House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.


Seventh Report of the Standing Committee on Finance
Oral Questions

3:55 p.m.


The Speaker Peter Milliken

I want to thank all hon. members who have intervened on this matter.

I appreciate the argument made by the hon. member for Outremont and those made by the other hon. members who intervened on this matter.

I will take the matter under advisement and review the events that have been described, and the arguments put forward and the arguments themselves, and come back to the House with a ruling in due course.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.


Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-28, formerly Bill C-27. A little bit of history on the bill is important. This is a bill that will limit spam in this country and there are a number of different correspondence issues, not just email. There are several others I will get into later on, but it is important to recognize that this is important for Canada because we are the only one of the G7 countries that does not have a management style anti-spam bill. That is important for us to change.

New Democrats have been pushing for this for years and I want to touch at the beginning of my presentation a little bit on why we feel so strongly about the bill. It was formerly Bill C-27. With prorogation of Parliament that bill was shelved and did not go forward. We played a key role in getting that bill passed with the government. There were attempts to water it down by both the Bloc and Liberal members, but we made sure that the essence of the bill remained when there was lots of lobbying pressure from a number of different business and other organizations that rely upon electronic media. Some of it is done with good intent. Some of it is done with ill intent. But we were able to do that by taking out a provision where the government at one point was allowing a clause in the bill whereby if one had agreed to an electronic advertisement from someone that person could actually use that to go into one's computer and phish through it for further information. We had that clause taken out of the bill and compromised on that so we could move this forward.

Unfortunately, with prorogation, the government lost its opportunity and the bill died despite actually going through the chambers, and that is unfortunate because we did not get to have that legislation come to fruition. The bill reintroduced is taking quite some time in this latest government round. I am rather surprised it was not tabled during one of the first weeks post-election when we came back to the chamber. There certainly was a willingness on our side to get the bill moved forward and there were a few more changes added that were important to clean up the bill, but did not really essentially change anything. Then it moved quickly through committee and to this point in time.

It is a good opportunity for Canadians to revisit some of their rights in particular. I feel this is very much a social issue and a justice issue because when we look at the violations that go through spam it is not just the mere deleting and the pain of doing that, it is also a means of economically undermining people as well by phishing for information and privacy issues. It is important that the bill passes and I am hoping that it does so rather quickly in the other chamber when it goes there because it is critical.

What really defines New Democrats as different from the other parties in this are the rights people should have as users on computer systems and the Internet. This is something that I continually impressed on those who kept on pushing back on the bill. What I am referring to is the reality that when people buy a computer system, they pay the money. Then after that they pay for the use of the system not only through electricity, but also if it is activated on the Internet. They pay for the programs that are installed on computers that they use. They pay for all those elements out there.

At the same time, their rights were being ignored and, in my opinion, trampled on by others dumping all kinds of unwanted and unsolicited information and material, some of it even malicious, that affected computers, and that is wrong. There should be the rights of the users who pay for all of that, not just the initial outlay, but also the continuation of services every month through a provider. That is a key element that is important about this that gets overridden to a certain degree. With the explosion of the computer use and the Internet evolution, there were no rights granted to the user of any significant magnitude. As well, it allowed the introduction of a number of different commercials and even affects the performance of computers and the work people are doing by having malicious spyware and other types of things that end up on computer systems.

This is at the heart of it. Is this bill going to restore some justice to the Internet? Is it going to bring some accountability, bring Canada into this century in terms of its response and put penalties on those who do it?

For those who do not think it is a serious issue, I want to refer to a Cisco study that was done a couple of years ago. It found that there were around 200 billion messages per day and 90% of emails sent worldwide were spam. There were 200 billion messages per day being sent out to all kinds of people from all over the world and Canada, unfortunately, was one of the places that had spammers.

It was not individual people sending out that message. It was also those hijacking computers and creating what are called botnets. That is where people write programs and send out messages that would infect somebody else's computer so that people's computers become like zombies and send out a series of files, information and messages.

