House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was court.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, yes, he was one of the only individuals who mentioned it today. In the past, I, and others, have had the opportunity to recognize the importance of victims and how we can be there to support victims. I appreciated the member's comments.

We are taking a look at ways we can use technology, and this would not only make our courts more efficient, but it would also assist victims who have been put in difficult positions. If we can make it easier by working through the courts and getting that consensus to ensure that person can appear via video conference, then we should take advantage of that situation.

I was quite encouraged by what appears to be unanimous consent to go forward with the legislation. That is very encouraging. When the legislation comes before us next, I will continue on that point, recognizing that we do have an opportunity to hopefully get Bill S-4 to committee.

I respect what the members from the Bloc were saying, that the Quebec legal bar association is looking at ways it can enhance or improve the legislation. I suspect there could be some amendments coming forward. I look forward to its ultimately passage, and I will conclude my remarks the next time this comes before the House.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-288, An Act to amend the Telecommunications Act (transparent and accurate broadband services information), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to speak at second reading of Bill C‑288, and I will take this opportunity to make references to what I experience in Laurentides—Labelle.

This bill will, I am sure, have an impact on Quebeckers, including people in my riding, Laurentides—Labelle. The riding that I have the honour to represent is vast and rural. Anyone who knows our region knows that accessing high-quality, reliable and stable Internet service is a challenge that affects a good number of my constituents.

The Bloc Québécois's work on the issue of Internet service is based on three levels of intervention. The first is providing access to as many people as possible. We are almost there. There have been a lot of initiatives in our ridings, and I commend some of the small municipalities, such as Labelle, where my sister lives, which has had broadband for several years now. The second level is ensuring high-quality service throughout our territory. Access is one thing, but there is also quality. The third level is to encourage competition among the various Internet service providers.

In recent years, I have worked to substantially increase and improve Internet availability in my riding, enhancing speed and expanding coverage. In this day and age, we all agree that the Internet should be available everywhere. I am very proud to say that, in my riding, our elected representatives, our 43 mayors, took action and signed a letter calling out the lack of access. That sped up the process. We have seen numerous undertakings, including a new telecommunications co-operative that made it possible for my own home to connect to broadband a few months ago. I am very proud of that.

As I said, the Internet is an essential service, now more than ever. Unfortunately, there are still lots of places that lack quality service. I find that hard to believe. Anyone who travels abroad and compares our service quality and access to what is available elsewhere knows that we have a long way to go.

It is a question of security, development, economic vitality, geographic equality, social cohesion, quality of life and I could go on. Now is the time to expand access, and Bill C‑288 allows us to do just that.

Unfortunately, as we see day in and day out, inflation is dragging on. That is why it is so important to facilitate competition in the very closed and monopolized world of Internet service providers. It is a matter of offering a breath of fresh air to Quebec families, who greatly need it. As legislators, we need to ensure that the information on connection speeds is exactly what is advertised by the large media conglomerates, that is, our Internet providers. If consumers are told that they will get a certain speed to ensure capacity, that information must be consistent and transparent. Consumers should not be fooled by claims of maximum download speeds that are ultimately very theoretical. It fails to tell the whole story about the service that people are paying for.

Workers have been teleworking on a permanent basis for several months now throughout Quebec, including Laurentides—Labelle.

The pandemic has not been easy for employers, who had to implement teleworking for their employees as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, employers are now demanding quality from their teleworking employees, and this is non-negotiable. This means that download speeds need to be optimal.

I want to talk about Simon, a constituent of mine. He made arrangements to work from home during the pandemic. He did what many people did and managed to create an extraordinary quality of life. These days, in 2022, he should be able to work from home. Internet providers told him that he had everything he needed to do his job in the video game industry, so he settled in during the pandemic, only to find out shortly afterwards that the megabits that he was expecting from the Internet providers did not pan out, and this had a negative impact on his work.

I experienced that too during the pandemic. We know it when it happens to us: When everyone wants to use the service at the same time, we have to choose who gets the connection, even at home. That is behind us now, because we are back in the House.

How can we trust what we are being sold when there is still talk of theoretical speed, but not the real speed, meaning the 80% of speed we actually get when browsing online? This can have a direct impact on employment and quality of life, which goes back to what I was saying about Simon.

Let us get back to the content of the bill. Thanks to the establishment of a comparable, standardized format, these guidelines would help see the real speed but would also allow the providers to adjust. This is a prime example of needing to walk the talk.

In their advertising, Internet service providers claim that they are the best, the fastest and the top-performing. That may be, but when I use the Internet, the upload and download speeds may not be exactly as advertised. It is very important that there be transparency in that regard.

Increased competition among the big players would directly and inevitably reduce prices. I am not making this up. None other than Joseph Stiglitz, a U.S. economist who received a Nobel Prize in economics, stated in 2011 that a competitive telecommunications sector opens up a whole world of possibilities.

Competition can reduce prices, increasing access to the Internet for the least well-off. Many of us are also victims. Do my colleagues agree with me that lower prices would be most welcome for a good number of Quebeckers and for every person living in Canada? We must work together to ensure that there is real competition. We see it in other countries, and we must take action so that consumers have a range of providers to choose from.

As consumers, how can we really believe these businesses? Requiring them to be transparent will increase competition. I hope that we will have a consensus so that we can do more to address quality and access across the country.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, It is a pleasure to participate in today's debate on this item of private members' business, Bill C-288, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act (transparent and accurate broadband services information).

I want to start by congratulating and thanking the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa for his initiative. It is a good example of a member using wisely their private member's slot, because the bill comes from work that I was fortunately part of at the industry committee, where all parties supported a recommendation. I want to congratulate the member for finding a piece of legislation that, on the surface, not only would help protect consumers but is very important for our economy. I will get into more of that later. It would create more competition accountability, which is necessary in this industry, and it would drive our economy in a significant way.

