House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-6.


Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Industry

moved that Bill C-6, 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 third time and passed.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place between all parties and I believe that you would find consent for the following:

That, not later than 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders this day, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion for third reading of Bill C-6, be deemed put and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, October 26, 1999, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.


John Manley Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to address the House of Commons again on Bill C-6, the personal information protection and electronic documents act. This act was developed in response to a very real and pressing need. Canadians have told us in clear terms that they want their personal data protected no matter where it goes, no matter who uses it, trades it or holds it. Business wants a level playing field, with competitors bound by the same rules. As well, Canadians want the option to communicate with their governments electronically.

Privacy is something that Canadians feel very strongly about. In a July 1998 Angus Reid poll 88% of Canadians polled said that they found it unacceptable for companies and organizations to sell, trade or share lists containing personal information with other organizations. Bill C-6 will give Canadians the privacy protection which they desire and which they are entitled to receive.

The bill is a legitimate exercise of the federal government's authority to legislate in respect of trade and commerce in Canada. The increasing ubiquity of networks and the speed of the technology means companies are collecting more information, circulating it more widely and combining it more ingeniously than ever before.

Personal information is now a commodity which can be bought, sold and traded. It has commercial value in and of itself. That information is crossing all boundaries—provincial, territorial and national.

Provinces acting alone and even together cannot pass laws that can effectively protect information crossing those boundaries.

A company in Alberta company collecting information from Manitobans may disclose it to another company in New Brunswick or New York. Canada needs a federal law to protect personal data in these circumstances. We also need a harmonized regime—with the provinces and territories playing their part in their areas of competence.

Bill C-6 establishes the right of all individuals to privacy in a way that is consistent with the reasonable needs of organizations to collect, use and disclose personal information. As our competitors around the globe scramble to put in place the frameworks that will create the consumer confidence to make electronic commerce a practical reality, the privacy protection in Bill C-6 will put Canada at the forefront.

Parts 2 to 5 of Bill C-6 will eliminate the paper bias in our federal laws by making them media neutral. Bill C-6 will put electronic transactions governed by federal laws on the same footing as paper ones. It will ensure business and citizens that an electronic document and an electronic signature has legal standing.

Bill C-6 will make the electronic transmission of information through computers an option that is realistic, practical and legally sound.

I would like to acknowledge at this point the excellent work of the Standing Committee on Industry. The committee members have been conscientious and helpful in improving the legislation and I am grateful to them for their efforts. They have helped to make a good bill better. In particular, I recognize the efforts of the member for St. Catharines who served as my parliamentary secretary until August and who provided tremendous support in bringing this bill to report stage.

The committee members identified and addressed the needs of stakeholders with regard to this legislation, and the bill is stronger for their scrutiny and attention. Amendments resulted in key areas such as the primacy of protection of privacy, protection for whistleblowers and provisions for a review of the effectiveness of the bill every five years.

Committee members always remembered that the goal is a balance product and that when you add a bit to one side of the scale you must also keep the other side in mind, to ensure that equilibrium is maintained.

We are all aware that the legislative process can be both and complicated. But again, the process of public hearings and debate has resulted in a superior outcome.

I would like to highlight briefly what some key witnesses told the Standing Committee on Industry during its hearings on the personal information protection and electronic documents bill. Consumers and privacy advocates supported the bill and expressed a desire to see it passed now, even if not all of their requested changes were made.

Some privacy advocates called for more powers for the privacy commissioner. Some even demanded binding powers for the commissioner. However, the federal privacy commissioner himself stated quite eloquently that he did not want binding powers and that the most elegant and least cumbersome way to achieve the desired results would be through a proactive approach based on education and ombudsman-like powers. In the end, the validity of the privacy commissioner's arguments was recognized and prevailed.

When it was the business community's turn to address Bill C-6 many stressed their support for the legislation and appreciation for its basis in the CSA standard. The view was expressed that the smooth harmonization of privacy frameworks across the country is highly desirable. Businesses and consumers alike told the industry committee that they also welcomed parts 2 to 5 of the bill, which will permit the government to deliver services to its citizens electronically and permit the government and the courts to use and accept electronic documents and signatures.

The business community needs the continued ability to gather information to detect fraud and the violation of agreements. This ability is important to sectors as diverse as the computer software and insurance industries.

The intent of Bill C-6 is to strike a delicate balance between these entirely legitimate needs and consumers' equally valid expectations for privacy protection.

Amendments aimed at helping businesses combat fraud were carefully designed to maintain that balance. The committee received the benefit of appearances by the federal Privacy Commissioner, the Ontario commissioner and the British Columbia commissioner and a brief from the Quebec commissioner.

The commissioners were very strong in their support for public education and held that its value in changing the landscape of privacy protection is great.

The Ontario commissioner emphasized this point. She stated that public education changes practices for the better and reduces complaints.

Topics such as harmonization and duplication of regulation received thoughtful consideration. The Quebec commissioner made suggestions for avoiding areas of potential confusion, while other commissioners held that the bill could be passed first and appropriate administrative arrangements worked out afterward among commissioners.

The bill's structure was also a focus of comment. The B.C. commissioner dismissed any criticism that the bill might be awkward to read as some had argued. He stated that many laws, even consumer protection laws, were written in complex language and expressed his confidence that Canada's privacy commissioners would be competent enough to interpret and implement Bill C-6.

Ever mindful of the need to continuously improve on the bill, we introduced amendments after the industry committee's report to the House. We improved the primacy clause and required confidential measures in federal court hearings. We have amended clause 30 to clarify how the bill applies in its first three years.

