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House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was magazines.

Topics

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present the fifth report of the Canadian NATO parliamentary association which represented Canada at the 1998 spring session of the North Atlantic Assembly of NATO parliamentarians, held in Barcelona, Spain from May 22 to 26, 1998.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Liberal Thunder Bay—Nipigon, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the rules of the House, I have the honour to present a subcommittee report.

As the House will recall, the last time I was here we talked about section 110 of the United States Immigration Act. This report reflects the ongoing work that the Canada-United States interparliamentary group is doing with respect to alleviating the effects of that act on Canadian citizens crossing into the United States.

As the House will know, in the last week there were some very important results, to the benefit of all Canadians, and I have the honour to submit this report.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 39th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations and the associate membership of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 39th report later this day.

Manitoba Claim Settlements Implementation ActRoutine Proceedings

October 22nd, 1998 / 10:05 a.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberalfor the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-56, an act respecting an agreement with the Norway House Cree Nation for the settlement of matters arising from the flooding of land and respecting the establishment of certain reserves in the province of Manitoba.

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

Nunavut ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberalfor the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nunavut Act with respect to the Nunavut Court of Justice and to amend other acts in consequence.

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

Canada Labour CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-447, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (application of part I to members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who are peace officers).

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill I am introducing today is to give members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the right to form a union. RCMP officers are the only peace officers in Canada denied the right to collective bargaining.

The purpose of the bill I am honoured to introduce today, seconded by my NDP colleague and by my friend and colleague, the House leader of the Conservative Party, is to put right this injustice.

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

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives it consent, I move that the 39th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier this day be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have three major groupings of petitions that I would like to present to the House today, the first bearing 606 signatures.

The petitioners call upon parliament to enact two-strike legislation requiring anyone who is convicted for the second time of one or more sexual offences against a minor to be sentenced to imprisonment for life without any eligibility for parole or early release, and also, with respect to anyone awaiting trial on such offences mentioned in this petition, the petitioners pray that such a person be held in custody without eligibility for bail.

The second grouping of petitions, bearing 573 signatures, calls upon parliament to bring about a pedophile registry to register those persons who are sexual offenders and pedophiles who cannot be cured or rehabilitated. The petitioners call upon parliament to enact such legislation.

The third grouping of petitions, bearing 526 signatures, again calls upon parliament to eliminate the right of a convicted pedophile to be let out of jail on bail pending an appeal. This would thereby ensure the protection and safety of the victims and the community from such a convicted offender.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to present a petition on behalf of my constituents regarding section 43 of the criminal code which says that every school teacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child under their care as long as it is reasonable force.

The petitioners are concerned that section 43 may be removed and are further concerned that government is funding groups which are studying the removal of this section. The petitioners therefore request that parliament reaffirm the duties and the responsibilities of parents to raise their children according to their own conscience and beliefs.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-54, an act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act , be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly interested in this topic. I have had the honour since 1987 to be associated with the program on strategic computing in the public sector at Harvard University. I have worked with a research group there headed by Dr. Jerry Mechling who is acknowledged to be one of the two most knowledgeable people in public sector information management in the world. It is a personal honour to know Jerry and to be able to work with him and with the team of faculty and researchers he regularly assembles from all over world to consider these issues of how our policy and use of information technologies needs to evolve in order for the citizens of the world to derive the most benefit.

The process we utilized was that three times a year we would call together senior practitioners from the state, federal and local governments in the U.S., from Canada and other countries around the world. We would then draw together experts from the vendor communities like IBM, Dell, Microsoft, et cetera, and from the user communities.

At a conference last year a cross-section of about 120 chief information officers and faculty from schools all over the U.S., with a substantial representation from Harvard, considered the question that is addressed in this legislation. We wrestled with the question and asked people how we should move this forward. We asked how we could build a sense of comfort to encourage the average person who may not be technically adept or who may not have a lot of familiarity or facility with computers to become involved in and adopt electronic commerce.

