Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-28. I enjoyed the remarks by the member for Scarborough—Rouge River. He made some valid observations in the beginning about the fact that the delays of the government in bringing the bill to fruition were in some way unavoidable because of the election. However, sometimes delays can actually work out to one's benefit.
I note that because of this process involving a previous bill dying and then the government re-forming it as Bill C-28, the fact of the matter is some improvements were actually made along the way.
Coming out of the committee there were some improvements, even one that the government made itself as a result of representations made by presenters to the committee. They resulted in amendments to the bill.
I know governments oftentimes introduce legislation and they themselves bring in a number of amendments at the committee stage, so it is a process to get it right, a process that involves in many cases correcting oversights and making amendments as we progress.
At the end of the day, we may actually have a better bill than we would have, had we gone with the earlier versions.
We have not heard from the government very often during these debates. One of the questions I would ask is: How many actual cases have not been dealt with because of a lack of this type of legislation?
This type of legislation has been in the pipe since 2004. There were two senators involved with bills of their own. As has been pointed out, we are the only country in the G8 that does not have legislation of this type at this point.
Therefore I would be interested in knowing what the experience has been with the other countries in the G8, with their type of legislation, and how many consent orders have been dealt with in their jurisdictions and how many fines have been collected. If in fact they have jail provisions, how many people have actually gone to jail in any of those G8 countries?
However we have not had any representations from any government members about those particular issues. Surely we could learn from the other countries that have this legislation. If in fact there has been an increase in one type of activity over another in one of those G8 countries, I would assume that the government would have been quick enough to respond and would have been able to cover that off in our legislation.
Having looked at the legislation, I see it is quite comprehensive. The NDP members support the legislation over and above the questions that we have about it on the issue of the jail provisions. It is quite a substantial bill and deals with many areas that need to be dealt with.
Another point I would like to make is that this is a relatively new area. The technology has expanded so much. It has only been since 1995 that emails have become a regular occurrence and certainly e-commerce has been on the radar only since 1999.
At the provincial level, 10 years ago we were looking at bringing in e-commerce legislation, and in Manitoba around 10 years ago we brought in Bill 31, which I mentioned before in the House, which was the best e-commerce legislation in the country at the time. It was following the Uniform Law Conference. I believe that all of the provinces in Canada have since followed suit and brought in their own type of legislation to deal with those substantial issues.
However, that was a response to e-commerce in 1999 when it was very new and people were reluctant to purchase things online. We brought in some consumer friendly amendments to that bill. One of the provisions was that anyone in the province of Manitoba who purchased a product or service online and did not receive the product or service, the credit card company would have to back it up and compensate the customer.
The credit card companies had some concerns about that but it was something that we copied from at least four states in the United States that had that type of legislation in 1999. Those were the beginnings of e-commerce legislation. Today, e-commerce has burgeoned and exploded in spite of any type of legislation. I do not think I could point to many thousands of people in Manitoba who would even know we put in that protection for them in that bill.
That was only part of why we brought in the bill in the first place. We were dealing with the whole issue of databases, which is very controversial. It was shortly after the Jane Stewart experience in Ottawa with databases. However, what we were trying to do was come up with a common business identifier so that businesses in the country could deal with the federal tax department through a single business number. By doing that, we had to have a legislative framework in place to begin dealing with, not only within the government but within companies in Manitoba and the federal government, taxation issues, making corporate tax payments, the whole issue of T4 slips, records of employment and all those sorts of business type issues.
The governments of the day were looking at low-hanging fruit, things that they could control. They were looking at their own government to start with, but the view was to expand out to the private sector companies to try to make them more efficient and make the government more efficient. Before we went with the SAP computer system, we had no idea that the Department of Industry was giving a grant to a company that was in arrears with our taxation department and not paying its PST. In fact, that was happening. I am not sure what systems are now being used through federal government departments, whether it is SAP or a different ERP system, but we wanted to ensure we knew what we were doing in our own house.
This was a very controversial type of legislation that we had to deal with. We had to deal with the sharing of databases. We had interjurisdictional issues. We also had to deal with the existing silos within the provincial government where each department was saying something different. For example, finance was saying that it could not do this because of certain reasons and justice was saying something else. In each department there were five or six involved in the legislation. Since each one had its own concerns, we needed to get them together and say that this was the way we were going and that we would need to accommodate to the changing environment.
