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40th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 105

CONTENTS

Monday, November 2, 2009





CANADA

House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 144 
l
NUMBER 105 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
40th PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 11 a.m.

Prayers



PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

[Private Members' Business]

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

  (1100)  

[Translation]

Sitting suspended 

    The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber is not present to move the order as announced in today's notice paper. Accordingly, the bill will be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper. The sitting will therefore be suspended until noon.

    (The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:02 a.m.)

Sitting resumed  

     (The House resumed at 12 p.m.)


Government Orders

[Government Orders]

Employment Insurance Act

    The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

  (1200)  

[English]

Speaker's Ruling  

    There are three motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-50. Motions Nos. 1 to 3 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.
    I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 3 to the House.

Motions in Amendment  

Hon. Peter Van Loan (for the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development)  
     moved:
Motion No. 1
    That Bill C-50, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing lines 9 to 25 on page 1 with the following:
“(a) the number of weeks of benefits set out in the table in Schedule I that applies in respect of a claimant is increased as a result of the application of any of subsections 12(2.1) to (2.4), in which case
(i) in respect of a benefit period established for the claimant on or after January 4, 2009 that has not ended on the day on which this subsection is deemed to have come into force, the length of the claimant’s benefit period is increased by the number of weeks by which the number of weeks of benefits set out in the table in Schedule I that applies in respect of the claimant is increased as a result of the application of any of subsections 12(2.1) to (2.4), and
ii) in respect of a benefit period established for the claimant during the period that begins on the day on which this subsection is deemed to have come into force and ends on September 11, 2010, if the maximum number of weeks during which benefits may be paid to the claimant under subsection 12(2) is equal to or greater than 51 weeks as a result of the application of any of subsections 12(2.1) to (2.4), the length of the claimant’s benefit period is that maximum number of weeks increased by two weeks; or
(b) the number of weeks of benefits set out in Schedule 10 to the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 that applies in respect of a claimant is increased as a result of the application of any of sections 3 to 6 of An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, introduced in the second session of the fortieth Parliament as Bill C-50, in which case
(i) in respect of a benefit period established for the claimant on or after January 4, 2009 that has not ended on the day on which this subsection is deemed to have come into force, the length of the claimant’s benefit period is increased by the number of weeks by which the number of weeks of benefits set out in that Schedule 10 that applies in respect of the claimant is increased as a result of the application of any of those sections 3 to 6, and
(ii) in respect of a benefit period established for the claimant during the period that begins on the day on which this subsection is deemed to have come into force and ends on September 11, 2010, if the maximum number of weeks during which benefits may be paid to the claimant under that Schedule 10 is equal to or greater than 51 weeks as a result of the application of any of those sections 3 to 6, the length of the claimant’s benefit period is that maximum number of weeks increased by two weeks.”
Motion No. 2
     That Bill C-50, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 23 to 26 on page 2 with the following:
“during the period that begins on January 4, 2009”
Motion No. 3
    That Bill C-50, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing lines 9 to 12 on page 6 with the following:
“begins on January 4, 2009 and ends”
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about Bill C-50 and the technical amendments that are being made to it.
    Bill C-50 is our government's proposed legislation to temporarily extend employment insurance regular benefits for unemployed long-tenured workers. For the purpose of this legislation, long-tenured workers are defined as Canadians who have paid EI premiums for years but have made limited use of EI regular benefits.
    Of the Canadians who have lost their jobs since the end of January 2009 and made an EI claim, about one-third are long-tenured workers. Many of these people have worked in the same industry and even at the same job for most of their adult lives. However, now, because of the recession, they find themselves unemployed. Bill C-50 would give these workers additional weeks of employment insurance while they look for new jobs.
    Specifically, this measure would provide from five to twenty additional weeks of EI regular benefits depending on how long a long-tenured worker has been employed and paying EI premiums. We estimate about 190,000 workers would benefit from this.
    These people have worked hard, have paid their taxes and, of course, have paid their EI premiums. It is only fair and right that we should help them during this temporary downturn.
    Bill C-50 is a temporary measure. It is designed to give long-tenured workers the short-term support they need to rebuild their lives. Our hope is that their fortunes will improve as the economy rebounds. However, in the meantime, we want to make sure these extra weeks of benefits available to eligible workers are available as soon as possible.
    That brings me back to the amendment. Originally, the start date for eligibility was linked to the coming into force of this bill. However, we want to allow time for a full debate. At the same time, we want to ensure that all eligible long-tenured workers have full access to the extended benefits, even if royal assent is delayed.
    That is why we are proposing a technical amendment to establish a fixed date of January 4, 2009 for eligibility. This would ensure that all long-tenured workers who have lost their jobs in 2009 will be eligible for additional weeks of benefits regardless of how long it takes for the bill to be approved.
    The establishment of a fixed date would not affect long-tenured workers' ability to claim extended benefits until September 11, 2010, nor would it affect the payment of these extended benefits into the fall of 2011.
    As I have said, Bill C-50 is a temporary measure. Long-tenured workers receiving extended benefits can expect a gradual transition back to normal terms and conditions. To that end, beginning in June of 2011, the level of additional benefits would be reduced in five-week increments. We believe that Bill C-50 would come as great comfort to long-tenured workers who may be worried about exhausting their benefits before they can find a new job.
    As we have been looking at this bill over the last couple of weeks in the HUMA committee, some concerns have been raised. People wondered why there is the cutoff, how we can protect the greatest number of jobs, et cetera. It is great that NDP members have been willing to support this part. They realize that there would be almost 190,000 people who would benefit from and have access to this.
    People have asked us why this would be in effect for 2009. That is clearly when a lot of the unemployment occurred. We realize there was unemployment before then, and that is why we have extended benefits by up to five weeks, and over 300,000 people have benefited. We have expanded our work-sharing program and protected over 165,000 jobs. Work-sharing programs are something that probably a lot of Canadians are not familiar with, but I think they have been very practical and they make a lot of sense.

  (1205)  

    We have companies that may be struggling and do not need all of their workers at this point in time because of the economy. EI has been able to go in and work with these companies and have them work-share, so that employees may only work three or four days a week and are able to collect some EI. I think that is a very practical measure.
    As we heard from some of our witnesses last week, people are concerned about who would have a chance to claim these benefits. I think 190,000 people speaks volumes in terms of who can receive this benefit at this particular time.
    The other thing I want to make note of, and we have talked about it before in previous debates, is the fact that this government has frozen EI premiums. This is a particularly difficult time right now for business. I know that freezing EI premiums has been a good thing, not only for business people and businesses but also for those Canadians who would have to pay those EI premiums.
    I know there are a number of things we have been looking at, what we have been delivering and what we have been able to deliver on. We believe that some of the money that has been set aside, over $0.5 billion, for training for long-tenured workers could help up to 40,000 Canadians. We realize we have an additional $1.5 billion for training for those who are on EI and who do not necessarily qualify. We are helping about 150,000 people on top of the $2.5 billion that we already spend annually on training. I think these are important things.
    We realize that as the economy shifts sometimes we lose some of these industries in towns that have been dependent on some of these jobs, certain companies and industries over time. One of the ways we believe we can help these workers is by training them for the jobs of the future. That is why this government has been very committed to continually spending money on training.
    We have also looked at $60 million for helping older workers. We realize the kind of invaluable knowledge and experience they have. We realize the kind of potential they have. I think this is something that is so important, that we continue to deal with these challenging times.
    I just want to talk about some of the comments that we have heard from individuals.
    This is from Mr. Lazar, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada:
    The investments in worker training through EI, the extension of the EI work-sharing program...are welcome initiatives that will help more Canadians keep their jobs and employers hold onto talented workers.
    We have the Michelin company where 500 employees are benefiting from work-sharing. The company spokesperson, Karen Gordon, said:
    The work-share program has allowed us to avoid lay-offs and maintain our workforce...The program is a win-win-win for the company, our employees and the government and positions us well to rebound quickly when market demand returns.
    I want to say that obviously if some of these employees had to go and find other work in these situations, that when the economy does turn around and I do believe the economy will turn around, we would end up with companies that are not ready to hit the ground running. They would have lost valuable talent and valuable employees who were trained specifically in their jobs for these companies. It would make it difficult for some of these companies to rebound and be able to move quickly when the economy turns around.
    I have some other quotes that I think are worth talking about, as well. I know that as we look at some of the challenges we have had to deal with, some of these initiatives have made a whole lot of sense in terms of being able to keep the continuity going for these companies.
    I know that the NDP leader from Toronto—Danforth has said:
--without extended benefits, tens of thousands of Canadians will slide off EI and onto welfare...My party cannot, in good conscience, vote down legislation that is a step in the right direction.
    I want to finish by asking the members of this House to back this amendment here and now because it is the fair and right thing to do, so that unemployed long-tenured workers can get the benefits they deserve as soon as possible and with no penalty for the time it takes this place to pass the bill.

  (1210)  

    Mr. Speaker, as chair of our committee, my colleague has heard testimony from people about Bill C-50.
    I want to ask him a question about one of the real concerns that has been raised about this bill, which is its clearly discriminatory nature in terms of picking winners and losers, indicating that some people should be entitled to extended benefits and some should not. I am quoting now from the 2009-10 estimates where the minister herself, in touting the extra five weeks that was provided to all EI beneficiaries, says:
--including extending five extra weeks of benefits, which is now only available in some regions, to all Canadians.
    She is saying this is a good thing because it goes to all Canadians regardless of their circumstances and what industry they come from. That is a good point. There is some sense to everybody getting benefits equally.
    However, this bill goes in the other direction. This is now saying that some people should be entitled to benefits and some should not.
     I wonder if my colleague could address the discrepancy between those two positions taken by the same minister.
    Mr. Speaker, there were a number of different options on the table and obviously one was to eliminate the waiting period. We have tried to affect the most amount of people as possible.
    We heard that a number of people have been working in these industries for many years and have always paid into the system but never collected. Now that the economy has turned around on them they have not been able to collect some of these benefits for the length of time that they feel might be helpful.
    We are hopeful that the economy will turn around. If we could add extra weeks for the people who have been paying into EI for many years, then they would have the opportunity to find work or hope for the economy to turn around so they could go back to the places they had been working before.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my Conservative colleague mentioned the fact that this bill is basically aimed at so-called long-tenured workers. What he did not say is that these workers have all been working for more than seven years. Other conditions also apply. They must have paid at least 30% of the annual maximum EI premiums for a number of years and they must not have received regular EI benefits for more than 35 weeks.
    First of all, my colleague should recognize that, as it stands now, this bill targets only 6% of unemployed workers and that the amendment proposed today will make these new measures even less accessible. I want my colleague to consider this. He may refer to Motion No. 1 that proposes new subparagraph 1(a)(i), which reads as follows:
in respect of a benefit period established for the claimant on or after January 4, 2009 that has not ended on the day on which this subsection is deemed to have come into force—
    This means that, right now, two large regions of Quebec are already totally excluded, namely Quebec City and Hull, and that as early as next week, four more regions will be excluded.
    Is my colleague willing to admit this?

  (1215)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way works hard and works well on our committee.
    One of the things that was of a concern when we looked at the economic action plan was the fact that maybe more EI benefits needed to be added. That is why we looked at an additional five weeks for everyone.
    This government has taken a number of initiatives. Work-sharing was one of those, as was freezing EI premiums. There are a bunch of other issues and things that we have done.
    People have worked 7, 10, 15, 20 years in some of these industries and these industries have been strong. They have done great things for their communities. Here they are in this position, through no fault of their own, because of what has happened in the economy.
    It was decided that because some of these industries are the staple of their communities, they needed extra help. That is why we looked at extending from 5 to 20 extra weeks for some of these long-tenured workers.
    Mr. Speaker, we are here today discussing Bill C-50, which has now come back from committee.
    The position of the Liberal Party has not changed on the bill. We think that there are numerous problems with this bill in terms of what it does to impact people who were the victims of a very difficult recession in this country.
    It was a very interesting process at committee. Normally, at a committee, when somebody comes with a bill, particularly a government bill, we have a number of witnesses who say, “I like it. Go ahead”, and others who say, “I do not like it. Stop it”. What we had this time, and I am sure the member for Chambly—Borduas would concur with this as well as other members of the HR committee, were largely two groups of people who came to the committee.
     We had people who came and said, “This is not a good bill. This is a discriminatory bill. It does not help enough people. It does not go back far enough. It does not do enough to cushion the blow of this recession. You should vote it down”.
    We had others who came to the committee and said, “We do not like it. It is not our priority for employment insurance. We know that there are further changes that are necessary, but with these guys, we better take what we can get. In light of that, perhaps you should support it and try to get something else”.
    We have been talking about employment insurance in this House, as Canadians have in the country, for the better part of the last year. Before that, it was an issue, but particularly in the last year with this recession, people have been very concerned. What have people been asking about? What have people called for in terms of EI?
    For a number of years, we have had public sector unions, policy think tanks and a host of people who have looked at this issue. They have said that there are ways in which we can adjust EI. I think we can all understand that. They have said, “There were changes made in the 1990s as a result of the economic circumstance that this country was in. Maybe we should look at what we did then. Maybe it is time to have some new reforms. What would you do?”
    There are people who have been talking for a long time about changes: a national standard of 360 hours or some such variation on that national standard; eliminating the two week waiting period, as our colleague from Brome—Missisquoi has in a private member's bill that will be coming back to this House; increasing the rate of benefits from 55% to 60%; looking at the divisor rule; and looking at how we calculate benefits and perhaps going to the best 12 weeks.
    There are all kinds of ways that we can change employment insurance. I would not say that we should do all of those things. I am an advocate for employment insurance reform. I do not know exactly what I would do, but I know I would not let it go the way it is now. I know that I would invest in employment insurance so that people who need the benefit can get it.
    I do not think people are fully aware in Canada that our EI system is not as robust as most nations to which we want to compare ourselves. We think we are very generous in terms of employment insurance. We should keep in mind that this is the money that employers and employees have put aside for difficult times, but our system does not fare well compared to some others.
    In the 1990s, when the economy was good and it was strong and we had surpluses, we reduced EI premiums for both the employers and employees for 12 years in a row. That was one period of time. We could argue about what should have been done then, but in a recession, in a difficult time, this is when we should invest in EI.
    We have had the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Caledon Institute, the CLC and the CAW telling us what things they would like to see, but it is not just them. TD Economics is urging the government to immediately ease the VER and extend EI. VER is the variable entrance requirements. We need to ensure that people get access to EI across the board.
    The Canadian Chamber of Commerce gave advice to the government last year, when it suggested that the federal government could consider temporary measures to ease access to EI during the recession, reducing the number of weeks required to qualify for benefits and suspending the two week waiting period.
    That was the Chamber of Commerce in December saying we should look at the two week waiting period. The CSN referred to the waiting period, the universal entitlement of 360 hours, and increasing the benefit level.
    The wife of the Minister of Finance gave him very good advice earlier this year when she suggested, in her complaints:
--many people who lose a job cannot qualify for EI under current rules. Ideally, the federal government will quickly reform EI to better meet Ontario's needs.
    She was talking about a standard for employment insurance that would better meet the needs of Canadians, and in her case, of Ontarians.
     We had all the premiers, it seems, in the country, all the western premiers, suggesting that we needed to do something about a national standard. We had the premier of B.C. saying that if people fell off EI, then they were going to go onto the provincial welfare rolls.

  (1220)  

    We had premier after premier saying that something needed to be done to reform EI but Bill C-50 does not do that. It is clearly not enough.
    Members of the House have put forward private member's bills. In March, the New Democrats put forward an opposition day that called for the elimination of the two week waiting period, a national standard of 360 hours going to 60% of insurable earnings, going to a best 12 weeks divisor and referring to some kind of a self-employment piece. Those are the priorities of the New Democrats, which I think reflect the priorities of many Canadians. Bill C-50 is woefully short on that measure.
    The head of the CAW, in referring to Bill C-50, said that Canadians “need a full loaf of bread”. He suggested that it was just crumbs.
    Armine Yalnizyan of CCPA indicated that the program's restrictions act against the nature of much of Canada's industry.
    Laurell Ritchie of the CAW said that it was only handfuls.
    The bill has not received any kind of universal enthusiastic support. Some people have said that perhaps we need to take what we can get and move on, but we need to look at this seriously and ask whether this is good legislation and whether we can seriously adopt a piece of social infrastructure that discriminates against so many Canadians.
    The government's own estimates are that 190,000 people will benefit. I do not know if that is true. I asked people at committee if it was true but they could not tell me because they did not have access to the kind of information that HRSDC does. What does the government do with that information?
    In the summer, I remember the Conservatives suggesting that a 360 hour national standard would cost $4.4 billion. The next week they apologized and said that it would be $2.5 billion. It turns out that it would be less than $1.3 billion. Therefore, we do not have a lot to work with on this.
    Pierre Céré came to committee on Bill C-50 and said:
    
    First, we disagree with the approach taken. The government has chosen to use legislation to play a political trick...when [on September 14] it could simply have announced a pilot project....
    He suggested that it did not even have to be in legislation. He also said “the problems with the employment insurance system have not been addressed at all, including the pressing problem of eligibility”.
    At the end of July this past summer, the 10 premiers of the 10 provinces called on the Prime Minister to resolve this problem. Most Quebec municipalities signed a declaration demanding that the eligibility question be solved at the federal level. The FCM, as well as many economists, observers, associations, unions and even the churches called on the government to resolve the eligibility problem.
    We have a bill that is a discriminatory. As I referenced earlier in a question for my colleague, the chair of our committee, the minister herself, in touting the five week extension, said that extending five extra weeks of benefits which was then only available in some regions to all Canadians. So she is saying that what we are doing is giving a benefit that some Canadians have to pilot projects and we are giving it to all Canadians. What could be more fair?
    Now we have a circumstance where the government has introduced a bill that picks winners and losers. It does not cushion the blow of what is called the early shock troops of the recession, those who lost their jobs a year ago now and are not eligible for any of the benefit no matter how long they have been on EI. We do not think that is fair.
    The conundrum that we have as a party is what to do in this circumstance. We do not want to see people further disenfranchised. For example, when the bill came to committee it would have come into force in a way that meant if we gave it suitable study it would mean people who were laid off after January 4 might not get benefits. We indicated at committee that while we did not support the bill, one of the reasons we did not support it was that it did not affect enough workers. We certainly did not want to disenfranchise any more.
    In our view, Bill C-50 is not a suitable response to the recession. It decides that some people are worthy of employment insurance and some are not. We do not think that is the way Canadians look at our social infrastructure system. We do not think that would be done with medicare or with any other social infrastructure. We think it is the wrong way to go about it. It is not a suitable response and we will be voting against the bill when it comes back.

  (1225)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, for shedding some light on this debate.
    This bill is not worthy of being passed. I think that the member was absolutely right. It is a Conservative bill or, more accurately, an NDP bill. The NDP leader said that he asked for it himself. He gave himself a pat on the back. I do not know if he will be doing the same today.
    The member also spoke about the fact that this is a discriminatory bill. It also appears as though he had some doubts about the number of unemployed workers who would be affected by this bill. He is not the first to question that. The government is claiming that it will cost $1 billion, and we have asked senior departmental and NDP officials how they reached this figure. We never got an answer.
    Did the Liberals get one? If so, can they tell us how this figure was arrived at, and whether it is correct?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises a good point. He expressed his view at committee in terms of the affront that this was to Parliament and particularly to our committee.
    On October 6, the minister came to talk to us about this bill. One question raised was how she came up with 190,000 people affected and $935 million total benefit. She said that she would get back to us. In fact, we did not get an answer until we went into clause by clause. It was either my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst or my colleague from Chambly—Borduas who actually asked for those answers to the questions we asked at the first meeting, and then we got an answer. That is totally unacceptable.
     A member of the Conservatives said that we did not keep asking. When we ask for information at a parliamentary committee and we are told that we will receive the information from the minister and her officials and we do not get it, that is indicative of how the government goes about its business, particularly on EI. I think it is shameful.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.
    He said that workers need help. We are experiencing an economic crisis and more. My Liberal colleague was at the meeting of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The president of the Canadian Labour Congress, like the other witnesses, said that he was not enthusiastic about the bill. He thought it did not go far enough, and that more changes needed to be made to EI. The Liberals' cuts in 1996 took a toll on workers. However, at the end, he asked the committee and all the parties to vote in favour of the bill, because he did not want workers to be denied what little they have been offered.
    How can the official opposition vote against something, when it is clear that the organization representing the largest number of workers in Canada is asking them to support it? One women said that her EI was running out, and she asked members to pass the bill. How can the Liberals vote against this bill, when they were the ones who made the cuts to EI in 1996?

  (1230)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, a number of people said that they did not like it, that they did not think it was a priority but that it was all they would get from the government. That is hardly a ringing endorsement.
    However, in terms of supporting this, in January, the government's inadequate response was an extra five weeks for everybody and more money for employment and training. That was much more than Bill C-50 but members of the NDP voted against it. In their defence, they had indicated that before they saw it, so they have a certain defence in that case, but that was for everybody. They voted against it and they condemn us because we stand up against a discriminatory bill that hurts some people. I do not think that is consistent.
     Bill C-50 is not the right response to the current economic conditions and we are opposed to it.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the House on my party's behalf about this important bill, Bill C-50.
    I think it is important because it shows the Conservative government and the NDP's true colours when it comes to employment insurance. It is quite disturbing. This is a bad bill, and we do not support it.
    We are not the only ones in Quebec who do not support this bill. People are pretty much unanimous. Unions are unanimous, and they represent 1.2 million workers. If we consider the families of those workers as well, over 2.5 million of the 8 million people in our province are against it. So are all unemployed workers' organizations.
    The people most affected by this bill will be unemployed workers, and their organizations do not like it. I will go on to explain why they do not like it. The forestry industry is unanimous in its opposition as well.
    The Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners has spoken out in favour of this bill, but when asked if people in Quebec felt the same way, they said no. We came to the same conclusion. The reason such unanimity exists in Quebec is that the Conservatives are turning their backs on Quebec, and so is the NDP.
    Why does everyone agree on this? My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour explained why earlier: this bill is discriminatory because it introduces the utterly distasteful and unjustified principle that unemployed workers fall into two camps: good ones and bad ones. This bill is also mean because it is designed to exclude as many people as possible.
    Earlier, my Conservative colleague said that this bill targets long-tenured workers. It is arbitrary because it excludes workers who have worked fewer than seven years. Nobody who has worker fewer than seven years will be affected by this measure or benefit from it.
    In addition, all workers who have worked for more than seven years but who did not contribute 30% of the employee's premium for 10, 12 or 15 years, for example, depending on their situation, will also be excluded.
    And individuals who have been unfortunate enough to receive employment insurance for more than 35 weeks will be excluded, even if they have worked for more than seven years. Who is left? Not very many people, considering that everyone with a precarious job is also excluded. When we do the math based on the government's approach, we reach the conclusion that only 6% of EI recipients can hope to benefit from this bill. That is a far cry from 190,000 unemployed. We are talking about roughly 47,900 people.
    When officials come to talk to us about 190,000 unemployed, they say that this will extend over three years and so we have to multiply by the number of generations of unemployed. At that rate, we could say that instead of spending $21 billion a year on national defence, our government will spend $420 billion because the spending is spread over 20 years. You can take that sort of logic to extremes. But, in a budget debate, the government is used to quoting figures based on a snapshot of the economy at a given point.
    How many workers are unemployed at present? Between 1.7 million and 1.8 million. How many people are receiving benefits? There are 765,000. If we take that figure and multiply it by 6%, we get 45,900.

  (1235)  

    Why is the government misleading the House and the public? By inflating the figures, it is trying to make people accept the unacceptable, namely principles that are completely disgraceful and totally discriminatory. That is what the NDP is doing. The government is making entitlement contingent on hours of employment, how much the claimant has paid in premiums and how many weeks of benefits he or she has already received.
    The Conservative member said that long-tenured workers are people who have worked hard, as if everyone else had not worked hard. He said that they are people who have paid taxes, as if everyone else had not paid taxes.
    We do not buy that. We cannot support that. Parliament is going to support discriminatory rules, but we are totally opposed to that. This bill is a symbolic political gesture that the government is trying to justify by dressing it up in lace and frills. It is also an insult to people's intelligence. It is important to say here that the government is not going to address the need for comprehensive EI reform with piecemeal measures like these, which create good and bad classes of unemployed workers.
    The parties, including the Conservatives, have agreed on some measures in the past, measures that we in the opposition unanimously agree on here today, including for example, improving accessibility to employment insurance, since the majority of workers have been deliberately excluded from EI benefits. The previous government wanted to accumulate a surplus and use that money for other things. So unemployed workers and employers were relieved, not to say robbed, of $57 billion. The government used that $57 billion for other things.
    These measures include the 360-hour eligibility criterion with, of course, the possibility of a 70-hour reduction, based on the number of unemployed workers per region. Instead of 45 weeks, 50 weeks of benefits are needed, as well as 60% of earnings. At present, people received 55% of their income. These are some of the measures on which we agreed. Our NDP friends have been fooled by the smoke and mirrors, and have forgotten these crucial measures, along with the notion of being entitled to benefits based on good faith. Furthermore, the two week waiting period must be eliminated.
    Instead, we have a government that has locked up the employment insurance fund. It is making sure that premiums remain at their minimum, so there are not enough resources to improve the system, even though everyone agrees that the current problem is not related to premiums. People are willing to accept higher premiums in order to benefit from social measures that will allow people who unfortunately lose their jobs to continue to feed their families.
    We are seeing the old Conservative theory of taking away every possible means, so they can later justify the fact that they do not want to improve conditions for our citizens. The Conservatives did this with the GST. They are doing it again with employment insurance premiums.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, in a way, the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas is accusing the NDP of wanting to pass Bill C-50 with the Conservatives. I am in favour of this bill. We have said that we will vote in favour of this bill. However, it is as though the hon. member from the Bloc is trying to tell us that no one in Quebec would benefit from this. As though no one has worked 12 months a year in the last seven to ten years and no one is affected by this economic crisis.
    I agree with the hon. member from the Bloc when he says that we need more than this and that everyone should benefit from it. He is very familiar with our bills. We are familiar with theirs. We have worked together. It is true that we want better than this, but there is a bill currently on the table.
    My question for him is the following: is he prepared to say that in Quebec no worker will benefit from this bill and that the workers he is saying no to will be pleased? People who have worked for 10 or 15 years and who are going through this economic crisis would lose the little bit that the House of Commons is giving them. We are not voting on a budget, but on a specific bill that could help certain workers. I am proud of that and I will say so in my speech. At least we will be helping, even if we are not in the government. A government is in place and it is offering something for workers. This is not the first discriminatory bill. I have seen the Bloc vote in favour of similar bills that were not good for all Canadians. I will talk about that later in my speech.
    I would like to know whether the hon. member is prepared to say no to certain long-tenured workers who have lost their jobs in Quebec during the economic crisis.
    Mr. Speaker, first of all, the problem is to find them and then, when we do, they are represented by unions and associations representing the unemployed, which say that rather than putting in place a measure that discriminates against their colleagues, they prefer to continue fighting for a more equitable measure. That is why Quebec is unanimous.
    I see that the NDP, like the Conservatives, has turned its back on Quebec. That is their decision, that is their right. However, I would like to ask my colleague a question. He is one of the members who told the minister that he would vote for the bill because the cut-off date had to be eliminated, meaning that we must quickly adopt the bill to ensure that people can benefit from it nevertheless. I do not know if he realizes it, but the amendment allows the government to do indirectly what it said it would not do directly. I refer him to clause 1(a)(i), which indicates that those who obtain benefits at a later date are not included.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Chambly—Borduas, who is passionate about this subject.
    Would it make sense if we had a health care system and the government would decide that those who had not used this system should have more access to it because they were more deserving of health care than those who consistently used the system? There is a parallel between seasonal workers who need to use the system, who then get penalized under this bill and are told they are not as deserving as others. Does he see any parallels along that line?

