Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Chatham-Kent—Essex (Ontario)
Won his last election, in 2004, with 39.63% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Industry November 18th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the minister removed himself from this situation because at one point he was on the board of Terasen Gas.
However, Kinder Morgan is a large company that certainly has a great deal of expertise. In all of its operations it will have to operate under Canadian law. The fact is that it will be able to advance our situation in Canada far more with the capital it has, the resources it has and the expertise it has. I believe Canada, on the measure, is going to be the big winner with this takeover and, quite frankly, Canada will move forward very well.
Parliament of Canada Act November 2nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, there are two points that I would like to reiterate. We have set up a program. We have $400 million that are available to the forest industry. We have contributed money to Saskatchewan and have worked with the Saskatchewan government in that case.
We need to focus on our communities, workers and their families and the Canadian industry to improve what has happened.
In 1993 the government did much to foster a vibrant economy. The Government of Canada has eliminated the deficit and paid down some of the debt. We are putting money into ensuring that companies and people in each region of Canada can operate in a very efficient way.
It is clear in my mind that what is being related as a border issue, one that has been a problem between Canada and the United States, is not the issue that is occurring in this community.
Parliament of Canada Act November 2nd, 2005
Mr. Speaker, during question period on October 5, the hon. member for Prince Albert linked the recent announcement of the closure of the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to the softwood lumber dispute with the United States.
Since the hon. member has raised the softwood lumber issue, allow me to speak to the issue now.
The Government of Canada is exploring every possible option to resolve this dispute, including litigation, high level political intervention and advocacy. To do this, we are working closely with industry, provincial governments and other stakeholders. We expect the United States to live up to the NAFTA obligations, revoke the duty orders and refund the duties. We will continue to defend the interests of Canadian industry and workers in our WTO and NAFTA litigation.
The Canadian forest products industry is one of Canada's most important sectors. Approximately 300 communities across Canada and hundreds of thousands of workers depend on it. The government has a sensitivity to the impact of the lumber dispute and, as a result, has made available over $400 million in federal assistance to forestry workers, communities and industries.
However, as was stated in the House when this question was first raised, the Weyerhaeuser mill in Prince Albert is a pulp and paper mill. Consequently, it is not directly involved in the softwood lumber issue.
Worldwide, the pulp and paper industry has been rapidly changing in recent years. New technologies have increased optimal mill size. New low cost sources of wood fibre have developed offshore and begun exporting to Canada's traditional markets. North American markets for paper products are not as strong as they once were. As a result, the North American pulp and paper industry is in the process of rationalizing its capacity.
Given these and other factors, Weyerhaeuser made the business decision to close the Prince Albert mill, despite the company's significant investments to upgrade and modernize.
The federal government is concerned about this decision and the potential impact on the 690 workers and the hundreds of additional indirect workers and their families. The Prince Albert region is heavily dependent upon the forest industry and the Weyerhaeuser pulp and paper mill is the region's largest employer.
Prince Albert is the major regional centre for northern Saskatchewan and serves a number of smaller communities. First nations play an important role, both in the forest industry and the regional economy, and rely on Prince Albert for a number of essential services. It is important to the region as a whole that Prince Albert remain a viable, vibrant economy.
We view as very positive Weyerhaeuser's plans to keep the pulp and paper mill operating through the coming winter to ensure that the cold weather does not damage the equipment. The company says it plans to explore all viable options, including identifying possible purchasers.
The province of Saskatchewan has a significant forest resource and is hopeful that investors and new forest industries can be attracted to this region. The federal government has been contributing $4.5 million over the past years, funds which have been matched by the province, to support the Saskatchewan forest industry.
Softwood Lumber October 24th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no question that this government takes all actions that happen in this country very seriously. Softwood lumber is a critical issue for communities, for people who work in the industry and for the industry itself.
The Prime Minister has made it extremely clear that nothing short of a settlement that has been awarded will be settled for. There is no question about that.
Telecommunications Act October 24th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments are very relevant to the problem that we have had in the past. In the past, there were some 300 lists that one could register for. Bringing this into the spectrum of making it reasonable for the public, there will now be one list. That one list would be put in place and if someone registers on the do no call list, that will be circulated to all of the different companies. All of the groups would have to check in with that and any organizations that are making telephone calls would have to check with the do not call list, the one large list, to make certain that they do not interfere.
