All-Numeric Dates Act

An Act to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all-numeric form

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


Peter Adams  Liberal

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


Not active, as of April 3, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)


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.

All-Numeric Dates ActPrivate Members' Business

October 2nd, 2001 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-327, an act to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all-numeric form. I commend the member for Peterborough for bringing forward the initiative. I am not sure that it is seizing the nation, but on the other hand for those who have to deal with it, such as the member who just spoke, it can be quite bothersome.

It was easy to find references to this. A Canadian wrote to Maclean's on March 1, 1999 and said:

What does 02-04-06 mean? I checked it according to date systems on several documents around the house. On a Manitoba driver's licence, it would mean April 2, 2006. But on a GST form it would be April 6, 2002. On a car repair bill, 02-04-06 would be Feb. 4, 2006. And on a package of prunes, the best-before date would be June 2, 2004.

This is the kind of thing that is pretty aggravating, and I find it unusual that even governments in the country cannot agree about standardization.

I do not want to dominate interprovincial and federal-provincial negotiations, but it seems to me that a good way to move this issue forward would be to have a simple memo from government departments asking “Is everybody okay with the following system?” All governmental and intergovernmental departments would deal with it in a certain form from a certain date forward and people would be told that if they want to do business with a government department they should be on the same standard as well. If that were done we would be well on the way to standardization.

Once every government in the country is working from one standardized way of representing the date in numeric form it would become the standard. It can start in the federal government and other governments and I am sure it would quickly work its way through the system.

The issue that does concern me deals with the due date on the package of prunes. Everyone should realize that while it may just be a package of sour milk or a package of mouldy prunes to one person, it may be far more important to another person.

I do think back to the Y2K problem where a simple thing like the date in a computer caused some real consternation for the whole known world at that time. That computer issue, which is another way in which that numeric representation of the date is used extensively, shows the need to have standardization. Standardization is needed in the computer industry and the Internet industry. Those industries are of growing importance to all of us, so we do need to standardize and I think we should get at it. We should not force people to do it, but the example should be set at the government level.

The member who sponsored the legislation also mentioned that he would like it referred to the Standing Committee on Industry if it were to pass. It will not be voted on today so it may never actually get there. However, it is interesting to me that the Minister of Industry has taken on the issue of the Internet as his new national dream. A recent newspaper article states that the industry minister wants to fund such a project. He calls this initiative, this fibre optic cable and satellite delivery, the "new national dream". It could cost as much as $4 billion.

The initiative here tonight costs very little but when it is combined with some of the other efforts that the Minister of Industry wants to be known for as the architect of the new national dream, it has a $4 billion price tag.

I do not want to discount the importance of the Internet, broadband networks, fibre optics connections and so on, but I think that right now Canadians want a different priority from the Minister of Industry. I believe they do not want to talk about a national dream of fibre optics connections so much as they want to talk about a national dream of national security.

When we talk about $4 billion for interconnecting Canadians on the broadband fibre optic system, I do not think the budget will allow it. Bank of Montreal economists are predicting that next year's budget will possibly have a $5 billion deficit. We cannot afford this kind of thing at this time.

It is one of the things the Minister of Industry will have to adjust. He may well agree that standardization of dates and numeric form is a good idea. It may well be something he wants to promote and I would encourage him to do so. However, this other issue is something I do not think Canadians want to pursue at this time. It is a matter of priorities.

Certainly regulatory change is fine but is $4 billion for the fibre optics plan for the Minister of Industry's future run for the leadership bid something we can actually afford? I would say the answer is no. It is not a bad idea. It is not an evil thing. It is just that when there are budgetary constraints, and it is worldwide and Canada is no different, we just cannot afford $4 billion for computerized connections from coast to coast.

When I talk to people, numeric dates are far from their minds. Fibre optic connections are far from their minds. They are talking about things they want for personal security. People are not talking about a big military presence; they do not even think about that so much. They are talking about economic security, security and integration on things like immigration, borders and foreign affairs. They want to bring that together. They want all government departments to think in terms of what security means for a family, for an individual, for the nation.

People want economic security and a fall budget out of the government. They want to see a whole bunch of things that mean something to a lot of individuals. While numeric representation of dates is something they would find interesting, they would hope that parliament, the minister, the industry department and the government generally would look after their security concerns, economic and otherwise, so that they and their families can go forward with confidence.

I encourage the member for Peterborough to continue to push the issue forward. It would be a good issue for the industry committee to be seized with and it should be brought forward. I will be sitting on the industry committee and would be happy to support that initiative down the road, after we deal with some of the more pressing security needs of Canadians over the fall session. I hope he will support the initiative. I will support him once we settle the security issues which I think Canadians want us to be seized with right now.

All-Numeric Dates ActPrivate Members' Business

October 2nd, 2001 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Beauce Québec


Claude Drouin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on behalf of the Minister of Industry to speak to Bill C-327, an act to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all-numeric form.