Since 1987 we have had a great deal of these research meetings. In the initial stages we always talked about technological issues. We needed better case tools. We needed to refine object embedding. We had to sort out the whole process for prototyping. We needed to constantly improve the way in which we built our various services. We needed more band width. We needed better routing.

The consensus from some of the most senior people in the field last year was that the problems in e-com at that point were 2% technical and 98% policy. The technical side of the networks had advanced to a point where there were still some technical problems. There are some issues that still need to be resolved and there always will be because this field is evolving incredibly fast. For the most part those issues were addressable.

What was lacking was a policy and legal structure that would allow us to take the next step. We asked what that question meant, what would a government or a business have to do tomorrow in order to take the next step. A whole list of issues arose which we worked down to a dozen.

The number one and number two issues were that we had no choice but to deal with the privacy regime and we had to do it proactively. We could not sit back and wait, let a bunch of disasters happen and then have the public rise up and push us to do it. Governments around the world needed to be proactive in putting in place privacy legislation which stated very strongly to everybody that this is important and they are going to protect it. There are a lot of ways to do that but that was considered to be a critical factor in allowing e-commerce to advance.

One of the participants gave an interesting example. This was IBM but it is typical of a lot of high priced consultants. He was part of an IBM group doing a workshop with technicians, people who are very comfortable, very familiar with the use of technology. IBM was there to sell its new commerce server. At the start of the workshop he asked the some 200 experienced practitioners, users of the technology, how many of them had bought something on the Internet. About three hands of the 200 people went up in the air. That is what he wanted.

He launched into a discussion about how the new server was going to protect them and how they were going to deal with cryptography and how they were going to deal with the protection of the persons. He went through a whole exercise and at the end of it asked with all of that, how many people would purchase on-line. One more hand went up. Even in that community, which was adept and comfortable and knowledgeable with the technology, there was still an emotional and personal resistance to engaging too much on-line.

The second point raised in that discussion was the issue of leadership. There is an interesting conundrum throughout the world and certainly we see it here. The technologies that are driving business, driving commerce, driving daily life are all technologies that were not in existence when most of the members of this House were in their training years.

When I went through university, the computer was something which sat in a building somewhere and I interacted with it with a series of punch cards. I am not the oldest member in this House. The first IBM PC appeared on a desk in 1980 when a lot of us were well into our working careers.

The people who have evolved into the legislative leadership positions, people in cabinet and senior administration, are people who have grown up and gone through life without the individual comfort with these technologies that someone growing up and going through school and university today will have. I suspect there are lots of examples. My son is four years old. He has been using his computer for a year and a half. My daughter at age six thinks nothing of accessing her Disney programs or other things on the Internet.

Our children are growing up with a completely different relationship to these technologies from what we have, yet we are the people who are in control of the decisions about what they can and cannot do. It creates a problem because some of the fears about the technology are the traditional fears about black boxes and mystical powers that may arise from them. I say that without wanting to be too facetious.

One of my jobs a few years ago was to train senior managers in data analysis on computers. I noticed something early on particularly with people in this age range. There is almost an equation. If someone does not know how to use a computer, then they are somehow stupid. I do not know how to use woodworking tools very well but I do not consider myself stupid. Yet somehow if a person cannot use a computer, a fear arises.

I remember once a gentleman was highly frustrated. He was having trouble getting the model to work and was having trouble with a simple keyboarding thing. I pulled him back from the computer and told him to relax. He said he could not deal with computers. I asked him what he did. He was a jet pilot, a brigadier general in the Israeli air force. He flew a machine every day that had nine computers in it and thought nothing of it. However, his interaction with that box angered him.

The reason I even bothered mentioning this is that there is an element of that kind of fear when we approach these technologies.

We are charged in this House, and I say exactly the same thing to our Prime Minister and others, with doing what we can to put in place all the protections that are necessary for every person in Canada. I frankly believe that our legislation is going to serve as a model for other parts of the world.

