House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-50.


Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon on debate at the third reading stage of Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, the ECPA.

It has been estimated that spam costs the Canadian economy about $3 billion a year. It costs the economy through the use of such malicious means as malware, spyware, phishing, worms and viruses such as Trojan horses which enter computers. It costs the economy in terms of sapping Canadians' trust in electronic commerce.

Bill C-27 will protect Canadian consumers and businesses from the most damaging and deceptive forms of electronic harms and provide a regulatory regime to protect the privacy and the personal security of Canadians. The rules will encourage confidence in online communications and e-commerce.

The bill before us provides the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner with the tools they need to pursue those who would undermine the online economy and to work with one another and with their international counterparts.

The bill provides sharp teeth: administrative monetary penalties of up to a maximum of $1 million per violation for individuals and up to $10 million for businesses.

The bill before us is the result of a great deal of work by several different sources. On the one hand we have the recommendations of the 2005 report by the task force on spam. The bill has also benefited from Bill S-220 introduced in the other place by former Senator Goldstein.

Some features of the bill before us differ from what the former senator proposed. Perhaps one of the most important is using the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to enforce the provisions rather than using law enforcement agencies as proposed by Bill S-220.

The RCMP has other urgent law enforcement responsibilities. We should not redirect their resources to the monitoring of unsolicited commercial e-mail.

I believe that both this House and the other place see the wisdom in using regulatory authorities rather than law enforcement agencies to combat spam. The regulatory agencies would be consistent with the regimes that have been put in place in other countries. This system would help promote international cooperation among the various agencies responsible for combatting spam.

In drafting Bill C-27 we have also looked at the experience of other countries in combatting spam. The bill draws upon what has worked in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. We have benefited from their experience, and the bill before us is based on the best and most effective aspects of the legislative initiatives from around the world.

Finally, the bill as amended, which is before us today, has benefited from the work over the past months of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology of which I have been a member.

As a result of the committee's work, several key elements of the bill have been strengthened and clarified without diminishing the core principles.

As hon. members know, Bill C-27 adopts an express consent regime designed to give businesses and consumers control over their inbox and over their own computers. It requires that an individual's consent be obtained in order to permit an ongoing commercial relationship. Once consent has been expressed by an individual, it remains until the individual opts out or revokes that consent.

The committee took a careful look at how to ensure that companies that use email to keep in touch with customers do not inadvertently find themselves in violation of the law. The implied consent provision has been expanded to include the conspicuous publication of an electronic address. If one publishes one's email on a website or in a print advertisement, one is considered to have consented to receiving unsolicited commercial messages, provided that the sender's message relates to the business or office one holds. Consent is also implied when one gives out a business card or provides an email address in a letter.

Similarly the amended bill clarifies that when a business is sold, the purchaser has implied consent to contact the customers of that business.

The period of implied consent has been expanded to two years from eighteen months following an initial transaction. This gives businesses an extended period in which to obtain someone's express consent to receive further commercial messages.

We heard from a number of different witnesses in front of committee. This may not have been what some wanted. They might have wanted a longer term, but the two years was agreed upon by the committee, and it was felt to be a reasonable amount of time.

Another area where the bill has been amended is in ensuring that updates to computer programs are not adversely affected by the protections we have put in place against malware and spyware. The committee looked at the impact the bill would have on the installation of computer programs. It has been amended such that the installation of updates is understood as a part of the original contract under which the software was installed.

Most of these programs call for automatic updates that take place daily or weekly to such things as antivirus software. A fresh consent will not be required each time one of these updates takes place. Programs such as JavaScript or Flash will also not require express consent each time they are run.

Let me say a few words about the private right of action included in this bill. Some hon. members have questioned whether a private right of action is needed. A private right complements the enforcement efforts of the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

I would remind the House that this feature has been very effective in the United States at shutting down those such as spammers who cause harm to the electronic economy. I believe it will be very effective here in allowing groups or individuals to pursue violators. The private right of action will allow individuals and businesses who suffer financial harm an avenue of recourse through which to be compensated and awarded damages.

Let me reiterate some of the things this bill does. The purpose of the amendments is to clarify some elements of this legislation and to address concerns that were brought forward from the witnesses during the testimony in front of the industry committee. The proposed amendments clarify the concept that legitimate online commercial messages are not prohibited, while reinforcing the vigorous safeguards for businesses and consumers in this bill.

The legislation is about reducing spam and other computer-related threats that discourage the use of electronic commerce and undermine privacy. This legislation restores consumer confidence in online commerce by protecting both consumers and Canadian businesses from unwanted spam. The Government of Canada is delivering on a key commitment that the Prime Minister made to Canadians and Canadian businesses back in the fall of 2008.

The proposed electronic commerce protection act will discourage the use in Canada of the most dangerous, destructive and deceptive forms of spam. Our goal is to ensure confidence in online commerce by addressing the privacy and personal security concerns that consumers associate with spam and related threats which deter consumers from participating in the online marketplace.

The bill proposes that all forms of commercial electronic messages will be treated the same way. Unsolicited text messages and cell phone spam are also prohibited by this legislation. Spam and related online threats can be reduced only through a concerted, cooperative approach aimed at undermining spammers, using a combination of public and private efforts. The Government of Canada continues to work closely with our domestic and international partners to address threats to online commerce.

