House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ethanol.

Topics

Income Trusts
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Independent

Blair Wilson West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to present this income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Mr. Blake Johnson who remembers the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said the greatest “fraud” is “a promise not kept”. The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion in hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government to, first, admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal this punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Income Trusts
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 36, I present this income trust broken promise petition on behalf of Canadians from Calgary, Alberta, who remember the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said the greatest “fraud” is “a promise not kept”. The petitioners remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts, but he recklessly broke that promise by imposing a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion in hard-earned retirement savings of over two million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners therefore call upon the Conservative minority government, first, to admit that the decision to tax income trusts was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; second, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise; and finally, to repeal the punitive 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Visitor Visas
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from 1,400 Canadians, 20% of whom live in my riding and are of Polish descent. They are presenting a petition to the House asking the Government of Canada to lift the visitor visa requirements for Polish citizens so they can increase family visitations, tourism, cultural exchanges and trade missions to Canada.

This is supported by 800,000 Canadians of Polish heritage. Canadian citizens no longer require a visitor visa to Poland. Poland is now using biometric passport technology, which is a very secure passport identification system.

I bring this petition to the attention of all members of the House of Commons and, once again, ask that Parliament lift the visa requirements for the Republic of Poland.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

January 30th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Alleged Impediment in the discharge of a Member's Duties
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I rose on a question of privilege relating to an issue where my staff was asked whether I was a member of the opposition parties in order to get some information. I would like to add additional representations.

Yesterday, after I made the question of privilege, the Minister of Health appeared in the House and stated that the questions were inappropriate and not standard practice.

In my presentation to the House on the privilege matter, I also laid out for the Speaker that there was an MP inquiry form that the employee of product safety of Health Canada had to fill out. That form was going to be sent to him by Ottawa, wherever the directorate is that controls these MP inquiry forms. When I spoke to him, he undertook to provide me with a copy of the blank inquiry form so I could see the nature of the information that was required to be reported to Ottawa.

I can report to you that as of today, Mr. Speaker, I have not received from that person the copy of the blank MP inquiry form, which the employee undertook to provide to me. I also have not received an answer to the MP inquiry I made on January 11. I can, however, confirm, although I was talking, as an example, about products coming from China where there was lead paint, today I received from the office of the Minister of Health a bulletin with regard to lead pencils.

The House resumed from January 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my colleagues and the staff here on the Hill a happy new year. After all, one can do so until the end of January. I hope that 2008 will be a productive year for all parliamentarians. Who knows what the future holds?

Bill C-27 is very important because it deals with a new kind of crime. Everyone was familiar with old-fashioned crime—theft of goods. Everyone knew about organized crime rings and gangs. You all know how hard Parliament had to work in the early 1990s to develop new legislation and move away from conspiracy provisions to make gangsterism a new offence. Everyone here is familiar with traditional crimes concerning offences against the person.

However, a new kind of crime—identity theft—is surfacing, and it is very worrisome. Identity theft is an economic crime. One in four Canadians has been a victim of identity theft or knows someone who has been a victim of an offence related to identity theft. The most common of these crimes is the fraudulent use of a personal identification number.

When people withdraw money from a bank, there are more and more organized crime rings that can access their PINs and, unfortunately, empty, steal from or appropriate their bank accounts. We know that this can cause major headaches for victims, not to mention damage their credit rating.

I would like to share some relatively recent numbers that illustrate just how big this problem has become. For example, in 2004, an estimated $50 billion was involved in identity theft in the United States. In Canada, this phenomenon is just as worrisome. If my information is correct, we are talking about approximately $50 million. Identity theft is therefore a very serious phenomenon. We need to define new offences to deal with it, and that is the purpose of the bill before us.

What are the most serious forms of identity theft? Here are some examples: theft of credit cards or debit cards, whether they are used in bank machines or credit unions; redirecting mail, that is, taking someone's mail and sending it somewhere else; pretexting, that is, pretending to be someone who is authorized to obtain the information. This can include telemarketing. We learned from recent news reports about people who claimed to be representatives from the Red Cross, soliciting by telephone, pretending to sell first aid kits. Such offences are becoming more and more common: pretexting in the context of telephone solicitation by marketing networks.

In addition to credit card theft, redirecting mail and pretexting, there is also hacking into computer databases. In fact, there are specialized networks capable of searching software programs and networks to steal data.

We know, for example, that even within public services such as the Régie de l'assurance maladie, the Régie des rentes du Québec and others, there are fraud artists who are able to extract information and use it for completely illegitimate purposes.

Another offence is the use of skimming devices to capture credit and debit card information, and stealing someone's PIN, something that we would never have imagined a few years ago. When we went to our credit union or bank to pay our bills, withdraw money or make deposits, we naturally thought we were in a secure environment. However, people routinely spy on seniors, in particular, and try to steal their PINs.