We must say to every person in Canada that we take their privacy seriously and that we are going to protect it. We are going to ensure that their information is handled as safely and securely as it is possible to make these systems function. At the same time we are going to say it is going to improve their quality of life.

I read the submissions by the four opposition critics who spoke on the bill when the minister introduced it. I was rather pleased. I think in all four of them we see a recognition of the necessity for doing this and an acceptance of the issue.

We see in it some traditional fears about change. Will there by disillusions? Anytime we produce a change in the market there will be some disillusions. People can create enormous scenarios about how serious those may be but that is an area that needs to be considered. I would argue it is also the reason we need to be proactive and move quickly rather than wait and have the rest of the world make these changes while we have to play catch-up.

On the issue of leadership I would point out, without wanting to be too self-congratulatory of the government, the Minister of Industry and his deputy Michelle d'Auray, the leader of the e-commerce unit.

We Canadians are modest and we tend to be almost a little shy about talking about how good we are. People in Canada are not aware of exactly how far ahead of the rest of the world Canada is.

John Manley since the day he assumed his office has been providing exactly the kind of leadership the professionals I was talking about want to see happen. Manley is the—

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member because he is in full flight. We know the member means the Minister of Industry and we just wanted to clarify that.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, yes of course I mean this innocuous person the Minister of Industry.

In this House we often get into these partisan debates, that my guy is better than your guy, but I do not mean it that way. I genuinely want all Canadians to be proud of the government, and I am going to talk about the provincial governments in a minute too. They are very much partners and players in this. All Canadians benefit and all Canadians support anything that is done in this way. There has been enormous consultation. This has been worked on for years. Literally thousands of Canadians have been involved in the work leading up to this kind of policy decision.

Getting back to my example, what was coming out of the expert community was that we have to have leadership. People outside Canada are amazed at what Canada has been able to do. That has come about because the Minister of Industry has been so enormously engaged and proactive on these issues from the day he assumed that office.

The minister is a representative of the department. There are people in the department who predate this government and have made it possible for us to be as much in the forefront as we are. We should take time to recognize the hard work, intelligence and thoughtfulness of all the civil servants who support us. These people spend a lot of time and energy helping us be as prepared as we are for what is coming down the road.

I want to come back to the issue of the legislation in general. The detailed legislation has been talked about by the minister and others. It is available for everyone to see. What is important for us to think about is what needs to occur now. In thinking about electronic commerce, there is a very real example.

A group in one city in one province in Canada operates an electronic transaction server. That is the piece of equipment on which the transaction is completed. It is a secure environment where a consumer having decided to purchase something and a vendor having decided to sell something meet electronically so that sale is consummated. The money is transferred to the vendor and the good is transferred to the seller.

That transaction server is in a traditional sense the cash register in the store. It is where the bills have changed hands. It is located in one province. The vendor could be, and increasingly is, located anywhere in the world. The purchaser is also potentially anywhere in the world.

I go on the Internet in the morning and call up Economist magazine which I subscribe to. I am calling up a server that is located in London. I pick up the article I want. The article makes reference to a book. If I hit on that book it takes me to a server in the U.S. and asks if I want to buy the book. I can simply click on a button and buy the book because I am registered with the book seller.

That sale is cleared by a Visa clearance office in Vancouver. That is not in the future. That is today. It happens right now. The company that runs the transaction service in that case is in New York. The vendor is in the central United States. The magazine is in London and my Visa transaction clearance is in Vancouver.

Who pays the tax? How are we taxed on that? There are a variety of legislative regimes that govern all of those areas that are different. If we are to begin to feel the benefits from this, that we believe we can feel, I and I think most who are close to this file believe that we need to look for universal legislation. We need to look for policy that transcends not just a city, province or country but that eventually becomes global.

It becomes global because information is no longer static. Information on me and I suspect on everybody here resides in the U.S. on a variety of machines if we have any interactions, travelled down there or bought something. It will reside in Europe or in China.