As the hon. member for Peterborough mentioned, all of us here in the House will be familiar with the experience of seeing a date such as 03-04-2001 and wondering whether it means March 4 or April 3. The member was most eloquent.

This confusion can affect more than on-time bill payments. It can affect the use of prescriptions, for example, or “best before” dates on a wide range of products.

I am pleased to be able to respond to this issue as it allows me to speak very briefly on the importance of voluntary standards and Canada's national standards system. A standard is a document that describes the performance, dimensions or impact of a product, survey or system.

Standards are used in a very wide range of applications, from the Internet to iron ore composition to quality management.

In Canada, voluntary standards activity is co-ordinated by the Standards Council of Canada, a federal crown corporation that fosters and promotes voluntary standardization. The council oversees the work of the National Standards System, a network of about 250 organizations. Four of these organizations develop standards. These are CSA International, Underwriters Laboratory Canada, the Canadian General Standards Board and the Bureau de normalisation du Québec.

The remaining organizations provide conformity assessment services such as testing, certification, or registration to quality management systems such as ISO 9000 or environmental management systems such as ISO 14000.

The Standards Council is also responsible for Canada's participation in the development of international standards. The council is Canada's member on the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, and the International Electrotechnical Commission, or IEC.

ISO and IEC bring together volunteers from over a hundred countries to develop standards for almost every product imaginable, from ski bindings to medical devices. These standards support the trade of safe and reliable products across borders. In Canada alone, there are 3,000 volunteers that participate in international standards development.

Canada is not just a participant in this effort, but also a leader. Over 100 ISO and IEC technical committees, subcommittees and working groups are headed by Canadians, including the committees that developed the influential ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 series.

As the world moves towards a single, global market, international standards are becoming increasingly important. Efforts are underway to harmonize Canadian standards with those of our trading partners. A growing majority of national standards of Canada approved by the Standards Council are based on international standards.

This brings me to the bill in question. The hon. member has modeled his proposal on ISO standard 8601, titled “Data elements and interchange formats-Representation of dates and times”, developed in 1988 by the International Organization for Standardization.

This standard gives guidelines for indicating dates and times in a numeric format, represented by eight digits, as year-year-year-year, hyphen, month-month, hyphen, day-day.

I would note that Canada has already adopted a national standard in this area which is virtually identical to the ISO standard. The Canadian standard, CAN/CSA Z234.4, entitled “All-Numeric Dates and Times”, does indeed specify a numerical approach as recommended by the hon. member.

I would like to make one comment on the exception in clause 6 of the bill, which reads as follows:

The last two digits may be used to represent the year (a) in the case of years nineteen hundred and ninety to nineteen hundred and ninety-nine, inclusively; or (b) in the case of the year two thousand and thirty-two and subsequent years.

This exception is not part of the existing Canadian standard and could introduce confusion.

I can relate that Industry Canada is advancing a wide range of measures to promote the use of the existing national standards. These measures include the use of the date, standard and departmental correspondence and documentation, and encouraging the similar use by industry portfolio agencies and support for the Standards Council of Canada's efforts to promote adoption of the standard.

I wish to thank my hon. colleague from Peterborough for raising this important issue. Although the bill to create a national standard is not necessary at this time given the existence of such a standard, we will continue to make every effort to support its use in Canada.

All-Numeric Dates ActPrivate Members' Business

October 2nd, 2001 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

moved that Bill C-327, an act to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all-numeric form, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I greatly appreciate the support of my colleague from Winnipeg South. He is a big supporter of this kind of thing.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-327, which I introduced earlier this year. It is an act to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all numeric form. The bill addresses a matter which is of increasing importance in this post-millennium computer age. I would say this is our date with destiny.

I want to thank all those who have worked hard to promote standardized all numeric dates over the years. This is a dry but nonetheless very important topic that affects everyone in Canada and indeed everyone in the world.

I would like to mention Ross Stevenson, the former MP for Durham, who introduced a similar bill in 1990. I would also like to mention the member for Elk Island who has introduced bills on this topic and who continues to crusade for a standard system of expressing dates. I would also like to express my thanks to Duncan Bath of Peterborough. He and his colleagues have championed this cause for many years.

My riding of Peterborough is often remembered as a bastion of opposition to what we used to call the metric system. It is less often remembered that Peterborough was also a national base for the promotion of the metric system, especially through the efforts of the Canadian General Electric Company and people associated with that business.

The bill has nothing to do with the metric or the SI systems, but it does deal directly with the importance of national standards in everyday life, in business and in science. Interest in international standards continues in Peterborough to this very day.

As long as dates are written out in longhand or spoken they present few problems. For example, the 2nd day of the 10th month of the year 2001 is a very clear way of giving today's date as long as one speaks English or, in the translated version of this speech, as long as one speaks French.

