Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak on a piece of legislation that has been a long time coming. As my colleagues who spoke earlier said, when we sat on committee, we all laboured with best intentions to get a piece of legislation that would be good for the Canadian public.
We know that no piece of legislation is perfect. This is one of those situations where this piece of legislation will be an improvement over the current situation.
This is the first speech in which I have the ability to speak a full 20 minutes in my short time in the House. I will take a few minutes to explain the overall general process that I take to approach all legislation. It is important for citizens to understand the overall philosophy and principle of their legislature and I will use as an example, of what is in many ways viewed as a non-ideological and non-philosophical piece of legislation, Bill C-37.
I will go through not only the technical aspects of the legislation, what specifically are the amendments and the overall intent of the bill, but the principles and thought processes I used to arrive at certain decisions to help me decide how to vote on the amendments to the bill.
I find it important to do this with any piece of legislation, no matter how mundane, for two reasons. I believe the principles of all legislation need to be dealt with.
First, one must deal with the principles in legislation because principles provide the logic of legislation for consistency in all law. If we do not deal from an objective principle basis when dealing with law, we end up with chaos. We end up with a purely utilitarian approach to the law and the law does not become a law of justice but becomes the law of the jungle. I think it is important to understand that if we are to have actual good legislation, we must always do it on a principle basis.
The second reason is accountability. As a voter, even as a committee member or as a member of this House, it is impossible to completely keep up on all pieces of legislation. The government and the bureaucracy is so vast that even committee work can sometimes seem like the details are weighing us down.
If one can reference certain key principles, certain key statements, certain key benchmarks to begin with, it helps to be accountable to the electorate because ultimately democracy is the voice of the people. Therefore, if the people can understand the principles, they can understand the fruits of those principles which is the applicable legislation.
I want to explain my thought process. Sometimes principles can come into collision with each other. There can be a little bit of weighing of principles and values and so forth. It is important to understand the thought process and the application because it enhances the accountability of the situation. I believe that accountability is what all members of this House stand for.
It also helps to understand the weighing of the options. That is how I approach the overall body of the bill when dealing with each of these specific amendments. There is an intermixing of the practical in this in order to understand the logic as people in the future read this speech in Hansard or watch it on TV.
I endorse the underlying basic principle of this bill because ultimately, it is a protection of individual personal rights as to the rights of property. I come from the school of thought which has a belief in inalienable rights, balanced, as I have said before in this House, with inalienable responsibilities. One of the inalienable rights that are granted to all citizens is the right of personal property, protection, preservation and promotion of that personal property. This to some degree involves privacy.
Under the British common law concept, in this modern world, our home is our castle. This can sometimes be violated by our technology. We have derived and created various technologies, the Internet, the computer and the telephone for the specific purpose of enhancing our communications. However, there are times when they can all be intrusive and violate our home, our defence, our property, and the key right of an individual.
That is one reason why I specifically support the underlying general principle of this legislation. With the do not call legislation, we are allowing people to say, “My home is my castle. Thank you very kindly, but I do not wish to be bothered. This is my privacy. You are decreasing the enjoyment of my property”.
There are other principles involved here: the principle of personal property, the free exchange of goods, and the property of other people. We have to have some interaction and some balance on that level.
The other thing is that it is not really about commercial transactions. There is the freedom of speech element, and this balances with what I would call the unalienable right of the citizen to liberty and the unalienable responsibility to liberty. This political discourse will come in as I talk about some of the exceptions because all these communication tools enhance liberty by letting us receive and transmit ideas for a free exchange of thought. The telephone has become one of those methods, with of course the Internet, the post office system, door-knocking, face to face communications and other elements. That is another principle that we deal with here, particularly when it comes to political thought.
When we get into the charitable exemptions element of this bill, I will deal with why I think responsibility to community gets involved in that, but there is a principle I believe involved on that level.
That is the overall basis and approach that I take to this. Every element must have some basis in principle. There must be some logic. There must be some application to this. What is my thought process and how did I apply it to each and every one of the specific exemptions put into the legislation: the who, the what, the why, et cetera?
One of the first amendments we made when we got to committee was to put in a three year review, not for some delegated powers to the CRTC or the bureaucracy but to bring the three year review under the authority of Parliament. I supported that. We could argue about the timelines but that was more of a practical application of what would be the best purpose for it. I supported the underlying concept because it does provide for accountability right here in this House. The buck stops here, not just proverbially but in reality.
We are the elected representatives of the people of Canada. We cannot be delegating any more powers than we have to to the bureaucracy, to people who are not directly in that line. For practical purposes, yes, we can. We cannot have 308 persons running the entirety of the government, but we are the people who are responsible. We are the voice. We are one of the defenders, along with the law, the legal system, et cetera, of the basic unalienable rights and responsibilities of the people of Canada.
That is why I supported the concept of a review that comes to the House of Commons, delegated of course to the committee. It is very important for accountability because this piece of legislation, along with all legislation, is fallible. We are not all-knowing; we are not all-wise. We are very fallible as in previous legislation, so it is very important that the element of accountability be put in.
A second amendment that was put forward at committee was to exempt political parties, candidates, ridings, et cetera, from the do not call registry. Again there are exceptions. If people say “Please do not call me”, that will be honoured. I will admit that part of my first thought was that this helps the challengers more than it helps the incumbents because we have better name recognition. So from a purely selfish perspective, the incumbents of this House should in many ways have a self-interest to oppose putting this in, but there is the balance of the unalienable political right of liberty and the unalienable responsibility of liberty that is applied here.