That happened to one of my accounts. It was hijacked and messages were sent out under my email address. A lot of people have faced this. That is why a lot of different software packages have been introduced. Because of the aggressive nature of those who are doing this, it has become an industry in itself just to police it. Various types of software are being used, which require constant upgrading to deal with all of the different infections taking place on computers.

What is important to recognize in that respect is that people are affected in a number of ways. Not only are their reputations affected by their names being tagged with material they do not approve of but it also affects the capabilities of their computers and sometimes their privacy.

There are also phishing scams to trick people. How that works is if people agree to something, there are unintended consequences that are not clear because there are no rules about that. Some people were giving out personal information, and there are those who said they knew what they were doing because they said yes.

We heard the argument from some of the people who use advertisements and so forth that once people agree, it is basically carte blanche. That is not fair and the reason is that yes, people made the mistake when they did it, but people are virtually learning on the computer every single day.

I know seniors today who are taking up the computer and its technology that they never had before, and they deserve protection from the government on that. The Internet has become very important, not only for communicating on social matters but also in allowing people to conduct their public and private affairs.

Public affairs means being connected to the world and communities and allows people to understand what is happening out there and to interact in that element, especially those who do not have the capabilities to get out any more, who do not have transportation or whatever the case may be. It is their connection to the community, and that has become clear through sites like Facebook and a whole series of other social media.

People use these avenues now to connect to their own community, not just to look at things or obtain information from across the globe, which they can do as well. It is very much part of people's lives, and those of neighbours, friends, family and so forth.

The second reason people deserve protection from the government and the forces who want fair play on the Internet is because people use it to conduct business, financial transactions such as paying bills, making investments and a whole series of things. Online elements have become critical for the daily administration of businesses and people's pocketbooks. That is key too.

There is the entertainment aspect as well, another critical part. People take part in everything from video games to movies. They can watch television now and a whole series of things. That is why with these elements of phishing, botnets and spam it is important to recognize the seriousness of it. It is not simply about deleting the thing that arrived in one's mailbox that was unwanted. It is about the abuse caused if one has those different elements affecting one's system.

New Democrats believe when a consumer buys equipment, programs and a service provider, the consumer's rights come first. That is an important difference. Technology will change even more. Some of the programs and the writers will become even more vicious. That is why it is important we start with the number one principle.

I will to refer to the international scene so we can get a clear understanding of this issue. Cisco reported that the United States was the single largest source of outgoing spam, accounting for 17.2% of all global spam. Canada was the fourth largest source with 4.7% of global spam. Behind the U.S., Turkey and Russia, Canada has a significant per capita.

The United States was referenced at 17.2% and Canada was at 4.7%. That is because the U.S. brought in what was affectionately known as the can spam bill. I hope Bill C-28 will be more effective than the American legislation, but we will see. It has been done with a bit more diligence.

Members will remember the legislation with respect to the do not call list. The government rushed it through and it failed miserably. It was an abuse on Canadians and an embarrassment to the government. We warned the government that it would not respond to the needs of Canadians.

There is a remedy. I took some criticism for supporting the government in a key vote on that legislation. I agreed to allow the minister to amend the do not call list legislation. I thought it was important for consumers to have that capability so I agreed with the government. Canadians want a do not call list that works. Improvements have been made to it and NDP members are happy with the changes.

I want to touch a bit on the types of information in the bill. I want to ensure people know that it is not just spam email defined under abuse. Instant media messaging, use net and user groups spam, web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ad spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet form spam, junk fax transmissions and file sharing network spam are all included.

It is important to note that. Those who abuse these types of communication devices will be subject to a series of penalties and fines. I will get into that a bit later. There will be better enforcement power. There will be a better process to stop those who send messages in those different formats to people who do not want to receive them. It is key that be the case.

The spam that we are focusing on has a number of different cost factors. There is the overhead cost, which is electronic spamming, including bandwidth, developing or acquiring an email, wiki blog spam tool and taking or acquiring the zombie computer.