However, all numeric dates are increasingly used in the programming of computers, for example, in mass billings or other mailings, or by people communicating with each other by computer. Such dates are compact and, properly expressed, they can be read by people irrespective of their language.

However, without a standard format both humans and computers can quickly become confused, sometimes dangerously confused. Let us say that I come across a can of food with a due date of 04/01/02. I ask the members of the House whether that date is: February 4, 1901, February 4, 2001, April 2, 1901, April 2, 2001, January 4, 1902, January 4, 2002, April 1, 1902, April 1, 2002, January 2, 1904, January 2, 2004, February 2, 1904, or February 1, 1904. This one date, 04/01/02, has 12 possible interpretations if we do not know the order of the numbers in the date.

Do I open this can of food and consume the contents because that is the due date? I have to say that some members are immediately saying the early 20th century dates like 1901 or 1902 are hypothetical. This is not the case. I once found a can of meat quite well preserved after more than 100 years in a cache of a 19th century expedition to the Canadian Arctic. Sadly, the due date had been worn off by blizzards during the 100 years so I do not know which date format was used. I have to say that the meat was fine.

I should also point out that using a mixed letter/number format does not help much.

The date I gave before of 04/01/02 could be 04/Jan/02. People who read English or French might think they understand exactly what that is but this could still represent a date in 1902, 2002, 1904 or 2004. Even with Jan inserted, for those of us who read French and English, there are still four possible interpretations.

At present, not only do businesses and government departments use different date conventions, the same business or department may use more than one. For example my friend, Duncan Bath, in Peterborough received an account statement from his bank with a day/month/year date on one line and with a month/day/year format on the very next line.

Lloyd Kitchen of Manitoba, in a letter to Maclean's , pointed out that 02-04-06 means April 2, 2006 on a Manitoba driver's licence, I say this to my friend from Winnipeg South. It means April 6, 2002 on a GST form. It means February 4, 2006 on his car repair bill, and June 2, 2004 as the best before date on a package of prunes. Just think what those prunes could do if the date was misinterpreted.

The ad hoc use of numerical dates is confusing, inefficient and potentially dangerous. For example, there is the danger of confusing dates on prescriptions and medications or on cheques. All this could be solved quite easily by agreement on a standard all numeric date format.

My emphasis is on agreement not on the format, but the format I propose would be year-month-day. This is not my idea. This is a standard approach accepted years ago by the International Standards Organization as ISO 8601 1988 and adopted by our own standards body, the Canadian Standards Association, as a national standard of Canada; of course it is a voluntary national standard of Canada because that is the way we operate here.

They argue, as do I, that the most useful approach is to go from large to small, from the general to the particular. We do this in most other cases, for example: hours/minutes/seconds; dollars/cents; for angles it is degrees/minutes/seconds; and even our numbering system goes from thousands/hundreds/ tens/units, from large to small.

The bill proposes that Industry Canada promote this national standard so that today's date, when expressed numerically, would be 2001/10/02. That is the format on which once we have agreed on the order there can be absolutely no doubt. It would be October 2, 2001. The way it is said or written out in full does not matter. It is only when it is all numerical that we must know the order of the digits.

In the format I am proposing, I suggest that the year be put in full. Therefore it would be 2001/10/02. That is for added clarification.

I urge all members to support this standard approach to the use of all numeric dates. It will make our lives safer and less confusing and it will make for greater efficiency in our government and non-government organizations.

Not so long ago, by spending billions of dollars, the whole world survived Y2K. The problem then was dates embedded in computer programs and records, in formats that varied greatly. Although we still do not know, this may have solved the problem in computers but it has not solved the problem for people using computers and their products. The public is inconvenienced, put at risk and ultimately has to pay for the lack of a standard way of expressing dates.

I strongly urge the federal government, especially Industry Canada, and agencies to move quickly to set an example on this issue. Let us begin by programming the machines that spew out bills, cheques and mass mailings in a standard date format. Then we can forget about the date format in all those cases as it would be programmed in. Then let us move on to standardized dates in less automated cases.

I commend Canada Post, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and some other organizations for being reasonably consistent in these matters. I am sure they would be glad to advise others on them.

I hope this debate will draw the attention of those in power to set the date format for their organization so the public has the right to read the date in a standardized, unambiguous manner.

I look forward to comments from all my colleagues here in the House on this very important topic.

All-Numeric Dates ActRoutine Proceedings

April 3rd, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.
See context


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-327, an act to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all-numeric form.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to re-introduce the bill. It is very simple. It is directed to Industry Canada so I am pleased that the minister is here.

The bill proposes that we move toward a national standard for dates, all-numeric dates, to avoid confusion, particularly in this computer age.

The system that I suggest, and the one supported by the International Organization for Standardization, is that the order be year, month and day. Today, for example, is 01/04/03. If we all kept to this standard there would be no confusion in our hydro bills, natural gas bills, or on our driver's licence.

I am pleased to propose this bill, which is particularly important in the computer age.

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