June 8, 1993

PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

Some hon. members:

Yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

Some hon. members:

Nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

In my opinion the nays have it.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

Some hon. members:

On division.

Motion No. 31 negatived.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Lyle Dean MacWilliam

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lyle Dean MacWilliam (Okanagan-Shuswap) moved:

Motion No. 32

That Bill C-62 be amended in clause 34 by striking out line 11 at

page 18 and substituting the following therefor:

"tions policy objectives and in the public interest to do so.

(1.1) Before acting under subsection (1), the commission shall give notice of any proposed forbearance by publication in Canada Gazette of the power that it proposes not exercising or the duty that it proposes not performing and the reasons supporting the proposed forbearance and, no sooner than 30 days following publication of the notice, shall hold a public hearing to enable interested parties to intervene for purposes of demonstrating that the proposed forbearance is not in the public interest".

Motion No. 34

That Bill C-62 be amended in clause 34 by striking out line 17 at

page 18 and substituting the following therefor:

"of users, the commission may make a deter-".

He said: Mr. Speaker, the whole question of forbearance took up a fairly significant amount of time in the legislative committee given the time that we did have to take it up. There was quite a bit of debate on this. There

June 8, 1993

were some legitimate and outstanding concerns about the process of forbearance and where to forbear, or to choose not to regulate if we want to clarify the terms. The whole issue is still quite a problem.

The two amendments that I have suggested go somewhat toward making this a little more in the realm of a discretionary decision by the CRTC. This particular clause allows the regulatory commission to forbear, or to decide not to regulate, virtually any part of the telecommunications service or industry where it finds that to refrain would be consistent with Canadian telecommunication policy objectives. That is basically the essence of the amendment. It is to forbear where it is consistent with the policy objectives outlined in the objectives of the bill itself.

I think we want to ensure there is in fact a means test, not only with respect to whether or not there is sufficient competition taking place so that the CRTC could withdraw from its regulatory role, but it is just as important for there to be a means of deciding whether in fact it would be consistent and in the long-term interests of Canadians-meaning Canadian consumers and Canadian users-as well as the industry itself.

With the way the bill is currently worded I do not feel it provides the kinds of assurances that would be provided for with this amendment; that is to refrain when consistent with the policy objectives and not consistent with just one objective. That objective would obviously be whether there is sufficient competition in the industry. However, is it consistent with the other policy objectives? It should be in the interests of Canadian users of our telecommunications services and consistent with the social policy objectives of this piece of legislation.

The clause in the bill demands that the CRTC should forbear from regulation when competition is sufficient in the market. The way it is worded essentially forces the CRTC to do that. The decision of whether it might do it, may do it or shall do it is pretty clear in this particular clause.

In the clause as currently worded it shall do it and has no discretion. What I am saying is that perhaps we should provide the regulatory body the choice and to allow them to have that flexibility in choosing when to and when not to forbear or to decide to move away from

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a regulatory structure. Give them the choice in doing so and therefore protect the public interest. Rather than being as restrictive as it is currently written vis-a-vis in saying that the commission shall forbear, it allows some flexibility.

I would like to put forward those amendments. I think it is certainly in the best interests of the industry and the Canadian public to allow that kind of flexibility for the commission to decide when and when not to exercise this particular option.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Stanley J. Hovdebo

New Democratic Party

Mr. Stan J. Hovdebo (Saskatoon-Humboldt):

Mr. Speaker, sometimes it would appear that the term or the idea of public interest is a forgotten concept, particularly with governments that are rushing untrammelled to be competitive or to appear to be competitive. Consequently these two amendments are an attempt to allow the CRTC to take public interest into consideration when it decides whether or not it is going to regulate the industry or portions of the industry.

The first amendment would add that the public interest is a crucial factor in the decision not to regulate sections of the industry. The second amendment would allow the CRTC flexibility in choosing when not to forbear from regulating therefore giving further protection to the public interest. In both cases the basis under which decisions to regulate are made will be whether or not it is in the public interest to do so.