And we have made changes to ensure that law enforcement bodies can continue to carry out their mandate as they currently do.

These law enforcement amendments clarify for organizations the circumstances under which they may accede to the lawful requests of government institutions for personal information for national security for enforcement or administration purposes.

These amendments allow the status quo to continue and allow businesses to continue to co-operate, where appropriate. These amendments do not grant new powers to government institutions, nor do they create new obligations on business.

The intent of the bill is to regulate the commercial use of personal information. For instance, in the case of the publicly funded health care system, the bill is not intended to impede the flow of information necessary for the protection of patients' health and the improvement of the administration of health care. To clarify this, I tabled an amendment on October 15 which specifically addresses the need to share information without consent when it is necessary for the administration of a law or program.

The information highway offers opportunities to improve the efficacy and indeed accountability of our health care system. Organizations such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information assists in this endeavour. Bill C-6 is intended to facilitate these initiatives as it provides a basic set of fair information practices around which all stakeholders can harmonize. In the pursuit of a harmonized privacy protection regime for Canada, we encourage all the provinces and the territories to move swiftly to legislate broadly in their own jurisdictions.

In closing, a brief overview of what the personal information protection and electronic documents act will accomplish will reveal how the government has addressed the concerns of witnesses who appeared before the committee.

The overarching goal of Bill C-6 is to codify a right to privacy without placing a heavy burden on business, intruding unduly on the right of freedom of expression or destroying our historical memory by interfering with the preservation of documents.

Bill C-6 will foster responsible privacy practices. Oversight will be complaints driven, but the Privacy Commissioner has been given a strong public education and advisory role.

The commissioner will be able to help businesses comply with the law, launch investigations, compel witnesses and evidence and conduct audits where he has a reasonable cause to think that something might be happening that is contrary to the law.

Bill C-6 will establish harmonized national rules to avoid different sets of rules for business and the resulting confusion for citizens. The provisions will also encourage provincial and territorial action to legislate. Only Quebec has its own privacy law in place. British Columbia is working on one, and with the strong federal leadership that the bill represents, we expect others will soon follow.

Canada is unique in the world for having developed a national standard to protect privacy. Considerable momentum already exists in the application of the CSA code in the marketplace. A number of industry associates and firms have CSA based codes. It makes sense to build on that consensus and momentum and that is what Bill C-6 has done.

Internationally, the adoption of Bill C-6 will show the way to the future. The use of standards is an accepted way to resolve trade disputes over differing national rules and Canada will continue to support the movement toward an international privacy standard.

Canadians need and they want privacy protection. The right of Canadians to control their personal data is within their reach with the bill. The bill before the House is a product of informed review by many experts in the field of data protection and electronic commerce, of widespread public consultations and of an extensive examination by members of the House. It is a good bill.

In releasing his annual report earlier this week, Mr. Bruce Phillips, Canada's Privacy Commissioner, said this:

The bill represents considerable ingenuity and not a little courage. It is no magic bullet...But we must begin by doing something and doing it quickly. If we fiddle in the face of lobbying and jurisdictional disputes, Canadians' privacy and the business opportunities on-line will burn.

I could not agree more. It is time to move the bill on. I urge all members of the House to support passage of Bill C-6, to support the right of Canadian citizens to protect their own personal, private information.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-6, which is the old Bill C-54 from the last session of parliament, is a bill largely about the future. The government is trying to catch up with technology to regulate for reasonable order and safety, much like governments did as they tried to keep up with the emergence of the motor car, airplane, travel, telephones, radio broadcasting, television and now a universe of information transfer and monitoring never imagined by the writers of our constitution passed in 1867.

Form continues to follow function and I am sure that the present bill will be subject to much amendment in future years as society attempts to respond to issues of sovereignty, rights, protection and general order. Maybe it could be said that Alvin Toffler was right that social change accelerates and we all struggle to deal with future shock, even governments.

The future is now, and the bill is written 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 a record of information or transactions and by amending the Canada Evidence Act, the Statutory Instruments Act and the Statute Revision Act.

Part 1 of the bill establishes a right to the protection of personal information used in commercial activities in connection with the operation of a federal work, undertaking, or business or interprovincially or internationally. It establishes principles to govern the collection, the use and disclosure of personal information. It deals with accountability, identifying the purposes for the collection of personal information, obtaining consent, limiting collection, limiting use, disclosure and retention, ensuring accuracy, providing adequate security, making information management policies readily available, providing individuals with access to information about themselves and giving individuals a right to challenge an organization's compliance with these principles.

It further provides for the privacy commissioner to receive complaints concerning contraventions of the principles, conduct investigations and attempt to resolve such complaints. Unresolved disputes relating to certain matters can also be taken to the federal court for resolution.

Part 2 sets out a scheme by which requirements in federal statutes and regulations that assume the use of paper do not necessarily expressly permit the use of electronic technology, may be administered or complied with in the electronic environment. The bill grants authority to make regulations about how these requirements may be satisfied by using electronic means. Part 2 also describes the characteristics of secure electronic signatures and grants authority to make regulations prescribing technologies for the purpose of the definition of “secure electronic signature”.

Part 3 amends the Canada Evidence Act to ease the admissibility of electronic documents, to establish evidentiary presumptions related to secure electronic signatures and to provide for the recognition as evidence of notices, acts or other documents published electronically by the Queen's Printer.

Part 4 amends the Statutory Instruments Act to authorize the publication of the Canada Gazette by electronic means, which will certainly be thanked by many.

