moved that Bill , be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to begin the second reading of Bill .
Hon. members will no doubt recall that this bill was debated extensively in this House and the other place in the last session as Bill . Now it is Bill C-28, so we have moved up at least one notch in the world, anyway.
I should inform members that this bill has not changed substantially since the last session and remains as it was following its review by the House industry committee at that time.
At the outset I would like members to consider the bill in a larger context, as part of an overall plan to help put Canada at the forefront of the digital economy, in part through modernizing our framework of laws for the digital age.
Soon we expect to bring up to date other important legislation, including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and of course, the Copyright Act. Together these bills will contribute to improving cyber security practices by consumers and industry, to promote trust and confidence in online commerce.
As we know, the Internet has become the central nervous system for the digital economy. It provides a common global platform for communication and commerce. Its use by businesses and consumers has led to the emergence of a borderless international marketplace.
Since 2000, online sales for Canadian companies have increased nearly tenfold. Ten years ago, online sales in our country were less than $7.2 billion. In 2007, sales reached almost $63 billion.
Businesses and consumers have grown to depend on the Internet. They count on it to be safe and reliable. Online security threats can erode the degree of trust and confidence in the Internet as a safe and reliable environment for electronic commerce.
Our government is committed to building the necessary confidence. We understand what a harmful economic impact spam and other online threats can have on the online economy. We know that the government has an important role to play through legislative measures.
Threats to the online economy include more than just spam. They include spyware, malware, computer viruses, phishing, viral attachments, false or misleading emails, the use of fraudulent websites, and the harvesting of electronic addresses.
These threats are not just nuisances. Some are fraudulent, some invade privacy, and some are used to infect and gain control over computers. It is estimated that spam costs the worldwide economy $130 billion a year.
The bill before us contains important provisions that will protect Canadian businesses and consumers from the most harmful and misleading forms of online threats. It improves the privacy and economic security of Canadians in the electronic environment. It offers a host of clear rules that all Canadians will benefit from. It will promote confidence in online communication and electronic commerce.
The bill before us stakes out new ground in Canada. Currently we are the only G8 country and one of only four OECD countries without legislation dealing with spam. This bill will rectify that situation.
In developing the bill, we have been able to incorporate the best practices of other countries that have launched similar efforts.
We have seen, for example, how effective the private right of action has been in combatting spam in the United States. Under the bill before us, businesses will be able to sue spammers who use their brand to lure unsuspecting customers to divulge private information online as a result of unsolicited email. The bill enables class action suits by individuals who have been spammed or whose computers have been subjected to spyware or botnets.
We have learned from approaches taken elsewhere that a civil administrative regime is more responsive and therefore more effective than using the criminal law to combat spam. Other countries such as Australia, the United States and Japan use regulatory authorities rather than law enforcement to enforce anti-spam legislation. With this bill, Canada will have a comprehensive enforcement regime enforced by existing specialized agencies rather than the police.
What enforcement agencies will be involved? The new law will be enforced by the CRTC as Canada's communications authority, by the Competition Bureau as the federal agency that deals with false or misleading commercial messages, and by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the agency tasked with the administration of PIPEDA. The bill specifically enables these agencies to work and share information with each other, as well as work with and share information with their international counterparts.
The CRTC will enforce the provisions against sending unsolicited commercial messages. It will also have responsibility for the provisions that prohibit the altering of transmission data without authorization and the unauthorized installation of computer programs.
The Competition Bureau will address false or misleading representations online and deceptive marketplace practices such as false headers and website content.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner will address the collection of personal information without consent through unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses, commonly referred to as address harvesting.
The bill provides that both the CRTC and the Competition Bureau can seek what we call “administrative monetary penalties”, AMPs, against violators. The maximum AMP for the CRTC is up to $1 million per violation for individuals, and up to $10 million for businesses.
The Competition Bureau, through application of the Competition Tribunal, may seek AMPs under the current AMPs regime in the Competition Act. That regime specifies AMPs of up to $750,000 for the first violation and up to $1 million per subsequent violation in the case of individuals, up to $10 million for an initial violation by a business and up to $15 million per subsequent violation.
These AMP regimes demonstrate that we are serious about driving spammers out of Canada.
Industry Canada will have oversight responsibilities and will ensure that the work of the three agencies is coordinated. A spam reporting centre will be established to help the three enforcement agencies in their investigations and to give businesses and consumers a one-stop shop where they can report spam and other online threats.
I would remind hon. members that after wide-ranging discussions in this place and in the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology we were able to pass the predecessor, Bill , as amended, with unanimous consent at third reading during the last session.
The amendments that have been incorporated into this bill, based on the thorough review done at committee for the previous bill, fine-tune this legislation so it strikes the right balance between protecting consumers and giving them control over their inboxes, while effectively enabling online commerce.
Hon. members may recall that we took a careful look at how to ensure that companies that use email to keep in touch with customers do not inadvertently find themselves in violation of the law. The purpose of the bill, after all, is not to limit legitimate online business. It is to promote electronic commerce by increasing confidence in the use of the Internet to carry out business transactions.
The implied consent provisions were expanded to include the conspicuous publication of an electronic address such as a website or a print advertisement, provided that the sender's message relates to the business or office held by the recipient. This is consistent with provisions under PIPEDA and accepted in the current code of ethics of the Canadian Marketing Association.
Under the bill, no commercial electronic message can be sent without some form of expressed or implied consent. Implied consent is also extended to existing business and non-business relationships. We have, I believe, preserved the ability to extend by regulation the situations in which it is reasonable to believe that consent to receive commercial emails is to be implied.
Hon. members will also remember that after the committee hearings, the bill was amended by the committee to ensure that legitimate businesses can periodically install updates to their software and that businesses and consumers can continue to use navigation features on the web.
The effect of these amendments was to make a good bill even better. Each of these provisions has been brought forward in the bill before us.
Nonetheless, I want to point out that in addition to these changes made at third reading during the last session, we also incorporated a number of technical changes and clarifications to the bill before us today. Two changes in particular are worth going over in greater detail because they are more important.
The first deals with the order of precedence of two laws that affect privacy: the bill before us; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA. Hon. members may be aware that PIPEDA contains a primacy clause that otherwise ensures its provisions take precedence over subsequently enacted bills when dealing with personal information or consent. This primacy provision ensures that the efficacy of PIPEDA is not undermined by other legislation with weaker consent requirements.
Compared with PIPEDA, the bill before us has stricter rules regarding consent when dealing with personal information respecting email addresses. Its rules are also more strict when dealing with consent to the receipt of commercial messages. This bill must take precedence.
Accordingly, a new clause 3 clarifies that in the event of a conflict between the provision of this bill and a provision of Part 1 of PIPEDA, the provision of this bill, the , would take precedence. Hon. members, I should add that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner supports this amendment.
