Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to speak to Bill C-266. There are four points on which I wish to expand. To get a bit of meat on those bones, once I am finished, I would suggest that people read the previous debate of October 22 when the hon. member for Nickel Belt outlined very substantially the objectives of this bill.
The bill is designed to enhance the provisions of the Competition Act. It will do so by allowing an employee to make an anonymous report of an employer's offence under the Competition Act to the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission without threat of dismissal, suspension, demotion, discipline, the loss of benefits or privileges of employment, termination, harassment, coercion or any other action which would otherwise disadvantage the employee.
A second part would protect the employee from retaliatory action by the employer if the employee refuses to take action for an employer that constitutes an offence under the Competition Act.
I would suggest that the act has directed its focus on the protection of the employee and the employee's job.
The hon. member for Longueuil said on October 22 that there will be or could be situations in which a person may want to maliciously damage the reputation of the employer. That has to be addressed a little more closely in this bill. I understand the
reasoning for the protection of the employee. I also would like to see a little more focus on the employer's position as well.
One of the main reasons that makes me think along this line is that in the justice system we have all witnessed situations in which a person or a company has been wrongly accused. By the time they go through the process of establishing their innocence, their reputation is damaged. We are talking about business here and it could have an effect on that.
Another provision is that the employer be liable for a fine of up to $100,000 or two years imprisonment if found guilty of retaliating action against an employee under the aforementioned circumstances.
I would suggest two things, one of which is the concept that a fine or prison internment be also applied to the other side of the equation: if an employee maliciously and knowingly attempts to harm the employer through this process.
I would also like to refer to a comment made by the member for Fraser Valley West in the October 22 debate. He felt that in his wisdom and with his resources the $100,000 fine and the two years imprisonment was a little steep. In a comparative analysis, the first thing that would come to my mind would be the punishment for drunk driving which is meted out in certain cases where it would be less than two years for someone who drives drunk and kills somebody and less than $100,000 in fines. That should be looked at.
My fourth point concerns the confidentiality of the employee, except in cases where upon inquiry the commission finds that the employee knowingly accused the employer falsely. I have already made reference to that. It is a good thing because if somebody is going to falsely accuse someone, then it should be brought to everyone's attention that they did try to do something maliciously.
I would also like some thought to be given to the employer's position on confidentiality. I would think it would be prudent to put the employer in the position of confidentiality until there is some substantiation that there is a valid charge.
Some other observations of this bill are on a more positive line. Unlike previous bills which have sought measures that would prevent the unfair gasoline pricing at the pumps, which is what this bill is targeting as the example, this bill works within the Competition Act. It is not going to overtly increase the cost of the bureaucracy. Also, it does not appear to be imposing unnecessary regulations upon the marketplace. Those are two promising aspects of it.
It will also enhance the commission's ability to conduct investigations by allowing the commission to act upon confidential information. Currently, six sponsors of a complaint are needed before the commission can pick it up. This will allow people to feed that information into the commission. We could probably expand on this by saying that this may be a situation where a stitch in time will save nine by getting on top of the situation earlier.
The Reform Party sees a lot of positive aspects to this but we also see some negative aspects which I have mentioned. It is positive in the promotion of competition and competitive pricing. It also strengthens and vigorously reinforces the competition and anti-combines legislation. It does indeed provide penalties for collusion of price fixing.
As I said, we are quite positive on this but we do have some reservations from the employer's position in relation to confidentiality until it is substantiated and to the amounts of the fines and charges. I would suggest that penalties be applied to the employee if they falsify their statement to the commission.
I will conclude because otherwise I would be reiterating an excellent debate that occurred on October 22.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)