As I understand it, that list would be updated on a very regular basis, monthly or whatever time period in the short term, so that when people do register, other corporations have to go back and work in the system and get all of the new registrations that come in within a certain time period.
As well, there will be consultations with groups across the country on an ongoing basis to deal with other problems and other concerns that may come forward with that list. It is the mandate of the CRTC at this point in time to carry on public information sessions and to listen to concerns of the public, as well as set up the mechanisms by which organizations are going to operate the lists and will be able to work within the structure to ensure the application of the do not call list is carried out. All of the concerns that stem around general public concerns will be answered through the organization that will be created. At this point in time, there will be public consultations and input accepted from the public in order to move this forward.
Telecommunications Act October 24th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that my colleague worked very hard on the committee trying to get the legislation through and I certainly support and thank him for that.
When we talk about charities and solicitation, it is very important to understand the areas that we had to deal with when we were working on this legislation. We have registered charities and under the Income Tax Act, we can work with the revenues that are coming in. Under the Income Tax Act, we have a guide by which we can encourage everyone to move forward.
If we were to use that section in the Income Tax Act and encourage those people who are raising funds for charitable purposes to register under the act, and have a legitimate sponsor for those collections, then they would have the opportunity to do the calling and that type of work. However, if they are not within the sphere of the Income Tax Act, if they are just not for profit organizations, that would open up a very wide spectrum of organizations which quite frankly would have been very difficult to have any control over.
When we talk about non profit groups, and we can have a myriad of all kinds of organizations, whether it is the firemen or the police in a community, or whether it is the guys playing baseball at the corner, they could be part of that organization of non profit who are raising funds for different purposes. There is no way we could have discriminated the value to Canadians.
In order to set a guideline or a framework under which we could operate and ensure that any funds were legitimately collected, we used the basis of the Income Tax Act. This is relatively consistent with other jurisdictions which have imposed do not call lists as well.
The effort here is to ensure that we look after registered charitable organizations which would function appropriately in the system, but also to ensure we do not get a large, wide section of abuse that could potentially occur with many other organizations that could have been registered as non profit.
Telecommunications Act October 24th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin the third reading debate of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act.
This bill would augment the powers of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, to establish a more effective regime and protect consumers against unsolicited telemarketing in Canada.
The bill provides the legislative framework for the creation of a national do not call list. I am sure that every member of the House and probably everyone watching the proceedings today can recall being interrupted by telemarketers during dinner or when spending some quality time with their family and friends. There are times when we are willing to listen to people who want to sell us something. There are also times when we do not want to listen. There are times when pitches made in our homes by certain corporations are just not acceptable. This bill responds to those concerns that Canadians have strongly voiced. They are fed up with unwanted unsolicited telemarketing calls and want an effective solution.
In 2003 Environics conducted a survey of consumers' attitudes toward telemarketing. Eighty-one per cent of the respondents reported receiving unsolicited calls. On average, respondents received over three unsolicited calls each week.
Public opinion polls tell us that unsolicited telecommunications have indeed become an inconvenience and a nuisance to many Canadians. In fact, during the survey conducted in 2003, 97% of the respondents reported a negative reaction to unsolicited calls. Of those, 38% said they would tolerate the calls, 35% said they were highly annoyed and 24% hated receiving those telephone calls. It is clear that Canadians think that unsolicited calls are a problem.
Unsolicited telemarketing has become a serious irritant for many Canadians as existing rules provide little protection for consumers against intrusive unwanted calls. Under the 1994 rules, telemarketers are required to maintain individual do not call lists. These rules have been in place for the past 10 years. Since they were implemented by the CRTC they have been found to be ineffective for the following reasons.
First, the rules have resulted in some confusion among consumers. For one thing, few consumers know that they have the right to register a specific company on a do not call list, but even for those consumers who wish to take advantage of these lists, the task is daunting. Consumers who do not want to receive calls need to put their registration in place on the do not call list of hundreds of different companies. These registrations are placed for three years, after which the consumer must register again.
The current regime is ineffective because it is difficult to enforce. When consumers receive further calls from firms for which they registered on the individual do not call list, it is hard for them to prove that they were registered with that specific company.
Some 14% of the people Environics polled reported that they had tried to make a complaint regarding an unsolicited call. Among this subgroup, a majority of 59% said their complaint was never resolved.
