House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was information.


Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.


Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to speak to Bill C-6. I would like to begin my remarks by reminding members of a terrible reality.

This bill found virtually no support in Quebec because Quebec already has legislation dealing with the protection of personal information. It came into force five years ago and it goes a lot further that the bill before us.

Earlier, I listened to the exchange between my two colleagues from the Canadian Alliance and from the Liberal Party. I could see all the difference there is between Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Quebec, having reached a consensus, passed legislation on the protection of personal information that strikes a balance between supporting trade and ensuring that individuals are protected with regard to personal information pertaining to them. That legislation is used as a model throughout the world. It is one of the first acts of this kind ever to come into force and it is the most balanced.

At the same time, here, in the House, members of the Canadian Alliance say that it is government interference. Now we understand better why the bill proposed by the federal government is so bland. It proposed a bill that deals with the issue of electronic commerce without dealing directly with the protection of personal information. That is probably why the Conseil du patronat du Québec and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux or CSN—employers and unions, and that says a lot—all expressed their opposition to this bill.

The Quebec bar and the Chambre des notaires du Québec, those who deal daily with information and contracts, whose job it is to advise employers, business people and industrialists on how to manage information are saying this is a bad bill, and we already have our own legislation in Quebec.

Why such duplication? A few years down the road, we will probably have two court cases to try to decide which one prevails, and to find out what to do in such or such a situation.

Even if the federal government decided the Quebec legislation applied in Quebec, not the federal one, nothing would prevent an employer or an individual who felt unfairly treated by the act, to claim that the federal government's decision was not valid. It would be a terrible legal mess.

Action Réseau Consommateur is another opponent to the act. It got the picture right away. The federal act will protect people involved in e-commerce, but it does not protect them the same way the Quebec act protects every citizen. Today, people who look at consumer issues know the importance of telemarketing and the way the new technologies are being used, and abused, to reach people.

Also, the Conseil interprofessionnel du Québec and the Quebec access to information commission are opposed to the bill. The members of the commission are experts who, in the past, developed an interesting approach to dealing with personal information. They analyzed the situation and testified before the committee that, in their opinion, the bill was not acceptable.

Several years after the Quebec government acted responsibly and passed legislation which has been well received across Quebec, the federal government is stepping in. Quebec can see the legal and administrative complications that will stem from such duplication.

Not surprisingly, Bill C-6, which was formerly known as Bill-54, was hardly changed at all at that stage. Today, the bill is being amended by the Senate. This is why it has come back to the House of Commons. The Senate has proposed amendments to exempt for an additional year the health sector from the provisions of the bill dealing with the protection of personal information.

In a way, this is proof that the bill was hastily thought out and has not been fine-tuned. Even after C-54 and after C-6, we are now seeing amendments being tabled by the Senate to exempt the health sector when this problem was resolved a long time ago in the Quebec legislation.

We are a bit surprised that the federal government did not use it as a model from the start. This was all covered in the Quebec act. If the federal government wanted appropriate legislation for the rest of Canada, this was the way to go.

The Quebec act applies to all sectors. It applies to the health sector. It is very clear on the matter of consent. Section 21 states that, with the permission of the Commission d'accès à l'information, organizations may disclose without consent information from which personal information has been removed.

If the minister had used the Quebec legislation as a model for his bill on the protection of personal information in the private sector, we would not be in the mess we are in right now.

The Bloc Quebecois will oppose the Senate's amendments, because they do not change the principle of the bill, which the Bloc vigorously opposed in order to protect Quebec's jurisdiction in the area.

These amendments could result in one of three things: they may change nothing because there is no consensus and the boondoggle, as described to the senatorial committee, will continue; future amendments will be consistent with Quebec's legislation and will not cause any particular problems in Quebec; in the worst case scenario, the proposed amendments contradict Quebec's legislation, and once again the federal government will establish national standards in a strictly provincial area, which will create duplication and confusion.

We realized, when reading the proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, that the most reputed experts give totally different interpretations of the legislation. This bill was drafted initially for consumers, to give them confidence in e-commerce, but reputed Canadian lawyers have diametrically opposite interpretations of the bill. How will consumers figure it out?

Also, the Senate's discussions raised a number of problem areas that had already been identified by the Bloc Quebecois: jurisdictional duplication, confusion, and contradiction.

