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House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jag Bhaduria Liberal Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting yea on this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

First Nations Land Management ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

April 22nd, 1997 / 6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-216, an act to amend the Broadcast Act (broadcast policy).

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill has been debated in the House and studied by the heritage committee. It has been debated in the other place and studied by its committee. If members of the opposition really believe in democracy they are going to allow it to go to a vote. If they care to represent interests greater than Quebec, they will allow it to go to a vote. If they care about seniors, families and people who are struggling to get by they will let it go to a vote.

I would like to suggest that the time has come to end this debate now and let us get it to a vote.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the House that this bill, standing in the name of the hon. member for Sarnia, was basically well intentioned.

As far as protecting the consumer is concerned, we have always said in this House that one of the objectives of this bill was to prevent negative option billing, in other words, the consumer should be able to decide whether he wants certain specialty channels provided by cable distributors.

However, although the hon. member brings up the issue of democracy, and I will do so as well, although he argues that we want to protect the interests of consumers and our fellow citizens in Quebec and in Canada, I remind him of what I said in my comments on March 27, 1996, and September 16, 1996, which included arguments that have gained in strength since the bill was considered by the Senate. Many organizations and experts told the Senate that this bill went beyond its original purpose and that in fact it would have a negative impact on the public.

I will outline the sequence of events. If I could speak to them directly, I would ask all members who wish to talk to do so outside so I can make myself clear-

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would ask the hon. members who are having conversations in various parts of the room if they would please move them. It is much more comfortable in the lobby with coffee, juice and everything else.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gaston Leroux Bloc Richmond—Wolfe, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your co-operation, and I want to thank my colleagues for giving me a chance to explain why we should vote against this bill.

The purpose of Bill C-216 is to prohibit cable distributors from providing an optional service without the consent of the subscriber. It is intended to prevent negative option billing. This is a marketing technique that puts the onus on the consumer to indicate that he does not want the service.

For instance, when a consumer is offered specialty channels, he is offered them as a service by the cable company, which tells him that if a month from now he is no longer interested, he should give them a call and they will remove the service. So the onus is on the consumer to accept or refuse the offer, and if he does neither, the

cable distributor providing the service bills the consumer. This is called negative option billing.

The bill provides for two exceptions. First, if the new service is substituted for an existing service with no increase in the amount billed, and second, if no distinct separate charge is levied for that service. The Senate, when it considered this bill, proposed an amendment.

The purpose of this amendment is to give the CRTC the power it already had and did not wish to use, which is to allow negative option billing in the case of specialty channels. The CRTC already had that power, and an amendment was proposed to confirm that it had the power and should use it.

I may recall that this bill came on the heels of a revolt among consumers in English Canada. It started in the Vancouver area where there was an outcry in 1995 when a new package of services was introduced by Rogers Communications. In January 1995, six new English specialty channels came on the air, as authorized by the CRTC. Rogers Communications took advantage of this opportunity to change the packages it offered to consumers and, in the process, subscribers lost some of the channels they liked.

They were going to have to pay extra to have them again. The subscribers also had to tell the cable company they did not want to take the new channels. This is called negative option billing.

Consumers in the west were penalized by the fact that Rogers insisted on adding new channels, as a marketing strategy, and the channels consumers enjoyed were withdrawn. Consumers had to pay extra to get them. This obviously drew a loud outcry from western consumers and from consumers in the Toronto area.

What was happening in Quebec at the time? Vidéotron was not offering a tiered service. It simply added new specialty services to its basic service at no extra cost. COGECO and CF Cable reached an agreement with the office of consumer protection after demonstrating the importance of the billing. This is one way of achieving desired penetration, that is, selling the product to enough subscribers to make it cost effective. In Quebec, because the market is so small, 85 per cent penetration is necessary. In other words, 85 per cent of customers must subscribe to cable for it to be cost effective.

Why did the office give its approval and allow the billing, as long as flexible arrangements were in place for consumers who did not understand their obligation to cancel their subscription and avoid being penalized? Simply because, in Quebec, legislation prohibits negative option billing. The same legislation may be found in two other provinces. Billing is a matter of provincial jurisdiction. Product availability and client invoicing are provincial matters. This is why cable companies in Quebec agreed with the consumer association-they wanted to obey the law-and why COGECO did not ask its customers for a cent. This was not the case in the west.

