House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.


Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's comments. I know that he has been an active participant in all of the debates on free trade agreements. One of the things that has been a commonality among the trade agreements that have come before the House, at least since I have been elected, is that labour issues have always been part of a side agreement.

I welcome the member's comments. He said that we could take this to committee. It is imperative that we strengthen sections that are of real concern, not just to people in the labour movement here in Canada but indeed, in Jordan, and in the case of other free trade agreements, right around the world.

I wonder if the member could speak briefly to whether there has ever been any success at the international trade committee in actually amending these labour agreements and whether his support, ultimately, for this free trade agreement will be conditional on the strengthening of those labour provisions.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, there has not been, but that does not mean that there could not be. First of all, we need to make sure that the strongest teeth are in an agreement in terms of labour practices with respect to the issues I raised, such as the collective right to negotiate and unionize, et cetera.

At the same time, we need to be that beacon. We need to be able to continue to push. What we would expect at home we would also expect internationally when dealing with other countries. Obviously, even in the case of Colombia, provisions were put in the agreement, particularly in the area of human rights. Obviously it is not perfect, but we should not demand anything that we would not demand at home in terms of the issues the member has raised. Again, we need to collectively push that issue at committee and going forward.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, here we go again. It is another sitting of Parliament and we are debating yet another free trade agreement. As I understand it, we will be debating two this week, with the Canada-Panama free trade agreement scheduled to be considered in a few days.

It strikes me as a case of serial bilateralism, something for which I would encourage the government to hurry up and find a cure. So far, such agreements have neither enriched Canadians nor led to a coherent or wise industrial and trade policy framework for our country's future prosperity. On the contrary, since the first Canada-U.S. trade agreement was signed, the rich have been getting richer, while the rest of us are falling farther and farther behind. The middle-class, as has been well-documented over and over again, is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer.

However, perhaps that is okay for the Conservative government as long as its friends and the wealthiest corporations are doing all right, not much else seems to matter to it. How else do we explain that the government can find over $1 billion to spend on the G8/G20 without batting an eye, while it keeps saying it simply does not have the money to spend the $700 million necessary to lift all Canadian seniors out of poverty? It simply defies logic, unless the government really does not care.

Instead of debating yet another free trade agreement in the House, we should go back to basics. Let us talk about the kind of Canada we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. When it comes to trade, let us talk about creating a comprehensive, principled trade strategy for our country. That trade policy has to be an integral part of an overall national economic strategy that delivers on the promise of good jobs at home and shared prosperity abroad.

Instead of laying out such a trade policy, the Conservative government keeps pushing its patchwork approach, where our country's global competitiveness is determined based on the profitability of Canadian multinational corporations operating abroad rather than on the ability of Canadian-based producers to compete and thrive on Canadian soil in a dynamic global economy. Surely it is the latter that ought to be our goal.

However, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement does not meet that goal, just like the softwood sellout did not meet that goal, the shipbuilding sellout did not meet that goal and the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement did not meet that goal.

Let us take a quick look at the agreement. It is, as I said earlier, yet another one in a series of bilateral agreements that the government is busily signing around the world. However, bilateral agreements usually favour the dominant economy and ultimately facilitate a degree of predatory access to the less powerful domestic economies, which multilateral trade negotiations under the WTO would not necessarily allow.

That is why my NDP colleagues and I have consistently opposed NAFTA-style trade arrangements that put the interests of multinational corporations before workers and the environment and that have increased inequality and decreased the quality of life for the majority of working families.

It is precisely the shortsightedness of the so-called free trade model that results in the rejection of fair and sustainable trade and that generates the discontent, which ultimately leads to protectionism and increases the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. The NAFTA model has shown unparalleled efficiency in driving and entrenching the political and economic domination of large transnational corporations and it is currently at the heart of the ongoing drive for bilateral FTAs.

Let me focus the majority of my time today by talking about labour issues. As the NDP labour critic, I am sure most members in the House would expect me to do so.

Although Jordanian law recognizes some trade union rights, those remain limited. Union activity is tightly controlled and the right to collective bargaining is not recognized. There is a chapter on collective agreements in the labour code, but the right to strike is heavily curtailed as government permission must be obtained in order to call a lawful strike.

Many of the labour violations are laid out in a recent report by the UN Refugee Agency. I would commend members of the House to read the 2010 annual survey of violations of trade union rights in Jordan. What is without a doubt the most striking part of that report is the section that deals with the continuing abuse of migrant workers. Despite amendments to the labour law in 2008, which stated that domestic workers were to be treated on an equal footing with Jordanian workers in terms of medical care, timely payment of wages and subscription to the social security corporation, nothing much has changed in the day-to-day lives of migrant workers.

The 2009 official figures showed that more than 322,000 migrants were working in Jordan, but that unofficial estimates put unregistered migrant workers at 100,000 to 150,000. Many are employed without the proper permits, have their passports taken and are forced to work extremely long hours.

Let me give an example. The Israeli owner of the DK Factory in Irbid QIZ abandoned 17 Jordanian and 151 Bengali workers without any pay or benefits. According to the textile union, the problem began when a supervisor had beaten a worker on January 22 in a dispute over a vacation and a financial request. Ninety-three Bangladeshi workers staged a work stoppage that day in protest.

The next day workers returned to work to find the factory gates closed and to learn that the owner had fled the country. The government took nearly one month to respond to the union's complaint, finally beginning to provide some food and shelter for the abandoned workers. An investigation revealed that the employer had been preparing to leave the country for several months and had deliberately provoked the workers to strike.

