An Act to amend the Young Offenders Act

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

Sponsor

Chuck Cadman  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 6, 2001
(This bill did not become 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.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to be here today after several years of attempting to redress certain wrongs that were not being perceived correctly in the marketplace. The efforts of myself and my colleagues are finally being recognized on the floor of the House of Commons today.

It is a privilege to have worked with members on the other side of the House, in particular le député de Verchères--Les-Patriotes, the member for Winnipeg Centre, the member for Fraser Valley, the member for Edmonton Southwest and the member for Peace River. I want to give particular thanks to my colleagues who have stood shoulder to shoulder with me over the past several years as we went through the historical and concerned battles with respect to inappropriate pricing, particularly for the independent retailers of gasoline, and the impact which I think we are seeing unfold today of the mergers in the grocery industry and in the telecommunications industry. I thank the member for Tobique--Mactaquac; my good friend and colleague from Yukon; the member for St. Catharines, who is also the vice-chair of the committee; the member for Eglinton--Lawrence; the current chair, the member for Essex; the member for Burlington; and the member for Algoma--Manitoulin.

The bill in essence has been drawn from three or four private members' bills. The more controversial parts, needless to say, came from my Bill C-472 in the last parliament. This understanding of the need for change started back in 1996-97. Yes, it occurred in the energy industry but it also meant that it applied to every other industry as well because we understood the competitive process. At the time there was much resistance to Bill C-235 in the House. Notwithstanding that it had been voted on at second reading and sent to committee, the bill suffered ignominious defeat. It dealt with a concept which has now gripped the country in other industries, that is, the whole concept of the strength and effectiveness of predatory pricing.

It took the courage, understanding and sympathy, as well as the good intentions of the member for Scarborough Centre who, along with the competition commissioner and the then minister of industry, took the time to hear the concerns. They heard the frustrations that were being delivered to me as a member of parliament by a number of businesses in the country that had no voice.

This legislation could not have been without his efforts. The hon. member for Scarborough Centre will be one of the unsung heroes should the legislation meet with the support of the upper house. I wanted to take the time to pay tribute to his efforts without which I think this change to the Competition Act would never have been debated today. We certainly would be dealing with other issues.

I have been on a very long road, some would call it a crusade, not only to amend and bring our competition law in line with our competitor's but also to have it respond effectively to the needs of Canadians, whether they be in large businesses, in small businesses or consumers.

Years ago I wrote an article with respect to the CRTC. At the time I quipped that it was not Canadian radio, television and communications but rather consumers who were rarely taken into consideration. I think we have for some time forgiven ourselves for not doing enough to ensure that there is a level playing field for consumers who want to receive not just effective costs but also choice.

More often than not people will ask how we can attack this issue or that issue when the price is so darn good. We all know the old common quip of short term gain, long term pain. If one business is able to remove its competitor, often through a lack of oversight, which it must rely on for supply or from an acquisition perspective, we suddenly see the prices rise dramatically.

More recently the member for Fraser Valley and I have been co-slaggees, which is not really a word. We have been hit by a couple of editorials in some of what I would say are papers that are more in tune with business papers such as the Financial Post and the Southam chain or at least the Ottawa Citizen . That happened because we dared to suggest that the Competition Act, which they wrote in 1986 with the help of a handful of individuals, should now be subjected to the democratic rigours of members of parliament.

Day in and day out members hear frustrations from their constituents that there is no response because the competition commissioner or the Competition Bureau does not believe there is a case or there is indifference. Also if someone were to speak out without the protection of a member of parliament and parliamentary privilege, that person's company could find itself subjected to rather unsavoury tactics after the fact.

We are here today to provide a new direction, a direction that does not radically depart from the essence of due process of the Competition Act. What we are saying is that in the case of private right of access, interim orders, and certainly in the case of cease and desist as is better described, we are now helping people who might not have the time let alone the financial deep pockets to spend the time trying to defend themselves.

