Most people do not realize that the Senate has almost as many powers as the House of Commons under the constitution. It does not use them because senators are appointed and are not legitimate. If we were to elect them under the present powers we would have two very strong Houses. We would invite gridlock between the two Houses. Also the Senate would be very unequal in terms of its representation in that New Brunswick with about 600,000 people gets ten senators and British Columbia with three million plus people gets only six senators.

With respect, that is the danger of what Mr. Klein is doing in Alberta in trying to elect senators under the present representation and the present powers. That is almost anti Saskatchewan, anti Albertan in nature because of the population shifts.

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in hearing the member opposite speak about Bill C-6 and its importance and the kind of information protection that is available as a result of the leadership shown by our government in this all important area.

I wanted to remind him in case he did not know, because I heard him go on at length, he and the member opposite from the party whose name I forget right now, I think it is the alliance and before that it was CCRAP and before that it was the Reform Party, were going on with respect to—

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. For the benefit of the member opposite, we are the Canadian Alliance.

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member is quite correct. The party is known as the Canadian Alliance.

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand that is so at this point in time. I guess we will see what the courts say with respect to Mr. Kingsley's ruling as well as the higher court. We will see where that goes.

In any event I wanted to point out on this very important bill that the Senate plays a very important role. It has a recommendation where the health sector will be exempted somewhat for the next little while. Instead of kicking in on January 2001, because of the Senate's position, the health sector will comply a year later than that. As chairman of the all-party health committee I can say this is very important. It is most important that the Senate would play such a useful role in this very interesting debate.

I found most interesting that the member for Calgary West in his comments talked about the Senate. I remember not so long ago that the party opposite, whatever its name is, said it would bring a fresh start to parliament. They are the people who during—

Division No. 1258
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member continues to attempt to make points but the Speaker of the House has indicated that in this Chamber our party will be known as the Canadian Alliance. I would expect that kind of respect.