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has given a very good example. It can be applied to health care. Say that you have already used the health care system. According to this principle, you would no longer be entitled to use it. You would have to come back in seven, ten or fifteen years. That is the yardstick. The same thing would apply, unfortunately, if you had a piece of furniture in your living room that burnt and you called your insurance agent. Six or seven years later, when something else burns, you want to file a claim with your insurance company. However, you are told that you will have to wait another year. It is the same principle, except more serious because we are not talking about goods but about real life and the quality of peoples' lives.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50 and, at the same time, to see the Bloc Québécois, which accuses us of siding with the Conservatives, siding so strongly with the Liberals, the grandmasters of EI cuts. I was listening to the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour talk about how discriminatory this bill was, how it does not help all people, all workers. He was wondering how the government could be doing so little in a piece of legislation put forward during times of economic crisis.
    I do not want to speak only of the Liberals in my speech, but I recall that, in 1996, there was a crisis in the fisheries industry in the Gaspé, in New Brunswick and throughout Atlantic Canada. This industry was going through a crisis, and that was when we experienced the worse cuts to employment insurance. Strangely enough, at the time, the Liberals were not concerned about discrimination. In some places, 700 hours of work were required, and in others, 420 hours. Claimants were all workers, good hard-working people. Yet, there were different classes of workers. In some regions, in spite of having worked more hours, workers did not qualify for EI. It is funny how we did not hear anything about discrimination at that time. This morning, however, all we are hearing about is discrimination.
    Ask me the following questions and ask them of the NDP. Does the bill go far enough? Absolutely not, not at all. This is not an NDP bill. It is a government bill. We have looked at the bill. Are we happy with it? Absolutely not. We are not happy with it. Is the employment insurance system the same for everyone? Did the Liberals vote with us on the 360 hour standard of eligibility? They never did when in power. Did the Liberals approve the 12 best weeks formula when in power? Of course not. We have seen people suffer in our region because of the cuts to EI. Who has made EI what it is today? They should not come and suggest today that the current economic crisis is to blame. We had an economic crisis in our region at those days, and the human resources minister was from Atlantic Canada. It was one of our own who, as a minister, made cuts to EI. If we want to talk about discrimination, there has been discrimination in the past and there is still discrimination today.
     But can we say no to a particular group? I know the Bloc Québécois is pressing the question of whether it is $1 billion and 190,000 people. I hope we will never reach that number. I hope that people will not lose their jobs. I hope they will not need to claim employment insurance benefits. But what am I going to tell people back home, when last week, Aliant said it was closing its doors in Bathurst and Shippagan? What am I going to tell people back home, when TNS Canadian Facts, another call centre company, has announced this morning that it is closing down in Bathurst? These are people who have worked there a long time and are not eligible for employment insurance. If we do this, at least, people will be entitled to benefits. Their benefits will be extended.
     I am certain that Quebec is not exempt from this. There is an economic crisis in Quebec as much as anywhere else. When the Bloc Québécois member says that Quebec and Quebeckers are being ignored, that is not true. This is not a bill put forward by the NDP. We are not ignoring them. There is a bill and there are people in Quebec who are going to have the chance to receive benefits. The fewer unemployed, the better it will be, just as it is where I come from.
     How can we say no to these people? Some will say that we have opposed certain employment insurance measures at certain times. Yes, we said no to certain changes to employment insurance when they were part of budgets, when the government wanted to freeze public service salaries, freeze RCMP salaries, when they told women they would not be able to go to court if they wanted pay equity. When we looked at the budget, yes, we voted against it because it was a bad budget that was going to harm other people. In this case, yes, there are people who are not receiving benefits and we would like them to receive benefits. Yes, I would like the people back home, the seasonal workers, to be able to receive employment insurance. Yes, they have been working for years.
     Last week I spoke with a woman from Prince Rupert who is a union representative. She explained that the same thing is happening where she comes from as where I come from. There are closings in the fish plants and closings in the fishery. It is the same problem.

  (1250)  

     How many times have we voted on bills in this House when they were not for the benefit of all Canadians? For the five additional weeks we voted on three or four years ago, that was only because the unemployment rate was at a certain level. Not everyone was entitled to the five additional weeks. When we went for the 14 best weeks, not all Canadians, and not all Quebeckers, received that. At that time, the Bloc Québécois voted for the measure. It was discriminatory, everyone should have known that.
    Today, we have a bill that can help a group of people. This is what we must vote on, and the decision we must make is whether or not we will grant that help. The Bloc Québécois has decided to vote against the bill. That is their right, and I respect that. The Liberals have decided not to help long-tenured workers, people who have worked for whatever number of years is required in the bill. They will not support it. That is right. The NDP has decided that even if there is not much money, we can still take it out of the EI fund to give to these workers. I would prefer to give the workers this money than to leave it in the consolidated revenue fund, where the EI fund's $57 billion surplus is found. That is what the vote will be on. Do we want this money to be taken out of the consolidated revenue fund, where it went in the big Ottawa theft from the EI fund, and given to certain workers?
    The Canadian Labour Congress appeared before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities and made it very clear. The president, Ken Georgetti, very clearly said that he was not happy, but that he still wanted us to vote in favour of the bill. He said that his members across the country are in need, and that is why he does not want us to vote against the bill.
     The Quebec labour unions also appeared. The FTQ representative said that instead of a bill, it could have been a pilot project. He was not very happy it was a bill and was not in favour of it. A pilot project would have been just as discriminatory as a bill. I fail to see the difference. People can go and read the blues, the record of the discussions. He said it very clearly. He said it should have been a pilot project. I asked him what that would change. He told me he would not have had to come here and argue about something that was not going to happen anyway. He was not really opposed to working people getting it. When he said it could have been a pilot project, I inferred that would have been acceptable. The government certainly could have decided to have a pilot project. That would have been faster. It would have been done and finished, as they have with other bills. But we do not have a pilot project today, we have a bill. We are stuck with saying yes or no. The Liberals took a $57 billion surplus from the employment insurance fund in 1996. They are the ones who made this change during an economic crisis in the Atlantic region. There was then and still is an economic crisis there. When someone asks whether we have been affected by the economic crisis, we say we have been in it for 100 years. We know all about it. This is not the first time we have been mistreated by the Liberals or the Conservatives.
     The biggest mistake in the employment insurance system was back in 1986 when the government decided to take the EI money and put it into the consolidated revenue fund. Employment insurance has been the government’s cash cow ever since. Who is dependent on employment insurance? It is not working people any more, it is the government, because there are big surpluses in it.
     Is the NDP ashamed to vote in favour of this bill? Not at all. It will not do anyone any harm and will help some people in Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia. Does it go far enough? No, it does not. The NDP has bills calling for 360 hours, the best 12 weeks, getting rid of the two week waiting period, and giving employees 60% of their salaries. These are bills that have been tabled by the NDP and we have more of them. We have 12 of them, while the Bloc Québécois has only 6. Does Bill C-50 go far enough? No. Will it help working people? Yes, and the NDP is proud to vote in favour of this bill.

  (1255)  

    
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is quite right to say that they are stuck with this bill.
    However, his leader did not say he was stuck with this bill. On the contrary, as soon as the bill was introduced, he rushed to the lobby to tell people that he had called for these measures and that this was a victory for the NDP. It is $1 billion. We are therefore stuck with this bill today.
    I do not doubt my colleague's passion, and I greatly admire the way he defends the unemployed. But I find it incredible that he is defending the indefensible measures the Conservatives have put forward. He is doing the work of the Conservatives. It is unimaginable. The CLC told us half-heartedly that it was in favour of this bill, but it has also abandoned Quebec. The FTQ is fundamentally opposed to the bill.
    There is one question my colleague did not answer, so I will ask it again. I know that he feels very strongly about this amendment, because he said that there should be no deadline that would delay its adoption. But paragraph (a)(i) of Motion No. 1 reads as follows:
in respect of a benefit period established...on the day on which this subsection is deemed to have come into force—

[English]

    Order, order.

[Translation]

    Order, please. The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst.
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud that my leader pointed out that we called for changes to employment insurance and that now we are seeing changes.
    The Bloc Québécois leader is not in a position to stand up and say that he called for changes to employment insurance and got them. I do not think that the Bloc has anything to boast about. Maybe the Bloc feels sad that it did not get anything for Quebec workers. Maybe it feels jealous that the NDP did. Maybe that is what they find so disheartening. Maybe that is why my Bloc colleague is feeling so discouraged.
    But maybe he doesn't feel that way because he is glad that the NDP will be voting for this bill. Maybe he would be upset if the NDP voted against it. He would be terribly upset if the NDP said no to all those Quebec workers. That is why he is glad that he can hide behind the NDP and not vote for the bill because the NDP will vote for it. That way, his party can keep up its NDP-bashing.
    Maybe it would be better if, instead of talking to unions, the Bloc talked to workers who have no money and whose benefits are about to run out. We want to give these people up to 20 extra weeks of employment insurance benefits. Maybe the Bloc should talk to workers. Maybe it should talk to a single mother who has lost her job and has no money for her kids. Maybe it should ask her if she thinks that Bill C-50 is a good idea. I am sure that she would tell my colleague that he is making a terrible mistake.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, you do such a wonderful job in this House cooling the passions.
    I had a phone call last week from a worker who is going to lose his house this winter. He exists. He is not a phantom. He is not against Quebec as the Bloc members try to say. That worker called me and asked how quickly this was going to come through because he is in the January cutoff. He asked why this is being debated and I told him that I did not know. This is an issue about one piece of EI legislation that needs to get out.
     I long ago realized with the Bloc members that I do not know how they rattle the I Ching bones in their tent on how they vote on an issue, but the Liberals voted to kill pay equity for women and did not lose an ounce of sleep. They voted to get rid of environmental protection on our riverways and did not lose an ounce of sleep. They voted to deep-six Kyoto and did not lose an ounce of sleep.
    Now the Liberals come into the House and say that they cannot support any change to EI unless it is a change of everything. I am amazed at the cynicism of the Liberal Party. I gave up on the Bloc ages ago.
    There is $1 billion on the table that is going to help workers. It is helping workers in my riding and ridings across Canada.
    Why does my colleague think that the Liberals are putting the political aspirations of their leader who could be on EI at any time ahead of average working Canadians?

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, if I see Liberals on EI, I will not be sorry because I saw how many people they put on EI and how many people they took off EI when people were still in need.
    This is about a billion dollars or half a billion dollars. I hope it is $100,000. I hope people do not lose their jobs, but if they lose their jobs, we need to have something in place to help them.
    Does Bill C-50 go far enough? No. That is not what we are asking for. We have been asking for more than that for the workers. In France, people are looked after. Even the United States brought its EI up to help the workers who had lost their jobs.
    This does not go far enough. The Liberals and the Bloc say no to the workers all across the country, including in Quebec.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the House about a technical amendment we would like to make to Bill C-50. We are seeking to establish a fixed date of January 4, 2009 for eligibility.
    This is our government's proposed legislation to temporarily extend employment insurance regular benefits for unemployed long-term workers. Bill C-50 would give these workers additional weeks of employment insurance while they look for jobs. In the original draft of the legislation, the start date for eligibility was tied to the date of royal assent. However, if royal assent is delayed for any reason, there could be a negative impact on employment insurance clients. That would be unfair.
    To ensure that long-tenured workers can get all of their additional weeks of EI regular benefits regardless of timing of royal assent, we are proposing to establish January 4, 2009 as the only eligibility date. We would then remove the reference to an alternate timeframe of nine months prior to the coming into force of the legislation.
    This would ensure that all long-tenured workers who lost their jobs in 2009 would be eligible for additional weeks of benefits, regardless of the length of time needed to approve the bill. We estimate that about 190,000 Canadian workers would benefit from these measures. The establishment of a fixed date would not affect the ability of long-tenured workers to claim extended benefits until September 11, 2010, nor would it affect the payment of these extended benefits into the fall of 2011.
    Let me explain. For example, Jason has been working in a plant manufacturing cars for the past 15 years. At the beginning of 2009, there was a drastic reduction in demand and by January 9, he had lost his job. He applied for EI and was entitled to receive EI regular benefits until December 11. Because of the fixed date of January 4 eligibility, Jason would be eligible to receive additional weeks of anywhere from five to 20 weeks under Bill C-50.
    Long-tenured workers have worked hard and paid taxes. They have paid their EI premiums. It is only right and fair that we should help them during this temporary downturn. Bill C-50 is a temporary measure designed to give those long-tenured workers the support they need to rebuild their lives. Our hope is that their fortunes will improve as the economy recovers. In the meantime, we want to make these extra weeks of benefits available to eligible workers as soon as possible.
    There would be a gradual transition back to the normal terms and conditions. Beginning in June 2011, the level of additional benefits would be reduced in five-week increments.
    We want to make these extended benefits available to as many unemployed long-term workers as possible and we want to get them access as soon as possible.
    I ask members of the House to show their support for Canadian workers by backing these amendments. This is just an example of what the Conservative government has done to help unemployed workers. It shows that we are willing to get down to work and make the necessary changes that are required in this global downturn.
    I go back to my riding of Prince Albert and look at the people there. When I come to Ottawa and represent them, I look at the things we have done as a government that have helped benefit those people. This amendment in Bill C-50 is an example of the work the Conservative government is doing.
    In closing, I trust that members will quit playing politics with this legislation, will get down to work and will join us in passing Bill C-50.

  (1305)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thought that the member was going to deal with the three report stage motions.
    The most important question I have for the member has to do with credibility and integrity.
    Members may recall that when all of this subject matter about helping people as a consequence of the financial crisis was raised, we were talking about the 360 hour threshold for being able to collect benefits. The government said that it was going to cost $4.4 billion and then before we knew it, it went down to $2.5 billion. Ultimately, it was shown to only be $1.3 billion.
    The minister herself has said time and time again that these benefits for these industries were supposed to be available for all Canadians, yet now it is very clear that they are not. The forestry industry, for example, is not going to be able to get a buy-in.
    Could the member rationalize why the minister would say that these benefits would be available to all Canadians when in fact they are not?
    Mr. Speaker, it is a good question. However, the reality is these benefits are available to all Canadians.
    If someone has been working, let us say, in an auto plant or another industry for a number of years and for no reason of his or her own the plant shuts down, the amendment to the bill would allow that individual to access unemployment insurance for an extended period of time, to allow the person to go into workforce, to find a job that fits his or her needs and helps the family.
    Look at what we are doing for Canadians. I am amazed by the economic action plan. The best way to help unemployed Canadians, their families and the economy is to help them get back to work. That is our number one priority and we are doing that. We are not playing politics or trying to force the government to fall for an unnecessary election like my Liberal colleagues are trying to do.
    We have added an additional five weeks and 300,000 Canadians have benefited from that. Work-sharing projects have assisted 165,000 Canadians. These are examples of the things we are doing to help Canadians in this time of global recession.
    We froze EI premiums for two years so employers and employees could keep their money. We provided an additional $60 million to help older workers because they have invaluable knowledge and experience and lots of potential remaining. That is very true. In my riding, the breadth of the knowledge of some of the older workers in the farm community is phenomenal.
    We are doing a lot of things for unemployed Canadians and we are going to continue to do that.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member.
    In circumstances where Canadians have lost approximately 500,000 full-time jobs since last fall under the stewardship of the Conservative government, help is obviously needed in the economy for these workers. Blame is not the issue. People are unemployed and they need help.
    My question is twofold.
     First, why is it fair to distinguish between what the Conservatives would call good or long-tenured workers as opposed to people who do not fit in this category? The Conservatives are essentially rewarding long-tenured workers who are now unemployed and not helping everybody else. What does he think about that?
    Second, as an example, there is no help whatsoever for seasonal workers, such as people in the fishery or forestry industries. Some of the most hard-hit industries are getting nothing from this legislation. I am sure, being a person of good conscience, he must agree this is simply wrong.
    Mr. Speaker, those are two good questions.
    One thing about being in government is that one wants to be responsible. When I speak to people in my riding, they want to ensure we treat unemployed people responsibly. They actually like the idea that if people have been paying EI premiums for 15 years, they should get a little more benefit.
    I am sure the hon. member would agree. Why would he be treated the same if he has been paying premiums for 15 years as the guy who has been working for only a year? There has to be a little give and take in the system and that is what we are doing. We are allowing older workers to get jobs and giving them a bit more time to find proper jobs.
    The member is sincere when he says we should not be playing politics, but in question period or any other time in the House, that is exactly what is going on. In the agriculture committee, all the member for Malpeque does is play politics. When the member talks about playing politics and the seriousness of it, he should quit playing politics, get serious and vote for Bill C-50.

  (1310)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-50 and the three report stage motions on today's order paper. Substantively, Motions Nos. 2 and 3 are fairly straightforward.
    The first motion deals with a royal recommendation as well as a change to the number of weeks. The benefit period that determines the weeks required would be changed from what was originally debated by this place back at second reading before the bill went to committee.
    I thought it would be useful to make a couple of comments about Bill C-50 itself. Its genesis was to take into account the fact that extraordinary things happened in certain industries across the country, some more different than others, for instance, the forestry sector.
    The forestry sector, because it relies so heavily on seasonal work similar to the fisheries sector, relies on the EI system to complement its working availability. Similarly, the auto industry. If the auto industry needs to retool or rework the factory for new models or for changes in models or whatever, it relies on the employment insurance system to provide a continuity of income under the plan to fulfill its purposes.
    The petroleum industry, though, is a bit different. It does not rely on a ready and available workforce because it has down times and up times. The petroleum industry, particularly in the west, has grown enormously. We can see that by the shift in population, the demand for housing, the rise in prices of housing and all kinds of other things that happen. It had a very the stable workforce.
    When the crunch came and the price of oil went down, all of a sudden there was this exodus of people from the petroleum industry. These people are the ones who will benefit the most from Bill C-50. Most of them are long service employees. The bill will get them more benefits than they would have otherwise been entitled to receive.
    Table 1 in the legislative briefing notes lays out the level of benefits that people could get. Someone in the seven to ten year group would get five weeks. The table goes right up to 12 to 15 years. Someone in that group would get an extension of benefits of about 20 weeks. That is pretty substantial. There are a number of categories but I will not go into them.
    This was basically to look at employees who had served for a long period of time, were not regular claimants of EI, and for no reason of their own had been laid off. This would allow a super benefit, as it were, during a certain period. The amendments under report stage Motions Nos. 2 and 3 indicate that the benefit period would begin on January 4. The benefit period would be retroactive to that date rather than when the bill actually received royal assent.
    I asked a question earlier of an hon. member about the whole EI discussion. A special task force was established between the official opposition and the government to look at some of these questions.

  (1315)  

    It really concerns me that there was a void of information coming from the government representatives to the task force as to the kinds of things at which we could look. The task force was looking at the 360 hour eligibility base. If people got 360 hours within the time prescribed, they would qualify for benefits. It also was looking at the costing. It was interesting to note that the 360 hour benefit period was summarily dismissed by the government members of the task force, the minister being one, because they said that the cost of implementing the benefit level was $4.4 billion, and it was just too much.
    We would think that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, who is responsible for the Employment Insurance Act and who has a full department of people who know much it costs for a certain level, would have the tools and the resources to know approximately how much it would cost if we were to change one of the variables. That was not the case. Subsequently we had some different assumptions. In fact, the cost of it would only be $2.5 billion. That is quite a bit different. That is $1.9 billion less than the Conservatives had said when they summarily dismissed the whole discussion.
    Then after we got other third parties involved and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and that is a whole story in itself, the estimates for introducing that level benefit came down to $1.3 billion compared to what the Conservatives initially said as being $4.4 billion. How can they be more than 300% off the actual cost of introducing those changes, when they are the government, when she is the minister, when she has a whole department and she knows exactly all the variables and how they work?
    It leads to a question of credibility, and I know a number of the other members who have been concerned about the bill have been concerned about the equity. We do not have unlimited dollars and we just cannot holus-bolus spread it around. However, the minister had said very clearly, and other members have affirmed this, that this benefit was to be provided for all Canadians. It was estimated that some 190,000 people would benefit.
    When the members did their homework and when they started to look at the areas in which there was long service of employment but reliance on employment insurance benefits, some industries were more advantaged and others were not getting a fair share. This is the kind of thing that really concerns Canadians because they cannot trust the government to tell them the truth. It really comes down to that. This is exactly what the bill comes down to.
    When I look at the charts and the various gradations, somebody has gone to a lot of work to make this more complicated than it should have been. If the real intent was to assist long-service workers who found themselves all of a sudden out of work for a protracted period of time and they had not been users of the system, there could have been a very simple approach to it, but there was not. It begs the question, why?
    I know the premiers were on side to get these changes done, but the summer task force was totally shut down. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who was on the committee, told me what was happening. He said that when the government was ready, it set up a meeting and it was agreed that any of the proposals, any of the information that any party wanted the group to consider would have to be circulated to the members in advance. Not once did not happen. Every time the government members had something to submit, what did they do? They brought it and tabled it when the meeting started. They did not give anybody a chance to really understand what was there.
    It shows a lack of good faith, a failure to show that a person could be trusted. It is a sloppy bill that will not help all Canadians. It will only help some and I know who they are.

  (1320)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak to Bill C-50.
     I must admit that, when the minister and the Minister of National Revenue talked about it for the first time, in a press conference, I was rather shocked.
    It smacked of improvisation on the part of the Conservative government. Why? Purely and simply because it could have proposed something concerning EI in the budget brought down earlier in the year. What did we get? Zilch, zero, nothing. Sadly, the Liberals did not put any proposals forward. They simply made their own what the Bloc Québécois had done. The NDP, too, made further proposals.
    In its economic recovery plan, the Bloc Québécois put forth a vision and ideas for unemployment insurance. There are great problems with EI, besides what the Liberals did during the mid-1990s. The Liberal members will argue that they were dealing with a totally different problem and that their action was justified. Unfortunately, we cannot go back in time.
    It was totally irresponsible to plunder $57 billion from the employment insurance account. That $57 billion did not belong to the government; it belonged to the workers and employers who contributed to it.
    The government has never put a single penny into that fund. It was a form of insurance, which is why it is called employment insurance. It is a contract between workers who pay into it, and employers who also contribute. So that money was there just for the workers. Since the economy was much more prosperous at the time, a surplus accumulated.
    What was the first thing the Liberals did to wipe out their deficit, apart from passing it on to the provinces, as only they know how to do? They also plundered the employment insurance fund in order to balance their budget. Whenever we try to clean up this mess created by the Conservatives and the Liberals, we are not helping matters any by trying to always add more. That does not make things any better.
    What the Bloc Québécois wanted was a complete overhaul of the EI system. We must make sure the government does not have complete control over the fund and that it cannot plunder it whenever it likes. I said earlier that it smacked of improvisation. However, what is even more improvised is the NDP's response.
    I listened carefully to what the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst was saying earlier. I do not doubt his genuine desire to defend workers. Throughout his speech, he explained the many flaws in Bill C-50. Why is he supporting such a bad bill? I understand that an additional $1 billion is being spent on employment insurance, but when we look at the people who will be affected, we see that the NDP's response was sheer improvisation. It merely wants to prop up the government in order to stall for time for electoral reasons. Personally, I think that is the only reason. Why? Because when the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst was talking about it earlier, he was saying that there were some problems with seasonal workers, especially in his riding. As we know, many people in his riding work in the fishing industry, and that is seasonal work. This bill does absolutely nothing for those people. It does not help unemployed seasonal workers. That is the main problem.
    I do not understand why the NDP is supporting the Conservative government. In January, the Liberals were the Conservatives' new friends. Now we see that it is the NDP's turn. I find that sad. It sold its soul to the devil for peanuts. They could have at least tried to negotiate a little in order to get a bit more. They did nothing. The leader of the NDP is bragging that it is thanks to him that the unemployed got an additional $1 billion. I have a big problem with that.
    The reason the Bloc Québécois is against this bill is that it does not help seasonal workers. Take people in the forestry sector, for example. These are people who labour hard in Quebec's forests to try to earn a living.