I should add there were no optional services in Quebec at the time, and they did not arrive on the market until 1995.

So some of my colleagues and I are going to take this hour to explain in detail how this whole practice of negative option billing must be opposed and how there must also be respect for the fact that it comes under provincial jurisdiction.

Second, it must also be said that, if passed, the bill will have the effect of preventing any new French language specialty services from broadcasting in Quebec or in French Canada.

My colleagues will back this up and show how this bill has an impact on all francophone communities in Canada, and especially in Quebec.

Finally, they will also show how many organizations, how many specialists have demonstrated here in the House, before the committee and in the Senate that the scope of this bill is unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, as you are indicating to me that I have only two minutes left, I would like to move an amendment to this bill. I move, seconded by the member for Drummond:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

A message be sent to the Senate to inform their Honours that this House rejects the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-216, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (broadcasting policy), because, in the opinion of this House, it does not bring the Bill into conformity with the objectives of the Broadcasting Act with regard to French-language services.

That, Mr. Speaker, is the amendment I wished to move, and I will invite my colleagues to continue the debate by pointing out how many experts have opposed the bill, beginning obviously with Quebec's Minister of Cultural Affairs, Louise Beaudoin, who spoke out strongly against it, raising the important issues of distribution and dissemination of cable services for francophones, particularly in Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, if you will approve this amendment, I will move it. My colleagues will continue, in this debate, to show, argument by argument, that this bill should be rejected, because it poses a threat to all francophones in Canada, including Acadian francophones and francophones in Quebec.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman

The amendment moved is in order. The debate is now on the amendment.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise, perhaps for the last time in this 35th Parliament, to participate in this debate on Bill C-216. Perhaps this bill will show all that the Bloc Quebecois has done to defend not only the

interests of Quebec and francophone minorities but also, throughout this 35th Parliament, our language and culture, in the interests of Quebecers and every francophone community across Canada as well.

The purpose of this bill is to prohibit negative option billing by broadcasters, that is to say cable distributors, a practice that leaves it up to consumers to specify whether or not they want to keep the service for which they are billed by the company.

This basic principle contained in the bill, which looks commendable at first glance, appears to be in the best interests of consumers, but it does not necessarily benefit everyone. I do not question the motives of the hon. member who presented the bill, but I think it does not succeed in giving full privileges to every francophone community in Quebec and across Canada.

First, this bill tells us that the first problem is that the marketing operations of any federal agency come under provincial jurisdiction. The bill introduced in this House meddles in jurisdictions already assigned to the provinces.

Throughout this Parliament, we have repeatedly condemned all these encroachments on provincial jurisdictions and overlapping jurisdictions. The Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that this bill interferes directly with provincial jurisdictions. Let us bear in mind that any federal agency that has a commercial component falls under exclusive provincial jurisdictions.

Second, in its proposed form, the bill would have the effect of making it more difficult to provide French language services in those communities where such services are provided, including in the French speaking communities outside Quebec and in that province.

Third, this bill is not at all in line with the structure of the cable industry. The Bloc Quebecois opposed this bill primarily because it is a blatant case of interfering in a provincial jurisdiction, but also because it will be very hard to offer new services in French anywhere, since the bill provides that, in order for a company to provide a new service, it must get the approval of all its customers. This is difficult to understand.

I would like to quote the Hon. Francis Fox who, when he presented his submission to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, on April 8, 1997, looked at the measures taken since the eighties to protect French culture in Canada. Mr. Fox stated that Bill C-216 goes against these measures, and that the person who drafted this legislation has no idea of the specificity of the French culture.

Allow me to quote a few excerpts from the Mr. Fox's submission. He said: "I deeply believe that this bill, in its present form, would have harmful and destructive effects, not only for affected companies, but for the French component of our broadcasting system".

Mr. Fox also said this: "In its present form, this bill will either not allow new French language services to get started, or will prevent them from doing so at a reasonable price, thus depriving francophones in this country from having access, in their language-something which is definitely feasible-to programming services offering a greater variety and a greater wealth of information".

