House of Commons Hansard #175 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.


Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalMinister of Industry


That a Message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that this House disagrees with the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-20, An Act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts, because this House is of the opinion that the intent and policy of the words in question is in the public interest and reflects the opinion of the great majority of Canadians, and this House proposes, in lieu of the amendments made by the Senate, that the amendments be amended to read as follows:

  1. Page 14, Clause 19: Delete lines 31 to 46 and substitute the following therefor:

66.1 (1) Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed or intends to commit an offence under the Act, may notify the Commissioner of the particulars of the matter and may request that his or her identity be kept confidential with respect to the notification.

(2) The Commissioner shall keep confidential the identity of a person who has notified the Commissioner under subsection (1) and to whom an assurance of confidentiality has been provided by any person who performs duties or functions in the administration or enforcement of this Act.

  1. Page 15, Clause 19: Delete lines 1 to 42 and substitute the following therefor:

66.2 (1) No employer shall dismiss, suspend, demote, discipline, harass or otherwise disadvantage an employee, or deny an employee a benefit of employment, by reason that

(a) the employee, acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, has disclosed to the Commissioner that the employer or any other person has committed or intends to commit an offence under this Act;

(b) the employee, acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, has refused or stated an intention or refused to do anything that is an offence under this Act;

(c) the employee, acting in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, has done or stated an intention of doing anything that is required to be done in order that an offence not be committed under this Act; or

(d) the employer believes that the employee will do anything referred to in paragraph (a) or (c) or will refuse to do anything referred to in paragraph (b).

(2) Nothing in this section impairs any right of an employee either at law or under an employment contract or collective agreement.

(3) In this section, “employee” includes an independent contractor and “employer” has the corresponding meaning.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak this morning on Bill C-20, an act to amend the Competition Act. As you know, we passed third reading of this bill in the House on September 23, 1998.

The aim of this bill is to improve and consolidate the Competition Act. Some of the key amendments were intended to equip the competition bureau to combat the degrading crime of misleading telemarketing.

The bill also included provisions for whistle blowing intended to protect employees providing the competition bureau with information on activities of their employer limiting competition.

Those whistleblowing provisions were removed from the bill by the Senate as a result of arguments made by Progressive Conservative members of the Senate who focused on some concerns raised by the Canadian Bar Association.

Today this House has the opportunity to reconsider the whistleblowing provisions and an opportunity to do something positive for Canadian consumers and legitimate businesses.

I would point out that protection for whistleblowers has been the subject of a number of legislative proposals over the past several years and has been introduced in private members' bills.

The director of investigations and research at the competition bureau acted on this continued interest in whistleblowing by asking Mr. Justice Dubin to study the matter and identify the provisions that would be relevant should legislation on whistle blowing have to be introduced.

This study and its appendix on the provisions on whistleblowing were released on November 18, 1997 and posted on the Web site of the Competition Office for the public to consult.

On the initiative of the hon. member for Ottawa Centre, the whistleblowing provisions were introduced into Bill C-20 on May 26, 1998 when it was under consideration by the industry committee.

The hon. member proposed these provisions to encourage individuals who have knowledge of price-fixing arrangements to act in the public interest and to report them.

As the hon. member indicated then, the amendments resulted from a great deal of consultation with many people in the community and throughout the country.

The Canadian Bar Association raised some concerns about the whistleblowing provisions with the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, one of which was that there had not been sufficient consultation.

We have made use of this time for additional consultation with the bar and other groups that have expressed interest in this provision.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, an organization comprising over 800 private members and corporations representing over 1.5 million Canadians, provided strong support for the provisions on whistleblowing.

The Canadian Direct Marketing Association also considered the provisions very important. The Canadian Bar Association as well considered there was enough protection for whistleblowers in Canadian legislation.

However, the government believes it is important to enact these additional protections as an express encouragement by parliament to people to report criminal activity limiting competition.

As for the substantive objections of the bar, the principal concern is that there could be criminal liability for requesting an employee to do something that is not actually illegal at the time of the request.

The Competition Act sets out certain criminal offences, but also deals with so-called reviewable matters in which conduct such as an abuse of a dominant position only becomes illegal after it is prohibited by the Competition Tribunal.

To meet this concern I have proposed an amendment to the whistleblowing provisions which will limit their application to conduct that is a criminal offence under the act and will not refer to conduct that is merely contrary to the act.

The CBA also argued that the potential for criminal sanctions could lead to inefficiencies in businesses where an employer might hesitate to discipline unproductive staff, even though legitimate reasons exist for doing so. However, the burden always remains with the crown to prove all elements of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If legitimate reasons exist for disciplining or firing an employee, then those reasons will no doubt raise the reasonable doubt that would preclude a criminal conviction.

