Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-23 today on behalf of our industry critic, the member for Kings—Hants, who has been very much involved with these issues.
All of us are involved with competition issues almost every day. During my former job as transportation critic there were several instances where the competition bureau was involved, especially during the evolution of the airline industry. There was a lot of involvement by the competition bureau when Canadian Airlines was consumed by Air Canada. There still is and will be for some time.
The competition bureau has outlined rules whereby Air Canada must allow competition to start and flourish in order to create a competitive environment in the aviation industry in Canada. Air Canada is so strong that it effectively could put new companies out of business before they even start. It can subsidize four revenue lines from its better revenue lines, thereby competing with other smaller airlines that do not have access to the more profitable lines. It can lower rates on its lower revenue lines by subsidizing from the higher revenue lines.
Everyone understands how the system works. Air Canada has complied quite astutely but the competition bureau has been involved in a couple of cases. That is just an example of what we are talking about here.
I have another example that is a little closer to home. A member of my family received a call saying that she had won a car or some huge prize. She had to call a 1-900 number and answer a few skill testing questions. I remember that the low end of the prize award was $2.73 and the high end was a car. When she called the number she was kept on the line for almost an hour. They charged her a lot of money, and sure enough she had won the $2.73. It was a total scam to make money on the phone call.
Another senior lady in my riding was scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by two or three different outfits from the province of Quebec. They were the same people who just changed names, identities and addresses. They used all kinds of excuses to access this lady's money. In the end she lost her home and her money. It was a confidence scam. She should have had quick and easy access to the Competition Act to prevent this sort of thing from happening.
Our party is pleased to see these amendments come in. It is a credit to parliamentarians and private members' bills that have come before. They have all been generated by people who have come to us as members of parliament and advised us that they had been scammed, cheated or were victims of abuse in some way.
Members of parliament have responded by raising the issue with several private members' bills which are now reflected in Bill C-23. Quite often people do not give us credit but the system actually does work. It may take a while but it does work.
People are concerned about issues of conspiracy, bid rigging, predatory pricing, misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices. Many of us have been victims of those practices, including me and certainly some of my constituents. When the bill is in its final form hopefully it will address those issues.
Non-criminal or reviewable matters include mergers, abuse of dominant positions and people taking advantage of others. They may not be criminal but they are reviewable and they are not fair. This is where the competition commissioner should have the power to intervene and protect the citizens who have no other avenue or no other source of protection.
The competition tribunal and the competition commissioner have done a good job with the tools they have had to work with. Bill C-23 would give them more tools. In any case I have been involved in the competition commissioner has done a thorough investigation, has heard both sides of the story and has done a good job.
The bill was developed because parliamentarians responded to citizens through private members' bills. However it has also come about through consultations across the country, through public policy forums and a consultation paper that formed the basis of the discussions entitled “Amending the Competition Act: A Discussion Paper on Meeting the Needs of the Global Economy”. All these sources of information certainly enhanced the bill.
Part of the issue is international co-operation. That is important because the same people from the province of Quebec who were scamming other people were doing the same in the United States. The American authorities had limited access to address this issue because of international rules. The bill would allow a closer relationship between the law enforcement offices and the competition bureaus of both countries to deal with these international issues.
The bill would deal with deceptive practices such as the notice of winning a prize as in the case of my family member. A lot of Canadian companies are providing these services or promoting these scams in the U.S. The same can happen the other way around. American companies can scam Canadians. There has to be some international co-operation, and the bill would do that.
The bill intends to streamline the litigation progress, which is a good thing. It would help the tribunal that manages each case it hears to be more efficient and to give easier access to people. The tribunal would be able to award costs against a party, which is also a good thing. Many people have taken on incredible legal bills to fight the mail and telephone scams I have mentioned. In a decision the tribunal would at least be able to award costs to the victims.
The tribunal would gain the power to summarily dispose of a matter that it believes has no genuine basis for application. That is a good thing as well. Frivolous actions are taken and it would have the power to determine whether or not an action is frivolous.
Under the new proposal the bureau would be able to issue temporary or interim orders prior to completion of the litigation. This was perhaps led by some of the Air Canada judgments. Powers would be given to the competition commissioner in the aviation case. It could make judgments early and immediately, before the case even comes to the tribunal.
Therefore there is a lot of good in the bill. Our party is anxious to get it to committee as well. We want to make sure that it has teeth, as the government has proposed. We want to make sure the teeth are actually there. We want to make sure the competition bureau is independent. We want to emphasize that this whole issue evolved from citizens complaining to members of parliament, who brought it forward in private members' bills and now in a government bill.
We will be pleased to see the bill go to committee and we will make our decisions and amendments there.