When I first came into this House I had the privilege of representing the former house leader and now Deputy Prime Minister in London. Walking through the basement of Westminster I saw a bank machine. Just for fun I pulled out my local bank card, stuck it in and withdrew pounds. It shocked me that they could clear that thing so quickly.

I want the protection of my privacy to exist whether I use that bank machine in London, Paris or Beijing. It is to all our benefit.

Canada is fortunate given our federal structure and the very activist nature of our governments. Quebec has had privacy legislation for a very long time and privacy legislation that covers both the public and private sector. Other provinces are moving now to engage on this issue by bringing in legislation, looking at ways of dealing with the regulations.

We need to be careful. We do not want to impose a heavy handed regulatory environment on commerce. We have had enough experience over the last few decades with the positive and negative sides of that. But I as a consumer want my information protected.

E-commerce in a sense is a funny word because it invokes the issue of commerce, of a sale, of a transaction, but the same technology works in an information transaction. If I want to send secure information, my medical records, and I want a doctor here to be able to call up on his computer my medical record from my doctor's office in Winnipeg, which would be an enormous benefit to me and to the system, I want to make sure that transaction is done securely and in a way that protects my privacy.

What I would argue and what this bill provides for is a regime that supports the very thing that we talk about in this House, a partnership between all the provinces of Canada, all working together to develop a system of law and policy that provides equal protection for all Canadians no matter where they are at any time in any part of this country. I believe the rest of the world is watching what we are doing here in Canada. I believe that we will find that our law, our approach will form the basis for law and policy right around the globe.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the hon. member's speech, and congratulate him on his moderation and lucidity.

There is one doubt I have after hearing him, however, and I would like to hear his answer on this. He is in favour of protecting personal information, and so am I, but he seems to have qualified that protection somewhat. He also wants to see commerce protected. It is a balancing act that may be problematical.

There is one practice we see regularly. A person buys a car at the local dealer, giving his social insurance number and a whole lot of other details. Suddenly, he finds himself the target of mail solicitation for all manner of products. Until quite recently, I thought the dealer one had done business with gave that information to others, but no. He sold them to companies specializing in this type of mail or phone soliciting.

I would like to know whether the bill we are discussing this morning contains a ban on the selling of information which is no longer confidential because one has had to disclose it when preparing to enter into a legal transaction, a purchase or sale contract, and so on. I do not consider this to be in the public domain, but neither is it really personal any more, once the information has been disclosed.

Does the bill forbid businesses from selling this type of information? I believe that this is the point that will make or break this bill, if it is not addressed specifically. I would like the hon. member to clarify this.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I regret that I cannot respond in French.

I will not respond in French because it would cause more pain for the questioner than is necessary for the answer right now. But I am practising and I will soon.

The member raises two really important points. I will deal with the second point first because I think it is possible to respond to that fairly quickly. The member is absolute right. It is a sale. There is a great value in collecting that information, organizing it and selling it and there are huge industries that have grown up around that. It raises interesting questions about information that is collected by governments. There is a debate to come on that which I will be very interested in down the road.

We have been giving that information away individually for a very long time, for example every time we give our credit card to someone for our Christmas shopping. I have a blue card in my pocket that we use in my province. Every time we buy our groceries they swipe this card and we can get air miles for that. When it first came out I thought that is kind of nice, I can get some air miles. But what they are really doing is getting my consumption profile so they can do exactly that. They know that I buy a lot of goods for babies because I have a new baby. Those guys who sell to new parents will all of a sudden start sending me the stuff.

There are 10 principles in the bill. Accountability is the first one. An organization is responsible for personal information under its control. The organization now has a responsibility.

The second principle is the purposes for which personal information is collected shall be identified by the organization at or before the time the information is collected. The knowledge and consent of the individual are required for collection, use or disclosure. I invite members to go on to the Internet and look. Almost universally the larger companies that are more advanced in the use of this ask that. If we give them information there will be a box at the bottom saying in a cute way, because they want to encourage us, would we like to receive other information from other suppliers of this product. If we click that box we are going to get exactly what we are talking about.

