Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, as always, to rise in this august chamber and speak on behalf of the wonderful people of Timmins—James Bay who have sent me here to represent them.
I will say at the beginning that I have already spoken on this bill. I have already been through the entire rigmarole about this spam legislation and yet, like spam itself, it seems we never get anywhere with the government and its own legislation.
Last session we had a mere three bills actually get through the process. I do not think there has ever been such a pitiful output by any government in the history of this Parliament. Legislation that needs to be addressed is always deep-sixed for whatever are the needs of the PM's war room. In this case, all the work that was done on the anti-spam legislation had to be tossed aside and flushed so that the government could prorogue, because it was starting to feel heat about the Afghan detainees.
The government felt that people would not notice if it turned out the lights on the democratic institution of Canada. We know that the Canadian public was rightfully outraged at the government's decision to knock off work for three months in January and hope nobody would notice.
In doing that, millions of dollars in time spent in hearing testimony, in developing legislation and in debate was lost. So here we are again, dealing with the issue of spam.
I have watched the government for the last five years. It treats the House of Commons as a sideshow. The real work of the government is behind the scenes, in putting their buddies into key positions, in stripping and vandalizing the public institutions of Canada, like the long form census, and in stripping the tax codes so that its friends in big banks and big oil are getting massive breaks while we are going into deficit.
Whatever happens in this House, we have one crime bill after another that is waved out, and the government jumps up and down but it does not ever seem all that serious about actually coming through with anything. I think it is because there is a fundamental contempt for the important work of this House.
I think it is very clear when we see something like the anti-spam legislation. We are the only G8 country without anti-spam legislation. It would not be all that hard to move on it, and I think it would be very important to move on it.
We are not just talking about an inconvenience. We are not just talking about the fact that, on any given day, my personal email has all kinds of offers for Viagra and trips to the Cayman Islands and all kinds of dodgy email requests that I have to flush and erase.
We are talking about a new form of fraud that works on such sheer levels of numbers that they only need to have 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000 respond. I am sure that back in the fax machine days, people used to receive the famous Nigerian 419 fraud letters. The frauds originally came out of Nigeria and are now centred in eastern Europe.
Back in the days when the old Nigerian 419 scam was being run, and I am sure everyone saw them, there would be a request from somebody trying to get money out of Sierra Leone, Nigeria or Serbia after the Bosnian war. The scammers would say they would transfer the money into an account set up by other people, and of course those people would have to put up a little bit of cash. That is when people got caught in the fraud.
The old 419 fraud actually took a little bit of effort, and it cost the fraudsters a fair amount of time. They had to work the fax machines. It was random, and it was not all that effective. However, the 419 frauds are internationally known as one of the largest international fraud schemes.
When that can be done through the Internet and when people can actually get control of third-party personal computers through spyware and then start multiplying the requests from hundreds to thousands to millions, a high return is not needed to actually have the phenomenal levels of fraud that are happening, because of the third-party control of computers that takes place. This needs to be dealt with.
I am not singling out senior citizens in particular, but I know a number of senior citizens who have been victims of Internet fraud. It is perhaps because they come from a time when there was more trust in how things were done. Now more bank frauds are taking place and people are sending emails with requests for credit card information, banking information. The Internet is a major source of fraud, so we should be moving ahead with this anti-spam legislation.
Anti-spam legislation should be seen as a part of a larger digital strategy. After four years, the Conservative government has started to learn these words. It says the words “digital strategy”, but when it comes to digital strategy, it is like the Commodore 64. It is not even in the game in terms of a digital strategy.
What would a digital strategy mean for a government that actually cared about moving forward on issues other than minimum sentences for furniture theft or whatever is the latest issue in the crazy crime agenda that it is trying to push?
We need a forward-looking government. The Conservatives have had five years to bring the WIPO treaty forward in the House, five years. That could have been done, and we would have set a number of international standards, for example, the “making available” right.