We all recognize that a considerable number of situations arise where competition is detrimental to the best operation of the industry. I can give a very simple example. If there is no requirement or regulation to provide communications to certain areas which are not profitable then there is a tendency for a government to say: "Do not bother".

We have grown up in a large country with fairly costly communications problems believing that every area of the country should have the right to adequate communications. Competition would not provide this kind of communication. Therefore it is required to establish some sort of regulations which do put into place a structure which enforces to some extent regulations to say that the industry must provide this communication over the whole of the country rather than only in those areas that are profitable.

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That is the kind of public interest that needs to be taken into consideration and that is what these two amendments are intended to do. They will give the CRTC the right to make a choice to say that in the public interest regulation should be put into place or regulation should not be put into place. That is the basis of these two which would strengthen the ability of the CRTC to rule in the public interest.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Michael James Breaugh

New Democratic Party

Mr. Mike Breaugh (Oshawa):

Mr. Speaker, this particular set of motions kind of goes to the crux of this bill. I know it is fashionable in many parts of the industry to talk about deregulation. I know that it is fashionable when this government in particular sets its mind to drafting legislation to come up with new terminology that somehow manages to obfuscate the issue and confuse people so that no one at the end of the day actually knows what is going on.

The motions that are before the House at the moment tend to do that. They talk about forbearance and we are all not terribly sure what that is.

The government is saying: "When in doubt confuse them and change the title". It is doing that. In this section of the bill and under these particular motions it is simply saying it wants to deregulate whether or not anybody needs it, wants it or it is in the public interest. It believes in deregulation and as the government it manages to force that on everybody else.

One ought to have these arguments in a political philosophy class at a university but here in the House of Commons we are supposed to deal with the problems of a nation and not a political philosophy. I urge those who advocate deregulation as a wonderful thing to visit an American airport these days and find their luggage. It is almost at that stage in Canadian airports.

Deregulation in my view may have some merit here and there. I would certainly give a good argument on that but it is not an all-encompassing solution for the world's problems. These two motions try to sort out when we would allow something to be totally deregulated. When would public interest dictate and not competition in the marketplace? That is something people in the private sector have to worry about every day.

People look to governments to decide whether to regulate when something needs to be done in the interest of the public at large. That is when it does its intervening. People are not really looking forward to one more occasion when a government can ignore what ought to be done simply by saying it believes in deregulation of the marketplace. This denies the practical reality in many parts of this country that without some kind of government intervention people in certain parts of Canada will not have access to a marketplace that is readily available to other Canadians.

The government is in love with words like deregulation and competition but the reality is that much of this country requires a little help from the government to exist. In the broadest possible sense the world's technology is here now. That explosion is already well under way in Canada as it is in every other country in the world. To say the government's role is to simply deregulate and get out of the road is nonsense and the government really ought to know that. It ought to really understand that if we want to maintain a viable communications industry in this country it needs to have some clear policy directives from the government at large and some sensible regulatory agencies put in place to ensure that there is fairness in the marketplace and not just competition.

Perhaps a little while ago Canadians would have been susceptible to the old argument that all we really need is some competition in the marketplace and we will be all right. I think Canadians all across this country are getting used to the idea that the buzz-words of competition and deregulation sometimes mean we do not have any choice a little further down the line.

They are realizing there is a legitimate role for government to play in this. It is not to stand back and watch the competition cut each another up until there is no provision for service. It is not to stand back and watch some multinational giant move in and wipe out all the jobs in any of our sectors. It is not to leave the scene of the crime when it comes to something as vital as communications.

These two motions are worthy of the consideration of the House and show the basic direction the government is trying to set with this bill. It wants to get out of the way and let people make a whole lot of money. That is not a sin in itself but it is a sin if Canadians are deprived of

services they deserve, the right to work for a living and the right to be part of this society.

That is what this government is trying to do with this bill. That is what these two motions try to deal with.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

John R. (Jack) Whittaker

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jack Whittaker (Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a couple of things on record that in trying to become familiar with this bill are of some concern to me-I have been involved in the committee set up a year and a half ago-with respect to the budget of 1992. That committee looked at three departments and the deregulation of those departments.

