Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-27. I will read the precursor to the bill so that the public knows what we are talking about.
This is known as the anti-spam bill, but in particular it is An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act.
This is about limiting electronic messaging that is unsolicited and unwanted which is coming across the Internet to many people in their homes and businesses. It is affecting the economy and the productivity of Canada and. in my opinion, is also a breach of consumer rights in many respects.
This is the reference in terms of the informal notation of spam. We all have received it in our mailboxes, whether it is an account at work or at home where we have received unsolicited electronic messaging.
I was pleased to support the government when it brought forward Bill C-27. It had interesting dynamics on the political front because during this process, it appeared the government would cave to a number of different initiatives from the Bloc and the Liberals to weaken the bill, but that was prevented at committee. We do have, I believe, all party support right now to bring a piece of legislation in line, which we can all be proud of and that will benefit consumers and the Canadian economy.
I would like to note that I am a bit worried about where the government is going with this legislation in terms of prioritization. We made an effort in the committee to work through this really quickly and I gave my personal word to move through this really quickly. We did get that done at committee and we did ensure that we preserved the fundamentals of the bill. There was some weakening of it, which I did not agree with, but at least it still meets the test at the end of the day.
It then took literally weeks before it appeared back here in the House of Commons and is finally coming back here again. It needs to be voted on again here in the House of Commons before it can move to the other place, the Senate. Unfortunately, some other bills have been stalling in the Senate. I do not know the politics between the Liberal and the Conservative Parties with regard to some of the legislation, but one of them I would note is Bill C-6, which is critical because it relates once again to consumer product safety for recall.
I would point out more recent examples. There was the one with the baby cribs, but there was also the one with regard to Toyota products where four million Americans received a recall notice related to brake and acceleration issues caused by the floor mats. Meanwhile, the 200,000 Canadians who had the same problem over here only got a public announcement on a website posting at their expense really.
I do not know why. I have written Toyota and asked why it has not done this for Canadians. It is ridiculous. Our public safety and a number of things are at risk.
However, that is an example of a bill that is stalled and we do not know where it is going to go.
The bill enjoys strong public support and it has the support of the New Democratic Party. This is part of our electoral platform in moving a number of consumer issues forward that we really want to see implemented as law. The other place will have to do some work on this bill and there will be some lobby efforts on this bill. That happened at our committee. I could be wrong but if I am not mistaken, some members of the other parties were accepting questions literally from the lobbyists in the meetings.
I think there will be a push to weaken the bill. However, some elements in the bill make it really strong and make it a good bill for Canadians and Canadian businesses because it affects our economy.
When we look at the issue of spam and electronic messaging, we need to recognize that Canada is in the top 10 and one of the few countries in the G8 that do not have this type of legislation. We are behind. We can catch up with this bill quite significantly and have one of the better models to deal with the issue.
Approximately 5% of the spam in the world comes from Canada. We are actually known as a harbour of some of the actual big spammers out there. I think we stand fourth in the world in terms of spamming, behind Russia and just ahead of Brazil.
We heard this before and it was important that we change it in terms of some of our workings with the United States. In the past, movies playing in Canadian theatres could be taped and that technically was not illegal. We were able to solve that problem over a year ago, giving credit to the way the Canadian market worked in terms of being fair to consumers and the industry. I see the same with this bill.
The model that is being proposed in this bill is a bit different than the United States. The United States passed a law in 2003 called controlling the assault of non-solicited pornography and marketing act. The U.S. calls this bill the can the spam bill because there is an opt out clause. An individual must opt out from receiving information.
Canada would have a much more proficient system with this bill. If an individual does not have an existing business relationship or does not have permission, then he or she should not be sending unsolicited emails. This would be a better system because it would clean things up more profoundly.
Some good things have taken place with regard to the United States system. There have been some charges related to it and there has been a reduction in spam. However, nothing will solve this problem outright. There is no doubt that no matter what law we put in place, there will be some challenges. There will be those who will always break the law. It does not matter what law we actually set in this chamber because there are always those who will take advantage of other people despite their economic and personal issues.
Electronic commerce activity is increasingly important in a competitive world. It is also important for us to meet our needs on the telecommunications run as we learn about the world and the use the Internet. Harboured down with approximately 87% of activity being electronic messaging undermines the Internet.
It is important to note that some good electronic commerce does take place. Businesses can effectively use it for advertising their services. Consumers want to use electronic commerce and that will continue, but there will be some regulation under this bill. This bill would take away some of the most offensive and egregious issues. Individuals would be penalized. Private action could take place as well, which is another strong point of the bill. I will get into this later in my speech.
As I mentioned, spam represents about 87% of email activity around the world. Last year it was estimated that 62 trillion spam emails were sent out and it is done in a variety of ways. This bill would identify some of those ways and eliminate them. I will get into a few of those as well.
An Ipsos Reid poll found that approximately 130 spam messages are received by Canadians each week, and that is troubling because that is up 51% from the year before. It is not just the irritation of removing unwanted messages and solicitations but it is also time-consuming. Employers are worried about the time this takes and the cost.
I do want to make a point that we in the NDP have been really strong on in terms of consumer rights. It is not a right to send these messages, it is actually a privilege. Let us think about that. When people purchase a computer or other electronic equipment that receives messages, they pay for that out of their own pocket. They also pay to maintain that equipment as well as paying for continual upgrades to software and so forth to ensure it is working efficiently. They also pay for the Internet service, the actual conductor of the information. Those who are sending spam need to understand that.