The conclusion is that employees acting in good faith when they report competition limiting behaviour have our protection against vengeful employers. The provisions on whistleblowing, by balancing the rights of the employees and the employer, do not place an undue burden of proof on the employer.

What I have proposed in response to some of the concerns about the possibility of excessively heavy sanctions, is to withdraw the sanctions set out in the first provision.

An employer will now be liable to the same sanctions as the Criminal Code provides for the infraction of a federal statute.

I believe that it is important to send the right signal to Canadians that we need to work together to combat crime.

I am very disappointed that this issue held up Bill C-20 in the other place last December. I believe the modifications proposed to the whistleblowing provisions do represent improvements to the bill and do address the principal concerns of the Canadian Bar Association and of the Senate.

Now it is time for us to act quickly again. We need to provide appropriate protection for whistleblowers to enable the Competition Bureau to obtain the information needed to properly investigate criminal activity. We need to bring Bill C-20 into force to provide effective measures against deceptive telemarketers.

With every day that passes, there are new victims of scams. Every day that passage of Bill C-20 is delayed, the confidence of Canadians is put at greater risk. This is the moment to consider consumers, businesses and the organizations responsible for implementing the legislation across Canada, who have advocated expeditious passage of Bill C-20.

It is time to show all of these consumers across Canada that the House is listening to them. I urge that the bill receive expeditious passage.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Rahim Jaffer Reform Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the proposed amendments to Bill C-20. Before I begin I would like to reacquaint members of the House with the full scope of this important piece of legislation. I think that once my colleagues understand the necessity and urgency of this proposed legislation they will also understand why the motion before us is worthy of support, and why the changes made in the Senate would only work to dilute the effectiveness of this bill.

Bill C-20 is an act to amend the Competition Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts. Essentially this bill will create an enforceable and judicial code of conduct for those in the direct marketing industry. But I can assure members of the House that this is not an onerous government imposition on this industry.

It is a welcome framework for ethical practice, welcomed by legitimate direct marketers who understand that a legislative and regulatory environment designed with common sense can create a business environment that will foster growth and profitability.

Direct marketers understand that only in an environment of trust and accountability will Canadian consumers use their services. Direct marketers also understand that this trust and accountability must come not only from their own due diligence and fair conduct but from legislation supported by the full weight of the law.

Bill C-20 gives teeth to the voluntary practices already adhered to by legitimate players in this $4 billion a year industry. Under this new law, telemarketers would have to identify who they are representing, disclose the price of their services or products they are selling, and explain clearly why they are making the call. These three simple provisions, had they existed in the past, could have saved many Canadians from the humiliation of being victims of deceptive telemarketing.

I do not think it is fair to wait any longer to give this protection to Canadian consumers. My hon. colleague from Kelowna, British Columbia pointed out in a speech he gave some time ago that protection against telemarketing deception has been debated in this House since 1996 and that the cost of ignoring this problem is estimated to be approaching $5 million.

I personally do not plan to delay the implementation of this bill any longer and will consequently be keeping my remarks as brief as I can.

This legislation also proposes amendments to the Competition Act. Before I address those amendments, I would like to stress to this House as I have done on other occasions that while competition laws do have the potential to create a fair and level playing field in the market, they can be arbitrary and economically stifling.

Laws that make criminals out of individuals who are guilty only of selling quality products at low prices should not be supported in a democratic society that believes in the power and justice of economic freedom.

I could not support a Competition Act that would allow men like Bill Gates or Canada's own Conrad Black to be treated like common criminals only because they dare to achieve and they dare to be the best at what they do.

I would like members of this House to take note of these remarks as competition laws will surely surface in this House again and again. We can choose to create fairness in the context of economic freedom or we can create a bureaucracy under which both consumers and producers will suffer.

As part of the overall strategy to deal with deceptive telemarketing, amendments were made to the Competition Act to control deceptive marketing, advertising and pricing. These changes were designed to complement the code of conduct created in the same legislation.

These amendments continue to have the support of the Reform caucus but it must be understood that even the most rigorous protection against deceptive direct marketing or misleading advertising will accomplish nothing if individuals do not step forward to ensure that the law is adhered to.

Canadians who are the victims of deceptive marketing in any form are often too ashamed and too embarrassed to bring their concerns before a court. When the victims of a crime are afraid to act to ensure that justice is applied consistently, something else must be done.

To combat this situation, the legislators involved in the creation and fine tuning of Bill C-20, particularly my colleague from Ottawa Centre, sought to create a unique process by which to ensure that the new law was properly adhered to. I am making reference here to the whistleblowing provisions in Bill C-20, the provisions that an unelected and unaccountable Senate decided to remove from this act, the provisions that we must reinstate in this House today.