Materials used on a computer system, whether it be the actual computer itself, the server, the websites, the other tools and applications such as a dot design can get infected. They then have to be administered by new software upgrades, hardware upgrades, a series of different things depending on what the spam has done to the computer.

Say, for example, a web designer has to design another management system related to security provisions to block certain things coming in. A physical cost is going to be involved as well as a programming cost. That is basically lost productivity in the Canadian economy. There is a cost to people doing work because others have abused or caused problems maliciously.

There is also a transaction cost. The incremental cost of contacting each additional recipient when one method of spamming is multiplied by the number of recipients. There is risk of legal or public reaction, including punitive damages.

On the transaction cost, it is not only the cost of responding, but also the public image or whatever it might be. There could be any host of emails coming in that are disingenuous and presents one's company or oneself in an ill way. Often those affected have to physically spend the time to re-contact people.

Also, one's reputation may be at stake. If people have their names tagged to something they do not support, that can be very damaging to them, given some of the content that is on the Internet today. Companies can suffer from this as well. This is another cost.

As well, damage is another cost. Damage can take place in a number of different ways, from people's reputations to a community and other types of areas. For example, Canada is currently known as a spamming country. We know that other countries look at us in an unfavourable way because we have not dealt with spam in a responsible way until now.

Spam is also used in crime, and this is important. In our opinion, it is a violation of not only consumer rights, but it is crime. We have seen viruses, Trojan horses and malicious software, often with the objective of identity theft and fraud.

There are people who lose information. There is sensitive information on computers, for instance, payment of credit card bills, real estate or other types of transactions, and all types of purchases. We see more and more purchases through several different sites taking place now.

When people experience identity fraud, they face a series of things. First, they have to find out when it took place and what has gone out. As well, the damages are part of that. Whether it is credit card theft or the use of their names and IDs to do things on the Internet, that can significantly affect them.

Also, and this is important, some people are not used to using the Internet or are just learning to use it. They become pawns for those who are very clever about using this information, technology and the different types of spam. Basically, there are predators. If people are not skilled or do not know the full effects of what they are doing, it does not make it right that they are taken advantage of. The bill's increased fines and penalties will be a significant deterrent when we look at some elements that need to be changed.

I recognize the work of the 2004 national task force on spam, which went across the country. It got things going and unified Canadians around the rights of the spam bill. It is important that we recognize the task force.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, clause 47 lays out the punishments under summary conviction, which are fines in the range of $10,000 to $25,000. If it is not a first offence, it could be as much as $250,000.

During the debate today one of the issues that came out was the fact that there were no provisions within the bill for criminal sanctions. The question about deterrence for the actions of perpetrating these actions is a significant issue.

From the member's knowledge of the special committee report, were there discussions and suggestions with regard to the deterrence? Clearly prevention of these problems is far superior than to deal with them after we have them.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.


Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, the only time the discussions came up was when there was an attempt to water down some of the fines and penalties, which we opposed.

With the new system, it is a $1 million for a person up to $10 million for a company. Then there is a series of fines for businesses as well. They are improvements to what we currently have. The good thing about that is those also can be amended quite readily if we find that this does not work. The minister can do that through an amendment.

I am hopeful this will work. If it does not, I would encourage quicker action, like we have seen on the do not call list, and ensure those penalties are sufficient. It will be interesting to see.

There is also a private right of action that is now granted. Therefore, there are new elements that will hopefully provide a big enough stick.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.


Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, one of the issues we wanted to try to resolve today was in the case of the Facebook suit. In that case, the judgment was against the individual. We wanted to think in terms of that in the context of the bill. Had the bill been in force at that time, would the penalties under the act have had any application to that gentleman?

We know, for example, that the authorities will be proceeding by undertaking as much as possible. The CRTC will try to get the perpetrators to stop doing what they are doing. That probably would not have worked with this gentleman.

The second option is to look at fines of $1 million or $10 million in the case of companies. Clearly this gentleman declared bankruptcy and moved on. Therefore, that would not have worked.

The question is whether any sort of a criminal offence would have helped stop this person. Violations under C-28 are not criminal offences.

