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.