The whistleblowing provisions have been designed to assist the Competition Bureau in investigating violations of the Competition Act as it applies to deceptive direct marketing. Those individuals who bear witness to violations of the Competition Act can bring their concerns directly to the competition commissioner with the assurance that their privacy will be protected. Furthermore the proposed law would ensure that those who did wish to expose practices that hurt our most vulnerable members of society would be protected from the reprisal of their employers.

If we can create a law, we must not allow that law to exist without the means by which to ensure that it is complied with. To do so would only work to breed a feeling of contempt among the Canadian people toward this House and toward the laws that govern our nation.

The fact that this bill was amended by the Senate to exclude provisions is offensive in and of itself. It is an insult to democracy that the work of elected members of parliament can be undone by individuals who are accountable to nobody.

I will leave the matter of the Senate to be discussed further by my hon. colleague from Calgary West who is our party's very capable Senate watchdog.

I close by saying that our party continues to support Bill C-20. We will also support the Liberal motion before the House that seeks to reinstate the whistleblowing provisions removed by the Senate.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the hon. minister's motion to send Bill C-20 back to the Senate with an amendment restoring the substance of the whistleblowing provision which the Senate took out of the bill at third reading.

I first proposed adding the whistleblowing provision to the bill at the committee stage on May 26, 1998. I was heartened by the support this provision received by my colleagues in the industry committee and by the House at third reading. I was disappointed to learn that the passage of Bill C-20 was delayed by the Senate because of concerns about this provision.

The purpose of the whistleblowing provision is to assist competition authorities in the investigation of price fixing agreements and conspiracies by providing protection to employees who come forward to report those crimes. These crimes undermine competition and victimize both consumers and legitimate businesses.

In my comments to the industry committee last May, I referred to a letter that was sent to the committee by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, an organization which represents over 800 individual and group members and over 1.5 million Canadians. They support this provision by saying:

We strongly support this proposed amendment. Often the only persons who are aware of an offence are employees or others who are vulnerable to retribution by the company in question should they act in the public interest by advising the competition authorities of a violation of the law. It is essential that such persons be protected from retribution.

I repeat that often the only persons who are aware of an offence are the employees who are vulnerable to retribution and it is essential that they be protected from retribution.

In the testimony heard by the Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce there were concerns about lack of consultation on this provision and arguments that the present confidentiality provisions and common law informer protections are sufficient.

The whistleblowing provision will protect the identity of persons who come forward with information on how prices in the gasoline industry or any industry for that matter are really set. The whistleblowing provision will punish employers who take retribution action against employees who act in good faith in reporting price fixing arrangements and conspiracies.

The whistleblowing provision in this bill signals parliament's express encouragement to individuals who have knowledge of anti-competitive criminal activities to act in the public interest and to come forward with that essential information. By restoring this provision to the bill today, we reiterate that encouragement and underline the importance parliament places on the free operation of competition.

The amendment proposed by the Minister of Industry restores the substance of the whistleblowing provision approved by this elected chamber last September with changes that address concerns raised by the Canadian Bar Association before the Senate banking committee.

One of the changes clarifies that the whistleblowing protection operates only with respect to the criminal sections of the Competition Act, not with respect to those subject to civil process. The second has the effect of reducing the maximum penalty for employers convicted of dismissing or disciplining employees for reporting an offence or for refusing to participate in an offence under the Competition Act. Instead of the specific penalty provisions I have proposed, the Criminal Code penalties for contravention of a federal statute will apply.

These changes will have the effect of speeding the passage of the bill. I support them.

Finally, Bill C-20 contains many important provisions in addition to the protection for whistleblowers, most notably the provisions dealing with deceptive telemarketing.

The Canadian public has waited much too long for the passage of this bill. I urge my colleagues from all sides of the House to support this motion today without any delay.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Questions and comments.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was next, after the official opposition, to respond to the minister's amendment.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Right, but first we will have questions and comments on the remarks made by the hon. member for Ottawa Centre. Are there questions or comments? No? Resuming debate.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, in spite of the fact that we voted against Bill C-20 to amend the Competition Act at second and third reading because, in our opinion, it weakened rather than toughened the provisions of the act, we will be voting in favour of this amendment, which we believe deserves the support of each and every one in the House.

The Senate, an unelected body, delayed passage of the bill approved by parliament, notwithstanding our opposition, by putting forward to the House of Commons an amendment to remove from Bill C-20 the protection the Competition Act continues to afford employees or any other person who discloses to the competition commissioner unfair practices considered illegal. Its arguments are based mainly on concerns expressed by the bar association, but it has shown that this was an absolutely essential provision.

