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View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Oliphant Profile
2021-04-19 11:03 [p.5773]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
On Friday, April 16, at the last sitting of this House, we had debate on Bill C-6, an act to amend the Criminal Code, conversion therapy. During the question-and-answer period following my speech opening the morning's debate, contrary to Standing Order 18, the member for Cloverdale—Langley City used language that was offensive to me and, in my understanding, to many other members of the House. While she did reach out to me on Friday evening to offer an apology for “any misunderstanding”, I am of the belief that such an apology should be made not just to me, but to all members of the House and to members of the LGBTQ2S community in Canada and around the world who have expressed their hurt and their anger at her inference.
In quoting Matthew 23:27, the member inferred that either I or all members of the LGBTQ2S community are unclean. As an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, I am well aware that at its best this passage has been used to deride someone as a hypocrite. However, this passage, along with the whole of that particular chapter, has been used for centuries to bolster anti-Semitism and, very specifically, anti-Jewish sentiments. The misuse of this passage has led to misunderstanding, even hatred of Jews, by Christians, as pointed out by the famed theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruether, in her book, Faith and Fratricide. It is, however, the first time that I have heard it used to cast negative aspersions on members of my community. The biblical concept of unclean has long been disavowed by Jews and Christians alike, and there is certainly no place for it in this House, especially in the debate on important amendments to the Criminal Code, which will further recognize an attempt to heal the hurt perpetrated against lesbians, bisexual, gay, transgendered, queer and two-spirited people. We are not unclean.
I would ask that you, as the Speaker, request that the member apologize and withdraw those remarks, and that you also remind all members to be mindful of their words, which may be heard by other members and by many Canadians as being offensive.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
2021-04-19 11:05 [p.5773]
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I want to thank the hon. member for his point of order. I take it under advisement. I will return to the House with a ruling on that.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
2021-04-19 11:06 [p.5773]
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moved that Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, this is it. We made it. It is finally time to debate a very compassionate, common-sense bill that seeks to extend special employment insurance sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I am very honoured to sponsor this bill on behalf of the Bloc Québécois.
It is finally time to put forward a practical, viable solution to a very real and documented problem. It is finally time for parliamentarians to once again tangibly demonstrate their support for the idea that sick workers deserve better and deserve more.
I would like to remind members that the Bloc Québécois's February 2020 motion to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks received the support of all opposition members. I would therefore like to thank the 169 members who supported the proposal and remind them that sick workers still need their support. I hope that, together, we will be able to convince the 149 Liberal members who voted against the motion to support it this time around. As the Speaker pointed out, the Liberal government's support is essential to my bill. I need this government's help because my bill needs a royal recommendation in order to be passed.
It is finally an opportunity to honour and remember Émilie Sansfaçon and bring her political struggle, which courageously began when she was fighting for her own life, to a successful conclusion. It is an opportunity to finally implement something that more than 618,000 people have been calling for, namely extending EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I want to thank the incredible Marie-Hélène Dubé for her perseverance and tenacity in rallying support for this effort.
I invite parliamentarians to think back to January 4, 2021, which feels like just yesterday. Think about it this way: If one of your loved ones had a serious illness, like cancer, and their treatment had begun on January 4, that individual would no longer have any income today, because their benefits would have run out. They would have used up their 15 weeks of special benefits. This is unacceptable and, I dare say, embarrassing for a wealthy society like ours.
My bill would make some very simple amendments to the Employment Insurance Act. It would replace all references to the maximum of 15 weeks of special EI sickness benefits with a maximum of 50 weeks.
I want to make it clear that these benefits are for people who lost their jobs against their will. Eligible workers who are sick can collect 55% of their average salary to a maximum of $573 per week.
We can all agree that nobody decides to be sick. Nobody plans to be away from work for a long period of time because of illness. Nobody wants a cancer diagnosis or anything like that. These things are totally involuntary and unpredictable. The workers who need this safety net are the most precarious workers, those who are not lucky enough to have good jobs with private insurance or good coverage under collective agreements.
In 2017, 400,000 people needed this crucial support. It was their only option. These are people from all across Quebec and Canada, of all ages and backgrounds. In many cases, they do not have the privilege of holding well-paid jobs. When they get sick, they typically do not have the financial leeway to fully focus on getting better.
Back home in Salaberry-Suroît, a rural riding, when people get sick they usually have to go to Montreal for treatment. They have to budget for travel, parking and all sorts of medical expenses. Often, spouses also have to take time off work during the treatment periods to support their partner, which adds to the families' financial stress.
These workers deserve better. EI sickness benefits have the added advantage of preserving the employment relationship between the worker and the employer. In other words, when the person recovers and feels better, they can return to their position.
We can all agree that this job security is far from a luxury, especially after fighting for one's life.
My bill is also a posthumous tribute to Émilie Sansfaçon. At 31, this young mother lost her battle with cancer, leaving behind her grieving spouse and her two children. She died before she could see the outcome of her political fight to improve EI sickness benefits by extending them from 15 to 20 weeks, despite a meeting in 2019 with the current Liberal Prime Minister, who gave her hope. However, nothing has changed since then.
The Bloc Québécois leader and member for Beloeil—Chambly noted in the House that Ms. Sansfaçon is the face of the inequity, injustice and discrimination that the seriously ill face in the employment insurance program, but Émilie is also the face of hope, a fighting spirit and perseverance. By passing Bill C-265, the Émilie Sansfaçon act, we will finish the fight for all the Émilies in Quebec and Canada.
I am pleased to remind all my colleagues that in 2019 the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a study confirming that we collectively have the means to adequately support sick workers. It is a sensible and compassionate proposal. It is both realistic and achievable to increase EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks with a premium increase of six cents per $100 of insurable earnings.
The idea that 50 weeks are necessary in the event of illness was recognized to some extent during the pandemic, as temporary adjustments to EI provided for 50 weeks of benefits in case of need. Nevertheless, it is incoherent that there are still only 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits.
My colleagues will agree that it is peculiar and incoherent that we have the means to support caregivers for a longer period than the person they are caring for. In fact, the caregiver is entitled to 28 weeks, which is excellent, but the person being cared for is only entitled to 15 weeks. Where is the logic in that?
One thing is clear: We cannot afford to let workers mortgage their homes to cover medical expenses, as was the case for longtime advocate Marie-Hélène Dubé. Ms. Dubé was even forced to delay surgery for her third bout of cancer because she had not worked enough hours to be eligible for another 15 weeks of sickness benefits.
We cannot afford to delay remission and leave workers living in financial insecurity throughout treatments. We cannot afford to choose precariousness over compassion.
Today we are debating a progressive bill that I think should galvanize all progressive members in the House.
I never thought I would find myself quoting a former Liberal member, but my Liberal colleagues might be more receptive to the words of one of their own. On November 22, 2011, the former member for Bourassa said, “In a non-partisan way, I am asking all my colleagues to make that gesture of solidarity and support my bill.” This makes good sense. I want to echo this statement and call on all of us to support vulnerable workers.
In the past 10 years or so, parliamentarians have had the opportunity to debate similar bills introduced by the Bloc Québécois and the NDP. The Liberal Party even made the same proposal during the 41st Parliament.
If the Liberals decided to change their position and hammer home the message that workers do not need the 50 weeks that we are proposing and that 15 weeks or 26 weeks are sufficient for all workers, then they need to explain why. For a government that tells anyone who will listen that it governs based on science, this position is untenable and lacks ambition. Statistics from the government's own department contradict its position and confirm that they are abandoning the most vulnerable workers.
The Quebec Cancer Foundation supports extending benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I would like to get it on the record that the Canadian Cancer Society is also in favour of extending these benefits and sees 26 weeks as the minimum increase and 50 weeks as the more desirable option.
It is time, hon. colleagues, to join that consensus and support Bill C-265.
I would like to close with a heartfelt plea. Today is budget day. The Liberal government could be generous to the most vulnerable members of our society, to sick workers who need more from the government than financial insecurity, stress and abandonment.
When parliamentarians, citizens and the media read the budget announcements, I hope they will all think about Émilie Sansfaçon and the hundreds of thousands of people like her, and I suggest they look at the situation in the following way.
If the government makes no mention of this issue and continues to provide only a measly 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits, then it is breaking its promise and insulting sick workers.
If the government increases these benefits to 26 weeks, then it is simply providing false comfort hiding the terrible reality that the Liberals are letting down approximately 68% of workers who need those benefits.
If the Liberal government decides to extend these benefits by only slightly more than that, then it has missed an opportunity. The Liberals will not have increased these benefits enough in the eyes of the over 618,000 people who signed the petition started by Marie-Hélène Dubé, which calls for extending EI sickness benefits to 50 weeks.
If the Liberal government is suitably generous and decides to extend benefits to 50 weeks right away, I would be the first to congratulate it and withdraw my bill, Bill C-265, which would then be obsolete.
In other words, let there be no doubt that I will continue to demand what is fair and realistic, because we in the Bloc Québécois have not forgotten Émilie Sansfaçon; because we in the Bloc Québécois stand with vulnerable workers; and because we in the Bloc Québécois choose compassion, solidarity and kindness.
I know the House is capable of doing so, as well. I call on all my colleagues to support this bill.
Let us pass Bill C-265 for the most vulnerable workers.
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View Bernard Généreux Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît for her excellent speech and her excellent bill.
As she indicated when she was introducing her bill, we have decided to support this legislation and we will continue to support it. I have a very simple question for her.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer believes that anyone eligible could take full advantage of the entire benefit period. The reality is that this is not always what happens.
Can my colleague comment on the fact that, if the bill were to pass and 50 weeks of benefits became available, that does not necessarily mean that most people would take the full 50 weeks?
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
2021-04-19 11:20 [p.5775]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent question and the opportunity to clarify.
My bill provides for up to 50 weeks of benefits, but we know that, on average, people need 41 weeks. That is an average, which means that some people who are sick need less than 50 weeks but quite a bit more than 26 weeks. That is well documented and proven. In 41% of cases, workers need more than 26 weeks. They actually need a minimum of 41 weeks.
Just because the bill provides for 50 weeks, people might think that every worker fighting illness will use all 50 weeks. That is not at all the case. We are talking about an average.
In costing this proposal, the Parliamentary Budget Officer said that, as a society, we have the means to provide these workers with significant protection so they can focus on fighting their illness instead of stressing about how they are going to support their families and pay for rent, groceries and medical bills.
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View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
2021-04-19 11:21 [p.5775]
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Mr. Speaker, I commend the speech and the initiative by my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît.
She is right. For about a decade, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have been proposing measures to take care of the most vulnerable workers when they fall sick, because we know that the current 15 weeks are not enough and that the proposed 26 weeks provide false comfort.
I would like her to keep going. The average recovery period is often 36, 37 or 41 weeks, as she said. We must also consider the doctor's advice. It is not the worker who chooses to take more or fewer weeks, it is their doctor who determines how much time they should take to recover before they are fit to return to work.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
2021-04-19 11:22 [p.5775]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.
