Debates of Nov. 25th, 2005
House of Commons Hansard #158 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farm.
- Question Period
- Telecommunications Act
- Governor General's Literary Award
- Wine Industry
- Electro-Federation Canada
- Olivier Soapery
- Rural Youth
- Member for Peace River
- Business Plan Competition
- Violence against Women
- Braun Scott Woodfield
- Les Jardins Inn
- Health Care
- Liberal Government Policies
- Braun Scott Woodfield
- Violence against Women
- Gabriel Filippi
- Cassandra Poudrier and Sébastien Bisaillon
- Citizenship and Immigration
- Income Trusts
- Economic Statement
- International Cooperation
- David Dingwall
- Liberal Party of Canada
- Softwood Lumber
- Public Safety
- Social Development
- Softwood Lumber
- Veterans Affairs
- Wine Industry
- Ridley Terminals
- Public Safety
- Employment Insurance
- Cultural Diversity
- Aboriginal Affairs
- International Cooperation
- Foreign Affairs
- Liberal Party of Canada
- Message from the Senate
- Government Response to Petitions
- Order in Council Appointments
- Gender Equality
- Green Municipal Fund
- Criminal Code
- Food and Drugs Act
- Committees of the House
- Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Points of Order
- Telecommunications Act
- Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
- Intergenerational Transfer of Farms
November 25th, 2005 / 10 a.m.
David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise this morning to begin the House consideration of Senate amendments to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.
Bill C-37 would help protect Canadians from unwanted telemarketing phone calls by establishing the legislative framework for the creation of a national do not call list. To achieve this end, the bill would provide the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, with the powers necessary to establish a more effective regime to protect consumers against unsolicited telemarketing, while at the same time protecting their privacy.
Bill C-37 would enable the CRTC to do three fundamental things. First, it would allow the CRTC to impose administrative monetary penalties similar to fines for non-compliance; second, it would allow the CRTC to establish a third party administrator if it so desires to operate a database; and third, it would give the CRTC the ability to set fees to recover the costs associated with maintaining the do not call registry list.
The costs of maintaining such a list would include database maintenance, complaint processing, and investigation and enforcement costs. The CRTC has recommended that a third party administrator should be selected to maintain the national do not call list.
Bill C-37 would amend the Telecommunications Act to allow for a third party administrator and to allow also for cost recovery. It is expected that costs will be recovered from the telemarketing industry itself. Although the precise cost of running such a list will be dependent on the implementation details that will be determined by the CRTC, proven examples from the United States and the United Kingdom demonstrate this to be a straightforward, easily implementable and cost-effective system.
Bill C-37 seeks to balance the wishes of Canadian consumers for privacy and protection from unwanted calls while, at the same time, recognizing the need for legitimate telemarketing companies to conduct their business in a regulatory framework that enables them to do so.
As such, Bill C-37 contains a number of legislative exemptions, including organizations that would be exempted from the national list for calls. These exemptions include: registered charities, companies with existing business relationships with Canadian consumers, and calls from newspapers and from political parties. These exempt organizations would be required to maintain individual do not call lists.
In addition, survey and polling firms will also be exempt from a do not call list and would continue to be allowed to collect the views of every Canadian.
The other place has recommended two fundamental amendments to Bill C-37. The first is that the annual report which the CRTC would file on the operation of the do not call list be tabled by the minister before each House of Parliament. This amendment simply extends the requirement to table an annual report on the operation of the national do not call list to both Houses of Parliament, the House of Commons and the Senate.
The second amendment would allow flexibility in the dollar amounts imposed for infractions for fines of a do not call list. The amendment recommends that the administrative monetary penalty provision be changed from fixed or set amounts of $1,500 per offence for an individual and $15,000 per offence for a corporation to making these amounts the maximum amounts of the fine per offence.
By passing this bill we would enable the CRTC to do its job and to move forward on this issue. The CRTC would undertake further consultations to address issues such as fees and the selection of an administrative organization for the list. The CRTC expects that it would have a national do not call list up and running 19 months after Bill C-37 becomes law.