We saw this happen with independent gas retailers. I have mentioned a number of other industries where this occurs. Parliament and the media are very much gripped with the issue of Air Canada. It was music to my ears after writing a letter on November 23 to the Minister of Transport. I requested that he not issue a separate operating certificate for another discount airliner but, more important, that we toughen things up given his position, the week before of improving the Competition Act. Perhaps more adjudication of issues coming out of the airline industry could be provided and more issues surrendered to the rigours of our Competition Act. We could also look at a scenario that provides stronger, tougher cease and desist, not just for an 80 day maximum but right up until the tribunal has the time and an opportunity to review the potential or alleged anti-competitive act.

I also called for a penalty of some $50 million. As colleagues know, the committee, I guess wisely, chose to make that $15 million. The point was made. I want to suggest, not just to Canadians who may be listening to us today but to backbenchers and people who normally do not have a hand in influencing law, that indeed we can make a difference when we decide to apply ourselves on issues that are relevant to Canadians.

We have had opportunities in the past to look at changes to the Competition Act. The subject I would like to discuss is private access. So that people will understand, this allows it in four limited areas. We wanted to make sure we were observant of the safeguards. So many thought we would dispose of them, that we would somehow fling ourselves open to that terrible system which the United States has, not to mention that it is the most productive nation in the world from an economic point of view, but God knows we were not allowed to talk about triple damages or Australia's example of double damages.

No, Canada had to have a form of economic feudalism imposed on it by a handful of individuals who wrote the Competition Act in 1986. For some strange reason they do not want members of parliament meddling with a perfectly good piece of legislation when it is improved and certainly sanitized by the views of Canadians as represented democratically.

I found it very interesting that we heard from the likes of, and I will not mention his name because I do not think it is worth mentioning, people involved with the Financial Post . They actually suggested that members of parliament ought not to be making deliberations, that they should be something between business and business when it comes to the Competition Act.

Comments like that obviously are made by individuals who very much believe that they can hide behind their pens and write whatever they want in the solid belief that paper will not refuse ink.

We have heavier goals to respond to. One of those is to ensure that we have effective legislation that meets the test of time. It is for this reason I compliment the initiatives by our government to address some of the fundamental failings of the Competition Act but in particular not to give businesses an opportunity to engage and an opportunity to bring their cases before the Competition Tribunal. Why is that so important?

As we heard on several occasions, there are not enough precedents with the cases that are submitted to the Competition Tribunal. This is why we do not know the specific weaknesses and strengths of our Competition Act.

It has been at least 15 years since the act was truly reformed and the vast majority of Canadians think we should take this opportunity to review it and ensure that the objectives of our constituents, of consumers and of all businesses, big and small, are included in this legislation.

It is therefore with great pleasure that we made representations, as we are doing now at third reading of the bill, to ensure that small, medium and large sized companies, which really know their product and their business, are at least given an opportunity to know that they can submit their case to the tribunal. We want directors and those who work with the Competition Bureau to have an idea of these lesser known changes.

These differences are often not perceptible to public servants, but they are well understood and supported by those who work in that business field. This is why I am sure that by providing tools to businesses first they will at least be able to settle their cases, because we will have made the act accessible to them.

It is for this reason that these initiatives affect small businesses as much as large businesses. The public perceives that there is a problem but cannot get the proper justice. It cannot get the attention of the Competition Bureau to express the difficulty that exists. Those difficulties may happen in a short period of time, such that the person may be physically out of business.

There are many examples of businesses that have gone under. They have not gone under because they were not efficient and competitive. They put in their sweat, equity, their children's future and their own future. However, much larger businesses with deeper pockets knew full well that the Competition Act was written in such a way that only those who had deep pockets could make use of it.

It is for this reason that we have finally changed the definition and perhaps changed the Competition Act in such a way as to give those individuals a fighting chance to bring their cases before the Competition Tribunal.

These are not questions that we could easily dismiss about whether or not there would be effectiveness with the legislation. The committee heard from Australian commissioner Allan Fells. Australia is not just another country. It happens to be literally a brother or sister within the Commonwealth with laws that are much along the same wavelength as ours. The commissioner came to the conclusion that much of the body of law had been improved by private access, particularly in the area of refusal to deal. My hon. colleagues had an opportunity to exchange those views with the commissioner. We were very pleased to see that happening.

