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- Mr. Peters 10217
- Bill C-67. Second reading. 10217
- Mr. Brien 10217
- (The sitting of the House was suspended at 10.12 a.m.) 10218
- The House resumed at 10.26 a.m. 10218
- Mr. Brien 10218
- Mr. Campbell 10221
- Mr. Knutson 10223
- Mr. Frazer 10223
- Mr. de Jong 10223
- Mr. Bernier (Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead) 10224
- Mr. Vanclief 10224
- Mr. Fontana 10224
- Mr. Dromisky 10224
- Mr. Dubé 10224
- Mr. Chatters 10225
- Mrs. Barnes 10225
- Mr. Richardson 10225
- Mr. LeBlanc (Cape Breton Highlands-Canso) 10225
- Mr. Crête 10226
- Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge) 10226
- Mr. Bertrand 10226
- Mr. Bellemare 10226
- Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe) 10227
- Mr. Epp 10227
- Mrs. Cowling 10227
- Mr. Bellehumeur 10227
- Mr. Richardson 10227
- Mr. Bellehumeur 10227
- Mr. Richardson 10228
- Mr. Bellehumeur 10228
- Mr. Richardson 10228
- Mr. Leroux (Shefford) 10228
- Mr. Richardson 10228
- Mr. Leroux (Shefford) 10228
- Mr. Richardson 10228
- Mr. Solberg 10229
- Mr. Gray 10229
- Mr. Solberg 10229
- Mr. Gray 10229
- Mr. Solberg 10229
- Mr. Gray 10229
- Mrs. Guay 10229
- Mr. Boudria 10230
- Mrs. Guay 10230
- Mr. Boudria 10230
- Mr. Strahl 10230
- Mr. Gray 10230
- Mr. Strahl 10230
- Mr. Gray 10230
- Mr. Brien 10231
- Mr. Dion 10231
- Mr. Brien 10231
- Mr. Dion 10231
- Mr. Morrison 10231
- Mr. Gray 10231
- Mr. Morrison 10231
- Mr. Boudria 10232
- Mr. Mercier 10232
- Mr. Gray 10232
- Mr. Mercier 10232
- Mr. Gray 10232
- Mr. Fewchuk 10232
- Mrs. Stewart (Brant) 10232
- Mr. Epp 10233
- Mr. Gray 10233
- Mr. Epp 10233
- Mr. Gray 10233
- Mrs. Debien 10233
- Mr. Boudria 10233
- Mrs. Debien 10233
- Mr. Boudria 10234
- Mr. Gouk 10234
- Mr. Boudria 10234
- Mr. Gouk 10234
- Mr. Boudria 10234
- Mrs. Brushett 10234
- Mr. Robichaud 10234
- Mr. Blaikie 10235
- Mr. Gray 10235
- Mr. Bellehumeur 10235
- Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge) 10235
- Mr. Blaikie 10236
- Mr. Silye 10236
- Mr. Morrison 10236
- Mr. Pagtakhan 10236
- Mr. Pagtakhan 10236
- Mrs. Barnes 10236
- Bill C-439. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 10236
- Mr. Althouse 10236
- Bill C-440. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 10236
- Mr. Duhamel 10236
- Bill C-441. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 10237
- Mr. Hopkins 10237
- Bill C-442. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 10237
- Ms. Catterall 10237
- Bill C-443. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 10237
- Mr. Harb 10237
- Bill C-444. Motions for introduction and first readingdeemed adopted 10237
- Mr. Harb 10237
- Mr. Kilger 10238
- Motion 10238
- (Motion agreed to.) 10238
- Mr. Hopkins 10238
- Mr. Richardson 10238
- Mr. McClelland 10238
- Mr. McClelland 10238
- Mr. Chatters 10238
- Mr. Chatters 10238
- Mr. Chatters 10238
- Mr. Harb 10238
- Mr. Morrison 10239
- Mr. Morrison 10239
- Ms. Bridgman 10239
- Ms. Bridgman 10239
- Mr. Duncan 10239
- Mr. Duncan 10239
- Mr. Pagtakhan 10239
- Bill C-67. Consideration resumed of motion for secondreading 10241
- Mr. Campbell 10241
- Mr. Duncan 10242
- Mr. Crête 10245
- Mr. Harb 10246
- Mr. Bertrand 10248
- Consideration resumed of motion for second reading of, and concurrence in, Senate amendments 10249
- Mr. Richardson 10249
- Mr. Crête 10250
- Mrs. Barnes 10250
- Division on amendment deferred 10251
- (The sitting of the House was suspended at 1.49 p.m.) 10251
- The House resumed at 3.35 p.m. 10251
- The Deputy Speaker 10251
- The Deputy Speaker 10252
HOUSE OF COMMONS
The House met at 10 a.m.
Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, here we are considering one of the last bills of this Parliament, judging from the atmosphere and the number of members in this House. The bill before us is C-67, an act to amend the Competition Act.
In the speech from the throne on February 27, 1996, the Liberal government announced a reform of the Competition Act as follows:
The Government will introduce proposals to strengthen the economic framework with legislative improvements in the areas of competition, bankruptcy and copyright.Consultations followed, and then a document setting out the proposed amendments to the Competition Act was released. The Competition Act was updated in the summer of 1994.
After that, an advisory committee looked at all the proposals gathered, but the competition bureau continued parallel consultations on specific points in the law. This is the report the minister used to draft Bill C-67 aimed at modernizing the Competition Act. This bill, being debated this morning at second reading, will likely not reach the end of the process, if rumours of an upcoming election call are true, because the work will have to be done all over again.
This is not a total disappointment, because we feel the bill lacks certain major elements, and, moreover, contains a number of instances of legal overlap-in which the federal government intrudes in matters of provincial civil law, as we are constantly pointing out. The principle is always the same: Ottawa knows better than anyone else what is good for Canadians. This endless paternalism rears its ugly head in many laws. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to discuss the consideration of a private member's bill from the Reform Party.
Ottawa's centralizing influence is clear. Having arrived here three and a half years ago, the Reform Party has now adopted Ottawa's style of demanding and centralizing all sorts of powers.
What does this bill contain? Based on the legislative summary, I can tell you what the main changes proposed are.
Obviously, the merger notification process is to be improved and the regulatory burden on business lightened.
It is designed to ensure quicker and more efficient action against misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices. I will come back to this, because we must not think that this is something new, that we have just found out about or thought of. There are already guidelines governing misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices. It is also designed to amend and clarify the law applicable to sales price advertising by retailers.
The fourth point is to provide the courts with new means of dealing with crime, through orders on consent and orders including prescriptive terms upon conviction.
It is also designed to address the recent proliferation of misleading telemarketing practices that consumers have been subjected to and which undermine the value of telemarketing as a legitimate marketing tool. Telemarketing is a booming industry these days, as we all know, for probably having been solicited on a number of occasions for various things.
It is true that the Competition Act had not been amended since 1986 and that some updating is always useful-several of the provisions seem quite legitimate and appropriate, and will indeed help modernize the act to some extent-but there is a problem.
There is a major problem with the number of new civil provisions concerning misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices. This is a clear invasion of a provincial jurisdiction, namely local trade. I mentioned earlier that we keep hearing nice arguments like: ``It is in the best interest of the people. In
principle, this is a good thing''. But the government is taking advantage of the situation to invade a provincial jurisdiction.
[Editor's Note: The fire alarm having sounded:]
(The sitting of the House was suspended at 10.12 a.m.)
Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I hope this time I can finish my speech.
I want to put things back in their context, since we had an unexpected break. We are debating Bill C-67, an act to amend the Competition Act and another Act in consequence. As I said earlier, in the throne speech, the government had already announced a reform to strengthen the economic framework, through legislation relating to competition, bankruptcy and copyright.
A long process led to the bill before us today. A review was conducted as early as the summer of 1994. The Minister of Industry asked the director of investigation and research, appointed under the Competition Act, to comment on the act currently in effect. Following these comments, the minister launched, in June 1995, a consultation process by circulating a discussion paper on the proposed changes to the Competition Act.
An advisory committee was asked to look at the various proposals received during the consultation process. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Competition Policy continued its consultations on specific aspects of the act. This exercise led to Bill C-67, which seeks to modernize the existing legislation. As I said, there are changes that do indeed modernize the act, which had not been reviewed since 1986, and that could bring significant improvements.
However, the federal government is using this as an excuse to continue to slowly invade areas of provincial jurisdiction, including civil law. I will get back to this in a moment.
I just want to briefly mention the provisions of the bill. There are improvements regarding the notice to be given when companies merge and when the regulatory burden is reduced. This will ensure speedier and more efficient resolution of misleading advertising cases and unfair trade practices. I will get back to this particular point.
The bill also seeks to amend and clarify the law governing price advertising by retailers. It also gives the courts new remedies following convictions for criminal activity in the form of consent orders and prohibitive orders to include prescriptive terms.
Finally, it sets out to address the problem of the recent proliferation of deceptive telemarketing practices to which consumers fall prey and which detract from telemarketing as a legitimate marketing practice. As I mentioned earlier, telemarketing is on the increase, but many use it fraudulently. We have all seen television programs or news reports of many dubious and very often misleading practices designed to swindle hundreds, even thousands, of dollars out of individuals on many occasions.
There are, as I pointed out, many legitimate provisions that will update the legislation. The new civil provisions in the case of misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices, however, constitute direct interference in local commerce, an area under provincial jurisdiction.
In 1989, the Supreme Court recognized that the previous legislation, the Combines Investigations Act, overlapped an area of provincial jurisdiction. This recognition notwithstanding, the Court ratified the provisions, relying on paragraph 91(2), which gives the federal government the power to regulate trade and commerce.
So, once again, this is not the first time our political system or our Constitution has led to overlap that is expensive in practice because it results in confusion and conflict between levels of government, and is the source of many problems.
We know that this is not unique to the trade sector. It happens in a lot of cases, as we see on a regular basis. In a number of areas, health for one, the government is trying to expand its powers or interventions, while at the same time decreasing its contribution, for example its transfer payments for health. The federal government must have found that this money did not do much for its visibility, so it decided to cut transfers to the provinces.
For example, it cut $2 billion in transfer payments for health and then injected millions and millions of dollars into initiatives so that the federal government's logo will be highly visible on the cheques issued, whereas transfer payments would not have had that visibility. The bottom line is that the citizens are clearly penalized. We can see that just about all of the provinces are having to undertake major reforms, and often to make drastic cuts in these areas, as a result of the drastic cuts in the funding they receive.
The federal government's attempt to expand its jurisdiction is, therefore, not unique to trade and competition. As recently as yesterday, the Prime Minister announced that he had, during his mandate, modernized federation and made major constitutional reforms. So he said, to my great amazement. The only changes the federal government has made have been hit and miss, and peripheral, always with the goal of ensuring that Ottawa and the federal
machinery will have an increasingly large role to play in numerous areas of jurisdiction.
The only time it pulls out of anything is when there is no more money left. Then the federal government says: ``OK, now we are going to pull out''. Yet it makes sure to hold on to all of its sources of revenue. They say: ``Oh no, we will no longer interfere with forestry or mining, for example, because we have just found out these are provincial jurisdictions, but we will keep the cash''. The federal government does have jurisdiction over that. It has no struggles with its conscience when it comes to keeping hold of the money.
As I said earlier, the court had recognized these encroachments in the former legislation but nevertheless validated them, saying it was impossible to do otherwise, considering section 91(2) of the Constitution. The court decided there were factors that mitigated the seriousness of these encroachments.
In the final instance, creating a system of civil remedies was justified if the government could demonstrate there was some justification for doing so. When the federal government can do that, this mitigates the seriousness of federal intrusion. We find this in a decision by the Supreme Court which, in most cases, comes down on the same side and seldom on the side of Quebec, so draw your own conclusions. This is just another example of the highest court in the land interpreting the legislation it gets from people like the hon. members opposite, who are gradually diminishing the powers of the provinces and find excuses for these multiple intrusions by the central government, and I say central, because this has gradually become a centralist government.
With the court's blessing, the government has taken advantage of all this flexibility it has been given by a court that is equally centralist. And the result today is Bill C-67, which introduces more duplication and intrusion in areas under provincial jurisdiction. This is not necessarily about occupying a legal space that had been vacant so far. Some provinces already have measures to deal with these practices.
In the existing legislation, misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices are treated as matters to be dealt with only in criminal court. That is as it should be, because of the federal government's powers with respect to criminal law. However, Bill C-67 proposes to establish a parallel non-criminal mechanism to deal with these offences, although, as I said before, in most cases these areas are already regulated by the provinces. In Quebec, we have the well-known Consumer Protection Act, whose purpose is to protect consumers against certain practices.
Now we will be stuck with two sets of legislation that deal with misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices. We will, or perhaps I should have said we would, because I have the distinct impression that we will not manage third reading of this bill before an election is called, considering the intense activity we are seeing among Liberal members today. This is a party preparing to hit the campaign trail. In fact, from what I can see, several members all already on the campaign trail.
So, there will be two sets of rules. Which one will prevail? This will be very confusing for consumers. How well protected will the consumers feel in all this? Which legislation will they feel protects them best? There already is legislation. It is clear that legislation like Quebec's Consumer Protection Act can be used effectively against such practices.
Now, there will be another, federal act, and the public will know that. They will wonder what its scope is and what it deals with. This is another instance of unnecessary overlap. There are many businesses, but not all of them use misleading advertising and have deceptive practices. Businesses, small and medium size ones in particular, complain bitterly about the regulatory burden, all the government red tape and the legalities imposed on them. They find it quite confusing.
In the face of initiatives like this one, which will result in two co-existing acts, one federal and one provincial, regulating business practices, how can we expect these people to concentrate on doing what they do best? They are not in business to fill out government forms. These are entrepreneurs who have found a niche where they feel comfortable, can innovate and want to sell their products.
I recently had a discussion with an entrepreneur in my riding, who was telling me that it makes no sense whatsoever, that one full time employee spends one full day every week filling out forms. Out of a dozen employees, one person works full time to fill various forms for different levels of government. One employee out of a dozen spends all his or her time on this. The entrepreneur is not being unreasonable. He realizes that money must be collected and taxes must be paid to governments. However, one wonders about the usefulness of many regulations and about the extent to which the information will actually be used.