It should not just be an absolute right that we get inundated by activity, especially when we have some in the marketplace who are using malware and other types of spy software to try to gain more information about us by surfing the Internet to find out what our habits might be as consumers on the Internet. That also undermines the our ability to have confidence in it as a vehicle for doing commerce and legitimate business. It is important that those people who behave in that activity would be punished for offences under this new act.
This bill would create laws based on the federal trade and commerce power. That is important, because it will provide an opt-in approach. So there will be existing business relationships that we have and there is a timeframe for the sign-up.
One of the things that the bill would provide is windows of opportunity for businesses with current existing relationships to make that connection with their customers. One of them is for 18 months in terms of a previous existing business relationship. The Bloc moved a motion to extend it to 24 months, which I opposed. I believe that 18 months is plenty of time for someone to get information from us. It is a long time period, being over a year and a half, but now it is two years and I think that is unfortunate.
However, once we have this law in place, there will be a process for those to be punished who are actually doing it. The way it will need to be done is through three regulatory agencies. The first is the CRTC, which will be involved in terms of investigating complaints.
We then have the Competition Bureau which will be responsible for the administrative monetary penalties, if there is an actual breach that has been confirmed by the CRTC. The fines can be up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million in all other cases. So there will be a recourse to show to those spamming powers out there that are doing this that there will be punishments, that it will be more than just a fine, that it will be significant for them to deal with and, hopefully, it will curb that behaviour.
The Privacy Commissioner will also be involved because sometimes our privacy rights are affected by spam. There have been a number of cases where spammers have used headliners that look like many banks' headliners and then, for example, people click thinking it is their own bank, but it turns out that it is a spammer collecting data and information from them. Sometimes that can be quite perilous. There have been cases where people have lost money thinking it was their own financial institution or a legitimate financial institution and they have provided access to some of their monetary resources. Unfortunately, that is why the Privacy Commissioner needs to be involved because it also will protect our personal privacy. A lot of people are concerned about that.
I think one of the reasons the bill will be strong is it would have those three regulatory agencies actively involved in maintaining the accountability of the actual bill.
Interestingly enough, there was a bit of a debate about whether this bill should deal with the telephone solicitation issue. It does not but at the same time it would give the minister a bit more ability to work on the do-not-call list. I hope the minister takes this up to fix some of the do-not-call list problems. One of the ones that is in there that this bill would prohibit is the issue of surveys. The government almost capitulated on this. I would like to thank those in the industry, Michael Geist and a number of other different individuals, who pointed out this giant loophole that we could drive a truck through, whereas if someone proposed or sent a survey to somebody it did not count as solicitation or spam and, hence, it would have actually avoided the whole regime. The government, at one point, looked like it had actually tabled an amendment on this but it ended up not tabling it. It backed down from that amendment.
Ironically, the Liberal Party picked it up and actually tried to move it but it was defeated when the chair overruled that. We were lucky that we did not have that. The one thing I hope will be cleaned up with the do-not-call list is the survey loophole that everybody knows about and which is hindering the capability of the bill. We did not actually have a section on that, so that gives the minister some flexibility to fix it and I hope that he takes me up on that suggestion.
It is also important to note that there was another issue in the bill that was defeated. It is important to recognize that because it is an issue that people are concerned about. In the original manifestations of the bill there was a provision that would have allowed companies to go onto our computers and seek information from that computer. If we had agreed to them being part of our Internet relationship, we would be consenting or allowing them to go onto our computer and access information and documents, and basically surf through our computer unknown to us.
That issue was taken off the table as well. There was great Internet discussion and blogging about this offensive piece of the legislation. I was happy to see that backed out as well. It is important because had that provision been there as well as the other provisions I have mentioned that were taken out, I do not know whether I could have supported this legislation because it would have weakened it so much. It would have become far weaker than even the do not call registry. It is very fortunate that we were able to get consensus and push that back.
As well, there were a couple of amendments that were interesting and I was rather curious as to how they came forward. We will see whether or not in the Senate they will be pushed forward again. One of them came from the Bloc and that was the extension of the time to actually opt out of an email subscription. The way it works is if I, for example, agree to receive an email and I have a relationship with a company or if someone is sending me that information, then I can opt out of that later on, by just sending an email that I do not want to continue this relationship. The way the legislation was written I would be taken off the list in 10 days. The Bloc moved a motion for it to be 30 days. The final part of the bill is 10 business days.
If we agree to an email through our bank or somewhere else, they will instantly start spamming or sending information. Once we agree, they start flying in. I have Aeroplan points, for example, from Air Canada and boy, that thing rings all the time with all kinds of stuff. I have agreed to that relationship and sometimes it is helpful, sometimes it is irritating, but I make that choice. To suggest that I want out of that and that it would take 30 days to get out of that is absolute nonsense, especially with the sophistication of some of the programs. Ten business days is a sufficient time to end that relationship. It is not burdensome at all especially when they have the capability of adding us in instantaneously when we agree to get on these lists.
I was puzzled about this and when it gets to the Senate we will see whether or not there is going to be another lobby effort either to kill the bill or to weaken it some more. If it is weakened even more, Canadians will be upset because they are seeking a solution to this. As well, it is important to reinforce the issues of how serious spam is. Spam is used in crime. Spam is also used in an organized way that affects the whole Internet capacity of the system. We just have to look at some of the botnets. These are zombie computers where specific programs are written to go in and then turn our computers into a generator off spam or email spam for someone else who controls a whole grid of them.
I am going to wrap up by saying that I will be supporting the bill. We want to see this happen as soon as possible. I am glad it has finally come to this chamber. I was disappointed it took so long because we worked really hard at committee to get it here faster. I am concerned it will have some impact in the Senate. We will see whether the senators are going to stand hard on the bill and make it happen quickly for Canadians to ensure we get some real results.