He is quite right. As I stated in my speech, nobody decides to be sick. None of us can predict when we will get sick, and often we cannot predict when we will get better, either.
Today, highly effective treatments are available that may affect a person's ability to return to work, but it is the doctor who makes these decisions. The sick worker cannot decide to return to work if their doctor believes that they do not have everything they need to handle their workload. The worker must take the time to fully recover.
A person with an unforeseen illness should only return to work with their doctor's permission. This bill is about supporting a worker fighting for their life who does not have everything they need, such as a collective agreement or private insurance. Even if they want to return to work, they must first accomplish just one thing, and that is to heal. That is why my colleagues must support Bill C-265.
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View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2021-04-19 11:23 [p.5776]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on her thoughtful and passionate speech about a bill that will correct a grave injustice.
I would like her to tell us about the choices available to workers. In her earlier remarks, she said that the limited sickness benefit period could force a person who is still recovering to go back to work. A person who has not fully recovered may fall ill again more quickly, and that is another cost to society.
I would like my colleague to comment on that aspect, and I would also like to know if she has had discussions with the Liberals. Does she know on what grounds they would reject this proposal when there is money in the EI fund, which is supposed to be managed independently?
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
2021-04-19 11:24 [p.5776]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent question.
Quite frankly, I do not understand why the Liberals refuse to propose or give royal recommendation to this bill. We have known for 10 years now that 15 weeks of benefits are not enough. We knew that long before the 15 weeks were granted.
The Liberals are hiding behind their proposal to increase benefits to 26 weeks, which has been announced by the minister several times in the House, but what is her rationale for proposing 26 weeks?
Legislation like the Employment Insurance Act is not amended very often. It is an old piece of legislation that needs to be updated, but just because we change it today and increase the number of weeks to 26 does not mean we could change it again next year. These kinds of changes do not happen often. The Liberals need to reverse their position and agree to this change to increase the number of weeks of sickness benefits to 50. That is what vulnerable workers need.
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View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Irek Kusmierczyk Profile
2021-04-19 11:26 [p.5776]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in this important debate. Before anything, I want to share my condolences to the friends and family of Émilie Sansfaçon. I would also like to recognize the work and advocacy of the member for Salaberry—Suroît.
We never want Canadians to face unnecessary hardship. We are doing whatever we can to put in place the necessary measures to support them when they are going through a difficult time. When eligible Canadians are unable to work, the employment insurance program is there for them. Sickness benefits within the EI program are designed as a short-term income replacement measure, for temporary work absences due to illness, injury or quarantine.
The benefits provide up to 15 weeks of temporary income support at an amount equal to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings, up to a maximum weekly amount. In 2021, this maximum weekly amount is $595. Right now, too many Canadians exhaust their 15 weeks of benefits before they are able to return to work. That is why our government is committed to extending EI sickness benefits to help Canadians pay their bills while they recover.
EI sickness benefits are one of the many supports available to Canadians with longer-term illness and disability. These supports include the Canada pension plan disability benefit, as well as benefits offered through private and employer insurance, and supports provided by provinces and territories.
Access to EI benefits is normally based on the number of insurable hours that individuals have worked in the year prior to their application or since their last claim. This is known as the “qualifying period.” When we recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic was preventing many Canadians from accumulating the number of insurable hours that are normally required, we took action to address the problem.
We made adjustments so that workers with at least 120 hours of work as of September 27, 2020 could receive a one-time insurable hours credit of 300 insurable hours for claims for regular benefits related to job loss, and 480 insurable hours for claims for special benefits, such as sickness, maternity and parental, compassionate care or family caregiving.
The hours credit is retroactive to March 15, 2020 for claimants who were looking to transition early from the CERB to EI but could not establish their EI claim due to insufficient hours. For those claimants, the qualifying period may also be extended. The hours credit is available for new EI claims for one year, in recognition that labour market conditions remain uncertain and will take time to stabilize.
We knew that even with these temporary changes to the EI program, many workers would still not be eligible. That is why our government introduced the suite of recovery benefits. These benefits include the Canada recovery benefit to support workers, including self-employed workers, who are, themselves, ineligible for EI; the Canada recovery caregiving benefit to support workers who have been unable to work because they need to provide care or support for a child, family member or dependant as a result of COVID-19; and, of course, the Canada recovery sickness benefit.
Along with the CERB and other measures our government introduced, the Canada recovery sickness benefit has become a critical part of our government's public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was created through the safe restart agreement as a temporary income support program for workers who need to stay home because they are unable to work at least 50% of their scheduled work week due to being sick or needing to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or having underlying conditions or undergoing treatments or having contracted other sicknesses that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
Our government also amended the Canada Labour Code to ensure that workers can have access to job-protected leave and can avail themselves of the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit.
This past February, we proposed amendments to the Employment Insurance Act, which received royal assent on March 17, to increase the maximum number of weeks available for EI regular benefits for claims established between September 27, 2020, and September 25, 2021. We also made changes that would facilitate access to EI special benefits for self-employed workers until September 25, 2021, when all the temporary EI measures end.
Complementary to these amendments, we have made regulatory changes to increase the number of weeks of benefits available for the Canada recovery benefit, the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. Again, we did what needed to be done to continue supporting Canadians.
Before I conclude, I would like to say a word about the future of EI. Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how the EI program has not kept up with the way Canadians work, nor emerging trends in labour markets. That much is clear. It was not built to respond to a major crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why, when the pandemic hit, we recognized very quickly that the current system was not able to cover enough Canadians in the workforce who had been impacted with job loss. It was also not able to keep up with the volume of applications that needed to be processed quickly and efficiently to help Canadians pay their bills and put food on the table.
We have a unique opportunity right now to bring the employment insurance program into the modern era to make it more inclusive. Flowing from last fall's Speech from the Throne and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion's mandate letter, we are committed to bringing forward a plan for a modernized and inclusive EI system.
We have been working very hard over the past year to introduce a number of benefits to help Canadians get through the pandemic. These benefits have played a pivotal role in buffering the worst economic impacts to Canadians. As I said, we never want to see Canadians suffer. That is why we are doing whatever we can to support them as they are going through this difficult time.
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View Bernard Généreux Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-265, introduced by the member for Salaberry—Suroît.
The bill focuses on EI sickness benefits, which have been capped at 15 weeks since the 1970s, whereas EI regular benefits can last up to 26, or even 50, weeks.
This is not a new issue. I heard about it from Marie-Hélène Dubé, a Rivière-du-Loup resident who contacted me about it. I hear about this issue quite regularly from my constituents. Marie-Hélène Dubé is an acquaintance of mine. Over the years, I have spoken with her several times about the topic we are debating today.
Nearly four years ago, in 2018, I presented a resolution at my party's general council, held in Saint-Hyacinthe, to extend EI benefits in the case of serious illness. This resolution was adopted the members of my party. Last month, I also got this resolution passed by all party members at the Conservative convention, which was held virtually earlier this year.
All parties in the House want to address this issue. The Liberals are sadly the only ones dragging their feet.
I remind members that the Liberal government has been in power since October 2019. It had a majority for the first four years and has remained in power for another year and a half with the help of other opposition parties. So far, the Liberal government has not done anything to extend EI sickness benefits, and I do not see why.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a study two years ago in April 2019, estimating the cost of extending sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50. According to this study, it would cost between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion a year. That may seem like a lot, but it is important to know that the EI program is first and foremost supposed to be independent and self-sustaining. It is funded through premiums paid by workers and employers, which are adjusted periodically based on the claim rate.
In 2019, the contribution rate for workers was $1.62 per $100 of insurable earnings to a maximum of $56,300 a year. The employer pays 140% of that amount, or $2.27 per $100 of insurable earnings. The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates that extending sickness benefits would cost 6¢ more per $100 earned by a worker. For someone who earns $35,000 a year, that is an increase of $21 a year or $1.75 a month. For someone who has reached or exceeded the maximum insurable earnings of $56,300, the proposed change would cost $33.78 a year or $2.81 a month. If we asked people whether they were prepared to pay between $1.75 and $2.81 a month for peace of mind and access to EI sickness benefits if they were to get cancer or need heart surgery, for example, it is very clear that the answer would be yes.
Balance protection insurance for credit cards and credit disability insurance on car loans both cost far more than 0.06%. They usually cost around 1% of the monthly balance. That amount is 20 times higher than the small increase we are talking about here to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50.
We might well wonder if that is why the Liberals are reluctant to offer EI sickness benefits for longer than 15 weeks. Have insurance companies lobbied the government because they do not want this safety net to make their financial products less attractive?
Let us remember the incestuous relationship between the Liberal government and major financial institutions, which was an issue when the Liberals introduced Bill C-27 in the previous Parliament. That bill proposed legislative amendments to pension standards that would have benefited Morneau Shepell, the family-owned investment company previously run by Bill Morneau, the former finance minister.
As a Conservative, I am very wary of any new tax or government directive that could make it harder for Canada's small and medium-sized businesses to compete. As the owner of a business with about 30 employees, I am all the more wary considering the especially difficult year all SMEs have had. I am here to help them get through the pandemic that we will have to continue grappling with for the next few months, or maybe even more than a year. However, I do not think that contributing an extra $29 or $47 per year per employee will bankrupt my business.
My employees are important to me, and I would love for them to have this lifeline to count on in case they ever have to face such a difficult struggle.
On this subject, I would not accuse the government of overspending. Why, then, are we still here, six and a half years after the Liberals took office? They still have not addressed this issue. The Liberals had a chance to include parts of Bill C-265 in their own Bill C-24, but they decided against it. To top it all off, we learned last week that the government has decided to refuse royal recommendation for Bill C-265, so its odds of being passed by the next election are slim.
Is this what the Liberals call co-operation with the opposition parties? It sounds more like “my way or the highway”. It appears as though they want to call an election right away, so that the Prime Minister can run as a great saviour and promise, for a third time, to increase the number of weeks of EI benefits for serious illnesses, when he had every opportunity to get it done sooner.
A few weeks ago, I asked the government whether it was going to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks, as set out in the motion the House of Commons passed in February 2020. The government responded that it would first extend this benefit period to 30 weeks.
That is great, but when? Will it be in the budget? We shall see this afternoon. Can the government tell us the difference in cost between 30 and 50 weeks? I remind the House that the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that extending these benefits from 15 to 50 weeks would cost 6¢ for every $100. This figure is not for 30 weeks, but perhaps the government and the Department of Finance did their own assessment.
What is the difference in cost between 15 and 30 weeks? What would be the difference in cost between 30 and 50 weeks? Is the government seriously obstructing Bill C-265 to save 2¢ or 3¢? The Liberal member who will be speaking next has a few minutes to ask me questions. I would like him to start by answering mine.