Part 5 amends the Statute Revision Act to authorize the publication and distribution of an electronic version of the consolidated statutes and regulations of Canada. This is a democratizing barrier removal for all citizens.

We have been at the Canadian democratic experiment at least since 1867, 132 years or more, with our evolution to responsible and accountable government from dependent colonialism.

I am here in parliament as a Reformer in part because it is too evident that we still have a lot of work to do on that score to take up the job of expanding the boundary of democracy, of implementing needed change. Sadly it is a quest that the old reformers forsook, those who became the true Grits, for the Liberals who have long forgotten about being the repressed underdog in governance, for they are now so smugly superior, secretly plotting to avoid real public political accountability. In view of what happened, it could be reasoned that the Reform Party are the liberals of the 21st century, for we are now the agents of change, struggling against an entrenched establishment party that is reluctant to let go of privilege and power.

It is an ideological gap that I am talking about. With Bill C-6 they are playing catch-up. As in commerce, Canada has a long way to catch up politically, even reforming this very parliament.

Canada started with a constitution that was rooted in certain basic principles and was written by some incredibly brilliant people who understood that times would change, the definitions of fundamental things of governance would change and that circumstances would require people to rise to the challenges of each new era by applying old values in practical ways.

It is recognized that as Canada changed from being an agricultural to an industrial society that the laws made under simpler conditions of living could not handle the complex relations of the modern industrial world, and now even the cyber age.

While the bill attempts to deal with some technological matters that have gone way ahead of governance, Reformers also work for the day when we can bring this creaky institution of parliament into the cyber age of political accountability, using technology to more fully obtain political consent from an informed electorate who watches, engages and decides, often through electronic means.

It is present day Reformers that seek to move the boundaries between old and new. We might even get TV cameras in the Senate some day and have more committees televised. Parliament needs to get fully plugged in, turned on and really connected to the people it is supposed to serve.

Reformers of old, it must be remembered, fought hard to adapt our institutions to new realities, to update vital protections for our citizens, to expand the developing notions of the right to privacy which has become most valued by our present culture.

We are in the midst of another vast social transformation. Once again the law needs to govern fluid markets, documentation and legal exchange. They are so dynamic they could not have been imagined in the British North America Act of 1867 when it enumerated responsibilities. But the pace of change is very different, not just the nature of change but the very pace of it. Once again we have to respond, applying our oldest values and practical ways that allow them to be preserved and enhanced in modern times.

We all know that technology and competition have revolutionized the financial services industry. I think most of us believe that by and large these changes have been very good. But many people do not have the knowledge to properly evaluate what is truly a dizzying array of options. Some are falling victim to new abusive practices. Others are being left out of the financial marketplace altogether. That is why we have to deal with these things in parliament, to give all Canadians both the tools and the confidence they need to fully participate in the thriving but highly complex 21st century economy that will often be focused in the world of electronic commerce.

The term electronic commerce refers generally to commercial transactions, involving both organizations and individuals, that are based upon the processing and transmission of digitized data, including text, sound and visual images, and that are carried out over open networks. Although much media attention is focused on online merchants selling books, wine and computers, the vast majority of products marketed electronically business to consumer are intangibles such as travel and ticketing services, software entertainment such as online games, music and gambling, as well as banking, insurance and brokerage services, information services, legal services, real estate services and increasingly health care, education and government services.

In view of these realities there are some principles that must be regarded. The first thing we have to do is to protect every Canadian's financial privacy. There has been analysis to identify where privacy is at risk and finance certainly was the first obvious area of great concern.

The technological revolution now makes it easier than ever before for people to dig into and collect our private financial data for their own profit. Some private financial information is protected under existing federal law. One's banker, broker or insurance company could still share with affiliated firms information of what one buys with cheques and credit cards or sell this information to the highest bidder.

We need better laws to give Canadians the right to control their financial information, to let the consumer decide whether they want to share private information with anyone else. They need to know where it goes and why.

To enhance financial privacy we must also protect the sanctity of medical records. With a growing number of mergers between companies, financial institutions and lenders potentially can gain access to the private medical information contained in insurance forms or from government subcontractors. We need to severely restrict the sharing of medical information. People should not have to worry that the results of their latest medical physical exam will be used to deny them a home mortgage or a credit card. The possibilities must be carefully anticipated for protection.

It should be understood that our basic privacy is at stake. As electronic commerce develops, the volume and the nature of personal data such as name, address, interests and records of all purchases can be disclosed on networks during electronic activities and these transactions certainly will increase.

New methods for processing the vast accumulation of data such as data mining allow the creation of customer profiles that combine demographic data, credit information, usage patterns and minute details of transactions. If consumers do not have control over the collection and use of their personal data, electronic commerce must facilitate the invasion of their privacy. But if consumers are in a position to either decline or to give informed consent to the collection and use of their personal data, electronic commerce will not be too much different from traditional commerce.

In today's world, consumers may participate in what we call fidelity or loyal shopping plans, or choose to exchange their privacy for something they value such as lower prices, convenience or personalization. Businesses and consumers will have to help adjudicate the tradeoff between protecting privacy and obtaining the benefits of electronic commerce that both value. Education on this issue is therefore of primary importance.

The question has come up about illegal and harmful content. There has been much public concern about the content of some of the information distributed and accessed on the Internet. Disagreeable or detrimental content is not more prevalent on the Internet than beneficial content, but the people who distribute and access disagreeable or detrimental material on the Internet enjoy the same advantages offered by the Internet as others do. The positive elements are vast in terms of opportunities for electronic commerce, community development, communication and access to information.

