Yes, Madam Speaker, that is why we have a do not call list here, which we are debating.
I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the report stage debate on Bill C-37, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act. The bill addresses telemarketing calls by enabling the CRTC to establish and enforce a do not call registry similar to those already found in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
We all have received unwanted calls at awkward times, even sometimes in the House, from people attempting to sell goods or services or convey some sort of message. Sometimes these calls are invasive, disruptive, time consuming and incredibly annoying.
Telemarketing scored number four in Time magazine's survey of the worst ideas of the 20th century. A survey conducted by Decima Research, undoubtedly by telephone, found that 75% of Canadians want the federal government to institute a do not call list to protect them against unsolicited telephone calls.
In 2003 the U.S. responded to the unwanted telemarketing calls by establishing a national do not call list. Americans were quick to sign on, registering more than seven million phone numbers on the first day. This summer, registrations surpassed the 100 million mark in the United States.
Since its origin, the registry, run by the Federal Trade Commission, has received nearly one million complaints, nine violation cases and four fraud cases in the United States.
Before going to committee, Bill C-37 was almost an empty shell, with most of the details left to the regulations. As a result, we did not know if there would be any exclusions to the list, how much it would cost, who would operate the list and so on.
This government habitually introduces shell bills that lack substance and are written in often incomplete general terms that are vague in their intent.
Much of the law that affects Canadians is found not in the Consolidated Statutes of Canada, but in the thousands of regulations made pursuant to powers granted by acts of Parliament. This leaves the door wide open to put through regulations that define our laws, without the proper checks and balances.
What is surprising is that 80% of the law that governs Canada is done through the back door by regulations, not by laws passed in Parliament. By doing so, the Liberal government has effectively gutted the parliamentary process of accountability and transparency in the formulation of its laws. Parliament is no longer at the centre of the law-making process. It is the bureaucrats who are at the centre.
During second reading debate, if members recall, I outlined all these concerns. I concluded my speech by saying that the registry, if established, must be “within parameters clearly defined by Parliament and with reasonable exemptions provided for charities, political parties and companies that wish to contact their current customers” and that we must craft a more detailed piece of legislation so that both consumers and telemarketers will know how the do not call registry will work.
After second reading, at committee, the Conservative Party members, my colleagues, worked to amend the bill and to add several new clauses to the Telecommunications Act. These amendments require the CRTC to report to the minister annually on the operation of the national do not call list and further require a review of the do not call legislation three years after the coming into force of the act as amended.
Most significantly, the bill was amended to provide certain exemptions from inclusion on the national do not call list, notably for charities, “existing business relationships”, political parties and pollsters.
In the original version of Bill C-37, these exemptions were not laid out by the government. Furthermore, the power to determine these details was delegated by the Liberals to the CRTC and its regulatory powers rather than the elected representatives in this House.
There are more concerns. Sometimes aggressive telemarketers call the most vulnerable in our society, such as seniors on fixed incomes, to induce them into gambling or lotteries or to scam and defraud them. These citizens need and deserve our protection.
Bill C-37 does not address unsolicited ads on the Internet. When young children are learning through the Internet or surfing the web to do their homework projects, they are bombarded with pornographic and vulgar ads. They are not suitable for young children or even in a family setting.
I am disappointed that the protection of children against vulgar images and the temptation that is forced upon them is not within the scope of this bill. So far nothing has been done by this weak Liberal government to provide any protection to those who deserve it and who need it.
The bill does not address the unsolicited faxes ringing on shared residential telephone lines, many times in the middle of the night. As we know, the faxes sometimes do not display the telephone number of the sender. I do not know how those numbers will be added to the do not call list.
These are very important details that deserve the consideration of Parliament.
Even with the amendments in place, I am still concerned over how much this scheme will cost when implemented. The government says that the registry would be self-financing. Of course, the government said the same thing for the long gun registry also introduced by this government. The gun registry was supposed to cost a mere $2 million. It now has a tab approaching $2 billion, and that is billion with a “b”.
Canadians obviously do not want another fiasco like the gun registry. The Conservative Party will monitor the cost of maintaining this registry. It will make sure the registry operates smoothly, efficiently and in a way that best protects the interests of Canadians.
Some of the motions on this bill are housekeeping amendments, but one of the CPC amendments that was passed in committee forces everyone who is exempted, such as charities, political parties, candidates, polling firms and existing business relationship callers, to immediately identify themselves and state the nature of their business when they make a call.
The Liberals argue that this identification will bias survey answers. We agree, thus we are supporting this motion.
Generally in the telemarketing industry, Canadians buy more than $16 billion in goods and services over the telephone each year. This generates employment for more than a quarter of a million Canadians. The telemarketing industry is important to the livelihood of many of my constituents. B.C. is home over 300 call centres, ranging in size from a few agents to several hundred. There are currently an estimated 14,000 call centre jobs in the greater Vancouver area.
It is unclear what impact a national do not call registry would have on the Canadian telemarketing industry. It can be assumed, however, with the exemptions the Conservative Party successfully pushed for in committee, that the impact would be less than it would have been under the original bill put forward by the government.
To conclude, let me point out that a centrally administered national do not call list provides the means for consumers to avoid unsolicited telemarketing calls. A well-run do not call list will provide consumers with choice while protecting Canadian businesses and jobs.
The Conservative Party supports the establishment of a do not call list within parameters clearly defined by Parliament and with reasonable exemptions provided for charities, political parties, polling firms and companies that wish to contact their current customers.
While I personally still have some concerns with the bill, as I mentioned earlier, particularly about the management of the registry, I will be watching closely to protect the best interests of my constituents of Newton--North Delta and of all Canadians who are watching this debate.