House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-50.

Topics

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member, in his presentation, mentioned that a private right of action was included in Bill C-27, and I noticed that was in there when I read it. I would like to know what sort of arguments there were against having that in the law. It seems to me that is something that should be an absolute, that it be in there. I would like to know what sort of arguments were raised against having it in there?

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, those who came in front of the committee felt that it should be in there. However, some of course were concerned that there may be times when inadvertent communications were sent by email. If in fact there was an inadvertent situation where an email was put through, as long as it was not the intent to go against legislation, there would be some protection there.

The private right of action is there, but there is protection for those who would send an inadvertent email message or a cellphone text. However, they would only be able to get away with that inadvertence for a very limited time because we do need to ensure that this protection is in place to protect Canadians.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It is the Bloc's turn in the rotation.

The hon. member for Berthier-Maskinongé is ready to deliver his speech.

The hon. member for Windsor West will be next.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise in this House. In politics, one has to adjust quickly at times. I may not necessarily have been ready, but I had made some preparations.

I am addressing today an issue which, as we all know, concerns a vast majority of the people we represent.

Nowadays, emailing is increasingly widespread in our societies, particularly among young people. Internet use is increasingly popular among youth and adults like us as well. I am myself an avid user of email.

Electronic mail is a relatively simple and inexpensive means of communication. It allows messages to be sent simultaneously to a large number of recipients at any time of day or night, basically anytime at all. It makes it easy to send messages to people anywhere in the world.

We can therefore communicate with family, friends or colleagues anytime, day or night, which increases communication between everyone on this planet. In addition, electronic mail allows us, as parliamentarians, to efficiently stay in touch with our fellow citizens. We now have several tools available to us. We have our electronic mail, our websites, Facebook and so on. These tools allow us to communicate with the various stakeholders in the community or our ridings, and with our office staff, whom I greet and whose excellent work I commend.

We used to work with letters written on paper and telephone calls, but emailing is widespread today, and electronic mail is very easy to access and use.

My remarks today concern Bill C-27, to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Quebec and Canadian economy by regulating certain fraudulent commercial activities using electronic mail, commonly known as spam. That is what it is called in everyday language nowadays.

Unfortunately, using the Internet is not always advantageous. We have seen on occasion that this mode of communication—we have all experienced this—can cause us some difficulties. Anyone who uses email regularly receives spam, in other words, unsolicited electronic commercial messages, the purpose of which is to encourage participation in a commercial activity, such as buying a product, or in a competition or game of chance.

Let us hope that this new legislative measure, Bill C-27, which we in the Bloc Québécois all support, will have the same effect as the legislative measure on the do not call list that regulated telephone solicitation.

It goes without saying that the vast majority of email users that I know would greatly appreciate such a measure.

Over the years, unsolicited commercial electronic messages have become a bigger and bigger problem and more widespread as a result, in large part because sending email is free.

Spam has become a real nuisance, damaging computers and networks and representing a significant economic cost. It contributes to fraudulent commercial practices—we are talking more and more about cybercrime—and it often invades people's privacy.

According to a recent Industry Canada study, 80% of email worldwide consists of spam.

That is a very high percentage. Here in the House of Commons, our staff spend quite a bit of time sorting through all these unwanted email messages. It is becoming increasingly important to take action on this, which is why Bill C-27 targets unwanted email.

Spam has huge financial consequences, including the labour costs associated with sorting through all these unwanted emails we receive. Of course, spam occupies a lot of Internet bandwidth, and service providers have to pay exorbitant amounts to filter spam messages. They then pass these costs on to their clients.

We have only to go to places that sell software such as Norton to see that new software is being created every day to deal with all these messages and the viruses that are passed on through spam. Spam is widespread because it is easy and cheap to create and it works. It is effective. According to some statistics, 80% of the email messages we receive are unwanted. And unwanted email is a growing problem on our networks.

With just one click, it is possible to send millions of messages at such a low cost that the operation remains profitable even with a low rate of return. Unfortunately, some people do respond to email solicitations, which leads to major problems with their computer system. Most spam is advertising. We see it when we surf the Internet. It appears as ads, as pornography, unfortunately, as scams and in all sorts of other forms. Pornographic spam, for example, accounts for much of the concern we have as parents about letting our children use email. Often, we see them surfing the Internet and receiving all sorts of solicitations. They see all sorts of pornographic images and receive all sorts of unwanted invitations. Sometimes, these messages are harassing and even criminal. Spam not only threatens the viability of the Internet as an effective means of communication, but undermines the confidence we as consumers have in legitimate electronic commerce.