Finally, the Bloc Quebecois notes that the minister has agreed to bring forward, at the report stage, amendments to satisfy the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and announced that he approved the amendments recommended by the Senate to deal with the concerns expressed by the health sector.

But he dismissed out of hand numerous requests from the Quebec government and the civil society, asking unanimously that Quebec be exempt from the application of the legislation in order to avoid constitutional problems and duplication of regulations. In so doing, the Minister of Industry, like his government, is taking a hard line against Quebec.

We are faced with the evidence. This bill was put through by closure. The government made a decision. For Quebecers, this is a good example of the kind of country they live in.

A decision was made by the federal government to build the kind of Canada it wanted for all of Canada, to the detriment of any other form of development. While the Quebec society gives itself its own tools and is ahead in many areas of social policy, the federal government fails to take an approach flexible enough to give Quebec the breathing room it needs to reach its goals and put in place its policies, and Bill C-6 is an example of that.

I refer to a paper prepared by the hon. member for Mercier, entitled “Bill C-6 Promoting E-Commerce at the Expense of Privacy”. That is really the spirit that we found in the bill. It is best illustrated by the fact that it emanated from the Department of Industry.

It is quite normal for that department to adopt a commercial approach, but nowhere do we see the balance found in Quebec's legislation, which has been in effect for several years and has made the protection of privacy one of the highlights of government action in Quebec. It has allowed for proper decisions that have led to adequate jurisprudence and interesting results.

Bill C-6 is another case of the federal government deciding to impose its perspective and to refuse to confirm in its legislation that Quebec's legislation will take precedence in Quebec. A clause of this bill deals with equivalent legislation, and there is probably one in Quebec which could be recognized as such.

However, during debate in the Senate, it was realized that even if Quebec's legislation is substantially similar to Bill C-6 and will probably be designated as such, since it is set out in a different scheme than Bill C-6, it would be helpful to know on what basis the decision was made, although, in the absence of any criteria set out in the legislation we are, in a sense, operating in a bit of a vacuum. This is what Anita Finnberg, Counsel, Legal Services Branch, Ontario Ministry of Health, pointed out.

Senator Murray added that this was a very good point, and wanted to know on what basis the department, or perhaps the minister himself, could indicate that Quebec's legislation met the criteria of the clause dealing with “substantially similar” provincial legislation.

Even if the federal government were to say “It has been decided that the Quebec legislation was sufficiently similar and that it is to be considered the legislation that will apply within Quebec”, a lawyer might well defend the interests of his client by saying “There was even discussion in the Senate, when the bill was passed, to the effect that it was very difficult to identify whether a statute could be considered similar. It appears to me that, in the present case, the federal government has erred and the Quebec legislation ought not to have been considered similar, and consequently I choose to take this to all levels of the court system”. This would cost a considerable amount.

This is probably the situation the Conseil du patronat had in mind when it expressed opposition to the bill, saying “If there is one thing we at the Conseil do not need, it is more duplication, more ways of doing things so that we cannot operate properly and are stuck dealing with an inadequate bureaucracy”.

If the only thing involved had been facilitating e-commerce, we would, of course, all have been in favour. The other side of the coin, protection of privacy, would, however, have had to be well developed, would have had to be working properly, and we would have needed the assurance that the legislation will be well balanced and will offer sufficient protection, both to consumers and to business operators.

In conclusion, we are dealing with a bill much debated in the House of Commons, first as Bill C-54 and now as Bill C-5. Yet never have we had the impression that it was a bill that had been properly fine-tuned, one that would achieve the desired results.

The hon. member who spoke before me concluded by describing this as an interim bill—and this was a member of the Liberal majority. He called it an interim bill, and thus one that would need considerable improvement.

I think that, at this stage, we should say to people in Quebec and in Canada that we have not completed our work, that we should look at this again and find a more balanced solution, instead of passing an interim bill that will have to be reviewed in two, three, four or five years.

The legislation on electronic commerce must be flexible and, at the same time, it must send clear messages. The bill before us does the opposite. Here is an example where the federal government is intruding in an area where the provinces could easily have taken action, as Quebec did.