The reality is that with those benefits come the difficulties of coping with content judged to be detrimental. The development of electronic commerce could potentially be impeded by illegal and harmful content issues where users fear unwanted content and where network service providers fear the liability they will take on if they are expected to be responsible for the content that flows across their systems. Although traditional methods for addressing these issues may not be as feasible in the electronic environment, advances in technology are offering new ways to resolve some of these issues.

We must require greater public disclosure and enhance every consumer's right to know. Consumers received millions of credit card solicitations last year. Some offers contained new traps for the unwary. For example, sometimes credit card companies advertise low interest rates known as teaser rates to reel in consumers who are then surprised with unexpected interest rate hikes.

Millions of consumers have also found out the hard way that making only minimum payments rarely helps retire debt and almost always results in very large interest payments. We should require clear notice of how long and how costly repayments would be if the consumer makes only the minimum payment.

We have to do more to combat consumer fraud. It is remarkably easy now for a thief to take out huge loans in someone else's name, run up enormous credit card debts and tap into bank accounts. We have now heard at least twice this year in the Commons that the RCMP do not have the basic resources to attack consumer commercial fraud. Consequently capacity creates its own demand and it will only flourish if the government is not minding the people's business.

We need to give priority to cases involving identity theft, particularly those involving organized crime groups with the goal of increasing the number of prosecutions. It must be made harder to steal someone else's identity in the first place. Telephone long distance fraud is also rampant and the millions lost is reflected on my telephone bill.

We also need to crack down on fraud committed over the Internet. If we want to seize the Internet's full potential, we have to stay ahead of those who would use this open medium to manipulate stock prices, commit fraud on online auctions or perpetuate any other type of financial scam. We need a national co-ordinated approach for tracking Internet fraud and to train those in provincial and federal law enforcement how to recognize and root out these schemes.

It could be said that the law enforcement community compared to people who are doing criminal activity are like unaware parents trying to keep up with their children who go on the computer. It is an endless effort. We need to organize and systematize a continuous retraining effort and have a federal government with a vision to commit the resources needed so that we can stay ahead of the crime curve.

Investors need better information to protect themselves against online securities fraud. Complaints of Internet fraud are greatly increasing, for every new medium of exchange brings a new opportunity for criminal exploitation. Are the Liberals on top of it? I doubt it, for they have shown time and again that they are not really wise managers of the public trust.

We must provide services for those who have been denied access to the wired world and ensure opportunities for all. Technology can bring, for example, credit and banking services to the disenfranchised. We need to continue to expand the bounds of service for the aged and the challenged with low fee bank accounts and services in ways that maximize the possibility of technology yet preserve safety and accountability.

Electronic commerce dramatically reduces the economic distance between producers and consumers. Consumers can make their purchases directly without involving traditional retailers, wholesalers and in some cases distributors. They benefit from improved information, lower transaction costs and thus lower prices, and larger choices which can include products tailored to individual requirements and instant delivery for intangible services and products in digital form.

For sellers, electronic commerce also presents many advantages. Small scale manufacturers can gain access to a global marketplace with relative ease. Specialist resellers enjoy the same advantage. Neither need maintain a physical store or shop and inventory can be managed more efficiently.

Labour cost savings can be considerable. For instance, one estimate places the cost of buying software on the Internet at 20 cents to 50 cents per transaction as opposed to $5 for a telephone order and $15 our a traditional retailer. But just as electronic commerce offers new market opportunities, it will also intensify competition. It will probably make some provisions of provincial labour codes obsolete.

Government must strive to provide the opportunity for everyone to have access to electronic commerce. The key difference in having rights and benefiting from them is the degree of participation and full exchange. Anyone with access to the Internet has access to electronic commerce. Online commerce requires hardware such as computers and servers, software, and the ability to connect to the network itself which may involve access to telephone, cable TV, cellular mobile networks, satellites or broadcasting networks. Equipment costs, access charges and the complexity of the evolving Internet itself are barriers to universal Internet access. At present, regulatory structures in many countries still limit market access by infrastructure providers. This is changing with the liberalization of telecommunications.

Estimates of the number of Internet users vary between 30 million and 50 million. It is a rapidly growing population. Just three or four years ago the number of users was only in the thousands.

The number of commercial transactions made over the Internet is also rapidly growing. Nearly all analysts predict growth by factors of 10 or more and that electronic commerce will overtake the size of mail catalogue sales in the United States alone.

The networks are being built but they will likely never be comprehensive or fast enough for changing demands. Sadly, the law, protections and regulatory climate will always be behind, especially if the Liberals stay in power in Canada.

Internet communications are generally established through telephone systems which were built to carry voice, not data. These systems need to evolve. At present most customers connect to communications networks via a standard telephone line. Local telephone tariffs currently account for more than 60% of the cost of Internet access. The expansion of electronic commerce depends on speeding up data transmission while keeping the costs very low.

Increasing competition in the communications market is the best way to encourage network upgrading. One key to increasing competition is to put in place regulatory structures that encourage the creation of networks providing and supporting all types of applications, including entertainment, voice telephony and electronic commerce. However, it seems that we will always have one hand tied behind our backs in this country, because we have a Canadian policy for Luddites who vainly resist in the name of Canadian content which seems premised upon a cultural inferiority complex.