It is not always easy to gather all this information. The more information there is, the more public servants it takes in Quebec City and in Ottawa to sort out that information, to check it out and to do something with it. In the end, people are lost in a maze of data. Provisions such as those in Bill C-67 will definitely not help the process.
One wonders why. What will be the next step once this bill takes effect? Tell the provinces they have to withdraw, as the bill gives the federal government control over this area, since telemarketing and trade practices transcend boundaries?
The federal government probably thinks it is the one in the best position to exercise that control. Given the globalization of trade, what would the next step be? The federal government will not be in a position to take that next step. Therefore, what will happen, given that companies do businesses in several countries? Will international legislation be required to monitor such activities? No, because the provinces can do it. The fact that a business engages in sales, trade, soliciting or telemarketing outside the province or, conversely, that an outside company engages in telemarketing solicitations in a province, does not mean we cannot legally monitor their actions.
It may be different in the case of referendum acts, because if money is spent outside the province, the Quebec legislation cannot regulate that activity. This is a different issue but, normally, a province should be able to monitor, through legislation, what goes on on its territory. Quebec already has a number of provisions to that effect.
Instead of stubbornly trying to find new ways to set standards that will apply from coast to coast, the Minister of Industry should have had the courage to introduce provisions that would have promoted greater access to the Competition Tribunal. Currently, the director is the only person who can go before the Competition Tribunal. If the director does not take action in a given case, the private parties cannot go to the tribunal for corrective action. Therefore, under the current act, only one person can initiate proceedings.
In September 1996, not so long ago, the Secretary of State for the Federal Office of Regional Development for Quebec, speaking to the bar association, admitted that his government had abandoned for the time being the idea of allowing private parties access to the tribunal.
The director of the Bureau of Competition Policy, however, admitted in a speech to the Canadian Institute, and I quote: ``Given the extent of commercial activity covered under the legislation, it is difficult for the director to investigate all complaints that strike him as justified and to institute proceedings, thus leaving certain parties without recourse''.
This comment makes it plain that there are cases in which certain parties suffer damages and seem to be justified in lodging a complaint. He seems to be saying that he is unable to investigate all complaints, even those that he feels are justified. We are not talking about unjustified complaints, but about those he feels are justified. He is therefore unable to take action accordingly and the end of his comment is significant: ``[-] thus leaving certain parties without recourse''.
Rather than continue to interfere in civil matters at the provincial level, an attempt could have been made, in this bill, to sort this problem out. It is widely recognized in our legal system that there is no justice without access. Changes could have been made under the bill regarding access to the tribunal in order to allow those adversely affected by the supposed violations to correct these injustices.
The government could have shown leadership and implemented a more balanced system that is more accessible and that makes recourse available to private individuals, while ensuring that prosecutions do not serve strategic interests or objectives incompatible with the purposes of the Competition Act.
Obviously, we want to see this done in such a way as to avoid all sorts of problems. In the interest of avoiding duplication, the government should ensure that recourse available to private individuals is not already covered by the provinces. If the provinces are already addressing these sectors, the federal government should not interfere.
I will also say a few words about telemarketing. The advisory committee concluded that telemarketing was a serious problem in Canada that should be tackled at the federal level, not at the provincial level, because of interprovincial and international ramifications. With that kind of reasoning, one can justify any encroachment on any sector whatsoever. If the problem is serious and would have an impact on more than one province, the federal government would, according to the committee, have a moral obligation to intervene.
I may recall that the Consumer Protection Act regulates telemarketing quite satisfactorily. As they do in so many other cases, the provinces can get together on this and ensure their regulations are compatible. This is not to say that provincial regulations are infallible, but my point is that the provinces are certainly capable of exchanging information and data with a view to improving their respective legislations.
Although Bill C-67 merely criminalizes certain unlawful telemarketing practices, we must warn the federal government against intervening in this area, as it did in other cases, by creating civil remedies. The problem is that civil remedies are a matter for the provinces to decide.
This flexible federalism they talk about is often one-sided. Although the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Prime Minister keep repeating that their federalism is very flexible, it looks a lot more like paternalistic federalism. The government thinks it is on the side of the angels when it says it has the right to intervene in areas under provincial jurisdiction. But now that it has substantially reduced transfers to the provinces, as I said earlier, it says the provinces are not doing what they ought to be doing. It knows better than anyone else what is good for consumers.
That is why we are against this bill. However, considering the parliamentary calendar, it is quite likely the proceedings on this bill will have to wait until the next Parliament.
Let us hope in the meantime that the departments concerned will have another look at their work and will see there is overlap and infringement in a number of sectors which are covered by civil remedies and which should remain, as in the present case, under provincial jurisdiction, so problems are not continually being created.
We often feel here that we create more problems than we solve. It could be true in this case. In the end, it will not benefit those this bill was intended to serve: consumers.
I would remind you that it is a major sector, and the director of the competition bureau has indicated he is unable to properly carry out the mandate. He said he cannot investigate every complaint, many of which are well founded. That then is a practical problem. They could have said that some people did not have access, that their complaints were founded but left in limbo, and wonder what they could do to give them recourse.
They start with a problem and look for solutions. They look around and see the provinces have already done things that come within a given field of intervention. What comes under federal jurisdiction and what can the federal government do without always trying to bypass the provinces in order to have jurisdiction in the sector? So, if we have the opportunity to do so, we will vote against this bill.
Since you are going to interrupt me, Mr. Speaker, and this may be my last statement in this legislature, I would like, before I conclude, to thank the people in my riding whom it has been my great pleasure to represent and whom I would be delighted to continue to represent as of June 2 or 3, the day after the elections are expected to be held.
I would like to say that, in a future Parliament, people may count on me and on the Bloc Quebecois to again remind this government it often acts in a way that complicates things, in a way that ends up costing more and doing less for people.
People will have someone speaking in their defence and not coming to where they live to defend Ottawa's goals. This is what we will be offering them in the coming weeks, and I am sure that this is what the people of many Quebec ridings, including, I hope, the riding of Témiscamingue or the region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, will want in Parliament.
I therefore thank you and remind you that we will do everything to ensure that the bill never comes to pass-either in this Parliament or in the next. Some provisions have merit, are good and could be adopted. Others will have to be added and still others will have to be withdrawn. We hope that, in the usual course of a bill in the next Parliament, where we will begin some of this work again, the appropriate corrections will be made.
Mr. Barry Campbell (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address this House on Bill C-67, an act to amend the Competition Act and another act in consequence.
The subject we are discussing today deals with a fundamental element of the economic framework governing business in Canada. Indeed, the free play of market forces is the very basis of our politico-economic structure and shapes all relationships between Canadians and companies doing business in Canada and abroad.
Canadians, whose quality of life is the best in the world, base their economic relationships on the principle of competition. It is through competition that productivity, efficiency and innovation are improved, thereby enhancing Canada's competitiveness, our prospects for growth and our standard of living.
The Competition Act plays an essential role in ensuring that this system continues to flourish. The Competition Act applies to all economic sectors and to all types of trade in Canada. It is the legislative framework by which Canadian society, through Parliament, ensures that businesses compete on a fair basis.
The Competition Act is also an important means of ensuring protection of the public interest in deregulated industries. It responds well to this government's desire to adopt less costly solutions for Canada by avoiding direct intervention in these economic sectors.
The amendments we have introduced seek to improve the code of conduct that defines the parameters for business conduct in Canada. With this bill, we can continue to promote a climate of vigorous competition while protecting consumers against deceptive or misleading practices. These changes will contribute to a healthier marketplace, and ultimately, to a better environment for economic growth and jobs.
In our discussion of the need for a healthy marketplace, we must make particular reference to the role of consumers. I would like to take this opportunity to consider the relationship between healthy competition amongst businesses and the effective protection of consumers' interests.
Experience has shown that, where international and domestic markets exist, consumers enjoy lower prices, a greater choice of products, better quality goods and services, and better information about these products.
As a result of the continued rivalry within markets where competition has free rein, manufacturers and merchants must innovate to anticipate consumers' needs. To keep its market position, each business must earn and renew consumers' trust daily. The most competitive markets are those where consumer information flows without restriction and options are avidly sought out before goods and services are offered.
When markets are competitive, consumers are more apt to inform producers and suppliers of needs and expectations. They are better informed of the choice of products, services and prices so they acquire greater power vis-à-vis producers and suppliers that must vie for their business. That is why the free play of market competition needs to be preserved and promoted. After all, restrictive practices that lessen competition are profitable only to the businesses that engage in them. They also decrease the overall welfare of society which is the reason we must be sure to keep vigilant and put an end to such practices.
A thorough revision and update of the Competition Act was last carried out in 1986. We want this key element of business law to continue to operate effectively. Accordingly, there is a need after 10 years of experience with the current model to ensure the legislation keeps pace.
The amendments we are considering today are not intended as an in depth reform of the act which is generally serving Canada well. They will however clarify the law in certain areas, promote voluntary compliance and provide a better and more effective variety of tools to the Competition Bureau. This is a balanced and focused package of amendments that result from broad consultations with consumers, businesses and experts. It reflects a high degree of consensus.
I will now deal with the main amendments we are proposing to show how they will promote healthy competition and lead to the faster and more efficient resolution of problem situations. To put the proposed amendments in context, I should first indicate that the current act contains provisions on criminal matters as well as those of a non-criminal nature. The criminal offences it deals with include price fixing, bid rigging, predatory pricing, retail price maintenance, misleading advertising and other deceptive marketing practices. In these matters the onus is on the crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed.
The non-criminal or civil matters by contrast may be reviewed by the Competition Tribunal of Canada. These include mergers, abuse of dominant position, refusal to deal, consignment selling, monopoly tied selling, market restriction and delivered pricing. For reviewable matters the bureau may apply to the tribunal for a remedial order.
The bill before us builds on this foundation of enforcement tools and remedies, supplements the criminal provisions with a new offence related to deceptive telemarketing and creates a new civil approach for most instances of misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices.
The bill also improves existing provisions relating to merger pre-notification, prohibition orders and ordinary price claims. The common denominator reflected in these amendments is a focus on clarifying the law for business and improving enforcement efficiency and effectiveness.
Telemarketing is a legitimate method of product promotion. However, when we refer to deceptive telemarketing, we are focusing on the use of deceptive representations and abusive tactics in the course of telephone promotions. Deceptive telemarketing has defrauded victims of large sums of money in the process. It has tarnished the reputations of honest telemarketers. Cleaning up this industry could be an asset to business and consumers.
Small and medium size businesses are also frequently targets of deceptive telemarketing. The Competition Act should not allow dishonest undertakings whatever their modus operandi to increase criminal operators' profits at the expense of honest businesses.
Currently the act prohibits the use of false or misleading representations for the purpose of promoting the supply or use of a product or promoting any business interest. The act also contains provisions relating to promotional contests. However, the existing law does not specifically forbid certain practices that have come to be associated with deceptive telemarketing. These need to be addressed.
This bill will create a specific new offence relating to these practices. The maximum penalty on summary conviction will be a fine of $200,000 or a year in jail or both. On indictment the maximum penalty will be a fine at the discretion of the court or jail for up to five years or both.
This new provision will apply to situations involving use of interactive telephone communications whether initiated by a telemarketer or by potential customers. The telemarketer will have to provide certain important information at the outset of the telephone conversation. Also, a number of deceptive practices will be prohibited.
To close on this subject, let me just add that another amendment will make it easier to obtain interim injunctions from courts to quickly put an end to the activities of deceptive telemarketers. These injunctions will also be available against third parties to enjoin them from providing products or services to deceptive telemarketers.
These amendments represent a considerable improvement in the current law. They address the most problematic practices that have been identified. They also incorporate penalties that will provide better deterrence.
In this area of competition law, the proposed amendments will be of great benefit to all stakeholders, consumers as well as businesses. As I have already mentioned, the current law contains provisions relating to misleading and false representations. Violations of these provisions are addressed solely through the criminal law process, prosecutions in criminal courts. Advertisers can avoid being convicted if they establish they have acted with due diligence.
Under the proposed amendments there will still be a blanket prohibition of deceptive advertising and marketing practices. The Competition Act will offer the bureau two avenues, criminal prosecution or civil resolution, to rectify conduct which though problematical has occurred unintentionally. Under this new civil regime most of the deceptive practices now prohibited will remain practically unchanged but will become reviewable matters.
The bureau can call upon a judicial member of the tribunal, the federal court or provincial superior court, and redress can be obtained through court order or by way of consent. Orders to publish information notices as well as to pay administrative monetary penalties for individuals may be issued. Last, consent orders may be entered into and will then be legally binding.
Measures such as these will expedite decision making and ensure that it is done consistently and by a specialized body.
The Speaker: My colleague, you will have the floor after question period of course.
It being almost eleven o'clock, we will now begin statements by members.
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS[English]
Over the past 20 years Dr. Curran has ably served on committees of the environment, forestry and fisheries, health and welfare, as well as others. Dr. Curran has authored reports on a wide range of topics including cloning, AIDS, global warming, gene therapy and acid rain. Dr. Curran is one example of the highest quality of support the Library of Parliament provides to parliamentarians in helping us deal with complex issues in service to Canadians.
I ask all members to wish him well in his retirement, as well as all others who are retiring.
* * *
To my constituents for having resided their trust in me to represent them in Parliament.
To you, Mr. Speaker, to your deputy and to your assistants, for your advice and forbearance with me, particularly early in the session.
To the clerk and the table. They have given a lot in advice and counsel to me.
To the pages for their courtesy and their efficiency.
To my caucus and my staff. They have been very supportive and very good in advising me on things to do.
To the other members of this House. I may disagree with them politically and philosophically but I respect most of them for their commitment to their constituents and to the House.
And lastly, to my family. The job of an MP is not an easy one for the family. They give up a lot and I respect them very much for having done so.
* * *(1100)
Our family came from the camps of southeast Asia to Regina, Saskatchewan in the early fifties and that community has honoured me by re-electing me since 1979.