If it is true that, elsewhere in Canada, people want the same legislation enforced across the country, why was it not mentioned in the bill that a province can, if it so wishes, be exempted from the application of the act.

Then all the organizations opposed to this bill—the Conseil du patronat du Québec, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre des notaires, Action réseau consommateur, the Interprofessional Council, the Commission d'accès à l'information or the Government of Quebec—would have supported it.

Members can imagine how different things would have been if the federal government had just admitted in this bill that, because Quebec already had its own legislation and because this is a matter under its jurisdiction, its choice would be respected and that Quebec would be allowed to enforce its own legislation. It also could have taken from the Quebec legislation everything it found beneficial. We would have avoided debate on amendments by the other Chamber to exempt health, when Quebec has already provided in its legislation a practical way that has been in effect for several years.

Possibly in view of its disproportionate taxation capacity and bureaucracy compared to its mandate, the federal government feels obliged to draft this type of bills, when we do not really need them. In particular, it tries to ram them in the House, forgetting that the Canadian mosaic contains an important element, Quebec, which has its own personality, its own approach, its own Civil Code. Instead of taking this into account, it decided to impose federal legislation on Quebecers within an area of jurisdiction already well covered by Quebec.

For all those reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against Bill C-6.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
The Royal Assent

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

March 30

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Ian Binnie, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy Governor General, will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, the 30th day of March, 2000, at 5.00 p.m. for the purpose of giving Royal Assent to certain bills.

Yours sincerely,

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to 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.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton, Justice.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


René Laurin Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I simply cannot pass this one up.

This bill conflicts with legislation that already exists in Quebec and which received unanimous support. Not too long ago, another bill received unanimous support in Quebec, which the federal government tried to undermine by imposing its own view. I am referring to the young offenders bill.

All of Quebec, all those involved with young offenders were unanimous in saying that the existing legislation in Quebec is working because it is well enforced and that it can usefully contribute to the rehabilitation of young offenders.

Yet, the federal government introduced in the House a bill designed to standardize the way young offenders are dealt with. They want to deal with them differently, based on some unproven philosophy. It would have been advisable to include in this bill a provision stating that Quebec may continue to implement its own legislation, which has proven to be effective.

Today, we have another bill that is reminiscent of how Ottawa reacted to Quebec's young offenders legislation. Bill C-6 does not suit Quebec, because we already have legislation that protects our citizens well.

We have suggested that the federal government use Quebec's legislation as a model, that it draw what was good from it and apply it to other provinces willing to use it. Quebec would be able to use this act for its own benefit, without any discrimination, without prejudice to the other provinces. But things did not turn out that way.

I would like to ask a question to the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques. Why does he think the federal government always tries to force on Quebec legislation that is different from legislation that already exists in Quebec and which works well?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.


Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comment and his question.

It is a good question, particularly if one thinks about what is now going on at the federal government level with respect to access to information. The access to information commissioner testified before the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities that the federal government's management of information was in a state of crisis. Those were his words.

We also heard the privacy commissioner. I brought forward a motion that received unanimous approval in the House proposing that all crown corporations be subject to the Privacy Act. This motion received unanimous approval here a few years ago. Since then, the federal government has been dragging its feet and has done nothing about making crown corporations subject to the Privacy Act, despite the unanimous approval the motion received.

This situation has to be looked at in the broader context. There is also the way in which the federal government handled the social insurance number issue. Things had reached the point where there were more people over the age of one hundred in Canada than in China or in the United States, because of the very poor monitoring of social insurance numbers.

The bottom line is that it is not a very good idea for the federal government to be legislating in this sector where its own track record is not very good.

The member for Joliette was asking me what this situation tells us.

I think that it tells us that we are dealing with a central government that wants to control how things are seen in Canada. There is only one way to see things and it is the one imposed by the concerns and wishes of the top federal bureaucrats, who have their own vision of Canada and of the way things should be done, and who definitely do not want to stop, because other people have already developed approaches as efficient as theirs.

We have a perfect example of that attitude in this case. The Government of Quebec has a good legislation on personal information protection. It has been adapted, revised and it works. It is one of Quebec's finest piece of legislation. It is cited as an example world-wide.