The proposed government legislation affects the legislative recommendations of the task force on spam, which are a product of extensive consultations with businesses and other stakeholders during the task force's mandate. The legislation allows for administrative monetary penalties to be imposed upon those who violate the law by sending false and misleading email and who attempt to steal personal information.

The legislation also proposes this private right of action, which will allow businesses and individuals to take civil action against those who violate the law. All parties in the House have expressed their desire to strengthen confidence in online commerce. All parties are opposed to spam and see the dangers of it.

We have studied this bill at great length in committee. We have emerged with important amendments to clarify the bill. The time has come to pass the third reading of this bill in order to protect all Canadians.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder what the implications of the bill and its rollout are going to be to small businesses across the country that have had to deal with the implementation of the do not call list over the last couple of years, and the Privacy Act changes. A lot of small businesses find this very disruptive.

Does the government have any plans to communicate to small business and any plans to help them in any way, through information programs, perhaps using some of that government advertising to advertise that these changes are in the works? Are there any plans in this regard, regarding this particular initiative?

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the hon. member sees the usefulness of government advertising in helping to inform Canadians of important changes and programs of the Government of Canada.

I know that is one of the things that has been looked at with the rollout of this bill, if in fact it does pass through the House. The government and the committee have looked at all of the different implications of this bill. As a businessperson, I understand the need to communicate with customers.

The hon. member mentioned the do not call list which has been in effect. I know Canadians have been happy to have the opportunity to put their name on a list that should cut down on those calls that they do not wish to receive. This bill goes such a long way, in terms of cutting down on that spam that so many are forced to endure on their computers.

I want to thank the hon. member for that question. I know that this is something that is going to be very important for Canadians.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to thank the member for Leeds—Grenville for a very informative speech and for what he has been able to share with us on the anti-spam legislation. With electronic commerce being what it is and what it is becoming, it is very important that we are very clear on where we are headed, to help businesses do a better job of electronic commerce.

His speech was really informative and I apologize if he did cover this already, but I need to ask him, will the government be exempting research and survey firms in this legislation, as has been done in some other places and in the do not call legislation?

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member stands up for his constituents, in terms of their concerns, especially on this proposed legislation.

His question was a very good one. We did hear from representatives from survey and market research groups, and those that expressed their concerns that such an exemption was not necessary, as long as they were not trying to sell something.

This entire bill is coming forward for those businesses that are trying to sell something. They have to live up to the regime that is being proposed in the legislation. So, those survey and market research firms would be exempted from this legislation. I want to thank the hon. member for such an excellent question.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member, in his presentation, mentioned that a private right of action was included in Bill C-27, and I noticed that was in there when I read it. I would like to know what sort of arguments there were against having that in the law. It seems to me that is something that should be an absolute, that it be in there. I would like to know what sort of arguments were raised against having it in there?

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, those who came in front of the committee felt that it should be in there. However, some of course were concerned that there may be times when inadvertent communications were sent by email. If in fact there was an inadvertent situation where an email was put through, as long as it was not the intent to go against legislation, there would be some protection there.

The private right of action is there, but there is protection for those who would send an inadvertent email message or a cellphone text. However, they would only be able to get away with that inadvertence for a very limited time because we do need to ensure that this protection is in place to protect Canadians.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is the Bloc's turn in the rotation.

The hon. member for Berthier-Maskinongé is ready to deliver his speech.

The hon. member for Windsor West will be next.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I rise in this House. In politics, one has to adjust quickly at times. I may not necessarily have been ready, but I had made some preparations.

I am addressing today an issue which, as we all know, concerns a vast majority of the people we represent.

Nowadays, emailing is increasingly widespread in our societies, particularly among young people. Internet use is increasingly popular among youth and adults like us as well. I am myself an avid user of email.

Electronic mail is a relatively simple and inexpensive means of communication. It allows messages to be sent simultaneously to a large number of recipients at any time of day or night, basically anytime at all. It makes it easy to send messages to people anywhere in the world.

We can therefore communicate with family, friends or colleagues anytime, day or night, which increases communication between everyone on this planet. In addition, electronic mail allows us, as parliamentarians, to efficiently stay in touch with our fellow citizens. We now have several tools available to us. We have our electronic mail, our websites, Facebook and so on. These tools allow us to communicate with the various stakeholders in the community or our ridings, and with our office staff, whom I greet and whose excellent work I commend.

We used to work with letters written on paper and telephone calls, but emailing is widespread today, and electronic mail is very easy to access and use.

My remarks today concern Bill C-27, to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Quebec and Canadian economy by regulating certain fraudulent commercial activities using electronic mail, commonly known as spam. That is what it is called in everyday language nowadays.

Unfortunately, using the Internet is not always advantageous. We have seen on occasion that this mode of communication—we have all experienced this—can cause us some difficulties. Anyone who uses email regularly receives spam, in other words, unsolicited electronic commercial messages, the purpose of which is to encourage participation in a commercial activity, such as buying a product, or in a competition or game of chance.

Let us hope that this new legislative measure, Bill C-27, which we in the Bloc Québécois all support, will have the same effect as the legislative measure on the do not call list that regulated telephone solicitation.