The debate today has been about whether this bill would have proper application to the Facebook case. Perhaps we will have to revisit the bill in two or three years and take another look at it. If more Facebook-like cases evolve and the bill does not apply, then we will have to haul it back and look at making tougher sanctions available to people who do what the Facebook operator did.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona brings up an excellent case. It is one of the things that we will have to witness. It should be a criminal offence.

I cannot say this enough. We believe people's rights are being invaded since they are paying on a regular basis to have this service. Therefore, there should be a penalty for everyone who is abusing these people. The bankruptcy situation, as noted by the member, is critical to it because it really does not give a measure back to the public for that.

We would be happy to revisit that immediately if we find transgressions like that continuing.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his clarification on that point.

Another concern we had was about the roll out of the legislation. The member knows that after having passed legislation and gone through all the processes of committee and testimony and so on, there would still be thousands of little businesses all over Canada that would not be aware that we passed the legislation. That can be upsetting to some of them as they try to adjust to the new rules.

Some of the new rules under the bill involve how they interact with their customer base. When the do not call list came out, businesses were concerned they would not be able to contact their existing customers to sell them a different type of product or service. It provided a lot of acrimony in some workplaces.

The issue I have is we cannot question government members because there are not any. Therefore, we are not sure what its roll out will be or what form it will take. Is there going to be advertising? Are businesses going to be mailed letters? Is there going to be a CD package sent out to businesses or business organization to consult with small business as to how they are supposed to implement the requirements of the act, as opposed to doing it piecemeal?

I have really no confidence that the government has the ability to roll out anything in any type of efficient manner.

I think we would want to ask these questions now before we start getting calls in our constituency offices from small businesses across the country, wondering what in the world the government has done. The fact is the intention of the bill is excellent. It is something we support. It is something that should have been brought forward long ago

I want to get some clarification from the member about these various points.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.


Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona is right again. Maybe they will use their used up Infrastructure Canada signs or something. I do not know. I have not seen what the government is going to do in terms of promoting this.

There will be a lot of small businesses that do not understand the rules. The rules get a little complicated. I did not have the time to go into it during the speech, but there are a number of ways that they can still reach out to customers for a certain period of time, 18 months. There is going to be a process for people who want to get that communication.

It is interesting, because it was a big challenge to get the provision maintained. If people want to opt out from an ad or actual spam or information coming in, whatever it might be, the businesses have to do that within 10 days. The banks complained about how onerous that was. Meanwhile, my bank was regularly sending me emails, every single day, but it did not have the time to take me off the list. The bank wanted to have 30 days to be able to take people off the list, which is ridiculous. It is actually going to be 10 days, which is reasonable.

That will be important, because there are different connections out there. There will still be family members, business contacts, a whole series of people who will continue to have those relations, and then the process has to be started of opting in and out of ads.

There is going to be confusion out there. I think it is actually going to take a couple of years, to be quite honest, for this to be fully understood by the public. I am hoping the government is going to do some promotion on this, because the sooner we can get to this and work on it, the sooner we can improve productivity in Canada.

It is always the workers who are blamed for lower productivity, but here is a case where bad laws and the lack of laws are actually pulling this country down and under.

In looking at the small businesses, there will be an opportunity for those that want to send out legitimate ads. They will have to learn new ways to do that. Also, employees and the businesses' own computer systems will no longer be dealing with the massive amount of junk that comes in that they do not need.

There is going to be a transition period. There is going to be a grace period as this takes place. The dates, times and all those things need to be clearly articulated. I think the government is going to put up some resources to do that. It will make money on those resources because productivity in this country will improve.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, we are debating BillC-28, which I must admit is a very important bill. A number of members have had an opportunity to speak on it, but I would like to read into the record the summary of the bill. The summary of a bill is usually a fairly good synopsis of what the bill would do.

The summary of Bill C-28 states:

This enactment establishes a regulatory framework to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities.