  (1325)  

    They will not get any additional help from Bill C-50. The bill says that claimants cannot have received employment insurance benefits during roughly the past five years. This is extremely complicated for people in the forestry or fishery sectors. There are many fishers in Rimouski and Rivière-du-Loup. Theirs is seasonal employment.
    We see that the Conservatives have done a lot of improvising and so has the NDP. It was a vaudeville act. It is unfortunate that the Conservatives never gave us any figures in terms of the unemployed who would benefit from this in Quebec. They are not even able to tell us how many unemployed people in Quebec will be affected by this bill. There is a reason for that and it is pure electioneering. This will help workers in the auto industry. It will help people in Ontario. It will help regions where the Conservatives want to make gains in the next election. We saw that they injected $10 billion into the automobile industry. I do not have a problem with them injecting $10 billion into the automobile industry. In fact, they are injecting an additional $1 billion for unemployed people who are connected to the auto industry.
    However, I have a problem with the fact that, in these times, there is absolutely nothing for Quebec. The unemployed in Quebec are given nothing. That is the problem. I often explain the main reasons why I am a sovereignist. This is another good reason. The member for Prince Albert said that, when he returned to his riding, people were pleased. When I went back to my riding, people told me to vote against the bill because it does not help Quebec. That is why Quebec unions are against this bill. That is why the Sans-Chemise are against it. The reason is simple. Quebeckers quickly realized that this bill will not help any of our workers because it is tailor-made for the Ontario auto sector. That is the main problem with Bill C-50.
    I was saying earlier that the NDP improvised on this one. What really makes me mad is that the NDP puts on such a show about being the great champions of the unemployed, those who do not have jobs, and yet we see that this will have no impact in Quebec. It will have very little impact in the Atlantic provinces because most jobs there are seasonal.
    I am being told that I only have two minutes left but I could have gone on for hours having realized that this bill was just cobbled together. If the Conservatives really wanted to do something for the unemployed, they would have done it in the budget. They would have introduced bills well before this. They would have tried to speed up the process a little and introduced bills in January and February. We have known for months, even a year, that we are in a recession. The Conservatives have woken up one year later and, all of a sudden, introduced a bill that will not help anyone in our ridings. I do not believe anyone in my riding will be offended when I vote against this bill. On the contrary, as I took part in a great number of activities in my riding, my constituents have let me know that this is a bad bill that does not help Quebeckers.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Repentigny on his remarks about Bill C-50.
    He clearly stated that the Bloc Québécois is against this bill. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important reason is that basically, very few Canadians will benefit from these measures. Only 6% of unemployed workers can expect to benefit. The amendment in Motion No. 1 would reduce that number even further.
    I asked around in my riding and other ridings too. Nobody would benefit from this bill. Apparently the same is true for his riding. Can he comment on that? Has anyone called him or visited his office to ask him to vote for this bill?
    Mr. Speaker, the simple answer to that question is, of course, no.
    However, it is clear that my colleague from Chambly—Borduas is very knowledgeable about this issue. That is not surprising because he worked in the labour sector for years, and nobody understands the needs of unemployed workers better than he does. For years, he has been doing great work with the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. He is truly amazing, because even the minister herself does not know her own department's numbers even though they are right there on the website. The member for Chambly—Borduas needs to explain them to her. Does she even know what she is talking about?
    The problem is that the Conservatives are coming up with these feel-good bills that will not change a thing out in the real world. That is because they want to cut back on government interference, get rid of it. Of course they want to cut benefits. The problem with cutting benefits is that our people are the ones who end up suffering.
    Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask my colleague from Repentigny the other question. Has anyone in his riding come to him and asked him to vote against this bill?
    Mr. Speaker, in fact, many people have told me to vote against the bill.
    I have a very good relationship with the unions in my riding, and many union leaders have told me to vote against the bill. For example, the FTQ has told us not to vote for such a botched bill that will not help Quebeckers. The people in my riding want me to represent them, and that is a job I do humbly, but faithfully. I listen to them, and so far, they have supported me.
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the NDP is all about defending the indefensible. We are here today talking about Bill C-50 for one reason: a very important vote was held. The Liberals and the Bloc voted against the bill, and the NDP voted for it, using the unemployed to avoid an election. From that moment on, the NDP became the standard bearer for the Conservatives and the self-styled saviour of the people. But we can see that that is not really true.
    I would like to ask my colleague what he thinks of the statement that the NDP is using the unemployed to try to look good in people's eyes?
    Mr. Speaker, I will answer quickly. First, I have never seen such a heated debate in the House of Commons. It is good to see people get worked up occasionally.
    I have to admit that the NDP is doing the work of the Conservatives. It is trying to save the government's skin and pass a bill that is not in the interests of the unemployed. I find that extremely regrettable. As I said earlier, the NDP sold its soul to the devil for peanuts.

  (1335)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-50 at report stage. This is the Conservative government's bill that will amend the Employment Insurance Act to increase employment insurance benefits for long-tenured employees.

[English]

    In particular, I will be talking about the technical amendment. The amendment ensures that long-tenured workers, already receiving EI regular benefits when royal assent is obtained, have sufficient room in their benefit period to receive all of their additional benefits. We have added this amendment because we want to ensure that all long-tenured workers benefit from the additional weeks provided by the bill.
    Bill C-50 was brought on by a particularly severe global recession that led to serious cutbacks in production and workers losing their jobs. In particular, it has tended to affect workers who have held down jobs for many years, often in a single industry or who face difficult prospects of getting back into the workforce. These long-tenured workers have done their jobs and they have done them well. They have paid their taxes and EI premiums, and they have not known what it was like to have been laid off or to be looking for another job.
    What is really quite unsettling is that for many of them their benefits are fast running out and that is what Bill C-50 is all about. It is about treating workers who have worked long and hard with respect. It is helping them out in their time of need. Bill C-50 would provide from 5 to 20 weeks of additional EI regular benefits depending on circumstances and individual eligibility. In so doing, this initiative would provide these individuals with extra time to find alternative employment.
    The amendment before the House would make certain that if they are receiving or have recently exhausted their regular benefits when the bill finally receives royal assent, they would have sufficient time to receive all their additional benefits under Bill C-50. This will benefit long-tenured workers from all sectors of the economy.
    Long-term workers make up about one-third of those who have lost their jobs across Canada since the end of January and who have established an EI claim. Bill C-50 provides valuable extra time for workers who must now look for a new job. To be unemployed can be a terrible shock for someone who was not expecting it after years and years on the job.
    To ensure that workers benefit from this measure regardless of the timing of royal assent, this new provision would establish a fixed date of January 4, 2009 for eligibility. Given that the measure would be available to new long-tenured claimants up to September 11, 2010, this means payment of these extended benefits would continue until the fall of 2011. It is estimated that this temporary measure under Bill C-50 would ultimately benefit about 190,000 long-tenured workers.

[Translation]

     The amendments to Bill C-50 and Bill C-50 as a whole are part of the great economic action plan for Canada. In short, our economic action plan contains measures to help all unemployed Canadians.
     Bill C-50 tells long-tenured employees that they deserve these extra weeks to help them take charge of their lives, because they have contributed so much to their former employers and now find themselves without work for the first time.
     We are focusing our efforts on what is important to Canadians; we are helping those most affected by the recession; and we are investing in training and job creation. We have taken a lot of measures. The best way to help the unemployed and their families is to revive the economy and help Canadians return to work. This is our top priority.
     Additional measures have been put in place for long-tenured employees. They are the Canadians who have paid premiums for many years and are having difficulty finding new jobs.
     So, Canadians are benefiting from the measures included in the economic action plan. There were, for example, other measures that I will mention now. We added an extra five weeks to employment insurance, something that will help 300,000 Canadians. Job sharing has made it possible to protect the jobs of 165,000 Canadians. Freezing the EI contribution rate means that employers have more money and can create more jobs and that Canadians can keep more of their hard-earned income. Our measures include the payment of an additional $60 million to older workers, because they have inestimable knowledge and potential we must continue to tap. Finally, investments have been made to ensure that Canadians get benefits in a timely manner.
     For all these reasons, I call on my colleagues to join me in voting in favour of Bill C-50.

  (1340)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's speech.
    I think he would agree that we do not agree on very many things. I think we could begin there, as a common place. I think he would probably understand that people in Timmins—James Bay voted for me and support me because I am opposed to many of the things that the Conservative Party has brought forward and continues to support.
    However, I think the hon. member would also agree with me that in times of crisis we are called to put aside the larger differences we have if it means moving forward with pieces of legislation that can actually benefit people who would be in crisis.
    For example, we have the bill that is before us right now. Does this address the NDP's concern about EI? Certainly not. However, the difference between the position of the NDP and the position of the Bloc and the Liberals is that they will simply oppose the bill for the sake of opposing the bill.
    We want to get this legislation through because we know people who are being affected right now, who, if this bill is not going to help, will be losing their homes this winter.
    I would like to ask my hon. colleague on behalf of constituents who have phoned me and asked why this bill was being held up, what kinds of games are being played, and how soon this bill was going to get through? So, I ask the hon. member, how quickly can we get this bill done, working co-operatively, so we can get help to the people who need it?
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his support on these important measures which concern all unemployed Canadians.
    I think he is quite right in saying that this is a very positive step forward for unemployed Canadians. It is actually quite a surprise to me that the Liberals are fighting this every step of the way. In fact, I would say that our government is fighting the recession; however, the Liberal leader is fighting the economic recovery.
    I point out the Liberals because it is the Liberals who are not giving their full support to these measures. I would encourage them to give their full support to these measures. I think that, in part, responds to the question from my colleague.
    If we have all the parties working together for the best interests of Canadians, then this bill will move quickly through its process and receive royal assent.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to address a particular thing here that has come up not only in this Chamber but also in committee as well, wherein members of the opposition particularly would say that this is just one thing only. They give the impression it is a big stand-alone kind of thing. The fact is there are many other things that our government has done in respect to the unemployed. There are some good measures.
    I would like to ask my colleague with respect to his particular riding, the good riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, if our vast suite of employment measures have been helpful, and how are these measures affecting his constituents in his particular riding?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly my riding, as the ridings of most MPs, has being affected by the economic difficulties which we find ourselves in. The town of Hawkesbury, for example, is a town that is centred on manufacturing, and has had plant closures and layoffs. PGW is in the process of shutting down. Ivaco has undergone many layoffs.
    To answer my colleague's question, Bill C-50 is a very important measure for those Canadians who have worked all their lives or much of their lives in one job. In addition to the 190,000 Canadians that we are going to help, those long-tenured Canadians, we have undertaken other measures to help employment insurance help Canadians.
    We have extended EI by five weeks. This is helping 300,000 Canadians. We have expanded work-sharing. Work-sharing is used in my riding by businesses. We are helping to protect 165,000 jobs across the country. We have frozen EI premiums, for example. This leaves more money in the pockets of both employees and employers, definitely a benefit for Canadians in my riding and Canadians in every MP's riding.
    Again, I must encourage the Liberals to support our government in all of these measures but particularly with Bill C-50. They should stop obstructing positive bills like this that will help Canadians in these difficult times.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity today to put a few thoughts on the table about this very important piece of public business before us.
    I want to remind folks that there are actually two issues at play in this debate. One is whether we want to have another election, which has been spoken of and is being spoken of with great trepidation and fear by certainly many of my constituents and others across this country. The other one that is rooted in this bill is the question of whether we want to move the yardsticks on EI.
    When I spoke at second reading on this bill a few weeks ago, I called on the House at that time to work to find a way to, in a common cause, do the best that we could in the interest of protecting people out there who are really feeling the hurt of this recession that we have all been part of for quite some time now.
    I asked the different parties, the government party, the official opposition, the Bloc, and ourselves, to work together in the interests of workers and those families affected by people losing their jobs, hundreds of thousands of jobs. These jobs are not returning and many communities are still reeling, still wondering what they are going to do.
    This recession, even though it may not feel like it in here, at times, is still very real out there. When we go back to our constituencies, the people we run into on the street or in the coffee houses will tell us that it has not let up and the impact is very real.
    So, what has happened since then? How has the House responded to that request, to that plea by myself and members of my caucus to try to find some common cause?
    Well, the Conservatives, the government party, put $1 billion on the table for some part of the unemployed work community. It is not everything that we wanted. It is not everything that obviously the Bloc and the Liberals wanted. However, it is certainly a lot more than the Liberals themselves got in their discussions with the Conservatives over this past summer when they met several times over a very important piece of work on behalf of families and workers and communities out there. They came away empty-handed.
    What the Liberals decided, because they could not get any movement, any agreement from the Conservatives on this important issue, was that they wanted, instead, to have an election.
    I say the time for an election has passed, at this particular juncture. The time for an election, in my view, was last January, when all of us in the opposition benches lost confidence in the government. What the government had tabled at the end of November, the beginning December in this House, was such an insult not only to us who come to work here, who understood the depth and the breadth of this recession that was coming at us, but certainly to the people of Canada. There was nothing in that package, absolutely nothing, that reflected that the government understood that we were in difficult economic times. Those difficult economic times were extraordinary in nature, akin to, some at that time said, the dynamics of the Great Depression. People were actually then beginning to lose their jobs and lose value in their pensions as well as all of the other ways that this recession has come to affect and hurt many working families and communities across the country.
    We certainly led the charge at that time and offered to make the leader of the official opposition the prime minister, by way of the coalition. Those who took the time at that particular juncture to look at the package that we had put on the table, by way of a program for the new government, would have recognized that it included the changes that both the Liberals and the Bloc were expecting would happen by this, I guess, offering by the government to reform EI. It was all there.

  (1350)  

    We have not been shy to talk about the different efforts we have made by way of opposition day motions and by way of bills tabled in the House to reform EI to more adequately reflect the needs people have for support in their time of difficulty.
    Here we are halfway across the river. People are really struggling. When I went back home in September of this year after the Liberals announced that they were going to bring the government down and cause an election, people said to me very clearly that that was not the time for an election. That was not the time to be spending $300 million on an election which the polls showed--and yes polls change during elections--would simply result in our ending up back here with a similar makeup of government.
    When I go back to my riding even today people say to me “no election; this is not the time”. They say to me, “Tony, go back to Ottawa and see if you can find a way to work together to get something done”. People are asking because they are paying attention to what is going on here. They are asking me when Bill C-50 is going to pass, because they are at a place in their working life, and the recession is having an impact on them such that they will need the extra benefit that will come to them when this bill is passed.
    One billion dollars is a lot of money. That fact may not have been reflected in the input that we heard this morning from either the Liberals or the Bloc, but I have to say that one billion dollars, however short it may fall of the total amount that is needed in terms of reform to EI, will help a lot of people at a time when they need it most.
    As we keep the government going for the short term, we are also told that there will be legislation coming forward this week to reform EI for self-employed individuals. There are a number of people in my riding who are self-employed, who own small businesses, who are struggling just as those who work in big industry are, and they are concerned because they have no safety net. They are asking us to work with government to create a safety net that would give them some assistance when they need it, as they look ahead and see that things do not look so great for them either.
    I am also hearing via the media that the finance minister is indicating a willingness to do something on pensions and is actually talking about the very good recommendations and ideas that the NDP are bringing forward and putting on the table with regard to pension reform. We look forward to having that discussion with the government to see if we can find some common ground so that we can give some sense of confidence to people who are either looking at retirement or living in retirement on pensions that in fact those pensions will be improved and protected.
    A time for an election will come, perhaps next spring after a budget is tabled, but this is not the time. Today we need to pass BillC-50 so that one billion dollars can be put out the door and made available to workers who have lost their jobs.

  (1355)  

    Mr. Speaker, today's debate has shed considerable light on how parties work in the House with respect to certain bills.
    I have come to understand that the Bloc members are really there to block legislation that helps Canadians including Quebeckers. However, the Liberal situation is a little more difficult to understand. Earlier we heard the member for Mississauga South allude to the forestry sector as being seasonal, which goes a long way to explaining what the Liberals understand about the forestry sector.
    However, I am very pleased that the members of the NDP particularly from northern Ontario, and we just heard from the member for Sault Ste. Marie, have given some thoughtful insight into how these technical changes to the bill might help workers across the sectors.
    I was wondering if the member could expand on that a little more.
    Mr. Speaker, I did not speak to the technical pieces of this bill because they were done by others. However, I did speak to the need for us to move quickly to get this $1 billion out the door because there are lots of workers in northern Ontario who will benefit greatly from this and are looking forward to seeing it happen.
    Mr. Speaker, I serve on the committee with the member for Sault Ste. Marie and his colleague from New Brunswick, who have worked very hard in committee on the bill and asked a lot of difficult questions of the witnesses as they have appeared.
    The member commented about the interests of workers, the impact the bill would have on long-tenured workers throughout Canada and the benefits there would be for the people who have worked hard and paid into employment insurance for many years, as have many workers in the riding of Huron—Bruce.
    I wonder if the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie could comment a little more about what he feels the impacts could be in his own community. What would the constituents of Sault Ste. Marie see as the possible benefits of the bill compared to the possible benefits of having an election?
    Mr. Speaker, certainly there are workers across all of northern Ontario who would benefit from this bill passing in the House.
    In my own community, people ask me on a fairly regular basis when this bill is going to pass, because they are reaching a point where they will need it in order to put bread on the table, pay bills and buy themselves a little time until the economy recovers in such a way that they can find work. It would, indeed, help a lot of people in my own community and across northern Ontario, and for that I am thankful.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Veterans' Week

    Mr. Speaker, we have so much to be grateful for as a nation. We owe much of the peace, prosperity and freedom we so cherish to the bravery of the fine men and women who served with distinction in two world wars, the Boer war, the Korean war and many missions since.
    These were no ordinary acts of courage. Canadian soldiers fought unspeakable evil in Europe as they liberated nations and built Canada's reputation on the world stage. The same is true for Canadian soldiers serving today in Afghanistan who defend the values that we as Canadians believe in.
    As chair of the veterans affairs committee of the House and with Veterans' Week upon us, I want to encourage all Canadians to take time from their busy schedules to remember the ultimate sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and to honour our veterans.
    Whether it be in ceremonies at cenotaphs, in churches, schools, homes or workplaces, taking time for remembrance and reflection each year is the very least we can do.
    

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

  (1400)  

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, today Sikhs across the country and around the globe are celebrating the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh religion, who teaches us that all humanity is one. However, let us also take note of another date 25 years ago, when pogroms targeting Sikh homes and businesses began in Delhi.
    India has come a long way since then. Yet, for all of us who care about human rights around the world, let us be reminded that we must remain vigilant in regard to human rights violations. In a world more connected than ever before, we can stand together and ensure that such acts will remain a thing of the past.

[Translation]

31st ADISQ Gala

    Mr. Speaker, last night, the ADISQ honoured Quebec music artists at its 31st gala, brilliantly hosted by comedian Louis-José Houde.
    There was something for every taste and every generation. The group Mes Aïeux won the Félix for group of the year and album of the year, in the contemporary folk category; Coeur de Pirate was named best new artist of the year; Pierre Lapointe's album, Sentiments humains won him the Félix for album of the year in the pop-rock category; Yann Perreau won the Félix for songwriter or composer of the year; the Félix for show of the year in the songwriter-composer-performer category was awarded to the group Karkwa; and what can I say about the moving Renée Martel, who won the Félix for show of the year in the performer category?
    While Nicola Ciccone was deemed people's choice male performer of the year, the big winner of the night was no doubt the astonishing, engaging Ginette Reno, who took home three Félix awards for her song Fais-moi la tendresse.
    On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to congratulate all the artists who make us proud, here and abroad, and who so creatively express the culture and values of the Quebec nation.

[English]

Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, the Internet is a wonderful tool that allows us to gather information from around the world to better inform our lives, but at times it is abused by mischief-makers or worse.
    Today, there is an email travelling the web stating that immigrants receive more money from our government than pensioners receive in pension income. This is absolutely untrue. This racism-based email has also appeared in other countries, in each case making the same claims for that country and showing the same text and dollar amounts used in Canada.
    Immigrants to Canada are required to have sponsors who are financially responsible for them for 10 years. The federal government does not provide them any income support. Refugees, on the other hand, do receive modest income support for one year only, which is about the same amount as that received by those on social assistance.
    I would refer the members to the media section of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website at www.cic.gc.ca for their official response to these abusive, xenophobic emails.

Firearms Registry

    Mr. Speaker, responsible firearms owners in Canada are delighted that their time has finally come. Just two days from now, members of Parliament will have the golden opportunity to start dismantling the useless long gun registry by voting in favour of private member's Bill C-391.
    The registry has not saved a single life beyond the political lives of a select few who pretend the registry is effective. It has escalated to costing 500 times the amount originally estimated, which makes the cost of this registry the most excessive program overrun in the history of Canada. It is a tangled mess of unnecessary red tape for hunters, farmers and sport shooters.
    This week, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said:
    The long-gun registry has been a wasteful fiasco from inception through execution.
    We could not agree more. On November 4, we urge all MPs to gaze boldly at the big picture and support Bill C-391.

  (1405)  

2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games

    Mr. Speaker, last week, I had the honour of accompanying the Minister of State for Sport and the Canadian delegation to Greece to bring the Olympic flame for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to Vancouver.
     I must say that one of my proudest moments as a member of Parliament was joining the Canadian delegation and returning to my place of birth, Greece, for such a historic moment: to bring the Olympic flame to Vancouver and our country for the 21st Winter Olympiad.
    While in Greece, I had the honour of taking part in the official handover ceremony, in which representatives of VANOC accepted the flame during a traditional ceremony at the Panathenian Stadium in Athens, Greece.
    This signals not only the countdown to the games but also the start of the 2010 Olympic torch relay, which offers the unforgettable opportunity to thousands of Canadian torchbearers to live the flame's journey right across our country.
    I know that the 21st Winter Olympiad will be the best Olympiad ever. On behalf of all Canadians, I congratulate the organizing committee and our athletes. I wish them all good luck et bonne chance.

2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games

    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand in the House and celebrate the 100 day countdown to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver. The games will showcase some of the best athletes Canada has to offer.
    Next year, we will share in their highs and their lows, but we know that the years of training to get there are just as important. Our government is proud to support amateur sport in Canada, not just at the Olympics but during the crucial developmental years.
    Our athletes also find support in programs like Team Visa that provide long-term support to aspiring Canadian Olympians and Paralympians. This commitment is crucial to develop and prepare our athletes for success. They provide support and mentorship with former Olympic competitors in, between and during the games to prepare athletes for one of the greatest challenges of their lives.
    With glowing hearts, we salute our athletes and those who help them be faster, higher and stronger.

[Translation]

Prince Charles' Visit to Canada

    Mr. Speaker, we live in a parliamentary monarchy. Our head of state is not the Prime Minister, but rather the Queen of England.
    Accordingly, a representative of the British monarchy, Prince Charles, will be visiting Canada from November 2 to 12, at the expense of Canadian taxpayers, of course.
    We in the Bloc Québécois feel this is an archaic political system that forces us to swear allegiance to the Queen, instead of to the people, and that means that all the legislation we vote on here must be approved by the Queen's representative in Canada, the Governor General.
    We think this form of political organization is undemocratic and politically outdated. Like 86% of Quebeckers, the Bloc Québécois refuses to support this regime, which is why we will not take part in the activities surrounding Prince Charles' visit to Canada.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, our government's economic action plan proves to what extent we continue to take initiative and listen to the public's concerns. Quebeckers and Canadians are calling for action and we are taking action, nothing less.
    During these difficult times, the introduction of Bill C-50 on employment insurance is a response to the concerns of workers who fear for their jobs. Our government has developed this temporary measure as well as other assistance measures to improve the daily lives of our workers and their families.
    In opposing this bill, the Bloc Québécois and Liberal members do not realize how many workers who have had the same job or worked in the same industry their entire lives could end up having to go back to square one.
    Our government is presenting concrete solutions and defending the interests of Canadian workers and their families.

[English]

Media Literacy Week

    Mr. Speaker, this is Media Literacy Week.
    Digitalization, with its profuse social networking, is now the most used, watched and participatory medium in history. Twenty-first century media in all of its forms is a most powerful influencer, so educating the public to understand the nature, techniques and impacts of media messaging is imperative.
    Media messaging is not pure. It is influenced by commercial interests, competition for viewership and ideology. Images and comments vie for attention daily and manipulating the image and the message is tempting. Time limitations that demand simplistic sound bites for complex messages can lead to stereotyping.
    The power of the media is evidenced by many young women who measure themselves by an anorexic and unreal media image of beauty, and social networking among youth can sometimes be used to destroy reputations in perpetuity.
    The media is an important cultural and informative tool. Media literacy can help us probe, analyze and develop the critical thinking skills necessary to interpret and appropriately value media's social, cultural and political implications.

  (1410)  

Royal Visit

    Mr. Speaker, today, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will arrive in St. John's for a 12-community, 4-province tour of Canada.
    Their Royal Highnesses will make stops in communities as small as Brigus in Newfoundland and Labrador and as large as Toronto and Vancouver.
    The royal couple will tour Hamilton's historic Dundurn Castle, view the Olympic and Paralympic village in Vancouver, visit Biodôme in Montreal and participate in the national Remembrance Day ceremony here in Ottawa.
    This royal visit will allow Canadians, particularly young people, to learn more about our constitutional monarchy, one of the pillars upon which our country is founded.
    The royal visit is an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about their tradition, history and institutions.
    This tour is a celebration of Canadian innovation, national pride and of our presence on the world stage. By sharing our stories, history and traditions, Canadian identity is strengthened.
    I hope all members will join me in welcoming their Royal Highnesses to Canada on behalf of all Canadians.