Beyond the figures I just cited, Marie-Hélène Dubé and Émilie Sansfaçon were extremely resilient, and in the case of Ms. Sansfaçon, to the very end. Ms. Dubé went through three cancer diagnoses in the last 10 years. Earlier I heard my Liberal colleague note that the government has made changes related to COVID-19. I am glad that it did that, with our support, but here we are talking about a recurring thing and not something sporadic in connection with a pandemic. As mentioned by my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, these are legislative amendments that do not happen often. The Employment Insurance Act has not changed since the 1970s and is no longer adequate. As my Liberal colleague aptly put it earlier, we must absolutely overhaul this legislation to adapt to today's realities.
I could go on for several more minutes, but the reality is that many businesses are struggling to find employees. That is the case in my riding right now. Unfortunately, when some get sick they not only have the burden of their illness weighing on them, but they also bear the financial burden, which becomes an additional stressor and is very hard to bear for anyone going through these difficult times.
Some will say that the Conservatives refused to make these changes in the past. It is true, but the way things are changing we must take care of one another. As my colleague mentioned earlier, people who can take care of those who are sick are entitled to more benefits than the sick people themselves. That makes no sense. We must adapt these new realities to today's life. Clearly, the pandemic added another layer, and the reality is that these types of events primarily affect women.
I believe that we must absolutely support my colleague's bill, and I invite the Liberals to also support it.
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View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
NDP (QC)
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
2021-04-19 11:43 [p.5779]
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Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise today to discuss this very important matter for thousands of people in Quebec and Canada. We have a duty and a collective responsibility to foster social progress and programs that truly meet people’s needs.
I would like to thank my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît for introducing this bill. It is similar to motions that have been moved in the past by the Bloc Québécois and to bills introduced by the NDP over the past ten years. I would like to thank my colleague because this issue is important to us at the NDP, as a progressive labour party.
People and employees find themselves in extremely difficult and painful situations because they are either ill, seriously injured or have cancer. They are fighting for their lives, sometimes under extreme financial pressure. If they do not have private insurance, a collective agreement or a labour contract that provides for recovery leave, they hit the employment insurance wall and its 15 weeks of sickness benefits, which is totally inadequate.
We consider this issue so important that we want action. We want the people in our society who have no other recourse, help or support to have up to 50 weeks of sickness benefits. We do not want to let these people fall through the cracks. Émilie Sansfaçon’s story and her plea for help touched us all, and we must remember that. There were also all those people rallying behind Marie-Hélène Dubé, who collected more than 618,000 signatures on her petition. Having met Ms. Dubé several times in recent years, I know that she is still on the case.
I therefore think that all of us, as members of parliament, should at least be able to agree on the matter. Our party wants this issue to be successfully resolved so badly that it does not care which party proposes the solution, as long as it leads to the right outcome. To be frank, I must admit that I do not understand how the Bloc Québécois managed to fall short on this file.
Last March, at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona tabled an amendment to government Bill C-24 that would have extended employment insurance benefits from 15 to 50 weeks.
I do not understand why the Bloc member for Thérèse-De Blainville voted against this amendment, agreeing with the committee chair’s opinion that the amendment was inadmissible because it required a royal recommendation. The opposition parties held the majority on the committee and could have challenged the chair’s interpretation. If the three opposition parties, including the Bloc Québécois, had voted in favour of the amendment proposed by my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona, the committee would have brought to the House a bill offering Canadians 50 weeks of EI sickness benefits. Since the amendment was part of a government bill, it would not have required a royal recommendation.
I am disappointed that the Bloc Québécois voted against the NDP’s amendment because it wanted to table its own bill on the same issue a month later. In April, it was decided that Bill C-265 also required a royal recommendation. If the Liberals, unwilling to act in solidarity to help vulnerable and sick workers, refuse the bill, we will be up against a wall. We will once again be left in the lurch, and all of our efforts will have been in vain.
I understand that my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît is pleading with the Liberals to join the rest of us in supporting sick workers in order to resolve the EI issue once and for all. However, we missed a really good opportunity in committee. I think that the Bloc Québécois fell short because of a misinterpretation. I wanted to say that, because I find it extremely unfortunate for the people who are suffering and who have been waiting years for changes to the employment insurance program.
As I was saying earlier, this is not a question of offering everyone 50 weeks of benefits in the case of injury or serious illness, such as cancer. It is a question of offering them the possibility of receiving up to 50 weeks of benefits. If the doctor believes that the person is unable to work and must take more time off to heal before returning to work in good health, as my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé pointed out, we should allow the worker and the doctor to make the best decision possible and provide for more than the current 15 weeks of benefits.
The minister says that they will provide 26 weeks for purposes of consistency. Caregivers are entitled to 26 weeks, while sick people only get 15 weeks. That makes absolutely no sense. Perhaps the government wants to extend the benefits to 26 weeks to avoid being called out on that inconsistency, but that makes no sense because, once again, it is only a half-measure.
As my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît pointed out, the average remission or recovery time for many serious illnesses is 41 weeks. It can be 36 or 37 weeks in some cases, and 45 or 46 weeks in others. All that means is that 26 weeks is not enough.
Stopping at 26 weeks is unrealistic, given what science and medicine are telling us. That is why we will not agree to 26 weeks.
When the Liberals were in the opposition, they voted for 50 weeks. That was a few years ago, and they may not remember, but we do. I think that we can all agree today or in a future vote to support the most vulnerable workers so as to give them hope and the option of taking the time they need to heal properly.
Marie-Hélène Dubé said she was shocked at the government's chronic inaction on this issue despite all of its promises, and at its lack of respect for sick Canadians who, after having paid into the EI program their entire life, receive 15 weeks of benefits when they fall ill even though it takes on average almost 50 weeks to heal.
Shawn Chirrey of the Canadian Cancer Society gave a very specific example: The average treatment and recovery time for breast cancer is 25 to 36 weeks, compared with 37 weeks for colon cancer.
We know, then, that 15 weeks is not enough for cancer patients. We can also see, by the average treatment and recovery times for colon and breast cancer, that 26 weeks is still not enough. The science is clear.
I would ask that everyone make an effort to adopt this common sense measure that, as my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and the Conservative Party have pointed out, is eminently affordable. Remember that it costs 6¢ extra per $100 in salary, according to a study by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. There are really no better reasons than human compassion, the scientific approach and affordability to justify this contribution on the part of workers and businesses.
I believe that the the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities should have accepted the amendment to Bill C-24. It would have been a much easier and more efficient way of giving Canadians 50 weeks.
We have another opportunity here with Bill C-265. However, this time we need help from the government, and the Liberals will have to get on board. Otherwise, I do not know how they will be able to explain it to sick Canadians who want to have the time they need to recover and need financial support. I hope we will be able to agree on a permanent, comprehensive reform of this important social program.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that our social security net is full of holes, that there are major problems with access to employment insurance. For years, under the Conservatives and the Liberals, the majority of workers who contributed to EI did not have access to benefits. Only about 38% of workers who lost their jobs were eligible to receive EI benefits.
The current crisis prompted the government to put certain measures in place. However, the four programs are temporary and will expire this summer or fall. We need to make permanent the changes that were made to improve access to EI. That is absolutely crucial, particularly for self-employed workers, freelancers, contract workers, people working in the arts and culture industry and translators, who have not had access to EI cheques or benefits for years.
The NDP made CERB available for self-employed workers and freelancers. However, we need a real employment insurance reform so that no one slips through the cracks and we are able to take care of everyone who needs it.
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View Louise Chabot Profile
BQ (QC)
View Louise Chabot Profile
2021-04-19 11:53 [p.5780]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the important Bill C-265, the Émilie Sansfaçon act. This is a great opportunity to achieve the goal of permanently extending EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50.
Today is the first hour of debate on this bill at second reading. However, like my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, I feel like compelled to say that our bill may be for nothing if there is a surprise in the budget that is coming in a few hours.
Yesterday I was watching a public affairs program on TV and saw the President of the Treasury Board say that the goal of the next budget is to go farther and aim higher. The government has a golden opportunity to do just that by supporting our bill.
The bill we are debating has three goals. First, it seeks to correct an unjustifiable inequity and shocking injustice that has gone on for 50 years and must not continue one more day. Second, it seeks to recognize and support people with serious illnesses such as cancer and serious chronic and episodic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis. Lastly, it seeks to help people get better and to support them for as long as their doctor says is medically necessary.
This bill, which would extend the special EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 and permanently fix the Employment Insurance Act, is not the first such bill to be tabled in the House, as my colleagues have pointed out. In the past 10 years, seven bills have been introduced, but none of them got anywhere, and none of them were endorsed by Parliament, despite a broad consensus that still exists today. Why have successive governments failed to act all these years?
This must not become another missed opportunity. We must seize this opportunity and act. As I mentioned in the House last week, this is not a request, but a heartfelt plea. We want to make this amendment to the act to ensure that workers have a social safety net.
A study initiated by the Bloc Québécois is under way at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. It involves a comprehensive reform of the EI system. The aim is to strengthen the system and to fix the gaps and flaws that the pandemic has highlighted.
One of those flaws is the fact that special sickness benefits last 15 weeks. That is so outdated. Many groups submitted briefs and many witnesses appeared to speak in support of this initiative, with good reason. They include major Canadian and Quebec unions and the Mouvement Action-Chômage de Montréal. Even here in the House, the NDP, the Conservatives and the opposition parties all support this change, as do 88% of Canadians. I myself surveyed 2,000 residents of my riding, and 85% of them were in favour. What more will it take?
As mentioned, the PBO says it would cost $1.1 billion if everyone took the 50 weeks, but we know that will not be the case. This is therefore feasible and possible.
What would not be feasible, however, would be to do nothing. Not supporting them adequately during their care would leave thousands of sick people at risk of losing their jobs and being more distressed by their financial insecurity than by their health. That was what happened to Émilie Sansfaçon, who sadly died too young from cancer. She shared her heart-wrenching story with us, explaining how her financial situation was causing her more anguish than her own health needs were. This was her struggle, the same struggle thousands of people face. There are people like Émilie Sansfaçon everywhere. We need to continue this fight and, above all, fix the problem. We can no longer neglect these workers, because this is a social, moral and human issue.
We already know that our EI system is far from being a gold mine, even for people who have paid into it their entire lives. If we look at sickness benefits under the regular EI system, individuals have to work 600 hours to be eligible. Even if they are eligible, however, workers are entitled to just 55% of their earnings for a maximum of 15 weeks, which will not be counted in the calculation of insurable hours to qualify for other benefits.
Canada is one of the worst G7 countries in terms of providing a social safety net for workers, just behind the United States. The U.S. provides 12 weeks, Canada 15, France 156, Germany 78, Japan 72 and Italy 52. I have three words to describe the current situation: shameful, embarrassing and stingy. The time has come to be among the best.
The government promised to extend the benefit period to 26 weeks, but it never did. However, that would not be enough. It is not about negotiating or trading a short 15-week period for a half-measure because that would not solve the problem. Instead it is about treating sick workers fairly by providing them with 50 weeks, the same maximum number of weeks that workers are entitled to when they lose their job. We can no longer discriminate against sick workers. We have no choice but to help them because the 50-week period is economically sustainable and socially imperative. All we need is the political will and a vision where our social programs and our social safety net for workers do not leave anyone behind or allow anyone to slip through the cracks.