The second amendment I wish to discuss responds to an issue raised concerning the former Bill C-27. An amendment was added before the bill went to the committee in the other place, but Parliament was prorogued before it could be discussed there. It involves provisions of PIPEDA that prohibit the collection and use of personal information through unauthorized access to a computer system.
Our goal is to increase the protection of personal information stored on personal computers or private business networks. The bill requires private sector firms and investigators to obtain consent to collect that information. It includes a provision that private enterprises do not have the right to collect personal information through access to a computer system “without authorization”. The main focus of the amendment is the term “without authorization”.
In drafting the bill, it was never our intent to limit the ability of private investigators and search engines to access and collect personal information that is already available to the public on the World Wide Web or other similar networks.
We have consulted with privacy advocates, telecommunications carriers, search engine companies, copyright-dependent industries, and other stakeholders. They agree that an amendment is necessary. As a result, we have changed the wording so that instead of “without authorization”, the bill now reads, “in contravention of an Act of Parliament”. That is, there will be no exception to PIPEDA's consent requirements for: “the collection of personal information, through any means of telecommunication, if the collection is made by accessing a computer system or causing a computer system to be accessed in contravention of an Act of Parliament”.
I believe hon. members will agree that this amendment respects the spirit of the bill as originally passed in this House in the last session, and improves upon it.
Finally, we have travelled a long journey toward bringing anti-spam legislation to Canada. From the work of Senators Oliver and Goldstein to the recommendations of the Task Force on Spam, there have been many different sources of inspiration for this bill. It was very close to receiving royal assent in the last session, and I hope we can move it through this session quickly.
This is a bill that will benefit all Canadians who use the Internet, but it is also a major piece of a much bigger agenda to put Canada in the forefront of the digital economy. If we get this right, we will do more than simplify participation in the digital economy; Canada will be a leader.
I urge hon. members to join me in supporting this bill.
Mr. Speaker, sometimes it is not a pleasure to rise and speak to bills, but it is a pleasure to speak to this bill as it will make Canadians very happy.
All of us are bombarded with annoying spam on our computers. The side effects can be dangerous to our computer system. It slows down legitimate commercial businesses in Canada. It is amazing that we have not yet dealt with this issue because it is an annoying and costly problem to Canadians and people all over the world. I am sure there will be support on all sides of the House to deal with this aggravating and at some times dangerous problem that essential computer systems face.
Twenty years ago a computer was not essential in carrying on daily life, but now it is involved in many things. It is even more important to people in the area I come from for things like distance education and health because they do not live in a big city so they do not have access to these specialties. Computers are essential. People need their computers for all sorts of things, like banking and personal communication. A fly in the ointment or a wrench in the works could gum the whole thing up. All of us would like this problem fixed as spam is distressing and dangerous.
I am excited about speaking to the bill. I am also excited about Parliament taking action on spam, which is unsolicited electronic email.
Many of us with computers know how dangerous and how much of a problem this is for Canadian consumers and businesses. In 2003 it was estimated that spam cost the economy over $27 billion worldwide. That is half the Canadian deficit. It is a monumental amount of money.
Since then, the problem has only grown worse. I am sure each of us in the House has thousands of these unsolicited emails gumming up the work of Parliament. I am sure that businesses across the country have this problem, as do individuals. More updated information will be forthcoming on how devastating spam actually is, and it is becoming worse all the time.
We are now looking at a far more serious problem, which would be corrected by the bill, and that relates to the issues of identity theft, phishing and spyware, all of which give concern to Canadians and to the world. We have to deal with this in legislation, both locally and internationally.
In the early 2000s the Liberal Party recognized the problem that spam created. In 2003 the Liberal member for tabled a private member's bill to make spam illegal. Unfortunately, the bill never made it to second reading.
However, based on the strength of Bill C-460, introduced in mid-2003 in the 37th Parliament, the Liberal minister of industry struck a committee to examine the issue of spam and to report to the minister about how the government could most effectively stop this obvious and seriously growing problem.
That report entitled “Stopping Spam: Creating a Stronger, Safer Internet ”, was released in May 2005. The report was created by a committee of 10 experts on information technology and Internet law. The task force also worked with dozens of stakeholders in the technology industry to develop sound proposals and to look at the best practices at the time.
The primary recommendations of the task force were that the government legislate prohibitions on the following: the sending of unsolicited email; the use of false or misleading statements that disguise the origin and the true intent of the email, those emails we get with the funny titles that make it look like it is for us, or something critical or important, but it has nothing to do with that at all. The same product is being sold to us all over again.
The task force also recommended prohibitions on the unauthorized collection of personal information and email addresses, particularly by using fake websites through the selling of lists where those on the list were not told the list would be sold to a third, unknown party.
The committee recommended all these very important changes and I cannot imagine anyone in the House disagrees with those changes. The official opposition supports the bill as it follows through on the recommendations of the committee created by the Liberal government. Also the industry committee did such good work in the last Parliament before prorogation on Bill . It made some very good changes to the bill to make it acceptable to more members of Parliament and a much better bill. However, much more needs to be done.
As I described earlier, as the world is changing, it is changing for businesses too and it is changing the way businesses do business and earn their revenue. They depend more on the Internet and computers. The bill would protect them and it would be a big enhancement to industry and small business in Canada. However, it also has to be careful not to deter the legitimate work and communication with consumers about their business products and services.
The minister talked about the consultation being done with business organizations and the fact that the committee and MPs can hear from those organizations and see whether more amendments need to be made other than the good amendments there were made on Bill to make it now into this new bill, Bill .
Much needs to be done. The committee highlighted the need for the government to play a central role in coordinating the actions of both government and the private sector. All actors agreed that spam needed to be stopped. Internet service providers, web hosts and online marketing agencies need a set of best practices for email solicitation.
The government must work in coordination with industry partners to establish a strong code of practice that prevents the proliferation of electronic emails that are unsolicited, unwanted and constitute spam.
These days spam is no longer a problem exclusive to email. In 2004 and 2005, when the committee was writing the report, spam was starting to move to other electronic platforms. Today Canadians must contend with cellphone spam, either by means of text message or something we may not all be familiar with, robo calling.
It is important that the act recognize the facts and is technologically neutral, encompassing all forms of commercial electronic communication.
The legislation must meet the test to ensure there is proper, effective and adaptable application to current, existing and future modalities that may be able to circumvent not only technologies to prevent and protect consumers in business, but also to remain faithful to the act.
That is why some hope the act can be revisited on a yearly basis as technology evolves. It is something the Liberal Party may look to see the government amend or to look into at committee.
Moreover, the issue of text message spam is being aggravated obviously by yet another announcement of a major cellular service provider recently to start charging for received text messages. There has been plenty of discussion among members of Parliament. It is obvious to everyone that it is unfair, to say the least, that consumers are charged for something they had no choice whatsoever in receiving.