It goes without saying that the vast majority of email users that I know would greatly appreciate such a measure.

Over the years, unsolicited commercial electronic messages have become a bigger and bigger problem and more widespread as a result, in large part because sending email is free.

Spam has become a real nuisance, damaging computers and networks and representing a significant economic cost. It contributes to fraudulent commercial practices—we are talking more and more about cybercrime—and it often invades people's privacy.

According to a recent Industry Canada study, 80% of email worldwide consists of spam.

That is a very high percentage. Here in the House of Commons, our staff spend quite a bit of time sorting through all these unwanted email messages. It is becoming increasingly important to take action on this, which is why Bill C-27 targets unwanted email.

Spam has huge financial consequences, including the labour costs associated with sorting through all these unwanted emails we receive. Of course, spam occupies a lot of Internet bandwidth, and service providers have to pay exorbitant amounts to filter spam messages. They then pass these costs on to their clients.

We have only to go to places that sell software such as Norton to see that new software is being created every day to deal with all these messages and the viruses that are passed on through spam. Spam is widespread because it is easy and cheap to create and it works. It is effective. According to some statistics, 80% of the email messages we receive are unwanted. And unwanted email is a growing problem on our networks.

With just one click, it is possible to send millions of messages at such a low cost that the operation remains profitable even with a low rate of return. Unfortunately, some people do respond to email solicitations, which leads to major problems with their computer system. Most spam is advertising. We see it when we surf the Internet. It appears as ads, as pornography, unfortunately, as scams and in all sorts of other forms. Pornographic spam, for example, accounts for much of the concern we have as parents about letting our children use email. Often, we see them surfing the Internet and receiving all sorts of solicitations. They see all sorts of pornographic images and receive all sorts of unwanted invitations. Sometimes, these messages are harassing and even criminal. Spam not only threatens the viability of the Internet as an effective means of communication, but undermines the confidence we as consumers have in legitimate electronic commerce.

In recent months, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has worked very hard to draft this bill and has heard from many witnesses. Everyone believes in the merits of this bill and I think the House is unanimous in that regard. Preserving the efficiency of legitimate electronic commerce is a vital and pressing issue and the Bloc has worked constructively to have this legislation implemented as quickly as possible.

Not only are legitimate commercial emails sent with the prior and ongoing consent of the recipient important to electronic commerce, but they are also essential to the development of a strong and productive online economy.

We must not forget that spam constitutes a considerable burden not just for consumers but also for our small, medium-sized and large businesses. As I said earlier, these companies spend considerable time managing these unwanted emails that can have disastrous consequences for the management of our Internet services.

Spam wastes time and reduces productivity at work. It obstructs networks and affects the security of computers by forwarding viruses and phishing emails that result in significant losses for businesses.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois and a number of socio-economic players have for years been asking the federal government for legislation to regulate unsolicited commercial email.

We must not forget that service providers, network operators and consumers are all adversely affected by this problem, which is growing rather than diminishing in spite of all the antivirus software and the fact that computer technology is getting better and better. Nevertheless, our networks are facing increasing problems and experiencing more and more situations where they become inefficient. In addition, there are many viruses in our computer systems.

The task force on spam, which was created in 2004, has been calling for such a measure for over five years now. So, taking its inspiration primarily from the final report of the task force on spam released in May 2005, the purpose of Bill C-27 is to establish a framework to protect electronic commerce. As we know, it is a growing business. Internet-based trade and financial transactions are becoming more and more important and increasingly common. We must protect this network. The purpose of this bill is to protect and promote efficient electronic commerce.

To do this, the bill would amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act and the Personal Information Protection Act. Furthermore, Bill C-27 would enact the new electronic commerce protection act, which would make it illegal to send spam to any electronic address. The only circumstances under which it would be allowed is when the person to whom the message is sent has explicitly consented to receiving it. In addition, the message must be in a form that conforms to the prescribed requirements and must include an unsubscribe mechanism.

The bill would allow the recipient to indicate, through an email address or hyperlink, that he or she does not want to receive any further commercial electronic messages from the sender. Finally, the proposed legislation makes those may who send spam subject to hefty financial penalties. There must be consequences for this kind of behaviour on the Internet. The bill would allow individuals and companies to sue spammers and hold any businesses whose products and services are promoted using these means partially responsible for spamming activity. That is crucial, of course.

It is important to note that the bill stipulates that certain commercial messages would not be considered spam.

These commercial messages include: messages sent by an individual to another individual with whom they have a personal or family relationship; messages sent to a person who is engaged in a commercial activity and consist solely of an inquiry or application related to that activity; messages that are, in whole or in part, an interactive two-way voice communication between individuals; or messages sent by means of a facsimile to a telephone account. In all of these cases, the bill would not prohibit the sending of these messages.

As a number of my colleagues have already said, this is an important bill, but it will be quite complex to enforce. That is why the Bloc Québécois supported the bill in principle. But the Bloc thinks it is unbelievable that the legislative process took four years. Four years is a long time. Four years after the report was presented by the task force on spam, the federal government finally introduced a new bill, here in the House, on electronic commerce protection, which was becoming more and more necessary. Bill C-27 imposes even more controls on spam networks, and this problem will only get worse in the coming years. Four years was much too long.