The Competition Act is already, we feel, weakened by the bill. If employees know or have reasonable grounds to believe that a company is engaging in deceptive marketing practices and are unable to inform in confidence the body responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, they would then be in the position of allowing these deceptive marketing practices to continue. They would even be forced to take part in them because they could not blow the whistle.

If an employee gets in touch with the commissioner of competition and his employer finds out and can lay him off without recourse, who will notify the commissioner of competition? Nobody; no employee will be able to do so.

In a letter which I myself did not read, but which was cited when this issue was being studied by the Senate, the Bar said as follows:

Employers should not be obliged to continue to employ employees or entrepreneurs in whom they have lost confidence. The fact that an employee complains to the commissioner can only worsen the work climate.

An employer acting in good faith should be able to let an employee go with prior notice or compensation in lieu thereof. This legitimate action by the employer will no longer be possible because paragraph 66(2) makes it a criminal offence.

It seems to me that this letter from the bar association proves beyond a doubt that employees need protection, because it is certain that if an employee contacts the commissioner in good faith to disclose his employer's practices, the employer will lose confidence in him. If, as the bar association says, it is legitimate for the employee to be dismissed because of this loss of confidence, hon. members will agree with me that no employee one will contact the commissioner. The commissioner will therefore not have access to certain information, as it would very likely not come from another source.

I would point out here that a large number of workers in Canada are not unionized. Being unionized would give them a degree of protection. Not being unionized is a serious problem in such cases.

I would also like to point out that, since the bill allows the use of electronic surveillance, it seems to me that consistency requires the name of the person who has contacted the commissioner in good faith to report anti-competitive practices to be kept secret, due to the highly invasive nature of wiretapping.

The purpose of all this is to indicate that we are going to be voting in favour of this amendment. I would, however, be remiss if I did not point out once again that, unfortunately, this bill generally weakens the scope of the Competition Act. I use the word “generally” because there is one provision in particular that enhances the powers of the commissioner, the one relating to fraudulent telemarketing. As for telemarketing fraud, it is important to provide some protection to its many victims, including elderly people like me.

We agree that it was important and even urgent to take this measure. There are too many contradictions in this bill, a decriminalization that is not obvious and that is replaced with a discretionary power in the hands of the commissioner, who may not have the necessary budget to be everywhere he should be.

So, we regret this weakening, and this is why we voted against the bill, even though we support this morning's amendment.

The Bloc Quebecois was not the only one to be really concerned about these amendments to the Competition Act. Let me quote an emeritus professor from the University of Toronto, whose expertise in that field is well recognized. He says:

In fact, I find a real inconsistency in Bill C-20, since it transforms misleading advertising offences into offences that require wrongful intent.

The bill now provides that intent must be present for an individual to be accused of misleading advertising. This was not the case before, and is still not the case so long as the bill is not passed.

It does, however, for the first time, establish telemarketing offences subject to the old system of strict liability offences. That makes no sense. On the one hand, we are told we must fight deceptive telemarketing practices by making offenders criminally liable. But in other areas, such as misleading advertising, considered to be similar, they back off and require proof of criminal intent.

Professor Ziegle goes on to say:

It is as if the drafters had received two sets of contradictory instructions. This fact alone requires explanation and justification.

To my knowledge, none was provided, and I see no reason why we have a set of standards on criminal proceedings in the Competition Act and another in other laws such as the Food and Drugs Act, the Currency Act, our safety standards legislation, and so on.

That said, this bill must be passed quickly. We have had our say, and we will see whether the future will prove us right. We can correct the bill again, but it is important that it be adopted, for the provisions on misleading marketing, among others, and this is why we support it.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure today that I rise to speak on Bill C-20, an act to amend the Competition Act.

As has been mentioned by other members, Bill C-20 has returned from the Senate with sections 66.1 and 66.2 deleted. These sections pertain to whistleblowing and the government has proposed new amendments to reinstate these provisions. The only significant concession that the government has made, however, is withdrawing any reference to criminal sanctions.

Before I give my comments on the amendments to the question I would like to reiterate on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party our overall support for this bill. Our party has always understood that the promotion of competitive markets is of fundamental importance in today's global and extraordinarily competitive economy.

Competition stimulates innovation and growth in jobs, provides businesses and consumers with competitive prices and product choices that they need and increases overall the average standard of living in society.

Without a modern competition law Canadian businesses will encounter anti-competitive barriers to their entry and expansion in their markets. They may find in time it is difficult to source and input at competitive prices and ultimately they may encounter other refrains in their ability to remain competitive.