Governor General's Literary Awards

    Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate Victoria's 2009 nominees for the Governor General's Literary Awards: short story writer, Deborah Willis; children's author, Robin Stevenson; illustrator, Rachel Berman; and playwright, Joan MacLeod.
    Victoria also has its own awards for adult and children's literature, won deservedly this year by Patrick Lane and Penny Draper.
    My riding is home to an extraordinary community of writers from every genre, including Michael Prince, whose Absent Citizens is a superb account of disability politics and policy in Canada; and Katherine Gibson, biographer of artist Ted Harrison.
    I am deeply grateful for these artists' contribution to Victoria and Canada's cultural fabric but I am concerned that the cost of living threatens the livelihood of many. I ask the government to make the arts an integral part of Canada's social and economic policy.

Employment Insurance

    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is focused on what matters: helping Canadians and their families weather the global economic storm.
    We have taken responsive and responsible action to help unemployed Canadians through unprecedented investments in skills training, by introducing legislation to provide extra support to long-tenured workers who have worked hard and paid premiums for years, and by protecting over 165,000 Canadians' jobs through work sharing.
    Our Conservative government remains committed to helping Canadian parents balance work and responsibilities.
    I am proud that we will be keeping our commitment to provide self-employed Canadians access to benefits so they no longer need to choose between their family and their business.
    The Liberal leader wants an unnecessary election that would harm our economic recovery. We will not let that happen.
    When it comes to following through on commitments and standing up for workers and their families, Canadians know there is only one party in this House they can trust and that is our Conservative government.

[Translation]

Quebec Municipal Elections

    Mr. Speaker, municipal elections were held in Quebec yesterday. In fact, for the second time in Quebec, 1,104 municipalities and cities simultaneously held elections in order to fill some 8,000 councillor, RCM reeve and mayor positions.
    These elections were hotly contested in some municipalities and cities. Some opted for continuity, others opted for change. We should note that many women were elected and they form a majority on some municipal councils.
    The Bloc Québécois would like to congratulate these men and women who have the courage of their convictions and decided to run for office. We would also like to congratulate the winners who, starting today, will be tackling the task of governing their municipality or city.
    We wish each and every one a collaborative and most successful term of office.

ADISQ Gala

    Mr. Speaker, the most important event of the year in the Quebec music industry was held yesterday in Montreal. Of course, I am talking about the 31st ADISQ Gala, where the Felix awards were handed out.
    No thanks to the Conservatives, Quebec's music industry continues to impress, as the Liberal Party leader, who mingled with the crowd at the St. Denis theatre yesterday evening, can confirm.
    Ginette Reno—known country-wide for her powerful voice—was honoured for her tremendous talent and went home with several statuettes.
    The roots revival group Mes Aïeux was also amply rewarded for its folk tunes that take us all back to the bygone days of our shared history.
    The next generation is also very promising. Performances by Coeur de pirate, Yann Perreau and Pierre Lapointe said it all.
    Long live our music.

  (1415)  

[English]

Firearms Registry

    Mr. Speaker, on November 4, my private member's bill, Bill C-391, which would end the long gun registry, will be voted on here in the House of Commons.
    I believe Canadians should know the facts regarding the bill, as opposed to half-truths and myths. Bill C-391 would only end the long gun registry, nothing more and nothing less. Defenders of the long gun registry want Canadians to think my bill would end licensing requirements. This is completely false and misleading.
    Under Bill C-391, any individual who wishes to own a firearm would still require a complete safety course and background check, which would include any history of violence, and the police would have immediate access to who has a licence and where they live.
    I do want to thank my colleagues from across the floor who have publicly supported ending the registry. They are listening to their constituents.
    On Wednesday, my hope is that we will all listen to the voice of Canadians, pass Bill C-391 and finally bring an end to the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the federal government has two clear responsibilities. The first is to ensure a steady and reliable supply of vaccines for H1N1. The second is to provide leadership and information on a coherent pandemic response.
    I would like to ask the government a very simple question: How could it have failed so miserably to execute these two critical responsibilities?
    Mr. Speaker, our two primary concerns have been to ensure that we have a safe vaccine and that we have an effective vaccine. We are pleased to say that six million doses of H1N1 vaccine have been delivered to our partners in the provinces and territories. We will see even more delivered this week. The vaccine is being distributed as quickly as possible.
     I am very pleased to report that on a per capita basis, Canada has more H1N1 vaccine than any country in the world. We will continue to work with our partners.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the same minister did not even say on Friday that there had been significant reductions in the supplies of vaccines across the country. He did not report that to the House.
    In August, the health minister said that no matter what happened this fall, they were well prepared.
    If they are well prepared, why is there clearly not a sufficient supply of vaccines, no coherent information and absolutely no clear leadership on this important issue for Canadians?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have seen significant leadership demonstrated by the Minister of Health. We have seen significant leadership demonstrated by Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Butler-Jones. We are working constructively with the provinces and territories and with public health nurses.
     I am pleased to say that more than six million doses are already available to the provinces and territories. Let me confirm that there will be sufficient H1N1 vaccine available in Canada for everyone who wants to be immunized. This government will not leave a single Canadian behind.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister had an opportunity to tell the House on Friday because he must have been aware that there were significant reduction in supplies to the provinces. He chose not to share that information with the House of Commons on Friday when he was fully aware of it. Those are the facts.
    On the weekend, the Minister of Health was blaming the provinces. She was blaming the drug company. She was taking no responsibility herself for what took place. Why will the government not take responsibility for the files and the issues that are clearly right in front of it? Why will it not take that responsibility?

  (1420)  

    Mr. Speaker, let me indicate to the member opposite that I do not accept the premise of his question. We have seen the Minister of Health together with the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Butler-Jones have an unprecedented amount of cooperation and partnership with the provinces and territories and with public health officials in every corner of the country.
    We are pleased to report a number of things. One is that six million doses are now available. More will come this week. There will be a dose for every single Canadian who wants one. We are pleased to say that there are more vaccines available in Canada on a per capita basis than in any other country in the world. That is because of the partnerships with the provinces and the territories and the hard work of the minister and the Chief Public Health Officer.
    Mr. Speaker, weeks ago when I spoke with public health officials across the country, they said they needed clear information on when the vaccine was coming and how much would come each week. They never received that information which they needed to plan. Now there are huge lineups at vaccination clinics. Clinics are short of vaccine. People are being turned away and clinics are being cancelled. Private for-profit clinics are getting the vaccine; thousands of needy Canadians are not.
    When is the minister going to take some responsibility for these failures?
    Mr. Speaker, for the last eight months we have been very transparent in the rollout of this vaccine. We have communicated with provinces and territories, including the critics. Six million doses were produced ahead of schedule. As soon as they were available and authorized, they were transferred to the provinces and territories for their rollout. We will see thousands more this week and one million more next week. We will continue to transfer them to the provinces and territories. They will be rolling out their vaccine programs by jurisdiction.
    Mr. Speaker, they needed the security of the date they would get the vaccine and how much each week. They have not gotten that.
    These delays and the absence of vaccines could have been prevented. What Canadians need now is for the government to take responsibility. Rather than putting the health of Canadians first, the Conservatives chose to make partisan ads their $100 million priority for the summer.
    The government is blaming the provinces and blaming the drug companies. Canadians want reliable leadership. Why do they not get it from the minister?
    Mr. Speaker, the Chief Public Health Officer and I have stated time and time again that we wanted to produce a safe and effective vaccine for Canadians. That was our number one priority, that it was safe and effective.
    As soon as the authorization was issued, October 26, the provinces and territories were able to start the process of rolling out the vaccine. We had pre-positioned them in the provinces and territories so that they could respond quickly.
    We are two weeks ahead of schedule. I will continue to work with the provinces and territories in the rollout of the vaccine.

[Translation]

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, the Pembina Institute report is clear: a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would have little impact on the economy, leaving polluters such as the oil companies in Alberta to pay for pollution. To enable companies to meet such targets, the government must introduce a carbon exchange that the paper companies in Quebec could join. But the government is refusing to go ahead with the Pembina Institute's proposal, claiming that it is divisive.
    How can the Conservatives say that implementing the Kyoto protocol targets is divisive? Is it because it is not as good for Alberta's economy and good for Quebec's?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not true. Our plan targets greenhouse gas emitters without making economic growth impossible. Quebec's economy also depends on the American market, and with its excessive targets, the Bloc is threatening the growth of a number of SMEs in Quebec. If I understand correctly, the Bloc wants to put Quebec businesses at a disadvantage compared to their American competitors. That is not what our government wants to do.

  (1425)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising that the minister for big oil is defending the oil companies. What we cannot understand, though, is why ministers from Quebec are defending Alberta's interests instead of Quebec's.
    The National Assembly of Quebec unanimously called on the federal government to meet the Kyoto protocol targets. Is there a single minister from Quebec who can explain why he or she is defending Alberta instead of Quebec?
    Mr. Speaker, let me be clear about the Kyoto protocol and Copenhagen. The objective of the negotiations in Copenhagen is to create a framework to replace the Kyoto protocol. The 192 countries in attendance will all develop national plans once the international framework is in place. Canada has negotiators who can ensure that we are respected at the negotiating table and that this framework reflects our reality. We will not sign any agreement that would go against Canada's interests. That was the Liberal approach, but it is not the approach of the Conservative government.
    Mr. Speaker, the mayor of Rivière-du-Loup is saying that the landfill and methane recapture site in his RCM will lose over $1 million a year. In the absence of any Canadian regulatory framework with absolute reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions and 1990 as the reference year, and the creation of a carbon exchange similar to Europe's, the Rivière-du-Loup plant will not be able to sell its emissions credits.
    Are the Conservative members from Quebec not bothered by the fact that they are expected to worry more about Fort McMurray's future that that of Rivière-du-Loup, which will lose over $1 million a year?
    Mr. Speaker, the Bloc and the NDP advocate a North American carbon exchange system, but with European targets. That is absurd.
    I would point out that several Liberal members also support this absurd idea. It is an indefensible, irresponsible policy that we simply cannot support.
    Mr. Speaker, I am thinking specifically of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who came to Rivière-du-Loup to strut about and who refused to defend the biomethanation project. Instead he chose to spew out the usual platitudes.
    Is he not bothered by the fact that his government's failure to act on the environment is undermining Rivière-du-Loup's economic development?
    Mr. Speaker, that is not the case. Our government will ensure that our policies protect the environment without compromising our economic recovery. Our economic reality means that our environmental policies must fit with those of our American neighbour. We currently have targets similar to those of the United States. This continental cooperation demonstrates our commitment to the environment.

Afghanistan

    Mr. Speaker, the cancellation of Afghanistan's election is very worrisome. Indeed, 133 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan in the name of establishing democracy there.
    The failure of the electoral process in Afghanistan leads many Canadians to wonder what is going on there.
    In light of the cancelled election, can the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell us whether he still supports the electoral process in Afghanistan and what we are going to do?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have always been supportive of the independent commission on complaints and also the electoral commission in Afghanistan. We continue to be.
    This is a project of Afghanistan as a people. We want to see them move ahead successfully to be able to have a democratic process for selecting their leaders. The decision made by Mr. Abdullah is certainly his decision. We will continue to support the government of Afghanistan and also the people of Afghanistan as they move toward a democratic process, the second time in modern history that they have had an election process.
    We cannot really describe it as an election process as it stands today, Mr. Speaker.
    The Prime Minister used to say that we would end our military mission in Afghanistan in 2011. We have always found that a little hard to believe. We know that the Conservatives want to keep our troops in Afghanistan after 2011, apparently to train the Afghan national army, but former chief of defence staff General Rick Hillier says, “If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army or police in southern Afghanistan, you are going to be in combat”.
    Let me ask our Minister of National Defence, does he disagree with General Hillier on this? Does he actually think our soldiers can be there without fighting?

  (1430)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am sure the leader of the New Democratic Party has read General Hillier's book word for word.
    What I will reiterate in the House, as I have many times, is that we will respect the motion that was passed here. We will respect the recommendations that were made implicit in that motion that came from an independent committee that studied the situation in Afghanistan. The combat mission for Canada will end in the year 2011.
    Mr. Speaker, another worrisome development in Afghanistan is that innocent Afghans have been labelled Taliban militants and sent to jail because of mistakes by Canadian translators. An Afghan Canadian witnessed at least two such instances. Alarms were raised and memos were written but were ignored. Afghan community leaders say that sketchy and botched translations are the biggest irritants in dealing with Canadians.
    Could the Minister of National Defence tell us how many Afghans were wrongly imprisoned because of Canadian translation mistakes and what he is doing to fix that problem?
    Mr. Speaker, clearly this is a very complicated issue involving counter-insurgency. It requires the use of local translators. DND and other departments use cultural advisers as well as Afghan translators in this process. We appreciate their help in terms of addressing the needs and the concerns of the culture and the people as we continue to rebuild that country.
    As a result of these allegations that have come forward, I have instructed the Canadian Forces department, the Department of National Defence, to look into these particular allegations and to get to the bottom of the matter.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, for the past week Canadians from coast to coast to coast have faced long lines and confusion as they wait to receive their flu shots. In my province, problems with the federal government's vaccine supply chain have forced authorities to change their priority list three times, and that is just since Friday afternoon. Some provinces have stopped vaccinations altogether. Front line public health workers are doing the best they can under these trying circumstances, but the federal government has made a bad situation worse.
    Why has the Conservative government failed Canadians so miserably?
    Mr. Speaker, recognizing that it is impossible to vaccinate 33 million Canadians in eight days, provinces and territories over the summer months established sequencing guidelines to be used by first line health care workers in the provinces and territories that deliver health care.
    The first rollout of the vaccine is six million doses that we have distributed so far. It is intended to be focused on the most vulnerable, based on the guidelines that were established with the provinces, the territories and the chief medical officers of every jurisdiction.
    Mr. Speaker, provincial and regional health authorities have been blind-sided by a lack of flu vaccine and the public has been left confused and frightened.
    The federal government had seven full months to do two primary things: provide the vaccine and send a clear and consistent message to Canadians on H1N1, the plan and the rollout.
    How is it that the federal government could get it so wrong on both counts?
    Mr. Speaker, the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer of the country and the chief medical officers was for us to complete the regular production of the regular flu vaccine. It was important to complete the regular flu vaccine because every year, on average, 4,000 Canadians die of the regular flu.
     As soon as that production was completed, we started the production for the H1N1 vaccine. In fact, we were two weeks early and distributed six million vaccines in the last three weeks to the provinces. We will continue to provide thousands more this week and millions more the following week.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the number of contradictory messages keeps increasing. Canadians no longer know who to believe. Everyone is wondering when it will be their turn to receive the H1N1 vaccine. The Conservatives had two responsibilities when it comes to H1N1: first, to ensure there would be enough vaccine for all Canadians, and second, to run a public awareness campaign.
    They failed on both counts. Why?

  (1435)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, again, this is the largest immunization campaign in the history of Canada. We will continue to work with the provinces and territories in the rollout of the vaccine.
    Provinces and territories also developed a sequencing guideline, recognizing the fact that 33 million Canadians could not be vaccinated in eight days. We had to be realistic and focused our efforts on the most vulnerable people. This was the guideline that was established and adopted by the Chief Public Health Officer of the country. The six million vaccines that have been produced to date are to be targeted to that vulnerable group.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives would at least show some leadership on H1N1, there would not be such widespread confusion. If they had been clear from the start and assumed their responsibilities, we would not be in such a mess.
    How could the Conservatives allow the opportunity to be vaccinated in a timely manner to depend on where people live or whether they go to a private clinic?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, in 2006 a plan was adopted by the provinces and territories that did not exist under that previous government.
    The provinces and territories are doing a great job in getting the vaccine out to their populations. I will continue to work with the provinces and territories in the rollout of the vaccine. Six million vaccines have been produced to date. Thousands more will be distributed this week and millions more will be available. Every Canadian who wants the vaccine will be able to receive the vaccine by Christmas.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, efforts made by Quebec and the provinces to vaccinate the public against H1N1 are being thwarted by the slow delivery of vaccine, which was prompted by a federal directive. Canada's Chief Public Health Officer said that production of non-adjuvanted vaccines will reduce the production and delivery of regular vaccines for a few weeks.
    How can the government explain that because of its lack of preparation, some vaccination clinics might have to close as early as next week?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the Chief Public Health Officer of the country recommended that we produce unadjuvanted and adjuvanted vaccines, the unadjuvanted vaccine for pregnant woman. It was important to produce that vaccine because pregnant women were identified as a high-risk group. It was important for us to focus on that vulnerable population in the country and produce the unadjuvanted vaccine.
    Before then, we distributed six million vaccines to provinces and territories. Thousands more will be sent out this week and millions more will be distributed across the country. Every Canadian will be able to receive a vaccine by December.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this week, Quebec will receive just 100,000 adjuvanted doses compared to the 400,000 it was receiving weekly for the past three weeks. Canada's Chief Public Health Officer said he did not realize there would be a shortage until last Thursday. What foresight.
    How can we trust this government when it did not see this shortage coming?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, GSK had overstated its production abilities for the last week. As soon as I became aware of the situation, I communicated to the provincial health ministers so they were aware of what was coming before them.
    Thousands will be distributed this week. Millions more will be produced next week. By Christmas, every Canadian will be able to receive the vaccine.

[Translation]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, the Fédération québécoise des municipalités and the Union des municipalités du Québec deplore the fact that they are still waiting for the infrastructure money. By insisting on entering into agreements for each individual project in each program, the federal government seems more concerned with its own visibility than the need to create jobs and rehabilitate public infrastructure.
    Why is the federal government refusing to transfer a block of funds to Quebec for infrastructure so that it can get to work quickly?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is working very well with the Government of Quebec and the municipalities in each region of Quebec. It is absolutely vital to have a good working relationship with the province. Our government respects provincial jurisdictions. It will continue to work well with Quebec and to announce and pay for good infrastructure projects in the province.

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, that is not what the representatives of Quebec's various municipal unions are saying.
    Some fear that Quebec will not obtain its share and that a number of projects will not be funded if the federal government sticks to the deadline of March 30, 2011, for infrastructure project funding.
    Given that the federal government is in part responsible for the delays, and to avoid abuse, will the government be flexible so that all funds slated for Quebec are truly invested in the Quebec economy?
    Mr. Speaker, our economic action plan is a national plan. It is mandatory, not just essential, that it create employment in the province of Quebec. That is the position of our government and of our team. We work well with the Government of Quebec and with the municipalities.
    Last month, because of the municipal elections, we were unable to announce projects. However, the elections are over and we will continue to work hard with the municipal leaders and our colleagues in the Government of Quebec.

[English]

Financial Institutions

    Mr. Speaker, it has been nine months since the Minister of Finance tabled his budget. In the past nine months the minister has failed to deliver on his promise to help consumer and small business struggling under the weight of outrageous credit and debit fees.
    Here we are some nine months later and there is still no action by the minister, except of course a rumoured quick fix voluntary code of conduct, a move that comes nowhere near addressing the damages to the credit and debit payments market.
    Where is his plan, or does he even have one?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the same concern we share about ensuring that financial instruments in our country are fair not only to consumers but to industry and small businesses as well.
    In fact, the best way to ensure fair pricing of financial services is to encourage disclosure, competition and choice. We have been working through both the Senate committee and a joint finance and industry committee in the House to ensure that we listen to Canadians and hear what they have to suggest to us for improvements.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows that Visa and MasterCard constitute 93% of the debit and credit market in the country. Some competition.

[Translation]

    That is not enough. We proposed a number of reasonable solutions to the problem, but the Conservatives have nothing to offer but hollow words. Even their answers are meaningless.
    Hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses are hoping for a little help from the government. All they want is a fair and transparent payments market.
    Why are the Conservatives turning their backs on consumers and SMEs?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, this reminds me of last week when all of a sudden the opposition Liberals decided that there actually were concerns among Canadians about their pensions. Now in one day they have a meeting. Now today they have a press conference. They are all concerned about Canadians and credit card issues.
    We have been listening to Canadians. We have been consulting with Canadians. In fact, the CFIB is suggesting that a code of conduct would be an excellent way to deal with this.
    We will be rolling out changes in the very near future. Stay tuned.

Crown Corporations

    Mr. Speaker, Robert Abdallah's name has joined those of Senator Housakos, Dimitri Soudas and Tony Accurso on the list of people at the heart of the scandal that has been rocking Montreal, and indeed, all of Quebec.
    The mayor of Montreal said that senior public servant André Delisle had raised serious doubts about Mr. Abdallah. Mr. Delisle tendered his resignation as soon as Mr. Abdallah was hired.
    What qualities did the Prime Minister see in Mr. Abdallah to try to impose him on the Port of Montreal?
    Mr. Speaker, another day, another drive-by smear by our friends in the Liberal Party.
    What Canadians want to see is a government that would be focused on the health of Canadians, that would be focused on jobs, economic growth and creating opportunities for Canadians and providing support for the unemployed.
    If the member opposite has any facts whatsoever he would like to put on the table, I would encourage him to do so here and then have the courage of his convictions to repeat them outside this place.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, before his Senate appointment, Leo Housakos was already benefiting from his privileged relationship with the Prime Minister. On December 7, 2007, he was appointed to VIA Rail's board of directors. Now, VIA Rail is preparing to award a major equipment refurbishing contract to an American company. This will cost some 500 Canadians their jobs.
    How did Senator Housakos benefit from these job losses?

  (1445)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am inclined not to dignify that type of question with a response, but I will say that VIA Rail operates at an arm's-length relation from the government. It recently awarded a contract after an open and transparent process with several bidders.
    As I have said in this place, and as others have said in this place, the government, at least at the elected level, does not get involved with who gets contracts with crown corporations.

Democratic Reform

    Mr. Speaker, Thursday the Ontario legislature will be debating a private member's bill that would see Ontario join other provinces in holding Senate nominee elections.
    Alberta has also introduced legislation to extend its process and a bill is currently being considered by the Saskatchewan legislature.
    Could the Minister of State for Democratic Reform tell us if the Government of Canada welcomes this idea?
    Mr. Speaker, our government is welcoming these developments in the provinces. We support the provinces creating processes that allow for the members, the citizens of each province, to select nominees directly.
    As the Prime Minister has done in the past, he has respected these results and is willing to continue respecting the results of the will of the Canadian people.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Steven Fletcher: Mr, Speaker, I hear heckling from the other side. I wish they would support Senate reform and enter into the 21st century.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians have legitimate concerns about how to protect themselves and their children from the H1N1 virus. They are worried, concerned and afraid and they are especially worried about the government, whose plan for pandemic planning went off the rails this past week. Canadians want some answers. They are particularly stunned to watch the rich sail by to get shots at private clinics that they cannot afford.
    My first question is, why is the minister allowing our precious supply of H1N1 vaccine—
    The hon. Minister of Health.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, six million vaccines have been delivered to provinces and territories. Thousands more and a million more will be sent out to provinces and territories.
    Canada currently has more H1N1 vaccine per capita compared to other countries and there will be sufficient H1N1 vaccine for every Canadian by December. This is one way Canadians can protect themselves from H1N1.
    Mr. Speaker, no wonder the minister will not answer the questions directly, the government that is responsible for allowing medicare to be dismantled and privatization to be brought into our system.
    We would expect the minister to give some real answers to Canadians who are living in fear and worrying about how they can get access to the H1N1 vaccine.
    Why should pregnant women have to stand in line for hours, while the rich get access to a private clinic in Toronto? That is the question. I want to know, what is the minister's plan for ensuring a safe, secure supply of vaccine for everyone?
    Mr. Speaker, the member should know by now that the provinces and territories deliver health care.
    This government has produced six million vaccines and has distributed those to the provinces and territories. Each province and territory will then roll out its vaccine campaign based on its infrastructure systems by jurisdiction.
    Currently, we have more H1N1 vaccines in Canada on a per capita basis than any other country. There will be sufficient H1N1 vaccines for every Canadian who wants it or needs it by Christmas.

[Translation]

Citizenship and Immigration

    Mr. Speaker, the hasty decision made by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to require visas for Mexicans in the middle of tourist season damaged the Quebec industry. According to Tourisme Québec, from August 2008 to 2009, the number of Mexican tourists dropped by 63%.
    Will the minister admit that his hasty, unprofessional decision has significantly harmed Canada-Mexico relations?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, we can now see how irresponsible the Bloc Québécois is when it comes to government responsibilities. The Government of Quebec asked me to take action and to reduce the number of false asylum seekers who move to Quebec and who were costing millions of dollars. We acted responsibly with Mexico, the country that has generated the highest number of asylum seekers in Canadian history.
    Mr. Speaker, if asylum seekers are causing so many problems, it is because there is no consistency in the commission's decisions. Some commission members allow nearly all requests, and others allow none. It is like a commission lottery. The only way to put an end to this anarchy is to implement the refugee appeal division, which would ensure that decisions are consistent, as proposed by the Bloc Québécois.
    When will the minister finally implement the refugee appeal division, as already provided for in the act?
    Mr. Speaker, it is sad that we are being subjected to these unfounded criticisms. According to the UN, Canada has the most respected refugee system in the world, which the Bloc describes as anarchy. Canada receives more than 1,000 asylum seekers from Mexico every month, who cost Canadian taxpayers $30 million per month, and most of them settle in Quebec. According to the IRB, 90% of these were false asylum seekers. We took action based on a request from the government—
    The hon. member for York Centre.