Here is another example. Some 130 Sri Lankan female workers from the Al.Masader/Mediterranean factory in the Al Dulayl QIZ (EPZ) went on strike on March 1 in protest against being forced to live without heat, hot water or electricity. As management had refused to solve the problem, a local union set up a team of 10 representatives to resolve the dispute. However, a group of organized men beat one of the union activists, threatening to throw him from the dormitory roof unless he agreed to not meet with the female workers again. A complaint was made against the gang, but police refused to intervene. The union has finally arranged a resolution and workers returned to work on March 8.

There have been similar reports of organized gangs that threaten workers and try to destabilize relations between the union and the workers.

I could go on. Reports of forced overtime, beatings, insufficient food, the illegal withholding of passports and other abuses amounting to conditions of forced labour are rampant in Jordan. All too frequently, when workers protested, they were beaten by police, arrested and then deported to their home countries. Some remain in prison still.

The United States already has a free trade agreement with Jordan, but clearly that has not helped. A trade agreement in and of itself does nothing to stop the abuse of labour laws. On the contrary, what this throws into clear relief is that the much touted labour side agreements that are part of every trade agreement are toothless and the one before the House today is no exception.

Yes, I want this trade agreement to be studied in committee. I am not suggesting that Jordan is like Colombia, where paramilitary thugs and drug pushers are connected to the government. In fact, Jordan continues to be a relatively stable country in the Middle East, with some democratic structures. The country has been hard hit by the economic crisis and faces rising unemployment and debt. In an act reminiscent of the Conservative government's prorogation of Parliament, King Abdullah of Jordan dissolved Parliament in mid-2009 in order to push through new economic reforms.

Clearly not all of the country's problems are solved. A U.S. state department report that was referenced earlier in this debate by my colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, gives further proof of that.

Therefore, no, I do not think it is unreasonable to expect this trade agreement to be scrutinized further. In fact, I would argue that the international trade committee has an obligation to investigate further. We must hear from women's groups, human rights organizations, business and labour groups, all of which have an interest in addressing the impacts of this agreement.

To ask for such hearings is not being obstructionist. It is simply a matter of due diligence, which ought to be at the heart of how all of us in the House do our work. It is even more important on a file where so little evidence has been presented to verify its success.

Over the years, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, we have heard a lot of cheerleading about how wonderful the various bilateral trade agreements will be for our country, but there has been no hard evidence that their promise has been fulfilled.

I remember during the first free trade agreement that Canada signed with the U.S., Stelco, which is a steel manufacturer in my home town of Hamilton, sent a letter to all steel workers in the plant, telling them that in the upcoming federal election they should vote for parties that supported free trade because their jobs were at stake. That trade agreement has been in place for decades now and I would defy the government to find a single steel worker who would say that it has been good for his or her job. On the contrary, decent family sustaining jobs are disappearing and are being replaced by precarious and part-time work.

It is time to stop celebrating trade agreements when there is not a shred of evidence that they will benefit Canada or Canadians. It is time to develop a meaningful industrial and trade policy that will ensure jobs for Canadians. It is time to focus on policies that will lead to middle-class recovery.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments on the bill were insightful. She talked about migrant workers and the fact that the government would have to recognize a labour dispute as being a strike. She raised some serious concerns.

With regard to human rights, we understand that it is not worse than the Colombia issues we brought forth. However, there are some issues and perhaps she could elaborate a little more on what the impact would be with regard to migrant workers.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to address this a bit further. The hon. member is quite right. We have seen in trade agreements, like the one with Colombia, where the remedy for having ignored human rights laws or labour laws is simply to pay a fine. In Colombia's case, many people heard many of us on this side of the House say, “Kill a worker; pay a fine”, because really that was all that was in the labour side agreement. It is never okay to engage in labour abuses. It is never okay to abuse migrant workers.

The contention I would have with respect to this free trade agreement in particular is that once again we have a side agreement that deals with labour issues. It is not part of the central document that governs this free trade agreement. When we look at the provisions of remedies available to ensure labour rights and the rights of migrant workers are respected, one will find it is nothing more than a toothless tiger.

For that reason, it is imperative we review the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, that we do due diligence and make absolutely certain that we also protect around the world the kinds of labour standards we want to see for Canadian workers.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, which is the legislation to implement the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, and to lend my support in sending this bill to the trade committee.

As many members know, I have been on the trade committee for some time. The committee has had an opportunity to deal with a variety of issues, some of them contentious, some less so. The committee does good work in providing a forum for people to present their views and concerns on trade and the different trade agreements with the possibility of amending some of the legislation. The committee has had some success in doing so.

The trade committee is now considering the agreement with Panama and the agreement with Jordan, which is before the House. After members have spoken to this bill, we hope that the committee will have an opportunity to hear from the different sectors about their concerns as well as the positive aspects of this legislation, and how they would like the legislation to be implemented.

Canada and Jordan enjoy good economic and trade relations. We are good friends and good partners. Jordan has shown itself to be a country that we can deal with not just on trade and economic issues, but also on issues regarding peace and prosperity in the region.

Following a visit of His Highness King Abdullah II to Canada in July 2007, Canada and Jordan committed to explore the possibility of a free trade agreement. At the conclusion of King Abdullah's visit, a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement and a new air services agreement were announced. Canada has a bilateral air services agreement and a nuclear co-operation agreement as well as the FIPPA, which was signed at the same time as the FTA.

