An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Brian Tobin  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActThe Royal Assent

June 4th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
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The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-15A, an act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other acts--Chapter No. 13.

Bill S-40, an act to amend the Payment Clearing and Settlement Act--Chapter No. 14.

Bill S-34, an act respecting royal assent to bills passed by the Houses of Parliament--Chapter No. 15.

Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act--Chapter No. 16.

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Shipbuilding; the hon. member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie, National Wildlife Areas; the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Softwood Lumber.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2002 / 12:35 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to speak to this bill and to follow my colleague from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. As is always the case, she delivered a very thoughtful and insightful speech regarding this legislation.

Bill C-23 amends the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act. Its purpose is to maintain and encourage competition in Canada, surely something this government, as previous governments, should be actively pursuing. It therefore plays a central role in our Canadian economy. The role is becoming increasingly important because we are becoming more global as a nation in terms of our trade, direction and access to foreign markets. The number of mergers is increasing and many sectors of activities are converging in the business world.

The amendments which will be brought about as a result of Bill C-23 were proposed to make it easier for the government to co-operate with foreign competition tribunals. Specifically, it is fair to say the global economy is more important now. Governments have the ability to co-operate with each other when dealing with multinational organizations. Bill C-23 was introduced to streamline the competition tribunal process. Any process dealing with quasi-judicial bodies must be streamlined to make it more effective.

The bill was introduced to broaden the tribunal's ability to issue temporary orders. The competition commissioner and tribunal need to be able to react immediately to situations, even if the actions are temporary, to put cease and desist orders in place and to allow some kind of remediation to occur.

Bill C-23 has tough new measures to deal with anti-competition practices in the airline industry. It is very timely. Canadians across the country know the difficult times the airline industry has been through. The demise of Canada 3000 is a case in point. Although the competition commissioner was in that instance prepared to put cease and desist orders in place, the process of applying for the order and having to put it in place is often not quick enough to stop the damage that takes place through the predatory and overtly anti-competitive practices that sometimes occur.

One concern about the Competition Act coming from the House industry committee process is that the privacy rights to access are questionable. Private parties must have the right to apply directly to the competition tribunal for remedies concerning refusals to deal, tied selling, market restrictions and exclusive dealings.

It is important for people to be able to challenge what is considered to be fair practices by the competitor trying to put out smaller competitors simply through the use of these kinds of tactics. It is also important to the well-being of members of the small business community to be able to fight back. This legislation will provide them with an opportunity to challenge larger businesses that are trying to put them out of business. It levels the playing field and arms the small businesses with a form of protection, a blanket approach.

It is important for companies, corporations and small businesses as well as individuals to have the ability to advance their causes even though the competition tribunal may not think they are as important as other issues. They are permitted under this act to force that issue at times when they may be giving lesser priority.

As in many cases, once something is put on the back burner the damage may already be done for delay can be the deadliest form of denial. Private access also means that if the competition commissioner feels that something is not as important as, say, airline restructuring, it can go through the process and not be tied up for years.

In many instances we have seen, coming from the field myself, that the lawyers who get involved use the process as a weapon essentially against their adversaries, such as tying the issue up, filing motions, making appeals, dragging the issue out. The costs are often prohibitive. Very often in civil cases and in certain instances in the criminal court the costs can result in a real injustice, an injustice that never sees resolution or the light of day.

Bill C-23 will create additional case law that will provide the business community with a better understanding of what the laws of the land are and how they might fall under the practices considered not to be in the best interests of competition. It will also develop case law that can be used for the furtherance of fair business practices. It would result, I suspect and submit, in precedent and stare decisis in the court that will set the bar, set the standard.

The act inevitably will result in a flurry of legal activity and challenges that will test the parameters of the bill. That is healthy and to be expected. Members of parliament should understand fully that passing new laws will result in challenges. That should never be a bar or attempt to dissuade lawmakers from doing what they are expected to do.

Bill C-23 in particular will put in place new penalties, including fines of up to $15 million for an airline acting in an anti-competitive fashion. This could result clearly in taking someone out of the competition altogether and should act as a real deterrent. To use the criminal and civil codes as a standard, deterrence is an important element in putting these parameters in place for the way in which businesses conduct themselves.

One of the concerns that was voiced about the Competition Act was that the legislation had no teeth to allow the competition commissioner to respond in a way that would stop predatory behaviour. The legislation finally will contain some teeth so that the competition commissioner will have meaningful input into keeping anti-competitive behaviour at bay and real consequences when that line is crossed.