[English]

Infrastructure

    Mr. Speaker, last week we heard of a sidewalk in Parry Sound. Its funding comes out of support for the three-day G8 meeting next July in Huntsville, 84 kilometres away.
    The unemployment rate in the region, which includes Parry Sound, is less than half of what it is in Churchill, Manitoba, an NDP riding, and less than 50% of what it is in rural Newfoundland, all Liberal ridings. All these NDP and Liberal ridings are receiving much less in stimulus support.
    I ask the industry minister, why?
    Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased to be supportive of the G8. It is an exciting opportunity for Canada to show off to the world one of the most beautiful places on earth. The thousands of people who will attend the G8 summit will indeed stay within 100 to 150 kilometres of the site. We are going to make one of the most beautiful parts of Canada just a little bit more beautiful.
    However, some of the people in Muskoka and Georgian Bay wonder why the member for York Centre's riding is getting $333 million for a subway, when they get such a small portion of that. Maybe he could stand in his place and explain why his riding is getting more infrastructure money than any riding in the country.
    Mr. Speaker, this sidewalk runs along Seguin Street in downtown Parry Sound. While it would be nice, for example, to imagine President Sarkozy and his entourage making the 168 kilometre round trip during the G8 to pop in at Lill's Place for breakfast or to pick up a bouquet at Obdam's Flowers, I doubt it.
    This government, even in tough times, when Canadians need their government most, again just cannot help itself. Why does it insist on turning every public need, first and foremost, into a political scheme?
    Mr. Speaker, one of the most exciting things about the G8 that will support our tourism industry for many years is the thousands of people in the media from every corner of the planet who will be converging on this region. We hope that they will report on a great part of this world and a great part of Canada, and that will have tourism benefits for decades to come.
    The member opposite talks of a scheme. If there is a scheme, it must involve Allan Rock. The scheme must involve Lloyd Axworthy. The scheme must involve Dalton McGuinty. The scheme must involve people of every political stripe who have put politics aside and are working constructively with this government on our infrastructure programs.
    The fact that his own riding is getting more money than anyone else's shows how fair we are.

  (1455)  

Pensions

    Mr. Speaker, we are undeniably in the midst of a pension crisis. We only have to look as far as our own steps to the Nortel workers who demanded action from a government that has left them vulnerable and empty-handed.
    The minister responsible keeps insisting that he can do nothing because it is a provincial matter. He is wrong. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act is under federal jurisdiction and could provide recourse.
    When will the minister stop pretending his hands are tied and do his job to protect the pensions of Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, the pensioners at Nortel face a very difficult situation because of many factors, the circumstances around Nortel before the global slowdown, and of course the global slowdown affecting the markets.
    What we have seen, though, is that this government has recently announced important pension reforms resulting from consultations recently released that will help protect pensioners by requiring companies to fully fund pension benefits on plan termination, make pensions more stable, give pensioners more negotiation powers, and modernize investment rules of pensions.
    We are listening to pensioners.
    Mr. Speaker, in the 12 months ending August 2009, there were more than 5,700 business bankruptcies in Canada.
    Currently, these companies can use federal bankruptcy laws to evade their debt to pensioners and instead pay off corporate creditors whose investments are likely insured anyway. Today, the average corporate pension plan is 20% short of the assets needed for its pension obligations.
     There is a crisis. The government has the tools to fix it. We have shown it how. Why does it not take action?
    Mr. Speaker, it is well known to all members of this House that our Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance spent the summer travelling across the country listening to pensioners and various stakeholders talk about the state of Canadian pensions.
    I will point out that the NDP member for Sackville—Eastern Shore even said that he would give the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance credit because he had gone across the country to talk about this issue.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians, helping those hardest hit by the global recession get back to work and helping Canadian families through the global economic storm.
    The measures we have introduced are having significant impacts on the lives of Canadians. Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development please update the House on the important actions our Conservative government has taken to help Canadians through the economic global recession?
    Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government continues to take action to help Canadians and their families weather the global economic storm. Unprecedented investments in skills training, expanding EI, and protecting jobs through work-sharing are just a few examples. We also remain dedicated to our commitment to provide maternity and parental benefits to self-employed Canadians.
     The Liberal leader wants to force an unnecessary opportunistic election that will harm our economic recovery. We will not let that happen. Instead, we will stay the course on our economic action plan, and continue to stand up for Canadians and their families.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, there are not enough H1N1 vaccines available to complete B.C.'s inoculations even though B.C. will welcome half a million Olympic visitors in just 100 days. Vancouver's health authority has a strong H1N1 preparedness plan, but not a single federal dollar to help it deliver it.
    Will the government provide resources to ensure that B.C.'s preparation measures are delivered in time, or can Canadians just expect more platitudes from the minister as the Olympic games approach?
    Mr. Speaker, six million vaccines have been distributed across the country. We will continue to deliver vaccines to the provinces and territories. Thirty-three million Canadians will be able to receive the vaccine by Christmas.
    We will continue to work with the provinces and territories as we respond to this pandemic and assist them in their rollouts.

  (1500)  

[Translation]

Nuclear Energy

    Mr. Speaker, the report prepared by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation clearly shows that Canada's greenhouse gas reduction targets can be met without building any new nuclear energy plants.
    How can the Minister of Natural Resources explain her government's enthusiasm for nuclear energy and justify the billions of dollars spent on it, not to mention its decision to subsidize the development of the oil sands, an extremely energy-hungry industry?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the member is referring to the Canadian nuclear industry, of which we are very proud here in this country. The 30,000 men and women in southern Ontario and other areas of Canada have worked diligently the past 40 some years to put Canada at the forefront of the world in nuclear energy and nuclear research.
    We are very proud of it and that is exactly why we continue to support this industry by looking at ways to modernize and restructure AECL to take advantage of the coming nuclear renaissance.

Fisheries and Oceans

    Mr. Speaker, the escape of 40,000 Atlantic salmon off the B.C. coast will damage the already decimated Pacific salmon stocks, a fact the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has failed to grasp. Last week, the minister gave permission to a B.C. fish farm to recapture these fugitive fish. It seems a little like closing the barn door after the horse has left.
    DFO already cannot find nine million Fraser sockeye that disappeared earlier this year. How does it expect to find 40,000 escaped salmon? Will the minister come out of hiding and deal with B.C.'s collapsing salmon fishery?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that the sustainability of our fish and seafood sector, including wild fish and farmed fish, is very important to this government.
    We did deal with the escape of the farmed fish. This is under the jurisdiction of the province of British Columbia, but we are working with the province. We will be bringing forward a plan to deal with the low returns of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.

Polar Bears

    Mr. Speaker, on Friday, October 30, the Minister of the Environment travelled to Greenland to sign an agreement between the governments of Canada, Nunavut and Greenland to ensure the protection of shared polar bear populations.
    Could the minister please share with the House the importance of this agreement?
    Mr. Speaker, the government has made unprecedented efforts to conserve and manage polar bear populations in Canada. The agreement with Greenland represents a critical step forward in our commitment to protect one of Canada's true natural and national symbols.
    I am sure that all members of the House would agree that the strength and rugged beauty of the polar bear stands as a reminder that Canada is a true Nordic nation. We are responsible, as primary stewards, for the health of polar bear populations.
    The agreement will ensure conservation and sustainable management practices in both the Baffin Bay population and the Kane Basin population, undertaken by Nunavut, Greenland and Canada.

Presence in Gallery

    To mark 100 days in the countdown to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of past and present Olympians and a Paralympian: Nicole Forrester, high jump; Danielle Goyette, hockey sur glace; Benoit Huot, natation; Bruny Surin, athlètisme; Deidre Dionne, freestyle aerialist.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

[Routine Proceedings]

[English]

Office of the Correctional Investigator

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the 2008-09 annual report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator as required under section 192 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
    I thank the Correctional Investigator for his good work, particularly on mental health issues.

  (1505)  

[Translation]

Committees of the House

Industry, Science and Technology  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology concerning the study of Bill C-273, An Act to amend the Competition Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

[English]

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities relating to Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period).
    The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding membership of committees of the House.
    If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 22nd report later this day.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present the RCMP civilian oversight act, seconded by my colleague from Hamilton Centre, a former solicitor general in Ontario.
    It was four years ago that Ian Bush was arrested in the parking lot of a hockey arena in Houston, B.C. and a short time later was found dead in the local detachment of the RCMP.
    In order for the RCMP to do the difficult and dangerous job we ask it to do, it needs the public's confidence and trust. To restore that trust, we must end the tradition of police investigating themselves.
    Ian's mom, Linda, and sisters, Andrea and Renee. have joined me here on Parliament Hill to watch the presentation of this bill. It has been named in memory of their fallen family member.
    Of all the legislation I have worked on over the years, I have never seen the courage and conviction for change that I have seen in Linda Bush and her ability to push through all obstacles to see true reform in honour and memory of her son.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Protection of Insignia of Military Orders, Decorations and Medals Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to proudly introduce my private member's bill, an act to protect insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance for future generations.
    This enactment would place restrictions on the transfer of insignia of military orders, decorations and medals of cultural significance to persons who are not residents of Canada. The bill would still provide fair market value to anyone who wishes to sell an insignia awarded under the authority of Her Majesty in Right of Canada but they must provide first right of refusal to the Government of Canada by submitting an offer to the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization or the Department of Canadian Heritage.
    My inspiration for the bill comes from the veterans and future veterans of my riding who serve or have served our country. The bill would ensure the accolades from their acts of bravery would remain on Canadian soil and we would continue to honour them as part of our Canadian heritage.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1510)  

[Translation]

Seeds Regulations Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to introduce this bill to amend the Seeds Regulations to require that an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.

[English]

    Markets have been closed due to contamination in flax of GM organisms. We need to have a thorough analysis of this. The bill would permit that.
    Before we approve any GM alfalfa that could devastate, for example, our organic industry as we know that alfalfa is used in the fertilizer and farmers rely on that, we need a thorough analysis to investigate potential economic harm.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce a bill that would help Canadians tackle the scourge of the drug ecstasy and of crystal meth, otherwise known as methamphetamine.
    The bill, introduced previously in a slightly different form by my colleague, the member for Peace River, originally attracted unanimous support in the House. It also received broad acclaim from law enforcement officers, educators, parents and others across our great country. I seek the continued support for the bill from my colleagues of all parties in the House.
    The bill would create a new offence for the procurement of ingredients with the intent to manufacture either of these highly addictive and haunting drugs.
    Canada is a great nation but we can be better. Our children are safe but they can be safer. Our people are healthy but they can be healthier. Ending drug addiction is an Olympic challenge but what better year to start?

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Committees of the House

Procedure and House Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs presented to the House earlier today be concurred in.
    Does the hon. member for Elgin—Middlesex—London have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

    Is the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île rising on a point of order?
    Yes, Mr. Speaker.
    For reasons I do not wish to mention, I needed to be away from my seat during the period to present reports from interparliamentary delegations. Would there be unanimous consent to present the report?
    Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: Okay. Very well. The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation in the third part of the 2009 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, held in Strasbourg, France, from June 22 to 26, 2009. I have the duly signed copies in both official languages.

  (1515)  

[English]

Petitions

Animal Welfare  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today pursuant to Standing Order 36 and as certified by the Clerk.
    The first petition is from my riding of Mississauga South and it has to do with animal welfare. We have heard this a number of times.
    The petitioners would like to bring to the attention of the House that there is a scientific consensus and public acknowledgement that animals can feel pain and suffer, that all efforts should be made to prevent animal cruelty and reduce animal suffering, that over one billion people around the world rely on animals for their livelihoods and many others rely on animals for companionship, and, finally, that animals are often significantly affected by natural disasters and yet seldom considered during relief efforts and emergency planning despite their recognized importance to humans.
    The petitioners call upon Parliament to petition the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition, from a combination of cities, including my riding of Mississauga South, is about post offices
    The petitioners want to draw to the attention of the House that the federal government is considering ending the current moratorium on post office closures. The federal government has introduced legislation to legalize the activities of remailers, which would erode the revenues of Canada Post Corporation needed to maintain its current universal service obligation.
    They also point out that the post office plays a key role in our social and economic life by providing the infrastructure that healthy communities need to thrive and for their businesses to grow.
    The petitioners, therefore, call upon the Government of Canada to maintain the moratorium on post office closures, withdraw legislation to legalize remailers and that it instruct Canada Post to maintain, expand and improve our postal services.

Online Predators  

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present a petition that is signed by over 2,300 Canadians from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.
    These petitioners are calling upon Parliament to enable prosecution of those who encourage or counsel someone to commit suicide by updating Canada's Criminal Code to reflect the new realities of 21st century broadband access and to fund education programs that will empower vulnerable youth to protect themselves from online predators and find appropriate community resources.

Nurses  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a petition signed by residents of the Lower Mainland who are very concerned that health care professionals, namely nurses, are in great shortage in Canada and that we need to educate and retain Canadian-trained nurses.
    The petition calls upon the House of Commons to include a student loan program similar to that which happens in B.C. so there can be social and financial incentives for nurses to remain and work in Canada and that the loan program that is offered over time should be offered to nurses who decide to work in an underserviced community anywhere in the country.

Veterans Affairs  

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I would like to present a petition signed by over 130 constituents who oppose the legislation providing Canadian veteran benefits to Red Army veterans.
    The Soviet Red Army was an instrument of the Kremlin in the commission of unspeakable mass atrocities and war crimes against the peoples of Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic States, Hungary, the Czechs, the Slovaks and other countries and peoples.
    Hundreds of thousands of Canadians who were refugees from Red Army brutality in the occupation of their homelands in central and eastern Europe arrived in Canada during and after World War II. As a result, the petitioners pray and request that the Government of Canada rescind the legislation it introduced that would provide benefits to those who served in the Soviet Red Army during World War II.

Firearms Registry  

    Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions I would like to present from constituents in the greater Vancouver area.
    The first petition is regarding the long gun registry.
    The petitioners state that the original budget for the long gun registry was $2 million, but the price tag has spiralled out of control to an estimated $2 billion a decade later, and the registry has not saved one single life since it was introduced.
    The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to support any legislation that would cancel the Canadian long gun registry and streamline the Firearms Act.

  (1520)  

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on medical benefits.
    The petitioners state that those who suffer from a number of severe potentially life-threatening conditions do not qualify for disability programs because the conditions are not necessarily permanent. Residents find themselves losing their homes and livelihoods while trying to fight these severe medical conditions.
    The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to enact legislation to provide additional EI medical benefits that would be equivalent to EI maternity benefits.

Protection of Human Life  

    Mr. Speaker, the subject of the third petition is respect for human life.
    The petitioners state that Canada is a country that respects human life and includes in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that everyone has the right to life.
    Whereas it has been 40 years since Parliament changed the law to permit abortion, the petitioners call upon Parliament to pass legislation for the protection of human life from the time of conception until natural death.

Pension Benefits  

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions on behalf of the people of Random—Burin—St. George's, the riding that I represent.
    The first petition is from a group of fishermen and women in Newfoundland and Labrador who took early retirement at the request of the federal government back in 1998.
    In 2007, Revenue Canada, the tax court, determined that only 25% of retirement benefits should be applied to the capital gains tax formula. However, 100% of the revenue was in fact taxed, leaving 850 fishers, 798 from Newfoundland and Labrador and 52 from the Quebec north shore, unfairly treated by the Government of Canada. There are 150 fishers who followed the recommendation of DFO at the time. They had their taxes treated fairly, and therefore each saved, on average, about $20,000.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to recognize this unfairness and to do the right thing and treat all of these fishermen and women in the proper way.

Employment Insurance  

    Mr. Speaker, the second petition has to do with the EI system.
    The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to put in place measures that would treat everyone fairly and to recognize the importance of the EI system to Canadians.
    They are asking the government to increase benefit duration to at least 50 weeks in all regions, eliminate the two-week waiting period, allow claimants to qualify for entry-level EI benefits in all regions of Canada after working 360 hours, provide benefits that are at least 60% of normal earnings, use workers' 12 best weeks, suspend the allocation of severance pay, and be more flexible and innovative in the uses of EI work-sharing to keep people at work.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present this petition signed by hundreds of Canadians who wish to stop the Canada-Colombia trade deal.
    The petitioners say they are concerned with the violence that is ongoing against workers and civil society by paramilitaries in Colombia who are associated with the Uribe government. Since 1991, 2,200 trade unionists have been murdered.
    The petitioners believe that all trade agreements must be built on the principles of fair trade which respect human rights, labour rights and environmental stewardship.
    Therefore, they ask Parliament to reject the Canada-Colombia trade deal until an independent human rights impact assessment is carried out, the resulting concerns are addressed, and the agreement is renegotiated along the principles of fair trade, which would take into consideration environmental and social impacts.

[Translation]

Nortel  

    Mr. Speaker, today, because of the bankruptcy of Nortel, I have the honour to table a petition, signed by a number of Canadians who would like to bring something to the attention of the government.

[English]

    The Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act currently do not protect the rights of all Canadian employees laid off by a company when they are receiving pensions or long-term disability benefits during bankruptcy proceedings. These people do not have any preferred status over other unsecured creditors. Employees are unlike any other creditors. They have been largely responsible for creating value for all stakeholders. Unlike debt holders, banks and suppliers, they are not diversified businesses taking risks and having access to tax writeoffs for financial loss. Currently under the Investment Canada Act, the federal government fails to ensure that proceeds of sales of Canadian assets to foreigners are allocated to Canadian employee-related claims before funds are permitted to leave the country.
    Therefore, the following petitioners call upon Parliament, first, to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to protect the rights of all Canadian employees and to ensure that employees laid off by a company receiving pensions or long-term disability benefits during bankruptcy proceedings obtain preferred creditor status over unsecured creditors; and, second, to amend the Investment Canada Act to ensure employee-related claims are paid from proceeds of Canadian assets sales before funds are permitted to leave the country.

  (1525)  

Animal Welfare  

    Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that has to do with animal welfare. The petitioners say that because there is scientific consensus and public acknowledgement that animals can feel pain and can suffer that all efforts should be made to prevent animal cruelty and reduce animal suffering.
    The petitioners say that over one billion people around the world rely on animals for their livelihood, and many others rely on animals for companionship. They are often significantly affected by natural disasters and yet are seldom considered during relief efforts and emergency planning despite their recognized importance to humans.
    The petitioners therefore call upon the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Fuel Prices  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from over 150 Canadians from Montreal, Brampton, Barrie, Whitby, Kamloops, Aurora, Brossard and Laval.
    The petitioners call upon the Canadian government and Parliament to pay more attention to the effect that high fuel prices are having on Canadians and on the economy.
    The petitioners believe a serious lack of competition and transparency in the energy industry has hampered the free market to the detriment of all Canadians.
    High fuel prices, they believe, inflate the price of everything we purchase, and of course, during this period of economic uncertainty they cannot ignore the effect that this has on the Canadian economy.
    The petitioners also wish to draw to the attention of the government and the House of Commons that many countries around the world have an energy market monitoring agency and that energy superpowers like Canada need such an agency. They therefore call upon Parliament to finally acknowledge that the high price of fuel is damaging to the Canadian economy.
    They ask for the reinstatement of the Office of Petroleum Price Information, which was abolished by the government in 2006 as an energy market information service similar to the U.S. energy information agency, and they also wish to begin hearings in the energy sector to determine how the government can foster competition and provide transparency in the energy market to eliminate the monopolistic efficiencies defence clause of the Competition Act.

Animal Welfare  

    Mr. Speaker, I also want to table petitions in support of a universal declaration on animal welfare.
    These petitions are signed by many of my constituents within the following communities: Thessalon, Blind River, Algoma Mills, Manitowaning, Little Current, Kagawong, Elliot Lake, Mindemoya, Spring Bay, Espanola, McKerrow, Hearst, Massey, Webbwood and Manitouwadge, as well as by people from some other ridings.
    These petitioners are asking for the Government of Canada to support a universal declaration on animal welfare to prevent animal cruelty and reduce animal suffering given that people around the world rely on animals for their livelihood as well as for companionship.
    Within the proposed declaration the petitioners would like to see a structure that includes a clause for relief efforts and emergency planning for animal welfare.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate

H1N1 Vaccines  

[S. O. 52]
    The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for St. Paul's. I will hear from her now.
    Mr. Speaker, I indeed did send a letter to your office this morning requesting leave to make the motion for the adjournment of the House, pursuant to Standing Order 52, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration.
    I now wish to move that motion for an emergency debate on the supply of H1N1 vaccines to high-risk groups and Canadians at large.
    Information made public by the government in the last few days indicates that the supply and delivery of the vaccine available to local health authorities this week will fall well short of the previously announced levels.
    Further reports across the country show that Canadians in high-risk groups are being turned away from vaccination centres because of lack of supply. The fact that many pandemic experts expect H1N1 to peak in the coming weeks adds urgency to the situation.
    I believe all of us in the House feel a responsibility to our constituents to put on the record our concerns and their concerns and to advocate for early resolution of this urgent situation.

  (1530)  

Speaker's Ruling  

[Speaker's Ruling]
    I thank the hon. member for St. Paul's for her submissions on this point. I have considered the matter since I received her letter and have now heard her arguments, and I believe the request does meet the exigencies of the standing order and accordingly, I will allow the debate this evening at the normal hour of daily adjournment.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Employment Insurance Act

     The House resumed consideration of Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
     Is the House ready for the question?
    Some hon. members: Question.
    The Speaker: The question is on Motion No 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
    And five or more members having risen:
    The Speaker: Call in the members.
    And the bells having rung:
    The Speaker: At the request of the chief government whip, the vote on the motion will be deferred until the conclusion of government orders later this day.

Electronic Commerce Protection Act

    There being no motions at the report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage.
Hon. Vic Toews (for the Minister of Industry)  
     moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

    (Motion agreed to)

    When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Vic Toews (for the Minister of Industry)  
    moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to begin third reading of Bill C-27.
    At the outset, I would like to put this bill in the broader context of a global digital economy. In a little more than a decade the Internet has become a powerful factor in the competitiveness of the Canadian economy. It is an essential feature in all of our daily lives.
     Digital media is poised to transform the economy and our society in ways that we have not yet imagined. It will increase in importance as an engine for economic growth. Worldwide the digital media sector is expected to grow to U.S. $2.2 trillion over the next five years. There is enormous potential and Canada must tap that potential, but Canada has lost ground over the past decade.
    When the Internet was new, Canada was at the forefront. We were the first country in the world to connect our schools and libraries to the Internet, for example. We were at the forefront of redesigning our framework laws to acknowledge the new technology. We led in the deployment and uptake of broadband. Our ICT companies were among the world leaders. But we have fallen behind.
    As we have gone into this global economic slowdown, several commentators have talked about how Canada will lead the way out of it. The OECD and the IMF have talked about Canada leading the way out of this global recession. The World Economic Forum recently said that Canada will be one of only two industrialized countries to come out in a more competitive position than we went into this global slowdown.
    Our falling behind in terms of our ICT laws and legislation puts this progress and increased competitiveness at risk. This pattern is deeply disturbing. To remain at the forefront of a global economy where digital technologies and competencies are increasingly important, we must reverse this slide.
    We need to reboot our national strategy for remaining competitive in that economy. Given the complexity of the digital economy, we need to move on many fronts. We are consulting on how best to achieve this to realize its benefits for the economy.
    We want to grow the ICT sector to be an even larger share of our economy, because it is a source of high-paying jobs and high R and D intensity. We need to increase the smart use of ICTs in the other 95% of the economy to make them more efficient and profitable, from public services through manufacturing and service industries and natural resources.
    We need to close the productivity gap with the United States and increase our global competitiveness through the smart use of these technologies.
    These goals rely on certain fundamentals, such as a high-speed network infrastructure and an online marketplace that has the trust and confidence of consumers and firms. We are working closely as a government with businesses to encourage sectors and firms to use information and communications technology more effectively.
    Even as we wrestled with the worst economic crisis in a generation, Canada's economic action plan targeted a number of specific actions to energize the ICT sector. All told, nearly $1.5 billion was devoted to this effort. Among those initiatives was $225 million to provide broadband coverage to unserved Canadians. This money will leverage additional investment to expand access for many Canadians to important economic and social benefits, including online health services, business opportunities and distance learning.
    Our action plan also provided a 100% capital cost allowance rate for computer hardware and systems software for two years, which is helping companies realize the benefits of adopting new ICT solutions.
    These investments are part of a much broader agenda to put Canada once more at the forefront of the digital age, but we will not do this by investment alone. Government has a responsibility to create the economic conditions that will help build the digital economy.
    One of the ways we are doing this is by creating the right framework laws to build trust and confidence in online transactions and communications. Rules that counter unsolicited email are critical to that framework.