Spam is not just a Canadian problem, as I indicated earlier. Given the borderless nature of the Internet, it means that spam can originate from anywhere and be delivered anywhere. It will not help a lot if we just do the controls here because then we will be flooded by people sending spam to Canadians, gumming up Canadian businesses. They will start sending it from an out of Canada site.
I strongly point out that the legislation takes measures in Canada. There has to be an attempt to work internationally with other partners so we can also go after those companies and organizations that do this remotely from other countries, which do not have the same level of proposed enforcement or legislation. We have to do a lot of work on the international scene, assign the resources to do that work so the good work that is before us now, brought to us by the industry committee, does not dissolve in a flood of spam from 180 other countries around the world.
As a result, because of the international nature of this problem, any government that is serious about combatting spam must be willing to engage other governments around the world in an international strategy to reduce this ongoing problem.
The government's ability to combat spam is not simply about legislation. My party calls on the government to show its concern by raising this internationally at all international fora and working with other governments to produce a coordinated international anti-spam and anti-counterfeit strategy.
The effectiveness of this law will be measured by the government's commitment to enforcement. I take the comments that have already been raised in the past, that we have to ensure there is adequate support for the enforcement of the legislation, which is being complimented and being recommended here. That is a tall order.
Some members are probably aware about all the fraudulent emails people get. If they send them off to the place to deals with them, they get a message saying that they cannot give them an answer because they are so busy, they are so inundated. If there are not enough resources to deal with enforcing this, and the minister mentioned the agencies where those resources would be needed, then the legislation is not going to have much effect.
There is no point in bringing forth legislation if there is a reasonable chance the legislation will not have the intended impact of deterring, stopping, correcting and preventing what is continuously more than just a nuisance, but a very costly one at that.
Policing Internet traffic is incredibly difficult because any Internet crimes crosses jurisdictions and borders, territorial, provincial and federal. That is why in an attempt to control or stop spam, the report called on the government to create a central office that would coordinate anti-spam activities.
I hope the government will move diligently on that if speedy passage is given to this legislation.
Industry Canada is being designated as the official coordinating body. I would like to ask, perhaps in subsequent interventions from the government side, what kind of resources Industry Canada is being given to coordinate the other agencies that have responsibilities under this act such as the Privacy Commissioner, the CRTC and the Competition Bureau, as mentioned by the minister. When we talk about billions of emails, we need the resources for these agencies to deal with them and enforce the legislation.
What resources can we see coming from the government with respect to these offices so we can see spam corrected in our country?
It is extremely important that everywhere in Canada we can have confidence in legislation proposed by the government. I expect the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology will deal quickly with the issues before us because it has already reviewed the bill and improved it substantially, and I congratulate the committee for that.
Central to this issue is if the government passes legislation and walks away from the issue, all these proposed initiatives, well-intended, well-researched and up to date, will fail.
I believe legislation to be correctly brought forward must ensure that we have proper resources and effective coordination so it is understood how this will take place.
The more rapid response we can have to correct this problem will ensure that those who see Canada as an opportunity and a target will find another place.
However, we also want to ensure that the other place is blocked. We simply want to put an end, where possible, to those practices which have as their origins the sense of undermining the credibility and the integrity of communicating and the effectiveness of the legitimate use of the Internet, which belongs to us all.
As many members know, spam emails also contain viruses, various dangerous bugs, that can turn people's private home computers, people who perhaps do not understand computers that much, into very dangerous machines that then send out all sorts of emails, disrupting businesses and other Canadians, their friends and the people they deal with on a business basis, ultimately costing millions of dollars.
It is simply fraud when they send emails and disguise them so one will open it. Once again, it could have the unwanted effect of having to deal with an email that was unsolicited and businesses and individuals have to buy more expensive equipment, perhaps try to use spam filters which, as we all know, does not work on everything. One needs to have bigger storage because there are more emails on the machine and it leads to many more problems than simply getting an unwanted email. One's name and information can then be sent to all sorts of other sources who will then start sending these unsolicited emails.
It is just a pyramid scheme that is very bad for everyone. It can also lead to the exposure of one's personal information. Every member of Parliament knows from a previous bill how dangerous and how proliferating this is in the world. With very little personal information, one can become a victim of crime, Many thousands of Canadians have already become victims of crime when their information has been provided.
These types of emails can ultimately be used by installing unwanted illegal software on one's computer without one knowing it when one of these emails is opened.
In 1993 and 1994, the Industry minister at the time, John Manley, talked about the great opportunities of the Internet as the super highway, as it was called at the time because it was the wonderful dawning of a new age. Unfortunately, that super highway has become badly clogged to the point where I think it is fair to say that there have been serious traffic jams, if not serious accidents along the way.
Therefore, the legislation is timely, necessary and has a very reasonable opportunity to pass.
In the rural and northern areas, our access is sometimes through limited pipes, whether it be hard wire or through satellite. Expanding the usage by these huge amounts of unwanted, wasteful, almost illegal emails makes it so people do not get access or have very slow access and it can shut down the access that other people have in rural and northern areas.
The government must follow up on the legislation with real action and real enforcement resources. It must actively engage all partners everywhere in industry internationally. It must continue the consultation process and develop longer term opportunities to combat spam.
What plan does the government have in moving forward to engage industry partners and building strong codes of this practice? We will have to ensure that it is not just based on a blue ribbon panel that was struck some years ago but, in fact, that we have an ongoing ability to ensure that partners, stakeholders and consumers, those who have been tremendously affected by this, will be able to benchmark and give us feedback as to how effectively the legislation would be, particularly from the point of enforcement.
What plan does the government have to work with international partners in building a strong international effort to combat spam? Spam can be incredibly destructive. Besides consuming time and band width, spam is a delivery vehicle for malware, programs that access one's computer without authorization and can do a number of dangerous things. Malware includes viruses and spyware, which attack the individual user. However, some of these programs turn the user's computer into a zombie on a botnet which then can be used to attack major websites on the Internet.
This is something we could not have contemplated three, four, five years ago but it is currently taking place. Many consumers and many constituents have talked to me about this and talked to other members of the House. We need to ensure that we have a pragmatic policy, a pragmatic document that is capable of changing with the times as the Internet and electronic information becomes more sophisticated.
All these attacks have serious economic impacts when websites like Google and other information websites are brought down. Even for a few hours billions of dollars can be lost. Spyware can be used for identity theft which is a constantly growing threat in the Internet age.
Therefore, I call upon all members to support the bill to go to committee and get it through. I am sure all Canadians and businesses will be very happy to remove this aggravating and dangerous problem.