The ability of the competition commissioner to extend cease and desist orders beyond the current 80 days is also very important. It is important because of the time it takes to prepare a case and to bring the complaint against the competitor. It is also very timely and allows the application, which sometimes has not been processed before the cease and desist order expires, to come forward.

In conclusion the Progressive Conservative Party is very pleased to see the extension. We are pleased to see the amendments contained in the bill. It makes the process and the legislation more meaningful. It adds more pith and substance to what is currently in place to protect competition and businesses, large and small. It is an important bill for those reasons that have been set out and the reasons enunciated by other members of parliament.

We must ensure that the bill is passed in a timely fashion. To do otherwise would be irresponsible. As the clock is ticking and time is running out, we urge the government to undertake to pass the bill forthwith. We must make sure that competition, particularly in the airline industry, is real and is healthy. For those reasons the Progressive Conservative Party fully supports Bill C-23.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2002 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to make a few comments on the proposed changes to Bill C-23, which now comes to us by way of the red chamber.

First let me say that the amendment made by the other place seems to be minor, so I plan to comment on some of the larger aspects of the bill. I will start with some of the long overdue changes that the bill makes in the powers of the Competition Tribunal and the commissioner as they relate to air competition.

I had hundreds of constituents stranded when Canada 3000 collapsed. As members will recall, Air Canada's new subsidiary, Tango, had just been launched and the Competition Bureau was on the verge of slapping Air Canada on the wrist when Canada 3000 went under.

I am not confident that the minor baby steps the bill takes in the right direction will result in better or cheaper air service in Nova Scotia. I am encouraged by the new carriers that say they will be braving the skies to compete with the reality of the virtual and quite brutal monopoly held by Air Canada in Atlantic Canada, but I fear and I know that many of my constituents also fear that we will see a repeat of the Canada 3000 fiasco.

Bill C-23 does nothing to stop Air Canada from using its new subsidiaries Tango or Jazz, or whatever new dance step name it comes up with, to simply undercut new competitors and drive them out of business by having the deep pockets to survive an expensive fight. I fear that in a year we will back where we are now with travellers in Atlantic Canada paying very high prices for poor service provided by an Air Canada monopoly.

I wish that the government and the Senate had come up with real regulations that would have stopped Air Canada from effectively killing competition. I wish that the Minister of Transport had a vision of air service in Canada that went further than the office of Robert Milton. Bill C-23 does nothing to tell me that he does.

On another change that Bill C-23 makes, I congratulate the government. The section dealing with protecting our seniors from unscrupulous direct mail and telemarketers' offers that lie to people as a way to steal their life savings is long overdue. The problem is not unique in Canada, but our laws seem to have been well behind the times.

As the Library of Parliament brief on the bill correctly notes, in June 2001 the U.S. senate permanent subcommittee on investigations heard testimony from victims of and experts on telemarketing fraud. Almost all of them described Canada as a haven for such fraud. The committee heard that phone scams swindle more than $35 million every year from Americans, mostly seniors, and although apparently some fraud originating in the U.S. is aimed at Canadians, it is only a small fraction of the amount aimed at Americans.

Experts praised the U.S.-Canada working group on telemarketing fraud that has reportedly caught a few of the perpetrators. Project Colt was formed in April 1998 to co-ordinate efforts among the RCMP, the U.S. customs service, the FBI and various arms of the Quebec police. Since its inception the project has returned $12 million to victims. Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border met in Ottawa in June 2001 to discuss these and other related issues.

The creation of an offence of deceptive notice of winning a prize will help protect poor and vulnerable people. It is easy for those of us here who make a good salary and who have a huge infrastructure to support us in our work to simply warn people that if someone is promising something for nothing they should not believe it, but there are so many Canadians who live with poverty, who are seniors with inadequate pensions, who have a lack of education and struggle with minimum wage jobs or live with disabilities. They live in a society where culture is based on success, with happiness equalling wealth. When we look at TV or read the sage opinions of our opinion leaders, who are all business leaders because pro-business leaders own all our media, we see that the only goal in Canadian life is to be wealthy, that this is how Canadians would be happy.

This culture leaves those who are poor desperate to become rich, not only so they can get better things, but because it is a culture that says if a person is poor, that person is a failure. Therefore when someone who is poor gets a notice in the mail falsely saying they have won money, the joke is extremely cruel.

