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.