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.

Topics

Environment
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Kraft Sloan York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, climate change is one of the most important issues facing the world and our nation today. I understand that over the last two days federal, provincial and territorial ministers of energy and the environment have been meeting on this subject in Vancouver.

Could the Minister of Natural Resources please inform the House about the discussions that took place?

Environment
Oral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, we had useful discussions with the provinces. Together we are moving beyond frameworks and strategies to produce specific business plans by this fall, dealing with matters like emissions trading and testing the concept of credits for prompt action.

The Government of Canada is going further. From our own federal operations we will reach an emissions reduction level that is not 6% but 20% below 1990 levels. We will reach that not by 2010 but by 2005. In addition, there was $625 million in the budget earlier this month.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the government House leader could bring us up to date on the business for the rest of today and more important, the business for next week. It is my hope that the Canadian Alliance will get a supply day and we can hold the government accountable in that way at least for one day in this place.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this has to be the most precise question of the week to which I will give a very precise answer.

This afternoon we will conclude consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-6, the electronic commerce bill.

Tomorrow we will debate second reading of Bill C-26, the airline legislation.

On Monday we will commence report stage of Bill C-23, the modernization of benefits and obligations bill.

The news that my hon. colleague across the way is waiting for is that Tuesday shall be an allotted day.

Starting on Wednesday we will call second reading of Bill C-22, the money laundering legislation, followed by Bill C-25, the income tax amendments from last year's budget, followed by Bill C-19, the war crimes bill and then back to Bill C-23 for third reading.

The House resumed 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.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

March 30th, 2000 / 3 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, before Oral Question Period, there is a fairly significant leap in Bill C-3 from Bill C-54. Bill C-54 dealt only with the basic nature of the right to privacy be recognized.

With Bill C-6, we are making a leap to the recognition of the need of organizations to gather information and to use or communicate personal information for purposes that a reasonable person would consider acceptable under the circumstances. It is a good idea to repeat this because it transfers fairly significantly concern about and responsibility for what was in the past a matter of privacy and becomes a matter of information that may be useful to business.

This ties in with the fact that societies, and the individuals who are part of them, are increasingly losing power and respect in our life as a society.

The Quebec government and the Quebec society reject this bill. In that area as in many others, a consensus was achieved whereby the federal measure is being condemned by everyone, by all those who take an interest in that issue, in Quebec.

When I say everyone, I do not mean just anybody. Here is a partial list of the stakeholders. There is the Barreau du Québec, which is not close, except in certain circumstances, to the Quebec government. The Chambre des notaires vigorously opposed this bill, and so did the Action Réseau Consommateur, the Quebec Interprofessional Council and the Commission d'accès à l'information. The Quebec government itself formally opposed this legislation, through two of its ministers.

One thing that particularly struck me in this coalition—we might call it the labour management coalition—was to see the Conseil du patronat which, except under particular circumstances, is not close to the Quebec government, and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the CSN, which tends to be close to government, get together to denounce this bill. That in itself is enough to make one wonder, provided one is acting in good faith.

This is perhaps what we should question about the federal government in this matter as in others: its good faith. In light of the very reasonable criticisms made, and given that Quebec's legislation in that area has been in existence since 1994, has proven its usefulness over the past six years and is well known all over the world, Quebec's legislation should have served as a basis for the federal act, but it did not.

One wonders why the federal government turns a deaf ear in such a context. It may have reasons to do so. I am sure that many in Quebec share that view. If we make the intellectual effort, we can only wonder where we are headed. Why does the federal government insist on introducing such a bill?

It is part of an operation, a vision, a new way of doing things in this new Canada now taking shape, this underhanded Canadian nation building we are now seeing here. This came up one or two years ago.

By signing the social union agreement, the Canadian provinces gave the federal government permission to interfere in areas that, according to the Constitution, come under provincial jurisdiction. The only open opposition to the plan came from Quebec, through its premier, Mr. Bouchard. But the federal government forges ahead.

It worries us. There are signs that this is all part of implementing the social union.

As proof, I wish to cite the comments made by a representative of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association before the Senate:

In Ontario and in other provinces, legislation is now being drafted which would make it possible to obtain health information from all existing sources and create a medical e-file on every Canadian.

The federal government, together with the provinces, plans to create a national health information system in which these medical e-files would be available, along with other information, under the watchful eye of whomever is chosen to run it.

It is because Bill C-6 threatens to thwart this plan that stakeholders from the health sector have brought such strong pressure to bear on the Senate and the other place—

i.e. the House of Commons.

When someone who undoubtedly has privileged information uses an expression like “national health information system”, it is based on something. And while we are on the topic of vocabulary, the bill states that, if a province wants to pass privacy legislation, it will have to be legislation, and I quote, “essentially similar to the federal legislation”. The federal government is taking on a role for which it has no mandate and which is not supported by the Constitution.

It must be kept in mind that, under section 92.13, this is a clearly recognized provincial jurisdiction. The anglophone provinces allow the federal level to act freely in an area that belongs to them, and the federal government tells them they must enact legislation that is essentially similar to its own.

So here we are setting up a pattern to have everything in this country done, increasingly, slowly but surely, the way the federal government wants it. In 5, 10 or 20 years from now, decisions are going to be made here in Ottawa and no longer in the provincial capitals. The provinces will all be considered on an equal footing, Quebec included, and will become, slowly but surely, nothing more than great big regional county municipalities.

The choice that is clearly going to be offered to Quebecers will be to become either an authentic sovereign country, master of its own destiny and its own future, or a simple province like the others, one in which the Quebec people will have no recognition.

This leads us to the conclusion that this is a cleverly and insidiously worded bill, clandestine, non-transparent, which the leaders of the present federal government do not have the courage to defend publicly. We have seen the initiatives it takes, for instance, in the area of young offender legislation, where Quebec has an exemplary law of its own, which will be trampled under foot by Ottawa's initiatives and Ottawa's dogged insistence on interfering in the area of health research with its Health Research Institutes. The Bloc Quebecois has put the government's will to the test.

While it can be agreed that the federal level does have some legitimate involvement in research, it constantly stresses matters pertaining to health instead. It insists on using the expression matters pertaining to health instead of limiting its intervention to health research, as the Bloc Quebecois would have preferred.

This is highly significant, and we clearly feel, despite the weakness or the underhandedness of the federal leaders, that they are increasingly getting involved, in an underhanded way, in nation building.

We see it with the millennium scholarships in education, which is well managed in Quebec with a system of loans and grants that is unique in Canada. The federal government, trampling on Quebec's rights once again, treating it with contempt and passing over the Quebec model and structure, has taken upon itself to intervene in a field of jurisdiction that is not its own.

We can see this with assistance to transients, which goes directly to the public. We see it in assistance for home care, which goes directly to the public, even though home care is a provincial prerogative. These sectors are sacred in Quebec and, furthermore, they are well managed by Quebecers. The federal government is using its spending power to intrude.

This, therefore, is an insidious instance of nation building, something that is very current in the problem raised by Bill C-20, for example. In order to better crush Quebec, the federal government passes legislation, but when it comes to recognizing distinct society, nothing happens, because never was there mention of a distinct society.

Not with the transients, not with the millennium scholarships, not with young offenders, not with the institutes did they say “Quebec has special status; it is a distinct society”, a distinct society that is the subject not of a bill, but of a motion. To crush Quebec, they passed Bill C-20.

The distinct society exists on condition that it be nothing more than a hollow shell, because English Canada would not agree to a distinct society such as the Prime Minister liked to talk about following his commitments at Verdun, where he dropped Quebec like a hot potato, just like his predecessor Mr. Trudeau, at the time. We must remember that. We must have some sense of history, because the stakes are too high.

We cannot take a piecemeal approach to these issues. We must know where the Privy Council is headed, and talk about the Privy Council. We must talk about what is Canada's motivation right now, what is responsible for this contempt toward the Constitution of Canada. The government despises the existence of the people of Quebec, it does not recognize it. This bill on personal information is yet another illustration of that contempt.

I hope Quebecers will take note of this type of behaviour, which may appear insignificant but is actually very meaningful.

Ways And Means
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in parliament on February 28, 2000. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion. I would also request, because there has been so little disagreement with the budget in the House of Commons, that we could pass this bill on all three readings right now.

Ways And Means
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We will just table the notice of the ways and means motion, because we have to have some time on debate.

The House resumed 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.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the hon. member for Trois-Rivières for his speech.

Looking at my notes on Bill C-6, I was wondering, and I put the question to my colleague, how parliament could pass legislation that has been condemned by the Conseil du patronat du Québec, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre des notaires du Québec, the Action réseau consommateur group, the Quebec Interprofessional Council, the Commission d'accès à l'information du Québec and the Quebec government itself.

Quebec is several years ahead in the area of personal information protection. Why did neither the House of Commons nor the other place, which reviewed the bill and paid particular attention to health related issues, tale into account all the representations made by Quebec?

Is this not an insidious manifestation of the fact that the federal government clearly realized that the whole issue of personal information protection is tied to a society's culture?

What this government wants is to cast a single culture, the Canadian culture. As part of the Canadian system, Quebecers would have no choice but to fit in and give in to this vision, in spite of the fact that we, in Quebec, have had legislation in effect for several years, legislation that is very effective in meeting its objectives, and does not have a purely commercial approach, but truly seeks to protect personal information.

I wonder if the hon. member for Trois-Rivières could comment on this.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my dear colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his question.

I think my colleague raises a very important problem, which should be at the heart of some later debate on the future of Quebec as a sovereign country in the context of the Canadian federation, because clearly—and I tried to get this across earlier in my remarks—the federal government is not quite so determinedly setting course for centralization, excessive and almost unconstitutional intervention.

We know that the Constitution is clear and that section 92.13 says so, the Conseil du patronat talks of it, the Quebec bar refers to it and the major stakeholders concerned with this sort of question criticize it. The government refuses not only to withdraw its bill, but also to make an exception at least for Quebec.

It might perhaps be time to speak of distinct society. Why does it not? That is what all Quebecers wonder. I notice the Minister for International Trade—a good Quebecer—who should be distressed by the attitudes of his government, which denies Quebec's distinct character, despite the motion on the distinct society.

This motion is a hollow shell, because if the federal government were consistent in its action, it would waste no time in the matters of personal information, young offenders, the health research institutes, the transients and so on, as is its practice, in finding out whether the concept of distinct society it proposed applies.

If it does not, this means that it does not believe in it. If it does not believe in it, that means it believes in centralization as the way of the future. If I were a Canadian, I would be a centralist.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

An hon. member

You are one.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

I am a Quebecer, let there be no confusion about that. I am here by accident.

If I were a Canadian, I would be a federalist and a centralist. My federalism would be a Pierre Elliott Trudeau-style federalism, in order to have a strong central government, one capable of making decisions to enhance Canada's competitive position in the world. That is logical.

This is a virtual necessity for the other provinces, but this is what is so traumatic for Quebec and the Quebec people, to be caught up in the infernal workings of a system in which, minority that we are in terms of representation, we can never gain the upper hand and escape being crushed.

If we do not take control, then we must call a spade a spade: Quebec will become another Louisiana. That situation did not come out of the blue, nor did this one.

There is a process going on, one that those in power do not want to talk about, and I am thinking of the Minister for International Trade. There is a process going on here in Ottawa, that has been entered into in order to centralize powers, to make Canada a unitary state, not at the expense of Alberta, Ontario or Nova Scotia, but at the expense of Quebec. Quebec is not a province, but a people, and this is the whole issue.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, to understand today's debate, one must understand why the Senate sent this bill back to us.

The minister introduced Bill C-6 and it was rammed through the House. It was rushed through for all sorts of reasons, some of them undoubtedly having to do with the political agenda of the Liberal members opposite. But the bill raised many questions in Quebec.

Many people came right out and said that the bill was not only ineffective but ill-timed, given what was being done in Quebec.

I do not wish to repeat what my Bloc Quebecois colleagues said, but they have raised the important point of the bill's constitutionality. If I can put it this way in the House, we all but pleaded the case. Had the senators wanted to do something useful, they perhaps should have spent a bit longer on the bill and tried to bring the Liberal members opposite around to their way of thinking, since they also hold a majority in the Senate. They could have woken the House up. It is often the Senate that is asleep at the switch, but this time it is probably the government members across the way, or perhaps they know what they are doing and once again have it in for Quebec.

Witnesses who appeared before the committee raised an important constitutional point. I will read a passage from the testimony of Jacques Frémont, a constitutional expert at the Université de Montréal. This is what he said:

In my view, Bill C-54 violates the spirit and the letter of the division of powers, as it must be understood in this country. It takes an arrogant and ill-timed approach to provincial jurisdiction.

I think that this is fairly clear. These are the words of an emeritus professor, a recognized constitutional expert, not something that came out of the mouth of a member of the Bloc Quebecois or a nasty sovereignist.

He went on to say:

Privacy is basically a provincial jurisdiction in theory. In Quebec, for instance, property and civil rights, the Civil Code, and Quebec law apply, in addition to the Canadian and Quebec charters.

This is not from someone who is directly involved in the issue. This is a professor who studied the bill and who, based on his experience, came to that conclusion.

The Conseil du patronat du Québec told the committee more or less the same thing, albeit in different terms. It said: doc.

Because the constitutional power given to the provinces by section 92(13) of the British North America Act regarding the protection of personal information and privacy is not at issue, the Quebec lawmaker has already passed its own legislation in this area. It is to be expected that many jurisdictional conflicts will surface.

The representatives of the Conseil du patronat told the government opposite not to legislate in this area, because it is not one of its jurisdictions. However, the government did so, as it always does, sometimes for suspicious reasons. In this case, it is rather striking.

One would have thought that the senators would have examined this issue. If they did, it is not reflected in their amendments today.

In Quebec, as we mentioned several times, but it is worth repeating, we already have similar legislation, which has proven effective over the past five or six years, which is extremely effective and which protects all personal information relating to Quebecers within the province's territory. This legislation is recognized and used as a model all over the world.

When I checked with the National Assembly, I was told that several other assemblies and parliaments have asked for copies of the act. They have asked about the philosophy behind it and how it works. I think the legislation we have in Quebec is an example.

Had the federal government done things the same way as Quebec, it would not have been so bad, but this bill is an intrusion and creates interpretation problems in this particular case.

Let us be clear. The federal act intrudes into areas under Quebec's jurisdiction. Let us take a concrete example. Which act is going to apply to a business in Quebec that has information pertaining to individuals? Will it be the federal act or the provincial act? Will both acts apply?

That is more or less what witnesses came to say, that the way the two acts will be enforced makes no sense.

I will give examples of duplication that may lead to serious conflicts. At the end of the day, it is the taxpayers who will end up footing the bill.

I will give an example with regard to individual consent. Whereas the Quebec act says that such consent must be given obviously, freely, in an informed manner and for specific purposes—it is pretty well defined—Bill C-6 says that it can vary depending on the circumstances. The wording is quite different. It can vary from one situation to the next and it should be explicit when dealing with personal information that can be considered sensitive. There is a big difference just on this important part of the act regarding consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.

It is a lengthy bill. I will not go through all of its clauses because we have had ample opportunity to discuss all that already. But how will the courts interpret it? This is always my main concern, especially as justice critic. I think it is not going to be clear.

The Senate has examined this bill and returned it to us with amendments that, overall, change nothing, nothing at all. What is added on? A year longer before it comes into effect, just as far as health is concerned.

Mr. Speaker, I would like you to let me know if I do indeed have 20 minutes, because I am being given the two-minute sign, when I thought I had 20.

There are several amendments proposed by the Senate. It is unanimous in its opposition to Bill C-6 in its present form, sometimes for reasons that are totally contradictory, and one might wonder why.

It also feels this bill is poorly drafted. This is not surprising; we said so on numerous occasions. It also finds that medical information, which it considers more sensitive than other information, is not being sufficiently protected. This too we have said on numerous occasions.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Order, please. The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm is correct. There is a 20 minute slot. The Chair made a mistake because I thought the time was being split with the hon. member for Trois-Rivières. The Bloc then ended up with two slots.

The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm has another 12 minutes to go, and it will be sorted out after.