Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-37. It was very important that the minister introduce this bill. I was quite surprised, during this debate, to hear the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.
Saskatchewan is one of the provinces that has been leading the way in assisting consumers to put themselves on a list. SaskTel has a specific service to aid consumers who want to stop these unwanted calls.
Let us be clear. The telemarketing industry is an important industry in Canada. It has a very legitimate place in the marketing grid. Marketing is important. Marketers have to get their product to the right people at the right time and in the right place, but they want to ensure that they do not annoy customers. All of us as members of Parliament have heard from constituents who are spending precious time with their families, trying to instill good values and have some quiet time, yet are being inundated by callers. They need a do not call registry.
The other day I was helping out somebody who had been away for a couple of days. I opened the individual's voice mail and found that seven out of ten calls were from unwanted telephoners. They are the kind that I want the minister to include in the legislation, the kind that are dumped in, as somebody mentioned earlier, to the voice mail system.
Telemarketing is important to our country. It provides important jobs. It is important to the business community. That is why the business community particularly supports the bill. The Canadian Marketing Association and I have been working on this. My private member's bill, Bill C-520, was introduced in the last Parliament and enjoyed support from consumer groups and businesses. They want to clean up the industry.
Right now they are maintaining, as individual companies, a whole series of registries to avoid calling people who do not want to be called by these individuals. It will be cheaper, more effective and more efficient, particularly for Canadians, to have one do not call registry, one that would list their names, addresses and phone numbers in case there are two people living in the same location sharing a phone number. It has to be specific to the individual and to the address in case phone numbers are reissued to other individuals.
The member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel also has a private member's bill in Parliament on this issue. I would encourage the members of the House to vote for Bill C-37 and for the private member's bill to ensure that both bills are considered and that the details of how we deal with the registry, how we instruct the CRTC to consult on this, and I hope they will do it forthwith, will ensure we get a call registry up and running as quickly, as efficiently and as cheaply as possible. One registry for all Canadians will make sense.
The member for Saskatoon—Humboldt talked about exemptions. My bill exempted charities, and I believe they should be given that exemption. It should also make an exemption for businesses that are calling current customers. Let us face it, that makes sense.
I was telemarketed by the Globe and Mail , which I am a subscriber to on Fridays and Saturdays in my constituency. It called me with a great offer for the Sunday New York Times , a legitimate, perfectly positioned telemarketing call. It was on the money. I was happy to hear from it and to get that service. To have continued to call me when I did not want its services, would have been a bad business practice. The businesses in the first case should be exempt, but in the second case they had better be sure to take off customers who do not want to hear from them.
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for this bill. I encourage all members to participate in it. Again, we need to recognize that there is some concern in the industry from those who are operating call centres in all our constituencies. If we can single out the calls that are on the money and that are directed at the right people, it is more efficient and more effective, rather than all the noise coming at people right now.
It is the same thing with direct marketing and the flyers that come in our mail. We will see the ones we want to see if we clean up the industry. I had a private member's bill that good pieces of consumer protection legislation, which were adopted by the minister of industry of the day, in this case a do not call registry in the last run through of the Competition Act, to ensure that we cleaned up and had the highest standards for Canadians and that we ensured the industries that were marketing, marketed effectively. They are important.
We have an example, as the Bloc Québécois member mentioned. He talked about how important it was to look to our neighbours to the south. They have had this registry for a number of years. They still have a vibrant telemarketing industry. They still provide an opportunity for people to market through the use of the telephone. More important, there is an opportunity for consumers to take their names off these lists and to be protected so they can have quiet time and not be harassed by nuisance calls.
When the CRTC does this consultation, I want to be sure that it includes, contrary to what its most recent ruling was, the kind of calls that dump a message into our voice mails when we are not there. This type of call is causing great concern, particularly among a number of constituents who do not understand how they necessarily work, especially when a person receives a call from a moving company. It is a bit disconcerting when a person has not heard the phone ring and all of a sudden the company is trying to move that individual out of his or her place of residence. We have had concerns from constituents who are not quite sure what this is.
For anyone who is exposed to the possibility of dealing with the experiences of loved ones in some early stages of dementia, it can be extremely disconcerting. We need to protect consumers.
Some of the calls that are more harassing in nature are also a real concern to me. Again, guidelines by the industry are important. However, not everyone in the industry follows the guidelines.
Under this system, everyone will have to follow the guidelines or there will be punishments. In the minister's bill there is an infraction per call per day. In my bill there were very strict penalties: $25,000 on a summary conviction, a maximum or an imprisonment of six months or on an indictment, a fine of not more than $1 million or imprisonment to a term not exceeding five years.
It is important to ensure that we clean up the industry. We must have everyone follow the same rules. We have to ensure that people are not harassed into giving money or buying products for which they are not interested. However, we know they become quite intimidated by the callers. As I said, yesterday seven out of ten calls were an annoying waste of my time and that of the individuals.
There is also the ability for people to fax when we are least expect it. That costs money. It costs money for the cartridges and paper for the fax machine. Those companies too must follow these guidelines. I send back the faxes, just as all the members of this House have, and ask to have my name removed from the list. However, I still manage to get them.
Before the legislation goes through this House and the Senate, I want CRTC to begin consultations. Canadians are ready for the bill. We have a need for the legislation. We need protection of consumers. We need to ensure that telemarketing and other forms of marketing are as effective as they can be.
Why not set the highest standard possible? Why not have one system for the whole country? Why not make it easy for people to follow through on this?
I have received a fair bit of correspondence on this. SaskTel has a system where a person can get a tracing of the numbers that have called. That will be an important piece of this, to ensure that when we take our names off a list, we will have those convictions. If we are to have those high standards, we need the ability to track from where the phone calls come.
Ironically, I called a telemarketer who had called the number I checked yesterday. Unfortunately, I had to call another set of numbers to remove those calls. That is more time and money. They were long distance calls for me.
Finally, ironically, like most people in this House, I am never home. I rarely receive telemarketing calls. Lately, however, I have been inundated. I would ask those telemarketers to take my name and phone number off their list. I am happy to buy their products, but only if I they do not call me.
This has been interesting. As a consumer, I am interested to hear what my constituents are subjected to on a regular basis. I get a lot of hang ups because I am not there.
Also, as a member opposite mentioned, we are put into a locked in system that ties up the phone line. This has implications for people who have emergency situations. It has implications for those of us who have people trying to reach us. We need to clean up this industry with one easy registration system for constituents across the country.
I commend the Minister of Industry for getting this legislation to the House. It is important consumer protection. I hope the bill will proceed to committee as quickly as possible and that it will look to other examples of private members' bills that address the issue as well.