To give some background on this free trade agreement legislation that we are embarking to send to committee, on March 24, 2010 the Government of Canada introduced legislation in Parliament to implement the free trade agreement on goods only, and parallel agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. Free trade agreement negotiations were concluded in August 2008 and the parties formally signed the agreement and made it public on June 28, 2009.

Upon implementation of this legislation, we will see the immediate elimination of tariffs on over 99% of recent Canadian exports to Jordan. This will directly benefit Canadian exporters. Jordan will eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and the vast majority of agricultural tariffs as well.

Once the free trade agreement comes into force, Jordan will immediately eliminate tariffs in the 10% to 30% range on many key Canadian exports, including pulse crops, frozen french fries, animal feed, various prepared foods, certain forestry products and machinery. These are sectors in which Canadian companies are world leaders.

Once the agreement comes into force, Canada will eliminate all tariffs on Jordanian goods, with the exception of over-quota tariffs on dairy, poultry and eggs, which are excluded from tariff reductions.

Canada and Jordan will commit to ensure that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration of Fundamental Principles of Rights at Work, which covers the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining, elimination of child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination.

Canada and Jordan will also commit to protect occupational health and safety, maintain acceptable minimum employment standards and provide compensation for occupational injuries and illness. Migrant workers will have the same legal protections as nationals in respect to working conditions.

Many members in this House have raised the issue of human rights and the importance of making sure it is not overlooked but very much integrated into discussions and negotiations within our free trade agreements.

When we look at this legislation at committee, we will have an opportunity to hear from the business sector and also from the human rights community.

Our party has a very strong view on labour and human rights issues. We have done everything we can to ensure that labour legislation that is put forward in this House has the widest respect from all the communities and specifically addresses human rights issues.

The labour co-operation agreements also include effective enforcement mechanisms. Failure to respect International Labour Organization principles and domestic laws could result in an independent review panel assessing a monetary penalty as a last resort. Any such assessment would accrue to a special co-operative fund. The funds will be used to support the implementation of an action plan to ensure that identified problems are rectified. There will be a mechanism in place to look at labour law, human rights conditions and workplace safety. Health and safety and respect for human dignity are key components in this legislation and the trade committee will ensure that all those important key elements are part of the agreement.

The agreement also has a component that deals with the environment. It will commit Canada and Jordan to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to develop and improve environmental laws and policies. The agreement will also oblige the two countries to enforce the domestic environment laws to ensure trade and investments are not encouraged at the expense of those laws.

Canada has a golden opportunity to work as a partner not just with Jordan, but with other countries on environmental protection and stewardship. Canada is a country of rich resources, natural resources in terms of the very large mining and petroleum sectors, but also its abundance of water. We have very large and vast water resources. Water management is very important. Respect for the environment is something that we in Canada cherish. We have to ensure it is always at the forefront of these agreements.

Canada and Jordan will also ensure that environmental assessment processes are in place and will provide remedies for violations of environmental laws. The two countries also agree to encourage corporate social responsibility and to promote public awareness of engagement in environmental issues.

The agreement focuses on consultation and co-operation to address any matter arising under the agreement with access to an independent review panel as the last resort. Again, as I stated, the same type of process is in place for the labour laws that we hope to be part of the agreement.

In 2009 two-way merchandise trade totalled $82.5 million with the value of Canadian exports reaching about $65.8 million. This is not very large when we compare it to some other countries with which Canada trades. Our largest trading partner is the U.S., and there is the European Union as well. Our trade with Jordan is still significant in the sense that it is a partner we very much are trying to reach out to, and a partner which for many years has had very good relations with Canada. This is not just an act of friendship; we also hope that our trading relationship will grow over the course of a number of years once this bill has passed.

Top exports between the two countries include vehicles, forestry products, machinery, pulse crops, mainly lentils and chickpeas, ships and boats, and plastics. Imports from Jordan totalled about $16.6 million in 2009, led by apparel, jewels, vegetables and inorganic chemicals.

The Minister of International Trade has said that the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, once implemented, will open doors to the growing economy and give Canadian businesses a real advantage in the broader Middle East and North African markets. This is an important gateway to many of those countries. As pointed out, this agreement will open doors to those particular markets in the Middle East and Africa.

Upon implementation, the free trade agreement will eliminate tariffs on over 99% by value of recent Canadian exports to Jordan, thereby directly benefiting Canadian exporters and workers. Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Jordan was about $2.5 million but there is a great potential for growth in the future.

Mr. David Hutton, director general of the Canada-Arab Business Council, stated:

The potential for expanding that network across North Africa and throughout the Arab peninsula is exceptional. I certainly believe that the potential for Canada in that part of the world is as great as it is anywhere, if not greater.

The parallel agreements on labour and the environment will ensure progress on labour rights and environmental protection.

The agreement is part of a broader international trade strategy that the trade committee has been looking at. I am very much a part of that. In the past we have been successful in many of our trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica, Israel and Peru, and the European free trade agreement. The agreement with the U.S. and Mexico is one that is well known to most Canadians.

Canada is continuing trade talks with other members of the European Union as well as the Caribbean community, Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Sweden, as well as pursuing closer trade relations with India, Morocco and Ukraine.

India is an important emerging market. The BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, dominate the markets. India, as the largest democracy in the world, has played a major role in that region in terms of expanding its trade.