In a program I was watching on an English language channel, I even saw people in shopping malls and other public places stealing purses, like the one the hon. member for Québec left here. If I were not such an honest person, I could take the hon. member's credit card and PIN, and try to reproduce them for illegitimate purposes.

There are also networks in shopping centres. Someone will distract a person in a public place by engaging that person in conversation while two, three or four other people steal the person's wallet. One member of the network will claim to have witnessed the crime and will talk to the person, who is clearly shaken and emotional. The witness will give the person a telephone number, supposedly for a centre where you can report theft. This centre is bogus. A tape recorder has been used to record a voice as if the centre were real. The person who calls has to give his or her PIN, social insurance number, address and personal information, which completes the theft that is in progress. This happens in public places such as grocery stores, arenas or busy places where an organized group of three, four or five people can carry out such an operation.

So there is identity card theft, redirection of mail, false pretence, hacking into data banks, using sorting devices to gather information, stealing PINs by spying on people in financial institutions and, obviously, computer theft. These are examples of modern ways individuals and networks can use to access personal information. This is why we have to be increasingly vigilant about sharing information about ourselves. We have to be increasingly vigilant and shed the reflex to give out such information.

The government has introduced a bill that creates three new offences. Bill C-27 mentions obtaining and possessing identity information. That is the first new offence. Section 347 of the Criminal Code already prohibits the use of false pretence or forgery for unauthorized purposes. These offences have been on the books for a very long time. But the government is proposing three other offences, including obtaining and possessing identity information with the intent to use the information deceptively, dishonestly or fraudulently in the commission of a crime. This is a new offence that will be added to the Criminal Code, and we support this.

The second offence is certainly the most interesting with respect to what is currently happening. It concerns trafficking in identity information. This is an offence that targets those who transmit or sell information to a third party knowing that or being reckless as to whether the information will be used for criminal purposes.

The third offence is the unlawful possession or trafficking of certain government-issued identity documents that contain information about other persons.

These are three new offences introduced by C-27 and we will certainly support this bill. We support it because the issue of identity theft is of great concern. In committee, we will hear and obtain the opinions of our fellow citizens. We believe that we must do more. We are urging the government to consider the possibility of strengthening this bill.

We must recognize that the fight against identity theft is not just a matter for criminal law. The former Information Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, appeared before the committee dealing with information issues. This is the same committee that deals with ethics, which has been in the spotlight of late owing to the Schreiber-Mulroney affair. I do not wish to dwell on this matter but I must at least comment on these events.

Last night, I read the report by the former rector of McGill University who outlined for the government and the Prime Minister a certain number of scenarios, including first listening to the testimony of parliamentarians who will continue their work. The Bloc Québécois has the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. I believe that my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin also sat on this committee.

There is, of course, cause for concern when a former prime minister, someone who held the highest ministerial and public office in this country, accepted money for making representations while he was still a member of Parliament and under circumstances that remain unclear.

While provisions concerning lobbying were added to Bill C-2, the fact remains that we have had a code of ethics since 1985 at least and that, in light of various ethical concerns, such action might appear suspicious. The presumption of innocence applies to everyone of course. The former prime minister has the right—it is his prerogative—to clear these things up; still, one can wonder, if only because this former prime minister did not report until 1999 income received in 1993. All this is fueling a climate of suspicion which, unless the record can be set straight, might tarnish the office of prime minister.

I will be following, with my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois, the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. We can count on the dynamic member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert to put the most pertinent questions. We will recall that the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert was voted parliamentarian of the year on the Club des ex show broadcast on RDI between Christmas and New Year's. I think that it is very wise to recognize the energy and professionalism of the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

I will close by saying that the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the person responsible for access to information, was clear that the issue of identity theft, which is a growing phenomenon in Canada, cannot be fully and satisfactorily resolved through criminal law alone. She invited us to adopt civil sanctions as well. I will read what she said in committee on May 8, 2007:

I don't think it's just an issue of the Criminal Code. As you know, our law administrators hesitate to use the Criminal Code: the standards of proof are higher, and the charter may apply.

We know that in criminal law the standard is not balance of probabilities but proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a higher standard.

The Commissioner added:

And so very often you have to have a fairly clear-cut case to use the Criminal Code.

There needs to be a causal link between an offence, harm and the consequences. The Commissioner added:

[They] are very easy to prove and easy for citizens to understand.

She was talking about civil sanctions and gave the example of small claims court. Such courts exist in Quebec. I do not know whether they exist in other provinces. They are courts where one can submit a claim before a judge without the need to be represented by a lawyer. Matters that are important to a person are considered more quickly than in superior courts, where they may not be considered as important.

The Commissioner went on to say:

Small claims courts may provide a more easily accessible deterrent to the growing industry of ID theft. This means, of course, that I think the federal government has to work closely with the provinces, because a lot of what happens in terms of ID theft falls within provincial jurisdiction.