We have heard from Canadians. The reality is that the inability to control telemarketing continues to be a pervasive source of frustration. The time has come for a more effective approach to regulating unsolicited telemarketing, an approach that will benefit both consumers and the telemarketing industry and one that will be easier to enforce.
At the heart of the issue is the need to have an effective tool for enforcement and compliance, and that is the focus of the bill before us. If we create an effective enforcement and compliance regime through rules that are fair and transparent, we have the foundation for smart regulation of telemarketing. For that reason the CRTC requires legislated authority to impose administrative monetary penalties, that is to fine businesses that continue to make unsolicited calls to persons who have registered on a do not call list.
With the ability to fine a marketing company, CRTC will be able to apply penalties that will provide a deterrent and stop companies from making many of those unwanted calls. The use of a national do not call list will improve the effectiveness of the system. For these reasons, we are seeking through the bill to amend the Telecommunications Act to provide administrative monetary penalties for violations of the national do not call list.
The costs of maintaining such a list would include database maintenance, complaint processing and the investigative and enforcement costs. The CRTC has recommended that a third party administrator who specializes in databases should be selected to maintain the national do not call list. With this bill we amend the Telecommunications Act to allow for a third party administrator and cost recovery.
Legislative amendments have been recommended and would exempt calls from the national do not call list for registered charities as defined under section 248 of the Income Tax Act, for companies with existing business relationships, and for calls from political parties. Exempt organizations would be required to maintain individual do not call lists. In addition, survey and polling firms would also be exempt from the do not call list and would continue to be exempt to collect the views of Canadians.
There are certain implementation details that arise from the establishment of a do not call list. For example, how would telemarketers access the do not call data and how often? It is not our intention to delve into these details, but rather to ask the CRTC to undertake consultations with concerned Canadians to determine the do not call system that best suits the needs of all Canadians.
We want to ensure that Canadian consumers have their privacy needs met and give them the ability to choose to be protected from inconvenience and nuisance. The current rules have been ineffective in giving consumers this choice. With this bill we create a system where consumers can take effective steps to stop unwanted telemarketing calls. In this way we will address an issue that Canadians consider to be a major irritant in their daily lives.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Ms. Jennifer Stoddart, congratulated the industry minister on proposed legislation to create a national do not call list for telemarketers. She said:
I think this is a great step forward for privacy. Our Office has been concerned about this issue for some time and we have certainly heard from many members of the public who are frustrated by intrusive phone calls. We welcome this initiative.
Recently, in front of the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology the federal Privacy Commissioner delivered a statement backed by nine of the provincial and territorial information and privacy commissioners that once again supported the creation of a national do not call list that would enhance privacy by making it easier for individual Canadians to control intrusive telephone calls.
Consumer groups, including the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, are in favour of the creation of a national do not call list. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has indicated that the creation of a do not call registry would be the most effective, elegant and enforceable solution to the present telemarketing situation. It also indicated that a single list is simple to administer and it is easy to determine when a telemarketer is in non-compliance.
The Canadian Marketing Association, the largest marketing association in the country that represents hundreds of telemarketing companies, supports the bill. Since 2001 the Canadian Marketing Association has recommended that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, establish a national do not call list to cover all telemarketers in Canada.
Mr. John Gustavson, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Marketing Association, stated:
We are pleased to see the federal government has responded to our request to establish a national do-not-call service to address the increasing number of consumer complaints regarding some telemarketing practices in Canada... We believe a compulsory do-not-call service for all companies that use the telephone to market their goods and services to potential customers is the most effective means to curtail consumer annoyance with telemarketers.
Telemarketing has become more and more pervasive. There is no sign that it is going away. The inability to control telemarketers' access to telephones in our homes and businesses has become a source of frustration for a large percentage of Canadians.
The bill creates the right regulatory environment for sensible, smart telecommunicating. It will safeguard the privacy of Canadians and their right to choose with whom they wish to communicate. For thousands of Canadians who may opt to register on the national do not call list, it will mean quiet evenings with their families free of commercial interruption.
Canadian consumers are overwhelmingly in favour of this method of controlling unwanted telephone solicitation. The majority of respondents, nearly four out of five, supported the creation of a national do not call list. Some two-thirds indicated they would likely sign up for a do not call service.
The government is taking steps to give individual Canadians an effective, easy way to curtail intrusive telemarketing and to protect their privacy. I urge hon. members to support the bill.