In spite of representations made by all stakeholders in Quebec, organizations such as the Canadian Bar, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, labour unions, consumer advocacy organizations, the Quebec government and the Commission d'accès à l'information, which are familiar with the information protection sector, the federal government could not make a decision.

All those people came to tell us “We do not mind you passing a law for the rest of Canada, which will meet your expectations. If what you want is to provide greater protection for e-commerce than for consumers, that is your business, but leave our legislation be”.

The federal government would not, that is why the Bloc Quebecois will vote against the bill.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Stéphan Tremblay Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques talked about duplication.

For the benefit of those watching us, I would like to ask him this: Could such duplication place extra costs on taxpayers in Quebec, where there is already an act on personal information protection, now that the federal government has decided to interfere in its jurisdiction?

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.


Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, two situations can occur: either it will be recognized as similar by the federal government or it will not.

In both cases, it could happen that an individual or an entrepreneur, someone involved in electronic commerce for example, would go to court and say “The fact that the federal government has make its legislation similar to the Quebec legislation seems unacceptable to me. The criteria are not clear and well defined. Therefore, I do not accept this recognition by the federal government and want the federal legislation to apply in my case because the Quebec legislation is more restrictive for me”. We could see this kind of situation, and it would create duplication.

There is also the other situation where this bill will probably be passed. The Liberal majority seems intent on imposing it on us. Well, there will be a period where it will apply and where the Quebec legislation will not necessarily have been recognized as similar. During that period where both acts apply, we could have very serious legal complications.

In today's society, most people do business through the Internet. We do not know what kind of situation will occur. Which legislation will apply to an electronic commerce transaction between a client from a Quebec-based business dealing with an Alberta-based business, or between a resident of New Brunswick and a Quebec-based business?

It is not very clear, unless there is explicit recognition by the federal government, which should have been included in the bill. It would have been clear and would not have been open to interpretation. We are now left with a bill that is too vague and that will be open to interpretation and will lead to considerable legal costs and perhaps, ultimately, to people being hurt by an interpretation that does not guarantee adequate protection of personal information, like the legislation passed by the Quebec National Assembly, contrary to the one this parliament is about to pass.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again today to this important legislation, Bill C-6. Once again, this bill shows that the federal government is not minding its own business.

Since 1993, when the Liberal government took power in this House, we have seen that they stepped up their invasion of provincial areas of jurisdiction. But before going any further, I would like to say how abused I feel once again today, in this parliament, how I figure there is less and less democracy, as yet another gag was imposed this morning.

Time allocation motions limit debate for all members of the House. We feel more and more that this government has a centralization agenda designed to invade practically all the powers of the provinces, since the Canadian Constitution is not enforced anymore.

When one looks at all series of bills that have been passed since 1993, one realizes that the situation is becoming dangerous. One wonders how far this government will go to attain its goal.

This project dates back to the time when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was elected, in 1968. The present Prime Minister was one of his loyal henchmen. They started a process to make this country a centralized one, a country taking over provincial powers. I will not recall the dark moments that marked democracy in Quebec. But the same thing is happening with Bill C-6. When the history of that party is being written, it will be said that it has constantly applied itself to invading areas of provincial responsibility.

What is more, if only Bloc Quebecois members were denouncing this situation in today's debate on Bill C-6, it could be said that this is because of our specific character, our specific nature as a party. But no, I have here a list of all those who are opposed to this bill.

There is an increasing realization that there is a consensus in Quebec from all communities. They are joining forces in opposition to this bill. I will give a few examples.

There is the Conseil du patronat, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, better known as the CSN, the Barreau du Québec, the Chambre des notaires du Québec, the Conseil interprovincial du Québec, the Commission de l'accès à l'information du Québec, and finally the Government of Quebec. It can be seen that employers, labour unions, professional associations and the Government of Quebec all oppose this bill, now known as Bill C-6.

Once again, why create a precedent, when Quebec already has the necessary tools to do this? Why create one more tool, when Quebec has what is necessary, and what is more it is more efficient than what is being proposed in this bill today?

We realize the government never takes the time to consult its associates or its potential partners. That too has been a trademark of this government since 1993.

One only has to look at how the current Minister of Health is about to try to impose his national vision. There again, the provincial health ministers and premiers will have to get together and create a consensus to try to prevent this intrusion into the health sector.