As the vice-chair of the Canada-India friendship committee, I will take this opportunity to congratulate India and wish it all the best as it hosts the Commonwealth Games. Notwithstanding some of the negativity that we hear in the news, I think India will showcase its best to the world. I have had the pleasure of visiting India twice. It is an incredibly beautiful country with lots of history and wonderful sights to see and great people as well. It is a true partner with Canada.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a relatively small country. Unlike India, which is one of the largest countries in the world with over 1.5 billion people, Jordan only has about six million people.

We need partners large and small, because Canada is a trading country. We are a small country as well with only about 33 million people. We have to make sure that we have partners in the right places.

Jordan has been a committed, dedicated partner with Canada and a dedicated partner in the Middle East peace talks. Many of us in the west have a better understanding of the relationship with the Arab world.

It is also an emerging country. It is a small country that actually pulls beyond its weight in many ways, especially on issues of peace and leadership in the Middle East. It is certainly a country with which, justly so, Canada should be pursing free trade, notwithstanding the fact that I believe this still has to go to committee and we still have to hear from the public.

However, from what I have been able to read from this agreement and what I have seen thus far, I think it is something to which we should lend our support. Certainly we as a party have taken the position that we support that this go to the committee and at the committee we would have an opportunity to take a look at this.

With everything that is going on, I have to say that it was an incredible summer where I had an opportunity to speak with many of my constituents and attend many events. The issue at hand for them, of course, is jobs and the economy. Unlike some parties, we do not fear trade agreements. We believe trade agreements can be a very important component in job creation and we can see different sectors that have, over time, developed thanks to free trade agreements and the opening of markets. We have to ensure that Canada as a free trade country aligns itself with different partners in order to allow access to our goods and services and to allow our companies to grow.

When my constituents, at their doors, spoke about jobs and job creation and their concerns about the economy, we have to ensure that we respect and address those issues. We as parliamentarians have an obligation to ensure that we are constantly fighting for Canadians, for our people and for all our constituencies across the country. Opening markets is certainly one way of doing it, and opening ourselves to a market that is growing and is a good friend and partner of Canada makes a lot of sense. So I will be lending my support for this initiative to go before committee.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members


On division.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried on division. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario


Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Industry

moved that Bill C-28, 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, be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin the second reading of Bill C-28, Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act.

Hon. members will no doubt recall that this bill was debated extensively in this House and the other place in the last session as Bill C-27. Now it is Bill C-28, so we have moved up at least one notch in the world, anyway.

I should inform members that this bill has not changed substantially since the last session and remains as it was following its review by the House industry committee at that time.

At the outset I would like members to consider the bill in a larger context, as part of an overall plan to help put Canada at the forefront of the digital economy, in part through modernizing our framework of laws for the digital age.

Soon we expect to bring up to date other important legislation, including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and of course, the Copyright Act. Together these bills will contribute to improving cyber security practices by consumers and industry, to promote trust and confidence in online commerce.

As we know, the Internet has become the central nervous system for the digital economy. It provides a common global platform for communication and commerce. Its use by businesses and consumers has led to the emergence of a borderless international marketplace.

Since 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, sales reached almost $63 billion.

Businesses and consumers have grown to depend on the Internet. They count on it to be safe and reliable. Online security threats can erode the degree of trust and confidence in the Internet as a safe and reliable environment for electronic commerce.

Our government is committed to building the necessary confidence. We understand what a harmful economic impact spam and other online threats can have on the online economy. We know that the government has an important role to play through legislative measures.

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.

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.

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. 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.

We have seen, for example, how effective the private right of action has been in combatting spam in the United States. Under the bill before us, businesses will be able to sue spammers who use their brand to lure unsuspecting customers to divulge private information online as a result of unsolicited email. The bill enables class action suits by individuals who have been spammed or whose computers have been subjected to spyware or botnets.

We have learned from approaches taken elsewhere that a civil administrative regime is more responsive and therefore more effective than using the criminal law to combat spam. Other countries such as Australia, the United States and Japan use regulatory authorities rather than law enforcement to enforce anti-spam legislation. With this bill, Canada will have a comprehensive enforcement regime enforced by existing specialized agencies rather than the police.

What enforcement agencies will be involved? The new law will be enforced by the CRTC as Canada's communications authority, by the Competition Bureau as the federal agency that deals with false or misleading commercial messages, and by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the agency tasked with the administration of PIPEDA. The bill specifically enables these agencies to work and share information with each other, as well as work with and share information with their international counterparts.

The CRTC will enforce the provisions against sending unsolicited commercial messages. It will also have responsibility for the provisions that prohibit the altering of transmission data without authorization and the unauthorized installation of computer programs.

The Competition Bureau will address false or misleading representations online and deceptive marketplace practices such as false headers and website content.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will address the collection of personal information without consent through unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses, commonly referred to as address harvesting.

The bill provides that both the CRTC and the Competition Bureau can seek what we call “administrative monetary penalties”, AMPs, against violators. The maximum AMP for the CRTC is up to $1 million per violation for individuals, and up to $10 million for businesses.

The Competition Bureau, through application of the Competition Tribunal, may seek AMPs under the current AMPs regime in the Competition Act. That regime specifies AMPs of up to $750,000 for the first violation and up to $1 million per subsequent violation in the case of individuals, up to $10 million for an initial violation by a business and up to $15 million per subsequent violation.

These AMP regimes demonstrate that we are serious about driving spammers out of Canada.

Industry Canada will have oversight responsibilities and will ensure that the work of the three agencies is coordinated. A spam reporting centre will be established to help the three enforcement agencies in their investigations and to give businesses and consumers a one-stop shop where they can report spam and other online threats.