I will admit that for some people political calls can be some of the most annoying calls but the freedom of speech element must be protected everywhere, not just on the liberty side but on the responsibility side. It is the responsibility and duty of every citizen, if they want to have inalienable rights, to follow through on inalienable responsibilities, and that includes being fully aware and fully informed of the debate that is going on in the political process, the guarantor of the rights that underline and protect the property rights that underline the legislation. The candidates, the ridings and so forth all tend to blend in on that one level.
Again, there are good arguments as to why this should be a little more restricted but the underlying principles hold and the safeguard of allowing people to personally state that they do not wish to be called should be helpful on everything.
I will note the other exemption built in here, which is the one for polling and surveying. I would hope that when this comes up for a three year review that it will be looked at in a more detailed and thoughtful fashion. The reasoning I have on this is the following. Yes, it is important to have particular information to help in the processing of the dialogue and to help in the dialogue of what people are thinking so that everyone may know back and forth, and polling and surveying does, to a certain degree, help that.
However a fairly interesting thing to note, on a very practical level, is the last two British elections where polling was done both by telephone and survey methods that we are accustomed to in Canada and by an Internet based pollster, YouGuv in particular. It was interesting to note that in the last couple of elections the Internet based pollster was the most accurate.
What I am saying is that perhaps in the future there could be less intrusive ways of still preserving the responsibility of liberty, the responsibility to gather information that there be a free and open dialogue of principle, and perhaps the Internet might be one of the ways because, spam mail notwithstanding, it is a somewhat less intrusive method than a phone call in the middle of suppertime and intruding on one's life at that point.
Another exemption in the act is for charities. This is, again, a question. One of the things that was noted by a witnesses at committee was that when we actually ask people specifically what calls bother them, it tends to be much more the commercial transaction ones than the particular charities.
We all saw the generosity of Canadians when it came to some of the disasters overseas, such as the horrible and horrific tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia. One of the methods the charities use to gather funds is through the phones, which makes up a significant portion of their revenues. In fact, some of the charities were particularly concerned because this could have the devastating effect of wiping them out. I believe the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, if memory serves me correct, was one of the most articulate, but Mothers Against Drunk Driving, et cetera, were also put there.
What principle did I use when I was weighing my vote back and forth? I believe the inalienable right of property also has an inalienable responsibility of property, which is the responsibility to use it for the good, not just of oneself but for the whole community. Taxation does it by force but it is a more compassionate society when people do it willingly and based on an argument not of force but of grace. One of the reasons I supported it is that it does imply a responsibility of the electorate of the populace. Merely to put up a sign saying, “Please don't bother me”, lowers the threshold of our level of responsibility, which is why I supported the underlying concept of exempting charities on that.
I will note again that when it comes to the charity exemption, individual call lists are kept by the charities, et cetera. Undoubtedly they will share these because there is no point calling persons who are considerably hostile and not particularly generous toward certain callers. Very practically, charities call those who have been the most generous.
The next exemption in the bill concerns the identification and purpose of organizations at the beginning of the call. I support this because of an honesty and integrity factor. Unfortunately, Canada has a reputation of being one of the major centres for call scams around the world. I believe this would increase the level of trust and the level of efficiency. It respects people's privacy and their right to utilize their property in a free and non-harassed way.
The final practical amendment to the legislation is the existing business relationship. We heard considerable concern in the committee that even mom and pop operations would not be allowed to call their 50 or 60 customers or their close friends and so on. I do not think that was the intention of the bill. A mechanic would not be able to call up a neighbour to tell him that it has been so many years since he had his car fixed and that it should be taken care of, and so on.
There were also some very practical applications that people might not understand or completely remember. We can think of car dealerships when they have to call a customer because of a defect in an automobile that needs to be recalled. We would not want anything that might in the least way impinge on those business relationships.
Once someone has made a commercial transaction they have indicated a certain willingness already to deal with it. Again, the exceptions and so on can be dealt with on this.
I would note that all these amendments were made at committee, which disturbs me considerably. We often seem to get incomplete legislation being rushed through to committee. There does not seem to be a lot of thought. The government sees a headline, gets itself into an emergency and then tries to put something together without any thought.
We will see this later this week with Bill C-66, the home rebate bill where, after years of not thinking anything about energy policy or the cost to the population for home heating, et cetera, the government quickly pulled something out when it saw gasoline prices spiking.
Perhaps the government should take more time to think things out, to actually have a vision and not just react to every headline. A vision actually gets good legislation done years in advance.
Another comment I wish to make is about the administration of the system. We have seen the government's most famous long gun firearms registry balloon to I believe a cost of $2 billion. I hope this registry is much better handled than that one.
The government has a reputation, which it has earned, of incompetence when it comes to administration, be it in its delegation to the crown corporations by choosing inadequate appointees or just the particular administration of contracts, be it advertising in Quebec or the firearms registry. I would caution the government to actually use some oversight and principles of administration that it has neglected in its previous endeavours.
Those are the principal and practical reasons that I support the legislation and will be voting for it.
However I would caution all members of the House to be careful how we proceed with this one. On a personal note, one summer when I was in university I had finished my tree planting and was waiting for my cheque and I needed to turn a little extra cash. I worked in a call centre for about six weeks while taking an intercession class at the University of Saskatchewan. The one thing we should remember is that many people earn their living from these places. We should be very sensitive to anyone who may be unemployed due general overall economic conditions. Many of these people who receive a minimum wage or slightly more are not well represented in the House of Commons.
I do not think many members in the House came from minimum wage backgrounds and perhaps we should remember the economic effects as we pass legislation and be somewhat cognizant about the people this may affect in the long term. I think with the exemptions and the way it is handled it will provide a reasonable way to handle it.