  (1535)  

    Spam represents between 80% and 90% of email traffic around the world. It is estimated that a total of 62 trillion spam emails were sent last year. This bill is about removing a major barrier to electronic commerce. Canadians see spam as a major problem. The Canadian business community sees it as an impediment to productivity.
    Spam is more than a nuisance. When unsolicited emails, websites and even freeware programs such as screen savers contain viruses or other forms of malicious programs, they inflict considerable damage and undermine the confidence of consumers in the electronic marketplace. They discourage businesses from relying on the Internet to reach their customers in new markets. This is harmful at the best of times, but it is particularly damaging during an economic downturn. More people go online to look for job opportunities or the best deals and better ways to manage their finances. It is in these tough economic times that consumers are most susceptible and more likely to fall for the get-rich-quick schemes offered on various websites.
    More than ever, we need to maintain consumer trust and confidence in an online marketplace as a tool to help build the economy and eliminate deceptive marketing practices that can cause grave economic harm to Canadians. Spam and related threats impose heavy costs on network operators and users. They threaten network reliability and security and they undermine personal privacy.
    Canada is the only G8 country and one of only four OECD countries without legislation dealing with online threats, such as spam, spyware, computer viruses, fraudulent websites and the harvesting of electronic addresses. These electronic intrusions are unacceptable. Some invade privacy and some are used to infect and gain control over computers. Most Internet service providers use filters to try to screen out spam. These filters tie up bandwidth and slow the system down. Even with these defences, spam still manages to get through.
    One of the best ways to combat spam is through effective legislation. Bill C-27 puts in place important provisions that would protect Canadian consumers and businesses from the most damaging and deceptive forms of electronic harm. It provides a regulatory regime to promote compliance and protect the privacy and personal security of Canadians in the online environment. It provides a clear set of rules that will benefit all Canadians. It will encourage confidence in online communications and e-commerce.
    This bill combats spam and related online threats in two ways. It provides regulatory powers to administer monetary penalties and it gives individuals and businesses the right to sue spammers. Bill C-27 makes use of the federal trade and commerce power rather than the law enforcement authorities in the Criminal Code. A civil administrative regime such as that in the ECPA is consistent with the approach taken internationally. The law will be enforced by the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
    A significant responsibility for enforcing the bill falls to the CRTC, which has a mandate to ensure the reliability, safety and effective operation of telecommunications networks in Canada. This includes the Internet. The CRTC will enforce the provisions against sending unsolicited commercial messages and will have responsibility for the provisions that prohibit the altering of transmission data without authorization.
    It will further prohibit the surreptitious installation of programs on computer systems and networks by requiring consent for the installation of all computer programs. In this way, we can help stem the flow of malicious computer programs such as spyware and key loggers. The Competition Bureau will also have responsibilities in stamping out spam under this bill. The bureau has a mandate to ensure fair marketplace practices for businesses and consumers.
    The bill before us will extend the Competition Bureau's powers to address false and misleading representations online and deceptive marketplace practices such as false headers and website content. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has responsibilities to protect personal information in Canada. This legislation will prohibit the collection of personal information without consent through unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will have the authority to enforce these provisions using its existing powers.
    All of these are important elements in restoring confidence and trust in online communications.

  (1540)  

    The bill provides for administrative monetary penalties for those who violate the law by sending spam, making false and misleading representations in commercial electronic messages, installing spyware and viruses on computers, and for stealing personal information.
    These laws have sharp teeth. For violation, the maximum administrative monetary penalty is $1 million for individuals, and up to $10 million for businesses. In this way, we provide government authorities with the power to fight spam and related online threats.
    The second way to fight spam is for consumers and businesses to combat spam to pursue a private right of action. This private right of action has been very effective in the United States. We heard much testimony during the course of the hearings. Obviously a lot of the research and a lot of the work that has gone into this has relied on efforts by other countries to address the very same issues that we are dealing with today. We have learned some things about what to do and what to put in the legislation. We also have learned some things about what maybe does not work so well in the legislation. We have had the advantage of looking at what other countries have done well and using that to inform our own legislation.
    The private right of action will allow individuals and businesses that suffer financial harm an avenue of recourse to be compensated and awarded both actual and statutory damages. Network operators will be able to prosecute spammers in civil cases. This would allow them to take action against spammers that make use of their facilities without the threat of subsequent legal action from a spammer.
    Whether through the regulatory agencies or the private right of action, our message to spammers is clear: We do not want them. We will not tolerate them, and if they try to operate in Canada, we will come after them either as private consumers and businesses or as regulatory authorities that make Canada a safe place to communicate and do business online.
    At the same time, I want to assure hon. members that legitimate businesses will not be negatively affected. The regime allows for consumer opt-in and some exceptions for implied consent so that legitimate businesses can continue to market through email.
    The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology studied this bill very carefully. It heard from many witnesses, and as a result of some of the testimony, we introduced amendments to this bill. I want to emphasize that the government remains steadfast in its commitment to reduce spam and other computer-related threats that discourage the use of electronic commerce and that undermine privacy. It will protect both consumers and Canadian businesses from unwanted spam.
    As we saw during the debate at second reading in this House and as we saw in committee, there is widespread support for the spirit of this piece of legislation and what we are accomplishing. Canadian businesses know that spam costs them money, in the billions of dollars. In this House and in committee, we saw all parties support this legislation as well, and that is important to note. The time is due for this type of legislation.
    At this time I would like to thank the members and senators from all parties who have helped make this bill more effective. I would remind this House that this bill has been guided also by the recommendations of the spam task force. We heard from many of the members of the task force as witnesses before the committee as we discussed this important legislation.
    This legislation has also been inspired by the now retired senator Goldstein, when he introduced his bill in the other place. I would also like to recognize the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East who has been a long-time champion of anti-spam legislation.
    Finally, what I would like to do is assure this House that the bill before us is one step toward a much broader agenda for the digital economy. Our goal is to see a Canadian business climate and social climate that are innovative, adaptive and able to participate fully in the global digital economy.
    We as a government will continue to seek input and advice from stakeholders. We will reassert our leadership. As a necessary first step, we want to shut down the electronic threats that are such a source of concern to businesses and consumers.
    The challenges are clear, but the potential is enormous. By getting this right, we can do more than simply participate in the digital economy; we can lead. But let us begin by joining our trading partners and neighbours in closing down the inappropriate and harmful use of Internet communications. Let us pass this bill as amended.

  (1545)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. The New Democratic Party has been pushing for some time to have a larger framework of understanding that innovation in the 21st century has to have a full, holistic view of where we go in terms of digital innovation. That is where the new economy rests.
    I listened to a number of the issues my colleague brought forward, the need for broadband and to protect us from spammers and the criminal element that is out there to undermine digital innovation.
    I was interested in his comments on how Canada has lost its way somewhat in terms of broadband. I am sure he has read the recent FCC report that just came out, which looks at the OECD countries. Canada has gone from a world leader just five years ago to a world laggard in key areas of innovation. We are paying some of the highest Internet rates in the world and getting some of the lousiest service. I do not think any Canadian consumer needs to confirm this. They know this.
    The FCC points to the fact that the CRTC, although it does not mention the CRTC by name, talks about the lack of competition, the fact that there is a very small cabal of cable companies that see no interest in further innovation and expanding their broadband access. Therefore, we have a market that is stuck. People have to pay high fees. We get slower service. Competing countries are moving far ahead of us.
    Since 2003 until 2009, the big change I have seen is the Conservative government has come to power. We have now gone from leader to laggard. What would the member tell the House to assure Canadian businesses and innovators that the government will get back on track and start to gain some of the ground that it has lost?

  (1550)  

    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member points to one study. As usual, the study he chooses is probably the most negative one. There have been several studies and many of them point to leadership in terms of Canada's approach to digital issues.
    That said, obviously in this area, the area that the bill addresses, we have needed to do more. One of the challenges we have had, and we discussed this in committee at one point, was the fact that through successive minority governments, and we are in our third minority government situation, it is difficult to see legislation such as this pass through the entire process.
    We saw a concern early on in this process, and that was we would wind up in an election and this bill would die before it could actually go through. This is why we urge members from all parties to ensure the legislation gets passed, as amended, gets on to the Senate and gets passed there.
    On the issue of leadership and competitiveness, I would point out that in terms of the overall economy, the World Economic Forum just recently stated, and I stated this in my comments but I will highlight it again, that Canada would be one of only two industrialized countries to come out of this global recession in a more competitive position than we went in.
    Legislation such as this to solidify our digital economy and to strengthen it can only help that circumstance. I encourage all members to pass this.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-27.
    The Internet first came into being about 15 years ago, and since then has grown exponentially, showing no signs of slowing down. We are all using the Internet more and more in our daily lives. It should enhance our productivity. We use it every day, whether to look for work, to shop, to communicate with our friends or to do business. We use it every day, yet there are still some barriers that prevent us from benefiting from the Internet's full potential.

[English]

    Today, I would like to speak to Bill C-27. Simply put, Bill C-27 is an electronic commerce protection act that intends to prohibit sending of commercial electronic messages without the prior consent of recipients. This is what is more commonly known as spam email. The bill also looks to prohibit the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origin or true intent of the email, the installation of unauthorized programs and the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses.
     Studies show that of the total email traffic that exists on the Internet today as much as 85% can be considered spam. The hon. member who spoke previously spoke of different levels. There is some as low as 60% and some as high as 90%. At any level, those levels are unacceptable and something has to be done to correct them.
    When we consider the time that is spent sorting through in boxes and deleting unwanted email at work and at home, it does not take long to figure out that spam kills productivity.

[Translation]

    How many times, whether at home or at work, have we started reading emails only to realize that many of them are unsolicited and cause problems? Such emails can make us waste half or a good part of our day. At any stage, these emails are a waste of time in terms of Canadian productivity.

[English]

    A 2003 report estimated that fighting spam cost businesses and consumers $27 billion annually in information technology spending, including increased expenditures in the Internet bandwidth, the storage costs, anti-spam software and user support.
    This does not take into consideration the numerous hours that people waste just sorting through and finding out what they want, what they do not want, what they have asked for, what was sent to them without their request and getting rid of it. Again, it kills time that we could be using more productively as Canadians. It limits us from taking full advantage of the Internet, whether it is for personal or commercial purposes.
    To say that spam is a serious problem to Canadians and Canadian business is an understatement. Spam is a large source of computer viruses, phishing programs designed for identity theft and deceptive and fraudulent business practices that target the vulnerable.
    At these times, when the economy is faltering, when people are losing jobs and looking for hope, unscrupulous people are putting emails out there, putting ads on the Internet that are fictitious. They are causing problems. For people looking for somewhere to hang their hat, hang hope on something, what do they get? They lose their hard-earned money or what little they have left.
    In May 2004 the Liberal government recognized the danger of spam and established a task force to lead the anti-spam action plan for Canada. The task force held public consultations and led round tables with key stakeholders in the industry.
    In 2005 the task force tabled its report outlining 22 major recommendations, including key recommendations to strengthen legislation.
    Specifically, the task force recommended Canada implement legislation to prohibit the sending of spam without prior consent of recipients and prohibit the use of false or misleading statements that disguised the origin or true intent of email, better known as phishing, prohibit the installation of unauthorized programs, otherwise known as spyware, and prohibit the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses. Bill C-27 looks to implement these recommendations.
    Bill C-27 introduces fines for violation of the acts up to a maximum of $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses. It establishes rules for warrants, for information during investigations and injunctions on spam activity while under investigation. Bill C-27 also establishes the private right of action, allowing individuals and businesses the ability to seek damages from the perpetrators of spam.
    At committee stage, flaws were discovered in the original bill. Clause 6, for example, was found to have been written too broadly and could have suppressed some legitimate business communications over the Internet. Clause 8 also defined computer program very broadly and could have suppressed legitimate business software development and impeded legitimate Internet functions.
    After considerable work, many amendments were made to the bill, refining measures for electronic messages, computer programs and the protection of privacy rights.
    The bill, however, maintains a very heavy-handed approach, which is not always the most effective approach. We looked at different options. We thought for now, with this broad, heavy-handed approach, which seems to be the way the Conservative government likes to do things, we would let it go through in the interest of protecting Canadians, with some options for modifications later on by the people who administer it.
    Bill C-27 takes a broad approach to defining a very wide definition of electronic messages that puts the onus on individual businesses to seek exceptions if they believe their activities to be legitimate. The proposed Liberal approach was to define known spam irritants as illegal, with the flexibility to add further definition as electronic messages on the Internet evolved. The concern with the Conservative approach is that an overly heavy-handed approach could stifle electronic commerce in Canada.

  (1555)  

    I want to remind Canadians that we want to look at the Internet as a tool that will make our lives better, more efficient and allow us to work more effectively. We have to be careful when a bill has a very wide span and catches everything. Overall, however, many changes were made to the bill at committee stage to make Bill C-27 acceptable to the Liberal Party.
    We are pleased that the Conservative government has finally decided to act on the recommendation of our task force. At committee stage, many flaws were exposed in the bill and many changes were made. Is this bill perfect? Simply put, no.
    One of the areas that is still of concern and will continue to be monitored is the issue of materiality. Materiality comes up in clauses 71 and 73 of Bill C-27. The issue is under the Competition Act's new sections 54(1) and 74.01(1), which cover false and misleading representations. Bill C-27 would make it a criminal offence or a reviewable practice under the Competition Act if sender information or subject matter information in an electronic message was false or misleading, regardless of whether it was false or misleading in a material respect.
    The material respect standard is important to retain in respect of electronic sender information and subject matter information.
     First, it provides the Competition Bureau with the necessary discretion to brush aside complaints that are raised about purported misstatements that are trivial, and there are many of them, especially from business competitors.
    Second, it provides businesses in Canada the comfort of knowing that an honest mistake in an electronic business communication that does not materially affect consumers will not automatically face potential criminal prosecution or civil action under the Competition Act.
    Third, it is a standard under the Competition Act that applies to representation that business makes in all other places, whether it be print, in store, radio, TV or, as we see here, in the body of an email.
    It is incorrect to say in advance that anything included in the sender information or subject matter information is always material. If it were correct, then including “in all material respect” could do absolutely no harm because any representation would still be caught as if “in a material respect” were not there.
     While the Liberal Party believes the bill remains unnecessarily heavy-handed in its approach, we would support the bill at third reading as action must be taken against spam.
    It is important that we continue to monitor the legislation closely going forward to ensure it does not stifle legitimate electronic commerce in Canada. The Liberal Party further notes that the fight against spam is much more than just legislation. The Liberal task force also recommended resources to be put toward coordinating enforcement of this law.
    Legislation will only go as far as the willingness to enforce the law. Will the government put the appropriate resources into enforcement? Will the government put resources into working with other nations to stamp out spam? Will the government dedicate resources to work with ISPs and Canadian business to establish the codes of practice? These questions will be answered in the fullness of time.

  (1600)  

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I was particularly interested because the issue of spam should be supported by all parties. Yet we have seen a number of articles that were written about the Liberal Party bringing forward a number of amendments that would seriously water down this bill, including an amendment to tighten up the provision on false subject headers.
    The Liberals wanted to introduce a provision to limit the scope of spyware. There were motions being promoted by the copyright lobby to allow the surreptitiously installed DRM from being covered under the bill and an exception to a ban on the collection of personal information through any means of technology, if the collection was made by assessing a computer system or causing a computer system to be accessed without authorization. This would be in cases related to investigations, a breach of agreement or laws.
    The NDP was very clear in fighting spam and even the Conservatives, who tend to roll over for the lobbyists, at least were willing to hold the line, but the Liberals were the fifth columnists in bringing forward many motions that, fortunately, were voted down or they decided to pull at the last minute, which would have very much undermined this.
    Would my hon. colleague tell me why the Liberal Party brought forward those motions, which clearly would have gutted the bill from having any strength at all?

  (1605)  

    Mr. Speaker, I was there during the discussions that took place. We have to look at Bill C-27 as a wide net that captures absolutely everything in its path. It is very important to look at Bill C-27 and ensure that it is functional.
    One of the concerns that we had with the bill was that it would be so broad that Internet use and all possibilities would come to a grinding halt. We had to explore all the possibilities so that business could continue to operate. We wanted to ensure that when we see a false statement being made that it actually is a false statement. What I believe the hon. member was referring to is materiality and that comes into play within the subject matter that he was talking about. If the subject matter says something and it is an omission or an error, then there should not be an automatic criminal charge put forward.
    We have seen that in other laws which I know the Conservatives are very concerned about, but it is important that we look at the bill and look at all possibilities, listen to all the people who have a vested interest in this, and look at what is best for all Canadians, so the Internet can continue to be a tool that we can use and grow with into the future and make it work to the full ability that it was intended to be.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank all the groups that appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I also want to thank members from all political parties who sit on the committee.
    When I spoke during second reading of Bill C-27, Electronic Commerce Protection Act, I said that this legislation would address several issues facing many Quebeckers. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology heard a number of witnesses during its hearings on Bill C-27.
    Several groups raised more contentious issues relating to the bill, or asked for some justification. But all in all, witnesses told us that it was necessary to move forward with such legislation. I note in particular that when we compare our situation to that of other countries, we find that this bill is necessary. I would even say that Canada is a step behind some comparable countries. Therefore, the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-27, as amended by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
    Incidentally, the clause by clause review of the bill did not really trigger a debate between the various parties, because all seemed to agree on its merits. However, I want to point out a contradiction by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice in the Conservative government. Last week, he said, in this House, that opposition parties had put up roadblocks to delay the passing of Bill C-27. That is absolutely false. That member surely did not ask for a report from his party colleagues on the committee, because he would have found out that the Bloc and the other opposition parties worked positively. I want to confirm that my party, the Bloc Québécois, and members representing the government and other opposition parties on the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, did work in a constructive fashion.
    I sincerely believe that, during the hearings of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, all members worked hard to find a solution to the issue of spamming, while also meeting the needs of those businesses that voiced their concerns. Clearly, for some businesses, there is a natural fear about how legitimate businesses can continue to reach consumers and customers if the bill becomes law. I suspect that it will pass, because all the political parties at the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology unanimously supported it.
    Bill C-27 clearly spells out that organizations will not need the explicit consent of their own customers to communicate with them in the context of what can reasonably be called “existing business relationships”. However, if they want to reach potential customers to market a product or a service, or to expand their activities, businesses will not be allowed to communicate by email directly with these people without their prior consent.
    Based on the testimonies of a number of groups, it became clear to the Bloc Québécois that an amendment was needed to extend from 18 to 24 months the period during which a business can communicate by email with a consumer without his prior consent. Members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology agreed with the amendment proposed by the Bloc Québécois.

  (1610)  

    Even though the bill contains a number of legally complex clauses, its aim is to improve the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain fraudulent commercial activities that use electronic mail. With all of the communications tools available today, we are constantly being solicited. We must have effective tools in place to protect the public.
     In this regard, the Bloc Québécois expressed concern with regard to clauses 64 and 86 of Bill C-27, the electronic commerce protection act. It would amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act. In reality, these two clauses would give the government permission to eliminate the national do-not-call list. Implemented just over a year ago today, this legislation governing telemarketers has been a big success. Today, no fewer than 7,000 telephone numbers of Quebeckers and Canadians are on the list. This means it is working well.
     In the Bloc's opinion, the current list is doing its job and is used by millions. For a number of businesses, complying with the requirements of the national do-not-call list has meant reorganization of resources and considerable financial cost. In Quebec, for the Desjardins financial security group, which accounts for 10% of the business of the Desjardins movement, whose head office is in Lévis, a portion of the costs has been calculated at over $500,000. As this is 10% of the business of the Desjardins movement, it means that meeting the requirements of the national do-not-call list has cost the Desjardins group some $5 million. We can imagine that a new structure would mean additional costs for businesses that have had to comply with legislation that is one year old.
     We understand that Industry Canada wants to keep the door open to replace the list with a new system. We have been given assurance by government officials that there will be no change to the do-not-call list without public hearings and consultation with those concerned to establish how it should proceed.
     The link I wanted to create with the national do-not-call list is simple. All email users know about spam. In recent months, the amount of spam appears to have increased significantly. We might ask ourselves whether businesses might have changed their means of contacting consumers before Bill C-27, the electronic commerce protection act, comes into force.
     As an MP, I am concerned about the way businesses obtain consumers' consent to transfer or pass on their contact information or email addresses to other organizations. The new legislation will enable us to reduce spam and go after unsolicited commercial emails.
     The Bloc has expressed support for another provision of the bill, which aims at prohibiting detrimental practices to electronic commerce, protecting the integrity of transmission data and prohibiting installation of computer programs without consent. It makes sense to avoid the use of consumers' personal information to send them spam.
     Bill C-27 thus prohibits the collection of personal information via access to computer systems without consent and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses.

  (1615)  

     We can hardly be against motherhood and apple pie. The Bloc Québécois feels that companies that want to send consumers information by email should get their consent first. Companies should get prior consent before communicating by the Internet or sending email.
     This bill has a noble objective, but it will be a complex law to apply. According to the officials in Industry Canada, though, the CRTC, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Office of the Information Commissioner are all going to work together in perfect harmony to figure out how to do it.
     The three agencies that will be affected by this change to the law will have to work closely together on the implementation of it. The CRTC will have to do what is necessary to stop unsolicited commercial electronic messages from being sent. The Competition Bureau, for its part, will have to deal with practices like misleading representations online, such as emails falsely claiming to be from financial institutions. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will have to take measures to prevent the collection of personal information by means of unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling of lists of electronic addresses.
     I know the government wants to tackle spam as well. It accounts for 80% of all communications sent over the Internet. These are all the unwanted and unwelcome messages that consumers receive. I certainly agree with that. The committee has convinced me of the need to proceed with this kind of bill.
     A number of countries have already passed measures similar to those in Bill C-27 and seem to have had positive results. The various laws passed in Australia, the United States and Great Britain to combat spam have apparently been quite successful.
     Bill C-27 will make it possible to develop measures to dissuade as many people as possible from sending spam involving false representation, unauthorized software and exchanges of email address information.
     The Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-27. It should help solve a lot of problems that our constituents are encountering and help protect their privacy. Over the years, unsolicited commercial electronic messages have become a major social and economic problem that reduces the personal and business productivity of Quebeckers. As I said before, spam accounts for 80% of all the email that is sent to people. Thus, communications over the Internet are much less efficient than they could be.
     Spam is a real nuisance. It can damage computers and networks, contribute to fraudulent and misleading commercial practices, and infringe on our privacy. Spam poses a direct threat to the viability of the Internet as an effective means of communication. It undermines consumer confidence in legitimate electronic commerce and hampers electronic transactions.
     This is a constantly growing problem and, after years of study, it is time to pass a measure like this. In 2007, the Liberal government established a working group following the tabling of a report in 2005.

  (1620)  

    The two elections held between 2005 and 2009 have delayed the project. We are now at the important stage of discussing and adopting the electronic commerce protection act.
     Essentially, this electronic commerce protection act governs the sending of messages by email, text messaging or instant messaging without consent. Transmission of spam to an electronic mail account, telephone account or other similar accounts would be prohibited. The only time spam may be sent is when the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied.
     There are other prohibitions as well. No person may alter the transmission data in an electronic message so that the message is delivered to another destination. Nor may they install a computer program on any other person's computer system or cause an electronic message to be sent from that computer system without the owner's consent. This bill clarifies consent before sending. Naturally there will be a timeline for implementation. It was 18 months at first, but it has been extended to 24 months following an amendment presented by the Bloc.
     Bill C-27 proposes a private right of action, modelled on U.S. legislation, which would allow businesses and individuals to take civil action against any wrongdoer. Any organization covered by Bill C-27 may, on its own initiative, transmit to the CRTC, the Privacy Commissioner, or the Commissioner of Competition any information in its possession if it deems that information to be related to a violation of the electronic commerce protection act.
    These three bodies must also consult each other and may exchange any information in order to fulfill the responsibilities and activities they carry out under their respective statutes. Under certain conditions they may also provide such information to the government of a foreign state or to an international organization.
     Canada is not the only country to legislate the protection of electronic commerce. Other countries have passed laws in this matter. France's legislation is known as the law to support confidence in the digital economy. It was adopted in June 2004 and was phased in over six months. Apart from specific rules set out in the postal, electronic communications and consumer legislation, France is required to ensure that solicitations by email, no matter what their nature—business, creative, political, religious or membership, for example—are subject to personal information protection legislation.
    Therefore, Bill C-27 is not unique when we look at what other countries are doing. However, having considered the evidence heard by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and having carefully read the bill, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill. Therefore, at third reading, we will be voting in favour of this bill.
    To conclude, I would like to summarize the main aspects of this bill: to prevent the receipt by consumers of unsolicited business e-mails; to prohibit certain practices in order to protect the integrity of transmission data and prevent the installation of unauthorized computer programs; to prohibit the collection of personal information by unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling or distribution of electronic address lists.

  (1625)  

[English]

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
    Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties. I move:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, during the debate tonight pursuant to Standing Order 52, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.
    Does the chief government whip have unanimous consent for this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Electronic Commerce Protection Act

     Questions and comments, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's explanation of the Bloc's position on the bill.
    One of the issues that has been of concern to us for some time is differentiating. We all know that spam is an irritant but the levels of spam are infecting computers to the levels of international fraud. They use people's personal computers as zombie bots to spread further spam.
    We saw that in the U.S., in 2007, Robert Alan Soloway was a arrested and charged with 35 criminal counts including mail fraud, wire fraud, email fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. The Americans went after him on the aggravated identity theft because of his taking over other individuals' Internet domains and computers.
    The United States has taken this issue very seriously. Up to now we have been the only G8 country without spam legislation. I would like to ask the member, does the member think this bill is enough to put us in line where other G8 partners are going in terms of dealing with spam?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.
    I think he understands that the current system is inadequate. It makes electronic communication really inefficient and the purpose of Bill C-27 is to clean things up. So I will respond with a brief answer. Yes, Bill C-27 would put us on a level playing field, to some extent, with countries that have passed similar legislation.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, as always, I am very honoured to rise in this place as a representative of the people from Timmins—James Bay, and I take that role very seriously. One of the roles that I am given as a member of Parliament is to review and speak on legislation. This legislation is something that we as members of Parliament need to see in terms of a larger vision. This is not just a one-off bill.
    In order for Canada to go where it needs to go in terms of a 21st century economy, we need to have a full vision in terms of the potential for digital innovation and also the pitfalls that are facing us. In terms of a large vision of where we need to be as a country holding its own and being a leader, we need to look at a number of initiatives. Earlier the issue of digital broadband access was brought up in the House. For a country that is as defined by geography as we are, to remain competitive, we need digital broadband.
    The FCC report last week, which would be one of the world leaders in terms of its credibility on this issue, it says how much Canada has fallen behind. We have gone from being a world leader in 2003 to a world laggard. Anyone watching this back home does not need the FCC to tell them that we are paying some of the highest fees for Internet access and we are getting some of the lousiest service.
    The FCC talks about how it is that Canada went from being a world leader in terms of making sure broadband access was happening, where just in 2003 we were the country to watch, to now being in 20th, 25th, or 26th place on various parts, depending on what indicators we look at.
    The FCC points out the lack of competition in Canada. It is not pointing out the CRTC's dropping of the ball on this, but it speaks to something again that we are seeing, that when there is a very small cabal of companies that are basically now running the infrastructure of the Internet, unless there is innovation being pushed forward by small third-party ISPs, we will have a situation where development begins to ossify and that is what has happened. The FCC reports show how much we are falling behind because we are not getting that level of third-party competition from the smaller players. That is one of the elements we need to look at in terms of a larger vision.
    Second is the issue of net neutrality, which plays very much into the access of broadband. When there are a few giant players who are deciding the development of speed on the Internet, we cannot have them making the decision as to who is going to be in the fast lane and who is going to be in the slow lane. There needs to be a sense that, in order to have development on the Internet, net neutrality is a key cornerstone. This is not a principle of the so-called computer geeks. Talk to anybody in business and they will say that if they cannot get fast access, they are going somewhere else. They are very concerned about deep packet inspection, for example. They are very concerned that when they put information through VoIP, or through BitTorrent, it could be unfairly slowed down. So that is the second element of an innovation agenda that we need to look at.
    The third part of an innovation agenda is upgrading our copyright laws to the 21st century to ensure that we are moving forward and encouraging innovation and encouraging new ideas that may threaten some existing business models, but the only way we are going to have innovation is if we bring our copyright laws up to the 21st century agenda. I spend a great deal of time on the copyright file and I can say that we are finally at the point where we are agreeing that trying to implement laws that would work in 1996 is not going to get us anywhere. We need to be enacting laws that will bring us into the next 20 years.
    The other element in terms of a digital strategy is dealing with the irritant factor. That is how most people see spam. They see spam as an irritant. It affects all of us. Every time I go on my computer I have someone offering to sell me a product that is going to make certain parts of my body much larger than they otherwise would be. I think my ears are large enough as it is. I do not need any help, thanks very much. Nonetheless, they will not leave me alone. They are always offering to sell me real estate when I am still paying for the house I bought many years ago in northern Ontario. I could have used the help then, but I certainly did not need the help of spammers.

