Madam Speaker, it is always with sadness that we rise in this House when we feel it is the last time the government will allow us to speak on a given bill. First of all, let me say that I too feel it is an outrage.
I believe the protection of personal and private information in a bill regarding electronic commerce is something that obviously concerns us all because it very deeply affects all Quebecers and Canadians. One might wonder whether the government has something to hide.
I will remind this House that the difficulty in developing a legislation is to identify the problem and to propose a bill that is so clear that it can also be implemented easily.
First of all, the minister is trying to create dissension because he disregards this first principle. Some of my colleagues just mentioned that, in the summer of 1998 or at a meeting held in the spring of 1998, the minister discussed this issue with his colleagues. However, he presented them with a draft of the bill in September and, if my memory serves me right, he introduced his bill in this House on October 1, 1998. So much for the discussions.
Just like a game or electronic commerce that the minister is getting ready to do, he is making things appearing or wandering at his will. This could instil fears into people.
The second point I wish to raise—and members will say that I am a member of the Bloc and that I am always sensitive to this question—is the issue of jurisdiction.
Of course, when the British North America Act was first enacted, the issue of the protection of personal or private information in electronic commerce was surely not a concern in the legislators' mind. However, we must say that Quebec's Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector is a good one. It is applied in its jurisdiction. It is fully in force.
What I do not understand is that the federal government, by the back door, through its Minister of Industry, wants to pass an act on electronic commerce. By saying in clause 4 that the act applies everywhere in Canada, he is looking for trouble.
I said in my speech that the most difficult task was to find a justification for the enactment of a law and then to define so clearly the issue that the act can be very easily applied.
Because the minister is looking for trouble, I must say, if the bill is passed and if he continues to reject all amendments suggested by the Bloc, we will have two different jurisdictions regulating the same thing.
Since everybody knows that electronic data travels very fast, merchants will have to ask themselves if the data they received or collected on a given day on their customers must be dealt with according to the Quebec act or the federal act.
If they have to transfer data to another province or elsewhere, they will have to clarify the situation before sending it.
The other issue I want to raise relates to the good faith of the Minister of Industry. In the speech he gave when he introduced the bill—I do not remember the date—he said that “Where a province adopts substantially similar legislation, the organizations covered by the provincial legislation will be exempted from the application of the federal law within that jurisdiction. Quebec already has privacy legislation similar to the bill entitled Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, so the province will be exempted from the application of the federal Bill”. That is what he said at the beginning of the debate, but I do not see anything in his bill that would confirm such a statement.
The government will have to amend the bill because the present wording does not allow for such an exemption. The only provision concerning exemptions is found in paragraph 27(2)(d). That provision allows the exemption of an organization, an activity or a category from the application of the part of the bill concerning the collection, use or disclosure of personal data inside a particular province.
In that definition of the power conferred to the governor in council, organizations and activities are mentioned, but it cannot be used to exempt everything that is done in a particular province. We already know that the legislation will have to be changed or amended accordingly.
In light of the bill's flaws, considering that electronic commerce is just beginning and will become much more prevalent in the future, and that this is a sensitive issue for Quebecers and Canadians, why did the minister not accept the Bloc Quebecois' proposal to withdraw the bill and to go back to the drawing board to harmonize this legislation with the Quebec act while also taking into account the need for legislation in the rest of Canada?
It would have been easy for the minister to do that, particularly since the government postponed the beginning of the session. In the process, former Bill C-54 died on the order paper. In the new parliament, it has now become Bill C-6. It moved up in terms of its number, but not much has moved in the minister's head or, I should say, in the department.
Why rush things now? Could it be that after this thundering and daring throne speech, the legislative agenda is such that the government must reintroduce old bills that are flawed and must rush them through parliament? I find it hard to understand. Perhaps this is what the throne speech was all about: do nothing, introduce old bills as new ones, come up with bills that we did not have time to finish debating during the last parliament. One wonders what kind of government we are dealing with.
Madam Speaker, you are indicating that my time is almost up. This is unfortunate, because I would have liked to continue. I would like all parliamentarians who are here to understand—and I must point out the number of members opposite who are here on a Tuesday evening. It is remarkable to see the government benches full—