Madam Speaker, I am happy to start this week by speaking to Bill C-27. It is quite an extensive bill at over 140 pages in length. It would amend several acts and the most consequential are three of them in particular, as it is an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act, the personal information and data protection tribunal act and the artificial intelligence and data act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts.
I should start by saying that this is really three pieces of legislation that have been bundled up into one. As New Democrats, we have called for different voting for the third and final part of this act.
The first two parts of the act, concerning the consumer privacy protection act and the personal information and data protection tribunal act, do have enough common themes running through them to be put together into one piece of legislation. I still think, for these issues, that they would have been better as two separate pieces of legislation because one of them is brand new and the first one, the consumer privacy protection act, is the former Bill C-11, which was highly controversial in the previous Parliament.
When we had an unnecessary election called by the Prime Minister, that bill died, along with all of the work from Parliament, which was not concluded, despite extensive lobbying and consultation going, particularly, through the ethics committee at that time. This has now been bundled with some other legislation to go through the industry committee, which is fine.
The personal information and data protection tribunal act is a new component of this legislation. I have some concerns about that element of it, but it does have a common theme, which is worthwhile, and at least it has the potential to be put together and bundled. Although, again, it is extensive, it is a bundling that we can accept.
We have called for a Speaker's ruling with regard to the artificial intelligence and data act, as this is brand new legislation as well, but it does not have the same connections as the previous two pieces, which are bundled together, in the way that one could could argue for them. We want a separate vote on the second part of this because the legislation would be studied at committee together.
There will be a high degree of interest in this legislation, since Bill C-11 had that in the past. The new bill changes position from Bill C-11 significantly, and I expect that this in itself will garner a lot of chatter, as well as review and interest, from a number of organizations, many of whom we have already heard from as of now.
The other part, with the tribunal, would be another important aspect, because it is a divergence from our traditional way of enforcement and creates another bureaucratic arm. Again, I would like to see more on this, and I am open to considering the idea, but it is certainly different from our traditional private right of law for dispute settlements about data breaches and other types of corporate malfeasance, that actually have to deal with the types of laws that are necessary to bring compliance among people.
This goes to the heart of, really, where a political party resides in their expectations of companies and their use of data, information and algorithms. For New Democrats, we fall very much in line with something I have tabled before, several years ago, which is a digital bill of rights, so that one's personal rights online are consistent with that of our physical rights, where one is expected to be properly treated in a physical world and in the digital format world. That includes one's right to privacy, right to the expectation of proper behaviour conducted toward oneself and right to not be abused. It also includes significant penalties to those who do those abuses, especially when we are looking at the corporate world.
Where this legislation really becomes highly complicated is the emergence of artificial intelligence, which has taken place over the last decade and will be significantly ramped up in the years to come. That is why the European Union and others have advanced on this, as well as the United States.
Our concern is that this bill tries to split both worlds. We all know that the industries of Google and other web giants have conducted significant lobbying efforts over the last number of years. In fact, they have tripled their efforts since this administration has come into place and have had a direct line of correspondence about their lobbying, which is fine to some degree, but the expectation among people that it would be balanced does not seem to be being met.
I want to bring into the discussion the impact on people before I get into the technical aspects of the bill, as well as the data breaches that remind us of the need for protection among our citizens and other companies as well. One of the things that is often forgotten is other SMEs, and others can be compromised quite significantly from this, so protecting people individually is just as important for our economy, especially when we have the emergence of new industries. If they are behaviours that are hampered, manipulated or streamed, they can become significant issues.
I want to remind people that some of the data breaches we have had with Yahoo, Marriott, the Desjardins group and Facebook, among others, have demonstrated significant differences in the regulatory system between Canada and the United States and how they treat their victims. A good example is a settlement in the U.S. from 2009 with the Equifax data breach, where Equifax agreed to pay $700 million to settle lawsuits over the breach in agreement with the U.S. authorities, and that included $425 million in monetary relief to consumers. We have not had the same type of treatment here in Canada.