The House of Commons is a tremendous institution that serves Canada well. It does need to change and as an organic institution I am sure it will. In the future I hope that some members will come here through proportional representation because the voices of hundreds of thousands of Canadians are not heard in this Parliament because of our electoral system.
Also, I hope in the future that the committee system will be strengthened because it is in the committee system that ordinary members of Parliament, regardless of what political party they are from or whether they are in the government or in the opposition,
can have an opportunity of making a contribution in developing the laws of this land.
I suggest that those two reforms are needed. I hope that this institution will serve Canada for many more years to come.
* * *[Translation]
Mr. Perron, who was elected to the National Assembly in 1976 and re-elected without interruption since that time, was close to his constituents, had an abiding concern for the future of his riding and was deeply convinced of the need for a sovereign Quebec. Hailing from the North, from iron ore country, Denis Perron was a man of integrity, known for his frankness, generosity and sense of duty.
I had the privilege of his acquaintance, and I imagine that his untimely passing will leave a sense of great loss in his own family and throughout Quebec.
We wish to extend our sincere condolences to his family, his wife Marie and his children Michel, Gisèle and Christian, his staff, his friends and his constituents who supported him in his riding.
* * *[English]
Some would call it a labour of love, sustained by the hearts and souls of dedicated teachers and staff, tireless volunteers and talented young people who have one driving sacrifice, a dream to dance well.
Under the capable directorship of Brian Scott, the Quinte Ballet School has produced some of the best young dancers in the world. Keep up the good work everyone, and congratulations. We are proud of this cultural jewel in Belleville.
* * *
CMHC is promoting flexhousing as new concept in residential design. Instead of the occupant changing homes, homes can change to suit the occupant. A home office, a private suite for aging parents or growing children, features that meet the special needs of a single parent or a person with a disability, flexhousing homes can accommodate all of them.
CMHC launched a competition last year to encourage designers and builders to create flexible, adaptable and affordable homes that are both comfortable and attractive. Mr. Varias' winning design reflects CMHC's flexhousing principles of adaptability, accessibility and affordability, and incorporates a number of healthy housing features such as environmental responsibility, energy efficiency and occupant health.
Canadians home builders, as always, are at the forefront of change and true leaders in the world.
* * *
They include the enslavement of thousands of black Africans, military offences against civilians in the south and Nuba Mountains and wrongful imprisonment, torture and extrajudicial executions in the north. One and a half million people have died and over five million have been displaced. Those suffering include Christians, Muslims and Animists.
Will the Canada government increase its efforts to support all initiatives to bring an end to these abominable practices?
* * *(1105)
Quebec, however, will establish a broader and more generous parental insurance system. To do so, the Quebec government has to
recover, as provided under the Employment Insurance Act, the amounts budgeted for parental leave so they can be administered by the province. It filed an official request last fall.
When will the Chrétien government act on this urgent request from Quebec? We hope the government will not drag its feet as it did in the case of section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867. We hope it will deal with this request on a priority basis.
An election is in the air. Voters will remember this in the next election.
* * *[English]
In spite of the endless promises from the Prime Minister to return integrity to the political process, we already have Liberal candidates out there promising to repeal the gun law, save medicare, end subsidies to business and get tough on crime. The list goes on.
Actions speak louder than words. Look at the Liberal record. If a Liberal MP dares to speak up for his constituents against gun control, he has been and will be punished by his leader. Is cutting funding for medicare by 40 per cent what the Liberals mean by protecting medicare? Remember the interest free loan to Bombardier, which just announced record profits?
What about the B.C. court case for the man who beat, raped and sodomized a young woman and did not even receive a jail sentence as a result of the justice minister's alternative measures act?
Yes, actions do speak louder than words.
* * *
Dr. Sica will be using a laser radar system developed at the University of Western Ontario, in co-operation with the mirror telescope system developed in Quebec, to help improve forecasting and measurement of global warming.
The project brings together Canadian ingenuity and serves as an excellent example of the benefits of scientific research. The investments we make today will produce benefits for the future, ensuring a thriving, innovative research community in Canada which all members support.
From the Canada Foundation for Innovation to the support of the work being conducted by Dr. Sica and his peers, the government has demonstrated a continuing commitment to research. I congratulate the federal government for its leadership in this area.
* * *
ANZAC day originally commemorated the landing of the Australian and New Zealand army corps at the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey on April 25, 1915.
Since that time and with the battles of the second world war and the ensuing battles in Korea and Southeast Asia, those countries have chosen this to be their remembrance day, similar to our remembrance day.
The significant feature about ANZAC day in Gallipoli is the little known fact that the Royal Newfoundland Regiment played a significant part in that battle. This regiment suffered tremendous casualties at Gallipoli, both from Turkish gunners and from the terrible flood which swept through their encampment.
The Royal Newfoundland Regiment has served with great honour at Gallipoli and in France. It made great sacrifices. We want to thank them for their contribution.
* * *
This historic agreement is proof that the Government of Canada is committed to helping unemployed Canadians get back to work.
It is a made in Nova Scotia agreement. The province will assume full responsibility for benefits and employment measures designed to meet the needs of Nova Scotia workers and employers.
The Government of Canada will provide more than $200 million over the next three years for these measures from the employment insurance account.
This agreement is also proof of a new approach to renewing Canadian federalism. It delivers on the Prime Minister's promise to
withdraw from labour market training and negotiate new partnerships with the provinces and territories.
Similar agreements have been signed with Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Manitoba and Quebec. The Government of Canada is continuing to negotiate with other provinces and territories.
In partnership, we will ensure together that the right things are done in our communities to achieve our common goal, getting Canadians back to work.
* * *[Translation]
This is indeed proof that, beyond the political discourse of hard line federalists, there are two levels of government ready to assume their respective responsibilities so that the will of the people of Quebec, as expressed democratically in a referendum, can be realized in an atmosphere of calm and trust.
Yesterday, on the occasion of the Quebec-Maine joint venture trade mission, the senator for the State of Maine told the premier of Quebec that, in the event of sovereignty, and I quote: ``We intend to maintain a strong relationship with Quebec''. As for the governor of that state, it would be ``business as usual''.
With the Plan B scare tactics they are using on a people whose only wish is to fulfil their own destiny, if the federalists need a secret financial plan after the next referendum, it will be to clean up a mess of their own making.
* * *[English]
Before each of nine elections, she prepared herself for the vigorous schedule of the campaign, knocking on doors, the thousand-plus phone calls, dealing with the content and the discontent.
Thirty-odd years of having breakfast, dinner and quiet evenings interrupted by a concern in somebody's life, but seven days a week on the job was a good reason to stay young and let 34 years escape so quickly.
My wife and I can say that in 30-some years of political life together, we leave this part of public life with a good feeling of remembering every experience, whether with an individual, a group or an organization as positive and memorable. We leave with no hurt in our heart.
Today, I want to pay tribute and give my best wishes to all the spouses who will work side by side with their partners in this election. I also want to thank the spouses who have sacrificed for us in this Parliament and who were always there when we needed that quiet word of encouragement.
Today I want to say a special thanks and pay tribute to my wife, Ingrid.
The Speaker: Ray, you have served your province and your country well. I thank you for your great service to Canada.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
* * *[Translation]
The Fund's director said, and I quote: ``There is a very solid base, not only for rapid growth this year, perhaps the strongest among industrialized countries, but for a solid and healthy performance for many years to come''.
In recent months, a great many analysts have observed with satisfaction that the annual inflation rate in Canada is 2 per cent. Short term interest rates are lower than in the United States and the Canadian deficit is shrinking.
This astonishing economic outlook is no accident. It is the direct result of our policies and of our responsible management of the public purse.
* * *
There are two excellent reasons in favour of Lucien Bouchard's staying out of the federal election. The first is that the majority of Quebecers are demanding it, and the second is that, if he had a bit of confidence in the capacity of the Bloc and its leader to survive without him, he would mind his own business and look after his own provincial affairs.
Yet the legislation permitting exclusion of persons of Chinese origin was abolished only on May 1, 1947. This week we shall be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Citizenship Act, which finally enfranchised Chinese-Canadians. In order to commemorate the abolition of this discriminatory act, and to encourage equal opportunities to participate in, and contribute to society, the Chinese Canadian Council is organizing a series of events this week.
I join with them in recognition of these generations of Quebecers and Canadians of Chinese origin who fought against discriminatory legislation and battled for citizenship.
* * *[English]
As I stand here I look around and see all my colleagues. I have learned a deep respect for parliamentarians and their work. I have come to respect not only members of my party but I have a new respect for members of all other parties. I think particularly of members of the Bloc who have a vastly different political agenda than we do. However I respect them as individuals and wish we could stay together.
I think highly of the support staff in the House. They have served us well. I am pleased to say so. One group that is often unnoticed in our committee meetings and in the House are those behind the glass doors in the little cubby holes. They are the people who do the interpretation. They are important to those of us who are unilingual. I thank them. I have great admiration for anyone who can hear in one language and simultaneously speak in another. My thanks go to all.
* * *
Local recycling programs have tremendous support. Organic waste represents 30 per cent to 50 per cent of Canada's total waste. It is imperative that greater attention be placed on diverting this valuable material to a more productive usage.
Reclaiming the organic waste from landfill by applying compost to our soil will result in many benefits including improved plant growth. No longer must organic waste be thought of as garbage but rather as a valuable renewable resource.
ORAL QUESTION PERIOD[Translation]
This morning we heard that military personnel were involved in a series of incidents in Cambodia, including physical abuse, racism, arms trafficking and running a brothel.
The army has been involved in a series of scandals in Somalia, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and now in Cambodia. What does the government intend to do to restore discipline among these and all other members of the Canadian military?
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.
There were allegations that events occurred in 1992-93. I understand that the allegations were investigated and wherever there was substantiation action was taken. The file has been made available under access to information. It is available in the reading room of the department to anyone, including the hon. member if he wishes to review the entire history of those investigations.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier-Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, after the incidents in Somalia, the government abolished the airborne regiment. After the incidents in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the army took punitive action. However, in the case of Cambodia, the government simply put the lid on the whole affair, and no one really knows whether any punitive action was taken in the case of military personnel.
I realize we can probably get the documents via the Access to Information Act, but I would ask the minister to give us a clear answer. Could the minister tell us whether punitive action or disciplinary measures were taken, and if so, what kind?
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is persistent in his question.
We must remember that this action took place five years ago under the former Conservative government. It is an action that has been investigated and where there were grounds for charges, charges were laid.
The whole background of the investigation is available to the hon. member at his convenience in the reading room of the Department of National Defence.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier-Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, theft, misappropriation of funds, prostitution, racism, physical and verbal abuse of Cambodians, arms trafficking, unauthorized use of cannon and pornographic videos.
I realize people in the army like videos, but I think making pornographic movies at the Crown's expense for an armoury in Toronto is going a bit too far.
Does the minister agree it is high time the government woke up and introduced specific measures to improve co-operation between civilian and military authorities, in order to prevent further occurrences of this kind, which are totally unacceptable?
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has taken a number of actions to shore up training programs to bring about better ethics and performance in the field by our soldiers and our officers as part of the renewal plan. Action is in place in our training programs at both the non-commission level and the officer level.
The article in the paper, which has been dressed up with liberal use of adjectives by the writer to gain readership, may be under question. I suggest the member take my advice, go to the reading room, read the evidence and then think it over.
Mr. Jean H. Leroux (Shefford, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in the wake of these troubling revelations about the events in Cambodia, the minister ought to agree with us that the government has made a mistake in terminating the work of the Somalia Inquiry, when it would have put an end to all this secretive attitude which is so common with Canadian Armed Forces staff.
Can the minister, or his parliamentary secretary, tell us why the Armed Forces staff persist in worrying about the possible political fallout of the abuses committed by personnel becoming public knowledge, and in denying the public's right to the truth?
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, again I address the hon. member's persistence in following up on a newspaper article.
This action took place five years ago in 1992-93. It was investigated. The file on the action is open to the member. He can review it at any time. Some of the things that were questioned may be valid. Certainly it was investigated and the file was closed, but it is available under the access to information.
Mr. Jean H. Leroux (Shefford, BQ): Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that the answer will not be forthcoming this morning. What the parliamentary secretary is doing at the present time is rerunning an old tape we have been hearing over and over for the past two or three years. We have asked questions about the Somalia inquiry, we have made proposals to the government, but it is obvious that nothing works; no answers are forthcoming.
Does the Minister of Defence, or his parliamentary secretary who is here today, agree with us that, out of concern for openness, his government ought to give thought to creating, in accordance with Professor Albert Legault's proposal, a position of parliamentary military ethics commissioner reporting to the House of Commons, who could carry out a totally independent investigation into the Armed Forces?
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I know the methodology of the hon. member is valid and honourable, but in this situation with the feigned acting we know the election is at the door.
If the member had read the report of Justice Dickson he would know that military justice was reviewed by Justice Dickson. We intend to bring forward all the information and reforms he suggested. They will be tabled and will be part of military justice in the future.
It will give us a stand alone justice system with an ombudsman to hear complaints where the justice system has gone wrong.
The first thing-
The Speaker: Order. I ask the hon. member not to get in any deeper than he is.
Mr. Solberg: Mr. Speaker, when you open up the brochure one of the first things it says is: ``Why support the Liberal Party of Canada?'' Why indeed after 37 tax increases and after broken promises on things like the CBC, day care and a number of other issues? The GST promise has to be the biggest whopper of all.
It is very clear the Liberal record is in complete disarray, that the Liberal record is in flames. Why would people of right mind support the same hucksters who sold them off last time, ran away with their wallets and dashed their hopes in 1993?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Liberal record is a solid record of achievement for Canadians across the country. If my hon. friend is aware of a bad smell it must be coming from the Reform platform he is carrying around in his pocket.
Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, when we look at the next section of the government's election document it says: ``Liberal policies at work''.
Maybe their policies are at work but certainly Canadians are not at work. Right now we have 1.4 million unemployed Canadians, almost exactly what it was when the government came to power. There is 20 per cent plus unemployment in Cape Breton and Newfoundland. The national youth unemployment figure is 17 per cent. The real unemployment rate when we count all the people who have dropped out of the workforce is approaching 11 per cent.