Bill C-37 requires that after three years a committee of the House of Commons or the Senate or both would be designated to review the administration and the operation of the national do not call list. This means that there would be parliamentary review of the do not call framework once the list has been operational for a little more than just one year. Parliament would at that time be able to consider the effectiveness of the list.
We have heard from Canadians from coast to coast to coast on this issue. The reality is that the inability to control telemarketing continues to be a pervasive source of frustration.
In 2003, Environics conducted a survey on consumer attitudes toward telemarketing. It concluded that 97% of respondents reported a negative reaction to unsolicited calls. Let me repeat that: 97% of respondents reported a negative reaction. Of those, 38% said they merely tolerate the calls, 35% reported being annoyed by them, and 24% said they simply hated receiving them.
Bill C-37 responds to the concerns of Canadians. They are fed up with unwanted, unsolicited telemarketing calls and they want an effective solution.
I will end my remarks with the following. Canadian consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of a national do not call list for controlling unwanted telephone solicitation. Survey results indicate that 79% of respondents support the creation of a national do not call list. Some two-thirds have indicated that they would likely sign up for the do not call list.
The time has come for an effective approach to regulating unsolicited telemarketing, an approach that would benefit both consumers and the telemarketing sector, and striking, I believe, the appropriate balance. I urge all hon. members of this House to pass this bill, as amended by the Senate, to give individual Canadians an easy way to curtail intrusive telemarketing and to protect their privacy.
Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech. At the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology, I worked on this bill for which the desire of parliamentarians from all parties to come up with legislation that reflected the will of the people of Canada and Quebec was obvious.
To that end, we have worked constructively. I think it is important to point that out. We are on the eve of a potential election call, a time that brings the differences between parliamentarians into sharper focus. But there are also times when we successfully work together, when we have a common goal and no special agenda.
Two Senate amendments resulted in this bill coming back to us today. One requests that the report on the operation of the system also be tabled before the Senate. It is already to be tabled before the House. Whatever one might think of the relevance of the Senate, the fact is that, at present, we have two houses. It is understandable that the Senate would want to make sure that it will have an opportunity to see the report on the operation of this legislation, which it has examined and which will be reviewed.
I am more interested in the second amendment, and I have a question to ask the member in this regard. We are talking about mandatory penalties. So, in the initial bill, this offence carried a $1,500 penalty for individuals and a $15,000 penalty for corporations. With this amendment, the Senate is calling for the penalty to be up to those amounts. I do not necessarily intend to vote against the amendment, but I want my colleague to tell me if the regulations will be specific and well-defined. In fact, we must ensure that this does not result in legal wrangling. We must ensure that those fined $1,500, for example, do not appeal that decision, and that this does not lead to a huge legal debate on this issue. As the member described so well and so vividly, the legislation has sought from the start to protect the many people who want to avoid undue calls. This is quite understandable.
This bill seeks to minimize such calls as far as possible, and we have put in place a system to do just that, including a review of the legislation in three years. Is there no way to ensure that there are appropriate benchmarks for the Senate's amendment, which will likely be adopted? Otherwise, we risk setting the stage for legal complications or a legal debate on the amount of the penalties, thus encouraging those who have to hand out the fines not do so because of the problems this could create down the line.
I want to know what my colleague thinks of this.
David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank my Bloc Québécois colleague for his preliminary comments. I congratulate him for being here so that we may all work together in this House. That is precisely the objective the government has pursued for the past 18 months. We are trying to maintain a constructive agenda as parliamentarians and as a government. I hope that the vote held on Monday will be in favour of the government so that we may continue to work as colleagues in the House. That remains to be seen.
With respect to the amendment of the Senate that effectively caps to a total of $1,500, for example, for individual offences, far be it from the House to question the wisdom of the Senate with respect to that amendment.
I would probably say that it has more to do with, and perhaps everything to do with, the flexibility that the system will require. Sometimes the best way to start with a major system like a do not call registry is simply to start. Once the system is up and running, we will be in a position to review it, hopefully within a year of its operation, and as the member rightly points out, with mandatory three year reviews built into the act.