Here is another excerpt: "This bill totally overlooks the francophone issue, whether in Quebec, in New Brunswick, or in Manitoba. Extending new French language services becomes an utopia".

This is why we must take an in-depth look at the possible consequences of all the measures introduced in this House.

Passing this bill would again create federal interference in an area under provincial jurisdiction. It is important to note that the billing of a cable service is a commercial transaction between a consumer and a vendor, and that such transactions clearly come under provincial jurisdiction.

In other words, even if a body such as the CRTC has the authority to licence broadcasting companies, in Quebec it is the Government of Quebec which has the required jurisdiction to regulate relations between companies and their consumers.

A second reason, as I have already stated, not to support Bill C-216 is that it would prevent any new French-language service from seeing the light of day, while at the same time seriously jeopardizing the ones already in existence. The explanation for this phenomenon is very simple. A specialty channel is aimed at a specific segment of the public: Canal D, RDS, RDI and the Family Channel, for example, are not all aimed at the same audience. Since all channels are not met with the same interest in the general public, the cable companies take advantage of certain channels' large audiences, and therefore their cost-effectiveness, to maintain others which generally are less profitable, since they have only a limited audience.

If people, especially those in English Canada, select all the channels they want to receive, obviously the French language channels will no longer be in demand and will no longer have the necessary cost-effectiveness to ensure their survival. So, once again, here we are in a vicious circle: fewer francophones, fewer services; fewer services, fewer francophones.

It is clear, particularly in Ontario and the West, that the absence of rules has led to certain distributors' going too far. This proved to be a disastrous experiment and the consumers were up in arms. Yet, with good faith and a healthy helping of common sense, it is possible for the cable companies to do effective marketing, while

complying with the law and respecting the fundamental rights of consumers.

So, in order to avoid the negative and pointless impact on the development of French language television in Canada and in Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois is obliged to vote against Bill C-216.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Debate is on the amendment and the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton is entitled to speak to the amendment.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting turn of events or an interesting development when we consider that we are hearing from members of the group who talk about democracy in Canada and their respect for democracy.

They have now proposed an amendment that would send the bill back. They reject it. They purport, allege and suggest they are speaking for francophones both inside and outside the province of Quebec. They are failing to tell Canadians who are watching and Canadians in the gallery today that the federation of francophones outside Quebec endorse the bill. They are failing to tell Canadians that cable company distributors in Quebec endorse the bill. They are purporting to protect Canadians when in fact they are not.

They are telling the people in Quebec that they must accept channels they do not want. They are telling the seniors in Quebec they must accept the cartoon channel and the MuchMusic channel, notwithstanding the amendment made by the Senate that was sensitive to the needs of Quebec and notwithstanding that the amendment was put forth by interest groups from Quebec. That is not enough for the members opposite. They want more. They have not had enough.

In the end they are trying to frustrate the rules of this place by killing a bill. They do not want it to go to a vote. They would rather talk it out and allow it to die here.

Notwithstanding the fact that we sometimes say in this place that the opposition speaks for all Canadians, they are taking a very narrow and might I suggest a very selfish view of the issue.

On this topic they are saying they will only speak for people inside the province of Quebec and to heck with all those people outside the province of Quebec. In effect they are saying to heck with all other people inside the province of Quebec. The Bloc says it knows what is best for them. They are saying they will reject it and will send it back to the Senate. They have no interest in consumers. They have no interest in seniors. They have no interest in families. They have no interest in the people who are living on very limited incomes.

Notwithstanding that the witnesses who appeared before the heritage committee and the witnesses who appeared before the committee of the other place do not agree with them, they are saying they know more than they do.

Under the circumstances I suggest they do not know more. They are capitulating to a couple of very special interest groups. They will argue about technical capabilities. They will argue about the single tier in Quebec. They will make all sorts of weird, wondrous and spurious arguments.

They are not willing to protect consumers, whether the consumers are in the province of Quebec or in British Columbia or Nova Scotia. They are willing to hang them out to dry. They have a very unique interpretation of the law which, by the way, does not coincide with what was said by any of the witnesses. It flies in the face of all the evidence. It flies in the face of everything said before both committees. Yet the Bloc happens to know more.