Computer technology is changing rapidly, and people who want to send spam are unfortunately always finding new ways of doing so. We have to be able to protect ourselves better. Obviously, we want to hear and consult witnesses to ensure that this bill really meets needs and can really help consumers, businesses and companies do business on the web.

We also wanted to know whether the bill will make effective changes to combat the spam consumers receive. Introducing a bill is not enough; we have to be able to meet with witnesses and gauge the effectiveness of the measures contained in this bill.

After a serious study in committee, we still believe that this proposed new legislation will be effective in combatting spam.

In addition to the legislative and legal framework, which is necessary and essential, an education campaign will be needed. It is important to introduce legislation and try to find technical ways to prevent spam, but it is also important to raise public awareness and warn people, especially our youth, about spam, which is often fraudulent and sometimes dangerous.

Consumers know that users have a certain responsibility for controlling spam. We need to start with a public education campaign. We know that our young people are particularly vulnerable to scams and questionable messages they receive by email. International cooperation will also be needed if spam is to be eliminated.

Spam is not just a problem in Quebec and Canada. It is a global problem. Consequently, we need to keep working to harmonize anti-spam policies and to encourage countries to develop and enforce anti-spam legislation.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the member for Berthier—Maskinongé because I found that his speech made a great deal of sense. He presented facts which give us pause to consider the principles of this bill.

I, too, believe that we must defend legitimate commercial activities of businesses while protecting ourselves from spam and those who abuse a technology that has a great deal of benefits.

I would like to know if the member has already come up with some ideas and amendments that he will attempt to present during study in committee.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a task force that has studied spam, as my colleague surely knows. The task force recommended that a centre be established to coordinate the various government anti-spam initiatives. This is a very good proposal. This centre's responsibilities would include coordinating policy, conducting education campaigns and providing support to enforcement agencies. It would also accept complaints and compile statistics on spam.

I believe we should also establish a mechanism to monitor the evolution of this bill. It could assess the impact of these measures in the next few years and determine if the measures implemented actually benefit our email networks.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one thing that has not been talked about, but I think is important to raise, and I raised it during committee, is people buy their own computers, they buy their own software, they maintain their own software and they also provide the Internet service. Therefore, sending someone an electronic advertisement through this medium should be a privilege, not necessarily a right. That should be the premise in preparing the bill to ensure there is balance. Once again, people invested in the physical hardware, the software, the maintenance of it and also the capacity to bring it across the Internet.

Does my colleague agrees with the presumption? A number of amendments were attempted in committee. One was to allow companies to spy on a person's computer, which was defeated. I want to ensure we support the premise that people have rights first, and it is a privilege, not a right, to send advertisements to someone's home.

Electronic Commerce Protection ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am in total agreement with my colleague. This bill to prohibit spam and protect personal information is important. Hence, I agree with our NDP colleague on this matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, be read the third time and passed.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-50.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #123

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from September 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

MADE IN CANADA ACTPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When the House last considered this business, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River had four minutes remaining.

The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

MADE IN CANADA ACTPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak again to this bill. I would also like to thank my colleague, the member for London—Fanshawe, for this opportunity to speak.

We are talking about 50% of content being Canadian.

I would like to give my personal opinion so that everyone in the House can hear it. If taxpayers' money is being used to purchase something, I think it should be 100% Canadian content. Bombardier train cars are built right in Thunder Bay. If you can find a product like that and you are spending taxpayers' money on it, then it seems to me that we ought to be working towards 100%. This bill is talking about 50%.

I talked about our natural resources. I talked about our highly skilled workers when I talked about Bombardier. Let me talk about the forestry industry for a second.

What has happened in the forestry industry in Canada, particularly in Ontario, is that aside from all the closings, secondary manufacturing has disappeared south of the border. In many instances, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia, whole trees are cut and shipped south of the border for secondary manufacturing.

If the Government of Canada is going to buy wood products--toilet paper, for example--it seems to me that they ought to be made in Canada. It seems to me that 100% of that toilet paper should be made in Canada.

The sad fact of the matter is that toilet paper used to be made in my riding and the riding next to it, but those plants are closed. If the Government of Canada and the other provinces made an effort to have Canadian content of 50%, or 100% in the case of toilet paper, that would be wonderful.

It is all about making life affordable, keeping highly skilled workers working right across Canada and allowing them the opportunity to raise their families.

When I spoke during my first six minutes of debate, I believe I mentioned the harmonized sales tax, and I would like to revisit that issue again for a minute. In terms of making life more affordable, this tax is going to be a huge blow to people who live in Ontario. CARP, the association for retired persons, did a survey. It estimates that the new harmonized sales tax would probably cost the average senior about $2,100 a year. This is a senior who is not on a fixed income, but who has a small RRSP and some small investments. That is going to be the extra cost for that senior.

I speak to seniors in my riding. Some of them have told me that they cannot pay their electricity bills. The last time I was in Atikokan I was chatting with one senior who is well into his 80s. He said he lives with one light bulb and he still cannot afford to pay his electricity bill.