Mr. Speaker, this is the third time in a year that I have risen in the House of Commons to discuss the bill on electronic commerce, known as Bill this time around.
The former Bill sparked a lot of public interest, and a number of witnesses who testified before the committee essentially told us that we needed to move forward in order to provide better protection for email users.
The new Bill specifically targets unsolicited commercial electronic messages. People have been demanding such a bill for some time, and it is sorely needed. Governments, service providers and network operators are all affected by spam. We must create safeguards for legitimate electronic commerce, and we must do so now. Commercial emails are also essential to the development of the online economy.
Bill was inspired primarily by the final report of the task force on spam, which was set up in 2004 to examine the issue and to find ways to eliminate spam.
Some groups had reservations about the former Bill and made suggestions for amendments. The main concerns and questions from these groups had to do with the enforcement of the legislation.
Parliamentary committee members had to examine a number of issues. Even now, this bill amends the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act.
As a result, government officials in each of these sectors came to tell us why and especially how the amendments would apply and how we could be certain the changes would be useful.
We supported the former Bill as amended by the committee. Therefore, we will support Bill , whose contents are more or less the same, so that the committee can study it.
We are aware of the need to legislate quickly, but we must also proceed carefully in light of the many witnesses the committee has already heard from.
I hope that the work the committee has already done will prove useful and that we will be able to proceed more quickly.
Let us not forget that we first started talking about spam in 2004 and that six years on, we still do not have legislation to get rid of spam.
I would like to expand on one point. The government accused the committee of taking its time when studying this bill and of holding up the electronic commerce bill's progress.
I want to make one thing clear: Bill is not a back-of-the-napkin affair. It covers a number of complex issues and clauses. It is to be expected that committee members and our research teams be given the time to study the content of the bill. I am sure that this electronic commerce protection bill would be in force by now had the Conservative government not prorogued Parliament. We lost a lot of time because of that.
I want to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois and the other parties worked well on this. I can vouch for the fact that my party, the Bloc Québécois, and the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology worked constructively together.
I sincerely believe that during the committee's hearings, all of the members worked hard to find a solution to the spam problem while taking into account the needs of companies that shared their concerns.
Anyone with an email address receives spam, emails that try to sell us products and offer us prizes and many other annoying things.
I do not know if anyone has noticed, but in recent months, there seems to have been a significant increase in the amount of spam. It makes me wonder whether companies have made changes to how they contact consumers.
Obviously, some businesses are concerned about how legitimate businesses will continue to contact consumers if Bill is adopted.
Bill C-28 clearly states that organizations will not require the express consent of their own clients to communicate with them in what can be deemed “existing business relationships”. However, to contact potential clients in order to market a good or service or to expand their activities, businesses may not directly contact a client by email without their prior consent.
Unsolicited electronic messages have become a significant social and economic problem that undermines the individual productivity of Quebeckers. Spam is a threat to the growth of legitimate electronic commerce.
Spam accounts for more than 80% of global electronic traffic, which results in considerable expenses for businesses and consumers. In light of this situation, legislation to protect electronic commerce is reasonable and appropriate.
On another note, some clauses of the bill are still problematic for the Bloc Québécois. We would like further information about the national do not call list.
A number of parallels may be drawn between the system proposed by Bill and the existing system for telephone calls.
The Bloc Québécois feels that the current list is doing the job, and it is used by millions of people. Compliance with the national do not call list required many companies to reorganize their resources and make a large financial outlay.
We realize that the wants to keep the door open in order to replace the list with a new system. However, for the time being, it is a proven system that has been successful since it was implemented in 2008. At the committee hearings on Bill regarding electronic commerce, we were given verbal assurances by officials that it would not be abolished without public hearings.
Let us come back to Bill C-28. I believe we are all 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.
To the Bloc Québécois, there is no doubt that the bill aims at protecting the integrity of transmission data by prohibiting practices related to the installation of computer programs without consent. It makes sense to avoid the use of consumers' personal information to send them spam.
Bill C-28 prohibits the collection of personal information via access to computer systems without consent and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses.
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. It is a matter of principle.
This bill has a noble objective, but it will be a complex law to apply. I know the government wants to attack spam, and I agree with that. In my previous speeches and having had the chance to be part of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, I personally have been convinced of the need to pass such a bill.
A number of countries have already passed measures similar to those in Bill 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 will make it possible to develop measures to dissuade as many people and businesses as possible from sending spam involving false representation, unauthorized software and exchanges of email address information.
This bill will help resolve many of the problems our constituents have raised and will further protect their privacy. Unsolicited commercial electronic messages have become, over time, a major social and economic problem that undermines the individual and commercial productivity of Quebeckers.
Spam is a real nuisance. It damages computers and networks, contributes to deceptive marketing scams, and invades people's privacy. Spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet. In fact, spam accounts for over 80% of all global Internet communications. Thus, spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet as an effective means of communication. It undermines consumer confidence in legitimate e-businesses and hinders electronic transactions.
Basically, 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. This is what we mean by “prior consent”.
I would like to close by reiterating that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill . This proposed legislation has already been examined by a parliamentary committee, and it will help to increase the protection of computer systems and people's personal information.
As a final point, the Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that Bill takes into account most of the recommendations in the final report of the task force on spam, created in 2004. However, it is unfortunate that the legislative process took several years to produce this long-awaited bill to protect electronic commerce.
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak on behalf of New Democrats on Bill .
I want to start by acknowledging the good work the hon. member for has done on the anti-spam legislation, both the current piece and the previous piece of legislation that was before the House.
New Democrats will be supporting Bill at second reading to get it to committee. Of course, as always, I know that the members of the industry committee will do their due diligence in reviewing the bill thoroughly to make sure that there are no clauses of the bill that could have unintended consequences.
I want to speak briefly. I spoke to this bill back in May 2009 when it was Bill C-27. I was fortunate enough to sit in on some of the industry committee's hearings on the anti-spam legislation. I want to start by reading into the record a definition of spam. I think most of us in the House know what spam is, but not all the Canadians who may be listening to this debate may be aware of what it is.
Spam is identified as the “abuse of electronic messaging systems, including most broadcast media digital delivery systems, to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam, the term applies to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging, Usenet newsgroups spam, web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions...and file sharing networks.”
Spam seems to infiltrate every single aspect of our lives these days, and it is extremely important for the Canadian government to take this on.
I want to read a brief statistic from an article by Peter Nowak on July 14. He wrote that New Brunswick is hardest hit in Canada. It reads:
New Brunswick receives the most spam email of the Canadian provinces while nearby Newfoundland and Labrador gets the least, according to a report from security firm Symantec. About 92.5 per cent of email in New Brunswick qualified as spam over a 10-month period.
It goes on to say:
That was the worst rate in the country and the only province to exceed the global average of 89.3 per cent.