I want to start by reading one of the recommendations we had from 2021 at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. We had a report called “Affordability and Accessibility of Telecommunications Services in Canada: Encouraging Competition to (Finally) Bridge the Digital Divide”, and this was our recommendation:

That the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission require Internet service providers to make information available to consumers on the usual download and upload speeds they can expect during peak periods so they can make more informed purchasing decisions based on accurate and transparent information, thereby improving the industry’s competitiveness overall.

The member was really wise, in my opinion, to table this type of bill in the House of Commons, because we did get a response from the government saying that it agreed with our all-party recommendation. However, we have not seen any activity on it. It is one of those things that I think we can find some consensus on in the House. Given the fact that we have had some recent issues with regard to our telecommunications industry and the practices that we need to catch up on regarding consumer rights, it is very timely.

In general, Canada is basically treated as a colony when it comes to consumer rights, often from international firms and organizations that are doing business here. A quick example is the auto industry and the recalls in the Toyota file and others. Consumers in the United States got preferential treatment. They got hundreds of millions of dollars in investment because of terms and conditions when consumers were abused, whereas Canada did not get any of that. This came about from a number of different problems, but it is a good example showing that many times we are behind on common products that are sold across the border.

This brings me to the thrust of our Canadian industries. There have been significant challenges to get competition running in the system. We should take note, as the member has, that other countries have advanced legislation on this. Australia has a very keen interest in this and has developed a very influential pattern that can be followed. The United States has more information. The United Kingdom and the European Union also have better performance standards in terms of reporting.

Let us go to the surface of where this comes from at a base level with regard to letting consumers decide. It is fair to respond that if we look at some of the consumer products that are most frustrating and confusing for consumers to purchase, we would probably put in that category everything from insurance to purchasing a car to picking out which data plan a person and their family should have. Then there are all the promises, the subsets of conditions, the changing factors and the confusion. All of that is necessary to consider as people become experts, basically, to try to protect their consumer interests, with quite significant consequences.

This is very important, because we cannot see it through the lens of basically accepting that we cannot download a movie quicker. The reality is that what we have seen over the pandemic and even prior to that, as the New Democrats have argued for over a decade now, is that Internet service reliability, access in rural and urban areas and affordability are actually essential. Our strategy, which I will touch on later in terms of the Canadian market economy, has been a poor one. However, the reality is that as people make these decisions, they do not have a chance to advocate for themselves and their family as consumers, and there is a consequence. With children going online, with people working at home going online and with a series of different types of interpersonal connections in business, in education and on social platforms, this has significant consequences.

What the member is asking for is a regular reporting system that would actually allow consumers to have greater accountability. When we look at the different plans that are out there, it can be quite confusing, and the time frames of when the plans are accessed when using the product, being Internet access and the downloading speed, can vary significantly.

We should have the right to choose the advantage of either putting more money towards a service that might be more reliable, versus that of an advertiser that does not have the same type of follow-through, and then have a consequence later on. This is significant, because we are spending hundreds of dollars per family for this type of service. As was mentioned before, it is essential because it affects everything going on in our lives.

As New Democrats, we applaud this piece of legislation, because we feel it is going to also be significant for the economy. What I mean by that, which I do not think gets a lot of attention, is that coming out of the pandemic, Canada actually has an advantage with our network reliability. If there is more competition and lower pricing, if we change our spectrum auction to be more general in terms of access to the market and also a lower price threshold, we are going to take an advantage.

For example, what is taking place now is that many people are getting jobs in Canada to work internationally without even going over to those countries. They can work from home, and they can do a number of occupations now while maybe visiting once in a while, or predominately working in their homes. That brings a significant income stream into the Canadian economy. It brings us innovation and skilled labour that is domestically developed.

We should be looking at our network systems at the highest potential possible, which is why I want to touch on how bad our system has become with regard to the previous and current governments' use of the spectrum auction.

Usually, people's eyes roll back when we talk about the spectrum auction and what it is, but we need to think about it as a pure asset we have that does not have any type of encumbrance on public cost.

The spectrum auction is where we sell off the air rights. Consider it the same as water and land; it is completely open for development. What Canada has chosen to do is set up a spectrum auction, getting as much money back to the government as possible. The problem with that strategy has been that the companies, the traditional ones and the start-ups, have had to borrow a lot of money, encumbering them with the costs, which they pass on to Canadian consumers. However, other countries would have used the spectrum auction to facilitate higher-speed Internet service and development and lower costs, which is where New Democrats believe we should be going.

The government, right now, has raked in over $30 billion with regard to the cost it has brought back in, and that has been passed on to consumers. We have to get that under control. We need to have greater access and lower costs, which means there has to be give and take in that relationship.

When we look at a bill like this, it would also provide some extra competition from a number of different sector proponents and also straighten out some of the myths behind some of the costing platforms. It would show some of the vulnerabilities in the systems we have that I think we need to address, which I really think might be one of the more underrated aspects of the bill. It might be less about the fact that one wants to pay and get what one deserves, which is critical and should be a basic right no matter what.

Second to that, it could be really helpful to know where our weaknesses are in rural, remote and even urban settings, which are underperforming and which are actually declared and supposed to have certain service requirements. That actually affects economic development, education and social integration. For all those elements, we will have to look at shoring up or seeing where the real problems are, and having the CRTC and the capabilities of that reporting made public is critical.

I will conclude by thanking the member for bringing forward a very thoughtful bill during a minority Parliament where we want to get things done. I think all members should rally around this, because at the basic level it is for consumer protection, and beyond that for economic development, which is necessary, as well as for social integration and social justice for inclusion.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Patzer Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise once again in the House and to be able to speak to what I think is a fantastic bill by my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa in Manitoba. As a result, we are continuing the conversation about reliable Internet access.

There have been many speeches and questions in the House on this issue, and there are many members from different parties all across the country who care about the issue. The government has made announcements and promises over the years, but progress has been slow.

Bill C-288, however, is doing something more than talking about a problem; it is taking some practical steps forward that will make a real difference for Canadians.