Do we want to be seen as a society that abandons the most vulnerable, or as a fairer and more equitable society, one that provides support and comfort and is compassionate and humanitarian towards workers and the sick? It is with the latter image in mind that I ask for the unanimous support of the House for this bill to extend EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50 weeks. Not only is it a question of fairness, but it will allow people to take care of themselves with dignity.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:03 [p.5781]
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Is the hon. member for Louis-Saint-Laurent rising on a point of order?
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2021-04-19 12:03 [p.5781]
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Mr. Speaker, I am certain that you will find unanimous consent for the motion that, notwithstanding any standing or special order or usual practice, at 3:59 p.m. today or when no member rises to speak, whichever comes first, Bill C-11, an act to enact the Consumer Privacy Protection Act and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts, be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
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View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2021-04-19 12:04 [p.5781]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the parties and I hope you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practices of the House, at 3:59 p.m. today, or when no member rises to speak, whichever comes earlier, Bill C-11, an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act and the personal information and data protection tribunal act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts, be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2021-04-19 12:05 [p.5782]
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Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to a point of order raised by the member for Don Valley West, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, with regard to a question placed by the member for Cloverdale—Langley City in the debate on Friday on Bill C-6, conversion therapy.
This is not the first time I have had to respond to these kinds of statements in the House of Commons, unfortunately. What the member for Cloverdale—Langley City did was to hide behind biblical quotations to cast dispersions on gay members of the House of Commons. This is a very serious matter for me. I believe it is, in fact, a question of privilege. It makes it difficult for members of Parliament to do their jobs when they are subject to these kinds of accusations. It also makes it very difficult to encourage other Canadians to run for public office when these kinds of slurs are allowed in the House of Commons.
As I said, this is not the first time I have had to deal with this, unfortunately. On September 29, 2011, the previous member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, Russ Hiebert, made a statement in S.O. 31s where he implied that because of my position on certain legislation, I was a friend of pedophiles. At that time, I stood in the House and objected to that statement, first, because as an adult survivor of child abuse, I took very strong offence to that kind of statement; and second, because once again it made it difficult for me to do my job as an MP when subjected to those kinds of accusations. The same excuse was used by the previous member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale in 2011, which is being used again, “Oh, I didn't really mean that. Someone has misunderstood because I didn't say word for word what I clearly implied in my statement.”
This does affect me as a serving member of the House. This affects all members of my community across the country when these statements are allowed to stand without apology or removal. I would ask the Speaker take this into very serious consideration and take appropriate action to ensure that this does not happen again in the House of Commons. That can only happen when a member is sanctioned for doing so.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:08 [p.5782]
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I thank the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for his additional comments on the matter. As he may have heard, the Speaker has taken this matter under advisement and has indicated that he will get back to the House in due course.
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:08 [p.5782]
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Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour for me to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport. I am speaking in support of Bill C-11, an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act and the personal information and data protection tribunal act and to make consequential and related amendments to other acts. It is also known as the digital charter implementation act.
From the earliest days of my first run for office, the residents of Davenport have approached me to tell me how concerned they are about the security of their personal information. They are literally running after me in the streets to say that this is an issue of great importance to them. I can assure members that it is not just Davenport residents who are concerned. The Privacy Commissioner published a survey in 2019 that found that 92% of all Canadians were concerned about their privacy, with 37% of Canadians being extremely concerned. This means that nine out of 10 Canadians are worried about their privacy.
I know that the third wave of this pandemic is the most pressing issue for all of us right now, and rightly so, but it has not made our privacy concerns go away. Indeed, this pandemic has had the opposite effect, given that most, if not all, our lives have moved online, from work to worship to shopping to social gatherings. This is a front and centre issue.
Davenport residents are not comfortable entrusting all their data into the black hole of the Internet, managed mainly by big multinational tech giants. These companies have been operating with outdated regulations and limited transparency. As Canadians right now, we have no choice. We are all used to downloading apps or signing up for things online that come with long privacy policies and consents requests. I do not know about everyone else, but most of us do not have time to read all the online terms and conditions that are often in legalise and not easy to understand. That is why I am happy that Bill C-11 would require plain-language consent requests.
We are also too used to being peppered with targeted ads and content based on the websites we visit, with no consent or even knowledge about algorithms that track our actions. It is impossible to keep track of how our personal data and how our online actions are being used or abused, whether it is to misinform others or even more nefarious purposes like identity theft.
That is will I am glad that Bill C-11 is before the House. It marks a huge leap forward in our privacy laws. Canada must do all it can to protect the data of all our residents, and Canadians should know exactly how their data is used with maximum transparency. We should have the right to manage what data is kept online and what is deleted.
Canada must also keep up with the rapid growth of the digital economy, as hundreds of companies and organizations are now handling our personal data. Other countries have already acted on this. The E.U. passed the General Data Protection Regulations in 2018. Its rules require that other countries meet its standards to do business, to exchange data across borders. This means that if we want Canadian businesses to continue to have an edge in European markets, we have to modernize our privacy rules. It is imperative that we move now, as aggressively as possible, and for all these reasons, we must pass the digital charter implementation act.
What would the bill actually do? First, the bill introduces the new consumer privacy protection act that updates the old PIPEDA act, which was first passed in 2001. Second, the bill introduces the personal information and data protection tribunal act to create an oversight and enforcement body for the new privacy rules. Third, it would retain the measures of part 2 of PIPEDA under the new electronic documents act. The measures in the bill are built upon three key goals: consumer control, responsible innovation and strong enforcement and oversight.
Let me just touch very briefly on how the measures in the bill would meet each of these goals.
First, how do we give consumers more control? Bill C-11 would modernize consent rules and would require companies to ask for consent in plain language, which is great. The bill would also give Canadians the right to data mobility. That means they could direct one organization to share certain data with another for a specific reason. For example, they could direct their banks to share financial information with another bank.
Next, it would give Canadians the right to withdraw their consent for the use of their data. It would allow people to direct a company to delete whatever personal information it has about them, including on social media platforms, which would give control of personal data back to Canadians. The bill also clarifies that even information that has been de-identified is still personal information. Even if a company removes people's names from its data, this bill would ensure that the data still belongs to those people. It has to be protected, and companies need their consent to use it.
Finally, the bill requires transparency for use of algorithms and AI. It would give every Canadian the right to request an explanation of how and why an automated system made a choice or prediction about the individual. I am hoping that at some point, we are allowed to relay what companies can and cannot do with that information.
The second goal is enabling responsible innovation. We want our country to stay globally competitive, support innovation and unlock the potential of data to create incredible value and improve our lives, but we need to support that innovation in a way that guarantees the right to privacy. The bill would simplify consent rules so that companies are not burdened by seeking consent for every use of information, even when consumers reasonably expect it. This is good for business and also helps Canadians make meaningful choices. Rather that being bombarded by consent requests full of legal jargon, consumers will see plain language requests when it really matters.
Bill C-11 would also allow Canadians the choice to contribute their data for the common good. It would allow businesses to share de-identified data with certain public institutions to power social benefits like public health and infrastructure. Lastly, the bill would allow businesses to submit their codes of practice to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure they comply with the law. This kind of transparency and streamlined regulation is both good for businesses and good for Canadians.
The third goal is strong enforcement and oversight. With any new regulations, we absolutely need stronger enforcement and oversight. Indeed, I know that is something the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has long requested. What would this bill do? It would give the commissioner that power, including forcing an organization to comply with privacy laws and ordering a company to stop collecting data for personal information. It would also create the personal information and data protection tribunal, and the Privacy Commissioner could also ask the tribunal to impose fines. We would have the stiffest penalties in the G7. For small transactions, the fine would be 3% of global revenue or $10 million, whichever is greater, and for more serious violations, the penalty is up to 5% of global revenue or $25 million, whichever is greater.
I mentioned earlier that Davenport residents have been raising this as a concern to me for five years now. I have received a number of letters, so I want to pay tribute to all those who have written to me through the years to indicate that this continues to be an issue. I know they will be very happy to hear that we are moving forward on this legislation.
This bill is the first of many steps our federal government will take to protect Canadians' privacy and harness our country's potential in the digital age. Our current privacy laws were passed in 2001, and in 20 years the pace of change has left those laws badly out of date. We will need to keep doing more to stay on top of rapid changes, looking at both the threats and the opportunities. Davenport residents and, indeed, all Canadians demand that we continue to do all we can to keep our privacy and data security laws updated in a way that protects them, while still enabling data to be used for innovation and economic growth.
In 2019, we set out a vision for the Internet in the digital charter. That vision is of an Internet that serves the public good and guarantees certain rights, like the right to control and consent, the right to transparency and portability, the use of data for the common good and the need for strong enforcement and accountability.
I am proud that our government has introduced this bill to implement the digital charter and guarantee these rights to Canadians. We have seen big new challenges, and we have stepped up with real solutions. I ask all of my colleagues for the speedy passage of this bill.
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View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-04-19 12:18 [p.5784]
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Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that we are trying to update the legislation to reflect our digital reality.
The member commented on the Privacy Commissioner and the additional powers that would be given. We have seen quite a number of privacy data breaches from the federal government, especially from the Canada Revenue Agency. Would the Privacy Commissioner have the ability under this legislation to fine the government or order the government to stop collecting private information because it is not adequately protected?
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:19 [p.5784]
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Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that it does not matter whether it is the federal government or any level of government; we are all really concerned about any type of these breaches. The honest answer to her question is that I actually do not know if the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is able to. I will ask about it.
My sense is that it is what we are trying to do, so I would hope it would also incorporate the federal government and the different levels of government. I do not know the answer. I hope it would be the case, but I know it does have the power to order businesses to do that. I will look into it and get back to the hon. member.
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View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2021-04-19 12:20 [p.5784]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.
What our Conservative colleague said is true. This bill does not seem to apply to the government.
I have another question. There is another flaw with respect to the identification of individuals. There is nothing in the bill to force banks, for example, to institute a strict policy for the identification of individuals, nor is there any kind of fine system that would compel them to do so.
Is the government open to a series of amendments on this issue?
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:20 [p.5784]
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Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons I am eager to move forward with this legislation is that it is good to have these types of discussions in committee. If there are improvements to be had and ways we could even strengthen what is already an excellent bill, there is always an opportunity to do so at committee.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2021-04-19 12:21 [p.5784]
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Mr. Speaker, as we know, big corporate data privacy breaches are becoming more common every year, and Canadians are concerned about how the big tech giants like Facebook are collecting and using information. Privacy is now a household issue that really affects everyone.
My concerns are around the private rights of action, which would allow individuals and groups of consumers to seek compensation in court. This has been effectively used in the United States to remedy violations. However, it is unnecessarily so burdensome in Bill C-11 that it effectively makes it unusable. For example, if the Privacy Commissioner does not investigate and rule on a complaint, an individual has no right of action. If the Privacy Commissioner does investigate and rule on a complaint but the tribunal does not uphold it, the individual has no right of action. Additionally, if a two-year timeline is exceeded for whatever reason, individuals lose their right of action, basically making it a right only in theory but not in practice.