Given that horrid record, is the government really intending to run on the worst job creation record since the great depression?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member keeps making a statement at the end of his questions that is not accurate as far as I am aware. With respect to the Liberal record on unemployment there is certainly more to be done, but the unemployment rate has gone down by some two percentage points since the last election and close to 850,000 jobs have been created.
When we talk about a good start, this beats the smelly fresh start program of the Reform Party. The hon. member should clean out his pockets. Then he will feel a lot better.
Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, so many people have dropped out of the workforce that unemployment is virtually unchanged from when the government came to power.
One of the other headings in the document states: ``Make a donation today''. Indeed if a donation is made, in return the Liberals say they are willing to listen to you. Certainly it has worked for Bombardier. We know that.
I think the Liberal grease my palm approach to gathering public opinion says a whole lot about their opinion of regular Canadians and about their opinion of why they should listen to regular Canadians. Given their record of pork-barrelling, scandal, broken promises and incompetence, why should Canadians believe anything they say when they go to Canadians in the upcoming election?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Canadians will believe Liberals far more than members of the Reform Party when they listen to questions like the one just placed because there is an inherent contradiction in the Reform position.
On the one hand Reformers are complaining about not enough jobs being created and on the other hand they are criticizing measures taken by this government, like the Bombardier investment, to create thousands of jobs. No wonder the Reform Party is not believable.
Speaking of dropping out, according to the polls and according to the statements in the House every day, the dropouts are all on the side of the Reform Party. They are quitting and running as fast as they can. Why do they fear the electorate? Let them answer that question.
* * *[Translation]
On April 14, the minister said, in response to a question by the Bloc Quebecois on the future of Mirabel airport, that he was prepared to co-operate with any organization wishing to improve the utilization of Mirabel, without specifying whether he would take part in the joint commission created by the Quebec government. Again yesterday, a spontaneous public protest was held. Eight hundred people gathered to oppose the closing of Mirabel, and this is just the beginning.
Given the enormous responsibility of the federal government in this matter, and considering that its mistakes resulted in considerable losses for the Lower Laurentians, will the minister finally be clear and say that he will take part in the work of the commission announced by Premier Bouchard?
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reply to the hon. member. As the member knows, she and I both represent ridings that are close to Mirabel.
The member raised a serious issue, and I find it totally unacceptable that her colleague, who represents another region, would not think that the future of Mirabel is important. It is definitely important to me and to my constituents.
Let us not forget that ADM made the decision regarding Mirabel. As everyone knows, that decision was not made by the federal government. Moreover, ADM was set up by a previous government and is structured in such a way as to preclude federal representation. I am prepared, and so is the government, to do whatever must be done to help protect the future of Mirabel airport.
Mrs. Monique Guay (Laurentides, BQ): Mr. Speaker, if the minister really cared about this issue, he would give us a clear answer today.
On April 16, the transport minister announced that he would spend another $60 million, paid in part by Quebec taxpayers, in addition to the $185 million given to Toronto's Pearson airport on March 25, to make up for his blunders.
With an election about to be called, will the minister show the same stubbornness regarding Montreal's airports and say that he is prepared to sit on the commission to correct the mistakes he made regarding Montreal and Mirabel?
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Transport, indicated that the Government of Canada had contributed as much, if not more, per passenger, at Montreal's airports than at Toronto's facilities. The hon. member opposite knows that.
The hon. member is asking whether the government will take part in a meeting convened by the Quebec premier. To this day, we still have not been invited.
Mrs. Guay: That is not true.
Mr. Boudria: If we do get an invitation, we will be pleased to attend.
An hon. member: That is totally untrue.
I looked but there are no coupons for the 1.4 million unemployed. It is too slick to line a bird cage.
I ask the Minister of the Environment, is it true that this brochure is actually the Liberal contribution to national composting week?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I might just as well ask the hon. member about the fresh start program or the no start program that is being carried around by his colleague in his pocket, which may be why he is complaining about a bad smell. Why does it not say anything about the Reform plans to destroy the pension system, the health care system and the social welfare system for Canadians?
Furthermore, I wonder if we might get some kind of medical opinion as to why the hon. member and his colleagues are so fascinated by the Liberal program. There must be something in it they really fear if they keep talking about it. It confirms it is a good program for all Canadians.
Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley East, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the hon House leader has caught me. I have found some interesting things in here. The three things I found most interesting were reforming the Young Offenders Act, reforming the parole system and reforming the employment system in this country. If we really wanted to do it right we would just elect a Reform government and this document would not be necessary.
In the spirit of non-partisanship to which we have become accustomed I wonder if the environment minister could tell us what he is going to do to protect all Canadians from the noxious gases that seem to be flowing freely here in the House of Commons today.
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the answer would be embarrassing to his colleague who asked the first question because he is the first who complained of a noxious smell. I identified for him the source, the Reform program
that he carries around in his pocket. I think the two of them had better go behind the curtains and settle the problem before they create a bigger one for all of us here.
* * *[Translation]
The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is still all over the map with the linguistic school boards issue. After cosying up to Alliance Quebec and The Gazette, he tried to drive a wedge between Quebec and the bishops; now he is painting extreme scenarios in an effort to encourage Catholic pressure groups.
Can the minister tell the House what his real objective is in making this kind of remark and in stirring up possible conflict?
Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government's objective is of course to help Quebec society modernize its school system. That has been our objective from the beginning.
The Bloc Quebecois has given vent to all sorts of insults and accusations since this issue first came up. The question is why, and the answer is crystal clear: from the beginning, the Bloc has tried to create antagonism between anglophones and francophones with respect to the school issue, because the Bloc wants to make the Liberals out to be a pro-English, anti-French party.
The Bloc is wasting its time, because the Liberal Party of Canada includes all sectors of Quebec and Canadian society.
Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in psychology, what the minister just did is called projecting.
There has been a failure to act. We have heard his inflammatory remarks, and now, with the company he has been keeping over the last few days, we do not know what to think.
Can the minister confirm that his sole objective is to delay the amendments Quebec has requested by calling for a joint parliamentary committee, which will never see the light of day in the 35th Parliament in any event, and that all this is merely a strategy so that the movements opposing Quebec's consensus can get organized and block this consensus that exists in Quebec?
Hon. Stéphane Dion (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has said it was very happy to sponsor the proposal submitted to us by the National Assembly and thus to help modernize the school system.
We are going to do this with full respect for the democratic values of Quebecers and of other Canadians. The official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, keeps droning on about Alliance Quebec and The Gazette for reasons I explained earlier, but everyone disagrees with the Bloc on this issue.
Let me give a few examples. Agnès Gruda of La Presse had this to say: ``In the end, Ottawa is right. Pushing for a vote on the constitutional amendment before the federal election is completely artificial. It has taken Quebec City two years to come up with its request, which it forwarded to Ottawa only two weeks before the election call. There is no national emergency that requires us to move full steam ahead in an emotional climate that can only be detrimental to the debate''.
Michel C. Auger, of the Journal de Montréal wrote: ``It is very difficult to ask the federal government to hurry up when we know it took the Government of Quebec several months to decide on the wording of a constitutional amendment and another three weeks to put it to the National Assembly''.
* * *[English]
Why should rational farmers who are going to have to deal with rail line abandonments, gun registration, grossly increased CPP payments and empty promises to modernize grain handling and marketing support their sworn enemies by supporting this elitist, urban centred government?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend overlooks the reality that the Liberal Party is proud to have in the House rural members from every part of the country who are doing an outstanding job of reflecting the interests of their constituents.
It is clear from the effective action of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Liberal team on this side of the House that we have a record of achievement which fully justifies the rural voters of this country's not only returning the Liberal members from rural areas but electing a lot more and getting rid of the useless Reform members who are still hanging around.
Mr. Lee Morrison (Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it has been mentioned a few time in the
House that there are some rural Liberal members. Unfortunately their first loyalty is to the Liberal Party. About their 11th loyalty is to their constituents.
Nobody suffers more than farmers from the collapse of a national transportation system. When they have produce to move to market it is kind of handy to have a railway or a road.
When will the government allocate a reasonable share of the $5 billion that it takes out of Canadians' pockets every year in fuel taxes to help the provinces rebuild and refurbish the disintegrating highway system so that it is safe and partially serviceable?
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I find the question from the member opposite at least unusual. He and his party criticized the infrastructure program after the last election, after proposing it to their constituents, and now they are asking for a similar program to repair roads and infrastructure again.
It is the policy of our party and I thank the hon. member for finally supporting us in our initiative for infrastructure. I hope he convinces the premier of Ontario to sign on with the rural members of the Liberal Party and with the rest of Canadians in having a new infrastructure program.
* * *[Translation]
General Motors plans to invest $14.7 billion in retooling its plants throughout the world. Of that amount, $1.4 billion will be invested in China. Oshawa is also on the list of plants that will benefit, but there is nothing indicated for Boisbriand in Quebec.
Since the federal government has loaned $110 million to the Boisbriand plant, it cannot be unconcerned about its future, which depends on a retooling which would cost $300 million.
What does the minister plan to do to ensure that the Boisbriand plant benefits from the investment required for the retooling on which its future depends?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am certain that, if an application is made which fits the program criteria, the government will be very open to giving it serious consideration. I will pass this worthwhile question on to the minister responsible.
When programs meet the necessary criteria, we are interested in developing the automotive industry anywhere in the country.
Mr. Paul Mercier (Blainville-Deux-Montagnes, BQ): Mr. Speaker, more than 1,000 GM workers at Boisbriand are currently waiting to be called back to work.
Can the minister assure us that he will follow up on the $110 million that has been paid out, and that he will insure that the people concerned will be called back promptly?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the decision for such a callback is in the hands of company management. The government does not have the power to order people to be called back to work in any plant in this country.
I am sure that my colleagues with responsibility for industrial development matters will do their utmost to help this company attain greater market success, with the result that the workers will be called back. This is something we all wish for, in the interest of the region and in the interest of our country.
* * *[English]
Will the minister of revenue tell my constituents and the people of Manitoba what the federal government is doing to help the victims of this terrible disaster?
Hon. Jane Stewart (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members in this House, we recognize the concern that the member for Selkirk-Red River has on behalf of his constituents and all Manitobans who are fighting the rising waters of the Red River.
Without question, all Canadians are watching the media reports. As the water rises and we see the evacuation of Manitobans from their houses, from their properties, we feel their isolation and their concern.
We take some heart and hope when we see all levels of government working productively and positively together, the federal government, the provincial government and the municipal government in support of Manitobans.
My colleague the minister of defence visited the area. He has deployed over 1,500 members of the Canadian forces to work side by each with Manitobans as they evacuate, as they sand bag. The
Minister of Foreign Affairs is there today with his constituents announcing support from the federal government, working with the province, working with the municipalities.
All Canadians are watching Manitobans with concern and with hope. Let them all understand that they have Canada in their corner.
* * *
We are coming to an election apparently. That means people seeking election will go to the electorate and make promises.
I would like to ask a question of the government with respect to a very explicit promise made in 1993 by the Liberals. It was written right in the red book. It was the one that said the government would appoint an independent, underline independent, ethics counsellor who would report directly to Parliament. These words are directly from chapter six of that book. That has not happened. The ethics counsellor is not independent. He reports to the Prime Minister and he does not report to this House. He has not yet.
As the Liberals now go to the electorate, how will they explain this discrepancy between what they have said in words and what they have actually done when they had a clear opportunity to fulfil that promise without anything impeding them?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it has been a real achievement to create the position of ethics counsellor. One can debate about whom the individual should report to but I think this is a meaningful response to the commitment in the red book.
If my hon. friend is serious about his question, then he will abandon his position as a Reformer and support the Liberals so we can go on and make further progress in this area of ethics. We have a government we can be proud of when it comes to integrity, comparable to any other in Canadian history.
Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the question actually was not whether or not what the counsellor is doing is fine. It really is not. In the red book the Liberals promised that he would be independent and that he would report to Parliament. That has not happened.
As these members of Parliament seek re-election, what do their words, whether printed or spoken, really mean? Are they prepared to fulfil them if they get another mandate? And we do not think they will.
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a very substantial part of the Liberal platform has been put into effect. We can be proud of what we have achieved.
The hon. member's question strongly creates the impression that he expects the Liberals to be re-elected. Otherwise he would not have asked the kind of question he did. I thank him for his endorsement. I will use it in my next pamphlet.
* * *[Translation]
Since February 28, Quebec volunteer Serge L'Archer has been held hostage in the Sahara desert by Toubou rebels who are against the authoritarian regime of Niger.
Who is in a position to inform the House of the latest developments surrounding the detention of Mr. L'Archer in Niger?
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it will be a pleasure to answer the hon. member's question.
I personally had an opportunity to meet authorities of Niger, including a number of ministers, the ambassador and several others, and I asked them to do everything in their power to secure Mr. L'Archer's release as soon as possible.
I personally spoke to members of Mr. L'Archer's family and to his employer, the CECI. The Canadian government is still demanding the release of Mr. L'Archer. Our ambassador has intervened locally, on our behalf, to have him released as soon as possible. We have reiterated our request for his immediate release to those who are holding him hostage.
Mrs. Maud Debien (Laval East, BQ): Mr. Speaker, since so far, the minister's actions do not seem to have been successful, I would like to ask another question.
Considering that Libya has right from the beginning financed and trained the group of rebels who are holding Mr. L'Archer hostage and that it still seems to have some influence with this group, does the government intend to put pressure on Libya in an attempt to obtain the release of Mr. L'Archer?
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government has not spoken to the Libyan government about this matter.
We have approached the government of Niger, the embassy of Niger in Canada, our own ambassador in the area and all legitimate authorities to ask them to intervene in this matter. We will continue to do so. I reiterate the Canadian government's request that Mr. L'Archer be released as soon as possible.
* * *(1155)
The Pearson contract that the Liberals breached prohibited the contract holder from introducing a passenger head tax at terminals 1 and 2. What is the Minister of Transport going to do to ensure that the new airport authority will not subject those using Pearson airport to a passenger head tax to pay for his costly error in handling the Pearson contract?
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if this government had structured the agreement with the independent airport authority in such a way as to tie its hands completely, the member would be the first to criticize the government.