I would remind hon. members that after wide-ranging discussions in this place and in the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology we were able to pass the predecessor, Bill C-27, as amended, with unanimous consent at third reading during the last session.

The amendments that have been incorporated into this bill, based on the thorough review done at committee for the previous bill, fine-tune this legislation so it strikes the right balance between protecting consumers and giving them control over their inboxes, while effectively enabling online commerce.

Hon. members may recall that we took a careful look at how to ensure that companies that use email to keep in touch with customers do not inadvertently find themselves in violation of the law. The purpose of the bill, after all, is not to limit legitimate online business. It is to promote electronic commerce by increasing confidence in the use of the Internet to carry out business transactions.

The implied consent provisions were expanded to include the conspicuous publication of an electronic address such as a website or a print advertisement, provided that the sender's message relates to the business or office held by the recipient. This is consistent with provisions under PIPEDA and accepted in the current code of ethics of the Canadian Marketing Association.

Under the bill, no commercial electronic message can be sent without some form of expressed or implied consent. Implied consent is also extended to existing business and non-business relationships. We have, I believe, preserved the ability to extend by regulation the situations in which it is reasonable to believe that consent to receive commercial emails is to be implied.

Hon. members will also remember that after the committee hearings, the bill was amended by the committee to ensure that legitimate businesses can periodically install updates to their software and that businesses and consumers can continue to use navigation features on the web.

The effect of these amendments was to make a good bill even better. Each of these provisions has been brought forward in the bill before us.

Nonetheless, I want to point out that in addition to these changes made at third reading during the last session, we also incorporated a number of technical changes and clarifications to the bill before us today. Two changes in particular are worth going over in greater detail because they are more important.

The first deals with the order of precedence of two laws that affect privacy: the bill before us; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA. Hon. members may be aware that PIPEDA contains a primacy clause that otherwise ensures its provisions take precedence over subsequently enacted bills when dealing with personal information or consent. This primacy provision ensures that the efficacy of PIPEDA is not undermined by other legislation with weaker consent requirements.

Compared with PIPEDA, the bill before us has stricter rules regarding consent when dealing with personal information respecting email addresses. Its rules are also more strict when dealing with consent to the receipt of commercial messages. This bill must take precedence.

Accordingly, a new clause 3 clarifies that in the event of a conflict between the provision of this bill and a provision of Part 1 of PIPEDA, the provision of this bill, the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, would take precedence. Hon. members, I should add that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner supports this amendment.

The second amendment I wish to discuss responds to an issue raised concerning the former Bill C-27. An amendment was added before the bill went to the committee in the other place, but Parliament was prorogued before it could be discussed there. It involves provisions of PIPEDA that prohibit the collection and use of personal information through unauthorized access to a computer system.

Our goal is to increase the protection of personal information stored on personal computers or private business networks. The bill requires private sector firms and investigators to obtain consent to collect that information. It includes a provision that private enterprises do not have the right to collect personal information through access to a computer system “without authorization”. The main focus of the amendment is the term “without authorization”.

In drafting the bill, it was never our intent to limit the ability of private investigators and search engines to access and collect personal information that is already available to the public on the World Wide Web or other similar networks.

Several witnesses have expressed concern that the term “without authorization” clouds the issue. It leaves a great deal to interpretation by the courts. For example, persons who post terms of use on a website could easily render the collection of information from that site “unauthorized”. This could leave industry at risk of civil lawsuits by those seeking statutory damages under the private right of action contained in this bill.

We have consulted with privacy advocates, telecommunications carriers, search engine companies, copyright-dependent industries, and other stakeholders. They agree that an amendment is necessary. As a result, we have changed the wording so that instead of “without authorization”, the bill now reads, “in contravention of an Act of Parliament”. That is, there will be no exception to PIPEDA's consent requirements for: “the collection of personal information, through any means of telecommunication, if the collection is made by accessing a computer system or causing a computer system to be accessed in contravention of an Act of Parliament”.

I believe hon. members will agree that this amendment respects the spirit of the bill as originally passed in this House in the last session, and improves upon it.

Finally, we have travelled a long journey toward bringing anti-spam legislation to Canada. From the work of Senators Oliver and Goldstein to the recommendations of the Task Force on Spam, there have been many different sources of inspiration for this bill. It was very close to receiving royal assent in the last session, and I hope we can move it through this session quickly.

This is a bill that will benefit all Canadians who use the Internet, but it is also a major piece of a much bigger agenda to put Canada in the forefront of the digital economy. If we get this right, we will do more than simplify participation in the digital economy; Canada will be a leader.

I urge hon. members to join me in supporting this bill.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his speech today. I think even he admits that this bill is about 10 years overdue. However, if it incorporates the best practices of all the other legislation in the jurisdiction, then perhaps the wait might be worth it.

I am sure the minister will not be surprised that the passing of this bill will be a big surprise to a lot of small businesses in this country. No matter how much we know about things, there are thousands and thousands of small businesses that are not really in tune to what is happening in Parliament.

I would like to know what the minister's rollout plans are. Is the minister planning a soft rollout or a tough one? I know the penalties under this act are substantial, so I would not want to see great disruptions and burdens on small businesses as a result of the government's actions. Once the minister gets this legislation through, what plans does he have for the rollout?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his thoughtful intervention and question.

Indeed, it is important that we get the message out. We have been in constant consultation with a number of stakeholders, like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the various organizations involved in information and communication technologies. I assure the hon. member that we will continue to consult them.