That is a big problem and it is a big problem with the federal government as well.
We have had to do a lot in this whole area and the federal government was under a lot of pressure. Why did it wait so long when seven of the eight G8 countries have had legislation dealing with spam for a number of years?
At the end of the day, it is time to pass this legislation and get it through. Some debate will continue about whether we went far enough. There are some provisions that I will get to later but there are so many provisions to this legislation that it is impossible to deal adequately with them in a 20 minute time period. However, a lot of provisions in the legislation may provide some sort of upset or cost to our nation or to the businesses in the country. We will only know over time whether that will be the case.
I know that in dealing with legislation, governments try to the best job it can to have an open process by having witnesses come before committee to give expert testimony. Provincially, we have a system where we allow almost anybody to come and make a 10 minute presentation on a bill.
Having said that, we would have a similar bill to this where we would do a round of consultations over the course of a year and then we would have the hearings and the press coverage. Still, at the end of the day, a year down the road after we had passed the legislation and had the regulations in force, people in the affected business communities would come forward and say that they knew nothing about the legislation and that it was a total mystery to them. They would accuse the government of bringing in the legislation and causing them a lot of problems without having proper consultation, when in fact we could prove that we did a lot of consultation.
In the spite of the fact that we have done all this work and that it has taken so much time, I still anticipate that we will have some problems at the end of the day with people or companies saying that they did not know about it, even after all of the speeches and the consulting that has been done.
Some adjustments may be necessary. For example, small businesses are very concerned about the relationship they will have or will continue to have with their previous clients. The new laws put some restrictions on how they can deal with their clientele. Before the do not call list came into effect, it was routine for a business to contact its customers, in-house, over the phone or through the mail, regarding other products. However, they cannot do that anymore because it is not allowed.
The way the system works now is that customers need to give their agreement for the business to approach them. This will cause a lot of stress for businesses in the country. Every time the government comes out with a new set of regulations, businesses that are doing what businesses do best, which is conduct business, will need to retool their operations and re-educate their employees on what is involved. There is no end to the questions being asked about whether companies can contact previous clients and under what conditions they can be contacted.
We introduced the do not call registry but the government found that the system did not work so well. I think it is working a little better now. However, in the initial periods, some people who were put on the do not call list found that they were receiving more calls after they were on the list than they were before being put on the list. People were accessing the do not call list.
This bill would deal with the do not call list. As a result of the much improved wording in the bill, the government has the option to phase out the do not call list over a period of time. When that time comes, the government can simply invoke the provision of the act that allows it to eliminate the do not call list. The do not call provisions are covered under this bill.
The bill has a lot of good things with respect to the definitions and the wording. With the volume of clauses and changes in wording that we are dealing with, it is impossible to get into all of the minutia in a 20 minute presentation.
A lot of good improvements have been made to the bill. Three or four years ago, people were not aware of some of the technical terms and technology issues, so it is possible that this legislation will be outdated before it comes into effect.
I have mentioned the issue of fines a few times but I want to deal with it again. I want to look at the case involving Facebook. The fellow who had a $1 billion judgment against him by Facebook for spamming, basically turned it into a media extravaganza for himself. He was on all the national television networks as a result of it. He laughed at Facebook. Facebook spent a huge amount of money on lawyers and chasing him down to get this $1 billion settlement and he just declared bankruptcy. If we are dealing with the likes of that fellow and other people like him, how in the world will we be able to deal with them by passing this type of legislation? Let us take a look at what is being contemplated in this bill in terms of enforcement.
I do not have any complaints about it. It is a good idea to look at consent orders. However, we can always be suspicious of regulators who deal with consent orders because they may show favouritism to their friends or may not fine people who should be fined. People who co-operate and people the regulators like will get a consent order and a cease and desist order but no fine. People not in their favour may get fined.
Nevertheless, let us assume for a moment that consent orders are a good idea and will solve a lot of problems. If the consent order does not work, the backup is a $1 million maximum penalty for individuals and $10 million for corporations. That is not bad but I do not know of any corporation that can afford a $10 million fine that will be guilty of spamming in the first place. These big companies have lawyers. They know the law. They will not be spamming in the first place.
Who we will have spamming are offshore people, people who are hard to catch, people who do not have any assets or people who hide their assets. A consent order will not stop them. Fines will not stop them. It seems to me that only a jail sentence will put the skids on some of these people--