In my view the Senate has made the correct choice to remove the whistleblowing provisions which were not part of the original legislation but were added by the House industry committee. That is not to say the intent of legislating whistleblowing provisions is wrong. But as pointed out by organizations, including the Canadian Bar Association, sections 66.1 and 66.2 were an undue intrusion into the role of the employer with respect to otherwise completely lawful behaviours.

The whistleblowing provisions were introduced by the industry committee during its hearings. Consequently they were not part of the same public consultation process as the other provisions of the bill. The Canadian Bar Association went further and said that section 66.1 would require the commissioner of competition to keep confidential the identities of persons who notify the commission when they have reasonable grounds to believe that another person has committed or intends to commit an offence. Section 66.2 would prevent employers who dismiss, suspend, demote, discipline, harass or otherwise disadvantage an employee or deny an employee a benefit of employment for whistleblowing activities, and effectively employers are also prohibited from the above employment actions if they believe an employee will undertake the above whistleblowing actions. I will read one paragraph from the letter by the Canadian Bar Association that was sent to the chairman of the Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce. Page 4, paragraph 6 reads as follows:

Employers should not be required to continue to deal with employees or contractors in whom they have lost confidence. An employee's complaint to the commissioner would generally sour the work environment. An employer acting in good faith should be entitled to terminate an employee either with notice or damages in lieu of notice. This legitimate action by an employer would not longer be available—.

Further, the Canadian Bar Association added:

Proposed whistleblowing provisions conflict with the 1997 report by the honourable Charles Dubin, whom the Competition Bureau had retained to study the issue. The Dubin report concluded that there was no need to amend the Competition Act to protect employee whistleblowers because protection is available through existing processes. The Dubin report also found that the whistleblower legislation in other jurisdictions has had little or no impact.

There are significant problems in both the concepts and the drafting of section 66.2. These problems will create unnecessary and difficult situations for employers. In addition, there are issues respecting section 66.1 that should be of concern to the commissioner and to the Competition Bureau.

This past year the direction of the Competition Bureau, Mr. Konrad Von Finckenstein, was asked at both House and Senate committees to give the bureau's position on the whistleblowing provisions. His response was: “The amendments were put forward not by me and not on our suggestion but by a member of the House. I am neutral on it. I see the deterrent value. On the other hand, I do not want to create something that is going to cause employers a lot of harm or interference with normal employee relations or is going to cause a lot of useless work”.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement. Section 66.1 and section 66.2 even as modified by the government do not represent government policy but rather the initiative of one member of the House without in our opinion proper consultation or study.

As stated earlier, Justice Dubin when asked to express his view on the desirability of such legislation produced a report which concluded that the whistleblowing provisions are not necessary because an employee would have rights currently under common law and employment status. This was recently confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in Wallace v. United Grain Growing Limited.

Let me be clear. Our party does agree with the intent of whistleblowing provisions and to a certain extent in the potential of whistleblowing provisions. This debate should be subject to proper consultation and scrutiny and not hastily rushed into. Elected officials sometimes are prone to look for quick legislative solutions to otherwise complex public policy issues. We would like to see more consultation and more discussion and more rigorous diligence. In researching this there are organizations, including the Canadian Bar Association and the head of the Competition Bureau, that have expressed significant reservations about the effectiveness of whistleblowing provisions.

The Progressive Conservative Party will therefore oppose the government's amendments to Bill C-20 and support the bill as amended by the Senate.

For those members who criticize the Senate when individuals or senators collectively take active roles in amending legislation, and at the same time or perhaps days before or days after will criticize senators for doing nothing, they should be consistent. We want a Senate that is active and participates in these types of very important public policy debates. I believe we do. Even those members of this House who are opposed to the Senate need to recognize that we have a Senate at this time and that the Senate contains members who have significant experiences and a depth of experience and knowledge of public policy quite exceptional in many areas, particularly areas such as the Senate banking committee, which I have had the pleasure of working with as a member of the House of Commons finance committee.

While we have the institution of the Senate, I urge all members of the House to respect that institution and to encourage that institution and its members to diligently pursue important issues of public policy such that we can ensure collectively the House and the other place will produce the types of legislation Canadians need. It is extraordinarily important.

If Senate reform is something individual members of the House feel is needed, that is an issue which should be pursued with legitimate healthy debate. As long as we have a Senate and as long as we have members in that Senate who are capable, intelligent and diligent public servants that work hard on behalf of Canadians, not just offering what Canadians want today but what Canadians need in terms of public policy in the future, we should be encouraging intervention and input from the Senate, not discouraging it.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I heard my colleague but I cannot help but ask the following questions.