When these notices are being used to try and take money from those who already have too little money, then it should be a crime. The creation of this criminal offence in the bill and the mandating of officials to proceed with the prosecution of this crime as a criminal and not an administrative offence is a very good thing.

One last section of the bill I wish to comment on is the increase in international co-operation to investigate competition offences. With globalization becoming a greater reality, we need to have international codes of conduct that transnational corporations have to live by.

Too often companies are using differences in laws and differences in the way that records are kept to escape basic responsibilities, like the paying of a fair share of taxes as good corporate citizens, protecting the environment, and treating workers safely and fairly. I would hope that the provisions of the bill that deal with requests by foreign states for assistance in gathering evidence in Canada required for prosecution of competition offences in a foreign country are a first step by the government to creating rules for the international corporate community.

Using the bill, with references to agreements for foreign states, Canada may enter into an agreement if the Minister of Justice is satisfied that the laws of the foreign state are similar to Canada's; that the confidentiality laws of the foreign state are similar to Canada's; that the agreement will contain provisions for circumstances where Canada can refuse assistance and applicable confidentiality provisions.

As well, the agreements will contain undertakings that the foreign state will provide similar assistance to Canada. Information will not be used for any other purposes. Information will be returned or with consent destroyed. All information will be confidential. The Minister of Justice will be informed if there is a breach of confidentiality. The agreements will contain a termination provision.

The act further states four different judicial orders by which evidence may be gathered for use in a foreign proceeding. These orders are: search and seizure order, which is search and seizure of the evidence; evidence gathering order, which is the examination under oath of a person; a virtual presence order, when a person's virtual presence is requested by video link or similar technology; and finally, lending exhibit order, which requests the loan of an exhibit admitted as evidence.

Let us see these forms of international co-operation as a beginning in the real regulation of all international corporate activity.

I hope that the next step the government brings forward is a Tobin tax, an international environmental protection standard that international companies must respect and enforce in order to have truly international enforceable labour standards.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2002 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act, and the amendment proposed by the Senate.

As we know, Bill C-23 was made up of three private member's bills. There were some very interesting features. Before the proposed changes included in Bill C-23, only the commissioner of competition could file a complaint before the competition tribunal.

Bill C-23 now provides for a private access that will allow people to directly launch court proceedings, on their own behalf, regarding competition issues. This new provision of the act will apply to four areas: refusal to deal, exclusive dealing, tied selling and market restriction.

However, while these changes were interesting ones, they did not revolutionize the way of doing things in Canada when it comes to competition. The provisions of Bill C-23 remain weak, and they do not go to the bottom of the issue of competition in Canada.

In its 2000 election platform, the Bloc Quebecois said, and is still saying, that the Competition Act should be amended to guarantee competitive prices to consumers. This is the basis of the issue of competition.

It is all well and good to allow third parties to argue a case on their own before the Competition Tribunal, but if the Competition Bureau does not have the adequate means to carry out its investigations, what good does it do? We must not circumvent steps. Ensuring truly competitive pricing to consumers must remain the cornerstone of our actions.

For this reason, I had moved a motion in the House that would have reviewed the implementation of section 45 of the Competition Act and reviewed the word unduly. The current wording in this section allows multinational corporations to raise prices, particularly in the case of gas.

Allow me to give an example. On a street with five gas stations, the prices all go up at the same time, and at the same hour. Under the current law, the Competition Bureau cannot launch an investigation based on this observation. There must be written proof of collusion. This is virtually impossible to obtain these days. Unfortunately, Bill C-23 does nothing to correct section 45.

However, I have not lost all hope. The Standing Committee on Industry published a report on April 23, in which it proposed some good amendments to the section. The Minister of Industry should seriously consider these proposals.

The Standing Committee on Industry said the following:

That the Government of Canada create a two-track approach for agreements between competitors. The first track would modify the current criminal provision (section 45) in two ways and allow the criminal justice system to deal with “hard core cartels”, in other words conspiracies that have no compensatory social value.

This would remove the word unduly from the phrase “to lessen, unduly, competition”. As such, horizontal agreements between competitors should not have to limit competition unduly or deliberately in order to be considered a conspiracy against the public interest. Such an amendment would be welcome.

Therefore, I am pleased, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, to support this amendment from the Senate. It is very important, particularly since, from a legal perspective, the French and English versions are often different. As a result, it was important to make this change, and I congratulate the members of the other chamber.