On the other hand there were concerns that having a bit of private access in Canada might ultimately lead to some kind of perversion in which we would have frivolous and vexatious or, as some would call it, strategic litigation. My amendments in committee were improvements. We improved on the terms “if it finds that the proceedings are frivolous or vexatious or that any step in the proceedings is taken to hinder or delay their progress” by putting forward an amendment in accordance with the provisions governing costs in the federal court rules, 1998.

There is little that one can raise as a concern about what this would lead to because it is already understood in law and it is the practice of every court. It is literally a situation wherein a judge would ask to have this stupid case removed from his court right away. The rules the committee suggested, and I hope parliament would approve, would see individuals who bring frivolous or vexatious claims pay a substantial cost as an disincentive for them not to engage in frivolous or vexatious activity.

The member for Fraser Valley suggested that was inevitable. We know that we can do this before any court. The provisions and safeguards are there. Notwithstanding their efforts, professors Michael Trebilcock and Tom Ross suggested that the time to deal with this had ended. We have been dealing with this for 30 years. Let us get on with it. They also suggested that perhaps down the road it would give rise to the need to extend it to other areas, for example abuse of dominant position in sections 78 and 79 of the Competition Act.

Those would be bold moves but they are not ones that parliament would want to make today. We have struck the right balance between assuring that the provisions of the bill would incorporate both the anxieties of those who suggest it is going too far and accommodating those who say in the main that we have not gone far enough.

I am pleased to see that the committee and parliament are addressing this issue with the help of the Minister of Industry at a speed that would allow us to ensure that 2002 will bring with it new expectations for the economy.

This is not just any other bill. The Competition Act, as we will learn today, is probably the second most important economic instrument to Canadians after our fiscal and monetary policy. It is for those reasons that while there are some who say monetary and fiscal policy must be in sync the bill says that our competition law must be in sync, with the rest of the world in a more globalized environment. I am pleased to see that the committee decided to proceed with some of those necessary changes.

We have heard some criticism being levelled at people who tend to venture out and respond to crises several months before their time. When I began my concerns about what was happening in the energy industry, it was not simply about gasoline.

I have a bill before the House that is votable. It deals with the efficiencies defence in the Competition Act in the area of propane. Last year I was concerned about the sudden dramatic rise in the price of heating oil. The government acted responsibly in helping those who had no way of defending themselves. I applaud the Minister of Finance for having done what he did.

If we can take advantage of loopholes in the Competition Act in one specific area, chances are we will be able to do it in others. It is quite ironic that in an article written last week by the Financial Post we read that airlines do not need to be regulated any more than gasoline. This speaks to the very issue that I brought forward. The Competition Act responds to many sectors of the economy as a framework law. We are here to improve the process.

I find it passing strange that the same papers which lament members of parliament and senators engaging in issues that are important to Canadians have the unmitigated gall to engage in a critique in a soft and independent editorial viewpoint.

We saw that this week with respect to Southam telling members of one of its many groups that if they did not like what it was doing they should not bother publishing it. What happened to local views? What happened beyond the question of price to some of the competition? It is clear we have a problem. This is exactly why on August 3, 2000, I wrote to the Prime Minister, saying:

This week's announcement by CanWest Global to acquire controlling interest of Hollinger Inc., coupled with BCE's acquisition of CTV, has fuelled wide speculation that more media takeovers and mergers are pending...Communications media compete in part by offering independent editorial viewpoints and an independent gatekeeper function. A scenario that eventually sees only a handful of media players, cannot effectively respond to a demand for choice or diversity of competition by extending their product lines, since the new media products will inevitably bear, to some degree, the perspective of their common corporate parent.

If it is good for the goose, it is good for the gander. This has been done in industry without even the prospect of oversight. Companies have disappeared in the night, have been wiped off the map, because they were buying gasoline for 52 cents a litre wholesale with all the taxes included but the person who was supplying the gasoline was selling it for 47 cents.