To begin this debate at second reading, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa did a great job of laying out the three pillars of this legislation.

The first is a requirement for Internet service providers to provide Canadians the typical download and upload speeds they offer, not just the maximum theoretical speeds.

The second is a requirement to provide Canadians with the quality metrics they can expect during the peak periods, when people are most likely to use the service. For people at home who wonder why that is so important, the first reason in particular is that it deals with mostly what people would think of with their cellphone. A lot of the cellphone companies will talk about how their LTE speed on their cellphone could be up to 80 megabytes per second, or it could be 100 megabytes per second. The reality is that people are going to realize those speeds only if they are standing within 100 metres of the tower, with nobody else connected to the tower. That is the only time they are going to theoretically get that 100 megabyte speed. As technology has advanced and moved along, we are slowly getting to the point at which more people might be able to realize speeds closer to that, but it does not change the fact that for years people have been told that they could theoretically get that, without ever actually coming close to getting it.

The second metric that I mentioned is especially important when we think about companies that are providing service via satellite, or maybe via a wireless-to-the-home connection. They are told they are going to get x amount of speed, but the reality is that as more users are utilizing the system, it is going to drag that speed down to a point at which it almost becomes unusable. As we all saw over the last couple of years with people doing school from home and people working from home, it has become almost impossible for a lot of people, particularly people in rural Canada, to be able to participate in the economy and to be able to participate in school. That is why I think these are a really good first couple of steps with this bill.

The third pillar is to begin a consultation process with the CRTC and develop a framework that can work in the public's best interest.

These are three simple things that are meant to work together so customers can have accurate and transparent information about the services they are paying for. It sounds like this should be something basic to the experience of buying anything, but in this case it is not, and certainly not for millions of Canadians.

I want to make sure everyone understands the situation with Internet service in our country, which this bill is trying to improve. Let us start with some data that will help to put it in perspective.

Last year, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, or CIRA, released a report called “Canadians Deserve a Better Internet”. Here is what it had to say about the performance of quality experienced by customers. It states:

ISPs market their service tiers as “up to” certain speeds, but when asked how often they feel they receive those speeds, only one-third of Canadians said it was most of the time or all of the time.

If only one-third consistently reach those advertised speeds, what does that say about the remaining two-thirds of Canadians? That would make for a strong majority of customers who do not believe they receive the quality of service they are paying for. With a number like that, it is clear something is not working for members of the public, and this creates a lack of trust, which weakens the industry itself. This is the problem Bill C-288 has in mind. A key part of the solution is transparency and, more importantly, accuracy. That is exactly what the first two points of this legislation would provide.

As the report noted, Internet providers market their service packages in a given area by saying they go “up to” a certain speed. This is called the maximum theoretical speed. It is a positive spin that sounds good to the potential customer and helps with making sales, but many do not realize the actual speed they are going to get does not match up with what they were told.

For some people, it is obviously annoying and inconvenient, but they can still get by, and that is bad enough, because they still feel like they are not getting what they paid for. For others, however, depending on where they live, it could make a more significant difference. They might be paying for Internet in theory, but it almost does not exist in practice. That is something that is a common occurrence in rural areas and that many members of this House have brought up, either in this debate or in other debates when we talk about broadband access. Either way, those people are likely to get a different impression as a customer if they are told about the typical speed on average and what the speed is during peak periods. It is a better reflection of the quality they will get when they are using the Internet, and it could affect the decision they might otherwise make when purchasing the product. Without having this information for more context, it is misleading in too many cases.

I proudly represent a rural riding myself. Over the years, I have heard from many people who have this problem with their Internet, and I actually saw it first-hand in my career prior to being a parliamentarian, when I worked as an Internet service provider technician. It was my job to not only install but also repair and fix people’s Internet services.

As someone who had to deal with people who were told that they were getting one thing, but the reality was that they could only possibly get a fraction of that, I saw that it caused a lot of confusion and headache. I can tell members that, for an installer, this legislation would make life a lot simpler, knowing that customers have the accurate and appropriate information prior to either signing a contract for service or purchasing equipment for their services.

For a lot of these paying customers, as well as for those of us working in the field, but especially for those customers, it would have been easier for everyone involved if there had been realistic information from the start, which, again, is what this bill would be doing. Bill C-288 would require that to be made available to Canadian consumers.

This is in line with what the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology recommended in a report last year. I know that the member who spoke before me already mentioned this recommendation, but I am going to say it again for the context of my speech. It recommends:

That the [CRTC] require Internet service providers to make information available to consumers on the usual download and upload speeds they can expect during peak periods so they can make more informed purchasing decisions based on accurate and transparent information, thereby improving the industry’s competitiveness overall.

It would be simple enough to do it, and I think all parties can see the benefit. After this recommendation was put forward, the government side has tried to say that it announced a proposed policy directive to the CRTC earlier this year. In reality, it is not the same thing. Its proposal is vague, and it does not mention the issue with typical speeds or peak periods.

That is what we need to see happen, and the sooner, the better. We do not need to wait around for the lagging speed of government to catch up. It is good to see the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa bring forward a bill trying to get it done. We need to act on this like it is a real priority.

As of last week, we have seen progress from the FCC in the United States. It will require broadband providers to display easy-to-understand labels with key information. This will include typical upload and download speeds, as well as typical latency.

For years now, Australia has had standards for advertising for typical speeds during peak periods. As a result, going back to 2018, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has found benefits for consumers. It has also improved the industry by strengthening market competition. We can learn from them and do the same thing. We can encourage more innovation.

This is something that will benefit all Canadians, not just those in rural areas. I want to make sure that this point is clear to everyone. Part of the problem we sometimes have in this place is that there are different ideas of what “rural” actually means.

For one of the government's programs for rural connectivity, I once asked for a definition, and I was told that communities of 30,000 people or less were eligible. The largest community in my riding, for example, is only 18,000, so it is interesting to see how that fits in. We are dealing with the population of a city, at least, as I have mentioned to members, it is where I am from.