This is also an opportunity to point out how much progress we have made when it comes to competition; however, there remains work to be done. I hope that the minister will take note of this and make amending section 45 a priority for his department.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2002 / 12:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the Senate amendment to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act. The Senate amendment is a minor amendment which removes the word within from clause 14, subsection 106.1(4). Subsection 106.1(4) states:

The consent agreement shall be registered within 30 days after its publication unless a third party makes an application to the Tribunal before then to cancel the agreement or replace it with an order of the Tribunal.

The amendment takes the word within out to read: “The consent agreement shall be registered 30 days after its publication...”.

We are supportive of the amendment as we were supportive of the bill at all stages of its proceeding. The bill was sent to the Senate at first reading on December 11, 2001, and at third reading in the Senate it was sent back to the House of Commons on May 9, 2002, to remove one word, which as I see it, does not really alter the intent of the clause. That really makes one question what the purpose of the other place is as presently constituted. It again makes a call for a truly effective Senate which can only happen if it has democratic legitimacy.

The official opposition has been supportive of Bill C-23 at its different stages. The process the bill went through was certainly superior to the manner in which most bills are passed by parliament because it was sent to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology before second reading which typically indicates that the government was open to substantive amendments. The bill was substantively amended in committee. The most significant amendments, as many members know, concern the creation of a new right of so-called private access which is the right of a person or business to seek a legal remedy against the anti-competitive conduct of another.

This takes away the ability of the competition commissioner to act as a gatekeeper before the tribunal. People can access the tribunal regardless of whether the commissioner agrees the case should go forward or not. We should point out that the commissioner himself was in favour of this change when he appeared before the committee two separate times.

There was a consensus in committee among all members that this limited right of private access, and it is important to note that it is quite a limited right of private access, is not extensive. It was a reasonable step toward improving Canada's competition policy regime. The Canadian Alliance continues to believe that competition itself is the best form of discipline for people, for citizens and for businesses. Competition law cannot replace the effect that competition itself has on the economy.

We strongly support the view that competition law must not be set up to protect certain businesses. That is not the purpose of competition law. Competition law must do what it can to facilitate competition against itself. That was one point that the commissioner made over and over in his presentation to us.

The official opposition is satisfied that the bill is a step toward these broad goals and therefore supports the bill as amended by the Senate.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2002 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to address the Senate's amendment to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act. Bill C-23 is before us today in the form of a Senate amendment which corrects a small technical problem between the English and French text in subsection 106.1(4) of clause 14.

Bill C-23 is vital economic legislation designed to strengthen and modernize our existing competition laws to the benefit of consumers and businesses alike. For example, the legislation would prohibit the sending of deceptive prize notices which target the most vulnerable members of our society. It would enable Canada to gain access to evidence in other countries concerning civil competition matters. It would broaden the scope under which the competition tribunal may issue interim orders. It would improve the competition tribunal process. It would allow individuals and businesses to apply directly to the competition tribunal for relief from certain anti-competitive conduct. In addition, it would provide additional measures to protect competition in the Canadian airlines industry.

The bill has been carefully reviewed by both Houses of Parliament. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology carefully listened to a broad range of witnesses and concluded that Bill C-23 takes a balanced approach. Members will recall the bill passed the House of Commons with all party support on December 10, 2001.

Section 106.1 of Bill C-23 would allow for the possibility of a consent agreement between a person, other than the commissioner of competition, that has made an application to the competition tribunal for an order to be made under sections 75 or 77 of the Competition Act and the person against whom the order is sought. This provision would provide that such an agreement can be registered with the competition tribunal if the terms of the consent agreement are consistent with the provisions of the Competition Act. However, any consent agreement made under that section would have to be published in the Canada Gazette to give third parties an opportunity to examine the consent agreement.

During its consideration of Bill C-23 the Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce suggested that a minor discrepancy existed between the French and the English translations in subsection 106.1(4) of clause 14 of the bill. Indeed, according to the English version of the subsection 106.1(4), a person could within 30 days after its publication register a consent agreement. This would not leave a third party any time to make an application to have the consent agreement cancelled or replaced or to even examine the agreement. This would defeat the obvious purpose of the provision which was to allow third parties a chance to challenge the consent agreement.