This legislation gives the control over your information to you. It says you can determine every time your personal information is dealt with electronically. You will know what it is for and you can determine whether it can disclosed. The choice rests with you.

The other issue where the difficulty lies is the balancing act. We have experienced a number of dreadful examples. This is not a statement about any particular philosophy. When governments become too heavy handed and controlling they slow everything down. They limit the ability for organizations to be innovative. They limit the ability for pricing to move quickly. There are a lot of negative consequences that come from that.

On the other hand, we know that if we do not have some regulation, control or penalty then we could be subject to all sorts of abuses. This is one of the problems we face in the House all the time, trying to effect that balance, how much regulation versus how much protection. That will be very much part of the debate.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, looking at the area of compliance costs and the climate the government creates for the commercial world, an article in the Financial Post which is very timely by Neville Nankivell says the Fraser Institute has just delivered another withering report on the consequences of overregulation in Canada. It estimates compliance costs to the economy could now be as much as $83 billion compared to the $58 billion in the mid 1970s. He concludes his article by saying regulatory business is a growth industry in Canada but not the kind that is good for the economy and jobs.

Will the member reassure us that this piece of legislation is going in the right direction and is setting the appropriate regulatory climate? It is certainly not the proper role of government to artificially puff up businesses or the creation of interventionist government or unreasonable controls as they are very costly to the taxpayers. It has been shown in study after study and often these types of efforts are largely ineffective and do not give a good dollar value for measured outcomes.

Will the member reassure us that the controlled climate we are entering into is one of balance and also cognizant of the fact that we are in a world of competition? Where will this place us in the world community of competition?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will try to deal with what is a very important and complex question.

The first thing I would ask members to think about on issues like this is the spectrum. We have people who are driven philosophically at one end of the spectrum who believe we should have no compliance. We have people at the other end who believe we should not have electricity. I am not being extreme. Always we have to sit somewhere in the middle.

The reason I gave the example about the practitioners saying we had to have privacy legislation is that in order to have the commerce at the level we want, in order to have my mother buying her groceries via TV, we have to guarantee her we are going to protect her. There is no question about that.

It is in the interest of business to have a good privacy regime. It is in the interest of everybody. In the consultations the minister had with the industry this is exactly what was said. This is broadly supported by industry because industry knows it needs it in order to get the competition and action it wants. The bigger the system, the more people who play and the better it will be.

Unfortunately, while I have read the Fraser report, it is too much driven by philosophy and not enough by research.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry—of which the member for Mercier is also a member—to take part in this debate at second reading.

The debate is on the bill's principle, and on this point I may well disappoint the parliamentary secretary by saying that the Bloc Quebecois totally disagrees with this bill. I will explain why.

The title of the bill represents a long and fairly complex paragraph, which I will read:

An Act to support and promote electronic commerce by protecting personal information that is collected, used or disclosed in certain circumstances, by providing for the use of electronic means to communicate or record information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act.

Beside me sits the member for Chambly, who has worked for a long time on the Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations. He was saying that there are some 200 fairly concise but complex clauses.

We must always be careful, for even a bill with a long title is easier to understand when it is a measure to enact. However, when it is an amending bill that also requires regulations—like this bill, which amends the Canada Evidence Act and the Statute Revision Act—things start to get complicated. This is one of the weaknesses of the bill.

I would not go so far as to say that the long title of Bill C-54 represents a catch-22 situation, but it does contain a sort of trap, because clause 1 contains no mention of electronic commerce.

I was listening to the parliamentary secretary and, in his initial arguments, he said it must be recognized that society has changed. He said that, with personal computers, we have come a long way from the era of the perforated card. The parliamentary secretary is very nice, but this is not what the bill is about.