We have created a local airport authority in Toronto as we have done in other cities across Canada. We strongly believe that there is no one better than the local community to direct the airport and make it work properly and in a prosperous manner for the benefit of all Canadians, not simply to hand it over to a group of lobbyists the way the Reform Party was advocating we do not that long ago.
Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay West-Revelstoke, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, the minister completely ignored the question. I will try a different transportation mode.
In answer to an earlier question he stated that the infrastructure program was the answer to the highway repair system.
The total federal spending on the infrastucture program amounted to 40 per cent of one year's collection of federal excise revenues on fuel. The transport committee travelled from one end of the country to the other and heard from a majority of people that there had to be dedicated revenues of at least 20 per cent of that fuel tax revenue. The government ignored them.
Why does the government bother to consult with Canadians if it is going to ignore what it hears?
Hon. Don Boudria (Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I take note of the further input and support by the hon. member along with his other colleagues for the infrastructure program initiated by the Liberal government.
He knows of course that the program was immensely successful. Obviously that is why he is asking for an extension of the program. Need I remind Canadians as well that over 100,000 jobs were created by the previous infrastructure program. Phase two of the program is well under way. The province of Ontario has yet to sign but we hope it will very shortly. This will enable municipalities that have the greater responsibility for roads together with the province and the federal government to construct even better roads in the province, which is our wish.
I thank the hon. member for his continued support for the infrastructure program.
* * *
The minister has set that goal at $20 billion of exports by the turn of the century. How well are we doing in reaching that goal and what strategies are in place to serve agriculture in this area?
Hon. Fernand Robichaud (Secretary of State (Agriculture and Agri-Food, Fisheries and Oceans), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when we look at agri-food exports it is certainly a good news story, the kind of story Canadians want to hear about.
Statistics Canada figures show that we are already exporting $18.8 billion worth of agri-food and agricultural products. We must recognize however that this could not have been achieved without the efforts by this government, and the minister in particular, in leading trade missions abroad to promote Canadian agricultural and agri-food products.
We are on the right track. We will certainly meet and quite possible exceed our $20 billion target.
If you will bear with me for a moment, since this is probably my last chance to do so in this Parliament, I want to thank you all for your co-operation and especially for your friendship.
* * *(1200)
The Prime Minister received a letter from the premier of Saskatchewan asking that the government address this problem in some way, either legislatively or alternatively, and I quote from the letter: ``that the Chief Electoral Officer provide a clear interpretation of the original intent of this amendment''.
I wonder what the intention of the government is with respect to this problem and whether it will be consulting with the Chief Electoral Officer to see whether anything can be done about this.
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for a useful and important question.
I draw his attention to the actual text of the legislation. It establishes voting hours by time zone and not by province. Saskatchewan has two separate time zones, each covering a different portion of the province.
This is not limited to Saskatchewan. I am informed that part of eastern Quebec is in a different time zone than the rest of the province. It is in the Atlantic time zone. I am referring to an area in the Gaspé. Part of Ontario is in a different time zone than the rest of the province, namely, Kenora-Rainy River.
The matter could most easily be dealt with if the legislature of Saskatchewan passed a relevant resolution to declare the province of Saskatchewan all under the same time zone for electoral purposes. In any event, I am informed that because of the way the act is written it does not mean that anyone in Saskatchewan is deprived of the right to vote in normal voting hours.
I have consulted with the Chief Electoral Officer in this regard and if there is further information to provide I will be happy to do so.
I want to point out again that the legislation is not based on voting hours in provinces but on time zones. That is the reason why this issue has arisen.
The Speaker: This brings question period to a close today, notwithstanding the fact that I do not have any more information than you have.
This may have been our last question period of the session.
I want to thank you very much for serving this Parliament and Canada as well as all of you have served our people.
I want to personally thank you for the great honour that you have given me to be your Speaker during this session. I wish you all well in the upcoming elections. God willing we will all be back to continue in our service to Canada.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it would be more than appropriate if I, on behalf of members of the House, thank you, sir, for your service to the House as the Speaker. You have carried on your duties with professionalism and dignity, warmth and humour, and we certainly appreciate that.
If by some chance we are here next Monday, all the good sentiments expressed about you and Parliament and the members of Parliament I am sure will continue to apply.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier-Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I add my voice to the government House leader's to say that, while we may not always have seen eye to eye and agreed on how things should go, we have always appreciated your honest and straightforward approach in the position you occupy.
It was a pleasure to be here to defend the interests of Quebec of course, but also, in some ways, those of Canada, since we played our part as watchdogs on a number of issues. I very sincerely hope we will be back with a new mandate to work together toward Canada's prosperity, and especially Quebec's.
Mr. Ray Speaker (Lethbridge, Ref.): Mr. Speaker I would also like to add my thanks on behalf of the Reform caucus to you as Speaker of the House. I also note our appreciation for the give and the take, the adversarial system, the democratic system, working well in the House during the 35th Parliament.
The challenge was great for you when we started. There were some 200 new members you had to assist and bring through a very delicate process at times. We think you have done well. We would
like to thank you for your service and we look forward to the service that will be provided in the 36th Parliament of Canada.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would like to add to what has already been said in regard to the possibility that we all, including yourself, may not be here next week to enjoy each other's company.
Although our differences are a matter of public record with respect to how this Parliament was organized in its early days in terms of party status and other matters like that, I have never questioned your dedication to this institution and the fairness you have been able to exercise within the limits that have been set and that to some degree you set for yourself early in this Parliament.
For the benefit of others, although some members of Parliament may well know this, some of us have had the benefit of attending Forum for Young Canadians dinners. One thing that has always struck me in talking to these young people has been the very deep impression that you, Mr. Speaker, have made on them. I am not kidding when I say that they rave about you, Mr. Speaker, at dinner time. They have come away from the sessions they have had with you, Mr. Speaker, with a respect and an affection for Parliament, for this institution and for our country. For that in particular we owe you a great vote of thanks.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear.
* * *
During question period a topic came up about a smelly substance and I would like to identify that as a Liberal deodorant called Shameless.
The Speaker: That is not a point of order.
Pursuant to the provisions of Standing Order 110(1), these have been referred to the appropriate standing committees, a list of which is attached.
* * *(1210 )
* * *
* * *
He said: Mr. Speaker, this bill is an attempt to provide for the establishment of a genuine progress indicator which would reflect the cost of all natural resources consumed and the environmental debt incurred during the process of production, to give a more realistic measure of real progress.
It would also require that whenever a change in the gross domestic product is cited in official documents, the genuine progress indicator or change therein must also be cited.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
* * *[Translation]
He said: Mr. Speaker, this bill, entitled an act to vacate the conviction of Louis Riel, has two purposes.
First, this bill would vacate the conviction of Louis Riel. Second, it would recognize Mr. Riel as a father of Confederation, a point that I have made in the House of Commons in addressing a government motion of 1992.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
* * *
He said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this enactment is to affirm Canada's sovereign indivisibility and to preserve its territorial integrity.
The Constitution of Canada formed a federal state that is one and indivisible because this best serves the interests of all Canadians. It would secure the reputation that Canada now enjoys in the world community as a nation in which two founding cultures and other diverse elements have already demonstrated an ability to live and work together for the common good within a strong and united federation, Canada.
It is based on the fact that there is no provision in the Constitution for the withdrawal from the federation of a province or territory, that the federation may not be deprived of any part of the territory of Canada except with its consent by due process of constitutional amendment, and that no province or territory may unilaterally withdraw from the federation.
No province or territory shall either unilaterally or in conjunction with any other province or territory attempt to or declare its intention to secede from the federation and form a separate state. Canada is constitutionally sovereign and indivisible and extends fairness to all cultures in all parts of this nation.
No province or territory shall initiate, authorize, sponsor or permit a referendum to be held on any question purporting to seek a mandate for the withdrawal or indeed the intent of withdrawing of that province or territory from the federation without the federation's consent.
I present this for the consideration of the House.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
She said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this bill to the House. Our government was elected and has continued to pursue a policy of open consultative government.
The National Capital Commission established under the National Capital Act has as its purpose to develop a capital that is a source of pride and a force of unity for all Canadians. In the process of doing that, it interacts very strongly with local governments and has, in its decisions, a very strong impact on the local community.
This bill calls for amendments to the National Capital Act to require, under certain circumstances and with certain limitations, that the National Capital Commission hold its meetings in public and consult with the public in making its decisions.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
* * *
He said: Mr. Speaker, this will be part of a series of bills that I have introduced. The purpose of it is to make this legislation in conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This will ensure that a family is responsible for a child until the age of 18.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
* * *
The Deputy Speaker: This proposed bill does not have the requisite amount of notice and therefore it will require unanimous consent for the hon. member to proceed with it.
Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Harb: Mr. Speaker, this bill will amend the bill of rights to ensure it includes the right of an individual to proper housing at a reasonable cost and free from unreasonable barriers.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)
The Deputy Speaker: The next bill also requires the unanimous consent of the House because of lack of notice. Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: There is another bill in the same situation. Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: No.
The Speaker: There is one last bill by the member for Ottawa Centre in the same situation. Is there unanimous consent?
Some hon. members: No.
* * *(1220 )
During this session of Parliament, whenever the House stands adjourned, if a bill or bills are awaiting royal assent, the Speaker may, at the request of the government, give notice that the House shall meet at a specified time for the purposes of royal assent. The House shall meet at the specified time for those purposes only; and immediately thereafter the Speaker shall adjourn the House to the time to which it had formerly been adjourned. In the event of the Speaker being unable to act owing to illness or other cause, the Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Chairman of Committees or the Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees shall act in the Speaker's stead for all purposes of this order.(Motion agreed to.)
* * *
They are asking that we request the federal government to immediately rescind section 55.2(4) of the Patent Act, thus freeing up millions of dollars in savings.
The first is from a group of 75 petitioners from the Edmonton area asking the federal government to remove taxation on the GST and in doing so fulfil a pre-election promise of the Prime Minister.
This is of significance to the whole country but is of particular importance to the Edmonton area as a result of a particularly egregious situation there.
Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.
The first is from residents of my riding of Athabasca. The petitioners ask Parliament to reconsider and repeal the provocation defence in the Criminal Code. My constituents do not feel that any provocation is sufficient provocation to take another person's life.
The petitioners urge Parliament to remove the GST from books, including the Bible, magazines and newspapers.
Most of these residents are in or around Renfrew county. They are asking that this petition be presented on their behalf.
Whereas freedom of choice in health care is becoming increasingly curtailed and further threatened by legislation and statutory regulations of the Government of Canada, the undersigned request that Canada's Food and Drugs Act be revised.
They list several ways but the principal one is that the definition of food should include dietary supplements and foods for special health uses and that the definition of drug be amended to include any substance other than food.
Whereas Canadians with disabilities have soundly demonstrated their skill and competence in many sectors of business and the labour force, whereas 58 per cent of working age Canadians with disabilities are either unemployed or not in the labour force, and whereas the planning and methods of supported employment programs have proven successful in increasing business and labour opportunities for people with disabilities, the petitioners humbly petition Parliament to promote and maintain supported employment, community placement, training and access projects. I heartily endorse this petition.
The petitioners are calling on Parliament to remove the GST from reading material.
These petitioners are calling on Parliament to upgrade the national highway system.
Mr. John Duncan (North Island-Powell River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.
The first is signed by 100 individuals from my constituency calling on Parliament not to increase the federal excise tax on gasoline and to consider reallocating its current revenues from excise taxes to rebuilding Canada's crumbling national highways.
* * *
Question No. 62-Miss Grey:
Can the Minister of Justice indicate the number of lawyers defending the federal government in the lawsuit initiated by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the daily cost of the court case to the federal government?Mr. Gordon Kirkby (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): During the course of the litigation, the government retained five agents to represent the interests of the defendants: Messrs. Claude-Armand Sheppard, Yvan Bolduc, Vincent O'Donnell, Bruno Pateras, and Harvey Strosberg.
The agents were assisted as required by members of their respective firms. The government negotiated substantial reductions from the agents'normal hourly rates.
As of January 17, 1997 the Crown had paid out $935,732.60 in lawyers fees.
In addition to the agents, lawyers with the Department of Justice in Montreal and Ottawa have worked on the Airbus litigation as required.
Question No. 63-Miss Grey:
Can the Solicitor General indicate the precise date for the commencement of the current RCMP investigation into former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the number of individuals devoted to the investigation and the daily cost of the investigation to the federal government?Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): In so far as the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada is concerned, the answer is as follows: The subject matter of these questions involves an ongoing criminal investigation. The information requested cannot be released at this time.
Question No. 64-Miss Grey:
Can the Solicitor General indicate the precise dates for the commencement and termination of the Airbus related investigation initiated as a result of the complaint lodged by the Minister of Justice in November 1993?
Hon. Herb Gray (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada, Lib.): In so far as the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Canada is concerned, the answer is as follows:
As is a matter of public record, on December 2, 1993, the Minister of Justice wrote a letter to the Solicitor General of Canada regarding allegations of wrongdoing by the former government. On December 9, 1993, the Solicitor General of Canada forwarded the letter to the RCMP.
Upon receipt of the informatiom, the RCMP undertook a review of the allegations in the Minister of Justice's letter, which it should be noted, did not refer to Airbus. Having undertaken this review, by letter of February 22, 1994, the RCMP advised the Minister of Justice that there were insufficient grounds to commence a criminal investigation.
Question No. 65-Miss Grey:
Can the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office indicate whether anyone within those offices, or on contract, was involved in any way in the Airbus affair, or the ensuing investigations, and the nature of their involvement?Mr. Rey D. Pagtakhan (Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister, Lib.): No one in the Prime Minister's Office was involved in the Airbus investigation.
The Privy Council Office did not know of the September 29, 1995 letter of request to the Swiss authorities, or of the RCMP investigation of Mr. Mulroney until after the letter became public knowledge on November 18, 1995.
If the Royal Canadian Mounted Police approached any department of the public service, it was as part of the investigation. Accordingly, the information requested cannot be released at this time.
Question No. 67-Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge):
Can the Minister of Justice indicate any/all individuals he, or his executive assistant, met with pertaining to the Airbus affair, including the name of the individual(s), the date(s), and the subject matter of their meeting?Mr. Gordon Kirkby (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.): The Minister of Justice had no knowledge of the Airbus investigation that was the subject matter of the lawsuit commenced by Brian Mulroney until November 4, 1995 when he was contacted by Mr. Mulroney's counsel, Roger Tassé.