I think the balance that has been struck in the registry, which also gives the CRTC the right to hire a third party to create it, will tell us fairly quickly, particularly if it is a private sector third party, how well the fining provisions are actually working. We need to slowly ramp up the system across the country. It will be new. There would be some onus on average citizens who do not want to receive such calls to register themselves on the list. I like the fact that even those exempt parties would be required to maintain a list.
I think that what we are really getting to here, and what my colleague rightly points out, is that there is pretty well unanimous support in the House for some type of system to really deal with the commercial telemarketing problem that we have in the country.
That reminds me, of course, of the famous scene from the comedy Seinfeld , in which Mr. Seinfeld receives a phone call in the middle of his dinner from an unwanted commercial telemarketer. He picks up the phone and says, “I'm sorry, I can't speak to you now but if you give me your number at home, I will call you at dinner hour”. The point is that Canadians are quite intolerant of the system now. I think this actually strikes the right balance. I welcome the Senate amendments.
Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB
Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the member is going to answer my question because in a way it is a rhetorical question, but in another way it is a very serious question.
Obviously, having hundreds of thousands of names on a list requires considerable administration and a computer system. Members know where I am going with this. The gun registry, which presumably had a list of potentially seven million Canadians and I do not know how many individual firearms because most firearms owners have more than one, cost $2 billion.
I wonder what assurance the government can give us that having a registry is going to be within the fiscal capacity of the people of Canada, who will pay for it. The last thing we want is another computer boondoggle like the gun registry.
David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON
Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting comment from the member of the Conservative Party. I share his concern with respect to the costs when it comes to operationalizing the system.
If he has read and understood the bill, he will know that in fact the costs of maintaining and running the registry list are passed off to non-government actors. Therefore, and first, I think we and the Canadian public should keep in mind the fact that this is a very good balance between a government setting a regime which will regulate and help control the problem, this nuisance, in fact, while at the same time striking the balance in terms of costs.
I think it is very difficult to draw any kind of logical cause and effect relationship between this kind of system and the gun registry and the trials and tribulations in setting up a very difficult system across the country to regulate something as potentially dangerous as unregistered firearms.
To repeat myself, I also like the fact that the CRTC has recommended, and it is possible, that a third party actor be called upon to administer this. Given the Conservative Party's propensity for believing that all things in the private sector happen to be more efficient than all things in the public sector, a notion that I do not particularly accept, as I say, given that party's preponderance for such a belief, which informs that party, it should be quite happy with the fact that there is a strong possibility that the third party running the list will be a private company.
Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member about one concern that has been expressed to me by some of my constituents. Right now if one wants to have one's name removed from the phone book, a monthly fee is charged. Some people out of necessity must have their names out of the phone book and quite often cannot afford to make that monthly payment.
I am wondering if the member could the advise the House about this. The member talks about a third party to administer the program. What if people choose to have their names removed or put on the do not call list? Is he suggesting that those people who want their names on that do not call list will be subject to a charge?
David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON
My understanding of the bill is clearly that the cost of maintaining this list will be passed on to the telemarketers themselves, except those exempt parties, which will be forced to maintain their own lists. Those exempted parties like registered charities or political parties will be forced to maintain their own separate lists.
I think this is an apples and oranges scenario. I think we are talking about two different things. We are talking about Canadian citizens who decide not to receive unwanted telemarketing calls actually having to register themselves with the do not call registry operator, whether that is the CRTC itself or a third party. I think the whole question of access to telephone numbers in phone book white pages is another matter.
My understanding of the bill is that it does not treat the question of delisting one's telephone number from standard white pages. That is another matter. I am quite sure, if I understand the bill in its entirety, that no cost will occur or accrue to the average Canadian citizen who wants to get on such a list and stop being harassed, particularly at dinnertime.
Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-37 before the House at this time has gone through all the stages here in the House. Its primary intent is to allow people to request not to receive unsolicited telephone calls. A number of surveys, as well as the general perception of our constituents, have in fact indicated that there has been a growth in unsolicited calls. I myself have received calls trying to sell me something at all hours, weekdays and weekends. If I do not want to be called by these telemarketers, it is quite logical for there to be a way to avoid it. That is the objective of this bill.
The bill has gone through all the stages in the House of Commons. We tried to strike as satisfactory a balance as possible by allowing a number of exclusions. Moreover, the Bloc Québécois focussed particularly on exclusions for not-for-profit organizations which need to carry out campaigns by phone. We wanted to be sure that a bill so filled with good intentions did not have the terrible consequence of stopping not-for-profit organizations from soliciting donations, when they depend on this type of campaign.
We proposed amendments to deal with that. In committee we also considered other types of amendments and exemptions needed with respect to business relations, for health professionals, for instance. Under the government's initial plan, health professionals would have been unable to contact their patients again. After a number of discussions, we all agreed that the best solution was to add them to the list of exemptions in the bill.
The bill has now come back to us after being examined by the Senate, as per procedure. We know how much the Senate, a chamber of unelected representatives, in a way fills a role that has become obsolete. When it was created a long time ago, some felt there were educational inadequacies among the elected members in the House of Commons. That is why they wanted a chamber of sober second thought. These days this is no longer the case, but the Senate remains an integral part of the system nonetheless.
Two amendments proposed by the Senate have been submitted for approval by the House. After they are considered, if we accept them, we will allow the bill to come into effect.
The purpose of the first amendment proposed by the Senate is to ensure that a report is submitted to both Houses of Parliament, according to the legislation review process. In reality, this bill concerns a new domain, a sector in which there is little expertise in the world. Similar legislation came into effect in the United States just a few years ago.
Accordingly, the Canadian law will be re-evaluated after three years. To do so, an annual report will be tabled in both the House of Commons and in the Senate, at its request. When a bill is re-evaluated, both the House and the Senate will have all the information at their disposal.
We can understand the logic behind this argument in terms of the system we use and the way it works. This method will also help in examining this bill and in revising it in a more logical and rational manner. We will not have to repeat in the Senate all the explanations about the annual report when the recommendations are received. The Senate committees addressing the issue will already have the information. Furthermore, we could thus avoid undue delays during the legislative review.
In my opinion, the second amendment weakens the bill somewhat, even though this will not make us vote against it. We had established the need to prohibit unsolicited calls and to impose a penalty on those who did not comply with these provisions. We had set the amount of the fine at $1,500 for individuals and $15,000 for corporations. I think that a $1,500 fine is a significant amount. Therefore, imposing a stiff enough penalty would dissuade people from breaking the law.
The Senate thought that these penalties may have been too stiff. Now it proposes maximum amounts of $1,500 for individuals and $15,000 for corporations, which could lead to some debate.
Whenever a fine is imposed, if the basis for imposing that fine is challenged, the amount of the fine could be challenged as well, which could create some problems.
At the same time, the size of the corporations or the financial situation of the individuals involved will be taken into account.
In this sense, I think it is worth giving this a try, especially since a review of the act will take place after three years. We will then be able to determine if these and other provisions are appropriate.
These are the two reasons why the bill is before us today. The Senate has proposed these two amendments. We must examine them and decide whether or not we should adopt them. We can do that by looking at the bill as a whole and see if these two amendments are indeed acceptable and if they are in keeping with the general thrust of the bill.
Let us remember that this legislation seeks, obviously, to avoid unwanted telephone calls. It also seeks to allow the CRTC to administer databases for the purposes of its power. A section of the act sets out this power to prohibit or regulate the use by any person of the telecommunications facilities of a Canadian carrier for the provision of unsolicited telecommunications to the extent that the CRTC considers it necessary to prevent undue inconvenience or nuisance.
We are talking, here, about telephone calls. In all likelihood, we will need to examine what will happen with regard to the growing use of the Internet. As a result, we have had to consider when the do not call list should not apply.
We have the right to not receive unwanted telephone calls and to put our names on the do not call list. However, we also want to ensure that this legislation does not apply to some people—meaning some organizations and individuals. It is important to strike the right balance here.