Our law must properly follow the opportunities of technology for jobs, growth and trade. By raising economic efficiency, electronic commerce will increase overall wealth. In doing so, it will impose adjustments on existing economic structures, for electronic commerce may well result in the loss of employment in traditional distribution and retailing. However, experience demonstrates that technological change will create new and better replacement jobs.

Electronic commerce is already creating new high quality computing and communications jobs linked to the development of global digital markets. Of course the NDP will rail against it and claim it needs an even more iron fisted union to stop the sun from rising, the light of new knowledge coming in, or it will want a world ruler of the Tobin tax to mitigate against what it cannot comprehend. Outdated political ideologies hurt people, stunt potential, breed poverty and perpetuate oppression and servitude. That is what the NDP ideology must be understood to bring, in light of discussing the implications of Bill C-6 and the future.

From the perspective of the firm, the cost of doing business on new electronic networks is significantly lower than the cost of traditional methods. This advantage plus the ability to offer high value, content rich products and services has led to exponential growth in the number of firms entering electronic commerce and related businesses. This is most evident in the urban North American centres but is becoming evident in other countries as well.

By bringing buyers and sellers closer together, electronic commerce will facilitate trade growth. Canadian wealth is based on international trade, but there is no help from the NDP anti-traders belief system.

What we are talking about also has consequences for taxation and tariffs. Jurisdictional rules applying to taxes and tariffs are generally based on concepts of physical geography, such as place of supply or residence of a taxpayer. As electronic commerce is not bound by physical geography, it may become difficult for taxpayers and governments to determine jurisdiction and revenue rights. For consumption taxes, there may be a need for action to avoid double or non-taxation.

The availability, reliability and completeness of commercial records generated in an electronic commercial environment, including those from electronic payment systems, are also of concern. Such records must be relied upon to ensure that taxation and tariffs have been appropriately and fairly applied.

Many forms of taxation and tariffs are levelled on physical goods. The ability in electronic commerce to create electronic substitutes like electronic books presents challenges for revenue collection and the archaic quota regimes overseen by our heritage minister.

The existence of electronic products also raises issues of fairness between taxes and tariffs imposed on physical goods and electronic substitutes. The ability within the electronic distribution channels to bypass any or all of these traditional middlemen between producer and consumer raises serious issues for the collection of taxes, particularly withholding taxes.

The use of electronic commerce technologies in the form of intranets by multinationals and collaborative groups may tend to increase the prevalence of transfer pricing and increase the difficulty of detecting such behaviour.

The predicted growth of international electronic commerce, much of which may be undertaken by smaller less sophisticated businesses, may mean the number of unintentional breaches of international revenue laws could increase.

Given the global nature of electronic commerce, it is important that the decisions taken by government continue to allow for the international flow of data. Moreover, technological tools will offer new ways to allow users to protect themselves. Some of them are mechanisms for verifying information such as labelling systems which certify that an online business meets certain good standards of business. Other mechanisms exist for notifying consumers of legal jurisdiction or venue for resolving disputes arising from a transaction. Some others allow consumers to access educational messages that describe their rights in the context of electronic transactions.

Canada certainly needs to work with the international community to provide a forum for continuing exchange of views on developing technologies and an institutional framework to support them. We also have to increase the financial and electronic literacy of the Canadian people. It is not enough to know how to balance a chequebook any more. Even those fortunate to have the help of accountants sometimes have a hard time understanding all the ins and outs of investing in an RSP, paying off credit card debt or refinancing a mortgage.

Knowledge is power and as Canadians understand technology they will use it in ways that make it accountable to them, as it enhances their quality of life. Laws and regulations must go hand in hand with an informed public if technology is to serve us rather than us serving it.

As reported in the Ottawa Citizen today, Ontario residents may soon have a single computerized card that will do everything from providing access to health care to serving as a driver's licence under a new project unveiled by the province. The smart card concept announced in the provincial government's throne speech yesterday, it is hoped, will mean more convenience for the public and less fraud. The term usually refers to a credit card with a tiny computer chip that contains lots of information about the cardholder that can replace the need for many cards. The one card will include a driver's licence, access to services such as medicare, social assistance and senior benefits.

The future is here. How far off will it be that a ton of information that can be put on one small card will simply be put on a microscopic chip under the skin on one's hand? By then the universal numbers will be assigned at birth, which can be the international drawing rights credit card, citizenship and right to vote registration for the world, and contain personal international telephone and computer access numbers. The technology seems to be coming, but are the law and society ready for these realities?

That is what we are trying to do with Bill C-6. It is an attempt to improve privacy, enhance disclosure, combat fraud, increase access and bring the transactional world of commerce and law under some semblance of control.

Members of the official opposition engaged fully in the process of the bill. We offered a number of constructive improvements which the government was rather arrogant about accepting, as old style governments usually are. Nevertheless Reformers support the bill since it is as good as we can get it at this time.

Reform recognizes the fine line between the right of Canadians to have freedom of speech and the right of privacy. The need for that balance has become acute as Canadians embrace new technologies. Therefore we support the regulation that Bill C-6 introduces.

As the world changes and the proposed act needs adjustment in the future, I hope it will not take as long to do as the years it took the hapless Conservative and the bumbling Liberal governments to update the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Nevertheless the government had at least one good minister to finally get it done, the Minister of Industry.

In conclusion, the objectives of the bill are broadly similar to the ones used to harness the opportunities and benefits of the industrial revolution. They are just as vital today, if not more so, as they were a century ago. It is now time to use them to seize the enormous potential of the information revolution for every Canadian citizen.