Another example we had was that the definition of “rural” could be described as any community that uses oil and gas or agriculture as its main economic driver. I think of some of the cities that we have out west, such as Edmonton and Calgary, which would be more than happy to say that those are some of the driving forces of their economies. I think that we would also agree that Calgary and Edmonton are not rural communities.

When it comes to Internet access, there was a recent news article published online with this headline: “Internet services in rural GTA ‘like living in the dark ages’: Oshawa residents”. People who live near urban areas of the GTA are describing problems similar to what I hear from my constituents back in rural Saskatchewan. One of the residents said, “We are within minutes of a shopping center and yet no internet”. That does not sound like someone living in the middle of nowhere.

Another person spoke about paying “an exorbitant amount of money for service that is less than adequate.” She continued, “We’ve tried almost every service provider available, and the end result is the same – spotty at best internet connection.”

My plea would be for everyone to consider supporting Bill C-288 because it would get the job done for getting accurate reporting for Canadians.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to talk about the importance of Internet services and the need for consumer protection in the telecommunications industry.

The Government of Canada knows that now more than ever Canadians rely on telecom services for work, school, finances, health care and just staying connected to one another. All too often I hear Canadians' frustrations regarding their telecom services. I will continue to hold Canada's telecom service providers accountable and keep Canadians updated on the work our government is doing to strengthen the reliability of our networks as well as increase affordability, competition and consumer protection in this sector.

We are here today to discuss private member's bill, Bill C-288, an act to amend the Telecommunications Act regarding transparent and accurate broadband services information. I support the intent of the bill and agree that consumers need access to clear information about how broadband services are performing, so they can be confident that what they are paying for is what they are actually getting.

In fact, consumers also need more information about the cellular coverage provided by mobile services. Our government is already taking action. We will work to ensure the actions we have already taken to address this topic work in tandem with this legislation to improve outcomes for Canadians and can be implemented quickly.

I firmly believe that consumers must have access to clear information about how broadband services are performing, so that they can be sure that they are getting what they are paying for. In fact, consumers also need more information about the mobile services that provide cellular coverage.

In May our government tabled in both Houses of Parliament a draft policy direction to the CRTC on a renewed approach to telecommunications policy. The proposed policy direction is legally binding and directs the CRTC on a range of issues. These include putting in place new rules to improve competition, enhancing the rights of consumers and their access to information, speeding up the deployment of high-quality broadband networks, and promoting lower prices and better telecom services for Canadian consumers.

The policy direction also asks service providers to collect, publicly report and make available to consumers information on the services they offer. It also requires them to test the technologies that are used the most in rural regions, such as fixed wireless. What is more, we are asking the CRTC to develop and implement a standardized and robust approach for reporting mobile wireless coverage.

Another key part of the proposed policy direction would require the CRTC to take measures to promote clarity and transparency of pricing information and service plan characteristics in marketing materials. This will allow consumers to better understand their choices in the Internet market.

The CRTC has worked on that. For example, it introduced a program called measuring broadband Canada, which involved testing a number of broadband performance metrics, such as download and upload speeds, the impact of peak periods and latency for Internet service providers that offer the highest subscription fees.

The program was flawed, however. Participation was voluntary, and the study did not take into account the reality of rural regions. Internet services using fixed wireless technology were not included in the tests, which left many Canadians, especially those in rural and remote regions, without any information on the performance of their Internet service.

Our government understands that the CRTC needs to ensure that it is not only testing broadband performance generally, but addressing the gaps in the previous tests. We have measures under way to make sure this happens. We are in agreement that the CRTC needed additional direction to ensure consumers are fully protected, and the binding policy direction will achieve that in parallel with the new legislation.

The proposed direction was tabled in both chambers of Parliament on May 30, 2022, for a minimum of 40 sitting days and has been the subject of extensive public consultation. I will soon present the final version, which takes into account what we heard from the Governor in Council. It will then be published in the form of a decree that will be legally binding for the CRTC.

The policy direction requires that testing be done on a regular basis and clarifies that participation is mandatory for ISPs. It also captures more technologies by including mobile wireless in addition to broadband Internet.

The direction will soon be finalized and the government will be able to easily update it as the market and technologies evolve. If new technologies emerge, we can ask the CRTC to take measures to test them. I think that everyone here recognizes that this is a very important issue. We want to show Canadians that we are working with our colleagues to improve the telecommunications sector's response to consumers' needs.

For these reasons, I am also supporting adjustments to the proposed policy direction text so that it takes into account language from this bill and makes clear that we recognize the importance of regular, mandatory broadband performance testing. This approach will demonstrate that Parliament is working together to progress diligently toward important goals for the telecom sector.

The direction contains many other important initiatives that will encourage competition and benefit consumers. For example, it will eliminate regulatory uncertainty for small competing service providers and strengthen their business case so that they can offer more services on the market. It will also order the CRTC to improve access to telephone poles and similar infrastructure, which we know is important for the construction of new broadband networks.

The policy direction also instructs the CRTC to increase the public's awareness of the telecommunications complaints organization so that consumers have recourse if they are treated unfairly by a telecom provider. It will require the CRTC to proactively and systemically improve the accessibility of telecommunications services for Canadians with disabilities.

I am pleased that the policy direction can work together with the proposed legislation to make progress in this area for Canadians.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné Bloc Terrebonne, QC

I have a great audience tonight, Madam Speaker. I hope I will be able to concentrate.

Stephen Hawking once said, “We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.” In this giant brain, good Internet is equivalent to a high IQ. It lets us go further in life. The issues in the Internet service market involve both the providers themselves and the legal framework in which they operate, and can be summed up in two points that are intrinsically linked. The first is the inadequate service quality and download speeds, and the second is the exorbitant rates that Quebeckers and Canadians pay for their telecommunications services.

This bill seeks, among other things, to give consumers the ability to make an informed decision when choosing an Internet service provider. In other words, Internet providers will no longer have the right to advertise the highest theoretical speed possible, but will have to indicate the average speed, especially during peak periods. That is a good start.