We will continue to get the message out. The fact of the matter is that we have a number of ways in which we communicate with the business world. That is one of things that Industry Canada does for Canadians. We will continue to get this message out.

If the hon. member has some specific suggestions, I would certainly take them under advisement.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Yukon, The Environment; the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Pensions; the hon. member for Mississauga—Brampton South, Government Programs.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is not a pleasure to rise and speak to bills, but it is a pleasure to speak to this bill as it will make Canadians very happy.

All of us are bombarded with annoying spam on our computers. The side effects can be dangerous to our computer system. It slows down legitimate commercial businesses in Canada. It is amazing that we have not yet dealt with this issue because it is an annoying and costly problem to Canadians and people all over the world. I am sure there will be support on all sides of the House to deal with this aggravating and at some times dangerous problem that essential computer systems face.

Twenty years ago a computer was not essential in carrying on daily life, but now it is involved in many things. It is even more important to people in the area I come from for things like distance education and health because they do not live in a big city so they do not have access to these specialties. Computers are essential. People need their computers for all sorts of things, like banking and personal communication. A fly in the ointment or a wrench in the works could gum the whole thing up. All of us would like this problem fixed as spam is distressing and dangerous.

I am excited about speaking to the bill. I am also excited about Parliament taking action on spam, which is unsolicited electronic email.

Many of us with computers know how dangerous and how much of a problem this is for Canadian consumers and businesses. In 2003 it was estimated that spam cost the economy over $27 billion worldwide. That is half the Canadian deficit. It is a monumental amount of money.

Since then, the problem has only grown worse. I am sure each of us in the House has thousands of these unsolicited emails gumming up the work of Parliament. I am sure that businesses across the country have this problem, as do individuals. More updated information will be forthcoming on how devastating spam actually is, and it is becoming worse all the time.

We are now looking at a far more serious problem, which would be corrected by the bill, and that relates to the issues of identity theft, phishing and spyware, all of which give concern to Canadians and to the world. We have to deal with this in legislation, both locally and internationally.

In the early 2000s the Liberal Party recognized the problem that spam created. In 2003 the Liberal member for Pickering—Scarborough East tabled a private member's bill to make spam illegal. Unfortunately, the bill never made it to second reading.

However, based on the strength of Bill C-460, introduced in mid-2003 in the 37th Parliament, the Liberal minister of industry struck a committee to examine the issue of spam and to report to the minister about how the government could most effectively stop this obvious and seriously growing problem.

That report entitled “Stopping Spam: Creating a Stronger, Safer Internet ”, was released in May 2005. The report was created by a committee of 10 experts on information technology and Internet law. The task force also worked with dozens of stakeholders in the technology industry to develop sound proposals and to look at the best practices at the time.

The primary recommendations of the task force were that the government legislate prohibitions on the following: the sending of unsolicited email; the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origin and the true intent of the email, those emails we get with the funny titles that make it look like it is for us, or something critical or important, but it has nothing to do with that at all. The same product is being sold to us all over again.

The task force also recommended prohibitions on the unauthorized collection of personal information and email addresses, particularly by using fake websites through the selling of lists where those on the list were not told the list would be sold to a third, unknown party.

The committee recommended all these very important changes and I cannot imagine anyone in the House disagrees with those changes. The official opposition supports the bill as it follows through on the recommendations of the committee created by the Liberal government. Also the industry committee did such good work in the last Parliament before prorogation on Bill C-27. It made some very good changes to the bill to make it acceptable to more members of Parliament and a much better bill. However, much more needs to be done.

As I described earlier, as the world is changing, it is changing for businesses too and it is changing the way businesses do business and earn their revenue. They depend more on the Internet and computers. The bill would protect them and it would be a big enhancement to industry and small business in Canada. However, it also has to be careful not to deter the legitimate work and communication with consumers about their business products and services.

The minister talked about the consultation being done with business organizations and the fact that the committee and MPs can hear from those organizations and see whether more amendments need to be made other than the good amendments there were made on Bill C-27 to make it now into this new bill, Bill C-28.

Much needs to be done. The committee highlighted the need for the government to play a central role in coordinating the actions of both government and the private sector. All actors agreed that spam needed to be stopped. Internet service providers, web hosts and online marketing agencies need a set of best practices for email solicitation.

The government must work in coordination with industry partners to establish a strong code of practice that prevents the proliferation of electronic emails that are unsolicited, unwanted and constitute spam.

These days spam is no longer a problem exclusive to email. In 2004 and 2005, when the committee was writing the report, spam was starting to move to other electronic platforms. Today Canadians must contend with cellphone spam, either by means of text message or something we may not all be familiar with, robo calling.

It is important that the act recognize the facts and is technologically neutral, encompassing all forms of commercial electronic communication.

The legislation must meet the test to ensure there is proper, effective and adaptable application to current, existing and future modalities that may be able to circumvent not only technologies to prevent and protect consumers in business, but also to remain faithful to the act.

That is why some hope the act can be revisited on a yearly basis as technology evolves. It is something the Liberal Party may look to see the government amend or to look into at committee.

Moreover, the issue of text message spam is being aggravated obviously by yet another announcement of a major cellular service provider recently to start charging for received text messages. There has been plenty of discussion among members of Parliament. It is obvious to everyone that it is unfair, to say the least, that consumers are charged for something they had no choice whatsoever in receiving.