Ensuring that the Canadian government purchases items with Canadian content of 50% to 100% would keep people employed and would make life more affordable for all Canadians.

MADE IN CANADA ACTPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to respond to the hon. member's Bill C-392 now before us.

Let me be clear. The bill is yet another protectionist measure emanating from the benches opposite. It would require that every department and agency of the Government of Canada give preference to Canadian products when purchasing goods and services and when transferring funds to the provinces, municipalities and private parties. It would apply not only to every department and agency of the Government of Canada, but to any crown corporation and any foundation with 75% of its income or funding from the government.

The best way to promote jobs and growth in our country is not by protecting Canadians from foreign competition. Canadian workers and Canadian businesses can compete with anyone in the world. The best defence is always a good offence. Ask my London Knights. The best way to create jobs and growth is to guarantee that our products and services have access to markets worldwide. How do we do that? By ensuring world markets, including our open, stay open to competition.

The bill runs completely counter to world trends and the work of the last 20 years to guarantee Canada's access to international markets.

Beginning with the landmark Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1988, the Government of Canada has entered into many free trade arrangements to ensure this access. These included agreements with Mexico, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Chile, Israel, Peru and Costa Rica and with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, as part of the agreement of the European Free Trade Association.

As we look forward, we know that as a small market economy, Canada's future growth depends on our ability to reach markets beyond our own borders. That is why at the Canada-European Union Summit in Prague earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced the historical launch of negotiation toward an economic partnership between Canada and the 27 member states of the European Union.

Canada is and always will be a trading nation. Many of the first nations people who populated this land in early times were traders. When the first Europeans arrived on these shores, they traded manufactured goods for furs. Voyageurs paddled their canoes deep into the interior to trade with aboriginal peoples, while other first nations traded at outposts set up by the Hudson's Bay Company. The fur trade shaped the social, economic and political history of our country.

Make no mistake, today, trade continues to dramatically our lives. One in five jobs in Canada is linked to international trade. Why would any member opposite want to kill good Canadian jobs? Seventy per cent of our gross domestic product is dependent on it.

We are the second most open economy to trade in the G8. Consider, for example, the significance of our trade with the United States. Canada and the United States are each other's most important partner in economic growth. It is a partnership that has developed and grown over the last 20 years and, frankly, over its history.

Since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1988, and then NAFTA in 1992, our bilateral trade has been one of the major components of economic growth. During those two decades, Canada-U.S. trade has tripled. Investment flows have also increased substantially. Two-way trade crosses the Canada-U.S. border at the rate of $1.6 billion a day. That is well over $1 million per minute.

Close to my city of London, trade over the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Windsor and Detroit, is greater than twice the value of all U.S. exports to Japan.

There are now over 40,000 exporting enterprises in Canada in areas ranging from information and cultural industries to finance and insurance and from construction to manufacturing.

An estimated three million jobs in Canada depend on our trade with the United States.

Given this scale of success, it is clear that protectionism is not Canada's friend; it is our mutual enemy. In fact, it is a threat to our economic recovery, a recovery that is nascent but remains fragile. Indeed, restrictions on trade could stifle the recovery that has just begun. That is because these restrictions reduce real growth prospects in both the developed and developing world, alike.

Protectionist policies might superficially look like an effective way of supporting economic growth, but our companies cannot compete if they are coddled. In fact, such actions prepare Canadian businesses not to complete on the world stage at all, but to fall behind.

In addition, we are committed to respecting and upholding our trade commitments with our partners, and we expect our partners to do the same.

Our government is committed to building to Canada's capacity to successfully participate in the ever-changing global economy. Through our Advantage Canada initiative, we have taken important steps to create the right conditions for Canadian businesses to compete here and abroad.

Our plan lays out five key advantages that make up the groundwork for even greater prosperity for Canadian businesses and individuals, both today and in the future. Key among these are our tax advantages. A competitive business tax system that is responsive to changes in the economic environment is important to encourage investment, growth and job creation in all regions of Canada.

To come out of this global recession, we need to continue trade as free of barriers as possible. We just have to look at our history. If the great depression taught us anything at all, it is that the downward spiral of protectionism only leads to a more dire situation. That is why our economic action plan protects Canadians during the global downturn, not by restricting trade but by promoting it.

Our Budget Implementation Act revoked additional tariffs to increase international trade. This plan works to create new good jobs for the future and to equip our country for success in the years ahead.

We are acting through the most appropriate means to protect our economy and Canadians affected by the downturn. That includes the tax system, the employment insurance program and direct spending by federal and provincial governments. It includes lending by crown corporations and partnerships with the private sector.

The plan, which is among the largest fiscal stimulus packages in the world, is working. For the first time in a generation, Canada's unemployment rate is a full percentage point less than the United States rate.

Furthermore, the International Monetary Fund forecasts that Canada will be among the least affected by the global downturn this year and our recovery will be one of the strongest among G7 countries in 2010.

What our plan leaves behind is protectionism in the dustbin of history where it belongs. Canadians know we cannot build a fortress and lock ourselves inside. We must continue to engage with the world and work together to solve common challenges.

I believe the evidence before us can only lead to one conclusion. For the sake of Canada, for the sake of our families and the sake of our kids, I call on my colleagues in the House to oppose the bill.