Clause 1, which gives the short title of the bill, reads as follows:

  1. This Act may be cited as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Earlier, when the hon. member for Chambly asked whether the commerce and sale of personal data collected by businesses would be prohibited, I listened attentively to the reply by the parliamentary secretary, but he did not answer the question.

This is another problem with this bill. It includes the usual provisions contained in an act, but the core of this particular bill is found in its schedule. That schedule is a document provided by members of the industry, who agreed on a code of discipline and are trying to apply that code to their industry on a voluntary basis.

Because journalists, editorial writers and consumer groups expressed concern about the issue, the government tried to meet their expectations and finally decided to pass a law. But, as we can see, this knee-jerk response was not adequately prepared. The government's attitude was “if legislation is necessary, so be it”. A close look shows that the core of this bill is a series of principles drafted by the private sector, by the industry concerned.

Do you think for a moment that the businesses concerned would purposely propose to the government measures that could create problems for them? Of course not! It would not be in their best interests. I am not saying there are terrible things in the bill, but there is at least that aspect. It seems to me that, as legislators, we should have a reasonable doubt and make sure that this is what everyone wants, including consumer groups and individuals.

Again, it is essential. The Privacy Act applies to everyone, even babies. They cannot read yet but, as the parliamentary secretary mentioned, his grocery store uses a point system whereby some businesses know that he has a baby at home. Companies already have personal information on the baby of the hon. member opposite. They already know what kind of diapers, brand of milk or type of food are being used. They know everything.

We are talking about personal information, not only on those who know how to read, but even on those who cannot read yet. We could also mention the case of children who use computers. This is fine but we already know that confidentiality is not guaranteed.

The parliamentary secretary also said that we must have a global approach, because electronic commerce knows no boundaries. This is true. Two or three weeks ago, I had the opportunity, as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, to attend an OECD meeting, here in Ottawa, on electronic commerce. I was not able to attend all the sessions, but I discussed the issue with the hon. member for Mercier, who did attend.

I read the documents and the information that were circulated at the meeting. I am not saying this is right, but it was clear from the start that the primary concern of OECD members and their finance ministers was not so much personal information as how governments could enact a tax on transactions.

Indeed, transactions ought to be taxed. That is something the GST is trying to take care of. It would appear that a great many electronic transactions might elude us because of this international dimension. This must be dealt with.

Personal information or absolute privacy does not seem to be the main concern. But it was a concern for a number of European countries, which did not think that all OECD nations were technologically advanced enough to protect personal information.

Quebeckers tend to think that everything is better elsewhere, and this may true of Canadians too: if the Americans do something, it must be good, they have such a great country. However, I have met Europeans and had discussions with them. My English is not the greatest but we managed to communicate. They told me “You are lucky in Quebec, you have excellent privacy legislation”. Excellent legislation that applies not only to government agencies but also to the private sector.

These European countries would like to model their legislation on the Quebec legislation. I would have expected, a few weeks later, that the legislation debated in this House to at least incorporate the same features as the Quebec legislation. I appreciate the international considerations involved.

In Quebec, we consider trade to be a provincial jurisdiction. As members know, while this bill deals with electronic trade, we are here to look after Quebec's interests. We may still be in the federal system, as we are not yet sovereign, but for the time being we are looking after our interests. That is only normal; nobody can blame us for that.

People from other countries, foreign parliamentarians, foreign delegates, told us in private—and one of them even had a copy of the act with him—that it was an excellent one and they hoped to get the same thing passed in their countries. This is not necessarily an easy thing to do, because some interest groups are not anxious to see things changed.

For instance, there is the fact that the core of the bill is to be found in the schedules, and that it reflects proposals by one sector concerned. I would draw to the House's attention to clause 5(2). I have read it and thought I could reassure the hon. member for Chambly, but I see it will just add to his doubts. This clause reads:

(2) The word “should”, when used in Schedule 1, indicates a recommendation and does not impose an obligation.