Spam is not just a Canadian problem, as I indicated earlier. Given the borderless nature of the Internet, it means that spam can originate from anywhere and be delivered anywhere. It will not help a lot if we just do the controls here because then we will be flooded by people sending spam to Canadians, gumming up Canadian businesses. They will start sending it from an out of Canada site.

I strongly point out that the legislation takes measures in Canada. There has to be an attempt to work internationally with other partners so we can also go after those companies and organizations that do this remotely from other countries, which do not have the same level of proposed enforcement or legislation. We have to do a lot of work on the international scene, assign the resources to do that work so the good work that is before us now, brought to us by the industry committee, does not dissolve in a flood of spam from 180 other countries around the world.

As a result, because of the international nature of this problem, any government that is serious about combatting spam must be willing to engage other governments around the world in an international strategy to reduce this ongoing problem.

The government's ability to combat spam is not simply about legislation. My party calls on the government to show its concern by raising this internationally at all international fora and working with other governments to produce a coordinated international anti-spam and anti-counterfeit strategy.

The effectiveness of this law will be measured by the government's commitment to enforcement. I take the comments that have already been raised in the past, that we have to ensure there is adequate support for the enforcement of the legislation, which is being complimented and being recommended here. That is a tall order.

Some members are probably aware about all the fraudulent emails people get. If they send them off to the place to deals with them, they get a message saying that they cannot give them an answer because they are so busy, they are so inundated. If there are not enough resources to deal with enforcing this, and the minister mentioned the agencies where those resources would be needed, then the legislation is not going to have much effect.

There is no point in bringing forth legislation if there is a reasonable chance the legislation will not have the intended impact of deterring, stopping, correcting and preventing what is continuously more than just a nuisance, but a very costly one at that.

Policing Internet traffic is incredibly difficult because any Internet crimes crosses jurisdictions and borders, territorial, provincial and federal. That is why in an attempt to control or stop spam, the report called on the government to create a central office that would coordinate anti-spam activities.

I hope the government will move diligently on that if speedy passage is given to this legislation.

Industry Canada is being designated as the official coordinating body. I would like to ask, perhaps in subsequent interventions from the government side, what kind of resources Industry Canada is being given to coordinate the other agencies that have responsibilities under this act such as the Privacy Commissioner, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, as mentioned by the minister. When we talk about billions of emails, we need the resources for these agencies to deal with them and enforce the legislation.

What resources can we see coming from the government with respect to these offices so we can see spam corrected in our country?

It is extremely important that everywhere in Canada we can have confidence in legislation proposed by the government. I expect the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology will deal quickly with the issues before us because it has already reviewed the bill and improved it substantially, and I congratulate the committee for that.

Central to this issue is if the government passes legislation and walks away from the issue, all these proposed initiatives, well-intended, well-researched and up to date, will fail.

I believe legislation to be correctly brought forward must ensure that we have proper resources and effective coordination so it is understood how this will take place.

The more rapid response we can have to correct this problem will ensure that those who see Canada as an opportunity and a target will find another place.

However, we also want to ensure that the other place is blocked. We simply want to put an end, where possible, to those practices which have as their origins the sense of undermining the credibility and the integrity of communicating and the effectiveness of the legitimate use of the Internet, which belongs to us all.

As many members know, spam emails also contain viruses, various dangerous bugs, that can turn people's private home computers, people who perhaps do not understand computers that much, into very dangerous machines that then send out all sorts of emails, disrupting businesses and other Canadians, their friends and the people they deal with on a business basis, ultimately costing millions of dollars.

It is simply fraud when they send emails and disguise them so one will open it. Once again, it could have the unwanted effect of having to deal with an email that was unsolicited and businesses and individuals have to buy more expensive equipment, perhaps try to use spam filters which, as we all know, does not work on everything. One needs to have bigger storage because there are more emails on the machine and it leads to many more problems than simply getting an unwanted email. One's name and information can then be sent to all sorts of other sources who will then start sending these unsolicited emails.

It is just a pyramid scheme that is very bad for everyone. It can also lead to the exposure of one's personal information. Every member of Parliament knows from a previous bill how dangerous and how proliferating this is in the world. With very little personal information, one can become a victim of crime, Many thousands of Canadians have already become victims of crime when their information has been provided.

These types of emails can ultimately be used by installing unwanted illegal software on one's computer without one knowing it when one of these emails is opened.

In 1993 and 1994, the Industry minister at the time, John Manley, talked about the great opportunities of the Internet as the super highway, as it was called at the time because it was the wonderful dawning of a new age. Unfortunately, that super highway has become badly clogged to the point where I think it is fair to say that there have been serious traffic jams, if not serious accidents along the way.

Therefore, the legislation is timely, necessary and has a very reasonable opportunity to pass.

In the rural and northern areas, our access is sometimes through limited pipes, whether it be hard wire or through satellite. Expanding the usage by these huge amounts of unwanted, wasteful, almost illegal emails makes it so people do not get access or have very slow access and it can shut down the access that other people have in rural and northern areas.

The government must follow up on the legislation with real action and real enforcement resources. It must actively engage all partners everywhere in industry internationally. It must continue the consultation process and develop longer term opportunities to combat spam.

What plan does the government have in moving forward to engage industry partners and building strong codes of this practice? We will have to ensure that it is not just based on a blue ribbon panel that was struck some years ago but, in fact, that we have an ongoing ability to ensure that partners, stakeholders and consumers, those who have been tremendously affected by this, will be able to benchmark and give us feedback as to how effectively the legislation would be, particularly from the point of enforcement.