  (1630)  

    We laugh about the silly and stupid things we come across in spam day after day, but we need to see the effect that it is having in terms of not just our ability to do our work but the very nature of the threat it is posing to average citizens. Spammers are very tied into a growing level of Internet fraud. They undermine confidence. We do not want to go to a website and leave our email information, because we do not want it to be taken and misused.
    If we do not have confidence, it undermines our ability to move forward. Certainly the issue of spam is very serious. Canada has been singled out as the only G7 country without spam legislation. That puts us in a really bad light, because spammers will use our jurisdiction to push for spam. It is all well and good to say that we will get the emails of the spammers and hunt them down. If anybody has ever tried to track one of them down, they know that these emails do not go anywhere.
    What ends up happening is that there is a much more insidious move afoot. They move very quickly in terms of their technological innovation. They do not send the spam from a home computer, so they cannot be tracked. They use a number of techniques to basically act as a parasite on other messages going out, to the point where they can actually take over a person's computer without the person using it and download malicious software. They create these zombies or bots.
    The threat to privacy and innovation and the threat of fraud become compounded on a massive scale. This needs to be addressed and taken seriously.
    For example, just last year, the U.S. came down with some of the heaviest attacks on spammers. I was referring earlier to May 31, 2007, when they went after Robert Alan Soloway. They charged him with 35 criminal counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, email fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Prosecutors were alleging that Soloway was using these zombie computers to distribute spam across wide networks.
    I will give an example of how this plays out. It is classic in terms of the development of the Internet. The greatest strength of the Internet is the ease with which one can get information out there. Of course, the greatest threat is the ease with which spammers can undermine it.
    We can talk about the famous Nigerian 419 scam. Back in the day when the fax machine was the most exciting cutting-edge technology and I was working at a northern magazine, we used to get these emails from this guy. He was a former colonel in the Nigerian army. He was being held prisoner. If only I could send him $500, he would send me $100,000. It was very crude. It cost them money every time they sent that out. It went on a fax machine. It made tracking these guys a lot easier.
    The 419 scam was a very marginal scam in the 1980s when it was first developed in Nigeria. It is interesting that Insa Nolte from the University of Birmingham said that the development of email turned the 419 scam from a local fraud to one of the largest export businesses in the country of Nigeria. That is how effective it has been.
    For every million people who click delete, one person in a million might respond. That is how the fraud happens. I am sure that my colleagues here can tell similar stories, but I am now starting to see email requests for help coming much closer to home, where similar last names of family members of constituents and local references are being used.
    This comes from the trolling of information that has been enabled under these massive networks of zombie computers. They can track and pick out names from the email traffic. They are picking out bits of stories and they are able to tailor the stories of personal need and personal threat. My daughter received one yesterday from someone who she thought might be a student who was lost in London. They had two or three key pieces of information about her and she could not figure out how they got that.
    That is the kind of computer fraud that is now being perpetrated. Again, many of us will click through and delete. The problem is that there are enough people out there who will respond. So we are looking in terms of basic computer protection and basic civic protection. We need to do that.

  (1635)  

    However, we need to look at it in a larger area, in terms of what basic rules we are going to put down so that developers, innovators and citizens can use this wonderful new medium that we have, without fear.
    I think some of the basic provisions in Bill C-27 are fairly straightforward. We should be asked for consent before any computer program is downloaded on our computer. That should be basic. The idea that spyware could be put into our computer without us knowing should have criminal consequences. We know, for example, there are various forms, such as Trojan rootkits. Sometimes legitimate companies think that by being able to put this spyware into our computer it is going to protect them. But it does not. It undermines consumer confidence.
    I just have to refer to the famous Sony rootkit disaster, where Sony decided that on its CDs it was going to put spyware and not tell the consumers. Consumers were buying these CDs, thinking they were buying a piece of music, putting them into their computers, and their computers were crashing and they could not figure out why. It turned out that Sony, one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, had put in the spyware thinking it was going to go after copyright infringement and what it did was undermine its credibility in the marketplace to a great degree. Companies should never have been allowed to think that kind of move should have been able to take place. No citizen who buys a CD or any computer product to put into his or her system should have to worry that there is spyware in there.
    So the issue of asking consent before any computer program or any spyware is put into our computer is a very reasonable provision and a necessary provision.
    I think the other thing we need to speak to is that companies cannot take personal information without consent. That is another primary element of the Internet. When we go on the Internet and we go to a website or when we respond to email from someone we might not know, we want to know that our records on the computer, our data on the computer, is not being accessed, and that when we go to a website our information is not being passed on to someone who is then going to come and try to sell us some kind of scam product that we do not want.
    If we do not have that assurance, it starts to undermine the ability of consumers and companies to make the most of what they need to make the most of in terms of moving forward.
     Earlier a Liberal colleague said he was worried that this was a big hammer that was going to shut down business, and we know there was certainly a big backlash against the Liberals when they seemed to be led around by the nose by some lobbyists on watering down provisions of this bill.
     I have looked at the provisions and I have looked at what the Liberals were trying to sneak through, and I do not think it is in line with the 21st century digital innovation agenda. Fortunately, the Liberals are not in the position to run a bill like this, where they would be able to undermine it and ensure that the corporate lobbyists got their way. There are citizen provisions that have to be addressed and this bill is looking at that.
    It was the Liberals who wanting to limit the scope on spyware. I am astounded by that. I do not know if they think it is okay to spy on my computer, but I certainly do not think it is. And I, as an average citizen or a legislator, would not support that they wanted to exclude surreptitiously installed DRM from the gambit of the bill.
    Once again, when I go to a website or when I respond to an email, I do not want to have to worry that some company thinks it is okay to bury mechanical means for spying on what I am doing.
    I was surprised by my Liberal colleagues on this bill, but I think there was certainly a large backlash, because the consumer public is very aware in terms of where we need to go with a digital agenda. So I am glad to see that we have moved forward with all parties on this bill.

  (1640)  

    The bill only addresses commercial electronic messages. This is not an attempt to shut down individuals who maybe want to do mass emails to their friends and to their friends' friends. There is no provision in the bill to go after people who send out those emails. Personally, I find those emails rather irritating. I do not think I have ever reached the bottom of one of the long lists of cc and cc and cc. I do think it is okay for individuals to do that. The question here is electronic messaging for commercial use. That is the main focus of this bill.
    A personal relationship, a family relationship, a pre-existing business relationship would not be stopped. Companies would still be able to send information with respect to previous business dealings, such as someone buying software or something from a company.
    I ask the simple question: What is the problem with asking the person for consent to continue? I do not see that impeding in any manner. If I purchase goods and I develop a relationship with a company, that is perfectly fine. But I want to know that my Parliament and legislation will back me up if I am not interested in receiving mass emails, that I can say I am not interested. That is not an unreasonable situation. Contrary to what the Liberals are saying, it is not going to grind business to a halt in Canada. It might if we were still back in the age of the fax machine, but this is certainly not going to grind innovation to a halt.
    We worked at committee on this. This is a big bill. We had to look at many areas in terms of ensuring that spam legislation would actually address the problems. I am hopeful that this is the proper first step because we need to start addressing this.
    We need to address this in terms of lost potential. We need to address this in terms of interference with competitiveness. We need to address this in terms of fraud. We need to address this in terms of the fundamental issue of consumer rights.
    Our computers should not be open to some third party that we do not know, a third party who could be dropping spyware into it, or using it to send out harassing emails, possibly fraudulent emails. When we are plugged into the web, we should not have to worry about what is going to come back down the pipe that we do not want.
    Bill C-27 takes some steps toward addressing that. Does it do everything that is necessary? I do not think that is possible at this point. We are going to have to amend and change it as we go because the Internet changes quickly, fraudsters change quickly. We have to run just to keep up as legislators, but this is a good first step.
    I am proud of the work of my colleague from Windsor West who worked on this bill at committee. We will be supporting it as it goes ahead.

  (1645)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member for Timmins—James Bay has taken a leadership role relative to the Internet and the impact that it has had culturally. Being a bit older than my colleague, to listen to him talk today and give us his thoughts on this helps a person of my generation deal with some of the issues that are happening.
    One of the things that I am concerned about is phishing. It strikes me that is a very significant issue.
    In my little more innocent time, when I first started going on the Internet, I was asked to take an IQ test, which I should not admit publicly. I had to change every password on my computer after that because I realized that I had made a mistake, especially when the first email showed up at my address. I wound up changing my email address as well.
    Does my colleague think this particular bill deals with that situation appropriately?
    Mr. Speaker, the issue is of how phishing is used to send out a simple email. Someone responds and then basically they have got that person. They have information. They can use that information against that person. That is a huge concern.
    I would like to put it in a broader context. Where it is being used now in a very dangerous way is on Facebook. The Privacy Commissioner has certainly come out, as a result of the excellent work of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, and raised the issue of privacy concerns on Facebook.
    Every one of us is on Facebook, I am sure. Our kids are on Facebook. They do not see that posting their names, their cellphone numbers, all kinds of personal information about themselves, can hurt them down the road, because there are scammers out there. What is our solution? Is our solution as legislators to say, “Bad, bad, bad. We have to shut this down”, or is it to say that, no, we need to have the laws in place to protect people and to go after the people who misuse it.
    Second, I think it is as important, not within the confines of the bill and it would not fit within the bill but I think it is something we need to look at, is the need to educate young people. Until people have been scammed, they will never get scammed so they do not have to worry about it. But as I said earlier, I used the example of a young student who received a scam yesterday and it had three pertinent pieces about her and her personal identity that she figured it had to be someone she knew.
     All we have to do is go on Facebook. I could tell a people what high school they went to. I could tell them who their first girlfriend was. I could tell them their date of birth and their star sign. If I am looking to scam a person, going on Facebook is the first place I would go. It is the ultimate phishing expedition and people will see some long-term implications from that kind of free flow of personal, private information that people think is protected because it has just been seen by their friends, but third party applications are using it, and all kinds of corporate entities are getting in and getting access to this information.

  (1650)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Timmins—James Bay on his speech today in the House. I found it very interesting in terms of the scamming and so on that is going on.
    Today, I actually received two requests for information from what I believe are people trying to scam me, and those are from organizations trying to get banking information. One of my friends back home was scammed on that very technique and provided this individual with information on banking and got scammed for just over $3,000.
    I am wondering if the hon. member thinks this legislation would help prevent that sort of situation.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's example is very pertinent because it actually speaks to another level.
    I spoke of Facebook and young people getting scammed. The banking information tends to affect older people because they are very concerned about their bank credit. They receive an email, and I have received a similar email which looks just like it comes from my bank, and the email says it needs my banking information because there has been a fraud committed. That is how it happens. A person believes they have had a relationship with their bank, but if they look at those emails closely, they will suddenly realize there is something not quite correct. The hon. member raises an excellent point.
    Within the confines of the bill, it will be able to go after the scammers who are sending these kinds of messages out. It will allow for people to sue, which is an important provision. The bigger issue, though, goes back to the issue we face with Facebook. We really need a larger information campaign about the rights of the digital citizen and what people need to do to protect themselves. It is not about locking the Internet down. That will not happen. It is about giving people a level of assurance, whether they are senior citizens who are getting on the Internet for the first time or whether they are young people or whether they are people like us who press, press, press, click, click, click all day long. We never know when we will make that mistake.
    We do need to have this discussion. It is not a partisan discussion. This is a discussion we need to have as a Canadian legislature in terms of looking at some of the problems out there that are not being addressed. Education will be one of the key ones in stopping these kinds of scams.
    Mr. Speaker, this has been a very informative discussion today and I was quite intrigued by a number of my colleague's points. First and foremost, he talked about the threat to innovation, that if we do not get a handle on using the Internet in its most positive way and avoiding the pitfalls, as it were, we are going to lose out in terms of innovation.
    I was hoping that he would expand on that notion of innovation.
    Mr. Speaker, Clay Shirky has just written a book entitled Here Comes Everybody and what he says in it is that we are on the verge of an absolute transformation in industrial design in terms of economic ordering.
    Clay says that when new technology comes in is not when the revolution happens. The revolution happens when the technology becomes boring and every day. When everybody is posting pictures of their babies online and emailing back and forth is when the real, new transformative powers begin to happen.
    What Clay talks about is cognitive surplus. For example, if most of us go online and basically treat it like TV, there is no difference. However, if 5% of us are on maybe a genealogical site putting information online or doing something like Flickr where there are millions and millions of photos being built up, there is power in so many people putting just 1% or 2% of their time into building something bigger, like Wikipedia, which has enormous transformative power.
    If we look at the success of Wikipedia, Clay is positing that this is the beginning of this sort of wiki building of all kinds of people coming together. That is the new model for design innovation. That is where we are going to begin to see the whole transformation of the industrial complex.
    Whereas before, it was hierarchical, top down; now, there is going to be a whole movement. However, in order to make that happen, there has to be confidence and people have to know that as they are sharing information, they are not being ripped off, that they are not going to be getting hit with tons of emails and subjected to fraud. There has to be a sense that they can go online to transform and build new economies, new ideas, and new systems of working together. There has to be confidence and one way to get that confidence is to get the scammers, the spammers and the fraudsters off the Internet.

  (1655)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to the third reading of Bill C-27, Electronic Commerce Protection Act, or as it is also called the ECPA.
    As chair of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, I want to recognize the constructive work of all the members of the committee from all parties in improving the bill.
    The bill, as amended, from committee has benefited from the work over the past months of the members of the committee. As a result, a number of key elements in the bill have been strengthened, clarified and have been done in a way without diminishing the core principles of what the government has been trying to achieve.
    Email is a wonderful technology, and it has only been just over 10 years that we have all been using email broadly. In just over 10 years, it has completely changed our lives. However, many of the benefits of email have been offset by the problem of spam, which is unwanted and unsolicited commercial emails.
    According to a MessageLabs report of September 2009, which is a division of Symantec Corporation, spam accounted for as much as 86% of all global email traffic. Unfortunately, Canada is in part responsible for this problem.
    Canada ranks as one of the top originating states for spam. In Cisco 2008 Annual Security Report Canada ranked fourth on the list of spam by originating country list.
    Late last year in the United States, Facebook won $873 million U.S. in damages from an American court arising from the activities of a spammer based in Canada. That case was prosecuted in the United States and not in Canada. That speaks to the lack of Canadian legislation in place to prevent this kind of activity.
    The high volume of spam in recent years has negatively affected the productivity of the Internet and all the technologies associated with the Internet. When a high volume of email is spammed, many people spend hours deleting unwanted messages, networks slow down and companies are forced to spend millions, if not billions of dollars, upgrading their systems, their networks, their backbones, their routers, their pipes to the Internet in order to accommodate the additional bandwidth and network capacity needed to handle this volume of email traffic.
    The high volume of spam has impeded the full potential of the Internet as a platform for both personal and commercial use. Spam is more than just unwanted email. It is often used as a vehicle to perpetrate fraud on Canadians. It can lead to online fraud by luring individuals to counterfeit websites, also known as phishing. It can lead to the theft of personal data to rob bank accounts and credit card accounts, called identity theft. It can lead to the collection of personal information through elicit access on one's laptop or on one's computer, known as spyware. It often is used as a vehicle to perpetrate fraud on Canadians
    Not just Canadians suffer but Canadian businesses suffer and often this is an overlooked fact of spam. Canadian businesses suffer because they are the victims of the counterfeiting of their corporate website to defraud individuals. We all know of examples of getting emails from spammers or from other people who wish to perpetrate fraud. They ask for people's banking information. They send an email that contains a page that looks like a Royal Bank website or a TD Bank website and often many unsuspecting individuals give their information to these spammers, the people trying to perpetrate this fraud.
    It also leads to spam borne viruses and other malicious software called malware, which are used to create networks of zombie computers known botnets without the knowledge of their owners. This undermines confidence not just that Canadians have in the Internet but that Canadian businesses have in the Internet as a platform for commerce, as a platform for doing business in the 21st century.
    I do not think it is hyperbole to say that spam is costing Canadians and Canadian businesses billions of dollars a year in fraud, in network capacity and in the need to upgrade systems to handle the volumes of email which we are seeing. It costs the economy through malicious programs such as malware, spyware, phishing, viruses, worms and Trojans that enter computers. It costs the economy in terms of undermining Canadians and Canadian businesses in their confidence of the Internet, often having to rely on old-fashioned ways of doing business because the Internet is not seen as trustworthy enough to conduct certain types of business transactions.

  (1700)  

    In response to this problem, the Government of Canada launched a task force on spam to consult Canadians and their businesses. The task force was given one year to consult and report. In May 2005 the task force reported its findings and recommendations in a report to the Minister of Industry. I want to thank the members of the task force for their valuable work in this regard.
    Our government has acted on the recommendations and findings of the task force by introducing Bill C-27, anti-spam legislation entitled “The Electronic Commerce Protection Act”, or the ECPA. This legislation will deter the most damaging form of spam from happening in Canada and will help drive spammers and their associated activity out of Canada.
    The legislation addresses the recommendations of the task force on spam, which brought together experts from industry, academia, consumers and other business experts to come together to craft a comprehensive set of measures to combat threats to the online economy. Successful legislative models in other states were also examined and taken into account when drafting the bill.
     The legislation will allow Industry Canada to act as a national coordinating body to educate consumers, track and analyze statistics and trends and lead policy oversight and coordination.
     The legislation will also facilitate the establishment of a non-governmental agency, the spam reporting centre, which will receive reports of spam and related online threats, allowing it to collect evidence and gather intelligence to assist the three reporting agencies, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, with the investigation and prosecution of offences.
    It is important to note that the ECPA does not apply to non-commercial activity. Political parties and charities, other organizations that contact Canadians through email will not be subject to the ECPA, provided these emails do not involve selling or promoting a product.
    Bill C-27 will protect Canadians and their businesses from the most damaging and deceptive forms of electronic harms and provide a regulatory regime to protect the privacy and personal security of Canadians. The rules will encourage confidence in online communications and e-commerce on the Internet.
    The bill before us provides the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner with the tools they need to pursue those who undermine our online economy and to work with one another and their international counterparts. The bill has sharp teeth, administrative monetary penalties of up to $1 million for individuals and up to $10 million for businesses.
    The bill in front of us today resulted from a great deal of work from several different sources. On the one hand, we had the recommendations and findings of the 2005 Task Force on Spam. On the other hand, we have also benefited from some of the work that former Senator Goldstein did in Bill S-220 in this regard.
    Some of the features in this bill differ from what Mr. Goldstein had previously proposed. One of the most important is the use of the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to enforce the provisions, in other words, using regulatory agencies to enforce the provisions of the spam bill rather than using police enforcement agencies as Bill S-220 had proposed.
    The RCMP has other urgent law enforcement responsibilities, and I believe we should not redirect those precious resources to the monitoring of unsolicited commercial email. I believe that regulatory authorities are better positioned than law enforcement authorities for this kind of white collar problem.
    In drafting Bill C-27, the government also drew on a wealth of experience in other states in combating spam. The bill drew on work that had been done in New Zealand, Australia and in the United States. The bill also benefited from the approach taken by other states as well. The bill before us is based on the best and most effective aspects of those legislative regimes in those states.

  (1705)  

    By being consistent with the approaches of other states, by using regulatory approaches and regulatory agencies in effecting this anti-spam bill rather than law enforcement agencies, we will help promote greater international co-operation to combat spam and other online fraud.
    As members of the House know, Bill C-27 adopts an express consent regime designed to give businesses and consumers control over their inboxes and their computers. It requires that the individual's consent be sought and obtained in order to permit an ongoing commercial transaction. Once consent has been expressed by an individual, it remains until the individual opts out or revokes that consent. The industry committee took a careful look at how to ensure that the companies that used email could keep in touch with consumers so they did not inadvertently find themselves in violation of the law.
    Members of the House will also know that the bill contains implied consent provisions that have been expanded to include suspicious publication of an electronic address. If someone publishes his or her email address on a website or in a print advertisement, he or she is considered to have consented to receive unsolicited commercial messages, provided the sender's message relates to the business or office held by the person.
    Consent is also implied when a person gives out a business card or provides an email address in a letter. Similarly, the amended bill clarifies that when a business is sold, the purchaser has an implied consent to contact the customers of that business. Following the initial transaction between a business and a consumer, the period of implied consent has been expanded to 24 months from the original 18, as first contained in the original bill. This gives businesses even more time in which to obtain the express consent to further commercial transactions.
    Another area in which the bill has been amended is in ensuring that updates to computer programs are not adversely affected by the protections we have put in place against malware and spyware.
    The committee looked at the impact the bill would have on the installation of computer programs. It has been amended in the situation where the installation of updates, as it is understood as part of an original contract under which the software is installed, is not prohibited by the bill. Most of these programs call for automatic updates, such as daily or weekly updates, to anti-virus software. These updates will not require fresh consent for each instance. Running programs such as JavaScript or Flash programs will also not require express consent each time they are run.
    Let me say a few words about the private right of action before I conclude. Some hon. members have questioned whether a private right of action is necessary. I believe it is. The private right of action enforces and complements the enforcement efforts of the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. I would remind the House that this feature has been very effective in other jurisdictions in shutting down those such as spammers who have caused to the electronic economy. I believe it will be equally effective here in allowing groups or individuals to pursue violators. The private right of action will allow individuals and businesses suffering financial harm an avenue of recourse to be compensated and awarded damages.
    Finally, the bill is technology-neutral. Bill C-27 recognizes that the convergence of voice and data is happening and will eventually be complete. It will allow the Government of Canada to prevent spam and associated threats regardless of how the technology evolves. Therefore, the bill will remain current in the future as technology evolves.
    If Bill C-27 is passed by the House at third reading, Canada will go a long way to combatting spam and spam-related threats. Based on the experience of other states with similar legislation, a reduction in spam is quickly expected. When Australia adopted similar legislation in 2004, it dropped out of the world's top 10 spam-originating states and major spammers in Australia closed their operations altogether.
    While the legislation will not eliminate spam entirely, Canadians will see a reduction in the amount of spam in their inboxes. Equally important, the legislation will decrease the most damaging forms of spam from originating in Canada and will help drive spammers and their associated illegal activities out of Canada.
    The Internet has become the primary platform for online commerce and general communications. Canada has had a long history of global leadership in the telecommunications sector. E-commerce is now a part of the Canadian economy, with billions of dollars of goods and services being sold over the Internet each year in Canada.

  (1710)  

    If adopted by Parliament, this legislation would allow Canada to continue in that leadership, ensuring that we remain a secure locale for e-commerce and for Canadians. It is time for Canadian law to catch up with the Internet age. All parties in the House have expressed their desire to strengthen confidence in online commerce. All parties are opposed to spam and see the danger of it.
    We have studied this bill at great length in committee and have emerged with important amendments that clarify it. The time has come to pass it at third reading.
    Mr. Speaker, we often talk about individuals and their individual experiences on the Internet. However, there is also this extremely important aspect of commercial business and what it can do from the other side to protect itself and the important practices it can follow to help Canadians understand and recognize legitimate commercial communications.
    I wonder if the member would care to comment about the importance of engaging business on the other side. We can legislate only so much, but we really do need partners in this if we are going to deal with it effectively.
    Mr. Speaker, part of this debate that is often overlooked is the cost to Canadian businesses and the problems that Canadian corporations have in managing their email networks. From personal experience, I can say that it costs billions of dollars for Canadian corporations to handle the volumes of spam that we are now seeing.
    As the House knows, we in Parliament have size limits on our inboxes. The simple reality is that the volume of email coming into the House of Commons and Senate computer systems is such that a great volume of these emails are spam. While companies can put in place firewalls, routers and other forms of software on their servers to redirect or block spam, at the end of the day, a lot of this spam still makes its way through those firewalls and routers and into the email servers, which then become completely clogged and saturated with this spam. As a result, legitimate transactions and emails are often slowed down or mailboxes are restricted in terms of the amount of email they can handle in order to deal with all of the spam that is being received.
    Backup systems have to be enlarged. Bandwidth has to be enlarged. Email systems have to be expanded. All of these represent hidden costs to Canadian businesses. Many times, the senior management of these businesses does not realize the number of dollars that are being wasted on IT departments and chief information officers to handle the volumes of spam that we are seeing.
    I think this bill is a move in the right direction because it is going to help Canadian businesses combat the time wasting and resource wasting that this problem creates, despite the efforts taken to put network security in place and expand data storage systems.