This caught my attention. I then turned to the schedule, and the word “should” is just about everywhere. This is not just a fluke, nor is it surprising, because this is a code of ethics they worked out amongst themselves. Would a given sector deliberately set out to cause itself problems? No, so everything is expressed with “should”. “But that it is what a recommendation is”, they counter.

Now I have seen everything. It is not often a person sees legislation that, instead of forbidding something, as the hon. member for Chambly would like, limits its language to saying “we would really like it to be this way”.

I do not think legislation like this is long for this world. It will not stand up to the rigours of life in Quebec or in Canada for very long. It needs to be a lot more substantial than it is, particularly because it is aimed at the future. If I understood the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre correctly, he said that something had to be done, even though it is not perfect. He is candid enough to admit that, and rightly so. He said “Something had to be done”, and since they were anxious to get at it—although he did not say that—“people were calling for it, so we went ahead and drafted a bill. We did a rush job and did not do our homework”.

The party over there did not do its homework. Instead of thinking of something on its own, it let the sector concerned suggest a bill. This is not the usual way of doing things. I hope it will not become a habit with this parliament, because that would be dangerous.

Reading the objectives, one would think the bill is a complex one because it is multi-dimensional. Yes, there is an international dimension.

I will make an aside here. This morning, I was reading in the newspaper that the OECD has finally given up on making the MIA official, more or less. The question was whether this would be done within the World Trade Organization, the WTO, instead. I agree international organizations should be involved.

Yes, there are international dimensions to it, and yes this needs to be watched. At the same time, careful thought is required before an approach that will take on very broad proportions is given free rein. It would be out of the control of the countries involved. Once an agreement like the MAI is signed, it will be in place for a while. For 20 years in some cases and 10 in others.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to please let me know when I have only one minute left so I can move an amendment at the end of my remarks.

The member for Lac-Saint-Jean was concerned about parliamentarians' loss of control of the powers to legislate and to control.

I think there is some truth to what he says in this case. It will take a while for all the OECD countries to reach agreement, but once they do, it will be for a long time. Why will it take a while? Because the interests of the OECD countries vary. However, they are not the poorest countries. Even the richest countries have reservations. Why? Are they about protecting the ordinary citizen internationally? Do ordinary citizens have a lobby powerful enough to raise their interests in these meetings, which may not be secret, but are nevertheless open to only a few? Parliamentarians can do that.

I cannot really agree with having the heart of a bill in the schedule and including in it a provision saying that everything not foreseen as well as changes will be decided by the commissioner with the approval of the governor in council. The governor in council, as we know, is cabinet.

This would be totally beyond the control of the members of Parliament, who are duly elected to represent the people. This is another element that gives rise to serious concerns, which oblige us to say that the bill is half-baked and has not had the full scrutiny of the people in the department. The sector concerned is being allowed to propose legislation; the usual provisions go into the bill, and we are told what is in the schedule—the standards established by the sector concerned—will have force of law.

I gave the example of the question of the member for Chambly earlier. The bill does not answer his objection since it does not specify what is prohibited. The penalties are not clearly defined either, should such a thing occur. Also, even the best legislation in the world is useless if it cannot be enforced, because it becomes mere rhetoric.

Some say “this is a modern era. We have computers and systems that allow us to do transactions and e-commerce. This is a new venture. It is high technology. It is extraordinary”. I am all for modern technology, but the privacy of personal information must be protected.

In Quebec, we have a good act that applies to every sector, including government services, businesses and even non profit organizations. Every type of organization is included. As I said earlier, it is an act which is being used as a model by European countries interested in doing the same.

My other concern is that we are dealing with commerce, which is a provincial jurisdiction. But we will monitor the situation.

The new member for Sherbrooke did not waste any time. He reviewed the bill and he thinks it makes no sense. In fact, he will tell us about it in the coming days. He also supports my motion. I move:

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

”Bill C-54, Personal Information and Electroinic Documents Act, be not now read a second time but that the Order be discharged, the Bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Industry.”