New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan exceeded the Canadian average of 88 per cent. Newfoundland and Labrador fared best with only 86 per cent of email considered spam, followed by Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba at 87 per cent, Ontario at 87.5 per cent and Alberta at 87.6 per cent.
I know that the hon. member for has identified this before, but we need to recognize that Canada is actually in the top 10 in the world. We are the only G8 country that does not have this type of legislation.
When one starts thinking about the fact that a province like New Brunswick, where 92.5% of all email in the province is spam, one can see that we have a very serious problem facing us.
I want to turn briefly to the legislative summary, because there are a couple of aspects of this bill that I think are important to note. Other members have pointed this out, but I would like to highlight the fact that we have been talking about anti-spam legislation for a number of years.
In fact, the legislative summary says that this act is a culmination of a process that began with the anti-spam action plan for Canada launched by the Government of Canada in 2004, which established a private sector task force, chaired by Industry Canada, to examine the issue of unsolicited commercial email, or spam. By the end of 2004, spam, which is in many ways the electronic equivalent of junk mail, had grown to encompass 80% of all global email traffic.
It goes on to talk about the fact that the task force issued a report in May 2005 examining the spam situation in Canada and recommended, among other measures, that legislation specifically aimed at combatting spam be created.
That was 2004, and here we are in 2010. We are once again debating legislation. The initial legislation, Bill C-27, was lost when the House prorogued. So we again have lost time dealing with an issue that is extremely important to businesses, consumers, and ordinary citizens in this country.
This is a complex piece of legislation. It is many pages long and it impacts on a number of different agencies.
The agencies that are involved in the regulation of spam include the Competition Bureau, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the CRTC. In addition to setting up a regulatory scheme to deal with spam in Canada, the bill gives these agencies the power to share information and evidence with international counterparts in order to deal with spam coming from outside the country. It goes on again to emphasize the fact that Canada is the last of the G8 countries to introduce anti-spam legislation.
One of the points raised in this legislative summary is the fact that Canada, in some respects, is seen on the international market as a haven for some of these spammers from outside the country because of our lack of legislation. The legislative summary goes on to say that the act:
will provide a clear regulatory scheme including administrative monetary penalties, with respect to both spam and related threats from unsolicited electronic contact, including identity theft, phishing, spyware, viruses, and botnets. It will also grant an additional right of civil action to businesses and consumers targeted by the perpetrators of such activities.
At the very end of the Bill legislation, when it was introduced, were a couple of clauses that dealt with the do not call list. Again, Bill has the same inclusion in the legislation. It says that they
would give the government the power to repeal legislation for the relatively new Do Not Call List for telemarketers. Since it was introduced in 2008, the Do Not Call List has been subject to much criticism owing to telemarketer misuse of the names on the list.
I want to refer to another aspect of that. It says that:
The delayed set of amendments provides the framework for replacing the do not call list with a new scheme at a future date, as described earlier in the summary. The powers to be restored with the delayed amendments include the power to regulate the hours during which such communications can be made, the contact information that must be provided by the communicator and the way in which it must be provided, and the use of automated telephone calls.
The reason I raise this in the context of Bill is that this inclusion of the ability to amend the do not call list legislation is important to note, because the do not call list legislation actually was flawed. That is why it is important that the House refer the bill back to the industry committee for a thorough review.
Now I know that we had hearings on Bill , and there have been some amendments to this legislation as a result of those hearings, but it is important that we reconsider this legislation and make sure that there are not any unintended consequences such as we saw with the do not call list.
There are a couple of other aspects of this legislation that are important to note as a result of industry hearings and the input that was heard. Clause 66 in Bill now allows for a review three years after the day on which the section comes into force.
[A] review of the provisions and operation of this Act must be undertaken by any committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons, or of both Houses of Parliament that is designated or established for that purpose.
It is very important that the mandate to review the legislation three years after coming into force is in place again so that we can determine if there have been further changes in the whole electronic media that would require some further amendments. We can determine whether the piece of legislation is effective. We can determine if adequate resources have been put in place in order to make sure that the agencies involved have what they need to oversee and enforce the legislation.
I think others have referred to the very substantial fines that are now in place to make sure that there are some teeth to this piece of legislation.
There are a couple of aspects of the legislation that came up when it was under study when it was Bill . I want to turn to an analysis that was done by a law firm called McCarthy Tétrault that pointed out a couple of aspects that raised some concerns. I want to outline the summary of a couple of these aspects. One of these was about consent. It says that the legislation contains certain exceptions to the rule about consent. It says that consent is not required
to send a commercial electronic message, the purpose of which is to provide a quote or an estimate; facilitate, complete or confirm an existing commercial transaction; provide warranty information; provide information related to an ongoing subscription, membership, account or loan; provide information related to an employment relationship; or deliver a product, goods or a service, including product updates and upgrades.
It goes on to say that the list is not exhaustive, and that other purposes may be specified in the regulations.
I am bringing this up because business has raised concerns. Some in the business community think that this legislation is too onerous, that it would not allow businesspeople to communicate with their customers or potential customers.
Clearly, the legislation has made some attempt to recognize that there is an ongoing business relationship that needs to be maintained, and it has outlined situations in which that consent would not be required.
It goes on to say:
The bill also provides for certain situations where consent can be implied, including where:
- the sender has an existing business relationship with a recipient (provided the relationship is entered into within the specified time frames);
- the recipient has “conspicuously published” its electronic address and has not indicated a desire to not receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages, and the message is relevant to the recipient's business role; or
- the recipient has provided its electronic address to the sender without indicating a wish not to receive unsolicited commercial and electronic messages.
When requesting express consent to send unsolicited commercial messages, an organization would have to set out “clearly and simply” the purpose(s) for which the consent is being sought, information identifying the organization that is seeking the consent, and any other information that may be prescribed.
The [act] also stipulates the electronic message must:
- provide contact information for the sender; and
- include an “unsubscribe” mechanism....
I think what is required of businesses is clear, as are the references to the protection for consumers. It does not appear that these are going to be onerous.
I want to touch on a couple of other aspects that are important when we are talking about the viability of business.
When it was Bill , Professor Michael Geist appeared before the industry committee. I know he was talking about Bill , but I think some of his comments are applicable to Bill . He stated:
The introduction of Bill C-27 represents the culmination of years of effort to address concerns that Canada is rapidly emerging as a spam haven. I don't think I have to convince you that spam is a problem, whether it's the cost borne by consumers, schools, businesses, and hospitals in dealing with unwanted e-mail, or the shaken confidence of online banking customers who received phished email. There is a real need to address the problem.
Professor Geist identified that there was an impact on businesses. Many times in this House we have heard concerns raised about Canadian productivity in the workplace. When we understand the volume of spam that is coming in, whether it is via email, text messaging, or electronic media that businesses are using, we can understand the concern about the impact on business productivity.