The French version however indicates that the consent agreement can be registered only 30 days after its publication. The French version gives an appropriate effect to the provision. On May 2, 2002, the Senate committee reported back the bill with one minor amendment to subsection 106.1(4) to correct this discrepancy. The English version of subsection 106.1(4) has been corrected to that effect and now reads that the consent agreement “shall be registered 30 days after its publication”.

It is now up to members in this place to adopt this minor amendment and provide for speedy passage of Bill C-23. In so doing we will enhance the competition law enforcement in Canada to the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2002 / 12:10 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act.

Government ContractsBusiness of the House

May 30th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to respond to my first business question since I came, as I said, back home again.

Today we will continue with the debate on second reading of Bill C-55. This would be followed by report stage and third reading of Bill S-34, the royal assent bill, followed by consideration of a minor technical amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-23, the competition legislation.

Tomorrow we plan to resume business where it leaves off today, with Bill C-15B, the criminal code amendments, as a backup, a bill which I know people are very enthusiastic about supporting.

In any case, it is my intention to call Bill C-15B as the first item of business on Monday.

On Tuesday, subject to progress made earlier, we will commence the report stage of Bill C-53, the pest control legislation. In the evening the House will be in committee of the whole on the Public Works and Government Services estimates, pursuant to our new rule.

Wednesday we plan to debate second reading of a bill respecting nuclear safety about which I gave information to House leaders yesterday. The bill will be introduced at the beginning of the week.

Thursday of next week, that is to say a week from today, shall be an allotted day, the last of this supply period which means, and I say this for the benefit of all hon. members and their plans for that day, that the House will sit into the evening or could sit as late as the evening, depending of course, to consider the main estimates and the appropriation act based thereon.

I want to thank all colleagues, if I can say so in conclusion, for their kind words upon my return as Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

May 23rd, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
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Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we shall continue this afternoon with the debate on the opposition motion. Tomorrow, we will return to Bill C-56, respecting reproductive technologies, followed by Bill C-55, the public safety bill, and Bill C-15B, the criminal code amendments. On Monday, we will continue consideration of these bills.

Tuesday will be an allotted day. In the evening on Tuesday, as the House already knows, we will sit in committee of the whole pursuant to Standing Order 81(4)(a) to consider the estimates of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

On Wednesday, if necessary, we will return to any of the bills I have previously mentioned that may not already been completed, subject to arrangements we may make to deal with the Senate amendments to Bill C-23, the competition legislation, Bill S-34, dealing with royal assent, and perhaps Bill C-5 concerning species at risk. We are also hopeful that Bill C-54, the sports bill, and Bill C-53, the pest control bill, will be reported from committee in the very near future, so that we may take up report stage and third reading of those particular items.

Finally, we are also looking forward to reports from committees of the House on two other bills that have been in committee for what would appear to be an inordinate length of time, namely, Bill C-48 dealing with copyright, which has been before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for more than three months now, and Bill C-19, the amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which is fast approaching its first anniversary before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I am sure the House is anxiously awaiting the reports of those committees so that legislation can be proceeded with through its final stages.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 14th, 2001 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, the final two petitions deal with the same subject matter. They call on parliament to revoke Bill C-23 from the previous parliament which affirms the opposite sex definition of marriage in legislation and ensures marriage is recognized as a unique institution.

The BudgetAdjournment Proceedings

December 12th, 2001 / 6:50 p.m.
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Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, to my colleague, the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, whom I must also thank for her work on the Standing Committee on Transport. It is, I can assure you, always a pleasure to work on that committee, because the relationships between members are good.

Over the past three months, there have been some major issues to deal with, and we have certainly not lacked work. A number of our meetings have addressed those major issues, particularly ones relating to the crisis resulting from the September 11 terrorist attacks.

My colleague is asking whether the government intends to legislate on anti-competitive acts in the delivery of domestic air services, in the interests of all Canadians. The minister's response at that time was yes, and I would like to elaborate on that.

Hon. members will recall that, in July 2000, new provisions in the Competition Act, along with new regulations, came into effect, creating a special regime for domestic air carriers. A specific offence was created for anti-competitive acts by a domestic carrier.

The regulations provide a more detailed definition of what is meant by anti-competitive acts, along with the criteria for determining them.

The amendments made to the Competition Act introduced in Bill C-26 in 2000 give the competition commissioner the power to issue temporary cease and desist orders that could put an end to actions that provoked a complaint in the time leading up to an investigation and a decision as to whether or not a case will be heard by the Competition Tribunal.