I get worried when cooperation between the federal government and the provinces comes up. The federal government has sometimes flexed its authority and completely ignored the will of the provinces.

For example, take the recent statement by Quebec's finance minister, Ms. Jérôme-Forget, who is also president of the treasury board and an MNA in west Montreal. Like previous finance ministers and all the premiers in the National Assembly, including Bernard Landry, she is opposed to creating a national securities commission. We know that this is an area the provinces can regulate. We therefore do not see the need for a national commission.

The same thing is true of the Kyoto protocol and the manufacturing and forestry crisis. It is quite something to hear all the premiers join together in condemning the federal government's insensitivity in offering $1 billion in assistance. This is very little, considering what is needed.

Of course, what is most upsetting about the federal government's strategy is that it does not take into account where the job losses have occurred. In a case like this, you cannot simply distribute money on a per capita basis.

The Prime Minister says that each province will be guaranteed $10 million, and each territory, $3 million. Yet central Canada—Ontario and Quebec—accounts for nearly 60% of all the manufacturing job losses—57%, in fact, if memory serves.

Quebec, which has invested billions of dollars to help its industry, will therefore get $276 million. Yet the federal government will have an estimated $24 billion surplus for the next two years. Consequently, $1 billion is simply not a serious offer when the Canadian economy is in crisis and central Canada—Quebec and Ontario—is being hardest hit.

The information commissioner invited the federal government to exercise its prerogative by using point 27 in section 91 of the Constitution, which enables the government to legislate on criminal matters. However, she said that Canada cannot combat identity theft without using civil law measures. This is the responsibility of the provincial governments, especially the National Assembly, because Quebec is the main jurisdiction where civil law is in force.

My time is up. I do not believe anyone has a question, but I will be happy to answer questions if there are any.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member to comment generally on the failure of the government's crime agenda, its total inability to fight crime, and the undemocratic way it has gone about it.

While he is thinking about that, I would like to say that last March, almost a year ago, the Liberal leader proposed that if the Conservatives did not propose a bill like this on identity theft, the Liberals would. So we are very happy they finally agreed. This is a step forward. We appreciate the support of the Bloc and the NDP on getting this identity theft bill through.

However, in the papers a few weeks ago, it was stated that the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin had suggested the Conservatives would not accept any amendments to this bill.

I am tired, being on the justice committee, of going to meeting after meeting, hearing expert after expert give testimony and speak about the terrible drafting of legislative bills and the government suggesting it is not going to change them. Why do we have committees? Why would we have democratic input if we are not going to change legislation?

The reason the government's agenda is a failure is because it has not addressed dealing with crime. It has not addressed the causes. A perfect example of that is the government putting a bill forward as soon as we came back to increase the number of judges because it had not decreased crime.

I would like the member to comment on, first, the failure of the government's crime agenda because of what is in it and, second, the undemocratic way that sometimes occurs in some of the proceedings as I know he has experienced as a great representative on the justice committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I join in extending praise to the government on this specific bill, Bill C-27. All parties support this bill. We will see if amendments are required after committee consideration. It is, of course, the prerogative of committees to decide whether or not they want to make amendments.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, to whom I offer my congratulations on his new baby, has to recognize, however, that there will likely be amendments as a result of the serious work we do in committee.

For the rest, our colleague from Yukon is right: the government's reform of the Criminal Code and most of its proposals were rather ill-advised. We need only think of conditional sentencing and the many bills providing for minimum sentences, even though all the studies show that these are not effective punishments. There is certainly cause for concern.

The Bloc Québécois, in conjunction with all the other opposition parties in some instances, has called on the government to take a more balanced approach to fighting organized crime.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc and the Liberal Party agree that over and above this legislation, which we all agree will reform the Criminal Code, there are a number of other things the government should be doing to deal with this huge problem of identity theft.

I would like the member from the Bloc to go over some of those things that we both agree the government should also be doing to deal with this problem. This bill alone would still leave a lot that could be done to prevent and stop identity theft.

While he is thinking of that, yesterday I gave the people of Canada many warnings about different types of frauds. One that I am sure most people must be aware of are these emails from people in countries around the world, a lot from Africa, that say that someone has died and they have $10 million they have to get out of the country. They just need someone's bank account to do so and they will give a percentage of the money for the use of the bank account. Obviously, this is a total fraud. Once they get people's bank accounts they can forge their cheques and take their money.

So again, Canadian citizens, be very careful of people asking for anything personal, such as an address, a mother's maiden name, a bank account or a social insurance number. People should not give out this information unless they are absolutely sure they are bona fide requests; they could save themselves a lot of grief.

So, to get back to the question. What other things outside of this reform of the criminal justice system could be done to help reduce this awful problem of identity theft in Canada that affects at least 9% of Canadians?