Madam Speaker, I am also pleased to address this bill introduced by the hon. member for Peterborough. I was very interested in his comments.
I congratulate him for raising this important issue in the House. I also express my regrets to the hon. member for Elk Island, who did not have luck on his side. The hon. member for Peterborough did, but it is the reality of us parliamentarians in this House. Our initiatives, whether it is motions or bills, are randomly selected. This time the hon. member for Peterborough was the lucky one, unlike our colleague from Elk Island.
The fact remains that, beyond the issue of chance, the two were pursuing the same objective, which is to establish a national standard for the representation of dates in all-numeric form.
The member for Peterborough resorted to humour to present some Kafkaesque situations that are unlikely to occur in reality. In spite of all the constraints imposed by the existence of several models of representation, we manage without too many problems to pick our way around the various ways of identifying the date in numeric form.
The fact remains that, beyond the very funny presentation made by the hon. member for Peterborough, this could indeed create problems and confusion which, in turn, can often have serious consequences.
This bill is not a votable item, but if it had been one, we would probably have supported it, because its objective is laudable.
In a world that puts the emphasis on information technology and computers, we were able to see firsthand the importance of the representation of dates in all-numeric form with Y2K. At the time, it was feared that our computers would go haywire, because we were switching from the two digit representation, such as 70, 80 or 90, that had always been used since computers were first introduced, to something like 00 or 01. This could potentially create problems, since computers might have interpreted this as if we were going back to the beginning of the last century.
We then saw the need for a standard that would prevent such confusion and the serious consequences that it might have.
When one has a date that reads 01-01-01, everyone knows that means January 1, 2001. We scarcely need know where the year, the month and the day fit in that sequence. Generally speaking, we are all capable of knowing what month, year and day are referred to.
Returning to the example of my colleague from Peterborough, of 02-03-04, we are then in a bit of a problematical situation. We can no longer tell what the year, the month and the day is in the sequence.
I believe indeed that it is appropriate for a universal standard to be recognized so as to avoid this type of imbroglio.
The hon. member for Peterborough proposes use of the standard recognized by the International Organization for Standardization to which, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry has pointed out, Canada subscribes. I believe that the objective of my colleague from Peterborough, and he will correct me if I am wrong, is, on top of acknowledging that Canada subscribes to this international standard, to see that it is actually applied.
Experience has proven beyond reasonable doubt that in actual fact, people continue to put the year at the end, the year at the beginning, or the month at the beginning.
We end up with a variety of situations and representations of the numeric date that may, as I said earlier, create complications.
Beyond the recognition of this standard and the fact that Canada subscribes to it, we must look to its actual application.
The standard proposed is the year, represented by four digits, followed by the month and the day, each represented by two digits and separated by a hyphen or a space.
Obviously, because practices vary considerably and Canada is a bilingual country, the bilingual fact often giving rise to different interpretations of events, I took the trouble, and members will understand that, to look at the French language standards and how they compared to the standard proposed by the member for Peterborough, a standard used by the International Organization for Standardization.
So, in consulting the various reference documents published by the Office de la langue française, we noted that, indeed, usage in the French language conformed to the international standard being proposed by the member for Peterborough.
I take the liberty of quoting Français au bureau produced by the Office de la langue française, which is available in electronic format on its Internet site.
—the date and the time may be represented in all-numeric form to meet certain technical requirements, including those of tables, schedules, coding, various readouts. In this case, the following order is to be used: four digits represent the year, two represent the month and two represent the day, in this order, in accordance with an international standard—
This is of course the one referred to earlier.
Separators to be used between the year, the month and the day are either a space or a hyphen. Neither a colon nor an oblique may be used.
I think, as far as the French language is concerned, the practice conforms entirely with what the hon. member for Peterborough is proposing.
Now, the Office de la langue française also provides that the year may be represented by just two digits. However, given the change in the millennium, this may give rise to some confusion. So, the practice recommended by the Office de la langue française is to use four digits to represent the year.
The bill, as my colleague from Elk Island and the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry mentioned, introduces a standard or companion rule that I would describe as Byzantine, and which may actually add some confusion to the current situation. The rule is that found in clause 6, which states that the years 1990 through 1999 as well as year 2032 and subsequent years may be represented by the last two digits. Obviously, the reasoning is sound, 2032 makes sense, since there are no months with more than 31 days.
However, in a case such as this, I would think that we have to trust in people's intelligence. If we adopt a rigorous method that stipulates that the year comes first, then surely people will know that when it says 31 at the beginning of a sequence, it refers to the year. People will understand that, if the standard is applied rigorously, when a sequence begins with 31, it refers to 2031 or 1931. This is the problem with a sequence where the year is represented by only two digits.
Now, why does this bill provide, in clause 6, that the years 1990 through 1999 may be represented by two digits? That remains a mystery to me. I think it only adds to the confusion. This clause should be deleted, if this bill were to be adopted.
In closing, I will say that it is an entirely logical standard. Things are usually represented in this manner, from the largest unit to the smallest unit: metres, centimetres, millimetres; hours, minutes, seconds; dollars, cents, and so on.
Therefore, I believe that the member for Peterborough's goal is commendable and completely legitimate. We endorse it, obviously, and it would be our pleasure, if this bill were to be voted on, to support it.