It enacts An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act, which prohibits the sending of commercial electronic messages without the prior consent of the recipient and provides rules governing the sending of those types of messages, including a mechanism for the withdrawal of consent. It also prohibits other practices that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, such as those relating to the alteration of data transmissions and the unauthorized installation of computer programs. In addition, that Act provides for the imposition of administrative monetary penalties by the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission, after taking into account specified factors. It also provides for a private right of action that enables a person affected by an act or omission that constitutes a contravention under that Act to obtain an amount equal to the actual amount of the loss or damage suffered, or expenses incurred, and statutory damages for the contravention.

This enactment amends the Competition Act to prohibit false or misleading commercial representations made electronically.

It also amends the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act to prohibit the collection of personal information by means of unauthorized access to computer systems, and the unauthorized compiling of lists of electronic addresses.

Finally, it makes related amendments to the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, the Canadian Radiotelevision and Telecommunications Commission Act and the Telecommunications Act.

Most people would recognize this as the bill to deal with spam, but actually it is much more than that. So I took the opportunity to go back and look at the representations made to the House by the minister himself when the bill first came forward. I would like to quote a brief section of his speech in which he says:

Threats to the online economy include more than just spam. They include spyware, malware, computer viruses, phishing, viral attachments, false or misleading emails, the use of fraudulent websites, and the harvesting of electronic addresses.

Here is an interesting point. He says:

These threats are not just nuisances. Some are fraudulent, some invade privacy, and some are used to infect and gain control over computers. It is estimated that spam costs the worldwide economy $130 billion a year.

He goes on to say:

The bill before us contains important provisions that will protect Canadian businesses and consumers from the most harmful and misleading forms of online threats. It improves the privacy and economic security of Canadians in the electronic environment. It offers a host of clear rules that all Canadians will benefit from. It will promote confidence in online communication and electronic commerce.

The bill before us stakes out new ground in Canada.

Here is an interesting point:

Currently we are the only G8 country and one of only four OECD countries without legislation dealing with spam. This bill will rectify that situation.

In developing the bill, we have been able to incorporate the best practices of other countries that have launched similar efforts.

That is not exactly what the members said today in debate. It is kind of interesting. In fact, some members said that we have not even put forward legislation that takes into account all of the best practices of the G8 countries that have legislation in place. We have come up short on that. As a matter of fact, it was described that we are going to be playing catch-up. That point was made several times today during debate.

It is concerning because this is a very serious problem. We are ranked fifth in the world in terms of spam. I believe nine billion spam messages are received each and every day in Canada.

There is a cost associated with it. The worldwide cost is some $130 billion. Canada is fifth and we have about 10% of that. So we are talking about a lot of money, and based on the debate in the House, which has been substantively just opposition members, not enough rigour has been put in this bill to make sure that it is effective, the wish of the minister that this is going to be a good thing. We have missed the boat a bit.

One reason is that most of these problem areas come from international origins and they are beyond the reach of the laws of Canada. So all of a sudden we have to take out all these mass emailings sent out by persons who are not resident in Canada and are outside the reach of our laws. I will speak a bit more about that later.

The other part that was discussed very substantively during the day had to do with penalties. The infractions are under clauses 43 and 44, but with regard to the penalties, it says in subclause 47(1):

Every person who commits an offence under section 43 or 44 is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable

(a) to a fine of not more than $10,000 for a first offence or $25,000 for a subsequent offence, in the case of an individual; or

(b) to a fine of not more than $100,000 for a first offence or $250,000 for a subsequent offence, in the case of any other person.

It seems to stop there, ostensibly, in terms of the fines.

The point made in debate was that these are just fines. The growth of spam in Canada continues and we are playing catch-up. Despite the fact that this is proposing some fines, the argument has been that it does not seem to represent a sufficient deterrent to the perpetrators of, in many cases, the frauds.

Since the year 2000, online sales for Canadian companies have increased nearly tenfold. Ten years ago, online sales in our country were less than $7.2 billion. In 2007, the sales reached $63 billion. When we consider the magnitude of the economic activity going on in these unsolicited emails, we have to wonder whether, if someone gets caught, a fine of $10,000 or even $250,000 is going to be a significant deterrent from continuing the practices of spamming and the other forms of offences.