Does my colleague agree that the bill needs to be amended to fix this?
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:22 [p.5784]
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Mr. Speaker, believe me, I am very concerned about data and ensuring that Canadians have complete control over the data they are sharing: who uses their personal data and for what purposes. A fundamental objective of this bill is to give control and consent, to ensure transparency, portability and interoperability, and to have strong enforcement and real accountability. If there are some additional measures the hon. member thinks should be considered, I would suggest that it be brought up in committee.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2021-04-19 12:23 [p.5785]
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Mr. Speaker, I would put to the hon. member this quote from Jim Balsillie, from an article in the National Post in March: “The algorithms that push this content are addictive by design and exploit negative emotions—or, as Facebook insiders say, 'Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.'”
This bill would not address that problem. Is the government open to amendments in committee to deal with this aspect of the dark web?
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View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2021-04-19 12:23 [p.5785]
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Mr. Speaker, the point the member brought up is something I personally worry about as well. It really bothers me that my actions online are fed into some sort of an algorithm or AI system and translated in specific ways I have no control over. I would like to believe, and do believe, that all these types of amendments would be very open to consideration within committee.
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View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to Bill C-11 and data privacy.
Many in Parliament know of the previous work that has been done by the access to information, privacy and ethics committee. We dealt with this in 2018 around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. We came together in London for the first meeting of the International Grand Committee, which represented nine nations and close to half a billion people. We have all seen how data manipulation can be misused by big tech, and our efforts in the International Grand Committee were really to set the stage for what we can do together to push back on some of big tech's practices and hopefully reform those practices. As chair of that committee, I was especially pleased with the efforts of all the parties in the room. In their speeches, the member for Beaches—East York, the member for Timmins—James Bay, my own colleague from Thornhill and many others took this on, as we care about all Canadians' data and privacy.
It is laudable that Bill C-11 attempts to combat some of the concerns that we have and crack down on some of those practices that have been concerning for many years. It deals with things like algorithm accountability, which has been mentioned by some colleagues today, personal access to data, de-identification of information, and certification programs for big tech so that there is a certain set of standards to be followed. Some of these moves have already been taken up by some in big tech who are doing this on their own to some extent. Stiffer penalties are recognized in Bill C-11, as well as private right of action.
However, there are many other things I am concerned about that are simply not in the bill, or there are huge exemptions that a freight train could run through, which would neutralize the bill in many respects.
First, privacy as a human right is the number one thing that I do not see in the bill. Many have said, from our efforts, that privacy as a human right needs to be foundational to any legislation. Conservatives recently passed a policy that deals with this exact principle:
The CPC believes digital data privacy is a fundamental right that urgently requires strengthened legislation, protections, and enforcement. Canadians must have the right to access and control collection, use, monitoring, retention, and disclosure of their personal data. International violations should receive enforcement assistance from the Canadian Government.
Clearly, this is a concern of many. We have heard from countless witnesses and experts. Jim Balsillie, who has been mentioned already this morning, warned us of what can happen if we do not take this seriously.
I will talk about the exemptions in the bill that concern me, and my copy of the bill is very well highlighted for some of the errors that are in it.
There is “Exceptions to Requirement for Consent.” A meaningful consent is another principle that we really need to address in the bill, and it has been mentioned already. If children have an app they like to play games on, all that has to be done to basically hand over their data is just a little check box in order to play the game, and we call that “meaningful consent”. Bill C-11 says that it attempts to fix that, but I will go over the exemptions.
“Exceptions to Requirement for Consent” states:
An organization may collect or use an individual’s personal information without their knowledge or consent if the collection or use is made for a business activity described in subsection (2)
This is the list of activities in subsection (2) that are exempt from meaningful consent:
(a) an activity that is necessary to provide or deliver a product or service that the individual has requested from the organization;
(b) an activity that is carried out in the exercise of due diligence to prevent or reduce the organization’s commercial risk;
(c) an activity that is necessary for the organization’s information, system or network security;
(d) an activity that is necessary for the safety of a product or service that the organization provides or delivers;
(e) an activity in the course of which obtaining the individual’s consent would be impracticable because the organization does not have a direct relationship with the individual; and
This is the big one:
(f) any other prescribed activity.
I appreciate the Liberal members stating that this bill is an effort to get us to a better place around data privacy in Canada, but exemptions like that in the legislation need to be addressed. That is why our party talked about getting Bill C-11 to the industry committee to have a fulsome discussion of its good parts and of what needs to be fixed and strengthened. Sadly, the current government has decided to send it to the ethics committee instead of where it should go. Some of the audience today might understand why. Because of the government's many ethical lapses and failures, it would like to use up all of the time it possibly can with other legislation, such as Bill C-11. Only ethics violations should really be discussed at the ethics committee. It is unfortunate that this is going to be pushed to the ethics committee. My hope for legitimate changes to the legislation may be muted by a rush to get through it, and it may not be given due diligence, as many Canadians are expecting it should.
I want to thank the Canadians who have come to me over the years to talk about their concerns around the way our data is collected. Many years ago I coined the phrase that our online data is essentially our digital DNA. It is who we are online, and we need to do all we can to protect the information and data of Canadians. In this new era of social media being in the public square, we need to do our due diligence as legislators to make sure that it is protected as much as possible. Unfortunately, although the effort is laudable, this legislation simply falls short. That is why, from our perspective, we want to see it go to committee and hopefully changes can be made there.
There is an old saying: “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I do not think we can call this legislation good quite yet.
I wanted to thank some of the guests we had before us. There has been some discussion that not enough has been heard regarding privacy and digital issues online, but we had countless experts from Canada and heard from experts around the world. We heard from Shoshana Zuboff and many witnesses at our International Grand Committee who really set the blueprint for what can be done with digital and data privacy. We have a way to make it better.
Our Privacy Commissioner made many suggestions. We see some of those in this legislation regarding increased fines and stiffer penalties for big tech if they misuse people's data or have lapses with that. However, the legislation still falls short. My hope is that it gets to committee so the committee can get a really good eye on it and have the chance to propose some fixes to those exemptions and other holes in the legislation.
I look forward to any questions.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2021-04-19 12:33 [p.5786]
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Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies and I may be known around this place to rarely agree with each other, but I want to salute him for his leadership on this work. We are 100% aligned in that we need to do much more to, in his words, deal with the appropriation without consent of our digital DNA. I agree with him: It is unfortunate this is going to the ethics committee instead of industry, but it is one of those files that has feet in both committees.
What does he think would be the most important amendment to make to this legislation, or should we scrap it and start over as some critics are suggesting?
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View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her comments and kind words.
The most important thing would be to recognize privacy as a fundamental right or a property right. It needs to be recognized with that significance. The rest comes from that being at the top of the pyramid, because if that fundamental ideal is not there many other reasons can be made not to legislate appropriately. However, if that is the foundation we have a great place to go with the recognition of how serious data is. It really is our digital DNA. We need to protect it as such, and apply rules to big tech and other companies so they use it appropriately.
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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2021-04-19 12:35 [p.5786]
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Mr. Speaker, regarding Bill C-11, the Privacy Commissioner has stated that he is concerned with the government's new definitions of commercial activity and consent rules. The current bill actually has much less protection of privacy than the previous definition.
I wonder whether the member could comment on that. Does he share those concerns? Should the government be making amendments in this regard?
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View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I do share those concerns. In my work as the former ethics chair, I have gotten to know our Privacy Commissioner professionally, and I really heard the case for having stringent protocols around data. Again, this bill is supposed to deal with those concerns, and I listed the exceptions, even for the requirement to consent. Members can use the analogies they want, but a truck could drive through it. When there are huge exceptions for uses of data this bill should tighten them up, not open them more widely and broadly. I think this is what needs to be addressed in committee, and my hope is that it will be at ethics.
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View Ted Falk Profile
CPC (MB)
View Ted Falk Profile
2021-04-19 12:37 [p.5786]
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Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies for bringing to the attention of the House some of the errancy of Bill C-11. In particular he noted that this bill should be heading to the industry committee, and it has found its way back here because the Liberals are trying to prevent the ethics committee from doing its work on other very important issues, such as scandals. I acknowledge that.
The member also talked about some exceptions in the bill that would make it less effective than it should be, and I am wondering this: Are there any exceptions in particular that he finds particularly grievous?
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View Bob Zimmer Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, there are many provisions that might be legitimate, given that, between a bank and a person who deals with that bank, there are agreed-upon arrangements. However, there is an exception in place, where it says the organization may collect or use an individual's personal information without their knowledge or consent, if the collection or use is made for business activity described in subsection 2, and that description is for “any other prescribed activity.”
That essentially means the door is wide open for however that corporation wants to use that person's data. “Any other prescribed activity” means that if it decides it wants to use the data for x, y or z, that is up to the corporation. It does not appear to be up to the individual. Things like this need to be tightened up in the extreme. We also need to allow consumers, who want to have their data used, to give corporations their data for a good reason. It must have high fences, so that a corporation cannot use it for anything else and cannot sell it. The biggest concern I have, with all our understanding of data, is of people being manipulated by their data, and our kids being manipulated by their data. People's ever-increasing time spent on smart devices is concerning to everybody in Canada, and we need to make sure that corporations are only using data they are allowed to, in ways they are allowed to.
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View Stephanie Kusie Profile
CPC (AB)
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2021-04-19 12:39 [p.5787]
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Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to be here today and to contribute to this debate on Bill C-11. I have been here for four years. It is hard to believe, as I just had my anniversary on April 3, that I have been serving the good people of Calgary Midnapore for four years, which I am so fortunate to do. At this point in my political career, if I do not believe that the messengers themselves are sincere, I have a hard time believing the message. It is really hard for me to think about and understand a policy if I do not have a lot of good faith in the individual or entity from which it is coming.
There stems one of the two struggles that I have with this bill: I do not genuinely believe in the sincerity of the current government to protect Canadians. I have seen this from many perspectives, both past and present. My second concern is a sort of generalization, but it still remains that I see the government doing things in a half-hearted effort. This is along the same lines as my first point about insincerity.
When I refer to my past experience with this, I am drawing upon my time as the shadow minister for democratic institutions. Bill C-11 is relevant to that because, during my time as shadow minister, the Digital Charter was announced. If not legislation, this was certainly an important policy announcement that was supposed to carry a lot of weight. At the time, we were debating Bill C-76, which would have major implications for future elections. The digital conversation, along with foreign interference and foreign influence, had a lot to contribute to the discussion around Bill C-76.
When the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry made his announcement at that time, along with the minister of democratic institutions, it felt very flat. It felt as though it was one of those commercials for children on a Saturday morning or, since the current government likes to insult Conservative institutions so much, perhaps a video from PragerU. It really did not come across with a lot of sincerity or a lot of teeth. It just seemed to do what the government likes to do, which is a lot of virtue signalling.