Subsequent to the initiation of the lawsuit on November 20, 1995, the Minister of Justice and his executive assistant received briefings concerning the status of the litigation as required.
Question No. 97-Mrs. Venne (Saint-Hubert):
Within the framework of its mandate to coordinate the activities of the Canadian intelligence community, can the Privy Council Office (including the intelligence agencies directly or indirectly under its authority) specify, for the 1995 and 1996 fiscal years: (a) what persons or agencies it authorized to carry out intelligence studies, (b) what subjects were covered by these studies and (c) what were the costs of each of them?Mr. Rey D. Pagtakan (Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister, Lib.): In so far as the Privy Council Office is concerned, the Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (IAS) has commissioned the studies listed below.
Mr. Pagtakhan: Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
The Deputy Speaker: Is that agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Mr. Barry Campbell (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I was speaking about some changes to the act concerning deceptive advertising and marketing practices.
The Competition Act will offer the bureau two avenues, criminal prosecution whereby the bureau will refer cases to the attorney general if an infraction has occurred, or civil resolution to rectify conduct which, though problematic, has occurred unintentionally. Under the new civil regime most of the deceptive practices now prohibited under the act will remain practically unchanged and will become reviewable matters.
The bureau can call upon either a judicial member of the competition tribunal, the Federal Court of Canada or a provincial superior court. Redress can be obtained through a court order or by way of consent. Orders to publish information notices as well as to pay administrative monetary penalties of up to $200,000 for companies and $100,000 for individuals may be issued. Consent orders may be entered into and will then be legally binding.
Measures such as these will expedite decision making and ensure it is done consistently and by a specialized body in the vast majority of cases. At the end of the day we will have quicker and more effective resolution of instances of misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices.
I now turn to regular price claims, essentially comparisons between regular selling prices and cut rate prices. As we all know consumers like to wait until products they want are on sale rather than buy them at the regular price. Advertising showing how much one can save over the regular price can therefore be a powerful tool to attract consumers. The Competition Act already prohibits materially misleading regular price claims.
Representatives of the retail sales sector as well as some consumer groups have asserted that the act does not give clear guidelines on what kind of regular selling price claims may be made.
Under the amendments the government is proposing, representations as to the ordinary selling price will be valid if they meet one of two tests. One is based on the price charged for a substantial volume of sales. The other is based on the price at which the product has been offered for sale for a substantial period of time. According to the new provisions, when determining whether an order is called for the judge will take into account the nature of the product and the relevant geographical market. Even if the representations fail to meet either test no order will be made if such representations are not otherwise misleading.
On quite another subject, we are proposing amendments to the provisions requiring advance notice to the bureau of large merger transactions. An efficient pre-notification process is essential to allow the bureau to determine whether a transaction would have a negative effect on competition before the transaction is finalized.
A number of measures are proposed that would improve the process for businesses by reducing the regulatory burden for no issue transactions. This will be achieved through reduced information requirements and greater flexibility to waive the requirement for pre-notification or for some of the information required under certain circumstances.
Other measures are directed toward facilitating the review of transactions raising potential concerns. For example, the amend-
ments will provide more realistic conditions for the issuance by the tribunal of a provisional order to delay the completion or implementation of a proposed transaction.
It is widely recognized by experts that some provision for requiring pre-notification of mergers is essential to preserve the effectiveness of the merger review process. A more efficient process will benefit the players directly involved: the bureau and the merging parties. Ultimately improvements are beneficial to society as a whole if they help to safeguard competition, which is still the best way to provide consumers and business with a wide choice of products at the best possible prices.
I will say a few words about the amendments dealing with prohibition orders. The Competition Act provides that the court may, when it has found a person or company guilty of an infraction, issue a prohibition order enjoining the offender from continuing or repeating the offence. Independent of any finding of guilt, the prohibition order can also be issued if the parties consent and upon resolution of a contested case.
Amendments proposed in this area open up some new possibilities. In some cases it may be preferable to require defendants to commit themselves to the adoption of acceptable behaviour. That is why we propose to allow the courts to issue orders requiring defendants to take specific measures to conform to the requirements of the act. Among other advantages this may help avoid lengthy and extensive litigation.
In the past amending the Competition Act has been along and difficult task. The amendment procedure we have adopted is based on partnership and respect among stakeholders often with differing views. The amendments we are proposing reflect a consensus among stakeholders. We hope to build on the choices we have made to provide for a more regular review of the vitally important Competition Act.
As I said in my earlier remarks before we broke for question period, the act is functioning generally well but these changes will enhance its operation.
The details of the bill under review will be considered in detail in due course. I have merely provided an introduction to some of the principal changes contemplated and an indication of the benefits that may result from its passage. This package of amendments is balanced and achievable. It is the result of extensive consultation with stakeholder group representatives and consumers. The private sector, the judicial community, academia and law enforcement agencies took part in the deliberations of a consultative panel created to make recommendations to the government. I thank all individuals and organizations that have worked with dedication to review the Competition Act, as well as those who have provided us with the benefit of their opinions.
Before coming to the House on being elected in 1993 competition law was an area of practice for me. I can say from my experience as a practitioner in this area that the consultation that goes on with the private sector, with people interested in the strength and operation of the Competition Act, is one of the best examples of the system working properly.
The amendments to the act at this time, as did earlier revisions to the act, represent a considerable effort on the part of government and stakeholders to arrive at valuable and timely solutions to sometimes complex issues. The proposals before us today have been carefully developed and considered. I believe they merit the support of the House.
That concludes my remarks on the Competition Act, but I might just take a moment while time still remains to me to say this may well be my last speech before the House. I will not be seeking re-election. As such I wanted to take a moment, first and foremost, to thank the people of St. Paul's riding in central Toronto, for putting their confidence in me and asking me to come here in 1993 to represent them. It has been an honour and privilege to do so.
I also recognize the staff of the House, table officers, pages and all those who assist us in the functioning of our work. If people watching our proceedings on television think it is easy and straightforward, they really need to know the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, behind the curtain, at the table and in the Speaker's chair to assist us in moving business along in the House.
I also thank members of my personal staff in Toronto and in Ottawa who have contributed enormously to my ability to serve my constituents. They have my gratitude.
In closing I will say a word about serving in the House and about my colleagues. Some people refer to serving in Parliament as serving in an exclusive club. I think that is a confusing description. It is exclusive only in the sense that it provides Canadians from all parts of the country the opportunity to meet, work together, share views, learn, grow and do a better job as a result. In that sense it is very exclusive and a privilege.
The House is a microcosm of our great country. It has been my honour to serve.
Mr. John Duncan (North Island-Powell River, Ref.): Mr. Speaker, it was an eloquent ending to a speech by the parliamentary secretary when he talked about his departure from Parliament.
This is my first Parliament. I was rather surprised at the lack of surprise in the calling of an election when in actual fact we do not have a fixed election date. Many things have to be put in place to run the electoral process. I know I am off topic but it all points to the fact that a fixed election date is probably a pretty good idea. It works in a lot of democracies and I think it would work very well
here as well. It would certainly level the playing field in terms of all parties knowing exactly where they stand.
I am joining in the debate today on Bill C-67, an act to amend the Competition Act. From the outset I would like to say the Reform Party has no serious reservations with the bill. In fact we are pleased to see the inclusion of some of the amendments to the Competition Act. It is important that we keep the debate about competition open for discussion, what it is and how it could or should function. In this way we could continue to respond to a changing business environment and to ensure the legislation set out is both flexible enough to respond to the marketplace and efficiently administered in order to be effective.
The Reform position on competition is clear. We support vigorous measures to ensure the successful operation of the marketplace, such as promoting competition and competitive pricing and strengthening and vigorously enforcing competition and anti-combines legislation with severe penalties for collusion and price fixing. The intent of Bill C-67 supports this philosophy.
It is useful to review the Competition Act to see how it works and what it is designed to do. It is designed to promote competition and efficiency in the Canadian marketplace. It forms the legislative framework for some of the basic principles for the conduct of business in Canada, applying with few exceptions to all industries and levels of trade.
We can all agree the act is honourable. The act contains both criminal and non-criminal provisions. Criminal offences include conspiracy, bid rigging, discriminatory and predatory pricing, price maintenance, misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices.
As we see in Bill C-67 the issue of telemarketing falls under these provisions. Other areas that fall under the act are reviewable matters including mergers, abusive dominant position, refusal to deal, consignment selling, tied selling, market restriction and pricing. This would include such areas and items as gasoline pricing.
The enforcement and administration of the Competition Act are carried out by the director of investigation and research who heads the competition bureau at Industry Canada. At present that individual is Mr. Konrad von Finckenstein. When the bureau becomes aware of a possible competition offence, the facts are examined to determine whether they raise a concern under the act. If the director believes on reasonable grounds that an offence under the act has been or is about to be committed, an inquiry is commenced.
Inquiries can also commence when the minister so directs or when six Canadians make an application for an inquiry. Recently we saw an inquiry commence on the issue of gas pricing in the Ottawa area, for example.
Although the director can use formal investigative tools to gather information, in cases where the director believes a criminal offence has occurred matters are referred to the Attorney General of Canada for prosecution before the criminal courts.
Bill C-67, which the Reform Party supports, enhances the current Competition Act. We are pleased to see the issues of misleading advertising and deceptive marketing enhanced and the issue of deceptive telemarketing addressed. The act currently addresses deceptive marketing. Bill C-67 provides for a more effective means of punishment and is an improvement.
If consumers find themselves victims of deceptive marketing, for instance false advertising, the bill sets out new provisions that will make the system more effective both in terms of administration and cost. Under the current act, when infractions are committed criminal prosecution is obligatory. The new provisions will create a dual regime of civil and criminal offences.
In the case of serious infractions involving repeat offenders or fraud, a criminal regime will be maintained. In less serious cases where an individual or corporation was unaware of the law, the amendments would allow for the infractions to be addressed through civil court by means of fines, cease and desist orders and information notices. This means that civil offences could be addressed without lengthy court delays which can only be an advantage to both the consumer and the taxpayer.
Another area which catches our attention is that of the provisions set out to address deceptive telemarketing. Telemarketing as defined by the bill is the practice of using person to person telephone communications for the purpose of promoting directly or indirectly the supply or use of a product, service or any other business interest.
We can all attest to the growth of the telemarketing industry, somewhat ruefully perhaps. I am sure we can all tell stories of being interrupted once or twice by an eager telemarketer during dinner or at some other inconvenient moment. How best to handle the interruption is a subject for discussion. In my case, I am thankful for the invention of the answering machine and private listings.
Whether we appreciate the work of telemarketers or not, there are serious issues concerning telephone marketing which should concern us all. It is safe to say for the most part that telemarketers are above board, but as with any industry, there is the possibility of deception. Many people, particularly seniors, are at the risk of being taken advantage of at the hands of unscrupulous people.
In the buying and selling of products over the phone there are rules of logic we must all follow. It is wise for instance to be suspicious of anyone who might offer money or grand prizes over the phone for a small fee. As well, many of us know it is inadvisable to give a credit card number to anyone over the phone.
As we do more and more everyday activities by phone and as progress and technology make that more and more possible, the old rules simply do not apply across the board. It is not that simple. This can leave the consumer confused: Do I or do I not provide my credit card number to this individual?
The only solution is to ensure that laws exist to address unscrupulous practices. In order for both the industry and the consumer to benefit, the consumer needs assurance that the marketplace is being monitored to assure fair and legal practices. Where telemarketing is concerned, sound competition policy not only means a confident consumer, it means an educated consumer.
By setting out what is required in order to conduct fair telemarketing practices, Canadians will know what they can demand from any financial transaction conducted over the telephone. We are satisfied that the provisions set out in Bill C-67 address these issues sufficiently.
I mentioned earlier that it is important to keep discussion on competition open in order to ensure its effectiveness and efficiency, but the issue of competition has taken on a broader context in the last few years. This is particularly the case where global competition now plays a direct role in determining the economic policies of Canada.
Competition has become the mantra of the 21st century. Governments around the globe promote its merits and its values in generating wealth and in contributing to innovation. Competition dictates policy in everything from free trade in softwood lumber to the information highway and whether we have direct to home satellites in Canada.
If we look closely, we will see that competition is the reason given by governments to explain many things, including why they must spend money on business subsidies and infrastructure programs for example. In fact it seems that the notion of competition has dominated every policy paper, federal budget, government initiative, piece of legislation, committee report, study and countless conferences we have seen since the government came to power. Sometimes it is sad to say it is nothing more than a euphemism for political patronage and/or vote buying.
For the average consumer it must be confusing. As a voter trying to understand economic policy, the emphasis on competition has left many more questions than answers. Can competition be good if the result is downsizing and the loss of jobs? Can competition be good if it means lower wages? Is competition good, we wonder, when the success of the new Wal-Mart means the closure of the local business down the street?
The average consumer should not apologize for being confused or for asking questions or for feeling some anxiety. For too long voters have been left out of the economic process. The answer that because it is good for competition hardly suffices in their attempts to understand which government policies are sound. The truth is that fair competition is a good thing as long as competition in and of itself is not what dictates good economic policy. Fair competition is integral to sound economic policy.
The Reform Party is a strong supporter of the competitive marketplace but we are very aware that competition alone is not enough to ensure the economic stability we seek. Nor will it alone create the kind of marketplace that builds strong industries and businesses and protects the consumers.
Reformers do not accept that in order to have competition it must come at the expense of the taxpayer. Reformers believe in competitive strategies that have substance. We believe there are ways in which we can increase competition by allowing the taxpayer to function freely in the marketplace without compromising the interests of the consumer or at great cost to the taxpayer. In fact, our definition of a competitive Canada would not only save the taxpayer money but would also provide economic stability.
For the sake of good and fair competition, we would take the politics out of economic decision making in Canada. We would not use competition as an excuse for the unreasonable waste of taxpayers' money spent on business subsidies. We would eliminate grants and subsidies to businesses. A business should be able to survive on its own merits. Taxpayers should not support inefficient or ineffective businesses in this manner.