The point has been made a number of times that we missed the boat in terms of the penalties for offences. We have not taken into account that although the CRTC and the Competition Bureau will have the tools to impose fines, we do not have criminal sanctions here. There are going to cases, undoubtedly, where we are talking about billions of dollars that have been made by companies, without the fear of any criminal prosecution, just a fine. That, I believe, is a big flaw in this bill.

Regarding the admission that it did not go as far as other G8 countries and that we are playing catch-up, this bill has been around for five years. Previously it was Bill C-27. It is now Bill C-28 under a new Parliament, after prorogation and/or an election, but we are still playing around ostensibly with the same act.

If we look at the briefing notes, it is substantially still the same act. I really have to question whether there is a strategy to deal with the whole problem. The deterrents and penalties are certainly one aspect of it.

Recently, we have been dealing with some other pieces of legislation that I had an opportunity to deal with. One I think was just yesterday, a bill on tax treaties with Greece, Turkey and Colombia. It included the fact that we would be entering into information-sharing agreements with these countries.

It turns out that Canada has tax treaties with more than 90 countries around the world. We have relationships with virtually with every major economy around the world, and we do it because we want to eliminate double taxation, we want to deal with tax avoidance issues and we want to promote trade, et cetera. It is a good thing.

Why is it that we did not discuss information-sharing agreements on Internet abuses at the G8 and G20 summits? We paid $1 billion for one of those meetings. Surely we could have talked about some substantive matters, such as a problem that is costing the world $130 billion a year. It is not insignificant. That is 130 G8 meetings. That concerns me.

In the Income Tax Act there is a general anti-avoidance provision. Because there is a concern about being behind in our ability to keep up with the changes in technology and not even up to speed with what other G8 countries have been doing, we have the situation that, given how long it takes to bring forward new legislation and make the necessary changes, the time lag is so great that it is a tremendously expensive proposition when we know that it is going to grow.

I am wondering why the government did not pursue information-sharing agreements and things like the spirit of a general anti-avoidance provision, something that would say that notwithstanding what the act says, if the government believes people have done something that gets around the rules and in fact perpetrates fraud, the process of fraud or other offences under the act, it will be able to prosecute them as well, even though it may not be specifically in the act or have been contemplated.

That is why we have regulations to legislation. Rather than putting all the items in the legislation, we put them in regulations, which we can amend by orders in council fairly quickly. We do not need new legislation.

I am not sure at this point whether there was an opportunity missed. It would have been helpful to have built in some sort of a mechanism whereby the legislation, particularly in this case, was adaptable or was able to address emerging technologies and some of the issues that are coming out.

The other bill we dealt with recently that spurred some interest with me was the requirement for Internet service providers to report websites, et cetera, that had information or depictions of the sexual exploitation of children. The whole purpose of the bill was to require Internet service providers to report those things. It is an important element in the overall attempt to deal with the sexual exploitation of children.

Could this bill not have had a requirement or obligation for people who are involved or who become knowledgeable about the people behind some of these fraudulent activities to report? Intuitively people would say, “I respect the law, but I am not sure whether I am obligated to report if I become aware”. Maybe we should understand what the consequences are if we allow it to carry on, and perhaps there should have been some initiative that would have spurred people to report when it comes to their knowledge.

One of the experiences I have recently had, which most members have had, is that we received an unsolicited email apparently from a bank, which has the actual logo of TD bank or Scotiabank, for example. It purports to be our friend and tells us our account has been suspended and we have to get in touch with the bank, blah, blah. I printed that email before I deleted it and took it to the bank, which told me those things originate offshore and there is nothing banks can do about it, and that was about it. The banks ought to play a greater role in this. This is a big part of it. This is where there are people who prey particularly on seniors, the ones who are most vulnerable. When they are sent an email that says the bank has a problem and they have to get in touch, once they press the button and respond, they are in the system. Now they are targets. Now they are at risk.