The same goes in the case of Bill C-6. Some might say that every time Bloc Quebecois members rise they raise such issues. I often think I should make copies of the Canadian constitution and distribute them to all the Liberal members opposite. They would learn that this constitution, their constitution, gives exclusive rights to the provinces. But these rights have been ignored and the federal government is increasingly trying to dismiss the constitution. This leads to friction and disputes with Quebec and with the other provinces.

I would like to discuss some of the amendments made to Bill C-6, formerly Bill C-54, which died on the order paper when the first session of this Parliament was prorogued. Members will remember that my colleague, the hon. member for Mercier, had worked very hard to prevent passage of that bill. Now, Bill C-6 is back with the amendments proposed by the Senate.

As members know, the Senate proposes the following amendments:

Because the health sector is unanimously opposed to Bill C-6 in its present form, sometimes for totally contradictory reasons; because it feels that, in its present form, the bill does not adequately protect medical information, which it deems more sensitive than other types of information, and because the notion of commercial activities in the context in which the bill applies is almost impossible to define in the health sector.

This means that the senators in the Upper House were made aware of the fact that the bill does not at all respect the Canadian and Quebec reality.

In a motion that he brought forward in the House on February 7, the Minister of Industry indicated that he would accept certain amendments from the Senate. We then thought that the minister would follow up on the concerns expressed by the various stakeholders who will have to live with the consequences of Bill C-6.

Bill C-6 is a fundamental piece of legislation. With the changes happening in the multimedia area, the issue of personal information is one that must be looked at. We do not have the necessary tools to protect privacy because information is being transmitted at such a high speed.

Around 20 years ago, the fax machine was introduced. Today we have digital radio. We can receive radio and TV programs anywhere in the world thanks to satellite dishes. Then there is the whole issue of Internet.

Sure, people are increasingly concerned when they have to deal with these new media and these new ways of communicating such as Internet. They wonder whether all the information they have will be protected.

Recently, more and more people have been shunning traditional ways of doing business. They use the Internet. When they see a bill taking away things that are guaranteed by the current legislation in Quebec, there are worried.

Its very difficult to understand the attitude of the Liberal government who, month after month, has been multiplying its efforts to centralize and just about take away the powers of the provinces.

What is this government looking for? There is not one piece of legislation currently before the House that reflects the reality in Quebec or in Canada. Where do they get their ideas, all these ministers, their officials, their researchers, all those who gravitate around government circles, all those who gravitate around the Liberal government? Why do they not consult the provinces and the people concerned more often?

We are always having to fight in this House to correct the injustices that are increasingly flagrant in this government. Recently, it again imposed a bill on us, Bill C-20. The government also tried, in its effort to meddle in health matters with Bill C-13 and today with Bill C-6, to redo what Quebec has done.

Another law dear to my heart is the one on young offenders, the one that once again everyone in Quebec unanimously opposes. Basically, all the government is trying to do is substantially amend the Young Offenders Act.

Quebec truly gives effect to this law, and the Liberal government will try with these amendments to meddle and change the rules. Basically Quebec and English Canada are very different, and this becomes clear with this legislation on young offenders.

The situation is the same with Bill C-6. Why penalize Quebec, which is out in the lead? Why penalize the Government of Quebec, which always puts forward more realistic and appropriate laws that truly meet the needs of the people of the 21st century? Why does the federal government insist on taking away the rights of the people of Quebec and the National Assembly?

For the past two years in this House, whether with Bill C-54 or with the current Bill C-6, the members who have opposed it since it was introduced have not budged. They have continued to oppose Bill C-6 openly, while across the way, they continue their bulldozing and their desire to have the bill passed quickly.

We realize that this government never takes time to consult. If there is a consultation, and I am again thinking of the famous consultations in which I participated, which were least two cross-Canada prebudget consultations—one realizes, when one listens to the Minister of Finance reading the budget, that the Minister of Finance himself has strongly advised those at the head of the Standing Committee on Finance to have a strong hand in writing the report, which then has nothing to do with what members heard or what the public, groups, citizens and organizations want.

In addition to becoming increasingly anti-democratic, this government is no longer listening to the public. The gulf between Quebec and English Canada continues to widen, and passing a bill such as Bill C-6 is not going to close the gap between the needs of Quebec and those of the rest of English Canada.