If we work together we can help all families have the benefits of new choices and new technologies. We can help our people thrive in the 21st century. All we have to do is to remember how we got here over the last 132 years.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, here we are at third reading of Bill C-6, formerly Bill C-54, whereby the federal government intends, as far as we are concerned in Quebec, to become king and master of what the protection of personal information should be.

In spite of all the attempts on the part of the Bloc Quebecois and all those who came before the parliamentary committee to show how bad this bill would be for Quebec, we are not debating it at third reading.

Before going any further, I want to salute the excellent job done by my colleague from Mercier who single-handedly carried this matter for a year to bring government members to realize the impact this bill would have in Quebec and how flawed it is even for those Canadians it purports to protect.

We could talk about the real efficiency of this bill which is more about promoting electronic commerce than protecting personal information. This week, the government decided to ram through this bill by the end of business today and to defer the division at third reading until the beginning of next week.

The bill contains some amendments coming from the government. It is important to know that, half way through, the government saw the holes in its bills and started improvizing, trying to improve certain areas, tabling amendments of its own after witnesses were heard in committee. Thus, the government, realizing its bill was flawed, brought in new amendments, but did not allow any debate on them to give people a chance to be heard. Groups who appeared before the committee never saw them, which creates a very dangerous situation.

Strangely enough, some of the last-minute amendments exempt the government from the application of its own act in a number of cases. Is it not strange that the government should come to this realization only after the committee hearing stage, and that it thought appropriate to give itself and its components some manoeuvering room in order not to abide by its own law? This is a bit surprising coming from a government that says it wants to protect people but is looking for ways to avoid doing so itself whenever possible.

This brings me to the case of Quebec. For five years now, Quebec has had an act for the protection of personal information in the private sector. This act serves as a model, because there are very few others like it; in fact, it is the only one of its kind in North America. Now the federal government has decided to take a page from our book.

It is a desirable thing that all Canadians be protected with respect to the distribution of their personal information. But, seeing how slow the other provinces have been to act, the federal government decided to introduce legislation. I would point out, however, that the provinces, in conjunction with the federal government, had already embarked on a process of harmonizing legislation. But, last year, the federal government decided unilaterally to withdraw from the process and come up with its own legislation.

It withdrew from the joint effort it had embarked on with the provinces, an exercise in which Quebec had pointed out that it had its own legislation. By the way, there are two relevant instruments in Quebec: the act, and the Civil Code, which also governs the protection of personal information. If memory serves, the applicable articles of the Civil Code are 35 to 40. The act is thoroughly steeped in Quebec's civil law tradition, as opposed to the common law tradition on which the federal government's approach is based.

Enforcement will be extremely difficult. It is no accident that the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre des notaires, the Conseil du patronat, and a union body such as the CSN told the government that what it was proposing for Quebec was ridiculous, that it would be unworkable and complicated for businesses, a complete disaster.

There was legislation protecting personal information and not focussed on encouraging e-commerce. E-commerce will grow despite the federal government. It does not need any legislation to encourage it. It is developing at a phenomenal rate and will continue to do so.

What is needed is assurance of the protection of distribution, disclosure and transmission of personal information.

The federal government has seen fit to provide for this in a schedule to its legislation, not in the legislation itself, and in a conditional mode. I will give hon. members an example of the very fuzzy concepts its contains. In the Government of Quebec's legislation, the consent for release of specific information must be very clear. The individual must have consented to the transfer of his personal information.

At the federal level, the approach is far more vague, so things are not as clear. Explicit consent is not necessarily required. Once again, it can be seen that the two governments are guided by two very different mindsets.

I will continue by quoting from the testimony of some of those who appeared before the committee. In fact, I intend to quote two.

When I was preparing my speech for this morning, a comment I heard came to mind. A man spoke of his fear that the organizations with the greatest interest in invading our privacy were the ones setting the legislative agenda. He said “Now it is clear that Bill C-54”—now Bill C-6—“is an initiative on e-commerce. I believe it is useful to note that the words consumers',businesses', and industry' appear 78 times, whilecitizen' appears only ten times”.

So said Valerie Steve, a professor at the human rights research and education centre. This then is a very different approach from what the government was boasting about this morning, saying that it wants is simply to protect personal information.

I will now quote from the remarks made by the former president of the Quebec bar association, who also has interesting things to say. He said “From a very careful reading of Bill C-54, in my opinion, this would mean a significant step backwards for Quebec”. I repeat “in my own opinion, this would mean a very significant step backwards for Quebec”. He added “These regulations, in fact, this sort of voluntary standard, are given the status of law by making them a schedule. They are not stringent enough to protect consumers. They are full of loopholes for commerce. It is based in large part on a completely outmoded approach to consumer protection with virtually non existent rights of recourse”.

I see that we will soon be proceeding to Statements by Members and Oral Question Period. I will continue afterward. I will return to the notion of recourse for consumers.

I want to ask for unanimous consent to have my speaking time of 40 minutes split into two 20 minute periods, since I will be sharing my time with the member for Mercier. I have used about ten minutes so far and, after my second ten minute period, the member for Mercier will finish the 40 minute period, if there is unanimous consent.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to permit the hon. member to share his time in two 20 minute periods?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


BurlingtonStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year graduating students in Burlington win hundreds of awards recognizing their academic achievement, athletic abilities and interests. Each year it is my pleasure to honour one student at each school with a Paddy Torsney MP Citizenship Award.