That is anti-competitive yet it is not illegal under the current definition in the rigours of our act. Nor is it illegal to have 75% of the market for propane in one specific region of the country at a time when farmers need it for drying their crops. Nor is it illegal for an airline company that has 80% of the airline market to say it will drop its prices, but only in two locations where it has any semblance of a vigorous and effective competitor.

It is nice to receive editorials, condemning or otherwise, but it would be nice if papers had the intestinal fortitude to publish a story relating to that which they are criticizing. That is politics, I suppose. When we do not have to put our name on the ballot to get elected, is it any wonder that we can hide behind the pen and say anything we want?

The courage of the House of Commons and members of parliament to make dramatic necessary changes in the context of the country and the Competition Act warms the heart of every consumer in Canada. I applaud each and every member of parliament. Let us keep up the good work and make a difference for Canadians.

Competition ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2001 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

moved that Bill C-248, an act to amend the Competition Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all of the members of the House as well as those who, like myself, sat on the Sub-Committee on Private Members' Business of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say that this is not the first time, that we have been given the consent of the House to discuss the issue of competition. It has happened on numerous occasions.

I am pleased to be here today to discuss Bill C-248, which in the previous parliament was known as Bill C-509. The bill deals with a substantive change to section 96 of the Competition Act. It is part and parcel of the efficiencies defence. There is the following exception in the Competition Act:

The Tribunal shall not make an order under section 92 if it finds that the merger or proposed merger in respect of which the application is made has brought about or is likely to bring about gains in efficiency that will be greater than, and will offset, the effects of any prevention or lessening of competition that will result or is likely to result from the merger or proposed merger and that the gains in efficiency would not likely be attained if the order were made.

These are the factors to be considered. On July 20, 1998, Superior Propane announced that it was about to formalize an agreement with ICG from Petro-Canada. Some three weeks later the competition commissioner commenced the inquiry into the transaction as is required under law for all merger reviews.

On December 1, 1998, the commissioner applied to the Competition Tribunal for an interim order to prevent the completion of the transaction. The tribunal rejected the application and the parties completed the transaction.

The commissioner filed to obtain a divestiture order from the tribunal under section 92 of the Competition Act that would have Superior divest itself of ICG. On December 11 the tribunal issued a hold separate order pending its decision.

In the period of time from December 11, 1998 to August 30, 2000 the tribunal announced in a rather interesting landmark precedent setting decision based on section 96 that it was dismissing the application brought forward by the competition commissioner under section 92.

It found that the merger was likely to prevent competition in Atlantic Canada and lessen competition substantially in many local markets and for national account customers. The majority of the tribunal dismissed the application brought by the competition commissioner pursuant to section 92 on the grounds that the respondents had been successful in demonstrating their efficiency defence in accordance with section 96.

The commissioner appealed that finding. I introduced the first bill on October 17. On April 4, 2001, on the request of the competition commissioner the Federal Court of Appeal allowed an appeal.

In the decision on that date the court ruled that the tribunal incorrectly applied the efficiency defence in section 96 of the Competition Act. It found that according to the tribunal the fact that the merged entity of Superior and ICG would eliminate all consumer choice and remove all competition in the propane supply market, as it is likely to do in Atlantic Canada, is not an effect that legally can be weighed under section 96 against the inefficiency gains in the merger.

Justice Evans looked at the decision and stated that such a conclusion seemed so at odds with the stated purpose of the act, namely to maintain and encourage competition and the statutory objectives to be achieved thereby, as to cast serious doubt on the correctness of the tribunal's interpretation.

The federal court effectively ordered that the matter be remitted to the tribunal for determination and in effect to rehear the case.

In his case the competition commissioner stated that the court agreed the efficiency defence was not intended to sanction mergers that result in a monopoly or a near monopoly without taking the impact on consumers into consideration. The issue was then appealed by Superior to the Supreme Court of Canada which literally refused to hear Superior's appeal.