MADE IN CANADA ACTPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-392, An Act respecting the use of government procurements and transfers to promote economic development.

Let me begin by recognizing the good and honourable intentions of the member for London—Fanshawe in drafting this legislation.

The purpose of the legislation, as stated in its summary, is to promote employment and economic development in Canada. This is a goal we can all support. Strengthening Canada's economy in order to provide Canadians with meaningful, good-paying jobs is a top priority of members on all sides of the House. However, to achieve this goal we need responsible public policy that acknowledges and addresses the reality faced by Canadians. The reality is that Canada has a small population that relies on international trade for our collective prosperity.

We produce far more than we can consume, and this is the source of much of our wealth. Put another way, Canada is our classic small, open economy. When we consider the value of our exports and imports together, this represents more than two-thirds of Canada's GDP.

Approximately three-quarters of Canada's trade is with the United States. That is about $1.6 billion in two-way trade between Canada and the United States on a daily basis. That is the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world. No existing Canadian trade issue or policy area is as important or complex as Canada's relationship with the United States. The level of integration between our economies requires that we constantly build and strengthen that relationship, especially during times of economic uncertainty.

It is true, with so much of the Canadian economy depending on trade with a single partner, it does leave us vulnerable to protectionist provisions like buy American.

It is also true that buy American is killing Canadian jobs. Workers across Canada have watched their shifts disappear as Canadian manufacturers lose contracts in the United States. For example, Cherubini Metal Works in Atlantic Canada has had to lay off workers, blaming between 30% and 40% of its slowdown on buy American. Canada needs an exemption from buy American provisions. It is in the best interests of both Canada and the United States.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government has been late to act on the file. The Conservatives lost precious months after the U.S. stimulus package was passed when they tried to convince Canadians there was not a problem instead of working to solve that problem.

The Conservatives were wrong to declare victory over buy American when the United States amended the stimulus package in the U.S. recovery act to ensure it respected U.S. trade obligations. Their premature declaration of victory showed they did not understand our trade agreements. U.S. stimulus money is being spent by its state and local governments, and this spending is not covered by our trade agreements.

When buy American proposals first took shape, the Canadian government should have immediately sat down with the provinces to work out a proposal for an exemption that extended coverage of Canada's trade agreements with the United States to provincial, state and local governments. Instead of doing this immediately, the Conservatives waited. In the meantime, a number of Canadian manufacturers gave up on our federal government and began moving both their operations, and the Canadian jobs that go with them, to the United States.

A recent CIBC report blames U.S. protectionist provisions like buy American for slowing down Canada's recovery in 2010, so there is no question that buy American is hurting our economy. We owe it to Canadians to work on responsible solutions to the problem.

Bill C-392 certainly appears to be a reaction to the buy American provisions in the United States. Yet reacting in kind is not the answer. Here is what Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, said about buy American.

The “Buy American” provisions...will signal to our trading partners around the world that the United States is returning to the bad old days of protectionism and economic nationalism.

Why would we want to do the same in Canada?

Bill C-392 not only will not work, it would actually worsen the problem. While we work to address a growing number of trade irritants with the United States, like buy American, country of origin labelling, and the western hemisphere travel initiative, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Canadian and U.S. economies are still highly integrated. We do not simply trade with each other, we build things together.

One-third of Canada-U.S. trade is between divisions of the same company. Two-thirds of Canada-U.S. trade takes place within established supply chains. Over 3 million Canadian jobs rely on trade with the United States. Implementing protectionist provisions here at home would put these Canadian jobs at risk.

The unintended consequence of this legislation would be to hurt Canadian companies that have U.S. companies as part of their supply chain. These consequences have been identified by prominent leaders, such as Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America. In a written submission to the Congressional Steel Caucus, he said:

Because we are an International union, and because Canadian and US manufacturing is so integrated, we encourage you and other members of the Steel Caucus to approach your counterparts in Canada to discuss a coordinated approach for the North American industry to strengthen its ability to create and preserve these good jobs in both countries.

American manufacturers often use Canadian suppliers. When American manufacturers are shut out of the procurement opportunities, their Canadian suppliers lose out too. This hurts Canadian workers.

Each additional barrier to trade along the 49th parallel increases the cost of doing business in North America, both in Canada and in the United States.

Instead of reacting to the rising U.S. protectionism with our own Canadian brand of protectionism here at home, instead of erecting trade barriers and contributing to the global trade war of the likes of Smoot-Hawley during the Great Depression, we should focus our efforts on removing trade irritants and bringing down unnecessary trade barriers, particularly between Canada and the United States.

In the face of increased competition from emerging markets like China and India, the best way to grow the Canadian economy is to work closely with our largest trading partner, the United States, to improve our competitiveness and make our shared market the best, most efficient place to grow our business.

To summarize, while I recognize that Bill C-392 is motivated by the best of intentions, it does not reflect or address the realities of the Canadian economy. A recent statement made by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty highlights this fact. He said:

Closing the border to companies south of the border is not the way to combat American protectionist policies.

McGuinty told the delegates at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario that the best way to ensure both countries enjoy a strong and sustained recovery is if they work together. He called on municipal leaders and politicians to reach out to their counterparts across the border.