More recently, the Competition Act was examined by the House, and a number of motions to amend the act in Bill C-23, were presented to the committee last week. Two of them would make changes to the air carriers' regime.

One of the amendments would allow the competition commissioner to ask the tribunal to extend the temporary cease and desist order beyond the 80 day maximum, if the commissioner has not received all of the information necessary to allow him to determine whether or not grounds exist to make an application to the tribunal. This amendment corrects a shortcoming that was identified by the standing committee.

The second amendment allows the tribunal to impose administrative monetary penalties of up to $15 million, when ruling on a case.

These two changes are designed to demonstrate clearly that the government takes very seriously the actions that have led to complaints regarding anti-competitive acts in this country's airline industry.The changes should also prove that the government's measures will not give rise to the type of letter Air Canada sent, which led to my colleague's question.

Question No. 80—Government Orders

December 10th, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

The question is on Bill C-23 at third reading. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Competition ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2001 / 1:25 p.m.
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Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, I believe my colleague would like to ask a question so I will make it brief. While speaking to Bill C-23, the member referred to the transportation sector, specifically the airlines. He suggested that reciprocal cabotage would be one avenue that should be pursued. He likened it to what Air Canada had proposed. My understanding is that that is not the case. Air Canada's proposal was that for a U.S. carrier to go between two Canadian destinations, it would have to have a middle stop in a U.S. airport and vice versa for Air Canada.

Could the member clarify his understanding as to whether or not we are talking about reciprocal cabotage or some sort of a clone of cabotage with some restrictions? He might also want to comment with regard to a national transportation policy in the context of a shrinking marketplace.

Competition obviously is important to Canada in ensuring service and price benefits to the consumer. At the same time the U.S. experienced a drop of about one-third in the utilization of its capacity during its highest week, Thanksgiving week. Canada also has experienced a significant contraction. When we consider the financial fundamentals of most Canadian airlines, other than possibly WestJet, there are serious consequences to a contracting marketplace and also a reducing market share if the competition rules would restrict that competition.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2001 / 1:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to enter into the debate today on Bill C-23, the Competition Act.

Contrary to what the last speaker said, I think the world needs more competition. I would even suggest more competition even at grade school level where kids will learn the facts of life, one of those facts of life being that we win some and lose some but, most important, that we be competitive.

We have a problem in the schools right now. The kids are smarter and they can somehow get around things. When we herd kids out to the playground for the year 2000 or 2001 sports day and tell them about the high jump, we just lower the bar and everybody kind of throws themselves into the pit so that everybody is a winner and everybody feels good. In the hundred yard dash everybody gets into a blob in the middle of the field and they all run in whatever direction they can. They come back later and they all get a blue ribbon. Do they not all feel good?

The problem is that is not competitive. It needs to be competitive because kids need to find what it is that they do well and what they excel at. A competitive world does that for them when they are adults anyway. What we should be doing to help our kids is start them off by telling them we will help them find what they are best at and good at and encourage them to do that.

The same thing could be said in the Competition Act about creating competition or creating the atmosphere or an environment where good competition can take place. The bill is not meant to regulate competition so much as it is to regulate or to restrict anti-competitive behaviour. Anti-competitive behaviour is like the high jump contest. When somebody trips another kid on the way to the high jump it is an anti-competitive behaviour and not a fair behaviour. The bill tries to address that by saying that some things are just not right in a competitive marketplace.

The bill does its best to help the players in the marketplace understand what fair and unfair practices are in a competitive and free market society.

I believe the bill would never have come to the House as it has, had it not been for the work of the member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge. His private member's bills were really the impetus behind this. I do not think there was any idea that the industry minister was going to bring this forward. I do not think it was on his radar screen. He is so busy stockpiling a leadership war chest that I did not think this would even come up on the radar screen. The member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge did a good job. He brought forward a series of bills that pointed out some weaknesses in the current Competition Act that needed to be addressed and that we needed to get with the 21st century. I commend him for his efforts in bringing that forward and highlighting some of the problems in the existing act.

One of the problems I have with the bill is that it is supposed to be framework legislation. Framework legislation means that it gives the parameters for a good competitive law in the country. That is as it should be. It should give broad based principles. We have a commissioner who administers those. He or she should have the authority and the power that this act confers on her or him and the tribunals to make sure things are done properly.