We should note right from the outset that the proposed measures apply only to fixed broadband service and not mobile phones, even though everyone knows that cell phone rates in Canada are much higher than elsewhere in the world, but let us move on.

This bill will contribute to improving the situation, but other actions will have to be taken. As I will explain, there needs to be a discussion on competition and the market power of the telecommunications giants.

I would like to begin with the importance of having access to high-quality Internet. This service is beyond essential. The quality and affordability of Internet services are closely linked to the economic performance of Quebec and Canada.

Let me share a quick story. In my former life as a consultant, I had a contract in the Republic of Palau. It is a small island paradise in the middle of the Pacific, and I was able to help its finance department improve their environmental, social and accounting standards so they could receive money from foreign funds. The Island of Palau does not really have Internet. My stay went very well with a bit of an Internet connection, and therefore less work, potentially, but ultimately, we can see that Palau's economic development has suffered a great deal due to this. I experienced that.

The trend has been moving towards digitizing the economy for several years now, and the pandemic only accelerated this. The massive shift to telework and people's ability to work remotely should encourage the development of the regions of Quebec and Canada. Unfortunately, the Liberal government is struggling to keep up with technological developments and the digitization of the economy. Its outdated policies mean that Canada often lags behind on telecommunications affordability.

We cannot talk about economic development without considering the quality of Internet access. It is as important to economic development as the power grid was in Quebec in the 1960s.

The Quebec government is working hard to improve Internet access, particularly in remote areas. High-speed Internet access for all eligible households in Quebec is a priority for the Quebec government. Furthermore, it has invested huge amounts of money in this area. To date, the Quebec government has budgeted $1.3 billion to get households connected faster to high-speed Internet. In comparison, the Government of Canada has invested $1 billion this year, bringing its total investment to $2.75 billion. In Quebec, the amount is about $150 per person. In Canada, it is half that, or only about $75 per person.

Now let us look at what is happening internationally. Every year, The Economist compiles data on Internet services in about 100 countries. Although Canada scores well for quality of infrastructure and literacy, which is Canadians' understanding of and ability to use Internet services, its rank is rapidly declining because of its competition and affordability scores.

If the government really wants to bring telecommunications costs down and improve service quality, it has to use the Competition Act. Canada has a frustrating tendency to tolerate and sometimes even encourage monopolistic practices. In many of the country's markets, including telecommunications, a handful of companies dominate the entire market. The upshot is that providers have a lot more leeway when it comes to deciding how much to charge.

Time for a quick economics refresher. In an ideal market, the price of a service is equivalent to the marginal cost, that is, the cost that the supplier pays to provide the service. It is quite easy to demonstrate, and this has been studied by economists, that in Quebec and in Canada, we pay a price that is much higher than the marginal cost. There are people who agree. For example, Bell, Rogers, Shaw and Telus collectively account for 71.7% of Internet service revenues. That is what we call an oligopoly, a market dominated by a small number of suppliers. For cellphone services, it is even worse. Three companies, Bell, Rogers and Telus, hold nearly 91% of the market.

As a general rule, increasing the number of companies in a market does two things that benefit consumers and are ultimately good for the economy. Healthy competition in a market tends to lower the prices paid by consumers. In addition, companies often improve the quality of their services to attract and retain customers. While this rule is not absolute, it applies particularly well to telecommunications markets. Let us look again at what is done in other countries. Telecommunications prices are much lower in Europe, where there are a large number of telecommunications service providers. In The Economist's list, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden all rank higher than Canada on the Internet affordability index.

This summer, the Liberal government passed a competition reform that does not do enough to result in real change. The Liberal government's competition policies are outdated and not very well suited to the reality of the digital economy in Quebec and Canada. In practical terms, some sections of the Competition Act, which dates back to the 1980s, are obsolete and due for a serious update. It is not just the Bloc Québécois that is saying that. The competition commissioner is, too. In fact, in January, he published a list of recommendations to modernize the Competition Act. One of them involves removing the provision on the efficiency gains argument, which allows one company to merge with another on the pretext that it will be more efficient. Let us acknowledge right off the bat that this provision is an anomaly. It does not exist in the rest of the world. It exists in Canada and it is putting many consumers at a real disadvantage, so it should be removed from the act.

This very argument could be made in the transaction between Shaw and Rogers, which is currently before the court. Let us recall that two out of the four companies that make up the oligopoly on Internet telecommunications want to merge their services. When this provision is invoked, the Competition Bureau cannot block the transaction, even if it is anti-competitive. In a market that is already perceived to be run by an oligopoly, this transaction should not go through. Speaking before the Competition Tribunal quite recently, an economist from Dalhousie University, Mr. Osberg, said that low-income Canadians who are already dealing with inflationary pressures would be the most affected if the cost of telecommunications increases in the wake of the merger. The last thing we need right now is to further reduce competition and guarantee that prices increase even more.

The other thing the commissioner recommended as an important change to the Competition Act is related to the fact that the Competition Bureau does not have the final say on a transaction. A minister, an elected official, someone who is anything but neutral, can make a decision that goes against the bureau's recommendation. That is what happens. In the case of the Shaw-Rogers merger, the Minister of Industry intervened to defend the transaction. Yes, he is defending the deal, suggesting that part of Shaw be acquired by one of the other four providers instead. Guess what the bureau's response was. It said no, that is not a good enough solution. Unfortunately, it is not up to the bureau to make that decision. The minister will have the final say.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-288, because it will allow consumers to make more informed choices about Internet packages. Consumers need to be able to see the actual download speeds they will be getting, rather than the theoretical highest speed. Since speeds are lower at peak hours, it is important that consumers get accurate information about the service they will receive at those times.

In short, the bill is a step in the right direction, but it clearly does not go far enough. As my leader likes to say, the Bloc Québécois is never against apple pie. However, I know that apple pie alone does not make a nutritious dinner. We need more.

