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.