For the sake of good and fair competition, we would support the removal of all measures that insulate industries, businesses, financial institutions, professions and trade unions from domestic and foreign competition. That would mean dropping Canada's internal trade barriers once and for all.
In order to realize fair and good competition, Reform would orient federal government activities toward the nurturing of physical and human infrastructure. We would give greater priority to the development of skills, particularly those that would provide future job flexibility within a co-operative training environment.
We would base physical infrastructure spending on economic criteria rather than on the basis of artificial temporary job creation. In order to realize a fair and competitive marketplace, we would invest in basic scientific research and ensure grassroots investment
in research and development in order to keep Canada on the leading edge of innovation.
If Canada is truly competitive, we will see a better country where the entrepreneur is valued and the small business person is free to grow, where our children are educated and provided with the skills they need to succeed, where families are relieved from an unfair tax burden and where Canadians are free from worrying about their futures. Instead they must be empowered to reach out and grasp every opportunity that comes their way.
Competition must mean something to the average citizen, not just to bureaucrats and policy makers. Canadians must see real evidence of competition in their everyday lives and feel the effects that a truly competitive society provides. That means direct to home satellites. That means freer internal trade. That means prudent regulation of our financial institutions. That means reasonable interest rates on our credit cards. That means fair prices at the grocery store and at the gas station. For that is a country built on sound economic and social policies where the result is fair and good competition, and that is the kind of country Canada can be.
Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-67, an act to amend the Competition Act and another Act in consequence.
Reading the bill, I got the impression that we were dealing with a bill from the 1970s, from the Trudeau years, when the present Prime Minister was Minister of Justice. The present one seems to share the same lineage.
While the throne speech announced steps to reinforce the economic framework by updating the legislation on competition, bankruptcy and copyright, here we are faced instead with a bill that represents one more intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. Thus, all the new civil provisions on misleading advertising and unfair business practices are a direct intrusion into an area of provincial jurisdiction, namely, local commerce.
In 1989, the Supreme Court recognized the infringement of the old legislation, the Combines Investigation Act, on provincial jurisdiction. Today, in the current legislation, all provisions on misleading advertising and unfair labour practices are criminal matters, and rightly so, because of the weight of the federal government in criminal law. However, Bill C-67 is proposing to create a parallel civil system for such offences.
Let us take the example of Quebec. It has had consumer protection legislation for a number of years. This legislation has even been amended to better meet the needs of the public. It is really forward-thinking legislation, in a way. Now, however, with Bill C-67, there will be two sets of legislation covering misleading advertising and unfair business practices.
It is quite surprising in this day and age when the prevailing view is that business must be regulated as little as possible so as to facilitate the development of small and medium size businesses, to see a bill brought out at the end of the session, almost on the sly, which repeats the same process we saw ad nauseam in the 1970s-the systematic intrusion by the federal government in provincial jurisdictions. As if the provincial governments were incapable of looking after their own jurisdictions.
The present government probably espouses this basic principle that in Canada there is a national Parliament, and it is the one in Ottawa. The others are mere branch Parliaments which should go along with Ottawa's every whim. But that is not how things work.
The Constitution sets out certain rights. The provinces assume their responsibilities. Quebec, for instance, has passed the Consumer Protection Act. I believe that the bill before us today is one more reason for Quebecers to continue having a voice in the House of Commons, that will stand up for their interests and constantly fight overlap and eliminate it whenever possible so that businesses are not hampered by red tape, which they could do without in today's market.
For example, I recently attended a trade mission in Maine where 200 business people from that state met 200 business people from Quebec, mainly citizens from the Quebec, Chaudière-Appalaches and Lower St. Lawrence regions, who were there for the first time.
During the long bus trip, I had several hours to speak with business people from the Lower St. Lawrence and they told be some horror stories about problems they encountered when dealing with the government and about the complexity of the regulations. Today, if I were to show them Bill C-67 amending the Competition Act, they would realize we are trying to make things even more complex; this seems totally inappropriate.
For instance, these business people told me it was simpler to register the brand name of a product made in Quebec in the United States than in Canada. This kind of situation is unacceptable. The measures contained in Bill C-67 will increase duplication instead of eliminating it, as it should. What we need is legislation that makes things simpler while taking provincial jurisdiction into account. That is why, in a sense, I am happy to see this bill die on the Order Paper. This way, when we come back in the next Parliament, we will have taken the time to study the bill in committee and to include the respect of provincial jurisdiction as a basic principle.
When the federal government agrees to take that approach, the results are usually positive. The infrastructure program for example was initially designed in a way that respected municipal and provincial jurisdictions, making it possible to allocate funds in an
appropriate way, without having to invade jurisdictions, at least for the part that was defined on the basis of local population.
But there seems to be a hard core of people from the Trudeau era in this government, and the Minister of Industry could be a spiritual son of this era, for he seems to believe that, unless a piece of legislation comes from the federal government, it is not good enough and will not produce the expected results.
When we say that the Bloc Quebecois wants to defend Quebec's interests, this also means, in concrete, practical terms, ensuring that the legislation will not create problems for our business people and fellow citizens as consumers. Given the current situation, the government should go back to the drawing board and take into account the opinion of the Supreme Court, which confirmed that the former act, the Combines Investigation Act, encroached on an area of provincial jurisdiction. The government should keep this precedent in mind and make sure that, when the bill comes back to us, it will have been amended accordingly.
Several provisions deal with telemarketing. The advisory committee felt that telemarketing was a serious problem in Canada, and that it should be tackled by the federal government, rather than by the provinces. Again, this is a somewhat paternalistic approach, given that Quebec's Consumer Protection Act regulates telemarketing quite efficiently. As in many other cases, the provinces can certainly agree among themselves to co-operate in ensuring that regulations are compatible. This is the way of the future.
We live in an era where free trade is being promoted. The government signed agreements with the United States and Mexico, and it wants to extend free trade to the whole American continent. But on the other hand, it introduces bills which create local barriers to telemarketing, while also generating insidious effects that were not anticipated.
The effect of creating more regulations is that major telemarketing companies, the ones that can easily afford lawyers, can always circumvent an act such as this one.
For example, there is a marketing company in Trois-Pistoles, which is in my riding. It is a small telemarketing company that is just starting up. Whenever regulatory problems occur, as would be the case with the amendments to the Competition Act, it adversely affects the company's competitiveness and its ability to get contracts, because such a small business cannot afford the lawyers that could help it find its way through the legislative maze.
Therefore, if the federal government really wants to help small and medium sized businesses to expand, to get the largest possible number of government contracts and to compete on a level playing field, it should not introduce bills such as the one before us today.
While Bill C-67 only criminalizes certain illegal telemarketing practices, we must warn the federal government not to interfere in this area of jurisdiction, as it does in many others, by providing for civil remedies which should be the provinces' prerogative.
This is a far cry from this government's so-called flexible federalism. On the whole, Bill C-67 tends to shore up the Bloc's arguments, since the federal government, which should be among those promoting total respect for Canada's Constitution, in sticking to its centralizing tendency, is passing laws which simply are not in its jurisdiction.
Let us imagine this bill being introduced in the House, without the Bloc. Federalists all have a rather centralizing approach. Many such laws were adopted in the past. But today, because we are in the House, and we have a right to speak here, having been elected by the people, and because we hope to be re-elected, the public can rest assured that we represent it and that we will ensure that the very best and most appropriate legislation possible is adopted.
It is essential that there be no more errors like those made in the privatization of Pearson Airport and the creation of ADM, over which the federal government has practically no authority anymore. It does not have the sense of responsibility needed to rein in ADM or seriously address the air transportation problem in the Montreal area.
On such issues, Bloc members have no particular ties preventing them from exposing unacceptable situations. We will therefore continue to promote our views, so that bills like Bill C-67 can die on the Order Paper or at least be sent back to committee for review, and so that, when bills come back to the House, they respect provincial jurisdiction. I think the least we can ask of the government is to take enough time to read Quebec's Consumer Protection Act. It will see that it has no business interfering in this area.
Mr. Harb: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to the amending legislation to the Competition Act.
The Deputy Speaker: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. It is entirely the fault of the Chair. The member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup is entitled to questions and comments if there are any.
Mr. Mac Harb (Ottawa Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the legislation came about as a result of the throne speech in which the government promised to look into the Competition Act in order to
ensure its fairness and transparency in order to ensure that it met the needs of the 1990s.
The main objective of the act will be to ensure that the marketplace is fair, that both the rights of the retailers as well as the rights of consumers are protected within the framework of the law. In some cases transactions may take place where a company or potential investors may have to consult the Competition Act. A certain segment of the bill will address and deal with those issues in order to smooth them out.
The amendment deals with misleading advertisements as well as deceptive marketing practices. The bill also deals with telemarketing to ensure that when people use telemarketing for the purpose of promoting their product that they tell people specifically what they are selling, the price and the implications.
Other matters the bill deals with are pricing and specials. If a company is trying to put a product on the market and it has a sale, it has to truly reflect what the actual intended selling price is before and after the special comes on line.
It deals with an element that is very dear to my heart and the hearts of my constituents, the element of fair competition. While it does not specifically mention the issues by name, it deals with pricing, price fixing, advertising of pricing, manipulation of the market through misleading advertising and so on. In particular, I am very much interested in the section that touches on gasoline pricing practices in Canada. I believe this act takes another step in the right direction in trying to ensure fairness for consumers.
A lot more needs to be done. I am extremely delighted to see the minister taking the lead on this issue and trying to get this bill through the House so it can go to a committee. At committee, all of us collectively as well as consumers and interested parties can speak to committee members concerning some of the shortcomings as well as some of the good things the government and the minister have done on this issue.
The leadership this minister has shown has ensured that the amendments to the act increase the penalties. There will be up to a $200,000 penalty per offence. This is great when we compare it with what we had before. In some cases the penalties were $2,000 or $5,000 or $10,000. The fact that these measures are now in the bill and that the court can even increase the penalty so it fits the offence is excellent news.
Why do I like this act? I like the amendment concerning misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices. I have a letter which was received from a company in the United States by one of my constituents. It is from Andrews, Barton & Blaine, a company in San Clemente, California: ``Re: Award control number 134248098''. It begins:
As Sweepstakes Administrators for DAM, Inc., it is our responsibility to locate and notify scheduled award recipients and to arrange for delivery of award cheques to them.Here is the cheque. The cheque is made to the order of the name of my constituent in the amount of $7,500 and is dated April 3, 1997. The cheque is not signed. The letter goes on to say:
Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to advise you that our most recent list of scheduled cash recipients has your name on it.
So there is no misunderstanding, let me repeat this urgent news. A cash award is definitely yours.There is a definite statement that an award is going to be given to my constituent.
All you have to do is claim it, and correctly answer the required skill question.(1315)
If my constituent answered the question, she could win $7,500. The cheque has already been written and delivered. My constituent is required to answer what is 110 times 20 plus 8 minus 5 according to the quiz sent out in the mail by the company.
It goes on further:
No purchase is necessary, and there is no obligation on your part. However, to assure that each recipient gets the correct cash award, we have established strict security procedures, which require you to register your Award Control Number, 134 248 098, with this office by mail or phone before the deadline.In order to ensure my constituent and probably thousands of Canadians that each one of them receives $7,500, the company has established a hot line. In order to dish out the money it has opened its offices seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It is telling constituents and citizens it has targeted that they could use their touch tone to call from anywhere.
It goes on to state:
Do not mail the enclosed cheque back to us. This will only delay processing your claim. When you contact us, we will issue a signed cheque in the correct amount of your award and rush it to you. Keep your security code that appears in this letter confidential until your award cheque arrives.The letter goes on and on talking about the award and increases the award from $7,500 to $14,413. If my constituent were to answer an additional question, the letter continues:
Put very simply-what all this means to you is that you are fully eligible to receive-$14,413 in cash.The number given is a 1-900 number. In tiny letters at the bottom of the letter it says the call would cost $4.99 per minute or that the average call is for eight minutes. It does not say whether this is the minimum length of time they have to answer the quiz but I presume it is.
This is an utterly misleading communication. The company had no intention whatsoever of awarding that amount of money. It was
purely and simply to rob my constituent of $40 if she called the eight minutes required by the company.
The legislation deals with that aspect. It clearly states that the marketer would have to disclose basic information to the consumer in a timely manner and prohibit certain other deceptive practices.
If the amendments to the act were to pass, Canadians and constituents who have dealt with situations like this one would have the answer. The government would be able to deal with the issue.
How often do constituents in my riding as well as others receive letters from companies describing wonderful holidays they could take or the wonderful time they could have on the sandy beaches of the Caribbean, in Europe or elsewhere around the globe?
These companies ask them to send a cheque in a certain amount, in some cases up to $200. When the constituents send the cheques they discover that a further $1,500 or $1,600 is required. Even when that happens, individuals get to their destination only to find their holiday has turned into a horrible nightmare. The bill will deal with those concerns.
I want to share with the House information one of my constituents sent to me in a letter complaining about an organization. The letter reads:
Dear Mr. Harb:
Are you aware of what-are asking senior citizens to do?
The nerve of them to ask us to fight-government, so that they can feather their nests.
Is there anything you or the Prime Minister can do to stop them?
This enclosure will explain what they are doing.This organization sent out a petition on pensions, telling seniors in my constituency that the overhaul done by the Government of Canada to their pensions will substantially cut their pensions and end universality. It also told them that the only way to stop this action was by sending a contribution in the amount of $35, $50, $75, $100 or $250. If they could not afford to send money, they can simply sign the petition and pay a processing charge of $3.50 to help with the cost of handling the petition.
When constituents want to introduce a petition in the House of Commons there are no processing costs involved. All they have to do is sign the petition and it will be sent here. We as members of Parliament on behalf of constituents, whether on the government or opposition side, have the responsibility to table all petitions that can be certified by the House of Commons. I do not know whether there were any petitions tabled in the House signed by senior citizens concerning the pension plan.
I wrote a letter to the constituent on the matter. I promised to raise the matter at the appropriate time. This is the time to tell her that issues such as this one will be dealt with by the amendment to the Competition Act as proposed by my colleague, the Minister of Industry.