I also feel it is my responsibility to comment on the work the committee did in making sure that all of the concerns of Canadians across the country were brought to committee. They were raised and dealt with in a very reasonable way. I am very pleased that all parties seem to be very much on side with this bill. I hope for its speedy passage in the House.
Trade Compensation Act October 19th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, what one has to realize is that Canada is one of the countries that has the lowest charge on energy around the world. We certainly have far lower prices than Europe. Anyone who has travelled to Europe, Asia or other countries knows the price paid for gas is far higher than it is in Canada.
Certainly we are not a perfect organization, but we have done everything we can to make certain that low income Canadians get the financial assistance they require. The government has announced a direct financial assistance program for low income Canadians of up to $5,000 per household to defray the costs of higher energy costs.
There is no question when we look at the EnerGuide formula that we will watch the prices to the consumer and try to make sure the consumer is well aware of why those prices are fluctuating. Canada is not a country where we put price controls on separate industries and that is not the general step to take. I believe it is to inform the consumer, keep the prices as low as possible and keep the supply working well in this country.
Trade Compensation Act October 19th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, the rapid increase in gasoline prices in Canada is of concern to the Canadian government without question, and is a concern to everyone in the country. The increase since hurricane Katrina has mainly been driven by crude oil prices which have climbed more than 50% so far in 2005.
There are a number of factors driving the crude oil prices. Foremost among them is demand. The economies of developing nations around the world are growing and that growth requires energy.
The government is taking action. The success of our efforts is predicated on there being an open and fair market to bring these products to Canadians. In that regard the Competition Bureau has served us well. It has spent considerable resources analyzing the practices and participants in the oil and gas industry. Bureau officials have done five major studies of gas prices since 1990. Each of those studies told us that gas price spikes were not the result of a national conspiracy to limit competition with gasoline supply, or from abusive behaviour by dominant firms in the market.
The Competition Bureau has closely followed the activities of the oil and gas firms during the recent period of volatile price shifts and it will continue to do so. I have every confidence that the commissioner will take the appropriate action where evidence of anti-competitive behaviour is found.
Trust in the market is created when the rules are applied and they must be applied fairly and openly. Again, the bureau has served Canadians well over the years. Bureau investigations have resulted in 13 trials and eight convictions in price maintenance cases in the oil and gas industry.
The bureau has also investigated the competition problems that could arise from proposed oil and gas company mergers and has not hesitated to challenge potential transactions that could substantially lessen or prevent competition. Honest competitors in every industry need to be protected. We have to make sure that there is no collusion nor price fixing. They need to be protected against firms that might use their dominant position to enhance their position in the market.
As a government we have put forward changes to the Competition Act and have tried to ensure the act is strengthened. We will also make sure that we have proper and appropriate tools to respond to the changing business climate. We also know that we need to do everything we can to protect the consumer as well as we can from those spikes that happen, but it is not the government's responsibility to set the price. Canada mainly is a price taker, not a price setter.
One of the major problems we have had over the last several months is the very volatile prices, but all Canadians must be aware that those prices have been volatile in every country around the world. In the United States the price has jumped. In Europe the price has jumped. Still, Canadians have suffered, but we have put a program in place to make sure that low income Canadians receive a fair amount of price support this coming winter.
One of the steps the government has taken is to make sure that we have programs in place that will deal with those extremely difficult situations Canadians will have.
The Government of Canada has allocated $15 million over five years for the office. The office will rely on information such as federal and provincial data and will provide information to Canadians on how markets are operating. In other words, it will be made open and transparent, wo that on the Internet or through our bureau that we are setting up, Canadians will know what is causing the price volatility and how it is happening. There will be more transparency in the industry. Those are steps the Canadian government is taking.
Trade Compensation Act October 19th, 2005
Mr. Speaker, it is important for all of us to realize that Mr. Côté has through his whole career acted to support people and move things forward. He has the skills and ability to understand the needs and the demands that are required as an ombudsman and to work for our Canadian Forces and those in need of help.
I find it very short-sighted to suggest that it is not the minister's responsibility when all legislation gives the minister the responsibility of appointing the ombudsman for the military services. At the same time, I believe we need to have a person with the legal training, the background and the desire to work as well as the opportunity to have new development.
Mr. Côté, as I said just a moment ago, in the last three months has developed new lines, new help for our people and is reaching out to our forces ensure that they are well served.