On that basis, I urge members to reject the Bloc amendment. Let us get on with the vote.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Jag Bhaduria Liberal Markham—Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to rise in support of a very important piece of legislation which is of concern to every hard working Canadian including those living in Quebec.

I am speaking against the amendment because for too long Canadian pocketbooks have been gouged by big businesses whether they are major banks with exorbitant credit card rates, gas companies that have monopolized the market or, in the case of the legislation, cable companies that have been allowed to blatantly rip off honest, hard working Canadians.

We must not allow it to continue. It is our duty to ensure that all Canadians have the right to decide whether or not they want a product at a fair price. It is imperative that the government and the House do everything in their power to ensure all Canadians are treated fairly.

Bill C-216 is legislation aimed at eliminating negative option billing by cable companies. Some two years ago cable companies decided simply to add new specialty channels to all subscribers and then tried to charge the customers for this new service without even asking if they wanted it.

We are aware of the consumer revolt that ensued in which I played a part. As a result of the tireless efforts of my colleague from Sarnia-Lambton we have the opportunity today to enact into law what Canadian consumers have overwhelmingly supported. As

parliamentarians we have an opportunity to vote in support of what Canadians want over what lobbies representing special interest groups want.

It is time to put the issue to a vote. It is a victory of the consumer. Let the voice of the consumers be heard through the legislation.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak this evening to this bill and to correct the misinformation conveyed by the member for Sarnia-Lambton.

In cable broadcasting, the francophone context is entirely different from the anglophone one. Despite what our colleague from Sarnia-Lambton said earlier, no doubt in the belief he was speaking accurately, it is wrong to claim that cable companies in Quebec agree with his bill. Quite the opposite.

Paul-Émile Beaulne, a vice-president of Radiomutuel, told the press on September 25, 1996 that it threatened the survival of specialty francophone services. He knows what he is talking about. He is right, and, unfortunately, the member for Sarnia-Lambton seems to be unaware of these remarks by an important player in the cable industry.

Earlier, our colleague from Sarnia-Lambton also intimated that francophone and Acadian communities supported his bill. I have in my hand a letter signed by Jacques Michaud on June 20, 1996 stating the very opposite. I would therefore be pleased to show these documents to our hon. colleague to correct his view of things.

I would also like to mention what the Association des consommateurs du Québec had to say.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would like you to consider Standing Order 11, specifically section (2).

We are hearing debates being brought forward from when this was before the House at third reading, such as references to letters written on June 30, 1996. I would like to remind members that we are not debating jurisdictional items, which have already been debated, but are in fact debating the amendment as proposed by the Senate and the amendment as proposed by the opposition party.

He is referring to-

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I understand the point made by the hon. member on the question of relevance. In a technical sense we often have a great deal of debate in the House which does not, at least to this Speaker's eyes and ears, seem to be terribly relevant. However, I am sure the hon. member for Portneuf will make his comments relevant to the amendment for the duration of his speech.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your perspicacity. You realize I was repeating what the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton just said about the amendment.

Since certain claims were made about the position of certain associations or cable distributors, I assume he realizes that we must get back to the position taken by these people. We will be very close to what happened a few days ago, because we know that the bill before us has come back with an amendment from the other place.

So what happened in the other place on April 8, 1997? As you know, the amendment proposes to reject the amendment from the other place. So what happened? I could not be more relevant.

Well, the Association des consommateurs du Québec-and I was about to say this when I was interrupted by a point of order-the association submitted a brief on the bill. In its brief, it rejected claims that the bill will be beneficial to Quebec consumers and to the French speaking public in Canada as a whole.

Always with reference to what we received from the other place, I would like to repeat certain comments that were made in one of their committees, the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications. The comments were made by the Hon. Francis Fox. You will recall that not so long ago, Mr. Fox was the Liberal Minister of Communications, and so you could hardly call him a member of the Bloc or a sovereignist. We can assume that these comments are representative of the beliefs of a staunch Liberal.

He said that what is at stake is a long list of concerted efforts by successive Canadian and Quebec governments to provide for the development of a French audiovisual resource offering a wide variety of quality programming. Supporters of Bill C-216, and he did not doubt they were well intentioned-and I have no doubt about that either-were in fact undermining all these efforts to which they seem to be oblivious.