There are varying statistics about the amount of time it takes for workers to recover when they are interrupted in a task. Many of us in this House can attest that, even though we have a good filter on our email system, we are still occasionally bothered by spam.
Imagine in a regular workplace where up to 90% of emails may be spam if there are not adequate filters in place. Every time they have to go through their email box and clear emails, or they are interrupted in their work, it affects the business's productivity, its quality, its performance. I saw a statistic that every time workers were interrupted at a task, it took them up to seven minutes to get back to where they had left off. So we can see that this has a definite impact on workers' ability to perform well in their jobs.
The other aspect of this, and it can be quite troubling, is the effect on seniors. Despite the unfair stereotype, I believe many seniors are absolutely email literate. They rely on email to communicate with loved ones, to do business, and to do all the things that Canadians under the age of 65 do.
One of the real concerns about spam is that seniors and other unsuspecting people end up being fraudulently sold goods or services.
Another important purpose of the bill is to protect vulnerable citizens from spam, whether it is banking fraud or investment fraud. I think many of us have received those unfortunate emails from overseas that tell us to send money to get somebody out of jail. It is sad that unsuspecting Canadians have sent money, only to learn that their money has gone down the tubes. That is an important aspect of the bill.
Professor Geist also raised another issue when he did his presentation to the committee. He said:
Let me conclude with a warning against what I see as some lobbying efforts to water down what I see as reasonable standards found in this legislation. I note that we have seen this before. It is what took place with the do-not-call list. The bill started with good principles, faced intense lobbying, and I think some scare tactics, and by the end of the process Canadians were left with a system that I think is now widely recognized as a failure, with some estimates saying that more than 80% of the calls that used to come, continue to come, and with security breeches around the do-not-call list itself.
I think we must avoid a similar occurrence with respect to the anti-spam legislation. Changes in some business practices might be scary to some, but we cannot allow scare tactics to persuade you from moving forward with this much-needed legislation.
In that context, when businesses are looking at the potential costs of complying with the legislation, getting the appropriate consent, and doing all the things that are laid out in the legislation, it is important to encourage them to consider the costs of dealing with the amount of spam that is out there.
In conclusion, New Democrats will be supporting Bill to go to committee for further review, and we are optimistic that perhaps this time it will actually get through the House.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on second reading of Bill C-28, Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, or FIWSA.
The online marketplace represents a major segment of Canada's economy, with some $62.7 billion in sales in 2007. That same year, the Information Society Index report published by the International Data Corporation projected that worldwide electronic commerce would exceed $9.6 trillion by 2010.
We have now reached the year projected by the Information Society Index and we must think in terms of a digital economy that will soon surpass $10 trillion in revenue. Let me put this in context. That is over six times the size of the Canadian economy and it continues to grow. Those economies that do not tap into the phenomenal growth of online commerce will miss out on opportunities for prosperity and quality of life in the 21st century.
While the digital economy is growing, so also grow the threats that can undermine it. In 2009, the annual security report released by MessageLabs Intelligence estimated that nearly 90% of worldwide email traffic was spam. These unsolicited commercial electronic messages impose costs on consumers and businesses. They tie up bandwidth, they tie up time, and when they contain malware they impose real threats on consumer confidence in the digital economy.
Canada is one of only four countries in the OECD that does not have laws governing spam. We are the only country in the G7 not to have regulations fighting the problems associated with spam, but we are about to change that. In fact, with this bill, Canada will move from laggard to leader. We will be at the forefront of global efforts to fight spam and related online problems.
The bill before us addresses unsolicited commercial electronic messages as well as installation of malware and interference with electronic transmissions. It contains safeguards for consumers and businesses against illegitimate electronic marketing practices. This bill takes a multi-faceted approach to protect consumers and businesses. It implements a clear regulatory enforcement regime that is consistent with international best practices.
When passed into law, this bill would be enforced by three organizations.
First, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, would be able to investigate and take action against the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages, the altering of transmission data and the installation of computer programs on computer systems and networks without consent.
The second organization tasked with enforcing this bill is the Competition Bureau, which would address deceptive practices and representations online. This includes false or misleading headers and website content.
Finally, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner would be able to take measures against the unauthorized collection of personal information by access to a computer found to be contrary to an act of Parliament and the unauthorized compiling or supplying of lists of electronic addresses.
Further, both the CRTC and the Competition Tribunal would be given authority to impose administrative monetary penalties, or AMPS, on those who violate the respective provisions of this bill.
These AMPS are significant. The CRTC would be able to impose fines of up to $1 million per violation for individuals and $10 million for businesses. The Competition Bureau would apply to the Competition Tribunal to seek AMPS under the current regime in the Competition Act. That regime allows for penalties of up to $750,000 for individuals, with $1 million for subsequent violations, and up to $10 million for businesses, with $15 million for subsequent violations.
When it comes to stopping spam through these kinds of penalties it is clear that these government agencies will have very sharp teeth. Indeed, where penalties of this nature have been applied in other countries, the amount of spam originating from those countries dropped significantly.
The point I would like to emphasize is that we do not need to turn to police forces to put a stop to spam and other related online problems. We can very effectively use the existing specialized agencies.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner would use its existing tools and enforcement framework to enforce the provisions of this legislation. The Privacy Commissioner's powers to cooperate and exchange information with her international counterparts under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act would be expanded. The enforcement bodies would be able to share information and evidence with their international colleagues so that together international partners would be able to pursue spammers.
In addition to the work of the three regulatory agencies, businesses and individuals would do their part to put an end to spam and related online nuisances. Under this bill, they would have the private right of action against those who have violated the law.
Finally, let me say a few words about the importance of education and awareness to ensuring that individuals and businesses take the right steps to combat spam. In support of this bill, the government will promote education and awareness through the efforts of a national coordinating body.
We will also create a spam reporting centre, which consumers and businesses may contact to report spam and related threats. The spam reporting centre would collect evidence and gather intelligence to help the three enforcement agencies with their investigations. Also, the spam reporting centre would track and analyze statistics and trends in spam and other related online threats.
To conclude, Bill would make Canada a world leader in anti-spam legislation by providing a more secure online environment for both consumers and businesses. I hope that the House will move quickly to send this bill through the system. I urge hon. members from all parties to join me in supporting it.
Mr. Speaker, like other members on this side of the House, I am pleased the government has finally brought forward legislation that we hope will be implemented before there is either a prorogation or the House rises yet again. This is only second reading and the bill is going to go to committee. I am pleased there are elements in the bill that the Liberal Party is absolutely delighted to support.