We have an example of where private members' business and initiatives by the House have anticipated a concern in many respects. If we think for a moment about the potential impact this had on the farming community in western Canada, suppliers, producers and consumers in Atlantic Canada, and ultimately its devastating impact on the competitive process, the decision by members of parliament to correctly put this issue before the House of Commons and deem it votable was the correct one.

Last year I was responsible for assisting a number of Canadians through a very difficult winter when energy prices were soaring, much as a result of arbitraging the market.

We saw natural gas prices, home heating fuel, propane and the like all rising rather dramatically and suddenly, causing the government to try to take correct appropriate action to help stave off what would have otherwise been a perilous situation for many Canadians. I compliment the government for having taken that position. I believe it was the correct one at the time.

I also believe the House has a responsibility to ensure that our Competition Act is interpreted in such a way that the precedent set by the Competition Tribunal is clearly set aside by the House of Commons.

There may be members of parliament who would dare to suggest that this is rule made law and that somehow the supreme court or the federal court has made decisions. I assure the House that they have not come to any decision. We must ensure with respect to Bill C-248, if we are to qualify the efficiencies defence in the Competition Act, that those efficiencies and gains which occur when two entities merge together to create a substantial and possibly dangerous monopoly are found to be transferred either to customers or to consumers, not simply to individuals who happen to see a good deal, take over their competitor, shut their operations down and consolidate their monopoly.

This is the shortcoming of the way in which the act is written. The act also suggests incorrectly that it is possible to use a hypothetical economic efficiencies defence argument. Again there is no clarification. Parliament is being called upon to ensure that the clarification coming from those who understand the Competition Act as I do, because I have interpreted and worked in many facets of that act, also gives them an opportunity to have a say in terms of how the deliberation occurs.

I well understand there will be those who will make the argument that it is before the courts. I can assure my hon. colleagues it is not sub judice. It is not a criminal matter. This is before the Competition Tribunal, a quasi-judicial body which will have to hear it again. I suspect the decision may very well come ultimately some time in the month of January.

That does not preclude parliament because it ultimately wrote the Competition Act with the help of certain very powerful individuals in 1996.

I am interested in this issue because I also find that even our friends at the OECD make it very clear to many of us who have looked at the issue time and time again that using gains in efficiency is simply not acceptable.

As I try to find the appropriate document, it is very clear to me that other international bodies have already spoken very eloquently to the need to ensure that a merger request which results in and is designed to create an efficiency situation for a particular entity is not used in a way that does not see the value being returned to customers or consumers or, more important, to offend the competitive process.

OECD roundtable No. 4 competition policy on efficiency claims and mergers and other horizontal agreements states very clearly:

--there is a clear limit for the efficiency defence: the elimination of competition. Therefore, even if the parties can prove that an agreement would bring about high efficiency gains, these efficiencies are not able to justify an elimination of competition.

It says, in terms of the European act:

--85(3) provides for a kind of “sliding scale”: the more competition is restricted by means of co-operative agreement the higher the efficiency gains have to be in order to qualify for an exemption--up to the limit where effective competition is eliminated--

Given the OECD's position, given what we experienced last winter in a very cold winter for many, and given what the House has seen with respect to the right decision that was taken by a competition commissioner, I do not think we have much time for silly arguments that it should not be considered because we want to wait for the tribunal to ultimately make a decision.

It is not that we in the House want to rush judicial or quasi-judicial interpretations. The interpretation of the federal court not to hear this and the decision taken by the commission bears out the validity. This is a clear sign that members of the House should take inventory of what is currently before us and be able to point the Competition Act in a direction to ensure that above all it meets the goals and expectations of the Competition Act.

I want to point out to members of parliament that the federal court did point out the purpose and interpretation. Article 1.1 of the Competition Act states:

The purpose of this Act is to maintain and encourage competition in Canada in order to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy, in order to expand opportunities for Canadian participation in world markets while at the same time recognizing the role of foreign competition in Canada, in order to ensure that small and medium-sized enterprises have an equitable opportunity to participate in the Canadian economy and in order to provide consumers with competitive prices and product choices.