Under subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act, registered charities are, for example, excluded. So, we are talking about people who truly need to hold fundraising campaigns, meaning they need to solicit funds to ensure the survival of their organization.
We are talking about charitable organizations. We know that there is great pressure and many such phone calls. At the same time, these people fulfill an essential role in our society. If charities did not do this work, the government would be responsible for picking up the tab. I think that this exemption is something that all of the committee members consider reasonable and fair.
This is also true for business relationships. I said it earlier, this is particularly true for health care professionals.
Then there are political telecommunications. In order to be able to ensure a democratic quality of life in our society, it is essential, in our opinion, that such communications be allowed. Without such an exemption, political telecommunications during election campaigns, including the one we expect shortly, would not be allowed. Many voters would have found this quite interesting. However, overall, this would have led to other actions or illegal actions. I think however that legislation must reflect our reality.
As regards the quality of the democratic debate, those who run for office must make themselves known, present their views and have an idea of how they are perceived by voters. It seemed perfectly normal to us that this should be the case. The same goes for opinion polls.
An amendment was also made to exclude the media, so that they can still contribute to the quality of our democratic life.
According to the data provided by the Canadian Marketing Association, the telemarketing industry employs 270,000 people and has a sales figure of some $16 billion. The interesting thing about this legislation is that those who work in the telemarketing industry find it relevant. It would be useful to them because, right now, when they approach all the consumers, some of them are already on that list and do not want to receive calls.
These consumers already object to receiving calls. In fact, the calls made to these people are neither interesting nor profitable for telemarketing companies. There is a will to ensure that the list works properly so that, ultimately, companies end up dealing with people who do want to get such calls. We understand that this will was expressed by the companies themselves. We would then kill two birds with one stone, because we would exclude those who do not want to receive calls, while ensuring that telemarketing companies contact only those people who could be potential clients and who are open to listening to them.
The bill was put forward after the public expressed a will to have this industry legislated. This measure will allow us to deal with a situation that has developed over the last few decades and has now become somewhat anarchic. This industry is not yet regulated, but the situation will soon improve with this bill.
In fact, a recent Environics Research survey shows that 79% of those surveyed would support a national do not call list, and 66% likely would sign up for the service. This goes to show that there is popular support for this kind of legislation.
This bill came to be, not necessarily on the initiative of the department, but much more because the public wanted it. In that respect, in 2002, a member from the Canadian Alliance put forward Bill C-301, which died on the order paper, but paved the way for this bill. The member described the purpose of his bill as providing, and I quote:
A means for anyone who does not wish to receive telemarketing calls or faxes to place their telephone number on a list maintained by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
So, the will already existed, and the government jumped on the bandwagon. I think that the work done in committee reflects the will of all members of Parliament to legislate in that area. Furthermore, this bill was adopted in this House at various stages. The Senate amendments, however, clarify aspects which are not fundamental elements that affect the bill. As I said earlier, these amendments will be subject to review after three years, like the rest of the bill. They will not necessarily create problems.
Allow me to digress briefly to say that parliamentarians can agree on some things. But on some others, it is not possible. My colleague suggested earlier that this might be a sign that the House of Commons should keep on working. There is a consensus about the matter before us. What is at issue with respect to the motion of non-confidence is something completely different.
It is a normal thing in our society for things to be done this way. Everyone can express his or her point of view, and then today all opposition parties can judge that the government no longer has the confidence of the House. This is a reality that a minority government has to face, and this is the outcome we expect to see early next week. We cannot assume that this desire to debate subjects on which opinions differ does not at the same time allow discussion when there is consensus. That is what has happened in the case of this bill.
The mechanics of how this will be done are rather complex. Basically, however, it can be summarized as follows. There will indeed be a do not call registry, a list people can get themselves put on so that they will have the satisfaction of no longer receiving unsolicited calls.
The system will be set up so that there will, of course, be no cost to the consumer. There are economic advantages for telemarketers and also for our fellow citizens. The goal is to make people's lives easier and improve quality of life.