I hope that I demonstrated, in a short amount of time, the importance of in-depth reform of the Competition Bureau, real reform that will stop the telecommunications giants' lobbyists from abusing their position of power and ensure that consumers, honest citizens, are finally protected.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa for his right of reply.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Mazier Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I will begin by thanking my colleagues who have spoken in support of my bill.

It is humbling to see a piece of legislation with one's name on it move through the parliamentary process. It is also a reminder of why we were sent to the House of Commons and of our duty to represent the Canadians who put their trust in us.

I also thank our Conservative leader for appointing me as the shadow minister responsible for connectivity. Since I was first elected, I have strived to improve connectivity in Canada. I could have introduced legislation that scored political points and did not have a chance to pass, but I wanted to make a difference on the issue of connectivity.

When I began developing Bill C-288, I approached it from a non-partisan, pro-consumer point of view. I was privileged to work with industry experts, researchers, academics, advocacy groups and members from across the political spectrum to get where we are today, and here we are. In the coming days, Parliament will vote on Bill C-288, a truly non-partisan, pro-consumer bill.

Since Bill C-288 was introduced, a few things have come to light. One thing is an argument that the government’s proposed policy directive to the CRTC would address the content of my bill. I want to make two points on this argument. The first is that nowhere in the government’s policy directive are there details of what information Internet companies must provide consumers with. There is no mention of peak periods. There is no mention of typical speeds. There is no mention of public hearings.

The second is the notion that these important decisions should be left entirely to the CRTC, instead of being made by parliamentarians. Connectivity issues are too important to always be pushed into policy directives. Members of the House should make these decisions on behalf of the Canadians we represent and not leave everything up to the CRTC. Nowhere in the Telecommunications Act is there a public interest objective focused on ensuring that the economic and social interests of Canadians are at the centre of the system.

Bill C-288 strikes a balance between empowering parliamentarians and a regulatory body. While some may argue that this bill does not go far enough, I think it is an important step forward.

The other matter that has emerged since my bill was introduced is that the United States Federal Communications Commission announced that they will mandate a broadband service label. This was a direct result of the legislated Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It will ensure consumers have a better understanding of what Internet services they are paying for. This significant announcement reflects the content of Bill C-288.

A statement from the FCC commissioner, Geoffrey Starks, on this announcement read:

Instead of legalese, consumers will have clear, straightforward information about a provider’s service offerings....

He went on to state:

I fully expect that this transparency will increase competition and hopefully result in lower prices for consumers.

What a significant statement. Too many Canadians purchase Internet services at sky-high prices only to realize that the quality and speed they expected to receive are nowhere near what they actually receive.

As I have said, Canadians do not believe they are receiving the Internet service they are paying for. Connectivity is no longer a luxury. Connectivity is essential to the safety of our communities, to the economic growth of rural regions and to the accessibility of services like education and health care. Canadians should know what they are paying for before they purchase an Internet service, not after.

I encourage all parliamentarians to support Bill C-288.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division, or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Mazier Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, I ask that it carry on division, please.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Telecommunications ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, June 23, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 30, at the time provided for Oral Questions.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, on September 27, I asked the Minister of Housing if he would ensure that there are meaningful investments in a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern housing strategy in budget 2023. When the minister heard the story of a young indigenous woman in Ottawa who was murdered because she lacked access to safe and affordable housing, he said, “words fail me”.

The missing murdered and indigenous women's inquiry’s final report cites housing 299 times, yet the empty words of the government continue to fail indigenous people. UNDRIP is clear that all indigenous people, including those living away from their home communities, have a right to safe and adequate housing. The government has a legal obligation to implement this basic human right, but in budget 2022, the Liberal government allocated just $300 million over five years to establish a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern housing strategy. This amount is woefully inadequate. The NDP has consistently called on the Liberals to invest sufficient funds to meet the need.

To be clear, $300 million is not even enough to address the housing needs of indigenous people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but the Liberals were content to spend this money over five years for research and administrative purposes. This is a cruel joke. As a result of the supply and confidence agreement, the NDP is forcing the Liberals to accelerate the timeline to roll out funding over two years and ensure that the money is used for an interim emergency fund for urgent unmet needs, which is work now being undertaken by Indigenous Services Canada.

It is shocking, however, that the government continues to insist on the need for more data and research. If the dire housing crisis facing indigenous people was not bad enough, the government is placing further burden on them by forcing them to prove their level of need. The government has more than enough data to justify the needed investments.

In May 2021, a report from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities recommended sufficient and long-term funding to be allocated to support a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern housing strategy. Here are some of the numbers detailed in the report.

Indigenous households are 1.2 times more likely to live in inadequate and/or unsuitable housing than non-indigenous households and are disproportionately unhoused. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, 124,000 indigenous off-reserve households were in housing need in 2020, while 9,000 households in Winnipeg and 8,000 households in Vancouver alone were in housing need. About 50% of the 700 indigenous youth who will age out of foster care in Vancouver each year will end up on the streets.

According to the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association, 73,000 units are needed in urban, rural and northern indigenous communities to meet the housing shortfall. CHRA has called for an investment of $25 billion over 10 years, while $1.89 billion is needed to build 3,000 housing units in Nunavut alone. However, the government believes $300 million is a record investment. It is unbelievable.

Indigenous, Métis and Inuit people living away from their home communities have the right to housing. It is clearly outlined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is time for real action.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Hochelaga Québec

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion (Housing)

Madam Speaker, our government recognizes that indigenous people, regardless of where they live, face unique barriers to finding housing that they can afford and that meets their needs.

We know that decent housing is essential to improving social and health outcomes and providing a dignified future for indigenous communities and children. To get it right, we know that the solutions we develop must be “for indigenous people, by indigenous people”. That is why our most recent budget reiterated our commitment to working with indigenous communities to jointly develop and launch a housing strategy for indigenous people in urban, rural and northern communities.

This is just one element of the most recent budget that addresses indigenous housing. It is in addition to the $4-billion investment over seven years to Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to accelerate work to close the housing gap for indigenous people.