We did not deal with that. We should have dealt with that. I do not know how. I am not saying I have the answers, but we should talk about it. Are other jurisdictions doing it? If these come from offshore, it is a case where we should have entered into information-sharing agreements and worked collaboratively with countries around the world? We certainly could have agreements with the 90 countries with whom we have tax treaties on matters that are harming all of us, when someone is in one jurisdiction and doing harm in another. We have seen that with regard to Switzerland and Liechtenstein with regard to tax havens, money-laundering and all kinds of things. When are we going to start entering into serious negotiations with our partners in trade and any other country that wishes to, for mutual benefit, to deal with these things? Where is the strategy? That is what is missing.

As I indicated, the penalty regime is not quite right. The issue with regard to dealing with the international situation seems to be ignored. We do not know what the dimensions are there.

The fact that it has taken five years already to get to this point does not send a warm fuzzy signal that we are really serious about this. Why does it take so long? When we bring bills in, why do we not start them with the minister or whoever is going to present the bill to the House and deal with it right through so that there is a continuity of the debate and a consensus that starts to develop? Second reading should be an opportunity for members to alert committee members to the kinds of concerns they have. This is where some of the fodder comes from in the legislative process. We cannot make any particular motions at second reading to change things, but we certainly can make recommendations to the committee and then make sure that committee is ready to deal with it. There is no point in putting forward a bill when there are 10 other bills waiting in a hopper to get into a committee, because it will not get dealt with for months.

In scheduling the House business, a particularly important legislation such as this seems to have been an orphan. I wish it had been dealt with quickly and, when it went through committee and came back here, we did not have debate last May and some more debate in September and now again in November. The continuity of the bill has been appalling. The issues have been on the table and this is something that has the support of all hon. members, all the parties. So why does the government drag this out in terms of how it schedules the bills for debate in the House? If it really cared about it, this would have been bang, bang, bang. The House leaders should have talked to each other. In the U.K. they have discussions to decide how many speakers there are going to be, they have the speeches and they deal with it.

I would suggest it is an important bill. I support the bill. The House will support the bill. We should get on with it, but the minister should know we are very concerned that we did not go far enough and that the bill may be a false start on the resolution of a very important problem.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act
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4:45 p.m.


Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I did appreciate the member's comments. I think he added a little more clarity to the issue than he did previously. I am reasonably happy with his explanation of how things would work.

The reality, though, is that the question was how this bill would have dealt with the issue of the Facebook case. The basis for adjudication under this bill is going to follow the route of the CRTC, going to the parties that are causing trouble and trying to deal with them and get an undertaking from them to cease and desist from what they are doing.

I agree that is the way we should proceed. As much as possible, we should get voluntary compliance before we go any further.

The second option is looking at the fines. The fines are $1 million for individuals and $10 million for organizations. There are a number of different options they could use to decide how much to fine them. If there a situation like Frank magazine, which used to incorporate each issue and say up front that it was going to publish whatever defamatory remark about people it wanted, then people could sue it, but each issue was incorporated. That is tantamount to this guy declaring bankruptcy. So that clearly did not work.

This bill does not offer any criminal options. There are no criminal offences under this bill. My suggestion is that, potentially, there may be instances, hopefully very few of them, where we may have to look at that option. That is why I asked why we were not hearing many government speakers on this whole issue, as to what happened in the other G7 countries that have had this legislation much longer.

Surely the government could have learned from the experience of the other countries. It could have tailored the legislation to take into account any deficiencies that these other countries found.

I also liked the member's idea about sharing information. This particular bill does allow for that, but he is talking about treaties, I believe, that would be signed individually, similar to the 90 double-taxation agreements we have with countries around the world.

By the way, the members should know that in the case of Panama, with which we are working on a free trade deal, Canada does not have a double-taxation agreement with Panama and yet France does. In six months, from February until now, France managed to get an agreement just by putting on pressure. However, that is a different issue and a different bill.

