Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I stand today in third reading to speak about Bill C-28. I was involved as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on the bill, which deals with a very important matter. It was known as Bill C-27 at the time and has now progressed to being Bill C-28, and it is very encouraging to see that we are now at third reading.
First of all, I would like to stress that we must act quickly to resolve the massive problem of unsolicited electronic messages, more commonly known as “spam”.
Let us go back to 2003, when the problem was not nearly as bad as it is now. A report at the time concluded that businesses spent $27 billion on expenses related to the IT personnel needed to deal with this plague.
Who of us in this chamber have not experienced that maddening moment when we have opened up our emails and discovered that a fairly large number were unsolicited, were trying to interest us in something we were really not interested in, were trying to sell us something? Who of us have not experienced the time it has taken to get rid of these unsolicited emails? Of course many of us have now had to purchase software to try to control so-called spam, and this is adding to our annoyance with the whole thing. Even today, the ingeniousness of some people still manages to circumvent even the best spam software, and we still occasionally receive spam messages even with that best software.
Spam represents, according to the experts, 60% to 80% of all email traffic around the world. Clearly this situation is a major challenge for consumers, businesses, governments and Internet service providers. Yet the issue at hand is not limited to spam and, therefore, legislation must also remedy the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origins or true intent of the email, the installation of unauthorized programs and the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses.
Whether spam comes in the form of unsolicited emails, viruses hidden in attachments—which is often the case—phishing, misrepresentations or the use of fraudulent websites, the government must take action to ensure that Canada does not fall behind.
How can we be the only G8 country and one of only four OECD countries that has not introduced legislation on spam? No one can deny the magnitude of this problem that goes beyond the simple annoyance of receiving unsolicited emails.
This practice also has huge costs for users in terms of the cost of receiving emails and text messages, as well as in terms of the users' storage capacities. Furthermore, this interferes with computer systems, which can have consequences on businesses, governments and individuals. When spam floods and completely paralyzes systems, these practices have more serious effects than anyone could imagine on the way society functions.
We often do not realize how vulnerable we are, which is why we must act quickly. In this case, there is no point reminding members that when the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament at the beginning of the year, he ruined our chance to act quickly.
The Liberal Party of Canada has not only always been concerned by this serious problem but has been very proactive on this matter. In fact the Liberal government established an anti-spam task force in May 2004 that held public consultations and round tables with key industry stakeholders. This Liberal initiative led to the 2005 anti-spam action plan for Canada, which was a call to action.
The plan comprised specific recommendations, requiring the implementation of legislative measures that: prohibit the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages; prohibit the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origins or true intent of the email; prohibit the installation of unauthorized programs; and prohibit the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses.
Bill C-28 and the initiatives announced by the Conservative government followed through on the recommendations made by the Liberal anti-spam task force of 2005. However, it is worth mentioning that Bill C-27, as originally submitted by the current government, contained a number of flaws. Fortunately, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology did outstanding work and proposed recommendations that significantly improved the bill. With these amendments and with further changes recently proposed in Bill C-28, we believe the bill is achieving its main objectives.
Bill C-28 introduces legislation to deploy most of our recommendations, and therefore we are pleased to say that the government has finally decided to act on the recommendations brought forth by our task force. This said, care must taken and we will continue to monitor the legislation closely to ensure that it does not stifle legitimate electronic commerce in Canada. It is important to emphasize that the fight against spam is much more than just legislation.
The industry committee also discussed how important it is that the government take responsibility for a cohesive approach once Bill C-28 is passed. What good is this law if the authorities overseeing it cannot take action because they lack resources? What specifications will be given to the various entities that will enforce and implement the law?
The minister must submit a comprehensive enforcement plan outlining the roles of these entities, such as the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The fact is that with this many stakeholders, Industry Canada's role as coordinator will be extremely important. We must give this department the proper tools, both from a human resources and an organizational perspective.
In short, it is essential that there be a coordinated approach involving industry partners, affected organizations and concerned stakeholders in order to implement this bill, and it is in this context that the government needs to take action. It needs to provide the mechanisms to ensure that this legislation is enforced effectively. Enforcing this type of law is complex. It needs to be reviewed periodically so that we, as legislators, can cover all eventualities, such as technological advances.
I should also point it that it is becoming essential and urgent to coordinate our legislation with various countries and engage with the international community in order to harmonize measures to achieve agreed-upon objectives. Canada must now take its place and become a leader in this area.
The Liberal task force also recommended that resources be put toward co-ordinated enforcement of the law, since we all know that legislation will only go as far as the capacity and willingness to enforce the law. Hence it is of the utmost importance that the government put appropriate resources into enforcement, in its determination to work with other nations to stamp out spam.
It is also imperative that the government dedicate resources to clearly establish codes of practice. The Liberal Party of Canada will, without fail, be on task to assure that these elements are not forgotten as the process moves forward.
I am confident that we are on the right track. The members of the Liberal Party will continue to work to ensure that this bill is in line with the expectations of the people.