The origins of the bill can be traced back to early 2002 when the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released a report entitled, “A Plan to Modernize Canada's Competition Act”. The proposed changes from that committee's report formed the basis of government Bill C-19 during the 38th Parliament, under the leadership of the member for LaSalle—Émard.
Reading this private member's bill, I noticed that virtually all the provisions of Bill C-19 have been included as well as some of the other recommendations from the industry committee's 2002 report, which did not find their way into the original bill.
I understand many of the additions in Bill C-454 had been proposed during the rather lengthy year that the industry committee spent studying Bill C-19 before it died on the order paper in November 2005.
Above and beyond those additions, Bill C-454 has a number of other amendments that were not in the original bill.
While I am willing to lend my vote to the bill at second reading, I do so in the hope that it will receive the same diligent consideration at committee stage that Bill C-19 received in 2005. We must, as legislators, ensure that the objectives of the bill will be met without any unintended consequences.
To reiterate my position for the member, the bill shows good promise and I will support it at this stage. However, I will reserve my final judgment until it returns from committee wherein stakeholders and Canadians will have had the opportunity to voice their praise or their concerns for the bill.
While I am on the topic of committee stage, I hope the industry committee' s efforts to review the bill will be well coordinated with the Minister of Industry's review of the Competition Act. I believe the minister is expecting his panel to report later this spring and I hope that the two tracks will find some common ground.
The underlying purpose of Bill C-454 is to enhance the Competition Act, with a view to ensuring that businesses in our country compete with each other in a fair and open market. The act helps to protect businesses, especially small businesses, but large ones as well, from becoming the victims of such anti-competitive behaviour as predatory pricing and abuse of dominance.
The end beneficiary of this is the Canadian consumer, who will benefit from increased competition, diversified choice and in theory lower prices at the cash register. The act achieves this through the Competition Bureau, which enforces the provisions by responding to consumer complaints and investigating evidence of illegal activity by businesses.
The biggest change that Bill C-454 would make to the Competition Act is it would allow for general administrative monetary penalty, or AMP, provisions to be used against businesses or individuals abusing their dominant position in any industry. This would allow businesses and individuals injured by an abuse of dominance to seek financial remuneration for any damages they have suffered due to abuse of a dominant position. Currently there are only criminal penalties for such breaches of the act.
Similar administrative monetary penalty provisions are already in place for abuse of dominance in many countries around the world. Adding Canada to the list of countries that allows for these fines in cases where dominance has been abused is important, not only domestically but also in terms of strengthening ties with our major trading partners.
Let me move on to other aspects of Bill C-454. One is that the bill would increase the administrative penalties, or AMPs, that a business could be fined for practising in deceptive marketing practices. With the low limits of the current maximums, deceptive marketing can often lead to profits that are far greater than the monetary penalties that can be administered. By raising the limits, we will increase the deterrence factor and help to ensure that the people who are hurt by deceptive marketing campaigns can get a much greater percentage of their investment back from the guilty party.
Another measure included in the bill, which came directly from the industry committee's 2002 report, was to eliminate the section of the Competition Act that dealt specifically with airlines. This special mention of our airline industry was added at a time when Canadian and Air Canada were merging and there was widespread concern that the Competition Bureau needed stronger tools to ensure that the combined giant did not engage in predatory conduct.
Today, however, there are many low cost carriers that have emerged and the airline industry no longer needs special mention in the act. The industry can go back to being covered by the general provisions, which, as I have mentioned, would be strengthened the bill.
I am glad to see that the Bloc Québécois have taken an interest in helping to build a stronger 21st century economy, supported by a competitive marketplace and a competition with the tools to ensure that they get the job done. The Bloc often takes a narrow and isolationist approach to economic matters, so it is nice to see it put country before its own party interests.
It would have been very easy for the Bloc for instance to dismiss a bill, such as C-19, as an intrusion of the federal government into matters of provincial jurisdiction. For instance, price controls are the exclusive jurisdiction of the provincial government, save for in emergency situations. The Bloc of old might have believed that the federal government had no place deciding when a business had engaged in predatory pricing. Determining the appropriate price of something could be interpreted as a matter purely for provincial jurisdiction.
In this instance I am glad to see that my Bloc colleague from Montcalm was willing to table a bill that proves a federal bill can be good for all Canadians including the people of Quebec.
I look forward to seeing what the industry committee does with Bill C-454 and when it arrives back here in the House for report stage and third reading.