Bill C-392 will not do this. Instead, it would in fact achieve the opposite of what the member for London—Fanshawe intends to achieve by needlessly risking Canadian jobs. It is not in Canada's interest to contribute to global protectionism.

Instead, our federal government must focus on gaining and securing access for Canadian exports to foreign markets, so that Canadians can sell their goods and services to businesses and consumers around the world. That is the most effective, most responsible way to protect and create Canadian jobs.

MADE IN CANADA ACTPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to my colleagues from both the Liberals and the Conservatives talk about this in a protectionist sense. They ought to open up their eyes because the world has been doing it for years and continues to do it.

The most recent piece about the buy America act simply highlighted what has been going on for the past 55 years. In fact, it is slightly more than that. The buy America act was enacted some 50-odd years ago. It is not new. It is not an Obama situation.

The reason that folks finally paid attention is because of the economic downturn and the huge number of dollars that the federal government in the U.S. pushed into its system and said to give it to state and local governments to decide what to do. The 50 U.S. states have a buy America act. Their local governments buy local.

The reason Bombardier has a plant in Plattsburgh instead of the Americans importing from Thunder Bay is because New York State has a buy New York State policy when it comes to buses. That is why the Plattsburgh plant and the supplier park that surrounds it has thousands of jobs that should be in Canada where Bombardier is the home company.

However, because of the decision it made a long time ago, that is exactly where the plant relocated and it is not alone. The European consortium that builds buses also happens to be in Plattsburgh, just down the road from the Bombardier plant.

With regard to how much of the economy we are talking about, my friends on the other side of the aisle and down the way think that the whole economy is about to be protected. We are talking about 23% of the total economy. Those are the latest numbers for what local, provincial and territorial governments would buy via their procurement policies, which leaves 77% of the economy open to be governed by international trade deals.

It is really transparent, it seems to me, in the NAFTA accord where chapter 10 talks about there not being any provisions to stop local governments from having local procurement. They can make the decisions.

In the province of Ontario local government is mandated by the provincial government, having been a member of municipal government previously, to develop its own procurement policies and the policies are entirely written up by the local government.

I had the great pleasure, starting about two years ago, of travelling to meet with nearly all of the municipal governments in the Niagara region and asking them to consider procurement policies that looked at buying Canadian. Basically, all of them agreed because it really boils down to one common element.

When it comes to government, it collects money. It does not sell things to people. It does not make things for sale. It taxes people and collects their money. People entrust it to government and then they want it to appropriate that money and spend it wisely.

One of the questions I put to mayors in my region was this. If they are collecting money from their neighbours, why would they not spend it on them? It is their money, after all. Why would they give it to some foreign national? Why would they send it across the way? Of course, most say they get a better price there, it is more competitive, and that is how they drive the competitiveness. My reply to that is, how much was saved? Usually it is pennies. If they are lucky, it is a penny on the dollar.

If people are laid off because we decided to buy what they make somewhere else, what is the cost to the municipality? Initially, it is EI, so it is a cost to the federal government, which really is all of us in this country. At some point in time, if that person does not get a job, people go on social assistance, which in Ontario is borne by the municipality.

If we look at the true cost of what these things really do and factor that into the whole equation, we will find that buying local is not only smart but it builds community. It does not put us at a disadvantage. It does not hamper us from getting good quality materials. It does not hamper our competitiveness. When it comes to large purchases involving hundreds of millions of dollars, when it comes to infrastructure for buses and rail cars, if we decide to buy somewhere else, Europe for instance, it is our workers who are laid off.

As we have seen in this country, 400,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared. None of them have been replaced. It was not about a sense of being competitive and replacing those jobs with something else. They are gone.

We, in this House, are all too well aware of what has happened to the economy of this country. If we do not decide to invest in our own, who will? Who will if not us? We speak for all Canadians. We speak for all of those who have come here and if we are not going to speak for them, it is hard for me to imagine that Nokia is going to speak for them in Finland, or that some plant and some manufacturer in Stuttgart is going to speak for Canadians from there. Canadians are looking to us to speak for them and we should. That is our job. That is the role we play.

We are not looking at closing, putting up walls and closing doors, and saying we do not wish to trade with the rest of the world. We understand we are a trading nation. The world understands we are a trading nation. In fact, the world looks at us and says the Canadians really do not get it, so let us sell our stuff to them because they do not have procurement policies.

Every major manufacturing country in this world has a procurement policy, whether it is Mexico, Japan, Germany, U.K., or whether it is the Americans who we trade nearly 80% of our products with. All have inside their walls, inside their country, local procurement policies. Yet, we refuse in this country, at least at the federal level to this point in time, to acknowledge that. At the local level across this country there are quite a few municipalities which are saying they are going to take the initiative because one of the fallacies about the NAFTA was that somehow provinces and municipalities could not enact buy Canadian. How wrong they were. Of course, they got that advice from the federal cousins. Their federal counterparts said they cannot do that, NAFTA says no.