This bill also reminds me of the tribunal composition. It always concerns me a little when the government creates a body that has any type of implication in the direction of Canadians' lives or industry. I am thinking of the Leaders' Debates Commission, which I believe significantly impacted the debates framework in the last election. I recall the question from the member of Parliament for Provencher to the previous speaker. If we look back now, the debates commission included one of the Kielburger brothers. It is very interesting that we find this here today.
One thing I am concerned about within the framework of the Bill C-11 legislation is that the current government members always find a way to take care of their friends. We have seen this with SNC-Lavalin, which we are still dealing with the implications of here today as we go through the pandemic; with Mr. Baylis, the former member of Parliament; and, as has been alluded to before, the WE Charity scandal, which the previous speaker indicated. Unfortunately, this legislation is being sent to ethics rather than industry in an effort to delay that. Even in the context of Bill C-11 and what this is supposed to do, I worry about government members taking care of their friends.
I mentioned that the second part of my concern was that the current government does everything half-heartedly. I believe that includes this legislation, without question.
We look at the possibility of information being shared with other parties. The bill would allow an organization to transfer an individual's personal information to a service provider without their knowledge or consent. Regarding the right to have the collecting party delete collected information on request, it somewhat deals with that, but when I have tried to unsubscribe, in some situations it has definitely been unsuccessful.
We also see in the bill the right to opt out of the sale of personal information where an organization may transfer an individual's personal information to a service provider, again, without their consent or knowledge. This is a theme that I am seeing in terms of the government addressing things half-heartedly and Bill C-11 definitely falls within this.
Also, we have seen this half-hearted response with the pandemic from the very beginning in terms of the government's eliminating the warning system prior to the pandemic's arrival; the return of personal protective equipment, which showed such a lack of foresight for the necessity of its use not months later; and the slow closing of borders that we saw at the very beginning, and in my position as shadow minister for transport I have seen incredible, draconian measures that were inserted at a result of poor response earlier on. It is the same with any situation when the longer we allow something to fester, the greater the response it requires later on. Unfortunately, Canadians are paying the price of the inaction. There is also the rapid testing and of course vaccines, which is a complete failure of the government and of the Prime Minister .
I want to say to any Canadian who is listening to this speech, if they are upset because their business is closed, their children are at home and not at school, they have not seen their family in 18 months, there is a third wave, it is the fault of the Prime Minister for so poorly preparing for the later stages of this pandemic. This is another half-hearted response that I have referred to.
We have also seen this unfortunately within the defence committee. The government was willing to turn its back on women all across the country in not believing the stories and yet it is willing to investigate the unfortunate situation of the member for Pontiac, who is an incredible individual might I say. My husband and I had the good fortune of travelling to Israel with him and I will stand in solidarity with him.
In kindergarten, I was painting a picture and when I was done, I had taken off my smock and was standing there in my slip when my good friend, Kim Crocker, who I later had the pleasure of serving with in student council with in high school said to me, “You're standing there in your slip” as all the fine women of Calgary Midnapore did wear at that time. My point is the Liberals have turned their backs on women at the defence committee as well.
If there is something good to be said about this piece of legislation, in my capacity as shadow minister for transport, many right-to-repair organizations and the small repair shops across rural and suburban Canada have said that Canadians have the right to own their data.
Colleagues within the Conservative Party will argue that this is a property right and a human right. As we advance in the digital age, I believe more and more that this is a human right, that our history of data will one day be almost synonymous with our DNA.
I will leave it there. I do not believe in the government's sincerity of protecting Canadians. I believe that so much that the Liberals do is a half-hearted effort. For both of these reasons, I stand here today in regard to Bill C-11 with a lot of questions about the legislation, but the belief that I am not certain whether this legislation goes far enough.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:49 [p.5788]
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Before we get to questions and comments, I see the hon. member for Cloverdale—Langley City is indicating a point of order.
The hon. member.
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View Tamara Jansen Profile
CPC (BC)
View Tamara Jansen Profile
2021-04-19 12:49 [p.5788]
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Mr. Speaker, I am rising today in response to the point of order made by the member for Don Valley West.
As I said to the member on Friday, the Bible verse I quoted was in reference to hypocrisy, which has been a common interpretation of that passage as the member for Don Valley West himself acknowledged this morning. Last week, I called to apologize to the member for the misunderstanding. I would like to extend that apology to all members of the House and anyone in the LGBTQ community who took offence. The quote I used was certainly not intended in the way it is being portrayed, and I am glad to have the chance to clarify.
I unreservedly apologize.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2021-04-19 12:50 [p.5788]
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I thank the hon. member for Cloverdale—Langley City for her additional comments on the matter.
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View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2021-04-19 12:50 [p.5788]
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Mr. Speaker, when the member for Calgary Midnapore started her speech, she pretty much started and ended it the same way, which was by saying “I do not...believe...[the government's sincerity] to protect Canadians.”
I find that quote so incredibly troubling. It is one thing to come into this House to debate policy and to challenge each other to make better laws and better policies, but to suggest that somebody lacks sincerity to do good is just taking it to a whole new level.
If the member does not think that the government is sincere in its desire to protect Canadians, could she then share with us what she thinks the government is trying to do, apparently maliciously, to Canadians?
I think what the member means is that she is not happy with the legislation, but I do not think she means that the government and this side of the House lack the sincerity to try. Could the member clarify that?
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View Stephanie Kusie Profile
CPC (AB)
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2021-04-19 12:51 [p.5788]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, who we are all so familiar with at this point.
He is right. No, actually I do question the government's sincerity. More importantly for Canadians, as we head into the end of the spring session and into the summer, I question its competence. I actually think that is just as important, if not more so. There are always the two questions, is it evil, is it incompetent? Evil is a strong word, so I will not touch on that. However, incompetence, for certain, over and over again here.
To the member for Kingston and the Islands, he is correct. I would actually say it is perhaps more incompetence than insincerity.
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View Mario Beaulieu Profile
BQ (QC)
View Mario Beaulieu Profile
2021-04-19 12:53 [p.5789]
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Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to expand on two points.
Bill C-11 leaves out an important aspect regarding online identity protection to prevent fraud, such as identity theft. In addition, the government is not addressing its own problems, since the bill does not apply to the federal government, even though the government's online identity checks are clearly inadequate.
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View Stephanie Kusie Profile
CPC (AB)
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2021-04-19 12:53 [p.5789]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.
I did see that in the digital charter as well as in Bill C-11, but it is not enough, and that is not the only thing we saw that was inadequate. I think that is the case with all bills. Attitude is also a factor. In my speech, I gave a lot of examples where we can see that this was not enough.
In my opinion, it started two or three years ago with the digital charter. Bill C-11 is a good start, but it is not enough.
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View Leah Gazan Profile
NDP (MB)
View Leah Gazan Profile
2021-04-19 12:54 [p.5789]
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Mr. Speaker, I agree with her, we absolutely need to protect people's data. I have the same sorts of concerns with the current government. I had the same concerns with the former Conservative government, as well, because it also failed to act and now people's private information is getting out in droves.
Could the member respond to that?
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View Stephanie Kusie Profile
CPC (AB)
View Stephanie Kusie Profile
2021-04-19 12:55 [p.5789]
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Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure of serving on the HUMA committee with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. I hope that she is doing well. Unfortunately, we have never had a federal New Democratic Party government, so I would not be able to comment on its performance, had it ever occurred in Canadian history.
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View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2021-04-19 12:55 [p.5789]
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Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join the debate on this important issue, the data charter implementation act. I will be diving into what is a large bill and addresses a large spectrum of some of the issues we face in the world in which we live that have been exacerbated by COVID in so much of what we do, such as in this place, the evidence of which is that I am participating in this debate from Battle River—Crowfoot in Alberta. The fact is that digital has been transformed over the last number of months with COVID before us and I will be getting into different aspects of the bill, some of the things I think are laudable and some of the concerns that I have.
The previous member for Calgary Midnapore did a great job on her speech. I would note that we saw in the background that there is snow on the ground. That is certainly one of the interesting things about our country. It is often joked that if we wait a few minutes, the weather will change. That has certainly been the case in East Central Alberta. I would like to take a moment of my time to talk about the wildfires that started and were part of what has really consumed a significant amount of time over the last number of days.
It has been very dry in Battle River—Crowfoot since the snow melted and although there has been some moisture that has lessened the likelihood of those fires, I want to take a moment to thank all of the firefighters, volunteers and volunteer professionals. It is often a misconception that volunteer firefighters are somehow inferior to their full-time counterparts in the city. There have been a number of grass fires over the last week or so in my riding, but one particularly large one received a tremendous response. Four or five fire departments from different small communities reached out, worked together, along with hundreds of community volunteers, and put out this particular fire.
I would note how important it is that we take fire safety seriously at a time when moisture is needed. There was a little of it over weekend and I received more than just a few comments. Rarely are people thankful for snow in April, but those who saw the threat of fire were thankful for the moisture that came this past weekend. As a reminder to all those watching, they should be careful when they are in rural areas and there is such a threat of fire, as there is today, and thank all those who put their lives on the line to protect folks in this area and across Canada.
I will go on to the substance of what we are debating here today. There are two major parts to Bill C-11. Part 1 would enact the consumer privacy protection act and various aspects involved with the protection of personal privacy. At a time when everything we do is online, it is a significant topic of conversation that needs to be discussed. Part 2 would enact the personal information and data protection tribunal act, which would establish a tribunal to hear appeals related to personal information and privacy.
As the world has become more digital, so much of our lives is detailed online and so much of the information we see goes through a filter. I hear from constituents who talk to me about the things they see on Facebook or other social media platforms, even the advertisements they see when they google something or the fact that we even refer to searching for a term on the Internet as “googling” speaks to the extent to which our information is online. We certainly see the need for stronger protections to ensure that Canadians' data, their information and, ultimately, their rights are protected. Certainly, we have had a lot of conversation around privacy as a human right and, further, what the property rights are in terms of data that is online. We see Bill C-11 as an attempt to address that.
I have listened with great interest to some of the Liberal speeches on this matter, and a lot of the points brought up are certainly laudable in their goals. However, the proof will be in the implementation. There is certainly a lack of clarity. There are also no concrete measures outlined here to ensure that the goals and ideas talked about in the preamble, as well as the words spoken by the minister and various Liberal members, are actually translated into actionable items that do what is in the best interest of Canadians. This is of particular concern on an issue like this.
We have seen unprecedented scandal and mismanagement. We have seen a level of access to the highest offices in this land for those who can afford to pay and those who happen to have the Prime Minister and his staff on speed dial. A bill like this, where billions of dollars and corporate interests are at stake, should force every Canadian to pause to think about, when we say this will be implemented and it will be informed by regulation, what the process is between a bill's implementation and ensuring that it is effectively implemented through regulation. What sort of lobbying will take place? Who will benefit? I think these are valid questions that need to be asked.
We have seen that Canadians have very little trust in the Liberals when it comes to ensuring that their best interests are served when the Liberals are getting phone calls from their well-connected friends and the businesses that they associate with.