Our rapid housing initiative, created to respond to urgent housing needs during the pandemic, was extremely successful with indigenous groups. During the first two phases, indigenous peoples represented over 40% of recipients. Budget 2022 allocated an additional $1.5 billion to the rapid housing initiative. This funding will provide even more support for building and improving housing for indigenous people.

During a committee meeting, Vice-Chief Richard Derocher of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council expressed appreciation for the CMHC's work to make housing available on reserve, especially housing for people with low incomes. He said he hoped to see more of it.

There is still a lot of work to do to improve indigenous housing conditions, just as there is still a lot of work to do to advance reconciliation in this country. That is why we will keep working with first nations, Inuit and Métis organizations to jointly develop tailored housing strategies that meet their communities' unique needs and are based on the principle of self-determination.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should know that distinctions-based housing is not dedicated for a for indigenous, by indigenous urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy, nor is the funding from the RHI dedicated for indigenous people specifically. The parliamentary secretary should know that and the government should know that.

That is why the NDP is forcing the government to take action with the interim funding and the $300 million, but that is not enough. What we want to see, and what we must see, is real investment to meet need in budget 2023. If the government is serious about reconciliation, honouring indigenous people and abiding by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it must take real action and invest to meet need, not just talk.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Soraya Martinez Ferrada Liberal Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, there is no doubt that indigenous people are disproportionately affected by the housing supply problem in Canada. That is why first nations communities and also Métis and Inuit communities have been made a priority in our housing initiatives to date, and will continue to be a priority.

In our 2022 budget, we committed to investing billions of dollars to expedite the work of addressing the housing shortage for indigenous peoples. As a result of the urban, rural and northern indigenous housing strategy proposed in the budget, future housing activities will be inclusive and appropriate.

This strategy must meet the needs of indigenous communities as defined by the communities themselves and result in a dignified future for indigenous communities.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, over the last number of months, we have heard serious allegations of political interference in the RCMP investigation in Nova Scotia. I am a member of the public safety committee, and those allegations actually prompted the committee to have the Minister of Emergency Preparedness and the RCMP commissioner appear before the committee twice, once in the summer and once more recently, so they could answer questions about these allegations.

The second meeting was held after the recording was made public and the committee had a transcript of the words that were said in that call. While I am now satisfied that we do not have enough evidence to substantiate those claims, throughout this process I have always been curious about how we can fix this problem and prevent it from happening again in the future. What I have discovered is that a large part of the problem lies in how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act is written.

Currently, subsection 5(1) states:

The Governor in Council may appoint an officer, to be known as the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to hold office during pleasure, who, under the direction of the Minister, has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected with the Force.

The term “under the direction of the Minister” is so sufficiently vague that we could drive a truck through it. It is open to interpretation and has led to problems.

That is why last week, after having introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-303, to tackle this and firm up the language, I asked a question on whether I could get the government's support on this bill. What my bill seeks to do is specifically add clarity, that dividing line between what the Minister of Public Safety can do, the kinds of directions they can give and what is reasonably expected to maintain independence from our national police force.

In my bill, I took the time to state that the minister would not be able to issue any directions in “operational decisions”, when it comes to “matters respecting law enforcement decisions in specific cases, such as those relating to investigations, arrests and prosecutions”, or “any matter that would interfere with the Commissioner’s powers or authority” in managing the force. It would put that legislative thick line between what the minister can and cannot do and also the powers of the commissioner.

The bill is a good idea, and I would really encourage the government to look at it seriously. In fact, I would even welcome the government presenting its own bill on this. I think it would find a lot of support in the House because, again, the problems have been so very clearly demonstrated.

Members should not just take it from me because Commissioner Lucki was on the stand at the inquiry last week and directly referenced my bill. She said, “I think it's time that we put something to writing that outlines...what you can and cannot do from both the Commissioner's perspective and the politicians”. She later said, “in the last six months I've had to respond to it on several occasions, and so...my hope is that my replacement won't have to.” Those are quotes from the commissioner of the RCMP, who herself acknowledges that this is a problem and that my bill would fix this issue.

Therefore, given all of this information, will the parliamentary secretary now commit to supporting this bill so that, going forward, we do not have to worry about this issue any further?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Oakville North—Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Pam Damoff LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for his continued good work on the public safety committee, his keen interest in the issue of police accountability and oversight, and his pragmatic, progressive leadership on a number of issues for which we share a passion.

The hon. member knows that the independence of law enforcement is vital to our democracy. Good governance is essential to good policing. I look forward to reviewing the legislation he has brought forward, and I will continue to work with all members of the House in support of the continued independence of the RCMP.

I would also add that police operational independence is a key principle that underpins the rule of law. Our government has always respected the independence of the police, so that they can never be subject to political interference. This is imperative so that the public trusts that the police will follow the rule of law and, as such, that the police will act in the public interest.

As well, I trust that members will agree when I say that it is the government's duty and responsibility to the Canadian public to ask questions about how police can best serve our communities. I will continue to push the RCMP to meet the needs of the communities it serves and transform its culture into one in which accountability, equity, diversity and inclusion are foundational tenets.

Police services in Canada are entrusted with a broad mandate and significant powers to enforce the law, keep the peace and maintain public safety. Maintaining the trust of the public through accountable, transparent policing is crucial to effective policing in a democratic society.

The government is committed to improving civilian oversight of the RCMP. We are advancing accountability in several areas, including our commitment to enhance and strengthen the role of the management advisory board, an independent body that provides advice and expertise to the commissioner.

The government has also introduced Bill C-20, which would establish a new public complaints and review commission for the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency. The bill is a pivotal step forward in ensuring the transparency and accountability of these organizations, and it represents a commitment to Canadians that they can expect consistent, fair and equitable treatment when interacting with these organizations. I know the hon. member shares my hope that this legislation will pass quickly, so that we can raise the bar on transparency and accountability and increase the confidence of Canadians in their law enforcement institutions while respecting the operational independence of policing institutions in Canada.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

November 23rd, 2022 / 7:20 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's assurances, but assurances are not a substitute for solid legislation, and I think there is an argument to be made for my bill.