In recent months, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has worked very hard to draft this bill and has heard from many witnesses. Everyone believes in the merits of this bill and I think the House is unanimous in that regard. Preserving the efficiency of legitimate electronic commerce is a vital and pressing issue and the Bloc has worked constructively to have this legislation implemented as quickly as possible.

Not only are legitimate commercial emails sent with the prior and ongoing consent of the recipient important to electronic commerce, but they are also essential to the development of a strong and productive online economy.

We must not forget that spam constitutes a considerable burden not just for consumers but also for our small, medium-sized and large businesses. As I said earlier, these companies spend considerable time managing these unwanted emails that can have disastrous consequences for the management of our Internet services.

Spam wastes time and reduces productivity at work. It obstructs networks and affects the security of computers by forwarding viruses and phishing emails that result in significant losses for businesses.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois and a number of socio-economic players have for years been asking the federal government for legislation to regulate unsolicited commercial email.

We must not forget that service providers, network operators and consumers are all adversely affected by this problem, which is growing rather than diminishing in spite of all the antivirus software and the fact that computer technology is getting better and better. Nevertheless, our networks are facing increasing problems and experiencing more and more situations where they become inefficient. In addition, there are many viruses in our computer systems.

The task force on spam, which was created in 2004, has been calling for such a measure for over five years now. So, taking its inspiration primarily from the final report of the task force on spam released in May 2005, the purpose of Bill C-27 is to establish a framework to protect electronic commerce. As we know, it is a growing business. Internet-based trade and financial transactions are becoming more and more important and increasingly common. We must protect this network. The purpose of this bill is to protect and promote efficient electronic commerce.

To do this, the bill would amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act and the Personal Information Protection Act. Furthermore, Bill C-27 would enact the new electronic commerce protection act, which would make it illegal to send spam to any electronic address. The only circumstances under which it would be allowed is when the person to whom the message is sent has explicitly consented to receiving it. In addition, the message must be in a form that conforms to the prescribed requirements and must include an unsubscribe mechanism.

The bill would allow the recipient to indicate, through an email address or hyperlink, that he or she does not want to receive any further commercial electronic messages from the sender. Finally, the proposed legislation makes those may who send spam subject to hefty financial penalties. There must be consequences for this kind of behaviour on the Internet. The bill would allow individuals and companies to sue spammers and hold any businesses whose products and services are promoted using these means partially responsible for spamming activity. That is crucial, of course.

It is important to note that the bill stipulates that certain commercial messages would not be considered spam.

These commercial messages include: messages sent by an individual to another individual with whom they have a personal or family relationship; messages sent to a person who is engaged in a commercial activity and consist solely of an inquiry or application related to that activity; messages that are, in whole or in part, an interactive two-way voice communication between individuals; or messages sent by means of a facsimile to a telephone account. In all of these cases, the bill would not prohibit the sending of these messages.

As a number of my colleagues have already said, this is an important bill, but it will be quite complex to enforce. That is why the Bloc Québécois supported the bill in principle. But the Bloc thinks it is unbelievable that the legislative process took four years. Four years is a long time. Four years after the report was presented by the task force on spam, the federal government finally introduced a new bill, here in the House, on electronic commerce protection, which was becoming more and more necessary. Bill C-27 imposes even more controls on spam networks, and this problem will only get worse in the coming years. Four years was much too long.

Computer technology is changing rapidly, and people who want to send spam are unfortunately always finding new ways of doing so. We have to be able to protect ourselves better. Obviously, we want to hear and consult witnesses to ensure that this bill really meets needs and can really help consumers, businesses and companies do business on the web.

We also wanted to know whether the bill will make effective changes to combat the spam consumers receive. Introducing a bill is not enough; we have to be able to meet with witnesses and gauge the effectiveness of the measures contained in this bill.

After a serious study in committee, we still believe that this proposed new legislation will be effective in combatting spam.

In addition to the legislative and legal framework, which is necessary and essential, an education campaign will be needed. It is important to introduce legislation and try to find technical ways to prevent spam, but it is also important to raise public awareness and warn people, especially our youth, about spam, which is often fraudulent and sometimes dangerous.