This is similar to the work I have done in the past with the auto industry and the fact that our Competition Bureau and our reimbursement systems are not up to date. We have been treated basically as a colony by many of the industries when it comes to consumer and retail accountability.
We can look at the example of Toyota and the data software issue, where the car pedal was blamed for the cars going out of control. It turned out this was not the case. It was actually a data issue. In the U.S., this resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of investment into safety procedures. We received zero for that. Also, consumers received better treatment, where their vehicles were towed back to different dealerships to be fixed. In Canada, consumers did not receive any of that.
The same could be said with Volkswagen, another situation that took place with emissions. Not only did we not receive compensation similar to that of the United States, we actually imported a lot of the used Volkswagen vehicles from Europe. However, that was of our own accord and time frame when those vehicles were being sunsetted in those countries because of emissions.
In the case of Facebook, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission was able to impose a $5-billion fine for the company's violation, while the Privacy Commissioner's office was forced to take the company to federal court here in Canada. One of the things I would like to point out is that our Privacy Commissioner has stood up for the needs of Canadians, and one of the concerns with this bill would be the erosion of the Privacy Commissioner's capabilities in dealing with these bills and legislation.
The Privacy Commissioner has made some significant points on how to amend the bill and actually balance it, but they have not all been taken into account. One of the strong points we will be looking to is to see whether there are necessary amendments from our Privacy Commissioner on this.
One of the big distinctions between Canada and the United States, which is to our benefit and to Canada's credit, is the office of the Privacy Commissioner. Where we do not have some of the teeth necessary for dealing with these companies, we do have the independent Privacy Commissioner, who is able to investigate and follow through at least with bringing things to a formal process in the legal system. It is very labourious and difficult, but at the same time, it is independent, which is one of the strengths of the system we have.
If the government proceeds, we will see the bill go to committee, which we are agreeing to do. However, we do want to see separate voting. Before I get into more of the bill, I will explain that we want to see separate voting because we really distinguish that this is inappropriate. The artificial intelligence act is the first time we have even dealt with this topic in the House of Commons, and it should be done differently.
We will be looking for amendments for this, and big corporate data privacy breaches are becoming quite an issue. Some of these privacy breaches get highly complicated to deal with. There have been cases with cybersecurity and even extortion. The University of Calgary is one that was well noted, and there have been others.
We need some of these things brought together. The bill does include some important fixes that we have been calling for, such as stronger enforcement of privacy rights, tough new fines, transparency in corporate decisions made by algorithms.
I have pointed out a lot of the concerns that we have about the bill going forward because of its serious nature. However, we are glad this is happening, albeit with the caveat that we feel the bill should be separate legislation. The minister does deserve credit for bringing the bill forward for debate in the House of Commons.
Bill C-11 should have been passed in the last Parliament, but here we are again dealing with it. The new tribunal is the concern that we have. It could actually weaken existing content rules, and we will study and look at the new tribunal.
The tribunal itself is going to be interesting because it would be an appointment process. There is always a concern when we have a government appointment process. There is a concern that there could be complications setting up the tribunal, such as who gets to go there, what their background is, what their profession is and whether there will be enough support.
One of the things that gives me trouble is that the CRTC, for example, takes so long to make a decision. It is so labourious to go through and it has not always acted, most recently, in the best interest of Canadians when it comes to consumer protection and individual rights. It gives me concern that having another tribunal to act as a referee instead of the court system could delay things.
Some testimony has been provided already, some analysis, that suggests the tribunal might end up with lawsuits anyway, so we could potentially be back to square one after that. The time duration, funding, the ability to investigate and all these different things are very good issues to look at to find out whether we will have the proper supports for a new measure being brought in.