This was the substance of my comments.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière for the magnificent speech he has just given.

It was certainly an eye-opener for me. It will go down in the history of the House as a landmark speech on the topic of personal information protection. It calls to mind events in the House in 1916 when politicians opposed Ontario's legislation on language of instruction. It will undoubtedly set a precedent in the House.

I am somewhat surprised. Earlier, I put some questions to the member for Winnipeg Centre, who tried to quell my concerns about the bill. However, because, as members of parliament, we try to look at bills from the viewpoint of our constituents and find out whether a bill might affect them or us, and given what my colleague, the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière has just revealed, the bill would be far more aptly named “An act to pay lip service to personal information protection”. That would be a far better description.

I would like to know whether the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière received, or knew of, any comments from experts in this area. I am thinking of Quebeckers, who are also—I hope for as short a time as possible—still Canadians. Were there any particular Quebeckers who filled him in and contributed to his position on this topic?

I would like him to tell us what these people have to say about the bill before us this morning, with its pretentious and lengthy title. I would like him to give us his views on this.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we move on to the hon. member's answer, I want to indicate that the amendment is in order.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the member for Chambly raises very pertinent questions. He probably knew I could respond. In fact, I have a quote and I hope he will find it satisfactory.

I am referring to the 1997-98 annual report of the Quebec access to information commission. I shall skip comments on other issues, but here is what it says about privacy on the information highway.

About the CSA code proposed by the Canadian Standards Association, it says:

The commission has examined the consequences of introducing Canada-wide standards and legal principles regarding privacy on the information highway. Under the terms of a proposal submitted to the ministers responsible for setting up this highway, this protection would be based on the voluntary code of practice developed by the Canadian Standards Association, or CSA, and adopted in 1990.

It is the commission's contention that, if implemented, this proposal would represent a setback on the privacy issue in Quebec.

This contention is based on a comprehensive review of the CSA code. There is good reason to be pleased with the Canadian industry adopting such a code. This marks quite a breakthrough, stemming from an interesting analysis of the OECD guidelines on privacy.

The report goes on:

However, the CSA code does not meet the objectives of the personal information protection system established under the two Quebec laws, namely to guarantee to all citizens an impartial and fair solution to any problem or conflict that may arise with regard to the protection of this most important aspect of one's privacy.

Therefore, the Commission suggested to the Quebec Minister of Culture and Communications that she remind her counterparts that Quebec has such a statutory system in place. According to the Commission, the Quebec system is the only response to the challenges of the information highway that respects the rights of citizens.

In other words, it is better to keep what one already has than to change it for something worse.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Liberal

Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the speech of the member from Lévis and the accolades between the two members of the Bloc. I am a little disappointed the member would say that the legislation was drafted in hurry and that there was not enough consultation.

The bill took into account the privacy bill that is now used in Quebec, which does not apply outside Quebec. Many stakeholders provided information in the development of the bill. It was patterned not only on the model of the bill in Quebec but on the Canadian Standards Association model code for the protection of personal information.

Many things were taken into account as the bill was being drafted, for example, accountability; identifying purpose; consent; limiting collection; limiting use, disclosure and retention; accuracy; safeguards; openness; individual access; and challenging compliance.

I do not know how we got on to MAI and all those other things that have nothing to do with the bill. One of the problems in the House is that we want to debate other things while we have a bill of substance before the House. Hopefully in the future we could find a better way to debate the intent of a bill in the House and not those other things.

The member from Lévis talked about not being able to have reviews and parliament not being part of them. I want to go over what the privacy commissioner's role will be. In addition to handling complaints, remedies and public information, an annual report will be brought to the House by the privacy commissioner. It already states, five years after the implementation of the bill, that the House will have an opportunity to review in full progress of the bill.

I know computers in this electronic age will change. Is the member from Lévis saying that the review of the annual report and the thorough review after five years are insufficient? I would ask him to speak to those two items rather than going all the way around the world.