I have often bemoaned the lack of co-operation in the House, but this is one case where members of all partisan stripes seem to agree.
All of us and our constituents have been inundated with unwanted spam at home and at work. Spam represents about 87% of email activity around the world. At best, it is a huge waste of time and energy. It was estimated last year that over 62 trillion, and I am trying to get my head around that number, spam emails were sent out. It is done in a variety of ways. This bill would identify and eliminate some of those ways.
This bill enjoys strong public support. It certainly has the support of the New Democratic Party. This is part of the New Democratic Party's electoral platform to move forward on a number of consumer issues that we want to see implemented as law.
There will be a push to try to weaken this bill. There are some elements in this bill that make it a really strong and good bill for Canadians and Canadian businesses because it affects our economy.
Canada is actually in the top 10 when it comes to generating and receiving spam. Canada is the only G8 country that does not have the kind of legislation that Bill C-28 represents. Once again, we are behind but we can catch up with this bill quite significantly and have one of the better models to deal with this important issue.
Approximately 1 out of 20, or 5%, of the spam in the world comes from Canada. Canada is known as a harbour for some of the big spammers. I believe we stand fourth in the world in terms of spamming, behind Russia and just ahead of Brazil. An Ipsos Reid poll found recently that approximately 130 spam messages are received by Canadians each week. That is troubling because it is up 51% from just the year before. Speaking for myself, both at work and at home I get quite a bit more than 130 spam emails.
It is not just the irritation of removing unwanted messages and solicitations; it is also time consuming. Employers are worried about the time it takes and the cost to their businesses. As a small business owner myself, I know how taxing spam can be on my computer system's efficiency. It puts my computers at risk and lowers my employees' productivity.
Some may argue that businesses have the right to inundate us with these kinds of messages, but really it is a privilege. No one has an absolute right to inundate us with emails, especially when many spammers use malware and other kinds of spyware to gain data on us regarding where we shop online, what our online consumer habits are, et cetera.
Interestingly, the bill provides for windows of opportunity for businesses with existing relationships to make that connection with their customers. One idea is an 18-month extension in terms of a previous existing business relationship. That makes sense. The Bloc moved a motion to extend that grace period on previous business relationships to 24 months. I strongly disagree with extending it to 24 months. Eighteen months is long enough.
Once this law is in place, there will be three regulatory agencies to punish spammers. The CRTC will investigate complaints. The Competition Bureau will slap on fines of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million in all other cases. The Privacy Commissioner will get involved when people's privacy is violated.
The part about the Privacy Commissioner is important because far too often spammers have used headliners that look like many banks' headliners, and then people click on them, and I have almost done it a few times, thinking it is their bank, but it turns out that it is a spammer seeking to collect data and information on them, perhaps to create fraud.
There have been cases where people have lost money, thinking it was their own financial institution or a legitimate financial institution. They provided access to some of their monetary resources and suffered financial losses. This is shameful and should not be happening in a country like Canada.
There is going to be recourse to show those who bombard us with spam and those who have to deal with it that there will be real punishments, that it will be more than just a fine, that it is going to be significant for them to deal with and hopefully it will help to curb this behaviour.
One of the reasons that the bill will be strong is it would have those three regulatory agencies actively involved in maintaining the accountability of the actual bill. Interestingly enough, there was a bit of a debate about whether or not this bill should deal with the telephone solicitation issues. It would not. However, at the same time, it would allow the minister actually some degree of ability and capability, and quite frankly, a bit more strength to work on the do not call list.
It is also important to note that there was another issue in the bill that was defeated. It is important to recognize that, because it is an issue that people are concerned about. In the original manifestations of the bill there was a provision that would have allowed companies to go onto our computers and seek information regarding that computer site. If we had agreed to them being part of our Internet relationship, we would be consenting or allowing them to go onto our computer and access information and documents, and basically surf through our site, at times unknown to us. That issue was taken off the table as well, thank goodness.
There was great Internet discussion and blogging about this offensive piece of legislation. I was happy to see that this was removed as well. It is important because had that provision been there, as well as the other provisions I have mentioned that were taken out, I do not know whether I could have supported this legislation because it would have weakened it so much. It would have become far weaker than even the do not call registry, which is pretty weak. It is very fortunate that we were able to get consensus and push that back.
As well, there were a couple of amendments that were interesting, and I was rather curious as to how they came forward. We will see whether or not, in the Senate, they will be pushed forward again.
One of them came from the Bloc, and that was the extension of the time to actually opt out of an email subscription. The way it works is if I, for example, agree to receive an email and I have a relationship with a company, or if someone is sending me that information, then I could opt out of that later on. I would just send an email that I do not want to continue this relationship. The way the legislation was, in 10 days, I would be taken off the list. The Bloc moved a motion for it to be 30 days. The final part of the bill is now 10 business days.
If we agree to an email through our bank or somewhere else, they will instantly start spamming or sending information. Once we agree, they start flying in. I have Aeroplan points, for example, from Air Canada, and then boy, that thing rings all the time with all kinds of stuff. I have agreed to that relationship and sometimes it is helpful. Sometimes it is irritating, but I make that choice. To suggest that I want that out and that it would take 30 days to get out of that is absolute nonsense, especially with the sophistication of some of today's programs. Ten business days is more than sufficient time within which to end that relationship.
As well, it is important to reinforce the issues of how serious spam is. Spam is used in crime. Spam is also used in an organized way that affects the whole Internet capacity of the system. We just have to look at some of the botnets. This is like a zombie computer where specific programs are written to go in and turn our computers into a generator for spam, or our email address for someone else who controls a whole grid of computers.
I hope to see the bill passed and I hope to not see it watered down in our unelected Senate. One of the interesting results of the American legislation that was passed was the conviction of Robert Alan Soloway who was arrested in the United States. He was one of the world's largest spammers. Among the 35 counts that he was charged with were not only identity theft and fraud, but also money-laundering.
I want to touch on companies too because some of the market they invest in gets lost or hurt because of spamming. Some of the spamming is very particular, very effective and professional-appearing in imaging and induces people to think it is something it is not, such as, for example, the banking industry as I have already mentioned. It costs the banking industry because it loses customers. People then do not want to trust that company because others have abused the site that appeared to be theirs.
That is why we do not want to lose sight of the criminal aspect of this as well. We must move the bill through as quickly as possible. It has taken long enough to get through committee, despite the noble efforts of my colleague, the hon. member for Windsor West, who has worked hard and smart on the bill.
Let us show Canadians that the government can get useful things accomplished for Canadians.