Canada would not be under pressure in terms of its copyright legislation if we had dealt with the WIPO treaty five years ago. We could have taken the time to institute a good consultation process on copyright. We had one copyright bill, which was widely ridiculed. It looked like a dog's breakfast when it was brought forward, and the Conservatives had to quickly retract it. Now we have another copyright bill. I would like to say I am hopeful, but I am not holding my breath as to whether the government is actually serious about coming through with a copyright bill before the next election. It will be problematic if they do not. There is a certain element of needing to be seen, on the international stage, to be actually taking this seriously.
If we were going to have a digital strategy dealing with the WIPO treaty, dealing with issues like digital locks and making sure not just that we are WIPO compliant but that we are not just foolhardy, the present government's plan with digital locks would actually lock down content unnecessarily and criminalize individuals who have legal rights. For example, librarians or blind people need to be able to access educational works through digital locks. They will be treated the same as an international counterfeiter under the Conservatives, not surprisingly of course because the Conservatives have a dumb-down approach on pretty much everything. A blind student will be treated the same as an international counterfeiter if he or she has to break a digital lock to access digital works.
The Conservatives do not get it on the issue of copyright. They do not get it on the fact that we should have had spam legislation already in the bag and moving forward.
We need a national broadband strategy. Every time the government gets 50 houses hooked onto fibre, government members get up and announce it as some kind of great success. When the Conservatives took office, Canada was the world leader. If we look at the FCC rankings for the OECD countries, Canada was a world leader in broadband penetration. We have fallen further and further behind in terms of cost, access and speed.
A riding like mine is the size of Great Britain. Right now large sections of my riding are still on dial-up. We might as well have crank phones. The government talks about a broadband strategy of 1.5 megabits per second. That is the Conservatives' idea of our being in the 21st century.
Under the labour government, Australia will hook up 93% of Australia. Australia is a good example because it, like Canada, has a small population spread out over a vast territory. Ninety-three per cent of Australia will be hooked up by fibre at a rate of 100 megabits a second. I would like members to think of our ability to compete at 1.5 megabits. The government might as well lock big cannonballs to our feet and tell us to start running. That is the Conservatives' idea of our competing, not to mention what we are going to be up against with Sweden, which is at gigabyte capacity. South Korea is the same.
Canada is being left behind because the Conservative government does not get it. The Conservatives do not want to get it. They believe, in their blind faith, that the free enterprise system will somehow do this for them.
As we have seen in the rural United States and as we are seeing now in Canada, unless we have a government partnership, there is no business case that can be made to hook up large rural regions. There will never be a business case. The only business case the government can make is to say that digital strategy is a national priority in terms of competition, in terms of cultural involvement, in terms of the fundamental civic rights of citizens in a digital age to be able to participate. That comes out of a government vision.
Australia, with the labour government, will hook up 93% at 100 megabits per second in national broadband and the other 7% will be hooked up by wireless so nobody will be left behind.
What we have right now is a government that is adrift, a government that has no plan, for example, for the digital transition in television.
If we look at how the United States government prepared for the transition for digital from analog to digital on television, it had a national plan. The government worked with its regions. It had advertisements. It had workshops in communities to prepare people.
We are about 10 months away from the big switch where the analog signals will go dead and we will switch over to digital. Have we seen anything from our august industry minister on this? Have we heard him say a word? Zero, nada. Perhaps if he spent a little less time running the pork barrel projects into his riding and a little more time on the need to have a national digital strategy, he would be prepared for the digital transition that is looming. Canada, quite frankly, will not meet that transition.
When the transition happens, at least 15% of the country will go black. People will start phoning the offices of members of Parliament saying that they cannot get their beloved Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night on television and they will want to know why. We will have to tell them that the government had years to prepare for the digital transition and did nothing. The Conservatives think this will magically be handled for them.