I would like to ask the member if he would give his comments about how he feels the government rollout of this bill should proceed, because I do see a potential for confusion with small business.

Could the member comment on this?

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4:45 p.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to address the Facebook issue.

I think the member answered his own question. We are in a dynamic situation, obviously, in a number of areas, and we have to be able to respond. That means we have to be one step ahead. We have to anticipate, as much as we can, but then we have to build the flexibility into our legislation to be able to respond to new technologies and new strategies.

Just on taxation, some of these tax experts are wizards and they can find weasel holes to get through almost anything. We have the experience, but we do not seem to take advantage of it.

I want to emphasize one other point, and that is that we seem to spend a lot of money punishing people, putting them in jail and dealing with problems after we have the problem. I remember that when I first started as a member of Parliament, I was on the health committee. The health people came in and said that 75% of what we spend on health care is to fix problems and only 25% is on prevention, and it is unsustainable. That is proving to be true.

I do not see prevention here. I do not see public education. As a matter of fact, the Privacy Commissioner who is responsible for PIPEDA, who is going to have a role in here, does not even have public education in her mandate, even though the committee I chaired asked for it. The Minister of Justice, responsible for the bill, said that he was perfectly happy with the act and that we do not need it.

We need to be smarter. We need to work smart not hard. Smart legislators will say we need public education to get people to be part of the solution, because if they are not they are going to be part of the problem.

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4:50 p.m.


Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to delve into the do not call list issue with the member.

The member will recall that when the government introduced the do not call list legislation, it was very popular with the public initially. The public phoned in by the thousands to get on the do not call list. We found out later on that the people who phoned in to get on the do not call list were actually getting more calls after they were put on the list. That did not work out very well.

What we have with this legislation is that the do not call list legislation will eventually be eliminated and will be covered, I assume, by this legislation over time.

Once again, it takes us back to how the government rolled out the do not call list legislation in the first place. The fact is that small businesses across the country were very confused. There was debate within all these little offices about who one could contact and who one could not. Previously, real estate agents were able to contact people with whom they had been doing business with previously and then the rules were changing on them. There was a lot of confusion under the do not call list legislation and I think there will be now on this legislation. I would like to ask the member to comment on that.

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4:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member's point is well taken. It is the roll out. It is one thing to have a piece of legislation. The other is to have a piece of legislation that is operable and efficient.

I can give one example. At the finance committee today we had the finance minister and his officials before us on the budget implementation act, the second bill. I asked them about the tax free savings accounts because in that bill there needs to be amendments dealing with deliberate overcontributions and prohibited investments. There were about five different amendments dealing with tax free savings accounts. If people put up to $5,000 a year in this account, the income they earn on it is not taxable. Real complex.

However, there are more amendments happening in Bill C-47 on tax free savings accounts than the legislation segment creating it.

I basically told the officials that they had not done their job. Where was the due diligence? Where was the consultation? Where was the anticipated question? Where was the roll out plan and how were we going to be sure that this thing worked, when we had anticipated all of the things that people would do, particularly some of these shrewd tax planners.

We do not seem to work smart. We work hard. We have jillions of people. I was told we had sign-offs at every level but not one of them contemplated what to do if there was an overcontribution. It is obscene.

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4:50 p.m.


Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, a recent study from California demonstrated how spammers profit from their activities by shifting the cost traditionally borne by marketers to the recipients of spam, namely Internet users, and, although many people immediately delete spam messages, the study found that spammers remain profitable even with very low response rates.

Given the fact that I have a vast riding with a few communities are seeing more and more seniors, Elliot Lake in particular, and spam is very problematic. We have seniors who are accessing the Internet for their daily necessities because they cannot go out. We have some of the most vulnerable people, people with intellectual disabilities, people with physical disabilities, relying on the Internet.

I think it is finally time that we do have spam legislation in place. I wonder whether the member believes that the bill would actually assist in preventing some of these people from being taken through fraud. They often think they are getting a good deal but the next thing they know they are not. They are being taken advantage of.