What plan does the government have to work with international partners in building a strong international effort to combat spam? Spam can be incredibly destructive. Besides consuming time and band width, spam is a delivery vehicle for malware, programs that access one's computer without authorization and can do a number of dangerous things. Malware includes viruses and spyware, which attack the individual user. However, some of these programs turn the user's computer into a zombie on a botnet which then can be used to attack major websites on the Internet.

This is something we could not have contemplated three, four, five years ago but it is currently taking place. Many consumers and many constituents have talked to me about this and talked to other members of the House. We need to ensure that we have a pragmatic policy, a pragmatic document that is capable of changing with the times as the Internet and electronic information becomes more sophisticated.

All these attacks have serious economic impacts when websites like Google and other information websites are brought down. Even for a few hours billions of dollars can be lost. Spyware can be used for identity theft which is a constantly growing threat in the Internet age.

Therefore, I call upon all members to support the bill to go to committee and get it through. I am sure all Canadians and businesses will be very happy to remove this aggravating and dangerous problem.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Kenora Ontario


Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for again representing the issues of folks in the north. I had the privilege of working with him on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and it was a pleasure.

In terms of committee process, I am sure the member received a briefing, but what were the stakeholders saying about this issue and how important do they feel it is that this process move along? I was wondering if he could answer.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I used to be on the industry committee, which I quite enjoyed, but I am no longer on it and I was not on it when the bill went through.

However, the minister made it quite clear that there was good consultation with industry, which is very important, and which is what I tried to emphasize in my speech. We do not want, as a bad byproduct of the bill, an unexpected consequence to hurt small business, to hurt industry, when they do much more business on valid methods these days.

I have had all sorts of input from his constituents about how annoying and how dangerous SPAM can be. People's computers are getting shut down. People's identities have been stolen. For people like myself who are not as familiar with what can be done by someone who is very technically astute, this can be very dangerous.

I am sure the member is supporting what is being said by the stakeholders I have heard from.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank the member for his speech.

I heard the member talk about spam. We know that it is a real problem on the Internet. I would like to hear the member's thoughts about the effects of spam on e-commerce.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the consequences of emails for electronic trade can be both good and bad. Of course, if it is destructive emails, such as spam, not being used properly, it eats up the time of the employees of a business and makes them much more wary of doing business on the Internet because of the dangers of the fraudulent uses. Whereas effective and efficient trade can proliferate on the Internet and it can really help businesses in the world, help our small businesses and help our big businesses.

However, when we have spam gumming up the system or shutting down businesses, huge massive networks of their business, then it can be very destructive to a business when it should be a useful asset. The illegitimate use of email can cost billions of dollars to the Canadian economy.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member regarding implied consent in terms of the business relationship vis-à-vis a non-business relationship.

I can understand that perhaps in a business relationship, the implied consent rule being two years is probably reasonable in most cases, but in the case of implied consent in terms of a non-business relationship, I am wondering about the member's views on the two year rule. For example, if a recipient made a donation or gift to an organization two years before the message was sent, and it was a registered charity, political party organization or candidate, it would qualify.

Also, if the recipient performed volunteer work for an organization or attended a meeting organized by it within the last two years, if it is a registered charity, a political party organization or a candidate, I am just wondering if we are being a little too tight with the two year rule for, essentially, non-business relationships. We get into the whole area of the political parties and the charities.

I wonder if the member has any observations about that. I know this bill has been to committee before. I am assuming that members of the registered charities, members of political parties or their representatives have made presentations, although I cannot be sure about that point. I would ask the member for any observations he would have and any comments about that point.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very good point. Hopefully he will have his member on the industry committee raise that at committee if it has not already been raised. As I said, I am not on that committee and have not delved into that but I am sure we have all sent emails within two years to people from whom we have not had consent.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has given an excellent overview of the bill. I am sure all parties in the House will support this bill. It has been reported that 60% to 80% of email transactions are spam. Therefore, we know the extent of the issue of cross-boundaries and so on.

The member also indicated a coordinated approach that the government has put forward in terms of the privacy commissioner, the ministry and other parts of the federal organization.

In view of the fact that the member said that legislation alone was not enough, and we are looking at a very heavy fine regimen in this bill, how can the House be assured that, when this goes to committee, the resources will be invested in policing, law enforcement agencies and in business agencies that are taking a huge toll as a result of spam being perpetrated not only on individual email accounts but on business at a tremendous cost?

What assurances do we have that the House committee will report back on a regimen that would ensure that the resources will be invested to really put our money where our mouth is in terms of fighting span?

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have emphasized that the legislation will not work without the resources for the privacy commissioner, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, and I suppose one of the ways would be to ask some of the questions that I asked in my speech, if they are not answered here during the debate at second reading, or ask the minister and the departmental staff when they come to committee. Ask them how many resources and ask them how they will deal with the problem of billions of emails. It is not a simple enforcement regime. What resources will be put before it?

It is good that the member emphasized that question. Hopefully, people at the committee will ask these types of questions of the minister and department to find out how they are planning to enforce this. As the minister said, Canada could be world leading in the usage of the Internet, which is now so important to all of us.

Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, this bill is the former Bill C-27. What strikes me is that it took four long years to come up with a bill, and the work is not over. We can see that technology is evolving at an alarming rate and that the legislative framework often lags behind. How can we counter this?

I would like to ask the member a question. When we talk about the web or the Internet, we cannot ignore its international aspect. How can we ensure that international agreements will be signed to make sure this bill remains useful?