Could he tell me what part of the amendment or the motion he does not support? Does he not support the fact that if an employee in a company or an organization finds out about wrongdoings by an employer he should report it to the Competition Bureau? Or, does the hon. member not support the fact that if this employee comes forward with the information we should protect the confidentiality of the information? Or, does he not support the fact that if an employer decides to fire an employee because that employee reported wrongdoings the employee deserves to be protected?

What part of the particular motion does he not support? This is exactly what the motion does. This is exactly what this amendment to Bill C-20 does. I admit we have taken out some of the teeth, but the bottom line is that we did that in order to respond specifically to the concerns and to aspirations of organizations such as the Canadian Bar Association. In fact its concerns have been dealt with.

If my colleague were told now that the Canadian Bar Association supports the motion before the House of Commons, would he be kind enough to ask his colleagues to support the motion? The Canadian Bar Association already indicated its support of it. Therefore a big chunk of his concerns should be dealt with in the particular position taken by the Canadian Bar Association.

Notwithstanding anything else and putting partisanship aside, would the hon. member, in fairness, having heard what I just said, not reconsider his position and support the motion?

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question of the hon. member. Nobody in the House would disagree with the intent of the whistleblowing amendments. The intent is sound, but unfortunately there are toxic levels of naiveté in the hon. member's arguments. The enforceability of the whistleblowing amendments would potentially create a regulatory nightmare.

The head of the Competition Bureau, Konrad Von Finckenstein, has said effectively that he will not provide either support or opposition to it. I will read his response again:

—the amendments were put forward not by me and not on our suggestion but by ... a member of the House.... I am neutral on it ... I see the deterrent value .... On the other hand, I do not want to create something that is going to cause employers a lot of harm or interfere with normal employee relations or is going to cause me of useless work.

The Canadian Bar Association has indicated that there are significant concerns about the amendments. The enforceability of these amendments is dubious at best. The Dubin report basically found that whistleblower legislation in most jurisdictions has had little impact.

We are not disagreeing with the intent. What we are saying is that we need to have more study and more diligence. We should not rush forward to implement politically expedient but unrealistic public policy that in the long term does not serve the needs of Canadians and does not even meet the intent of the amendments.

We have to be realistic. We must not just do what is politically palatable. Sometimes we have to do what is actually effective and realistic.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I took note of the hon. member's speech with regard to Bill C-20. He spoke of proper scrutiny and more consultation. He spoke of wanting a more active Senate. He spoke of consistency, capability, diligence and effectiveness.

Would he apply all the things he wishes Bill C-20 had with regard to whistleblower protection to the Senate?

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I would in fact argue that there are members of the Senate who are working very hard serving Canadians on an ongoing basis. We also have senators in the Senate banking committee with which I am very familiar who have forgotten more on finance and banking issues than many members of the House know, even those on the finance committee of which I am a member. We see legislation which the House sends to the Senate being improved and made better for Canadians by the Senate.

I absolutely would like to see the same degree of rigour that would apply to this legislation or any other legislation and the same level of scrutiny applied to the Senate. Like any organization, there are members of the Senate who are more capable and pursue public policy with a greater amount of vigour and diligence than others. There are also members of the House who pursue public policy more vigorously than others. There are members of the House who love politics but do not really like public policy. Politics can be the natural enemy of public policy.

One thing I like about members of the Senate is that their focus in many cases is exclusively on public policy. There are members of the Senate who have a significant level of experience and depth of knowledge in particular areas which is unequalled in the House.

While the hon. member may be opposed to the Senate and may want to see systemic overhaul of the Senate, and that is a legitimate issue for discussion, while we have a Senate we have a duty as parliamentarians to work with the senators to develop legislation in the best interest of Canadians and not simply to criticize senators for purely political partisan reasons.

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Rob Anders Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-20. The government introduced the bill to address the issue of direct marketing fraud. The bill is intended to protect consumers as well as legitimate direct marketing businesses. It is a code of conduct for the direct marketing industry.

I would like to focus on two items in particular. The Senate has recently returned the bill deleting sections 66.1 and 66.2 which deal exclusively with the issue of whistleblowing.

On the issue of whistleblowing I think the country needs more whistleblowers. We need people who expose the abuses of government. We need people to stand up when wrongs have been committed. As a result that is why I support whistleblowers. I not only want to see whistleblowers protected with regard to Bill C-20 in the direct marketing industry. I want to see other whistleblowers as well.

I would like to see some whistleblowers in the other chamber. Right now they are beholden to the Prime Minister; they are appointed by the Prime Minister. I want to see effective whistleblowers who can blow the whistle on problems with the federal government and not fear that they hold some allegiance to the Prime Minister for their appointments. I want whistleblowers who are accountable to the people who elect them rather than to the Prime Minister who appointed them.