As this bill will likely go to committee, these are the sorts of questions that have to be asked to ensure that, when it comes to the data and privacy of Canadians, when it comes to being online, and when it comes to some of the transparency mechanisms, every aspect is clearly parsed out, so Canadians can trust that the regulations are not simply being sold to the highest bidder, those who have the most expensive lobbyists, or lawyers who happen to be able to get face time with those in the Prime Minister's Office.
Some will suggest that this is cynical, or that it is simply not true. We could go through a long list of the failures of Liberal scandal and mismanagement over the last five years. None is more obvious on that front than this reality. Using definitive language and a word like “reality” can often get politicians into trouble, but I say the reality is that there is a clear call to ban Huawei from Canada's 5G network, yet the Liberals, the government, have refused to act on that simple demand.
It leaves one to draw conclusions about who is able to influence the government's decision-making process. Conservatives have and will continue to stand up for the rights of Canadians and that includes the right for Canadians to have privacy online.
There are some laudable goals in this bill. I would suggest that all Parliamentarians here believe we need to address the issues that are brought up in this legislation. We have to ensure that we do that. The Liberals will, without a doubt, as they already have done today, blame the opposition for delay tactics, blocking committees and various other things.
The reality is that we have seen time and time again the Liberals bring something forward such as a bill. They will then demand it be passed, even though the very reason for some of those delays are entirely of their own making. However, they later learn that they made mistakes that could have been identified through things such as full democratic discourse and comprehensive committee research.
Earlier today, the Liberals blocked a motion that would have sent this to the industry committee. There is a reason this deserves full consideration, and certainly Conservatives are doing our part to ensure we have a fulsome debate, so Canadians can get the answers they need on this important subject.
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View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
View Julie Vignola Profile
2021-04-19 13:06 [p.5790]
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Mr. Speaker, there are thousands and even millions of applications.
Some of these applications use games to draw people in, in the form of a quiz, for example. They then retrieve the information from the user's contact list. When the user gives their consent by clicking on the button, most often without carefully reading the rules, their contact list is sent to an organization or business.
I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about the flaws in the legislation when it comes to such applications.
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View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2021-04-19 13:07 [p.5790]
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Mr. Speaker, the question emphasizes how complex the series of issues surrounding digital privacy is. It could be an application a child installs on a phone. When we click on that “agree” button, rarely do people read the sometimes thousands of pages of terms and conditions we agree to. Sometimes it is enlightening to even just take a moment and see what one is agreeing to.
Although there have been steps taken by the private sector to address some of those things, for example, app stores having verified apps versus unverified apps and what not, this touches on the whole host of challenges associated with ensuring digital privacy and that Canadians ultimately have a right to ensure their data is protected.
Further to that, digital information often does not necessarily have clear borders. This is not only a Canadian issue. It is a worldwide issue, especially as servers often exist in different jurisdictions. There are many challenges that exist around that, which is why this debate today is so important.
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View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2021-04-19 13:08 [p.5791]
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Mr. Speaker, the member will not be surprised to hear I am disappointed in some of the remarks he made during his intervention.
Toward the end, he expressed displeasure with the fact that the House did not pass the unanimous consent motion brought forward and that we stopped it. We also put one forward, which was identical, for this bill to go to the committee it was assigned to. I know there are some discrepancies and different opinions as to where the bill should go, but even the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said this bill has feet in both committees.
More importantly, the member talked about what has been going on in this House. There are so many pieces of legislation I would like to see us discuss here, such as conversion therapy. However, it took us, because of Conservative stall tactics, about seven months to pass the fall economic statement. Does the member really believe it is the Liberals who have been slowing down the legislative process in the House?
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View Damien Kurek Profile
CPC (AB)
View Damien Kurek Profile
2021-04-19 13:09 [p.5791]
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Mr. Speaker, there it is again. I find it unsurprising but incredibly troubling the sort of rhetoric that comes from that side of the House, especially when the simple answer to the question is that there was a delay of 35 days. That is the legacy of this Prime Minister, who is covering up his WE Charity scandal, and it is 35 days of delay because of prorogation.
The government is in charge of the legislative agenda of this House. It is incumbent upon every member of Parliament to stand up for their constituents and ensure their voices are heard. I hear the hon. member across the way speak so flippantly about this somehow being a Conservative problem, and he could not be more wrong. He and all members of the government should look in the mirror and acknowledge this is a Liberal problem.
Further, there have been bills related to COVID relief programs that have had to come back to this House three separate times. When it comes to debate, had there been fulsome democratic discourse in the beginning, they would not have had to come back three times to fix Liberal mistakes. I will take no lessons from the members opposite, who are somehow blaming Conservatives for a delay, when the reality is they are in government. It is their mistakes causing these problems, and there was a 35-day delay because of the Prime Minister's prorogation and the covering up of the WE Charity scandal.
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View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
2021-04-19 13:11 [p.5791]
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Mr. Speaker, I am always honoured to participate in parliamentary debates, especially when there is an important and pressing topic such as what we have in front of us today.
Stronger legal protection for both consumer protection and data privacy needs to be improved, and this is impossible to deny. It might be tempting to say that Bill C-11 is timely, but instead, we should be clear with ourselves that it is well past the time for us to address these issues.
The kind of improvements Canadians need are long overdue, and the government has been slow to act. For years the Liberals have done a lot of talking about it, but it always seems to take them a while to get around to doing anything. They have been talking about a digital charter for years.
This bill was introduced back in November. Five months later, we have had very little time to debate it so far in second reading. I hope they are looking at various ways to possibly amend this bill to get it right. As the official opposition, we want to actually get things done for Canadians.
As the world becomes more digital and interconnected, it is extremely important to make sure people are fully protected in every possible way. In this process, filled as it is with the promise and potential of amazing developments with technology, there are also risks. Each new form of connection can also provide openings to be used against people. Besides the usual bad actors who are always looking for any new occasion to commit crimes, there are more subtle trends that, if we are not careful to check them, could work against everyday people's best interests, such as through invasive levels of data collection. To put it simply, people are not products. We have to make sure they are never treated as such.
As Canadians, we must always ensure that our society upholds fundamental rights and truths. Every person, whether they are acting as a customer or a private citizen, should have the ability to manage their affairs as they see fit and decide for themselves who will have access to their property. They should not find themselves in a position in which they are living at the mercy of powerful interests, whether it is the private or public sector.
We should expect to see stronger protections for privacy and for personal information. There is some clear language in this bill concerning corporations and institutions. However, more importantly, what about when people are interacting with the government? Much more importantly, what about when the government decides to interact with the people, whether they want it to or not? We do not have to go too far back in the past to remember when Statistics Canada wanted to look through Canadians' bank accounts and financial information. This makes me wonder how this kind of thing will be handled going forward under this legislation.
Of course, there is a lot more that could be said about the many ethical scandals directly coming out of the government over the last five years. Is it any wonder that people would be second-guessing the government's commitment to handling their information? Let us go back, though, to what is already in the bill for private entities.
More than words, we need better and stronger protection in action. Is that what we can expect? A few weeks ago, the Privacy Commissioner spoke on Bill C-11. He said:
The government has set out important objectives for the bill, including increasing consumers’ control over their data, enabling responsible innovation, and establishing quick and effective remedies, including the ability to impose significant financial penalties. I support these objectives. Unfortunately, my analysis of the bill’s provisions leads me to conclude that they would not be achieved.
With further definitions and allowances made under this bill, he goes on further to say, “this would result in less consumer control than under the current law.” He also points out, “some of the new consent exceptions are too broad or ill defined to foster responsible innovation.” In particular, he says “one new exception is based solely on the impracticality of obtaining consent. Such an approach would render the principle of consent meaningless.”
Again, what will get this done for Canadians? I want to support this bill because of what it should be doing, but these types of points, as expressed by the commissioner, need to be thoroughly addressed at committee. Canadians deserve greater clarity from this process.
Aside from the government's own activities and operations, along with those of its various agencies, we have to question how much of a priority it is to protect Canadians from external threats to their privacy and security. How the government has handled Huawei might be the best example.
While the Liberals talk a big game when it comes to Canadians' privacy, their inaction on one of the most important and recent privacy concerns with Huawei shows that they do not actually take serious action. I ask member to remember last fall, when opposition parties passed a motion calling on the government to decide whether Huawei would be allowed to participate in Canada's 5G infrastructure.
The government has not only ignored Parliament on this issue. It has also ignored Canada's most important strategic allies. The rest of the Five Eyes alliance have taken decisive action to either ban or significantly curtail the role of Huawei in their telecommunications infrastructure, yet the Liberal government has not listened to their warnings. The United States, in particular, has played a vital role in pushing back against Chinese incursions into democratic nations' security and their citizens' privacy.
Based on its security intelligence, it has warned Canada that including Huawei's technology in our 5G networks would compromise our national security and the integrity of the Five Eyes partnership, yet the Prime Minister has done nothing. The Liberal government must finally have the courage to stand up to China and ban Huawei from participating in our 5G network.
While the government may pretend banning Huawei's participation would limit Canada's access to 5G, the reality is that there are safer options.
Last June, for instance, Bell Canada announced a partnership with Ericsson to help develop its 5G network across the country. Ericsson, of course, is based out of Sweden, with which we have excellent diplomatic relations. Both Sweden and Canada are dedicated to advocating for human rights around the world. Telus also partnered with Ericsson in addition to Nokia and Samsung.
Comparatively, Huawei has a proven track record of breaking the law and stealing information. In fact, Huawei was indicted by the American Department of Justice. To quote from its statement at the time, it charged Huawei for “stealing U.S. technology, conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud, racketeering, and helping Iran to evade sanctions, amongst other charges.”
The Communist Party of China is the greatest threat to western nations, to national security and to the integrity of our institutions. If the government does not prevent Huawei from playing a role in our 5G networks, it will be giving the CCP a leg up in its quest to establish itself as the world's next superpower. Canadians are nervous about the role China is playing in their lives and the CCP's access to their personal information, and they should be. We know Huawei has close ties to the governing regime. Its founder is even a member of the CCP. This is the same oppressive government that, according to the allegations of its own citizens and residents, has harassed them while living here or has threatened their families in China.
When 5G finally takes off across the country, millions of Canadians' personal information will be transmitted through telecommunication infrastructure. We cannot in any way allow the Chinese government to get its hands on that critical information.
I have something else to say about the failure of the government to provide for rural Canada and for the needs of my constituents. The first principle of the digital charter is universal access. The government has failed to deliver on this need for rural and remote areas. Universal broadband funding has seen delay after delay.
I could speak on and on about various ongoing issues.
With rural broadband, as it is listed in the charter, the universal access side to it is extremely important. At this time of year, many people back home are looking to get into seeding, to get the crops in for the year. We are starting to see more and more how broadband and cell coverage is such an important factor in the practices of farmers, even for ranchers. It is vital infrastructure.