I might also add that, in this case again, I am in agreement with what Mr. Fox said. He goes on to say, and this is particularly interesting, that the bill should be amended and he lists a number of reasons for doing so. First, this enactment flies in the face of all that has been done in the past 15 years. It does not have its place in the main section of the Broadcasting Act, which reflects a positive view of what our system should be. It changes the rules set after careful consideration by the designated authority: the CRTC. It changes the rules ex post facto between licensing and connection, ignoring the most basic rules of natural justice.

Mr. Fox adds that nowhere in the bill is the francophone issue, be it in Quebec, New Brunswick or Manitoba, taken into account, making any plans for new French language services an impossible dream.

He then refers to production and creation, saying that all the commitments made to the CRTC will disappear, whene CRTC decisions were contributing to consolidate state of the art technology in Montreal, for instance, production companies, which are of source of pride to the industry and which owe at least part of their success to this control: Coscient, CINAR, Les Productions La Fête, Softimage, Prima Film, SDA, Malofilm, and so on.

We are talking about a independent producers market worth $350 million. When Mr. Fox makes such comments and the Bloc Quebecois takes the position it has taken, it is to defend the interests of Quebec and those of the Canadian francophone community. For our hon. colleague to feel that we are acting against the wishes of consumers, this can only be explained by his taking an anglophone view to the issue. If I were an anglophone from another province, like our colleague from Markham-Whitchurch-Stouffville, I would probably jump up and say: "Come on, let us pass this legislation". But I would do so because I do not know what the situation of our francophone population really is with respect to cable distribution.

I want our colleagues in this House to understand that the Bloc's position is not intended to affect anglophone consumers in any way. At the time, at second reading, I urged the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton to amend his bill, so that it would only apply to cable services provided in English. Had he done so, I would have been pleased to support his bill. In fact, I have here with me the transcript of the comments I made at the time, on September 16, 1996, but I will not go back to them, because I could be ruled out of order for quoting such antiquated excerpts.

I will say it again. Had the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton had the foresight to restrict the scope of his bill to English-language cable services, there would be unanimity in this House. But the member tried, like many others before him, to get involved in Quebec's affairs. Of course, if we had achieved sovereignty, neither we nor the hon. member would have to deal with this issue. But Quebec is not yet a sovereign nation. It is still part of the Canadian federation and, on behalf of my fellow Quebecers and francophones from across Canada, I must say no to this bill.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak to Bill C-216, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act. When we speak of broadcasting, we speak of culture and of heritage and that led my colleague, the member for Richmond-Wolfe, to comment on bills such as this.

This is probably one of the last times I will speak in the House during this Parliament, and I want to say that one of the things that have hurt my feelings the most is the way heritage and culture are dealt with here.

Only this afternoon, I asked the Minister of Canadian Heritage if it was normal to require individuals applying for a job with Heritage Canada to hand in a 250 word essay in support of Canadian federalism. We know that 75 per cent of the young people from Quebec who usually apply to Heritage Canada voted yes during the last referendum. So it almost boils down to telling Quebec "pay taxes, but you are not entitled to the services we can provide".

This reminds me of the recent refusal by the NFB's cultural production fund to finance Mr. Falardeau's film on the Patriotes. Sometimes, one almost has to apologize for being a Quebecer. It seems to me it is a fund to which Quebecers contribute financially. The vast majority of Quebecers would like to see Falardeau's film. I would like to see it myself. It is a part of my history and it is perfectly natural. But Ottawa says: "You do not have the right to see such films".

The third thing bothering me about heritage and culture is that members opposite and beside voted not to revoke the conviction of Louis Riel. It seems to me it would have been so easy to vote in favour, at least as a symbolic gesture. But they did not. Then they wonder why Quebecers want to leave Canada. It seems obvious to me. I can tell you that, this year, I have really seen it all.

That having been said, about Bill C-216 on broadcasting, the September 25, 1996 issue of La Presse said: ``The subscription act would jeopardize the French cable industry''. Essentially, what this bill wants to do is to prevent cable distributors from connecting some subscribers and then charging them until they say they do not want that service any longer.