A lot of us in the House have this great fear that if a large corporation says it must be bad, and it has a few jobs in the riding, we should ultimately ignore the plight of many of our small and medium sized enterprises and, more important, the very people who elect us, the consumers of this country.

We have every bit of evidence to demonstrate that there are shortcomings in the Competition Act. I will not get into the details as to who wrote the act. No doubt a select group of individuals may have had something to do with it. However I assure members that when it comes to the interpretation of this important regulatory body, which is there to protect a market oriented process, it is the plaything of a select group of individuals who, in their infinite wisdom and reason, may have another interest, and that is of course of their clients. In the House of Commons, we have a greater obligation to the broad public interests in this country.

That is why I say that the provisions in the bill make good sense. I urge other members to support them, not just to improve competition but also to assure our constituents that this parliament is alive, is capable of being effective and can easily react to problems peculiar to the times we live in.

That is why I am here, not just to debate the issue of competition. Obviously there are other members sitting on various committees. Generally speaking they recognize the need to supply our country and to anchor this bill in reality.

It is important to infuse a reality check in what we are doing here. I commend members of parliament who have worked with me on previous endeavours and initiatives such as Bill C-235 in the last parliament.

Mr. Speaker, you were part of the Liberal committee on gasoline pricing many years ago. On a very cold day in January you invited us to talk about the plight of individuals who could not get supplies or consumers who were having difficulties. I recall that it was in Timmins where people were forced to pay 10 cents or 15 cents more than people were in southern Ontario. Everybody knew that driving a truckful of gasoline from the Toronto refineries all the way up to Timmins could cost no more than a cent or two a litre more. Yet we were seeing various discrepancies of 10 cents to 15 cents and even more in remote areas.

That is only one segment. The media will also look at gasoline. I find it funny when my little four year old son, Bradley, calls me the gas man. I am not sure what he means by that. However, I assure hon. members that the concerns this side of the House has raised, and I see that members on the other side of the House are starting to raise similar concerns with respect to the Competition Act and gasoline, apply to a general pattern of concentration in Canada which is in need of review.

We know that concentration may be, of necessity, an inevitability of globalization. We have the authority and the ability to ensure that at the end of the process its effects can be minimized if consumer choice is removed or, worse, if consumers are forced to pay more for a product which in many respects is one that comes from under the ground or is harnessed by other means.

A nation that is abundant in so many resources finds itself in a bit of a contradiction where it may pay more for its products or have less choice than our competitors south of the border.

I do not want to go on at great length about that. The reason that parliament should now address the efficiency defence is important because a dangerous precedent has been set.

The tribunal said that it was okay to have a harmful, anti-competitive merger as long as one could prove that one could have some kind of efficiency gain. It did not say to whom that efficiency gain had to go, but presumably corporations are not stupid. They will put it in their own pocket. That will benefit those who are interested from a shareholder's perspective.

However that flies in the face of the intention of parliament in 1986. The parliament of today must ensure the enhancement of the competitive process whereby consumers and business can enjoy the fruits and labour of a competitive process. It is for these reasons that parliament has an obligation to ensure that it provides timely and effective responses to individuals who may from time to time find themselves without a voice.

I find it interesting and passing strange that in terms of this bill and other bills that come before the House on the issue of competition, and we see this in committees, the only individuals who tend to speak out against these things are people who are there on behalf of very large entities. The irony is that at many of the meetings I attend off Hill and on Hill as a guest speaker, an intervener or facilitator, I always see the same people.

One of the most important pieces of legislation including amendments and considerations tends to be decided by a handful of individuals. The same individuals probably have a lot to do with being able to attend various international competition conferences around the world. It is interesting because they tend to knock the lack of timing, effectiveness and efficiency of our competition bureau.

I would probably have some cause with that except I see it from their perspective. They are not getting their mergers quickly enough. They think that the process of enforcement in the writing of the guidelines should be toward their own ends.