There is, however, one important component of telemarketing that was not addressed in the bill: telemarketing scams. This will need to be addressed at some point. There have been charges laid on this. This can be a broad-scale operation, often all over North America. Unfortunately, some of these boiler rooms are located in Canada. This is an aspect that is not addressed by the bill, possibly because it comes more under the Criminal Code. The legislators do need to do something about this, however.
What is a telemarketing scam? It is a fraudulent solicitation of certain groups of society using telecommunications or misleading advertising. The term “fraudulent” is used in this case because the victims have been persuaded to send in money in exchange for something worth more. Often this kind of scam targets more vulnerable clienteles, people who are perhaps less well informed and more easily persuaded.
We are told that all telemarketing schemes require that the victims send money in the form of a certified cheque or money order to receive a prize. Anyone receiving a phone call asking for that kind of payment should be very cautious. Indeed once the money is sent, it is very difficult to get it back. These operations can be moved very quickly and are not easy to trace after they have changed location.
We are also told that criminal organizations involved in this type of fraud are usually structured according to very specific roles. They have a chief financial officer, a manager, front-end staff, back-end staff and a mail clerk. These operations using front-end and back-end workers are also known as boiler rooms. They operate as long as the fraud continues to work. When things get too hot, they fold. This aspect has not been dealt with in the bill and should be dealt with eventually.
We have come to realize that Canada is somewhat of a paradise for fraudulent telemarketing. Right now, the amounts of the fines are too low and the prison terms are too short. In most cases, it is very difficult to convict a repeat offender. To fight against this type of crime, we try to extradite some offenders to other countries that have tougher laws, but that does not really work as we would like it to.
There is a whole aspect of fraudulent telemarketing that will have to be dealt with in legislation by the government in the months and years to come. In the meantime, the purpose of the bill before us is essentially to ensure the best control possible over unsolicited calls.
Some people are greatly affected, including the Canadian Marketing Association, which is the largest association of marketing businesses in Canada. Its members provide 480,000 jobs and generate over $151 million in annual sales. It is a powerful lobby within the marketing sector. It spoke in favour of Bill C-37 because of what I said earlier. In fact, telemarketers like the idea of having legislation that would deal with this situation.
The committee also gathered information on what was going on in other countries, particularly the United States. I think there was even a conference call with people in that country to find out what approach they developed. The approach being taken does not follow the same model, because it is more in line with our situation. Considering the large American market, there may be calls from the United States and other countries.
We have to ensure that our legislation is logical in terms of what is put forward. The bill is going in the right direction. That is probably one of the elements that will have to be studied in more detail when the bill in question is reviewed.
Consequently, we will soon be at the stage of passing this bill so that it can come into force. That includes the Senate amendments. At the same time, there has to be monitoring—the most appropriate monitoring possible—so that we know when the law is reviewed whether the entire model that is developed is adequate.
I recall the comment by my colleague in the Conservative Party who said that there should not be a repeat of what happened with the Canadian firearms registry.
We have to be vigilant. There should not be another firearms registry. We have already spent enough money on that initiative. The idea behind it was a good one. I honestly think there is a real need for a firearms control system. However, what the government did with it, the way it was set up and the costs it generated are completely unacceptable. I hope that the Auditor General will report to us quickly so that we get the most complete picture we can.
In the case at hand, we have to ensure that the new registry works in a way that avoids that type of excess so that we do not suddenly find ourselves looking at high costs a year or two down the road when the act is reviewed. When mechanisms are being put in place, the government has a responsibility to ensure that the job is done right.
It is very obvious that Canadians want a law that prevents unwanted telephone calls. However, it is also certain that they do not want a law that will generate wild expenditures far beyond what they would like us to spend on this type of system.
I therefore urge the House to vote in favour of the amendments so that the bill can be put into effect as quickly as possible.
Guy Côté Portneuf, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for two things.
First, he talked about some of the tricks used by people who are into fraudulent marketing. I believe this was very important. He also reminded the government that it had to be diligent to ensure that costs would not escalate.