Consumers know that users have a certain responsibility for controlling spam. We need to start with a public education campaign. We know that our young people are particularly vulnerable to scams and questionable messages they receive by email. International cooperation will also be needed if spam is to be eliminated.

Spam is not just a problem in Quebec and Canada. It is a global problem. Consequently, we need to keep working to harmonize anti-spam policies and to encourage countries to develop and enforce anti-spam legislation.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the member for Berthier—Maskinongé because I found that his speech made a great deal of sense. He presented facts which give us pause to consider the principles of this bill.

I, too, believe that we must defend legitimate commercial activities of businesses while protecting ourselves from spam and those who abuse a technology that has a great deal of benefits.

I would like to know if the member has already come up with some ideas and amendments that he will attempt to present during study in committee.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a task force that has studied spam, as my colleague surely knows. The task force recommended that a centre be established to coordinate the various government anti-spam initiatives. This is a very good proposal. This centre's responsibilities would include coordinating policy, conducting education campaigns and providing support to enforcement agencies. It would also accept complaints and compile statistics on spam.

I believe we should also establish a mechanism to monitor the evolution of this bill. It could assess the impact of these measures in the next few years and determine if the measures implemented actually benefit our email networks.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one thing that has not been talked about, but I think is important to raise, and I raised it during committee, is people buy their own computers, they buy their own software, they maintain their own software and they also provide the Internet service. Therefore, sending someone an electronic advertisement through this medium should be a privilege, not necessarily a right. That should be the premise in preparing the bill to ensure there is balance. Once again, people invested in the physical hardware, the software, the maintenance of it and also the capacity to bring it across the Internet.

Does my colleague agrees with the presumption? A number of amendments were attempted in committee. One was to allow companies to spy on a person's computer, which was defeated. I want to ensure we support the premise that people have rights first, and it is a privilege, not a right, to send advertisements to someone's home.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am in total agreement with my colleague. This bill to prohibit spam and protect personal information is important. Hence, I agree with our NDP colleague on this matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, be read the third time and passed.

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-50.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #123

Employment Insurance Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from September 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

MADE IN CANADA ACT
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

When the House last considered this business, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River had four minutes remaining.

The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

MADE IN CANADA ACT
Private Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak again to this bill. I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for London—Fanshawe, for this opportunity to speak.

We are talking about 50% of content being Canadian.

I would like to give my personal opinion so that everyone in the House can hear it. If taxpayers' money is being used to purchase something, I think it should be 100% Canadian content. Bombardier train cars are built right in Thunder Bay. If you can find a product like that and you are spending taxpayers' money on it, then it seems to me that we ought to be working towards 100%. This bill is talking about 50%.

I talked about our natural resources. I talked about our highly skilled workers when I talked about Bombardier. Let me talk about the forestry industry for a second.

What has happened in the forestry industry in Canada, particularly in Ontario, is that aside from all the closings, secondary manufacturing has disappeared south of the border. In many instances, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia, whole trees are cut and shipped south of the border for secondary manufacturing.

If the Government of Canada is going to buy wood products--toilet paper, for example--it seems to me that they ought to be made in Canada. It seems to me that 100% of that toilet paper should be made in Canada.

The sad fact of the matter is that toilet paper used to be made in my riding and the riding next to it, but those plants are closed. If the Government of Canada and the other provinces made an effort to have Canadian content of 50%, or 100% in the case of toilet paper, that would be wonderful.

It is all about making life affordable, keeping highly skilled workers working right across Canada and allowing them the opportunity to raise their families.

When I spoke during my first six minutes of debate, I believe I mentioned the harmonized sales tax, and I would like to revisit that issue again for a minute. In terms of making life more affordable, this tax is going to be a huge blow to people who live in Ontario. CARP, the association for retired persons, did a survey. It estimates that the new harmonized sales tax would probably cost the average senior about $2,100 a year. This is a senior who is not on a fixed income, but who has a small RRSP and some small investments. That is going to be the extra cost for that senior.

I speak to seniors in my riding. Some of them have told me that they cannot pay their electricity bills. The last time I was in Atikokan I was chatting with one senior who is well into his 80s. He said he lives with one light bulb and he still cannot afford to pay his electricity bill.

Ensuring that the Canadian government purchases items with Canadian content of 50% to 100% would keep people employed and would make life more affordable for all Canadians.