Another government resource for this is key. At the end of the day, if it is a tribunal system that is not supportive of protecting Canadians' privacy and rights, then we will weaken the entire legislation. That is a big concern because that would be outside Parliament. The way that some of the amendments are written, it could be coming through more regulatory means and less parliamentary oversight.
Who is going to be on the tribunal? How will it be consistent? How will it be regulated? I would point to the minister providing the CRTC with a mandate letter, which is supposed to emphasize the public policy direction it should be going. In my assessment, the CRTC, over the last number of years, has not taken the consumer protection steps that New Democrats would like to see.
When it comes to modernizing this law, we do know that this will be important to address because there are issues regarding the data ownership, which is really at the heart of some of the challenges we face. There is algorithmic abuse and also areas related to compensation, enforcement, data ownership and control, and a number of things that are necessary to ensure the protection of people.
We can look at an area where I have done a fair amount of work related to my riding, which is automobile production. There has been the production of the car and the value there, but there will also be the data collection. The use of that data collection can actually influence not only one's individual behaviour, but also that of society. That is a significant economic resource for some of these companies.
It is one of the reasons I have tabled an update to my bill on the right to repair. The right to repair is a person's ability to have their vehicle fixed at an auto shop of their choice in the aftermarket. The OEMs, the original manufacturers, have at times resisted this. There have been examples. Tesla, for example, is not even part of what is called the voluntary agreement, but we still do not have an update with regard to the use of data and how one actually goes about the process of fixing the vehicle.
It also creates issues related to ownership of the vehicle, as well as insurance and liability. These could become highly complicated issues related to the use of data and the rules around it. If these types of things are not clear with regard to the process of rights for people, expectations by those who are using the data, and protection for people, then it could create a real, significant issue, not only for individuals but for our economy.
Therefore, dealing with this issue in the bill is paramount. A lot of this has come about by looking at what the GDPR, the general data protection regulation, did in European law. Europe was one of the first jurisdictions to bring forth this type of an issue, and it has provided an adequate level of protection, which is one of the things Europe stands by with regard to protection of privacy. There have been some on the side over here in North America who have pushed back against the GDPR, and even though this landmark legislation has created a path forward, there still is a need for transparency and to understand what the monetary penalties for abuse are going to be, which are also very important in terms of what we expect in the legislation.
Erosion of content rights is one of the things we are worried about in this bill. Under Bill C-27 individuals would have significantly diminished control over the collection, use and disclosure of their personal data, even less than in Bill C-11. The new consent provisions ask the public to install an exemplary amount of trust to businesses to keep them accountable, as the bill's exceptions to content allow organizations to conduct many types of activities without any knowledge of the individuals. The flexibility under Bill C-27 allows organizations to state the scope not only of legitimate interests but also of what is reasonable, necessary and socially beneficial, thus modelling their practices in a way that maximizes the value derived from the personal information.
What we have there is that the actors are setting some of the rules. That is one of the clearer things that we need through the discussion that would take place at committee, but also from the testimony that we will hear, because if we are letting those who use and manage the data make the decision about what consent is and how it is used, then it is going to create a system that could really lead to abuse.
There is also the issue or danger of de-identification. Witnesses, artificial intelligence and people being able to scrub much of their data when they want and how they want is one of the things we are concerned about. There is not enough acknowledgement of the risk that is available in this. That includes for young people. We believe this bill is a bit lopsided towards the business sector at the moment, and we want to propose amendments that would lead to better protection of individual rights and ensure informed consent as to what people want to do with their data and how they want it to be exercised as a benefit to them and their family, versus people being accidentally or wilfully brought into exposure they have not consented to.
As I wrap up, I just want to say that we have a number of different issues with this bill. Again, we believe there should be a separate vote for the second part of this bill, being the third piece of it. It is very ambitious legislation. It is as large as the budget bill. That should say enough with regard to the type of content we have. I thank the members who have debated this bill already. It is going to be interesting to get all perspectives. I look forward to the work that comes at committee. It will be one that requires extensive consultation with Canadians.