Other countries have effective whistleblowers. Germany with its Bundesrat has effective whistleblowers. They gather people who are representatives of the various Landers or states in Germany. They get together to determine whether or not bills that have been passed in the Bundestag are effective. They whistleblow.

In other words, if people who represent the state or the Lander of Baden-Wurttemburg or Berlin, or any of them, decide that they do not like a particular piece of legislation, that it goes against the interest of their particular state or their particular Lander, they will whistleblow. They will go ahead and blow their whistle and expose the federal document or whatever was passed by the Bundestag for being ineffective or for not dealing properly or not dealing fairly with their particular grievance, with their particular state or their Lander.

Germany is not the only country that has effective whistleblowers. The United States also has whistleblowers. That country to the south with which we do 80% of our trade has whistleblowers. It changed its laws so that it would be able to elect its whistleblowers.

The first state that actually did that via a constitutional amendment, the 17th amendment to the U.S. constitution, was Oregon. Now effective whistleblowers are recognized within the constitution of the United States, those people in its senate. Those who come from the state of Idaho can have the same representation as those that have a more populous representation in the House of Representatives.

California represents more people than all the inhabitants of Canada and has two senators. Idaho and Wyoming, small states in comparison, have two whistleblowers as well. The whistleblowers in Idaho may blow their whistle about potatoes or injustices that have happened with regard to agricultural policy in the same way that whistleblowers in the state of California may blow their whistles with regard to whatever may be troubling California in its state of the union.

I want to see whistleblower protection. I have faith in whistleblowers. They are important to the system. We need to know what the problems are and have fair criticism. I want to see fair criticism and not rubber stamps of government legislation.

Right now in the other place we have a clear majority of people who were appointed by the Prime Minister for his party, the Liberal Party of Canada. We would like to see whistleblowers elected by the people from the various provinces who fairly represent the regions in the provinces. That is what we are talking about: real whistleblowers, not rubber stamps.

The whistleblower protections proposed in Bill C-20 are opposed by the Canadian Bar Association and opposed by the Senate. For Canadians who may be watching—

Competition ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The member still has 15 minutes left in his very interesting talk. As it is 11 o'clock we will proceed to Statements by Members and then the member will have the floor when we return.

Social UnionStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West—Mississauga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. Prime Minister and the government on the new social union framework. This agreement strengthens Canada's health and social programs and signals a new era of flexible federalism.

Canadians want the type of co-operation and consensus building where governments work to improve the daily lives of Canadians.

This government never viewed the process in winning or losing terms, but with determination to succeed in arranging better services for Canadians.

The government has once again demonstrated a commitment to accountability. The inclusion of monitoring and evaluating social programs and regularly reporting outcomes to constituents is a valuable and appreciated aspect of the agreement. Providing a review of the framework within three years confirms the commitment this government has made toward improving the lives of Canadians.

Return To OrtonaStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, this week the CBC Newsmagazine broadcast “Return to Ortona”, in memory of the 1943 Canadian victory in which so many lives were lost. I commend this program to all who respect our veterans and appreciate the glory and sorrow of war.

However, there was one glaring omission in both the television program and in CBC website coverage. Who paid for the veterans' trip to Ortona? The government let these veterans down. Average people made this event happen.

Thirty thousand names are missing from this story. Thirty thousand contributors opened their hearts and wallets to give all they could to send their boys to Ortona. This trip, this event and this report would not have been possible without them.

Let us remember that these veterans travelled courtesy of the generosity of 30,000 contributors. The CBC should have given some recognition to the magnificent efforts of these 30,000 contributors.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all contributors now. Their generosity allowed a wonderful event to take place.

EmploymentStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a great day. In addition to the good news about our Prime Minister's successful and significant negotiations with the provinces on the social union, I awoke this morning to learn that the unemployment rate in Canada had fallen to 7.8%, the lowest rate in almost nine years. This means that in January 87,000 more Canadians, including 44,000 young people, had a job to go to each day, jobs that they did not have in December. Bravo.

For some time I have been concerned that as our economy went through a period impacted by technological change unemployment had become structural. By smashing through and below the 8% unemployment barrier, our government has proven that its policies of sound fiscal management and progressive job creation initiatives are working. This bodes well for the country as this government will continue to offer all Canadians the strong and visionary leadership that it has since 1993.

Social UnionStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister and the provincial premiers agreed on a framework to ensure Canada's health and social programs are strengthened as we enter a new millennium.

Canadians are tired of seeing their leaders mired in partisan wrangling. They want us to work together as representatives of the people, regardless of our political party, to improve programs and services for all Canadians. The successful meeting yesterday proved that we can do it.

