Mr. Speaker, Bill C-20 can easily be divided into two parts.
The first part deals with telemarketing fraud and the significant consequences which have befallen many Canadian consumers at the hands of those who would defraud them of significant sums of money through the telephone. Like all other members of this House, New Democrats fully support the thrust of the telemarketing fraud provisions. There are things we would do differently and I will raise them in a minute. As my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois has indicated, mostly it has to do with enforcement and the seriousness with which we take the enforcement of these crimes.
The second part of Bill C-20 is much more troublesome. It deals with basic aspects of competition, with offences committed by businesses to further their economic aims. This includes the various misleading, fraudulent and deceptive practices they pursue as well as some matters dealing with mergers. It is that part which falls short of what Canadians need.
I will talk briefly about the telemarketing fraud provisions. We have all had an opportunity to speak on this question in the past. I am sure we have all heard from constituents who have been cheated out of considerable numbers of dollars by these fraud artists.
I can think of one couple in particular who responded to the heavy duty pressure from a telemarketing operation. That couple handed over some $10,000 or $12,000 in response to this pressure. These senior citizens could ill afford $500 let alone $12,000.
We might ask how could that ever take place. As we know, the telemarketing fraud operators prey on the most vulnerable members of society. They make extravagant claims which we might not accept but which many others do. Those operators have made a lot of money in the process.
We all know the plight of many who have been bilked for thousands of dollars and the apparent ease with which these fraud artists continue their work over and over again. They work for different companies under different names but use the same offices with the same telephone equipment. They have basically thumbed their noses at the law and at Canadians over a very long period of time.
Project Phonebusters is a relatively small operation headed by Barry Elliot, an OPP officer. It has essentially the sole responsibility of chasing after these guys across the whole of Canada. This small unit is not funded well enough of course. It does not have enough people to pursue these claims in a timely way. Consequently the situation in Canada is we have not been enforcing our laws seriously enough. Had we been more serious enforcers, we would have saved many Canadians many thousands of dollars.
It is incumbent upon the solicitor general as the minister responsible for the RCMP to take a leadership role in fighting this fraud at the national level and to ensure that there are more RCMP officers engaged in this activity. Project Phonebusters and Barry Elliot need more help to do an even better job. They have done quite a remarkable job with very limited resources.
There is an obligation on the part of the Government of Canada following the provisions in Bill C-20 which deal with telemarketing fraud to actually put some resources where its mouth is. The government should not just pass legislation in the hope that something will improve. It should rigorously and completely enforce the legislation and commit more resources to it.
I also want to commend my colleague for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière for proposing to the government some significant changes which would have also protected many, many Canadians.
We know about the issue dealing with the Internet. We know that this is just the beginning of an incredibly important market for commercial transactions. Many, many people have already begun to do business on the Internet, whether it is the buying of stocks and bonds, holidays, or other goods and services. We have all probably used the Internet for these purposes.
Technological advances will ensure that the Internet is more secure and safe and that we can use our credit cards on the Internet without fear of incurring bills that we were not intending to incur. Once all of that technology is in place, and it is just around the corner, we will see a huge burgeoning of trade on the Internet.
The member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière who was trying to move the government to take this matter seriously made some very good points in proposing that the Internet be added to this section. The argument was that it did not quite fit within telemarketing.
It does not fit perfectly but it does not fit badly either. We have a new form of marketing which is based on technology. It is not all that different from telemarketing. There is the one element that a person is not on the line forcing someone to make a decision but the mechanism of the Internet also makes it very, very attractive and persuasive.
I would have hoped that the government would have taken note of these suggestions. I know the parliamentary secretary is very diligent in these matters. I hope we can do more than hope that the parliamentary secretary will help us, that we will see some movement to deal with some legislative action after proper study on the question of the Internet. He is nodding his head so I am sure that is what will happen.
The government is making a fundamental mistake regarding the competition provision. It has simply not regarded the importance of having a fair and fully competitive market so that not only consumers are protected but legitimate, honest businessmen and businesswomen are protected too. That part I cannot accept. It is not because of what is in it; it is mostly because of what is not in it. It should have been made tougher, not weaker. We will therefore be voting against this bill although we are very, very supportive of the telemarketing fraud provisions.