Once again, I urge the Minister of Industry, his cabinet colleagues and all federal Liberal members from Quebec, those who should normally understand what is going on in Quebec, but who do not, to think about what they are doing.

Normally, they should be on their feet in the House speaking out against the federal government's frequent intrusions in Quebec's jurisdictions. But they are silent; there is not a peep out of them. The only members rising in the House to defend the interests of Quebec are Bloc Quebecois members.

In the coming months, I think that Quebecers will realize that Bloc Quebecois members are the only ones capable of defending Quebec's interests. Since my election to this House, in June 1997, I can recall no event, no legislation nor any action which demonstrated that this government is listening to Quebec.

When one runs a country like Canada and is no longer responsive to the true needs of the population, this is a dangerous situation. It is dangerous for democracy. Besides being no longer responsive, this government has been resorting to closure increasingly to all kinds of procedural means in the House of Commons. It is trying to prevent people from expressing their views.

Again, the Quebec National Assembly is increasingly aware that there is not much to be expected from the House of Commons. This Liberal government continuously takes powers and jurisdictions away from Quebec.

I would like to come back to Bill C-6, which is not different from other legislation introduced in this House. This bill will directly encroach on legislation which is normally enforced by Quebec.

As far as information and privacy are concerned, given the constant evolution in computer technology, protection measures become necessary to prevent dramatic situations. The system could create information problems and leaks. Anyone and any organization using computer systems must be protected against all those nets, which are invading society more and more.

In conclusion, since there are only a few hours left before the bill is passed, I ask the Liberal government to be, for once, responsive in its undertakings. I ask it to be responsive to Quebec but also to admit that it was wrong in introducing a legislation like Bill C-6. It would show courage if it withdrew this bill today.

Despite our constant appeals to our colleagues across the way, we get no answers. The people of Quebec are increasingly aware that when they talk to the federal government, they get no answers.

Not only do the 26 federal Liberal members from Quebec give no answer, they remain mute.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Deputy to the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.

Accordingly the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

And being returned:

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
The Royal Assent

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to amend another act in consequence—Chapter 1.

Bill C-202, an act to amend the Criminal Code (flight)—Chapter 2.

Bill C-29, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2000—Chapter 3.

Bill C-30, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2001—Chapter 4.

Bill S-14, an act to amend the act of incorporation of the Board of Elders of the Canadian District of the Moravian Church in America.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendments made by the Senate to 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.

Personal Information Protection And Electronic Documents Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made earlier this day the question to dispose of the Senate amendments to Bill C-6 is deemed put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, April 4, 2000, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

It being 5.20 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-205, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (deduction of expenses incurred by a mechanic for tools required in employment), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

March 30th, 2000 / 5:20 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-205 introduced by my colleague, the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans.

When my colleague introduced his bill last February, we were a few weeks away from the day the Minister of Finance was scheduled to bring down his budget. At that time my colleague was hoping the minister would respond to his concerns, but he did not make the commitment to amend the Income Tax Act to allow auto mechanics to deduct from their taxable income the cost of the tools they have to buy, update and maintain as a condition of their employment.

I must emphasize the fact that auto mechanics are the victims of an unfair situation that has been going on for too long. In that context, on February 17 of this year, the Automotive Industries Association of Canada sent to the 301 members of this House a letter asking the government to correct this injustice done to Canadian mechanics.

Since the finance minister failed to deal with this issue in his last budget, I doubt very much whether he took the trouble to read this group's recommendations. For his information, I will read some very interesting quotes from their letter which I hope will enlighten the finance minister, and I quote:.

—the automobile aftermarket industry is very concerned because we might not be able to meet our future labour needs. Indeed, the tax system is hampering our efforts to convince young people to consider the excellent job of automotive service technician.

I am not saying this; a Canadian association representing 140,000 mechanics across Canada is saying this. According to the association, young people are shunning this trade because the job conditions are not attractive.

Indeed a basic set of tools costs at least $4,000, while an apprentice makes less than $25,000 a year. During their first four years at work technicians will invest around 15% of their net income, in tools.

I would like the finance minister, but I believe it is asking too much of him, to put himself in their shoes. I believe he is above all that, but I appeal to his nobler sentiments, and I hope he will listen carefully to what I have to say.