Of course, when the buy American act raised its head and all that money poured in, all of a sudden it became oops, now we need to change it. Now we see the Minister of International Trade down in the U.S. cap in hand, trying to say, “Let us do something about the buy American act”. We are trying to negotiate a deal with nothing in our hand. We have an empty cap, hoping for coppers to be placed in that cap. That is not what we ought to be doing. We should be fighting for Canadian jobs because it really is about making sure they are protected.

What do municipalities buy? In my riding a town called Thorold enacted a buy Canadian policy. In fact, when officials go to the local hardware store just to buy a shovel, they make sure it is a Canadian shovel. Their lapel pins have “Made in Canada”, contrary to what we have received as part of our allotment of Canadian pins made in China. There is a community that understands about standing up for its citizens, its workers. What do their citizens say about that resolution? They are in full support.

One survey asked about municipal transit buying buses. Specifically, 9 out of 10 Canadians surveyed said we should buy Canadian buses if they are made here. Just so everyone knows, we make buses in this country. We make very good buses in this country. But I guess the Minister of National Defence did not think we made good enough buses to give to the defence department, to give to our brave soldiers overseas and our soldiers who are here in this country. He decided to buy them from Germany. We could have made them in Chatham, no more than five or six hours drive from here. We could have made those buses, but instead we shipped them over and allowed the Germans to make those buses.

If we had said we will like to build buses for the German army, imagine the response of the chancellor of Germany. I am sure she would have said, “Not on, we will make our own buses, thank you very kindly, for our troops” and that is exactly what we should have done. The difference in what it cost for those buses in Germany versus here was infinitesimal. Add in the cost of what happened to the workers in that plant in Chatham who are now laid off and the cost now is disproportionate because it would have been cheaper to make them in Chatham than have them shipped from Germany. The same quality buses, the same type of things that we were looking at, and that situation can be extrapolated across this country into municipalities, into the provinces, so that we will put our workers back to work.

We are going to collect their money as I said earlier and it is their money. If we are going to make an investment in anyone, it ought to be them because it is their money after all. They would be grateful for the fact that we thought it was important to invest in them and not send it overseas.

MADE IN CANADA ACTPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank all the members who have made a contribution to this debate.

This bill, my made in Canada bill, will go a long way toward building new markets for Canadian suppliers, strengthening sustainability and fulfilling our environmental commitment while encouraging Canadian entrepreneurship. This bill will help support sectors in crisis, including the auto, steel and forestry sectors, and replace the government's ad hoc approach with a consistent policy.

Local spending of stimulus investment is necessary for effective job creation and job protection. Canadians expect their government to invest their tax dollars wisely. By investing in our communities, we can support local jobs and generate more tax revenue which in turn supports our families and national services.

Though successive federal governments have given away many rights under different trade agreements, such as NAFTA and the WTO, they have also explicitly maintained rights in regard to some areas of procurement. The exceptions include federal transfers to provinces and municipalities which do not fall under international trade agreements.

There are also two broad areas of exemptions under NAFTA, one for purchases of goods for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defence, and the other for goods related to general federal government procurement, including things such as shipbuilding and repair, urban rail and transportation equipment and materials, communications equipment, research and development, health and social services, financial and related services, utilities, and agricultural products.

Despite these exemptions, millions of tax dollars have been spent on acquiring goods and services from foreign countries.

A case in point is that in 2006 the federal government approved nearly $13 billion in defence and aerospace purchases mainly from the United States. The 2006 Canadian census was outsourced to an American company, Lockheed Martin, which is part of the American military industrial complex.

In 2007 the federal government purchased new intercity buses from Germany, bypassing two highly qualified Canadian firms.

In 2008 the uniforms for our Canadian Olympic team were outsourced to China.

Between April 1, 2007 and March 31, 2008, there were 466 contracts under the NAFTA threshold of $28,000 that were awarded to vendors in the United States. In the same time period, the federal government awarded 47 competitive contracts valued at $47 million to vendors in the United States for communications equipment, equipment which is exempt from NAFTA.

Our lack of a made in Canada policy shuts out Canadian workers from the jobs that should be created in Canada by Canadian companies, jobs that should go to workers in London, Winnipeg, St. Thomas, Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax.

I want this House and the members herein to know that I am proud of this bill and feel privileged to be able to present it to the people of my riding on behalf of the many Canadians who have lost jobs and have been forgotten by the government. They have been forgotten and discounted by a government that prefers to acquiesce to trade rules that undermine Canadian sovereignty. It has actually made a point of telling Canadians that despite the fact that our trading partners--the United States, Japan, China, Mexico and most European countries--understand that investing in local communities makes good economic sense, it will not stand on the side of Canadian workers and Canadian companies.

It is the absolute obligation of this House and its members to bring forward legislation, whether it be government legislation or private members' bills, that ensures the security and safety of each member of our society. That security is a singular trust. No citizen of this country should ever suffer because of legislation that is driven by self-service or that is designed to appeal to any narrow or hurtful motivation.

Everything we bring to this place must serve this country and its people. That is what my bill is about. It goes to the core of the reason I chose to offer service to the people of London--Fanshawe and to all the people like them who built this country by their labour, their ingenuity and their commitment to community.

I ask members of this House to show commitment to community and to pass this made in Canada bill for the people of the present, for the people of the future, and for the sake of this country.

MADE IN CANADA ACTPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?