We say that we will vastly protect people's private information, yet we do not even have the infrastructure in place for people to connect to the Internet. If they do, when it is very slow and not responsive to them, it makes it even that much harder for them to be aware of what they are checking a box for or reading through. It makes it that much harder to properly download the information or to figure out what information will be taken from them. That, in and of itself, takes time and it takes a lot of effort. Therefore, when we have a serious conversation on protecting the needs and information of our citizens and we do not even have adequate infrastructure in place, we have to ensure we address some of those concerns first and foremost. This legislation will not accomplish any of that.
Getting to the principle of the bill, it is great we are having a discussion on this. We need to definitely address some of the fundamental concerns that the bill tried to raise. I look forward to continued debate on this. I also look forward to when the bill gets to committee, so we can see some amendments to it and we can start to take a serious approach to the needs of our constituents and of Canadians.
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View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2021-04-19 13:21 [p.5793]
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Mr. Speaker, our government brought forward the digital charter back in 2019. We recognized that Canadians were increasingly reliant on digital technologies to connect with each other, to buy goods and services or to access information. The new consumer privacy protection act would give Canadians more control and greater transparency over how companies would handle their personal information.
Would the member not agree that having a timely passage of the legislation is, in fact, in all our best interests, in particular the interests of Canadians?
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View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
2021-04-19 13:21 [p.5793]
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Mr. Speaker, yes, it is important to ensure we have this debate and, yes, the timely passage of the bill would be great. However, the issue is that it has been five months, and this only the third day it has been up for debate.
Only one party is in charge of the legislative calendar, and that is the Liberal government. If it wants to see a timely passage of the bill, I would hope that we would have more opportunities to debate it and that there would not be four-month gaps between the times that are set aside for debate on such an important bill as this one.
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View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
View Rachel Blaney Profile
2021-04-19 13:22 [p.5793]
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Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have seen again and again, and this concerns me, is that we often see the government trading off privacy rights and not looking at the other priorities. Could the member talk about how we can ensure that privacy rights are respected and that they can work with other priorities? It does not have to be one or the other.
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View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
2021-04-19 13:23 [p.5793]
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Mr. Speaker, we definitely want to see a process that makes it very transparent and up front. We are starting to see a little more effort. For example, when we go to a website, we will see an acknowledgement that it uses cookies and we have the opportunity to go through it. We have a little more control over what kind of information the website may or may not be taking from us. However, we need to see that more transparent approach, particularly when the government is interacting with us. We need to see the kind of information it will using, gleaning and taking for its benefit. There needs to be more conversation and focus on that.
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View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2021-04-19 13:23 [p.5793]
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Mr. Speaker, my colleague has brought up a lot of great points, especially around the issue of Huawei.
The House passed a motion requiring action from the government on Huawei, yet we have seen nothing. At the same time, it is bringing in Bill C-11, which has some laudable points in it, but does not address one of the biggest elephants in the room, which is Huawei. The government has refused to ban it from our country. Huawei is well known for stealing information and sharing it with the Chinese communist government.
I wonder if my colleague could tell me why he thinks the government is so reticent to ban Huawei, as the House has demanded.
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View Jeremy Patzer Profile
CPC (SK)
View Jeremy Patzer Profile
2021-04-19 13:24 [p.5793]
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Mr. Speaker, we continue to see a pattern over and over, where the government delays and decides to not take a principled approach or principled stand on these issues. The issue with Huawei goes much further than just simply whether it is the right company for 5G or not.
Number two in the 10 principles of the charter is safety and security, and we are talking about the safety and security of our citizens in Canada and abroad. We have been seeing a regime in place that is looking to use facial recognition software to persecute its own people. Our government needs to take a very serious, strong and principled approach when dealing with Huawei, respect the will of Parliament to ban Huawei from 5G and take a strong stance and make it known that Canada we will defend our citizens.
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View Tom Kmiec Profile
CPC (AB)
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2021-04-19 13:25 [p.5793]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to joining the debate on Bill C-11.
“One who wants to know is better than one who already knows” is a Yiddish proverb, and members know I have a great love of them.
However, I want to go through the legislation before us, because a lot of constituents have written to me with major concerns. It is not that they dislike the legislation per se. They agree, as many members have said, with the principles and content, but the bill falls far short of their expectations.
As the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has said, it is an issue of control, who controls the information. My personal belief is that property rights are a human right, and our digital presence, our cookies, the way we look is their digital private property and it should really be treated that way. We have a come to time where we should extend our conception of what is a property right to our digital presence.
I remember knocking on doors in Mahogany in my riding. A gentleman who worked for a large IT company was very concerned about deepfakes, the ability for people to create some really lifelike images, voices and mannerisms of other individuals and the possibility for it to be used for a nefarious purpose, to mislead, misdirect and also to get money out of people. Imagine what type of use people could get out of deepfakes. I think of the past few years where we have seen a lot of companies make immense strides in providing a digital picture of people who never existed, but they look so lifelike that it is so difficult to tell if they are actually deepfakes. They trick our eyes and brains to think they exist.
On the issue of control, I have had constituents bring up issues of Clearview AI harvesting through facial recognition technology, the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandals. Closer to home in Calgary, is Cadillac Fairview and what constituents have termed “secret mall surveillance”. There was a panel put up in different parts of the mall, one of the biggest malls in Calgary, that were collecting information off the images of people going in. I cannot remember what the purpose was, but it was stopped once many people started to raise issues with what the information was being collected for.
It is an issue of control. There are principles in this digital charter, and I do not want to go over them too much. However, I want to raise issues specific to things like the right to opt out of the sale of personal information. That is a really big one. The GDPR does this already as does the European Union.
Sometimes when people go online, depending on the country source for the product or service purchase, after having clicked through terms and agreements, because many people do not read those, it will ask whether they are opting out of the sale of their personal information. That is missing in this legislation, and it really should have been in there.
Many constituents, like Chris MacLean in my riding, raised this as an issue, saying that they would like to have more control to consent to where their information would go. I could imagine certain situations where people are fine with their personal information being sold, perhaps some of what they give a particular company is not much and they feel it could have some type of purpose or there could be some controls put in place. However, this legislation does not have that.
Then there are the consent exemptions. I want to focus a little more on this one. This issue has been of major concern to people in my riding. As I mentioned, Chris had issues with it, Kevin Silvester, Shelley Bennett and Randall Hicks had issues with it. There is a lot of them. The issue is “for a public interest purpose” is how the government has defined it, that is socially beneficial purposes, clause 39 is one of them.
It kind of lists off government institutions, public libraries, post-secondary educational institutions, any organization that is mandated under federal-provincial law or by contract with a government institution. What if it contracted out a large government youth program, like the WE charity, and then it ran it. What kind of personal information would be collected? I know it has been embroiled in its own scandals of late. The ethics committee met this morning and discussed it even further.
It continues on to point four. This is subparagraph 39(1)(b)(iv) under the disclosures made to any other prescribed entity. Then there is paragraph 39(1)(c), the disclosures made for socially beneficial purpose. That is such a broad definition. Who gets to decide what is a socially beneficial purpose? I could drive two Hummers through that definition, working for a contracted out organization, perhaps collecting information, processing a program, a service on behalf of the federal government. I have major issues with the way that is structured, because it allows so many exemptions to be provided in interactions.
When we read about these organizations, it is a lot compared with any other prescribed entity. There are no limits on this prescription. There are no limits on what the federal government could prescribe as an outside entity and then our information would be shared with them. That is a consistent concern that my constituents have. They mostly focus on the business angle of it, but we know that the federal government oftentimes has a lot of contracting out of services, including IT services and procurement services. For the construction of ships, for example, the government does not own shipyards; it contracts that service out and asks someone else to do it for the government. When they do that, is there not a possibility, because it is for a socially beneficial purpose, that the federal government could decide just to share information quite broadly? I have an issue with it because I do not think it does a great service for Canadians.
There is another issue I have with one of the definitions provided. It is the definition being used in the law for how personal information is defined. It says, “an identifiable individual”. The example that I gave, that many of my constituents give as well, is an example from Calgary when, years ago, Cadillac Fairview, which owns the Chinook Centre in Calgary on the Macleod Trail, was using facial recognition and surveillance information. Maybe they were just tracking the flow of pedestrian traffic through the mall, perhaps to plan where the doors should be; I do not know this, but if the benchmark being used in the definition is “an identifiable individual”, how much effort is a company going to put in to identify someone? That is what makes it identifiable. When I read through the legislation, I have a hard time grasping how far this could go. Is there an expectation that the companies will not keep this information at all because they did not make it identifiable, so it is okay? Is it because the image is too grainy? Is it because their name is so common that it could be just about anybody? It is an imprecise definition that could have really been beefed up from the beginning instead of taking it to committee in such an incomplete format.
Those are the issues I found, just reading through the legislation and after so many of my constituents wrote to me. They still have major issues. What they want to see is a significant number of amendments brought forward to fix the legislation. There are a few ways to do that. The government could just draft a new piece of legislation and table it again and have it go forward. There are a lot of good things in the bill, like many members have said, that make it salvageable.
At the committee stage, that is where they get into it. I do really believe this should go to the industry committee. It may want to bounce the bill around to the different committees. I used to sit on the Standing Committee on Finance in the previous Parliament, and the government would apportion the omnibus budget bill to different committees and look at the parts in order to have the expertise. So much of this is about corporations and businesses that it should really go to the industry committee. Again, it is the industry minister who has tabled the law.
On the issue of identifiable information, the definition should include such information as people's email address, obvious personal information like location information, gender, biometric data, web cookies, political opinions and any pseudonyms they might use so the company or the organization that is collecting it can combine it all together. It does not have to be a private organization; it could be a public one, it could be a charity doing this; who knows? That could have been a much better definition than simply leaving it very open-ended as “an identifiable individual”.
Another matter that a lot of my constituents have raised is the playing field between a Canadian company based here where Canadian law can easily reach it with the fines that would be levied; and then international companies, perhaps based in Latin America, in parts of Africa, in Australia and other countries that have different privacy laws and how we would be able to find them and also collect the fines on them. That whole mechanism and the fact of a tribunal of three to six people and only requiring one expert is another issue.
I have tried to lay out as many issues as I have heard from my constituents in my riding. I mentioned that some of them had very specific concerns.
Much of the legislation is on the right path, but there are so many shortcomings. Like the previous member said, the issues here are data privacy and control, regarding who controls the information and where it can go and that the legislation is still unclear in certain parts, regarding who can deal with it; and exemptions and exceptions being given. Those two different concepts need to be fleshed out more in the legislation. It should be done at committee. It should be done at the industry committee first. If it needs to go to the ethics committee afterwards, so be it; but the industry committee should deal with it first, immediately.
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View Marilyn Gladu Profile
CPC (ON)
View Marilyn Gladu Profile
2021-04-19 13:35 [p.5795]
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Mr. Speaker, one of the things at issue, in terms of protecting Canadians from a digital perspective, is that we are seeing a lot more identity theft. We are getting a plethora of scams, where people have obtained our personal information or email addresses and whatnot and come after us. Could the member comment on what this bill would do to address those concerns?
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