An apprentice earns only $25,000 gross. Gross means before taxes, before paying for his rent, his food, his student loan if he has one. Once all this has been deducted, he has very little money left. And on top of that, he has to find $4,000 to pay for his tools.

Members can see how unjust and unacceptable it is for this category of workers. I believe it is a question of common sense, and I appeal to the common sense of all members. The minister should look at this issue with an open mind, especially since he has known about this injustice for several years. These people have been the victims of this injustice for a long time, and the finance minister, who has been in that portfolio for seven years, is familiar with the problem, but he has not done anything yet.

Could anybody give me another profession where workers have similar problems? I would like to know. But there is none, of course. Chainsaw operators, musicians and artists may claim a deduction for the cost of their tools or instruments.

Let me quote the same letter again:

Year in and year out, the demand for automotive technicians goes up, as consumers keep their cars longer because of increased durability and other factors. Modern vehicles are also more complex than ever, and their maintenance requires qualified technicians.

We should realize that these technicians do not need just a couple of screwdrivers. As I said earlier, those who want to specialize could spend between $4,000 and $30,000 on their tools.

This is the second hour of debate on this bill. I have been listening intently to the objections of members opposite. Objections have only been raised on the government side. There is a consensus on this bill on opposition benches. Four parties out of five support my hon. colleague's bill, a support that translates into a 60% support in the population, if we refer to the 1997 election results.

In our system, a party can win a majority of seats without getting the plurality of votes. The government should be sensitive to this, but when we look at how it rammed Bill C-20 through, its sense of democracy is all too apparent. The rules of the House were stretched to the limit to get this bill tabled in December. The work of the legislative committee studying the bill was abruptly curtailed and a gag was imposed to speed the bill through. Democratic this government is not.

But I am straying from today's topic. I was saying that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance had said that the bill could not be passed because allowing mechanics such a deduction would be unfair, since other workers would not receive the same treatment.

At the risk of repeating myself, I wish to remind him that the situation of mechanics is completely different, given the huge amounts they must spend compared to what they earn. Furthermore, I find this argument completely unfounded because musicians, chain saw operators and some office workers are allowed certain tax deductions. The government should realize that it is contradicting itself on this issue.

In addition, I know that one of the government's big fears is that mechanics will put some of their tools to personal use. This is naturally something that deserves our attention. All the same, I would like to point out that even though musicians are entitled to deductions for the purchase of their musical instruments, I would be very surprised if they did not use them outside the work context, just like chain saw operators, or office workers who must do the odd bit of personal business on their laptop.

There is no way to guarantee that mechanics will limit use of their tools to job-related work. This is perfectly normal. I still think that hiding behind this sort of argument to reject the bill is sticking one's head in the sand.

In conclusion, I wish to mention that over 35,000 post cards have been sent to the Minister of Finance. Since there are 140,000 mechanics in Canada, I think the message is clear. They want action. I hope that the government will listen to reason on this issue and I really hope the government will support the bill introduced by the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Îles-d'Orléans.

Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Rick Limoges Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to have any opportunity to discuss tax relief. It is a subject that is very important to me and tax relief for all Canadians is a cause that I care passionately about.

The proposed legislation must not be considered in isolation since it will no doubt set a precedent for other groups that follow. When we discuss tax relief, we must ensure that it is tax relief that is practical and that will benefit all Canadians, particularly low and middle income Canadians and those raising families. To suggest anything else would be less effective and lack any sense of priority.

Even if we now have balanced budgets or surpluses and a strong economy, our financial resources are not unlimited. This government is committed to ensuring a rational and conscientious use of these resources, in the interests of the greatest number of Canadians possible.

That is why in last fall's fiscal and economic update the Minister of Finance set out clear and concrete principles that set the priorities for federal tax relief.

First, tax reductions must be fair and give priority to those who need them most, middle and low income Canadians, especially families with children.

Second, broad based tax relief should focus first on personal income taxes.

Third, the business tax system must be internationally competitive.

Finally, broad based relief should not be funded with borrowed money.

In other words, the type and size of any tax action we take must be managed so as to never endanger our continuing commitments to balanced budgets. These are the principles that have governed our actions.