What the bill has also been forced to deal with is to get specific in a couple of areas where there is a strong feeling that we have an anti-competitive marketplace, specifically in the airline industry. While I do not disagree with the amendments, it is kind of like we have to go the way of these amendments in order to deal with the airline industry in the bill. I believe we are doing that in the bill because the government has failed the country in its transportation policy. To create a competitive marketplace in transportation requires the proper transportation framework rather than a Competition Act framework.

What we are doing is trying to fix a mess left by the transport minister, who has presided over the demise of six airlines in the country over the last couple of years because there is no framework legislation on the transportation side that allows for the flourishing of the competitive world of airlines.

That is a shame, because now we are hearing things like we will penalize Air Canada under the act to the tune of up to $15 million if it does not do things right, whatever right is, in the eyes of the anti-competitive behaviour. Now we are hearing talk about perhaps nationalizing Air Canada, of all things. We are hearing people talk about how it is such a dominant carrier that maybe it is only right that we nationalize it, of all things. Third, we are hearing all kinds of chatter about re-regulating the airline industry, chatter saying that we can put on an A-320 from here to there but then we have to have an F28 from here to there and we can charge so much. What a quagmire they are getting themselves into by starting to talk like that.

We should be talking about a framework for the transportation industry that allows broad competition, including, I would say, an active negotiation with the Americans on reciprocal cabotage, something that would allow the American carriers on our routes here if in turn, as it has already proposed, Air Canada would be allowed to do the routes south of the border.

Contrary to what the transport minister said the other day, it was in the newspapers again last weekend that the Americans are stating they are interested in that and they think they should sit down and negotiate that. I urge the transportation minister and the industry minister to get with that before we lose another airline in our country. Let us get at fixing the industry problem, not the competitive problem, because we cannot fix one without fixing the other. That is for the transport minister and that deals with a specific part of the bill.

Let me talk about a couple of other things about the bill that are important for Canadians to know. First, the bill does give an increased specificity on international co-operation on anti-competitive behaviour. This is increasingly important because we are moving into a globalized economy, we increasingly are working in a globalized trade economy and we are working, hopefully, by the rule of law in more and more countries that want to come in and all play by the same set of rules.

Undoubtedly one of those rules in the future would be a common set of rules on how we define anti-competitive behaviour. This is a real problem because we can see what happens, for example, with a merger, one of the things the Competition Act deals with. A merger can be approved in Canada or in the United States, but because we are dealing with international corporations, the same corporations that obtained approval in one continent could go to Europe and find out there is a different set of rules, such that the transaction, the merger, that was approved in one hemisphere would not be approved in another.

We simply have to get a common set of rules around the world on what is acceptable for competitive behaviour and what is unacceptable in anti-competitive behaviour. We will be moving that way. It is inevitable, I believe. It is part of this inevitable globalization of the business community, but increasingly part of what we need to do in Canada and in other industrialized nations is to set the pace and show people that we want to be competitive, that we want to play by a common set of rules.

The bill does give a sample of the type of international agreement we might enter into with another country to reciprocate as far as the sharing of information is concerned, the sharing of trade secrets, so to speak, how much is to be divulged and who would get access to it. All those things are very important, because although we are concerned about competition in Canada, international competition is a driving force in many of our businesses today and will be more so in the future. Getting this right, getting the framework right and getting other industrialized nations to buy into the same kind of framework will be key.

I would suggest that we start with our American partners because we and the Americans have a common understanding of the rule of law and the need for these trade agreements, investment agreements and competitive competition agreements. I suggest that we start with the Americans, bring that together and then move quickly to the G-7 and the G-20 and get at least the industrialized world to agree to a common set of competition laws. We need to do that and I would argue that we need to do it sooner rather than later.

The other parts of the bill are relatively easy to support. There is an increased necessity for giving notice of winning a prize in what I call these fake-a-loo contests where something is sent to people. I got some again on the weekend.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2001 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-23, an act to amend the Competition Act and the Competition Tribunal Act. The amendments to the bill are a move in the right direction.

I would like to thank my colleague from Winnipeg Centre for attending the committee meetings on my behalf as industry critic because I was tied up dealing with a number of transportation issues relating to security within the transportation industry and specifically the airline issue. I would also like to thank him for representing us quite well.

The amendments go a long way toward addressing a number of concerns. Bill C-23 reflects the wishes of a number of private members' bills and issues that have come forth over the last year or so. When a large number of private members brings into question a number of issues relating to industry, it is time for the government to deal with them rather than wait for each and every private member's business to come before the House and be voted on. To all those private members who brought forth private members' business to deal with these issues, I congratulate them for their efforts. All of us need to continue doing that if we want to see some of these issues addressed because the government will not deal with them unless that does happen.