Previous governments have gotten into trouble. The Chrétien government got into trouble in the 1990s with the APEC summit, and the Diefenbaker government got into trouble in the 1950s. Both involved political interference with the RCMP, so there are precedents here.

We need to look at The Police Services Act of Manitoba, the Ontario police act, and abroad to the state of South Australia. These are all examples of where this type of specificity in the legislation is already in operation, so I would encourage the parliamentary secretary to not only look at precedents, but to also look at existing examples.

Again, I put it to her that I hope the government will entertain this legislation as a serious initiative to prevent our successors from ever encountering this problem.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I assure the hon. member that he is heard. I reiterate that good policing requires good governance, and I look forward to working with him and all members of the House on the continued independence of the RCMP.

PassportsAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about the urgency of protecting children from predators and sexual abuse. This is an issue I have raised many times in this place, and I have often confronted the government for what seems to be a lack of concern and lack of action.

In June, I asked the government to inform the House of the number of passports it had given to child sex offenders over the past seven years, and the minister did not answer that question. The Harper Conservatives left the Liberal government with an important tool to protect kids abroad from sexual exploitation. Far too often, Canadians travel abroad to countries to pay to sexually exploit and rape children. Common destinations around the world are countries in Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines, and countries south of Canada such as Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Just before the 2015 election, the former Conservative government changed the passport order to allow the minister of citizenship and immigration to revoke the passports of Canadians who are likely to go abroad to exploit children. However, the Liberals have not been making use of this particular tool to help protect children. Between 2015, when they came to power, and mid-2021, the Liberal government only revoked 13 passports from child predators and only refused eight passports.

Canada has 60,000 registered sex offenders, and 72% of them are child predators. That is over 42,000 child predators in Canada. Between 2,500 and 3,500 new names are added to this registry every year. However, after six years in power, the Liberal government has only refused eight passports to child predators. It is horrifying, it is unconscionable and it is immoral. It is almost as if the government has been doing as little as possible to protect children. It has a track record of being soft on criminals and putting the rights of predators first, and this is another example of that.

The United States is also a key destination for Canadian child predators, and since 2016, the U.S. government has been pleading with Canada to share information when a convicted Canadian child sex offender is travelling abroad or travelling to the U.S. The Liberals' response is no and that we must respect the privacy rights of these child predators. It was only last month, after The Globe and Mail continued to shed light on this, first in February and again a few weeks ago, that under public exposure, the Liberals finally agreed to this request from the United States.

Consider that in the first half of 2022, the United States provided Canada with details of over 165 Americans convicted of child sexual abuse who were coming into Canada, and we were able to deny 112 of them access to Canada. During that same time, Canada only gave the United States a heads-up once. I guarantee it was only because of the first Globe and Mail article. I do not know that for sure, but it is my suspicion.

Through organizations that work to rescue and restore children who have been exploited, we know that Canadian child sex offenders who have been convicted of horrific crimes against children are travelling back overseas. The Liberal government knows they are travelling. How? It gave them passports. The Liberals also know that these predators have to notify the government every time they travel, yet the Liberals do everything they can to protect the privacy of these predators.

I expect the hon. parliamentary secretary to tell us how they plan to introduce a bill to make sharing the information of child predators easier and put more restrictions on these predators. The reality is that nobody trusts the government when it is not even using the tools it has.

Once again, can the minister tell us—

PassportsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

PassportsAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Orléans Ontario

Liberal

Marie-France Lalonde LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his questions, but before starting to answer the questions, let me give a bit of background information to make sure everyone understands the process.

The passport entitlement and investigations division, known as PEID, renders entitlement decisions. Those decisions include approvals, cancellations, refusals and revocations. It can also impose periods of refusal of services when a situation merits many administrative sanctions. The division conducts administrative investigations into cases of possible entitlement fraud, identity fraud and passport misuse. It does so in accordance with the Canadian passport order and the principles of natural justice, determining eligibility for and entitlement to passport services for individuals who may be subject to judicial or criminal issues in Canada or abroad.

In 2015, the Canadian passport order was amended, as mentioned, to include section 9(2). This section allows IRCC to cancel passports when there are reasonable grounds to suspect and refuse to reissue or revoke passports where there are reasonable grounds to believe that such action is necessary to prevent the commission of a sexual offence against a child in Canada or abroad.

About today's questions, I can assure my colleagues that Canada's passport programs work closely with the criminal justice community to obtain information on individuals who may be subjected to passport restrictions.

I can also assure my colleagues that whenever information is shared by partnering agencies, IRCC will conduct an administrative investigation to determine if action is merited pursuant to the order.

Let me explain how it works. In order for information to be actionable, it needs to be indicative of the potential for the activity occurring in the future. If information is not sufficient at the time of review to refuse issuance or revoke a passport, the individual will remain on the passport program system lookout watch-list. This is for monitoring purposes for a future review of their entitlement for passport services. Here it is important to note that other sections of the order allow for action when charges or judicial restrictions exist in these situations.

All we know is there are far more law-abiding Canadians who are deserving of a passport, and we want to serve them well while protecting children from sex offenders. Having worked as a social worker and an advocate for children's rights, I too am concerned about the safety and security of our kids and grandkids. However, their safety remains paramount. The government will never compromise that.

Every passport application is scrutinized and assessed on its own merits while balancing service standards with safety. That is why security and integrity have always remained top of list over the past year as we put measures in place to respond to the increasing demands for passports.

The service offered at Service Canada centres continues to improve, but always in compliance with security and integrity. For example, one of those improvements is increasing the number of sites offering 10 business day passport pickup service to 13, including in my home community of Orleans. It also allows applicants to keep their personal documents and not have to mail them in.

Across the country we are continuing to improve services, and we are continuing—