I have no problem with what is called the negative option billing. If I put myself in the shoes of my colleague opposite, the member for Sarnia-Lambton, I think I could congratulate him. I do so through the Speaker. I think he is defending the interests of his riding, except that this shows a problem in the system, that is, in order to solve a local problem, the government must draft Canadian legislation at the expense of other regions, including Quebec.

Why do I say the member for Sarnia-Lambton has good intentions? Subscribers that are offered cable products must pay for them until they call their cable distributor to tell him they do not want them any longer. When all is said and done, this is not a bad approach by the cable companies. They impose certain channels on their subscriber and, if he does not want it, he must say he does not want to pay for it. So, basically, I find this is very good.

However, this must be examined on a larger scale. We will also recall that this bill is the result of a revolt in the Vancouver area. So, when Rogers decided to change the service packages offered to its subscribers, they lost some channels that they liked or they had to pay more to have them back. Furthermore, the onus was on the subscribers to notify the cable distributor of their intention not to renew their subscription. This is called negative option billing.

Again, this bill is full of good intentions but it could hurt Quebec. We are against this bill because it encroaches on Quebec's jurisdiction. How many times has it been said in this Parliament that this or that area comes under provincial jurisdiction?

But the federal government cannot help showing off and encroaching on Quebec's jurisdiction. On the subject of relations between businesses and consumers, section 92(13) of the British North America Act has this to say:

  1. In each Province the Legislature may exclusively make Laws in relation to Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

(13) Property and Civil Rights in the Province;

This section of the Constitution applies to all businesses, even those under federal jurisdiction, such as broadcasting and telecommunications corporations. If the CRTC has the power to license broadcasters, the Government of Quebec has the power to legislate commercial relations between those institutions and consumers.

One of the main reasons-I think this is rather obvious-is that it is an encroachment on Quebec's jurisdiction. They do not ask for our opinion, they just go ahead. It is a little bit like putting a bandage on a wound, when we know very well that it will only make things worse.

The second reason I oppose this bill is that it prevents the creation of any new French-language broadcasting service. Under this bill, before offering a new non mandatory service to the basic or optional service customers, the cable distributor should first obtain consent from each of his subscribers. I can give an example.

In Hull, if one customer says he does not want the news service recently offered by TVA or whatever, all the customers will be penalized. It seems to me that we must preserve some freedom of expression. Even if 50 per cent of the customers rejected such service, the other 50 per cent would still want it. The negative impact is not that strong.

These different proposals deserve to be examined in the context that is unique to Quebec. Since each specialty channel targets a specific segment of the public, it is hard to reach the critical mass that will ensure its viability. This limit takes on even greater proportions because, in a small market like Quebec, we could be penalized.

Several industry experts have argued that, in Quebec, if RDI or the Canal Famille had not been provided to consumers free of charge for three months, it would have been impossible to offer those services. People who do not know a product are not inclined to buy it.

What we are proposing is the procedure in effect in Quebec, that is, the introduction of new channels. I am very open to the idea of new television channels, new products. Offer them free of charge, just like a sample you would send consumers, and then let the consumers decide if they want them or not. This is just common sense.

Let me substantiate this with a few opinions. Those are the views of people who appeared as witnesses before the Senate committee. The chairman of the CRTC said that this measure, apparently in favour of consumers, was actually not in their best interests but rather bad for them. A high rate of penetration is essential for the French language specialty channels to survive in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. Legislation to protect consumers from abuse is useful in a monopoly context, but we are no longer in such a context.

A number of companies are competing to provide signals to consumers who benefit from that competition. The former Liberal Minister of Communications, Francis Fox, has outlined the measures taken since 1980 to protect French culture in Canada.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but his time is up. The hon. member for Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, when he made his speech earlier, the hon. member for Sarnia-Lambton suggested that the Bloc has no definite reason to move an amendment asking the Senate to reject its own amendment.

I totally disagree with him. The Bloc has excellent reasons to do so, as we will show. Negative option billing is a fundamental problem which concerns a large number of Canadians, but which does not exist in Quebec. Why? Because it is up to the provinces to legislate in this area, and Quebec did what it had to do a long time ago. Quebec has legislation which effectively prohibits-

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I wonder if there is a disposition in the House to carry forward with a vote on the amendment or carry the amendment on division?

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. parliamentary secretary is asking for unanimous consent.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Broadcast ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

You do not want to vote?