The bill will create a criminal and a civil regime in the competition system to allow enforcers to deal with much more serious offences. This section will streamline the Competition Act. It will make it more flexible and allow the government to deal with serious offences and to assign the resources accordingly.
The amendments to the Competition Act which are before the House of Commons are extremely important. Members from all sides of the House have spoken in support of the amendments today.
Congratulations must go to all those who worked on this bill, in its drafting, in writing to the department, in consultations, and to those who gave their views to the department, the ministers and to my colleagues on both sides of the House who have spoken on this issue in the past. Again I want to congratulate the minister on this excellent initiative.
I look forward to seeing this bill go to committee because I would like to propose some amendments in particular as it deals with the whole issue of gasoline price fixing across Canada. And on that I also want to go on record and commend the Competition Bureau on the excellent work it has done. Every time a complaint has been raised and somebody asked it to look into a matter pertaining to gasoline pricing across the country the bureau has looked into it. The bureau has tried its best to address those concerns.
I understand there are some things about which nothing can be done unless the act itself is amended and strengthened so it can deal with those specific issues. I am alluding to the relation between suppliers and retailers which is the subject of ongoing debate both inside and outside this House.
The bill before us is a fantastic step in the right direction. The amendments are long overdue. I want to join with my colleagues in saying how thrilled and delighted I am that finally this act is before the House of Commons and we have a chance to deal with it.
Mr. Robert Bertrand (Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Ottawa Centre, for his very interesting speeches. I have two questions for him this afternoon.
First of all, and this is a very important question, how are the amendments going to help the constituents he has been talking about?
Second, I know for a fact that my colleague is most interested in the gas pricing by large companies. I would like to ask him how this law is going to help Canadian consumers.
Mr. Harb: Mr. Speaker, let me first thank the hon. member for Pontiac-Gatineau-Labelle for his very interesting and intelligent question.
I look forward to working with him as soon as we return, either on Monday or next year, and working with our colleagues to continue our work and to make sure consumers on both sides of the river have an opportunity to express clearly and effectively their views on this legislation, as concerns gas prices and relations between businesspeople. We know that this has something to do with what they buy in their own areas.
This legislation deals with these issues related to competition and gas prices. One of the amendments raises penalties to a maximum of $200,000 for each company. Offending companies will be covered by this bill.
The Deputy Speaker: It being 1.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.
PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS[English]
Mr. John Richardson (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to what was said by the hon. members opposite Tuesday evening when it was stated, and indeed letters quoted, that this bill, although amended in the other place, still does not reflect what those in the province of Quebec, as evidenced by testimony given to the committee in the other place, really want.
I am pleased to see so many members of the official opposition here today on a Friday afternoon. I wonder if they would care to hear what was said by Quebec interest groups after the bill was amended in the Senate. Mr. Michel Arpin, spokesman for the regroupement des exploitants de canaux specialises de langue français, would like to express his gratitude to the committee on transport and communications for approving the amendment of Bill C-216.
He continued by saying: ``The amendment keeps the objective of consumer protection, which was the initial driving force behind the bill. It also provides for a response to their vital concerns on the use of French, namely on the availability and cost of specialty French language programming services. The amendment to this bill is a compromise that will facilitate the provision of services to francophones''.
The Association of Francophones and Acadians of Canada has said that it totally agrees with and supports the bill as amended by the Senate.
The list goes on. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters supports the bill as amended. The Speciality and Premium Television Association's Quebec members support the bill as amended by the Senate.
All Canadians must therefore ask why Bloc members opposite do not stand up for the consumers of Quebec. Why do Bloc members continue to support the backroom boys, the lobbyists, the big money interests? Are they not interested in the senior citizens of that province, families struggling to get by and the working poor? Perhaps they would like to tell us why they know more than all the interest groups from inside Quebec who are supporting this bill as amended by Quebec.
It is obvious that a deal has been struck. Why do they refuse to tell Quebecers what deal it is and with whom it has been made?
Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe): Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to check if there is a quorum.
The Deputy Speaker: I want to draw to your attention that, according to the order made earlier today, and this may also apply tomorrow, a quorum is not needed and no one can ask for a quorum count. Good try!
Mr. Richardson: Mr. Speaker, why do they refuse to allow Quebecers 20th century rules of doing business? Why do they refuse to allow the commercial rules of the marketplace in that province?
This is a new face of the Bloc, a tightly controlled society in which freedom of choice for such important products as cartoons is removed.
The amendment proposed by the Bloc is in my opinion a sad commentary on the rigid and backward views of a group removed from the generally accepted rules of the marketplace.
Is it therefore any wonder that an industry which is artificially created, a company that supplies cartoons, would be supported by that party?
Today's edition of the Financial Post carries an editorial concerning the bill: ``Consumers should pay only for the services they have requested. Parliament has missed a golden opportunity to affirm that principle''.
It is indeed a sad day when members of the Bloc turn their backs on all Canadians, especially those they are supposedly here to represent, and allow this important piece of legislation to die.
Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe): Mr. Speaker, I would like first of all to speak on the amendment.
The Deputy Speaker: Unfortunately, I have to rise once again, since it seems that the member has already spoken on this amendment.
Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe): Mr. Speaker, I could not have spoken to this amendment, since I moved it at the end of my speech. I never spoke on this amendment.
The Deputy Speaker: One moment. We will check the lists.
Unfortunately, the mover of an amendment is considered to have spoken on the amendment. It is unfortunate, particularly on this last sitting day it seems, but after consultations, I have to inform the hon. member that he is not entitled to speak once more on the amendment.
Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe): Mr. Speaker, is it because I moved the amendment?
The Deputy Speaker: It is indeed because the hon. member moved the amendment.
Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I am astonished at what we heard from the parliamentary secretary, the government member, since many organizations have told us that the amendments and legislation will duplicate a provincial act, that we already have legislation to deal with this and that in any case, people do not want it.
When he says the Bloc Quebecois is acting against the interests of Quebecers on this issue, I think the hon. member is very much mistaken and we will be able to prove that daily during the election campaign. It certainly cannot be said that the Bloc Quebecois has failed to defend the interests of Quebecers in this House. The party critic was very vigilant, ensured that the province's jurisdiction would be respected and that substantive issues were given due consideration.
This bill as presented by the current majority is totally unacceptable, and we will do everything we can to prevent its passage. We believe this bill is anti-francophones. It will contribute to the assimilation of francophones in Canada, and it would be misleading to claim this is not so. We will vote against the amendment and the bill because to us they are unacceptable.
Mrs. Sue Barnes (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this issue of billing in a certain manner was the number one issue in London West as far as responses or input directly from constituents were concerned in the whole time of this Parliament to date. I think the number two issue was quite a bit behind that.
People were not lobbied in my riding to phone in or write in about this issue. This is something that genuinely affected them in their pocket books and they felt very strongly about it.
I can remember two Christmases ago being in my riding a couple of days after Christmas and the phone calls coming in. I had to keep emptying our telephone banks and resetting them.
This is an important matter for a lot of my constituents. It is not an important matter only in London West. It is an important matter across the country.
I am a little concerned and confused by the Bloc's continued attack on the consumers across the country who are concerned about negative option billing. Bill C-216 would protect consumers in all provinces, wherever there are cable companies.
This negative billing practice in essence requires people to pay for specialty channels without being able to say they want these options and they choose to pay for them. I have always resented any practice which assumes I want a product by not responding. This is the type of marketing that I know suits mass industry because of the volume. Most people maybe do not pay attention to the fine print as well as they should, but we should not punish them for not doing so. We should protect them in a manner that they can give an informed consent, which the majority of the population is capable of. I believe in those choices.
There has been a Senate amendment to this and now the Bloc is rallying to protect the cable companies which will be the main beneficiaries. It will not be the average Canadian. The Bloc has allied itself with the big business and special interests in this area. I feel strongly that the French language is protected in the bill as amended by the Senate.
There are people in this country who struggle to pay their bills every month. I think the Bloc would be wise instead of trying to talk about only part of the issue to consider the consumers in Quebec and protect them, as is their obligation in Parliament.
Many people have spoken against the bill, one being a strong lobbyist and former member of this place. When there are paid
lobbyists on one side of the argument, they are going to oppose the bill because that is their job. That is the position they are supposed to be stressing as strongly as they can.
I cannot argue against someone doing their job. I can just say there is the position of the lobbyist and the position of the consumer.
Consumers have contacted my office in my riding, as I am sure they have contacted the offices of members of the Bloc.
The cartoon channel which is at the centre of this issue is not going to be the only channel. There will be others. What is at risk here is full consent, informed choice. In my early training informed consent was an important principle. It is one that maybe does not go well with the concept of mass marketing.
However, as a representative of my riding I listen to the people and I have considered the bill and supported it at second reading.
I Know it is the intention of Bloc members to run out the debate. I want to put on record that there are a number of people in the House from a number of parties who want to support the bill because they are responding to their constituents. I do not see anything wrong with that position. I know other issues have to be considered but I certainly would not support anything that I felt would inhibit the French language in this country. I believe very strongly in official bilingualism. I believe very strongly in learning to speak French and I support that principle. To me that is the red herring in this debate.
I have spent time in this Parliament trying to learn the second language. This is not a French-English debate, it is a consumer debate. The consumers would very strongly wish to have a choice in how they spend their money and have their choices spelled out to them and then choose to pay for the channels they wish to have. Negative option billing is something I cannot support on a mass scale. It is a practice. Cable company representatives spoke to me after this happened in my riding and they said that they would never be doing this again. I do not think there is a lot to fear from this point.
I know the clock is ticking and I want to put my support on record. If there were a vote in this House I would support the bill.
The Deputy Speaker: Is the House ready for the question?
Some hon. members: Question.
The Deputy Speaker: The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: No.
The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.
Some hon. members: Yea.
The Deputy Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
Some hon. members: Nay.
The Deputy Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
And more than five members having risen:
The Deputy Speaker: Pursuant to the standing order, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, April 28, 1997.
Dear colleagues, before saying goodbye, I simply want to remind you that there are a lot of people in this House who are never acknowledged. I am of course referring to the cleaning staff and to others who do all kinds of work in this House. We also greatly appreciate the services of our clerks-at-the-table.
We have the best class of pages we have ever had. Of course the senior pages do marvellous work too. The security, the table officers, the people who do so much work around here, we are all extremely grateful to them.
Mr. Leroux (Richmond-Wolfe): I join you, Mr. Speaker, in thanking the staff of the House who, all along this session, showed an assiduous and efficient professionalism. I think the official opposition must salute the employees of the House and all members of the staff for their excellent qualities and especially their eagerness to serve the men and women who elected this Parliament.
The Deputy Speaker: It being 1.49 p.m., pursuant to order made yesterday, the sitting is suspended to the call of the Chair.
(The sitting of the House was suspended at 1.49 p.m.)
* * *
THE ROYAL ASSENT[English]
The Deputy Speaker: I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
April 25, 1997
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable John Charles Major, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy Governor General, will proceed to the Senate chamber today, the 25th day of April, 1997 at 3.30 p.m., for the purpose of giving royal assent to certain bills.
Yours sincerely,Judith A. LaRocque
Secretary to the Governor General
A message was delivered by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod as follows:
Mr. Speaker, the Honourable Deputy to the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable the Senate.Accordingly, the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.
And being returned:
The Deputy Speaker: I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate Chamber the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-29, an act to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese based substances-Chapter No. 11;
Bill C-5, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, and the Income Tax Act-Chapter No. 12;
Bill C-71, an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products and to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts-Chapter No. 13;
Bill C-81, an act to implement the Canada-Chile free trade agreement and related agreements-Chapter No. 14;
Bill C-82, an act to amend certain laws relating to financial institutions-Chapter No. 15;
Bill C-27, an act to amend the Criminal Code (child prostitution, child sex tourism, criminal harassment and female genital mutilation)-Chapter No. 16;
Bill C-55, an act to amend the Criminal Code (high risk offenders), the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Criminal Records Act, the Prisons and Reformatories Act and the Department of the Solicitor General-Chapter No. 17;
Bill C-17, an act to amend the Criminal Code and certain other acts-ChapterNo. 18;
Bill C-77, an act concerning an order under the International Development (financial institutions) Assistance Act-Chapter No. 19.
Bill C-34, an act to establish programs for the marketing of agricultural products, to repeal the Agricultural Board Act, the Agricultural Products Co-operative Marketing Act, the Advance Payments for Crops Act, and the Prairie Grain Advance Payments Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts-ChapterNo. 20;
Bill C-38, an act to provide for mediation between insolvent farmers and their creditors, to amend the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to repeal the Farm Debt Review Act-Chapter No. 21;
Bill C-84, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and the Immigration Act-Chapter No. 22;
Bill C-95, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal organizations) and to amend other acts in consequence-Chapter No. 23;
Bill C-32, an act to amend the Copyright Act-Chapter No. 24;
Bill C-92, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules and another act related to the Income Tax Act-Chapter No. 25;
Bill C-93, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 18, 1997-Chapter No. 26;
Bill C-37, an act to implement an agreement between Canada and the Russian Federation, a Convention between Canada and the Republic of South Africa, an agreement between Canada and the United Republic of Tanzania, an agreement between Canada and the Republic of India, and a Convention between Canada and the Ukraine for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income-Chapter No. 27;
Bill C-39, an act respecting the York Factory First Nation and settlement of matters arising from an agreement relating to the flooding of land-Chapter No. 28;
Bill C-40, an act respecting the Nelson House First Nation and the settlement of matters arising from an agreement relating to the flooding of land-Chapter No. 29;
Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (production of records in sexual offence proceedings)-Chapter No. 30;
Bill C-300, an act respecting the establishment and award of a Canadian peacekeeping service medal for Canadians who have served with an international peacekeeping mission-Chapter No. 31;
Bill S-15, an act to amend an act to incorporate the bishop of the Arctic of the Church of England in Canada.The Deputy Speaker: I thank all the people who make the House work as well as it does, the ones who are here and the ones who are not here. I am sure I speak for all my colleagues when I say that we are profoundly grateful to all of you.
It being almost four o'clock, pursuant to the order adopted yesterday, the House stands adjourned until Monday at 11 a.m.
(The House adjourned at 3.54 p.m.)