My friend from Oshawa has discussed the deregulation of the transportation industry and some of the difficulties we have had there. Just recently we have witnessed the involvement of Unitel in the area of telecommunications. It has moved into the telephone service area and is causing major problems.

In some areas of my home province of British Columbia telephone companies recently applied to the CRTC for an interim rate increase for domestic telephone services. That was refused. Late last week they made an application for a fairly substantial increase in domestic telephone service for private users as opposed to commercial users.

Over the last couple of years we have put petitions before the House of Commons and committees about the problems that have been seen in other areas where there has been deregulation of telephone services. It always seems to get to a level where there are major cost factors involved for the private user.

B.C. Tel has already asked for a substantial increase in rates because of the deregulation of the telephone industry within that province. I am sure the same thing will happen with Bell Telephone in the province of Ontario and the other telephone suppliers such as SaskTel of Saskatchewan and other suppliers across Canada. That seems to be the problem when we look at deregulation.

When I look at this bill I ask where we are going and in what direction. Are we looking at a people first policy or the almighty competition first policy? I think the people of Canada are looking for a policy that is fair to people as

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opposed to a policy that adds dollars to the corporate coffers. I think that is something we have to look at.

We have to look at whether the public interest is properly represented in each of the amendments before us. Clause 34 throws the industry open to competition as opposed to looking at what is in the best interest of the Canadian people as a whole.

The member for Okanagan-Shuswap has put forward Motion No. 32 which would add the public interest as a crucial factor in a decision to deregulate sections of the industry. Public interest is so important that it is often overlooked by the government in legislation it puts forward. It seems to simply ignore the fact that there are people out there who do not want certain things to happen within the industries. The major pressure of 75 or 80 per cent of the people is often ignored or overlooked when we are making final decisions.

I would emphasize once again that public interest is a crucial factor in any piece of legislation and should be looked at. Therefore I think this amendment is crucial in looking at the over-all legislation.

Motion No. 34 is also an important motion because it allows flexibility for the CRTC to look at whether it should get in and regulate rather than simply, if there is a sufficient market and if the market forces seem to bear up, ignoring public interest and simply allowing things to go as they will.

This one allows some flexibility for the CRTC to choose whether it should regulate or not and whether it should protect the public interest. That also is an important factor and I would certainly commend it to the minister and the government. It must not and should not ever forget the public interest factor in looking at any of the legislation or the regulation of any industry.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Henry Perrin Beatty (Minister of Communications)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Perrin Beatty (Minister of Communications):

Mr. Speaker, I want to take just a few moments to discuss this matter because I showed great restraint as three or four separate members of the NDP stood up to give long-winded statements.

I say to my friend from Oshawa that his constituents who are watching him closely, the key constituents he knows well and who are trying to decide what to do in the next election will be gravely disappointed in the intervention that he made.

June 8, 1993

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I do want to comment for a couple of minutes with regard to Motions Nos. 32 and 34 and particularly with regard to the principle of forbearance. I listened with great interest to my friends from the NDP talking about their concern for the public interest here and how once again this nefarious government was simply reacting to the corporate agenda and doing what was good for corporations without having concern for the people.

Why do we want to have forbearance? We want to give the CRTC the ability to decide that the public interest requires that it not regulate in a particular interest and that the marketplace can do the job more effectively.

A classic case of that is on many issues related to cellular telephones. We have found that as a result of competition consumers have been much better served. We have found a much higher degree of penetration than anybody had anticipated at this point. We have found that the extension of the cellular networks is much broader than anyone could have anticipated at this point. We have found that rates are better and the range of consumer services are much greater than they otherwise would have been as a direct result of the marketplace doing its job.

I must confess to my friends from the NDP that there is something that rings a little bit false when I hear them talking about protecting large corporations from the marketplace as being in the public interest. The position on this side is that it is not our goal to protect a particular corporation but it is our goal to ensure that the public interest is respected. It is our goal to ensure that consumers have choices.