This year's winners include Michael Lazarovitch from Assumption, Liane Mahon from Notre Dame, Manjinger Shoker from Burlington Central, Anthony Adrian Van Veen from Lord Elgin, Amy Wah from MM Robinson, Elizabeth Shadwick from Nelson and Sarah Norris from General Brock.

Burlington residents are proud of its youngest citizens. They have demonstrated their commitment to our country. They have volunteered to improve our schools and our community. Their energies are boundless and their accomplishments many.

Congratulations to their parents, teachers and friends for supporting them in their efforts. I know members will join me in wishing each of them continued success and much happiness as they pursue their goals and dreams. Way to go, Burlington.

Doukhobor RussiansStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 1899 many Doukhobor Russians immigrated to Canada to escape persecution due to their pacifist beliefs. A great many of those people have settled in what is now the riding of Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan.

Over the years the Doukhobor people have integrated into Canadian society, but while doing so have still retained their language, culture, religion and traditions. The Doukhobor community is a shining example of how a distinct group of people can preserve and celebrate their heritage by sharing it with other Canadians. Our riding and indeed all of Canada benefit from the wonderful example of family and work ethics provided by the Doukhobors. They amply demonstrate that there is more to be gained through unity than division.

This weekend many of them are gathered here in Ottawa at a conference celebrating their first hundred years in Canada. I am sure that all members of the House will join me in welcoming the Doukhobors and offering congratulations on the contribution they make to Canadian society.

Windsor Public LibraryStatements By Members

October 22nd, 1999 / 11 a.m.


Rick Limoges Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to tell the House that the Windsor Public Library was awarded a gold medal at the Technology in Government Distinction Awards gala held in Ottawa on October 18, 1999. Distinction awards are designed to formally recognize leadership, innovation and excellence in the management and use of information technologies to improve service delivery.

WERLnet, the Windsor Essex Regional Library network project, implemented a state of the art library automation system shared by all partners and available over the Internet. WERLnet was one of 230 projects nominated from all three levels of government from coast to coast. It is the first gold medal winner in the newly created innovative service delivery in the municipalities awards category and was selected by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

I congratulate all those who made this project possible, specifically Steve Salmons, Chief Executive Officer of the Windsor Public Library, who accepted the award on behalf of the WERLnet project and its partners. The city of—

Windsor Public LibraryStatements By Members

11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Malpeque.

Potato IndustryStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, last June 18 I had the opportunity along with the premier of P.E.I. to open the P.E.I. Potato Board Quality Monitoring and Inspection Station. This facility has the capability to inspect the quality of all loads of potatoes leaving the province by truck.

The building was dedicated to the memory of the late Gordon Dawson, a potato producer who was a leader in the industry in growing and promoting quality spuds. A plaque unveiled states: “The P.E.I. potato industry dedicates this facility to the memory of Gordon A. Dawson, Augustine Cove, P.E.I., a potato grower and shipper who firmly believed that growing and marketing the highest quality product is the foundation of Prince Edward Island's strength in potato markets around the world”.

Mr. Dawson and his family exemplified what potato quality is all about. His legacy will continue through this new facility and as a result growers, shippers and consumers will benefit.

CjcsStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year CJCS, Stratford's first and still operating radio station, is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Founded in 1922 by electrician Milford Higgins and ham radio enthusiast Lawrence East, their radio experiments laid the foundation for Stratford's radio future.

Attaining an amateur broadcasting permit in 1923, the station was named C3GG and was originally situated at 151 Ontario Street. Owned at one time by Jack Kent Cooke and Lord Thompson of Fleet, the station has had a few well known announcers from the broadcasting field start out at CJCS. These include LLoyd Robertson, John Thretheway and Frank P. Stalley.

I wish to congratulate the present station owners, Steve and Carolyn Rae, on all their success and wish them a further 75 years of quality live broadcasting.

AgricultureStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, many farmers across the country are going broke or are having a difficult time making ends meet. For most it is through no fault of their own. Farmers are paying the price for this government letting them down in trade talks, for this government overtaxing them everywhere they turn and through everything they buy, for this government imposing unfair user fees on them and for this government burdening our farmers with unnecessary red tape and over regulation.

For six years Reform has fought for the government to lower taxes, to remove unfair user fees, to reduce red tape and to get tough on trade talks. For the past 10 years Reform has proposed compensating farmers through a trade distortion adjustment program for losses resulting from unfair trade practices on the part of Europe, the United States, Asia and elsewhere.

Surely even this government must see that it is reasonable for farmers to receive compensation for losses resulting from unfair trade practices in other countries, but so far all they have received is the Trudeau salute, again.

ChildrenStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in your great city of Kingston this past September a conference, Healthy Children—Healthy Communities, was staged to identify strategies to increase the awareness of and to initiate a call to action for children's health and well-being. Hosted by the Southeastern Ontario District Health Council as a part of its larger Children's Wellness Initiative, it attracted participants from the fields of education, employment, recreation, economics, social services, justice, health and government.

Keynote speakers included renowned medical researcher and early childhood development expert, Dr. Fraser Mustard; Dr. John Wootton, Executive Director of the Office of Rural Health for Health Canada; and our eminent colleague and children's issues advocate, the hon. member for Don Valley West.

Conference participants urged that children be the first priority on all governments' agendas for the new millennium.

Children were indeed a main focal point of the Speech from the Throne. In response, our Prime Minister emphasized that we have no higher priority as a government. “The best place to start is with Canada's children. If we want the brightest future possible for our country, we must ensure that all of our children have the best possible start in life”.