I was very pleased to see the amendments in the area of private access to the Competition Tribunal. This was an area greatly criticized by a number of people in larger industries in the business world, but it was also felt by small business. This was an opportunity for business as well as individuals to question the tactics used by a dominant provider. I am pleased that the amendment has been made to allow some private access. It is not fully what people want to see, but there is no question it is a step in the right direction and will go a long way to empowering individuals to question some anti-competitive acts that take place.

There have been many questions in the last few years with regard to anti-competitive acts. The airline industry comes to light in view of what we have seen over the last few years with one carrier after another going under. Almost always in those instances we heard about the anti-competitive action of Air Canada, and we hear about that even to this date.

The competition commissioner suggested a lot of changes giving him more authority to react sooner and authority to order costs if a loss is related to the anti-competitive act. This legislation responded to a need that was out there. We still hear of Air Canada's anti-competitive acts at a time when our airline industry is in a crucial state.

Although the bill goes a long way toward addressing concerns over anti-competitive behaviour, I still do not believe that this is going to be the answer within the airline industry. More needs to be done in the area of regulating capacity if we truly want to provide a stable airline industry that will meet the needs of communities within Canada and not just the larger cities. We have to look beyond that.

Competition is not always the answer. There has to be balance. When providers are forced to compete to the lowest common denominator, we do not always get the best service or the safest service and the service maintained to areas where the cost can be higher. It is important that we look not just at the competition aspect.

The competition commissioner felt these changes were needed. He felt they would give him more opportunity.

I look forward to these changes possibly resulting in more stability, specifically in the airline industry. There is a need for the anti-competition issue to be addressed in other areas as well.

There is another area the bill has dealt with which I want to key into. Although it does not seem to be a very big issue to some, it is a big issue to the most vulnerable people who are often seniors and people who are not well. The issue is deceptive prize notices.

I am sure all of us at some point or another have received those wonderful envelopes in the mail that say we have won $1 million, that we will get a prize just by doing a specific thing and it will not cost us anything. Quite frankly, when I say the most vulnerable people in society, I qualify that by saying nurses and other professional people have contacted me with regard to deceptive prize notices. They have been caught up in these deceptive prize notices and it has ended up costing them thousands of dollars. The ones I have spoken to were embarrassed because they were caught up in it.

The bottom line is that deceptive prize notices are very misleading. It is hard to get a handle on the wording let alone the fine print. No one should feel embarrassed, ashamed or anything of the kind if they get caught up in this practice. These scams are put forth by people or companies that fully intend to catch us in one little phrase or one little note. That is their job. That is how they make their living. It is certainly unethical. A lot of us think it is immoral and unscrupulous. However, some people will do just about anything for the sake of making a buck. We need to recognize that and ensure that we have protections in place for consumers and the public.

If people who are involved in the day to day workforce, who constantly have to deal with forms and issues that have to be written down and formulated and know how things are done, if they can be misled, we have to wonder how we should allow these deceptive practices to take place for those who are most vulnerable, such as our seniors and perhaps people whose eyesight is not perfect. Where there is an intent to deceive people, we need to put laws in place to protect individuals. I am glad to see this has been incorporated.

The bill is an incorporation of a private member's initiative to address this particular practice. We hope to see an end to some of those deceptive prize notices that come in the mail. Quite frankly, when the member initially introduced his private member's business, I made a point of gathering up all those types of notices that were coming to my own house. Over a period of a couple of months some 20 deceptive prize notice envelopes had come to my house.

It is great to throw those deceptive prize notices in the garbage. Quite frankly, that is where they deserve to go. As it is, I normally get a pile of mail. However, some people do not normally get much mail and tend to believe the notices. It was an eye opener for me. I did not realize the problem was so bad. I am extremely pleased that the bill deals with that issue.

A number of areas have been addressed. The commissioner will be in a position to address a lot of the particular problems that were there. The bill, as has been stated, will weed out some of what were considered frivolous proceedings. The next logical step is to have a greater form of private access to deal with the anti-competition rules.

The NDP will be supporting the bill. It has been a long time coming. I am pleased to see that it appears to have support within the House. It will be one good thing that we will get done before the break. I hope the next really wonderful thing will be the budget we hear this afternoon, which I hope will address a lot of the concerns out there.