I think that is a very dangerous thing for us to observe. In papers like the National Post and the Financial Post we always see articles written about how international bodies, which tend to be our own competition lawyers who work for some of the largest corporations in this country, are out slagging the bureau. They cannot do it locally, they have to do it internationally and hide behind that sort of shield.

Let us expose this for what it is. Let us begin to take back a piece of legislation that is important to all of us. It is a piece of legislation that is critical to the good functioning of our economy. We need to stand and become relevant as members of parliament to ensure that a handful of individuals is not going to be the gatekeeper of what is in that act. If they can get away with it in the Competition Act, I am sure there are possibilities for them to do it elsewhere in other pieces of legislation.

Just to qualify, that is not to suggest there is not an important reflection and review of the Competition Act. Again, it is very strange that I always see the same individuals coming forward. Members of parliament more often than not receive criticism from small business or consumers who are left with no choice and wonder why there is no effective enforcement of our act, real or perceived. We as members of parliament are their best shot. It is for that reason members of parliament have to take the time to write legislation that makes sense, that is reviewed within the context of the decisions that are made, but also responds effectively to the needs of Canadians.

This bill is the third such bill that has been made votable on the Competition Act which I have been able to bring forward. With the private right of access I am proposing with respect to Bill C-23, I believe we are now making headway. It is important to recognize that I applaud the government for allowing members to do this, but let this not stop in the House. Let us ensure that the Senate also understands its validity and impact on Canadians.

I believe we will have gone a long way not only to address the shortcomings that are clear and abundantly obvious to anyone, including our government and opposition, with respect to the Competition Act, but we will have done something to improve legislation generally in Canada and earn our own pay.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2001 / 11 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak about this bill and about the new ground broken in terms of recognizing members' efforts to ensure that the legislation that comes before this parliament and its committees is an accurate reflection of the concerns we hear about in our ridings.

I have a lot to say on the bill and will try to be as brief as I can in the next nine and a half minutes. Much of the bill reflects the efforts of members on this side of the House to effect much needed changes to the Competition Act. It is for that reason that I thank the hon. Minister of Industry, his parliamentary secretary, the member for Scarborough Centre and the competition bureau that have been working very hard to ensure the Competition Act reflects the changes in market structure that we see throughout the country.

I will give a bit of background on why we are here today. The hon. member for Kelowna said earlier that it is a beautiful day. I think it is a wonderful day. There is finally a ray of hope that our competition policy will begin to look more globalist, will be open to small and large players, and will ultimately have more teeth.

In 1997 when gas prices were heading up, 52 members on this side of the House began a study of the industry, particularly at the retailing end, and found the level of concentration to be alarming.

For that reason one of the recommendations was to ensure that a more appropriate definition of predatory pricing be established. The House not only made private member's Bill C-235 votable. It also ensured that it would be properly studied by committee.

That clearly was not the case. Nevertheless, out of that came a more open process that allowed a number of issues to be studied, not just one area of competition policy. One such issue was that section 45 of the Competition Act, the conspiracy section, may not be relevant in addressing problems in the economy or in ensuring that strategic alliances which may look collusive but have very strong competitive effects are somehow segregated from the egregious types of collusion.

As for the issue of predatory pricing, a move was made with the help of the industry committee to review some of the criminal aspects which are difficult to enforce if not to detect. With the help of VanDuzer and Paquet we were able to propose changes to the Competition Act which would make it more user friendly and make criminal burdens of proof civilly reviewable.

We followed that up with a commitment by the previous Minister of Industry, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who must be acknowledged here. He began allowing the public policy forum to conduct a broad study of the Competition Act, particularly in terms of some of the legislation I brought forward.

I commend my two colleagues who spoke before me, the member for Kitchener Centre and my colleague from Mount Royal who brought forward the bill dealing with international co-operation. The public policy forum effectively criss-crossed the country last summer to determine the public's concern with respect to abusive dominance in the grocery industry and retail domination in almost any form.