While I am unhappy that Premier Bouchard felt he could not sign, I hope he will ensure that the people of Quebec benefit from this spirit of consensus building.

As an MP from southwestern Ontario, I want a Canadian federation that reaches out to all corners of our beautiful and great nation and includes every citizen. Yesterday we made an important step and I congratulate the Prime Minister and the premiers for putting the interests of Canada first.

Sexual Exploitation Of ChildrenStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in September 1996, as a delegate to the World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and last year at Canada's “Out from the Shadows” conference in Victoria, I heard firsthand from young people the devastating effects of sexual exploitation.

I hope all members of this House take these issues seriously. Members truly interested in ensuring healthy choices and freedoms for Canadian children and the world's children might read the Declaration and Agenda for Action ratified by the youth delegates in March 1998.

They should talk to the youth who are abused on the streets of this city and cities across our nation. They should learn the language they would have us use and refrain from terms like “kiddie” that make the issue overly cute and accessible.

Child pornography has had our attention over the last couple of weeks. It exploits and abuses children.

I thank the attorney general for her work on intervening on the appeal in British Columbia and upholding the law and the rights of all Canadians to due process.

The Canadian Wheat BoardStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, prairie farmers were surprised when the Canadian Wheat Board ran ads in major newspapers across the west trumpeting the fact that there are 15 new directors at the wheat board.

The board spent approximately $100,000 telling farmers something they already knew. When farmers are pinching pennies and trying to deal with an income crisis, this is a shameful and inexcusable waste of their money.

Since the board has argued in court that its only mandate is to sell farmers grain in an orderly fashion, not to get farmers the best price, maybe we should not be surprised that it wastes farmers' dollars. But to throw so much money into a propaganda campaign when many farmers are at the brink of bankruptcy is beyond belief. Heads should be rolling for this ridiculous waste of farmers' money.

Is this a sign of the so-called accountability of the new board?

Social UnionStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to the Prime Minister, the premiers and the territorial leaders for signing the health and social union framework. This deal will go down in history as one of the high points in federal-provincial co-operation.

The government has agreed to (1) a statement for the equality of every Canadian wherever they live; (2) the commitment not to erect barriers to mobility; (3) give Canadians a greater voice in monitoring social programs; (4) work together on new social programs; (5) provide guidelines for dispute avoidance and resolution; (6) establish provisions for a review of the framework in three years; and (7) provide commitments from the federal government to work with the provinces to identify Canada-wide priorities and objectives.

Canadians are the clear winners in this process. On behalf of the constituents of my riding of Hamilton West, I thank the Prime Minister for initiating a process which will result in Canadians from coast to coast to coast being better served by their governments.

Military College In Saint-JeanStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a military symposium held in Ottawa last week, the director of the Canadian War Museum, Jack Granatstein, said that the federal government had done the right thing in closing the military college in Saint-Jean, as it was a Quebec separatist stronghold. “This was very clearly obvious”, he added.

In other words, it was fear of separatism that killed this institution. For the best part of 43 years, all francophones who dreamed of a career as an officer had to go through the Collège militaire de Saint-Jean. The college has seen 8,000 of them go on to have a career in the armed forces and another 4,000 earn a university degree. This is a function the very British royal military college of Kingston will never fulfil.

The situation in Kingston has convinced and will continue to convince many young Quebeckers in the military to become sovereignists.

Job CreationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share very good news concerning job creation and unemployment with the members of this House.

The unemployment rate has dropped to 7.8% from 11,4% in 1993. That is the lowest it has ever been since June 1990. Moreover, in January, employment increased by 87,000 jobs, and all of the gain was in full time work.

This is the seventh consecutive monthly gain, with employment increases over this period averaging 57,000 per month. The youth employment rate fell half a percentage point to 13.9%, the lowest since September 1990. Continuing the trend established in 1998, employment among youth aged 15 to 24 years climbed by an estimated 44,000 in January, with 33,000 of these—

Job CreationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Wetaskiwin.

Grain TransportationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadian grain shipments ground to a halt last week when 70 grain inspection employees walked off the job. Producers and everyone in the industry who believed that recent changes to the Canada Labour Code would ensure the unimpeded flow of grain to market were duped again by this Liberal government.

The Reform Party proposed final offer selection arbitration as a means to settle outstanding issues in sectors where continued service is essential to the national economy. The government's own West Coast Ports Inquiry Commission also recommended final offer as a way to guarantee the continuous flow of grain to market.

But the provisions in Bill C-19 are worthless in this case. Canada's world class transportation and communications systems cannot be allowed to become vulnerable to closure. Our reputation as a reliable shipper of goods is in jeopardy. Unfortunately for grain farmers, producers and exporters this government just does not get it.