Madam Speaker, I would like to begin my speech by expressing my extreme jealousy to the member for Peterborough. I believe it was at least four years ago that I first entered a bill to do exactly this.
Even though I have some mathematical credentials, and I know something about statistics, the odds have been totally against me and in this random draw for private members' business, I have never been drawn, not once. So mathematically, I am just behind the eight ball, so I express my jealousy. However, I congratulate him for having the good luck of being chosen to have his bill debated. It is unfortunate that it is not votable and that we could bring this thing to a conclusion and actually do it.
I certainly speak in favour of the bill. It is not quite as good as mine, but it certainly is going in the right direction. I will explain that in a few seconds.
I was involved with computers from about the time they were invented. As a matter of fact, when I first started teaching at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, believe it or not, we were still teaching our students how to use a slide rule. After a while, along came mechanical calculators, then later on electronic calculators. I was involved in those first years when we got those big, behemoth computers that occupied a whole room and had less memory than my little pocket machine.
I did some programming and was involved in designing programs for our students. As well, I taught programming. Again, here was a missed opportunity. I wrote a program for word processing, including a mail merge before Bill Gates was even born, and now he is a multi-billionaire. I did not realize that I had come onto something that was really very useful. I could have been financially independent if I had gone to work on it and recognized the value of it.
I wrote that program to help me in my administrative work. At that time I was the head of the mathematics department at NAIT.
I have used this standard year/month/day for approximately 40 years. When I first wrote computer programs and if I had data that required sorting, I discovered almost immediately that if the date was given in the order of year/month/day and was sorted numerically, it produced a correct chronological sorting of the data. If that information was put in any other order, then it could produce January, February, March and so on, regardless of what year they were in. If the month was put first, it sorted by month instead of by year. Obviously when sorting data we want the year to be the primary sort element and then the month and the day. It is totally logical.
As my colleague from Peterborough has already pointed out, in all other areas we do go from the large unit to the small. That is totally logical and is the way it is always done.
I would like to say a little about my bill which will probably never be debated or voted on, and I am very discouraged about that. However, my bill took quite a different approach than the bill of the member for Peterborough. He is asking that the Minister of Industry take such measures as are necessary to promote the use of the national standard. That is a very fine bill. I can support that.
My bill, Bill C-281, is in the draw right now but it has never chosen. Its purpose is to change the Canada Evidence Act. It basically says that where there is a date in a document and if it is expressed using numerals only, then if there is a dispute this is the interpretation that should be put on it.
I am not coercing or forcing people to change, as long as the documents they give are 100% clear. In other words, they may use 3/4/5 which means April 3, 2005. If there is a statement somewhere else in their document that states the dates as being given in that order, then there cannot be an ambiguity. It would be clear.
On the other hand, if they had given a date which said their pension would start on such and such a date, and if that date was before they were born, one could argue also that that was not really ambiguous.
However, there are many instances of ambiguity and since we have gone into the year 2001, as the hon. member pointed out, the combinations are now myriad. I saw one the other day that used numerals and the abbreviation of a word. I do not remember the exact date, but it was along this line: it said 02 October 01. Now the word October clearly indicates the month, but I do not know if that is the October 1, 2002 or the October 2, 2001, which happens to be today. It is ambiguous.
It only makes sense for us to have a unique relationship with numerals. There should be a unique meaning when we use a symbol.
For example, we go to a service station to fill up a vehicle with gasoline. Let us say it comes to $30.62. We do not walk in and say we do not know if we should pay $30.62 or $62.30. There is no ambiguity because we clearly understand that the number of the digits before the decimal point indicate the number of dollars and the digits after the decimal point indicate the number of cents. Yet, when it comes to dates, we do not have any problems with writing these dates all over. Over and over again I have seen the examples the member gave. Again, I have had a great deal of correspondence from people who have had these same ambiguities.
On my bank statement not long ago they used just two numbers, one for the month and one for the day. Of course I just received the statement so I knew that when it said 10/3 it meant October 3. However it was still a bit ambiguous.
I would also like to point out that if this were votable I would vote in favour of it because it is a step in the right direction. I would like to advise the hon. member opposite that I think he may still be permitting an ambiguity with clause 6 of his bill. He is probably aware of that.
Part of the bill states that the last two digits may be used to represent the year if it is between 1990 and 1999 or subsequent to the year 2032. If we use 95, I am still left guessing again if it is 1995 or 2095. I would cut that out of there. After our Y2K experience, we should get in the habit of using four digits to represent the year.
Those are my thoughts on this. This makes so much sense. Why can we as Canadians not just put this into legislation and say this is the standard, start using it?
I would like to see some of my bill incorporated into it with respect to business billings. When a business sends out a bill and the date is ambiguous, if the person does not pay it until the date that he interprets it is due, it can be to the advantage of that individual instead of to the business because the business was sloppy in the way in which it produced its bill or statement. This way we would have a rapid change.
I think we would find that if this bill were passed and the Minister of Industry put out some ads saying that this was the new standard and that we were going to start following it, then Canadian usage would change very rapidly. We then would be able to communicate with one another in such a way and actually understand what each other meant, which might be quite novel in Canadian history.