  (1715)  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-27. PIPEDA falls under the jurisdiction of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics with regard to personal information.
    A number of members have been involved in one aspect of this and that is identity theft. It is a very serious problem in our society and the stories are horrific. The impacts it can have on people are very tragic.
    I certainly want to speak in support of the bill, basically to start the process of educating legislators, because this is a starting point from which we need to continue to grow due to the velocity with which the information and technology are growing, as well as some of the tricks and things that we have seen and the way the envelope is being pushed.
    Most members will have seen things in their inboxes from people identifying themselves as representatives of their bank. The emails say that the bank is doing a security check and requires members to provide their account numbers or something like that. They look very official. As a matter of fact, often the logos of a bank or the proper or stylized name of the bank will appear. Yet Canadians should understand that banks do not do business related to security and privacy over the Internet. It is just not a secure environment in which to do that.
    This bill would establish a regulatory framework, which I think is a very good start. Our economy is changing. Our kids grew up with computers. Their ability to move very quickly through the electronic world is absolutely fascinating.
    I actually have a degree in computer science from the University of Western Ontario and at the time I took that degree, we were using punch cards, which will give everyone an idea of where I came from. This is a very serious issue, and I am glad that we are at least at the point that this bill is at third reading and this electronic commerce protection act would prohibit the sending of commercial electronic messages without prior consent of the recipient.
    It brings to mind the do not call list system that was established, which Canadians will say does not work very well. It is problematic and we should probably learn from the experience of the do not call list that notwithstanding the mechanisms that have been put in place, somehow things slip through. There is a caution that as much as we legislate, we are not going to be able to anticipate all the pitfalls that may transpire.
    This act would also amend the Competition Act to prohibit false and misleading commercial representations made electronically. As I have indicated, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, referred to as PIPEDA, prohibits the collection of personal information by means of unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling of lists of electronic addresses.
    That is a reasonable indication that the bill addresses this from sufficient directions. However, I asked a question earlier of the previous speaker. The role of business in this also comes into play.
    Last week I just happened to receive a document called “The Canadian Privacy and Data Security Toolkit”. This is for small and medium size enterprises, many of which are active. These are the ones that are extremely active, scouring the bushes, looking for that bit of business, that niche for their businesses.
    The foreword is by our Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, and the introduction is by Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D., Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. This was actually produced by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which is trying to educate its clients about some of the important things.

  (1720)  

    I want to start off from a business perspective looking back. Some of these businesses may very well be the businesses that are improperly using information they receive from individuals over the net. It states that:
    Information privacy is the right of an individual to exercise control over the collection, use, disclosure and retention of his or her personal information. Personal information (also known as personally identifiable information...) is any information, recorded or otherwise, relating to an identifiable individual.
    It includes such things as credit card numbers, debit card numbers, social insurance and security numbers, driver's licence numbers, and health cards, all of which deal with a fair bit of sensitive information. This leads to the whole situation of things like identity theft.
    A constituent wrote me an email over the weekend to thank my staff for giving her some hints and tips on what she could do to protect herself because she had lost her wallet with all her information in it and had in fact had an indication that someone was already using some of that information. Things happen quickly when information gets into the hands of the wrong people.
    The report talks about a privacy breach. On page 83 it says that:
    A privacy breach is unauthorized access to, collection, use, or disclosure of personal information. The breach could be the result of an inadvertent act such as the loss of a laptop or by a deliberate act such as an attack from a computer hacker. Both, however, are considered breaches since the information is no longer under your protection.
     Other examples of privacy breaches [include] misplaced fax, CD-ROM, or USB drive key[,]...sales receipts with credit card information thrown into recycling bin instead of the shredder[,] old computers reused with personal information still present on the hard drive[,] or customer files stolen during a break-in.
    The consequences of a privacy breach could be a number of things such as:
damage to reputation or brand[,] loss of consumer confidence[,] reduced revenues [and] unexpected costs to compensate victims.
    The potential damage to reputation or brand can be severe. In a survey of individuals who had received notification of a breach, almost 20% of the respondents terminated their relationship with the company, and another 40% were reconsidering their relationship.
    We can see that this is not an inconsequential item we are dealing with for either side. The individual's private information needs to be protected, and a business whether small, medium or large has a role to play in protecting that information which they legitimately acquire through business transactions. There is often the temptation to utilize that information for unauthorized uses.
    There was a case recently within the Government of Canada involving, and I will try not to be too specific, a program to do with a grant for doing something energy related. People who applied for that grant started to receive information on other areas of the government. When someone applies to the Government of Canada for a grant, I would suggest that they do not expect to find themselves on a mailing list and getting information to do with other matters related to the government.
    The government itself is also strongly targeted here with regard to its practices. We have to be vigilant to ensure that none of the information the government collects, regardless of the department, is inadvertently or advertently used for a purpose which was unauthorized by the person who made contact with the government in the first place.

  (1725)  

    There is one other thing that I thought was kind of interesting. Under privacy impact assessment, there is a quick privacy self-assessment. I thought it would be interesting to let members know what small and medium-sized businesses might do.
    The first item is, do we know our privacy obligations?
    Some businesses are busy. I must admit, from an accountant's perspective, most people who run small and medium-sized businesses are more interested in doing business than they are in keeping the books and dealing with the myriad of paperwork and legislative reporting, but this is about knowing the privacy obligations, both federal and provincial, because there are some differences.
    The second item is, has the organization assigned responsibility for compliance with privacy legislation and policy?
     This is an important aspect, because it is an indication of whether the company is taking it seriously, that it has a serious responsibility to comply with provincial and federal legislation and to be proactive in terms of protecting the information of individuals.
    The third accountability and management assessment question is, has the organization conducted an inventory of personal information to identify what information has been collected, where the information is collected from, who has access to that information and to whom may be the information be disclosed externally?
    That is extremely important, because as we well know, one of the ways that people get on mailing lists is that people who accumulate personal information tend to share it or sell it to others. All of a sudden, like a pyramid scheme, it just continues to expand to where all information seems to be in the hands of all people.
    The fourth assessment point is, does the organization make use of online privacy resources, for example, websites of the privacy commissioners or the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, to assist with privacy compliance and awareness of privacy developments?
    Keeping on top of it is clearly very important, and it will be important for us also to readily assess the evolution of this electronic vehicle that is being used and has caused a great deal of difficulty and problems for individuals and for businesses.
    The next point asks, has the organization adopted a privacy policy that addresses collection, use, disclosure to third parties, secure disposal of personal information and retention of personal information as it applies to particular operations?
    With regard to that last point about the retention, there is a shelf life for information. For instance, if we have information about someone who is deceased, all of a sudden, if it is made known, that information has to be destroyed.
    Our committee has dealt with even something like Google Street View. There are some privacy implications there. There are a couple of others where we have provided information to offshore parties as well, being able to control that or make sure of that when we are complying under obligations we have, for instance, with the United States, which requires that for any aircraft that even just flies over any its air space, documents have to be provided as to who the passengers are and where they came from, et cetera.
    Those are extremely important because our private information, our personal information, is everywhere.
    I must admit that I tend to keep thinking about whether I should just report as lost and not recoverable all my cards and the other things that have my personal information on them and get new numbers, simply as almost a reaction to what can happen.

  (1730)  

    Just last week I got a phone call from my bank. I have a U.S. credit card because I have family in the United States, and we travel sometimes to visit them and I use that card. I have not been to California in about 10 years because that is not where my family is, but I was advised that there were two $1,000 charges to my U.S. credit card. The bank took all the information and advised me that those charges would not be left on my account, and I have a new card today.
    Some cards do protect us, but not all of them. It is incumbent on people to understand what can happen when their personal information is used or stolen. Do they have coverage in some fashion? Some of the instruments we use do provide protection.
    There are two more questions on the privacy policy side.
    The sixth question asks, is the privacy policy made available to individuals prior to or at the time that the personal information is collected? Basically, do employees know what is going on and are they aware of all of the policy related to the activity they are undertaking?
    Finally, the self-assessment asks, are your employees aware of the privacy policy and able to direct individuals to it?
    I found this to be an excellent document. It also has a checklist on privacy procedures, training and disclosure to third parties. One could even score oneself on this.
    I would certainly recommend this document to hon. members or others who might want to know a bit more from the perspective of business and how it would be able to interact with this legislation. This legislation would help businesses understand the kinds of things they must be aware of and cautioned not to do. It would also make businesses aware of the kinds of things they could do proactively, and that is a complement to the legislation.
    Again, this document is called “The Canadian Privacy and Data Security Toolkit for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises”, and it is published by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. I am sure that hon. members would be able to get it.
    I appreciate the fact that this legislation has come forward. I think there will be good support from all hon. members. We need this bill to give us the foundation or the basis on which to be able to assure Canadians that we are taking all reasonable steps to provide an environment in which personal information is protected from those who would misuse it or use it for other wrongful purposes.
    The bill itself is fairly straightforward. I appreciate that this was a lot of work for committee. I commend committee for going through it. I did notice the breadth of the work that has been done not only at committee, but by others prior to committee work. A long evolutionary process has brought us to this point.
    It is extremely important that members also familiarize themselves with this. I hope members take an opportunity in their householders to advise their constituents about important legislation such as this, as well as some tips for Canadians at large to help them safeguard their personal information.
    Mr. Speaker, as I see it, there are two problems that this legislation is trying to address.
    The first is obviously the problem of spam as a vehicle to perpetrate online fraud, whether that be phishing or identity theft, spyware, spoofing, counterfeiting, malware, botnets and the like.
    The other part of the problem that this bill is attempting to address is the fact that even if spam were not a vehicle for online fraud, even if spam were not a delivery mechanism for all these malicious types of computer programs, even if spam were not doing anything malicious in terms of what it is delivering to people's computer inboxes, it has a second major problem that is often overlooked, which is that it chews up a huge amount of bandwidth, of storage space on corporate and other computer systems. It is reported that up to 85% of all email traffic in the world is spam, and that costs a huge amount to Canadian businesses in terms of bandwidth usage, in terms of storage space, and that is often overlooked.
     Much of the spam cannot be blocked by firewalls or routers or other forms of technology. The proof is that when we go into our Hotmail account or Yahoo! Mail account or Gmail account, there will be a folder for spam, because spam cannot even be blocked from entering into their systems and their networks. This has a huge hidden cost for the Internet, both for consumers and for Canadian businesses.
    I wonder if the member would comment on that.

  (1735)  

    Mr. Speaker, I must admit, the first thing I thought of was Bill Gates saying that all anyone would need is 64 kilobytes for their Commodore 64 and nobody would ever need anything more.
    On the weekend I picked a little memory stick that has 16 gigabytes of memory on it. The cost of this is coming down very substantially.
    On the commercial side, the member is absolutely right. This is a tremendous amount of information. On a personal level, our computers get filled up pretty quickly. I think members of Parliament have all experienced the same thing, where they can go into their office after having left late at night and find somewhere between 100 and 200 emails in their computer. This is such an easy facility to use, so we can understand that so many of these are people from around the world.
     The member is quite right that the risk to us is that we have the intelligence or maybe the misapplication of intelligence of virtually the entire world looking at ways in which it can intrude, looking at ways in which it can take advantage of our information, destroy our information, share it with others, or park itself for activation later on.
    Some of the Norton software for bugs and the like cannot keep up. Every time I go to Future Shop, there is another version of Norton there.
    Certainly businesses need to get engaged here. They have a significant role to play. I do not know how many small and medium-sized businesses, though, have been engaged to protect their information, to protect their software from invasion, and whether they can or even know how to detect it, and this concerns me.
    Eventually what is going to happen is that business information will be modified in ways in which there is such a high volume of traffic through it that ordinary businesses that are operationally focused will never be able to see it until there is substantial damage.
    Again I thank the committee. I hope we will be able to continue to improve upon the legislation as the risk continues to evolve.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that we support this bill. I see the committee chair nodding his head that, yes, it is an excellent bill. I must say, this bill is a good start. This new legislation specifically targets unsolicited commercial electronic messages. Citizens have been demanding such a bill for some time, and it is sorely needed. Not only are commercial emails sent with the prior consent of the recipient important to electronic commerce, but they are also essential to the development of the online economy.
    By drafting legislation prohibiting spam and protecting personal information and privacy, as well as computers, emails and our networks, the proposed legislation is designed to allow individuals and companies to sue spammers and hold any businesses whose products and services are promoted using these means partially responsible for spamming activity.
    As well, email marketers would be required to obtain informed consent from recipients to receive emails; provide an opting-out mechanism for further emails; and create a complaints system. That is the main purpose of the bill. Since most spam Canadians receive comes from other countries, international anti-spam measures are needed. The government should continue its efforts to harmonize anti-spam policies and encourage countries to work together on enforcing anti-spam legislation.
    I would like to talk about this a bit longer. We know that spam comes from all over the world. That is one thing. But Canadian law applies only to Canada and Canadians, not to other countries. How might this affect us as consumers? What sort of commercial impact might it have? Businesses here in Canada will not be able to distribute advertising on the Internet using software or other ways of communicating with a computer.
    The biggest problem is that because other countries are not subject to this law and their legislation is not harmonized with Canada's, they can keep on sending messages. If I have a business and I decide to send advertising over the Internet for doors, windows and other things, I cannot send a mass mailing. But a business in another country can.
    We have to be competitive with industries around the world, because we are part of a global economy now. So what reason do we have to protect consumers? Protecting them against phishing or hacking is one thing, but we must not forget business. That was the committee's main concern. We must not prevent businesses here from continuing to make a profit. Eight billion transactions are carried out on the Internet. I believe that Canadian businesses should enjoy a share of this growth with all the people here in Canada.
    It is vital that we ask ourselves whether we want to protect our industries or consumers. Should we let others continue to do business without our being able to participate? These are the questions that should be raised, and they have been raised. They have not received a full answer, but this bill is a major step, because it proposes a concrete measure within a timeframe. It took four years to come up with this legislation, because we wanted something better. As we know, things change much more rapidly with the Internet, where six months is an eternity.

  (1740)  

    So, fairly soon after this bill is passed, we will have to take time to see how things are unfolding and to make adjustments, as cyberpirates target us.
     By the way, how do we define spam? Spam is any electronic commercial message, any text, audio, voice or visual message sent by any means of telecommunication—whether by email, cellular phone text messaging or instant messaging—without the consent of recipients. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that its purpose is to encourage participation in a new commercial activity, and that it includes electronic messages that offer to purchase, sell, barter or lease a product, good, service, land or an interest or right in land, or offer a business, investment or gaming opportunity.
    I mentioned what spam is. It has to do with commercial activities, including offers to purchase, sell, barter or lease a product, good, service, land or an interest or right in land. All these are commercial activities that exist here. With this legislation, these people will no longer be able to use the Internet to send their messages.
    What is left for these people to be competitive? Not much. They could use mail services. However, this can be costly, considering that, as I mentioned, such costs will not be incurred in other countries. We always hear—as one member said—that spam requires a lot of work. It takes someone to prepare these emails. If, all of a sudden, we prevent our industries from using the Internet to sell or rent all the products that I listed earlier, what are they going to do? As I just said, they will have to rely on mail services.
    Just think how clogged up the system could get if every industry decided to send a mass mailing to all the other businesses, or to households. How much time would businesses spend opening mail, instead of emails? Of course, Canada Post would be pleased, since postal rates are exorbitant, but businesses would no longer be competitive, because of these costs. We should not forget that, because this is a significant economic consideration.
    Having said what is considered spam, it is also important to point out what is not. What is not spam are messages sent by an individual to another individual with whom they have a personal or family relationship. For instance, I have no personal ties to you, Mr. Speaker. Imagine I send you a message, not as a member, since that is not allowed. So imagine that someone from outside the House sends you an email, he or she could be subject to fines, since this legislation no longer allows emails from one person to another. The bill reads:
—a message that is sent to a person who is engaged in a commercial activity and consists solely of an inquiry or application related to that activity.
    Regarding commercial activities, witnesses came to testify that, initially, the bill required 18 months of contact with the other person. Let me give an example. I know that about every four or five years, family situations and incomes change, so people could be selling their house and buying a new one. With this new law, the real estate agent who sold me my house can no longer contact me after 18 months. In fact, he would be subject to a fine, if the 18-month time limit has passed. In committee, we were able to change that timeframe to 24 months. We would have preferred it to be even longer, to allow businesses and individuals to continue communicating with their existing clients.

  (1745)  

    As I said, the purpose of this bill was to restrict commercial activity, which is important here.
(a) that is, in whole or in part, an interactive two-way voice communication between individuals;
(b) that is sent by means of a facsimile to a telephone account; or
(c) that is a voice recording sent to a telephone account.
...
(c) that is of a class, or is sent in circumstances, specified in the regulations.
    This bill will completely define the issue. There will surely be some flaws, as with any bill, whether it is good or bad. Since this is a new bill, there are always flaws because we forgot something or did not think to regulate something. Over time, we will have to re-examine the bill, more quickly than any other bill, to ensure that we have not left anything out.
    The only circumstances under which spam could be sent would be if the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied. So, if I send a message and the individual agrees to receive it, a relationship has been established.
    Let us take that same real estate agent, and let us assume that I heard from one of my colleagues that his brother-in-law has a house to sell. I would not be able to send that brother-in-law an email to let him know that his brother-in-law had informed me about the house for sale, or to tell him that I know someone who would be interested in buying the house. I could not do that.
    I could only do it over the telephone. I could directly contact the individual via telephone or meet them in person. I would have to establish contact before doing business with this person.
    So therein lies the problem. Anyone who wishes to establish a business relationship with another person must now do so via the telephone or mail, or meet the individual in person. They could not send a simple email.
    We are setting limits. That is the message I want to get across. We are setting limits, but we cannot limit other countries in sending us these messages. We have to consider doing that and count on the goodwill of other countries such as the United States, Australia, France or other European countries. This type of legislation needs to be harmonized. Many countries do not have such regulations or laws. They can therefore do what they want because they are not subject to such legislation.
    In addition to being in a form that conforms to the prescribed requirements, the message will have to make it possible to identify and contact the sender. The message must include an unsubscribe mechanism, with an email address or hyperlink, so that the recipient can indicate that he or she does not want to receive any further commercial electronic messages from the sender. If I send a message or an email, at the end of that message there specifically needs to be a box to check or a note explaining to the person how to stop receiving further messages.
    I think this is the right approach, but in order for it to be successful inquiries would be necessary. The CRTC would have interesting powers. It could require a person to preserve transmission data, produce a copy of a document that is in their possession and prepare a document based on data, information or documents that are in their possession. It could also conduct a site visit in order to gather such information or, if necessary, to establish whether there was a violation.

  (1750)  

     Because it cannot do that itself, note that it will have to get a warrant from a justice of the peace prior to entering premises. It cannot do that by itself; the CRTC cannot do it by itself; the Competition Bureau has certain powers, but there again its powers are limited. Today, the Competition Bureau has no powers of inquiry. That is why there is Bill C-452, which will give the Competition Bureau three types of powers of inquiry: an exclusive power of inquiry, a power of inquiry to summon and protect witnesses, and a power to search. That is what is important.
     How can agencies conduct inquiries and do the work for which they have been created if they have no power? I have introduced Bill C-452 to give the Competition Bureau this power so it can conduct inquiries and do the work we expect of it.
     If the court believes that a person has violated any of those provisions, it may, which is not to say that it will have to, order that the applicant be paid an amount representing the loss or damages suffered, or any expenses incurred. If it is impossible for the applicant to establish those amounts, the court may order that the applicant be paid a maximum of $200 per contravention, up to a maximum of $1 million. I am choosing my words carefully: not “shall order”, but “may order”. That is very different.
     As I said earlier, the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner must also consult one another, and they may share any information with one another in order to carry out their activities and responsibilities pursuant to their respective powers.
     So there are three agencies: the CRTC, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Competition Bureau. Together, they have certain powers under the bill. However, they must be capable of communicating with one another. We know that these agencies have their private preserves and they are not prone to disclosing information.
     The Office of the Privacy Commissioner is another thing again. The Liberal member referred to this earlier. That Office is an important player in this regard.
    Unsolicited commercial electronic messages are becoming a serious social and economic problem that undermines the personal and commercial productivity of Quebeckers. Not only do they hinder email use for personal communications but they also threaten the growth of legitimate e-commerce. As I mentioned earlier, when people are assigned to open these emails, time is lost and businesses become less competitive. That causes a problem.
    I would like to point out something else. The minister, or another organization somehow involved in Bill C-27, has managed to ensure that a clause in this bill could jeopardize the National Do-Not-Call List (DNCL). A door has been opened because one of the clauses states that the DNCL—set up by this government and containing the telephone numbers of seven million people who do not wish to be unnecessarily pestered by telemarketers—could be deactivated. They have now made it possible, within one year, to eliminate a list that cost millions to set up.

  (1755)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's speech.
    The issue that we are trying to deal with here, on all sides I would hope, is the need to ensure that innovation continues to happen, that we believe that the Internet is going to be more and more of a vehicle for not just economic innovation but for social, cultural and political discourse. Therefore, there has to be the issue of confidence.
    When people go on the Internet and they respond to people they might not know, they have to have a fundamental sense of confidence that they can make those connections. Without those links that are being made from person to person, from business to business, major problems will occur in terms of impeding productivity and also undermining the fundamental revolutionary power of what is before us.
    The issue of spam is not simply an issue of an irritant. It is not simply that it bothers us because we have to delete from our inbox everyday hundreds of useless irritating emails. The deeper issue is the underlying issue of spam that leads to fraud. There is such an interconnection between the misuse of Internet communication and international fraud rings. We see that Canada was alone in the G7 in terms of having any kind of plan for dealing with spam up until now and we are also one of the worst spam bases in the G7 and, in fact, the world.
    Could my hon. colleague speak to the connection between fraud and spam, and the need to have an international standard because a spam artist knows no domestic boundary or border?

  (1800)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has identified the problem and its implications. Yes, it can be useful. There is spam, emails, and there are important things. There are things we can use every day. It is true that there has been fraud and that is why we have a bill. However, we must be careful. I can certainly understand how a great deal of spam can affect the productivity of some companies.
    However, if we restrict people here and our businesses—those trying to make an honest living for themselves and their employees—if they can no longer use email and the Internet to sell and promote their products, what do they have left? As I was saying earlier, that leaves the postal service. This will hurt small businesses, who will not be able to keep up with big businesses. Larger big businesses will win out and smaller businesses will disappear. Is that what we want? It is one thing to protect our citizens. But we must also protect our businesses so that they can continue to participate in a given market.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask a question of my colleague today.
    I am very concerned about the bill with regard to the cost and confusion the legislation might have for small businesses in the country. Oftentimes the government introduces legislation. Then, after it is introduced, it is quite a complicated process and expense communicating with small businesses and getting them up to speed on what the requirements are.
    I can think of many initiatives in that area over the last several years. I just wonder if the member has any thoughts about how we should be proceeding with regard to that.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague put his finger on the problem. Yes, we discussed it in committee. It would seem that businesses would continue for some time, because as for any other bill, we do not yet know what impact it will have.
    That is why I said during my speech that this bill would have to be reviewed again as soon as possible after it is passed, to determine whether or not it presents a problem for our businesses. That is what should be done. Six months is a long time and a year is much too long, but we would have to look at the legislation again to determine whether it has affected our companies and our society directly.

  (1805)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we have moved this legislation along to the point where it should be ready to be made law. However, then we look at the do not call registry which was made law.
    I am sure most members of the House have received phone calls. I receive calls at home all the time telling me my credit card information is incorrect and I have to press 1 immediately to correct credit card information. I am getting those calls at home. I was not getting them before the do not call registry was established.
    It seems to me that we can say whatever we want in the House about spammers. We can talk until we are blue in the face and yet the fraud and misrepresentation continues, and the lack of political will to get serious about this remains in place.
    I would ask my hon. colleague, does he think, besides reviewing the bill and its effectiveness, we need to show our other competitive countries in the G8, which are actually serious on these things? We preach the gospel of change, but it seems that once something is implemented, the government goes back to being an agnostic on actually dealing with it.
    In light of the failure of the do not call registry, would my hon. colleague like to perhaps guess where this is going to go?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, yes, I will. A witness told us. That was our concern. We knew that the question would come up when a clause was put in the bill that could abolish the national do not call list.
    The question did come up, and there was no mention in the answer of abolishing the list. The government wants to be able to replace this regulatory system in future if necessary.
    I believe that they want to abolish this list. I do not know why, since they are the ones who introduced it. It cost businesses $5 million to comply with the list. This bill contains a clause that could abolish it. That is unfortunate, because the do not call list has been in place for a year and it is working.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, when the government brought in the do not call registry, individuals signed up so they would not be called. Then we found out that international scammers simply walked away with that list because internationally the registry is not respected. All the people, who put their numbers on the list so they would not be called, found themselves victimized by fraud artists and scammers.
    There is talk about taking the existing registry and rolling it into Bill C-27. That is possible and I am open to the suggestion. However, my concern is this. Given the fact that the government showed absolutely no teeth in dealing with all of the scam artists in the Cayman Islands, and wherever else, who obtained the list of our citizens, how are we going to ensure that we are protected from international scammers who have no interest in what we proclaim in the House of Commons?

[Translation]

    The hon. member for Shefford has only 30 seconds left.