As other members have indicated from all three opposition parties already, the bill contains a series of recommendations that flow from a task force that was initiated by the then Liberal government in 2004-05. Five and a half years ago the government of the day said that it recognized there was a series of difficulties, problems, impediments to development of a true Internet economy and Internet communication system. It said that we needed to bring all the stakeholders, all the experts, all the legal experts as well, given all the ramifications of any of the changes that might be proposed, together to the table and see what they had to say to the government of the day. We wanted to present legislation that would not only have us catch up to other countries, not only catch up to all those people who have made the Internet their means of communication, whether it is communications for personal use or for commercial use, but go beyond that and make us a leader in the new economy of the day.
Government and opposition members have pointed out that this is not an insignificant element of economic activity worldwide. In Canada we like to throw these numbers around in the trillions because they are the significant digits today, but the Canadian economy has been estimated by experts to be dependent to the tune of about $27 billion per annum in Canada.
For those who are watching and who are not expert in the Internet society, the Internet commercial world, what that really means is about $850 per person per year. That is not bad. That is every person who is alive and well in Canada. They realize there is an impact of some $27 billion in costs. That is not just an economic activity. That is in the amount it is costing every Canadian, every man, woman and child, simply because somebody is scamming the system, introducing a culture of deceit and a culture that in a different marketplace might well border on the criminal. In other words, it is fraudulent and it invades privacy. It invades commerce. It invades the free flow of communication that leads to productive activity. That was the significance of what that task force underscored. The task force noted that the penalties translated themselves into costs, immediate, perceived, or forgone. It said we needed to put in place a framework that legislators and other organizations could ensure would function for the better of the Canadian public.
It is little wonder then to find that the official opposition would support these initiatives, at least until they go to committee and we bring forward all those experts and they are numerous. They are legion. They are younger and younger. As one of my colleagues from the NDP indicated, there is a particular generational divide. Those who are expert are expert at a very young age. They develop that expertise as the communication system, the knowledge base is growing not in leaps and bounds, but exponentially with every new innovation as we get greater and greater opportunity to relate to each other not only on a social basis, but on a commercial basis as well.
It was not long ago that the only thing societies aspired to do was to develop the art of speaking, the art of writing and the art of arithmetic. It was the three Rs all over again. All we wanted to do was facilitate the communications required in order to make societies much more productive.
Today we are no longer talking about those simple items. We are talking about an entirely different economy that is making everything grow, as I said, exponentially. We owe it to ourselves. The parliamentary secretary can no longer say that we will go from laggards to leaders. We are laggards.
Forgive this partisan shot but it is in part because for five and a half years the government refused to do anything that came out the task force. It refused to do anything because it was something that came out of another government. The Conservatives have squandered the opportunities presented to them by the Canadian bureaucracy, previous legislators in the Liberal Party, contributors from the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, who have wanted to move our society along.
The Conservatives have refused to accept those suggestions, in part because they are afraid of a coalition of knowledgeable people. They are afraid of people who actually work together and who want to move the country forward. They are afraid of anybody who voices a vision. A vision was expressed five and a half years ago. It is almost pitiable that here we are today discussing something that should have been implemented very early on in the government's mandate.
The Conservatives have the support of all the members of Parliament on this side of the House. Everyone said, “Let's get working”. Even though Bill C-27, its predecessor, was fraught with some difficulties, everybody wanted to move forward. Instead they prorogued Parliament.
Today we are not proroguing. We are taking a look at Bill . It is a complex system. I do not pretend to be the expert and I am not going to even suggest that anybody should come close to thinking of me or any other member in this place as anything other than someone who is presenting issues for the discussion of a committee that is going to bring in stakeholders and experts to ensure that we get the best possible legislation.
I do not know how thoroughly you have looked at this, Mr. Speaker. You have a reputation for studying every bill. I know you will have noted that there are some implications for other legislative items here. I want to draw them to the attention of the House for no other reason than that the general public wants to understand that we as legislators in the House have an appreciation of the comprehensiveness of the task that is at hand.
For example, when the parliamentary secretary says that we can use the mechanisms already available that are vested in the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, we have to go to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act in order to make the appropriate changes so it can be vested with the authorities to provide appropriate vigilance and to do the appropriate prosecutorial work required to get enforcement.
I know the committee will be the master of its own agenda, but it will bring forward people who will illustrate for it how the prosecution of infringements will be handled and how the CRTC can do that more quickly and to greater satisfaction than, say, the RCMP or any other police forces.
I note the parliamentary secretary said that we did not need to go to the police, that we did not need to go the criminal route. We have these specialized agencies. Another one of these specialized agencies is the Privacy Commissioner's office. The Privacy Commissioner has the task of ensuring that privacy is very properly vested in all Canadians, not only their personal privacy but their commercial privacy, everything about them that they want to maintain as part of their identity.
When we think about identity, we talk about our names. I am the member of Parliament for Eglinton—Lawrence. I am a whole series of other things associated with that identity but that identity belongs to me unless I relinquish any portion of it for purposes that I agree are appropriate. We have spammers and scammers today, and sometimes they are one and the same thing, who will take advantage of that identity and use it for their own purpose that has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the identity of the current member of Parliament for or, indeed, even the Speaker, I dare say. We are all at the mercy of those who are utilizing the communication systems that are made available. They are abusing it and they are using it for their own purposes. What we need to do is vest authority in the CRTC and the privacy commission that is appropriate to the task at hand. I note that Bill attempts to do that and I am looking forward to the committee's analysis of whether they will have the tools appropriate to the task.
We need to take a look at the Competition Act. As in every business, we need to at least provide a playing field that treats every competitor equitably and equally.
I noted today that there was a list of cities around the world that were ranked according to their ability to provide a secure investment climate and business climate. I am pleased to say, in case it missed anybody from this House, that my own native city, my home city of Toronto, the city by Lake Ontario, was ranked number one, not in Canada but in the world. It means that some things that governments prior to this one put in place actually did work.
Sometimes we tend to forget that people who preceded us actually had a contribution to make to national development. For at least as far as Toronto goes, despite all of its faults, it is still ranked number one in the world. Can we imagine, if we can say that, despite all of its faults, it is ranked number one that it has faults and the bill had better accept those? Can we imagine what the other cities around the world are like? I note that there are only two other cities in Canada that ranked in the top 20. I leave it for members from the other caucuses to highlight and trumpet their cities. However, the important thing is that a Canadian city is ranked number one, and that happens to be mine, but it is because there was legislation in the past that provided for a competitive environment that bred good commercial practices and, in fact, attracted business investment.
We need to go to the Competition Act and ensure that Bill establishes a continuation of just that type of a climate. We must remember that we are moving in a world that is Internet based, that is much more speedy, much more attuned to changes, literally like that. We can no longer rest on our laurels. We need to be able to say that the commercial climate, the investor climate, the privacy climate and the social climate that we attempt to provide an ambience for here in the House meets the test.