That being said, my colleague talked earlier about some sectors that are exempted from the bill, including charities and political parties. Perhaps my colleague could explain this a little further, because I did not follow this bill as much.
Also, there is another question which he may be able to answer. Some businesses contract out their telemarking operations. The firm doing the operations is a private business. Within these particular charities operations, will these private businesses be exempted from the bill?
Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier for his two questions.
I will first answer the question on telemarketing, because it is indeed an important consideration. The Christmas season is approaching and we will undoubtedly witness an increase in such calls during the forthcoming days and weeks. Many people will receive calls of this kind, in which someone asks them to send money in the form of a certified cheque or money order in order to receive a prize. In such cases, a red warning light should start flashing to prevent them from following up on this type of action and urge them to notify the authorities as quickly as possible. In this way, it may be possible to eliminate at least some of the negative aspects of telemarketing.
With regard to the second question, the creation of database so that anyone who wishes may request that their name be placed on a do not call list, which that would apply to all telemarketers. This activity will no longer be permissible.
It can happen that people give contracts to specialized companies, but these will be covered by the bill, in the same way as all companies are. The aim is to ensure that it is done as simply as possible.
According to statistics from the United States an impressive percentage of people have asked that their names be taken off the list. We expect that similar numbers of Canadians will support the creation of this list and that there will be a considerable number of calls at the outset from people who want to have their names removed from the list.
In return, the government will also have a responsibility to publicize the exclusions. People will continue to receive telephone calls from charities registered under the Income Tax Act. These people will be making their calls perfectly legally. Canadians must be made aware of this to prevent these organizations being viewed in a negative light when they make their calls.
Other cases will be self-evident. For example, in existing business relationships, specifically those with health care professionals, retaining the initial wording, according to which such people would no longer be able to make these calls, would have caused more problems. It could have led to aberrant situations. People would have been calling members’ offices to tell them that they had wanted to call their doctor, but he did not have the right to call them back. We have avoided this type of situation and we hope that the problem has been corrected.
Over the course of the next few months, we will probably have an opportunity to test in a fairly meaningful way the extent of the exemption granted to political organizations. Furthermore, the law as a whole will be reviewed after three years. While obviously, nothing in this world is perfect, let us hope that we have drafted a bill that will prove its worth in practice, provided appropriate amendments are made from time to time.
I will conclude by stressing the need for fairly close monitoring to ensure that the costs do not become excessive beyond reason. We must not throw out the baby with the bath water. The way in which the act is administered must not be such as to cast doubt on its fundamental principle.
Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON
Mr. Speaker, when I recently spoke with a business that I had dealt with in the past, which is involved in telemarketing, I was quite surprised. I assumed the business would be opposing this sort of bill but after further discussing the issue with the owner, he said that the reputable businesses in the telemarketing field welcome legislation like this. He said that it was the people who were doing the dishonest telemarketing, the people who were trying to flog a product or the small operators who were against the bill.
The member opposite also mentioned that the Canadian Telemarketing Association welcomes this bill. Maybe the member can explain a little further how the bill deals with specific industries, such as windows or lawn care telemarketers that will be starting to call in December for lawn care in June and July of next year. In his view, perhaps he could tell us how the bill looks after this issue.
Paul Crête Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see the hon. member mention the value of this legislation in countering fraudulent marketing. However, I remind him that additional legislation, and amendments to the Criminal Code, will be required, since we are dealing with a very organized industry. There may be cases of fraudulent marketing which do not, strictly speaking, involve bad faith, but which do not respect the law. So, this is included in the bill.
As for the whole telemarketing industry, the basic principle is mentioned in the legislation. This means that a person whose name is on the do not call list will not receive any unwanted call, unless the call is made by one of the sectors for which amendments were deemed appropriate. In the examples mentioned by the hon. member, which are more of a commercial nature, such exclusions would not be possible, except to allow a reasonable exchange between the parties, after a transaction.
I want to point out that if a telemarketing company is pleased, as the member indicated, it is because we are providing an advantage to the whole industry by ensuring that these companies will only call people who want to receive their calls. Until now, a very significant percentage of calls were fruitless and time consuming, because people would hang up or say, after a minute, that they were not interested at all. So, the costs to these companies will be reduced, since these consumers will be excluded.
On a different note, we would like the do not call list to be managed by someone outside the Canadian marketing industry, to ensure the greatest possible transparency. In conclusion, we will see how this process is managed in the coming years, until the act is reviewed, in three years, as provided in the bill, which should be passed today.
Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC
Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, we will not disagree much today. We have reached consensus and I think we have covered the issue.
The name of the game is simple. Are we fed up enough to be bothered? The issue is we have to respect the citizen.
We have all been interrupted by phone calls during supper time or when we are watching television. It is irritating. At some point consumers need to be protected. Obviously there are important situations that we must continue to protect.
My colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques mentioned the health care sector. When business relations have been established, whether in insurance or life insurance, it is essential and important to keep them. It was time to clean house with this type of bill.
You will not be surprised to learn today that, unless I am mistaken, all the political parties were in favour of these two amendments. They are two simple amendments regarding protection that will impose harsher penalties on certain people who might abuse the public. Some might say it is more flexible in terms of dollar amounts, but we now have a maximum fine. In that vein, it is important to mention that the fines for offending companies can be between $5,000 and $15,000.
All this telemarketing is intrusive and almost abusive. Personally, I think the consumer is king and needs to have an opportunity to protect himself. Canada is not the only country with a national do not call list. It is a good idea to provide a tool like this.
There is something else that I also find interesting. I am not a great fan of the CRTC. In my opinion, it is in need of an in-depth reform. There are certain things that should be done differently. However, we do need a body to manage telecommunications and cultural institutes. At some point, we will have to take a very serious look at this issue.
We all remember the satellite radio issue. That really bothered me, and I was not afraid to speak my mind, as usual. With the tools that we currently have, the CRTC will, of course, have to ensure that it implements this bill and its proposed amendments. I think that fines are a very good idea. It goes without saying that having administrative monetary penalties will help us deal more effectively with these people. We will be better equipped.
I will not go so far as to say that it is a cure-all, because we should show some restraint. When my friend and colleague from the Bloc Québécois has an opportunity to make a remark on Canada, I suppose it is only fair to let him do so. However, we should not forget that some good things are done on the North American continent. There is real cohesion as regards crime or certain other issues.
The purpose of these amendments was not only to increase transparency and accountability—and I will discuss this later on—but also to provide tools to really protect the public.
The other thing is that we have a do not call list. We all agree on this. Why? Because we gave ourselves reasonable verification tools. We also made sure that after three years we will be able to conduct the required review not only of the fines, but of the bill itself. We will see how well everything worked and then we can make changes as needed.
It is good to have this national do not call list. Obviously there are exemptions for the health sector and for existing business relations, as was mentioned earlier. The intention is not to impede the business sector. I am a former life insurance agent. Selling life insurance is a long process that does not happen overnight. Changes occur in our personal lives. There are needs in the financial services sector. It is necessary to maintain constant contact and to distinguish that from the abuse and irritating people who call proposing all sorts of things. There is nothing more irritating than listening to a machine. At first it seems like we are talking to a person and then, two minutes later, we realize that a machine is trying to make us jump through all sorts of hoops. At some point, things need to be done properly.
I want to say one last thing. I am entirely in favour of both amendments and I wish the hon. members of this House a good weekend.
Governor General's Literary Award
Statements By Members
Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE
Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate Anne Compton on having recently been awarded the Governor General's Literary Award for her work in poetry.
Miss Compton is currently living in Rothesay, New Brunswick. However, she is a native of Bangor, Prince Edward Island. Miss Compton has credited growing up in a busy and happy rural farmhouse filled with family members as the inspiration for her book Processional . The Compton family has deep roots in the Bangor-Morell area.
Miss Compton is to be commended for receiving one of the highest literary awards in the country. I am sure that all Islanders are extremely proud of her. She is certainly a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award.