The second recommendation dealt with private access, conspiracy, collusion and summary disposition of temporary orders which we see rolled up in the bill today. The package received a significant amount of interest. Most alarming, however, was the consistent pattern we saw among those with vested interests, particularly powerful lobbies that constituted themselves as a diversity of individuals but were really part of the same group that opposed almost any changes to the Competition Act.

Last week I explained who wrote the Competition Act in 1986. There are not only concerns that it is an act whose time has come in terms of need for change. There are questions as to who really wrote it. Most of us in the House know, as Peter C. Newman said in the book Titans and in his interview with the chairman of the Business Council on National Issues, that it is interesting Canada is the only nation that has allowed its Competition Act to be written by the very people it was meant to police.

That has set off alarm bells in most circles and certainly in the House of Commons. However more important is the impact it has had on the competitive process. For that reason the competition bureau, in concert with the minister and with parliament, has taken a bold step today in saying that irrespective of what the interests are we must make sure the competitive process is honoured and that it flourishes.

Opportunities have been made clear on several occasions in the industry committee. People have testified to the committee suggesting that by the time the competition bureau makes a ruling the person it affects is out of business, the damage is done and it is irreparable. The initiatives taken today are extremely valuable and should ensure there is an ongoing process for amendments to the Competition Act to ensure that it is pragmatic and changes with changing times.

I want to make sure the House understands that the process before us today must be an open one. The government has initiated, through the wisdom of the minister, an opportunity that would allow members of parliament to ensure that issues of importance to them and to consumers have a voice on the floor of the House of Commons.

Many members are talking about one of the bills. My colleague from Kitchener Centre addressed the question of deceptive practices, particularly as transmitted through mail by using Canada Post or other means.

That is an extremely important issue with which the public readily identifies. However there are other issues the public may not have seen. Another initiative taken up here today is the whole question of international co-operation. Why is that important? Most Canadians do not know it, but for the past several years we have been part and parcel of a cartel that has forced up the price of citric acid, various important chemicals, certain vitamins and lycene.

Those issues were resolved, discovered, advocated and taken from the competition act in the U.S. For that reason it is important to ensure that where there are international cartels Canada can effectively prosecute no matter where it occurs in the world.

It is interesting that the competition bureau was successful in prosecuting these issues and bringing revenue back to Canada. That revenue, according to some, did not equal what the public lost in terms of higher prices, but it nonetheless helped the general revenues.

I will also point out something that is not in the bill but which the industry committee has nonetheless been effective in transmitting to parliament. I am talking about the need to ensure the competition bureau has the resources to carry out its very lofty mandate and to ensure the market remains balanced.

Questions are being raised in many areas. There is an opportunity for such questions to be addressed in the industry committee. I caution hon. members that the pinstripes and the big suits will be coming to the committee. I implore members of parliament to ensure a balance of the views of consumers and ordinary people out there who do not have a voice but who nonetheless are an important part of our economic structure. Those individuals count for everything in the economy and must count for something if the legislation is to be meaningful and successful.

Members of parliament will be lobbied by some of the most interesting people in the country. Members will need to decide for themselves, in committee and on the floor of the House of Commons, whether to enhance and maintain the competitive process for all Canadians or merely for those who happen to have the wealth and the power to influence them.

This is a very good day. There are obviously a number of concerns we must address. It is the beginning of a much larger process. It is vindication for a lot of the work I have done and which I have brought to the attention of the House of Commons and on which other hon. members have worked so diligently. Let us ensure that Canada remains ahead of the game, that its international reputation as a place for doing business remains pristine, and that Canadians benefit from a vibrant economic environment in which all people are meaningful participants and are treated as equals.

Young Offenders ActRoutine Proceedings

February 6th, 2001 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-235, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lethbridge for seconding this bill which would amend the Young Offenders Act to make the offence set out in section 7.2 a hybrid offence.

The bill was originally introduced in the last parliament as Bill C-260. The Minister of Justice recognized the value of the legislation as she incorporated it in its entirety in the failed Bill C-3 in the last parliament.

I am endeavouring again to introduce this amendment to the Young Offenders Act that is in currently in force since we have no new legislation yet approved.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)