Madam Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to speak to Bill C-212.
This is a very important bill in spite of the fact that it deals with a tremendous amount of arcane information. It is one of those things where as the country of Canada has become the great nation that it has, over a period of time we have ended up with an awful lot of practices within Parliament. There are parliamentary procedures and practices within the bureaucracy that are responsible for putting together regulations surrounding the laws that are passed in Parliament.
As a consequence, there has been a buildup of detail and a buildup of law that has ended up beyond the control of the people who are elected by Canadians, namely the parliamentarians. We have ended up with a situation where as much as 90% of the law, the rules and regulations, and the procedures that citizens and companies have to go through are actually beyond the control, direction, and oversight of parliamentary procedure. This bill is one of a number of steps that have come from the backbench that would start to correct that situation.
I would like to mention that the member for Surrey Central just recently was successful in having a bill passed that had to do with the disallowance of regulations. As I mentioned, it is a rather arcane topic. It is an arcane description. Let me explain the disallowance of procedures.
Basically, what he managed to do--and it is parallel to what this bill is attempting to do in my judgment--is to put parliamentarians, who are the representatives elected by and accountable to the people of Canada, back into the process. What we will basically be looking at now are a number of fees, regulations, and procedures that have been developed, presumably in good faith by the bureaucracy that have ended up beyond the control of even the ministers of the Crown.
As I understand Bill C-212, it has to do specifically with user fees. According to the documents I have in front of me, it says that this act may be cited as the user fees act. When I go through this bill and I come to clause 5.1, reduction of user fee; clause 6, resolution of the House; and clause 7, adjustments in the applications of user fees; I see very clearly and specifically the intent of the bill, which is basically to allow parliamentarians to review user fees and potentially reduce user fees.
I want to be crystal clear as to where the Canadian Alliance is coming from. We believe in user pay; we believe in user fees. That is not the issue. The issue is how fair they are, and indeed if they are unfair, what the process would be that would be undertaken today prior to the enactment of the provisions in Bill C-212? What would actually take place today?
The fact of the matter is that with the exception of this new bill that my colleague from Surrey Central managed to get through, we have never really had a tool within the parliamentary process to be able to do it. That is why this bill is very complimentary to the bill that my colleague from Surrey Central managed to get through.
Let me give an example. I am the Canadian Heritage critic. I am familiar with what are called part II fees under the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
The CRTC has basically two levels of fees. The first fee is the actual user pay. I must say that as far as many of the broadcasters and people in the industry that are paying the fees, they feel that the user pay portion is very generous toward the CRTC.
What is part II? Part II has to do with the fee that in no capricious way but nonetheless without any real structure has ended up evolving over a period of time. There is a part of the spectrum that the broadcasters use either for audio or visual transmission or digital transmissions and have access to, have rights to. Therefore, because those frequencies in the spectrum are assigned specifically to them for their use, they bring radio and television, and other broadcasts into that spectrum at that frequency. The thought has been that that is worth x number of dollars.
Again, we are very sensitive in the Canadian Alliance to the fact that there are public commodities like spectrum, like frequencies that indeed do have some commercial value. Unfortunately, for the broadcast industry, what has occurred particularly over the last 10 years--and in an accelerated way over the last 10 years--is that the value of those frequencies within the spectrum has plummeted. It has basically gone through the floor. Why? Simply because of the new technology that permits broadcasters and people wanting to broadcast information to be able to get onto the air.
We speak frequently of the so-called 500 channel universe. It used to be that there was an area, a green tier it was called. A green tier for broadcasters simply meant that one wanted to be on channel 2 through 13 because those were the ones that were on the UHF, the ultra-high frequency dial. Past that, we were getting into a different television frequency and the broadcasters were going to be lost. There has been an historic clamouring on the part of broadcasters to get into the green tier, to the 2 through 13, because they want to be found and easily seen.
As a consequence of digital transmissions, we can now go to channel 163 or channel 359. It does not make any difference. We can program our VCR and television receiver to wherever we want to be on the dial. I was speaking to a colleague about this bill earlier today. He was saying how it used to be that when a familiar channel was bumped for whatever reason and moved to another portion of the dial or frequency, that all of a sudden he would end up with all sorts of calls to his office from people complaining about it being moved. Why are they not complaining now? Well, because there are so many channels being added that it is a simple matter of re-computing one's television set so that for people who are watching CPAC right now on channel 69 in Ottawa, and I am making that up as I do not know what the channel is--