The NDP takes the position that there should be no choice. My friend from Oshawa takes the position that it is all right for people to have any car they want as long as it is black but they cannot have variety. In the view of the NDP consumers should not be allowed to choose because this threatens the position of some of the established monopoly companies today.

Our approach is quite different from that. We say the consumer should be king. Consumers should be given the opportunity to make decisions about how they want their service provided to them. That freedom of choice in the marketplace is something that serves all Canadians.

The bizarre thing today is that it is against the law for the CRTC to forbear from regulating. It is against the law for the CRTC to say that because there is competition in the marketplace and because the marketplace is far more flexible than regulation would be then it should be allowed to not regulate and allow consumers to take their own decisions in the marketplace.

This is crazy. This is something that desperately needs to be changed and we should be moving much more to the marketplace to give consumers that choice, to ensure competition, to encourage new services to come on, to ensure that rates come down as quickly as possible and to ensure that technological innovations take place. That is the position of the CRTC, consumers across Canada and the Government of Canada. It is only the New Democratic Party that believes that Canadian consumers should be deprived of this choice which is so important to them.

Let us take a look at the motions themselves. Motion No. 32 does not change the basic elements of the forbearance process in the bill but it does elaborate on the commission's process. Essentially it is written in a very negative sense and requires the CRTC to hold a public hearing only for the purpose of holding objections to a proposed forbearance which hardly seems very democratic.

The proposed amendment should be rejected since it would tend to increase the cost of regulation for both the CRTC and for the companies that it regulates. These costs are passed on to the consumers.

We hear from the hon. crocodiles opposite as they shed their tears about their concerns for the taxpayers of Canada. We hear about their concerns for the consumers of Canada. Yet what do they propose? They propose to put in as cumbersome a procedure as possible to ensure that the costs to consumers are driven up and to ensure that the regulatory burden upon Canadian taxpayers continues to increase with Canadian taxpayers being asked to foot the bill. All of this is in the name allegedly of the public interest and the consumer.

How are consumers benefited by demanding that they carry these extra costs? Surely they are not. The forbearance powers in clause 34 are strongly supported by the

June 8, 1993

CRTC, the carriers and by business users. The Senate committee recommended that the forbearance clause be amended to create a presumption in favour of forbearance where effective competition exists. The amendments approved by the House of Commons committee adopt that recommendation.

The Ontario and British Columbia governments also supported the concept of forbearance provided that the commission has a public proceeding when considering forbearance. The CRTC's normal practice is to have a public proceeding particularly with respect to important issues. I have no doubt that it will continue to follow this practice when considering whether it should forebear in the future.

What would be achieved by the amendments that are proposed by my hon. friends? It would only be more bureaucracy, more cost for consumers and a more cumbersome system of regulation. It is one which is not desired by the CRTC, the companies who are the service providers, the consumers and the vast majority of members of Parliament who want to ensure that the public interest is fully protected here.

I implore my friends in the NDP to listen to reason just for one brief, fleeting moment in their parliamentary lives and to put the interests of consumers first. Do not impose this extra burden upon government and upon taxpayers and consumers. Allow the market place to do its job. They should say to their constituents that they trust the judgment of their constituents and that given a free choice they believe their constituents will make the right choice. This is instead of simply standing up once again to protect the position of protected monopolies and to say that competition should not be allowed to serve consumers.

With every opportunity they get my friends in the NDP simply defend the large, monopolistic corporations always at the expense of the consumers. The time has come when my friends in the NDP should put their constituents first and should roll back some of this burden on them and respect their freedom of choice. If they would do that they would see that these motions which they propose are destructive to the public interest.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

Is the House ready for the question?

Government Orders

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
Permalink
?

Some hon. members:

Question.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

The question is on Motion No. 32. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

Some hon. members:

Agreed.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

Some hon. members:

No.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

Some hon. members:

Yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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?

Some hon. members:

Nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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June 8, 1993