The other issue in terms of a broadband strategy and a digital strategy is the fact that as the analog signals are shut down for television and we move to digital, the analog spectrum, a very juicy chunk of cyber real estate, goes on the block to be sold. The analogue spectrum will be worth billions of dollars. Again, we would think a forward-looking government would consider this. It has a $56 billion in debt. It needs a national forward-looking plan not for next year or two years, but for the next 10 years. To finance that plan it could sell off the analogue spectrum, take those billions of dollars and commit them to a national broadband digital strategy. Then it could tell people that it was a forward-looking government.
We have not heard a peep from the current government about what it will do with the money. We have not heard how it will break up the analogue spectrum. Even the space between the various parts of the spectrum that used to be used for CTV, or CBC, or Canwest or the Quebec stations is valuable. We could put that to public use, for innovation, for new project ideas. We could reserve part of the analogue space that actually belongs to the people of Canada for innovation, for new ideas. There will be many new forms of communication that are on the verge of being discovered and having access to that spectrum band could put Canada in the lead, where we need to be. However, we are not seeing anything from the government on that.
We have to think about this. If the government had billions of dollars that should be spent to ensure Canada, rural Canada and northern Canada, could participate and compete against competitive countries that will go up to gigabyte-per-second download speeds, the analogue spectrum would be a great place to put that. However, what is the government going to do with that money? I have my own personal bets. I am not a gambling man and I am not offering to take anybody's money, but I think we would have to be quite the old backwoods route not to think what it is going to do with money. The government's forward-looking strategy could be to take the billions from the analogue spectrum and build prison cells.
The cost of building prisons under the government will be $270,000 per cell. The government does not even have people to put in them. It will just keep bringing up enough private members' bills to find new ways to arrest more Canadians to put them in prison.
We need a plan. Besides the government's ideological bizarre focus on blowing $10 billion on prisons at a time of the largest deficit in history, we have seen zero from the government in terms of a forward looking digital strategy.
I go back to the issue of spam. Spam should be a fairly straightforward issue to deal with. It is inconvenient. No one likes it except for the lobbyists who always talk to the government because hidden in spam is a lot of useless electronic sales ads that most of the Canadian public does not need. Nevertheless, even with the lobbyists, I am sure we could deal with the spam. The question is this. Where is the vision?
The government brought forward spam legislation. The House debated it. We went through the whole process and the government decided it was more convenient to take all that legislation, flush it down the political loo and suspend the democratic work of the House. It shut everything down and laid waste to its whole legislative agenda. It set the clock back to zero, which is not the first time it has done it. It is something that the government does on a regular basis. Whenever it seems to get bored with almost succeeding and actually getting something done, it seems to get restless.
The government cannot go forward, so it is stuck in the bills it has and it erases them all and it starts all over. We are now in October 2010 and we remain the only country without spam legislation.
I have been saying how the government does not like to move on anything unless it is part of its ideological agenda. It has no forward thinking vision in terms of copyright and balancing the needs in terms of an innovative agenda on issues like net neutrality, open source and open data, issues that could really excite the Canadian public to move forward.
In all fairness I have seen it move dramatically once or twice in terms of where its agenda is going usually in protecting the tar sands or protecting ideological hacks who are working and supporting the party.
At the Copenhagen conference back in December 2009, Canada was once again embarrassed on the international stage by our horrific standards on the environment. The government would say that it was a principled stand, just like I am sure Harold Ballard thought that the Leafs losing every year was a principled stand.
In the Copenhagen Conference there was a group called the “Yes Men”. The Yes Men are international political pranksters who set up a fake website. That fake website said that Canada would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 by 40% from 1990 levels and they would be down to 80% by the year 2050. Of course that was a total fraud. Canada was not going to do that. However, they were trying to make a political statement about the Conservative government's defence of the tar sands and how it embarrassed us politically.
The Canadian government moved against that website immediately. It went after the ISP in another jurisdiction and it ended up shutting down 4,500 websites because the government did not want to be challenged internationally on the tar sands. I think even red China would be awe struck by the willingness of the government to shut down democratic sites because it does not like what they have to say.
The government will do nothing about the fact that we have international fraudsters on the spam, but it will shut down democratic websites. The government has failed again and it will continue to fail on the international innovative agenda.