National Co-Op WeekStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Paul Mercier Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week is Co-op Week, and I am very pleased to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all co-op members in Quebec and around the world.

In this era of globalization, at a time when major corporations are streamlining their operations strictly for reasons of profits, co-operatives are viewed as an effective protection against desolidarization within the economy.

Throughout the world, an increasing number of men and women are turning to co-ops as a mean to reconcile economic development and solidarity.

In Quebec, there are co-ops in the agri-food, financial services, housing and work industries, and these employ tens of thousands of men and women.

Co-ops inform and develop, while promoting democracy and solidarity. Long live the co-ops.

Ezra LevantStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, Ezra Levant of Reform question period fame is a man of many words and unbridled optimism.

After a date last year in Toronto he was told his chances of a repeat encounter were a daunting one in a million. Ezra's response? “Yes, I have a chance. I have a shot”.

Five hundred roses and countless trips to Toronto later, Ezra got lucky. At 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 24 at Shaarei Tefillah Synagogue in Toronto, Ezra Levant and Golda Van Messel are to be joined in marriage.

Life in Toronto has changed Ezra a bit. He no longer snacks on steaks or chews on members of the Upper House. He now enjoys sushi and spends quiet afternoons doing arts and crafts.

People are still trying to figure out why Golda, a promising digital media specialist, has chosen Ezra as her mate, but future Speakers of this House should beware that one day there will be more Ezra Levants around here.

I invite this House to join the official opposition in wishing both Ezra and Golda all the very best in their new life together.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome MonthStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with sadness that I must remind the House and all Canadians that October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Month.

Sudden infant death syndrome, also known as crib death, refers to the sudden and unexplainable death of an apparently healthy baby, usually under the age of one. Every week, three babies die of SIDS, leaving families grieving their tragic loss.

The Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths is conducting research to determine what causes crib death. The foundation, along with Health Canada and a number of other organizations, is striving to develop public awareness and to inform people, so as to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

I am asking you to join me in wishing the Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths and its countless volunteers a resounding success during Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Month.

Manitoba's Francophone CommunityStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, in this Year of the Francophonie, I would like to pay tribute to the vital role played by mothers and school teachers in the fight for the survival of the francophone community in Manitoba.

Although the rights of francophones were enshrined in Manitoba's Constitution in 1916, the provincial government prohibited the teaching of French until 1947.

The official story glosses over the role of women, but it is important that young people know that their grandmothers and great-grandmothers were active in helping the francophone community in Manitoba survive.

For over 30 years, these women ensured the survival of their franco-Manitoban cultural heritage by educating children in French. Today, because of their efforts, over 22,000 Manitobans live in French.

GrainStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, 82% of Saskatchewan farmers support continued regulation of freight rates and 63% want the wheat board to keep its role in the grain transportation system.

However, the Liberals are pressing ahead with their crazy plan to deregulate the rail transportation system. Deregulation has been a colossal disaster for the airline industry, but deregulation in the grain transportation sector is even worse.

Freight rate costs to farmers have tripled since the Liberals cancelled railway cost reviews and killed the Crow benefit, while rail service to branch lines was cut back. The result, railway profits have doubled and thousands of farmers are going bankrupt from skyrocketing input costs, record low grain prices and cruel Liberal policies.

Justice Estey, Mr. Kroeger and the Reform Party want the Liberals to remove the freight rate cap, but it will cost thousands of farm families their livelihoods.

The NDP is the only party fighting for farmers to keep the cap on freight rates.

When will the Liberals stop this economic insanity of persecuting western farmers?

Peacekeeping DayStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, if world peace is to be maintained, the laws governing relations between nations must be enforced and respected.

Faithful to our tradition as peacekeepers, we support the peaceful resolution through peacekeeping missions of the conflicts in which many nations are embroiled.

Saturday, October 23, is Peacekeeping Day, a day to pay tribute to Canada's participation in various peacekeeping missions throughout the world.

This October 23, let us remember the devotion of the men and women who have served the cause of democracy by taking part in these missions. Their contribution has been instrumental in maintaining international peace and security.

Peacekeeping Day provides an opportunity to officially recognize that contribution. On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I wish to pay them a well-deserved tribute and to tell them how greatly we admire them.

Crime PreventionStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, on October 6, the federal government announced allocation of $557,165 to assist in the funding of 15 crime prevention projects in Quebec.

The National Strategy for Community Safety and Crime Prevention helps communities to develop community solutions to problems linked to crime and victimization and to enhance the awareness of all communities involved in the fight against crime.

There is much still to be done. Let us hope that everyone directly or indirectly involved in crime prevention will participate actively in this type of program, the existence of which was made possible by the federal government.

Essentially, the purpose of this initiative by the Liberal government is to enhance the quality of life of Canadians, and this requires enhanced security.

Child PornographyStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Diane St-Jacques Progressive Conservative Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the present time the people of this country are greatly concerned about their children's safety, having learned that the Supreme Court will not be hearing the case on child pornography until January 18, 2000.

The Minister of Justice tells us children are at no risk whatsoever, while the families await a decision from the nine federal justices.

Given their case load, the final decision by these judges might come only in 2001. If her department had referred this case immediately to the Supreme Court last winter, the public would be less concerned.

According to her, all our children are still protected nevertheless. Can she guarantee that the message these recent decisions are sending to predators is not encouraging them to continue their despicable behaviour? Can she prove to us that the lawyers of these predators are not using the recent court decisions as legal loopholes?

We trust that the minister will not wait for some other dramatic event to make the news before she does something.