We have the Telecommunications Act. It is no longer simply about telephones and faxes. Some colleagues from both sides of the House have talked about a do not call list as the protection of privacy, stopping harassment and eliminating all the irritants. Whether that worked or did not work, we made an effort to do it when I was in government. Again, not to be partisan, but the current government has attempted to do something with a little less success than had been anticipated.
We cannot simply stand here and say that it will achieve this. How will it do that? That is an expression of an objective, a goal. It is not necessarily an indication of how that goal will be achieved. This needs to go to committee so that we can get the experts to tell us just what path we will take to ensure that we can achieve those goals. When it comes into force, we need to be able to say that there will be resources in place to ensure that all of the mechanisms that we do put in place are actually supportive of that overall, long-term goal and objective.
Otherwise, this is nothing more than an exercise in trying to keep us occupied because the government has finally come to its senses and said, “We have been here for five and a half years. There was a task force that laid out a road map for us and we did not do anything about it”.
In fact, the parliamentary secretary said a moment ago that there should be a sense of urgency because we are the laggards of the western world and because the OECD countries rank us last. However, we are not moving at all. That cannot be the fault of anybody else other than those members who are currently at the helm. It is not the Liberal Party. It is not the NDP, although it is responsible for having those people on that side of the House. It cannot be the Bloc. It must be the Conservatives who have squandered an opportunity to do something with the levers of power that have been granted to them as the result of an electoral outcome.
The parliamentary secretary said that we need to have sharp teeth for those agencies and commissions that will actually do the work of ferreting out all of those spammers, scammers and all of those who pry into our lives and distort our businesses. If those resources are not put in place, then we will not get those sharp teeth.
What are the consequences? Yes, $1 million per person is great and $10 million for business sounds impressive, but I want to know whether the mechanisms are in place to get them before a court of law, act expeditiously and actually be able to fine them, seize their assets and ensure that the stated penalty is reflected in reality. I have asked the parliamentary secretary for an indication of how this will work. The public does not want to know what anymore. They understand the why but they want to know the how and the how always includes the resources that will be put in place.
If one can acknowledge that there is a $27 billion cost on an annual basis, about $850 out of everybody's pocket every year, surely one ought to be able to put in some resources to ensure that does not happen. I am not sure the government has done that.
It might be instructive for everybody to understand what it was that the Liberal Party offered as an alternative. Everybody is always looking for an alternative to the government. The government says that there is no alternative to it because it is good. However, it has been lazy for five and a half years and it has squandered opportunity. It has wasted a chance to make Canada a leader. Now the Conservative government stands in the House and says that it is a laggard and that it will try to make us a leader. Trying is nice, it is an expression of a desire, but it is not a road map.
I want to explain what the road map was five and a half years ago that this bill purports to follow. It said that we would prohibit the sending of spam without the prior consent of recipients. Who the heck wants spam? There was a proactive measure on the part of those who hook up to the Internet and who were willing to accept virtually anything that came in because they were knowledgeable, did not care if the anti-virus system was in place, did not care if somebody wanted to fish into their system, and so on.
Clearly, there is no protection against those who want to break the law, but if there is no law, there is no breaking the law, no breaking of convention. We need to be able to put it in place.
Since we do not accept the use of false and misleading statements in regular advertising, why would accept it on the Internet? As I said earlier, the installation of unauthorized programs needs to be absolutely prohibited, as, for example, the unauthorized collection of personal information or email addresses. Unless someone gives the okay, why should we allow that to happen?
In fact, over the course of the last several years we did put in the no call list, although it has not worked all that well, but we did put in something that worked a bit more effectively and that was removing names from facsimile lists. Paper was constantly being burned up at home or at work with people sending information that was not wanted or needed.
Bill C-28 finally introduces some key elements that tap into that task force. I want to compliment the people who did the work on that task force. I want to compliment the former Liberal government for actually providing a mechanism. I want to encourage the current government for having done a Rip Van Winkle and finally awakened after five and a half years. I hope the committee will do the work for the government and that the House will be able to give its stamp of approval.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , which has a slightly misleading title because I do not know if we will really be able to eliminate spam. It is called the “fighting Internet and wireless spam act”. I hope we will be able to fight spam and eliminate it, but it will not be easy to completely block fraudsters and dishonest people. These people inundate our email with spam.
We listened to a number of speeches, including that of my illustrious colleague from , the Bloc Québécois industry critic, who has worked very hard on this file. His speech was very eloquent and provided a good explanation of the multi-faceted manner in which this scourge attacks businesses, offices, service providers and all those in business. I will repeat, it is a real scourge.
I remember very well that when I arrived here on Parliament Hill, not as a member of Parliament, but as an assistant, it was the first time that I had to work so much with computers. My previous job had me working with computers only occasionally. I was shocked by the number of spam messages and how much of our time they took up every day. I imagine that that is still the case for many businesses. Here in the House of Commons, and we must give credit to our tech team, we get far fewer spam messages. I will not go into detail, but we were getting some completely unacceptable emails. In some cases, pop-ups would take over our computers and sometimes cause them to freeze. The computers were frozen, not us. It was a serious problem.
The bill is creating a new electronic commerce protection act to set limits on the sending of spam. Spam can be defined as a commercial electronic message sent without the express consent of the recipient. It can be any commercial electronic message, any text, audio, voice or visual message sent by any means of telecommunication. Email was mentioned earlier, but there is also cellular phone text messaging—which is popular with young people—and instant messaging. Based on the content, it is reasonable to conclude that the purpose of the message is to encourage participation in commercial activity. That is the case, of course, with 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.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-28. As was mentioned earlier, it is new legislation that specifically targets unsolicited commercial electronic messages. We need this new legislation, and it has long been requested by society as a whole. The members who spoke before me said that it took a ridiculously long time for the government to wake up and put a real policy in place.
This bill is not yet in effect. It must be examined in committee. A task force has been studying the issue since 2004. We would have expected it to be quicker. These kinds of emails are costing us billions of dollars.
Nevertheless, the Bloc Québécois is pleased to see that Bill C-28 takes into account most of the recommendations in the final report of the task force on spam. However, we are not pleased that the legislative process took four long years.
Consideration of the bill in committee should give many industry stakeholders and consumer protection groups an opportunity to express their views on the new electronic commerce protection legislation created by Bill C-28.
I would now like to go over how Bill C-28 came about. First of all, the task force on spam was struck in 2004 to look into this problem and find ways of dealing with it. It brought together Internet service providers, as well as electronic marketing experts and government and consumer representatives. Consumers are often the main victims of spam.
I am thinking of fraud spam primarily. For instance, a bank or credit union asks someone to provide all of his or her contact information because of a bogus problem. I will come back to that. I will no doubt have time at a later date.
I am pleased to say that the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill.