Mr. Joe Fontana (London East):
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the debate on third reading of Bill C-62.
Back in 1984 a call went out to a new government that had promised so much to this country. It took nine years for it to answer the call. This bill is about telecommunications-communicating with one another.
It has taken, as some of my colleagues have mentioned, nine long years to have a new telecommunications bill. I am sure we all would agree that telecommunications, advancing as quickly as it does, has made waiting nine years to put your house in order unfair to the consumers, to the industry and all the stakeholders in this great industry. Until two or three years ago, fax machines, cellular telephones and the new innovations have come forward in terms of interactive telecommunications and will soon come to our homes.
I want to talk about two things. I want to congratulate our critic, the member for Mount Royal, who has done an absolutely stalwart job for us during the committee hearings, at second reading stage and even before that. She has been very involved in the telecommunications debate and has asked this government on numerous occasions since 1984 to get on with getting this country
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up to the 21st century in telecommunications. I want to applaud her great effort and her hard work.
Having participated somewhat in the committee hearings myself I want to congratulate all the stakeholders who were at the table trying to help in their own way the country to have a modern telecommunications industry.
I also want to congratulate the member for Okanagan- Shuswap for his fine effort and that of his party in trying to improve the bill.
I will also congratulate the government for finally bringing forward a bill. The process-and a lot of people have alluded to the process-that this government has put us through is really repugnant and unacceptable. The purpose of Parliament and elected representation is to give Canadians a clear opportunity and chance to hear all sides of the issue so that they can make informed decisions whether or not this bill is a good one or a bad one.
I applaud the efforts of the government finally getting a telecommunications bill in before the next election which is only two or three months away, maybe even sooner depending on who wins the convention this weekend. However it is the process, and this is typical of what this government has done at least since I have been here in 1988, it believes that this place is irrelevant. The government uses closure too often and I think it is repugnant. People should not be expected to have to suffer this kind of abuse from a democratically-elected government.
Telecommunications is really the electronic highway of a country. In our homes and businesses it touches everyone's life because we cannot communicate with one another without answering that telephone or without receiving a signal or without a fax machine. Everything we do in life needs communication. Therefore this telecommunications bill is very important to the lifeblood of a country, not only because it is an important industry that employs 100,000 people, but it brings an awful lot of revenue to this countiy directly and indirectly through our trade. It is one of the things at which we excel. We are able to export telecommunications. It is an important industry throughout the country. [DOT]
More important, other businesses cannot operate effectively and competitively without the telecommuni-
cations industry or policy that allows each and every one of those businesses to employ a lot more people, create wealth and entrepreneurship. They could not exist without a dynamic telecommunications framework. I think Bill C-62 does that.
We also have to remember that Canada has to compete in the world. I know this government likes to speak often about competitiveness and other matters that are very important for exports. If we are to become truly competitive so that we can compete in a very mean world out there where everybody is trying to achieve the same standard of living as we have, then we have to make sure we are at the forefront of telecommunications.
While this bill is not perfect, admittedly so because some amendments have been put forward by our side and those of the NDP, the fact is that we are not prepared to throw it out, start from scratch and wait another nine years, another four years, another year or what have you. That is why the Liberal Party will be supporting Bill C-62 enthusiastically, even though we have some reservations. It could have been improved upon a lot more. Perhaps our commitment will be that when we form the next government in the next number of months, we will not wait nine years in order to bring in the improvements.
What is important is that Bill C-62, the telecommunications bill, must essentially balance competing interests. The competing interests of the industry would be the public interest, the public which is served by telecommunications. This bill tries to balance competition with the regulatory authority that is necessary to ensure there is a good, managed telecommunications industry.
That is why we put forward some positive amendments that have made the decision-making through Order in Council more transparent, more even, more fair, and has taken some powers away from the minister and essentially put them in the hands of the CRTC. That body can review and look at these substantive issues that will come up because telecommunications is changing each and every day.
We have asked that it be mandatory to have a sunset clause or a review clause. I know the minister responded to my question a number of days ago when he said that a committee could review any bill at any time. It is a commitment that would have been very positive.
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We could have said that in five years, four years-we proposed five-that it be mandatory for Parliament to review our telecommunications bill to ensure we do not cause what happened the last time, a wait at least nine years for the changes to be made.
Industry, telecommunications industry, other businesses, people, require that the government lead and not follow in these areas. That is what has happened and that is where we failed as a Parliament and as a government. We have followed and not lead in the telecommunications forefront.
It is important that in this recessionary time-I do not think we have come out of the recession-we look for tremendous opportunities for this country. One of the things that telecommunications bring to this country is high technology and skilled workers. It is an industry that has unlimited potential growth. Canada ought to make as its objective to become the best in the world in telecommunications. We have that infrastructure already.
With the support of the government and the stakeholders and with everyone working together co-operatively we can make this the best industry for Canada so that we can export the technology and expertise we have and not only build a great telecommunications industry domestically but one for other countries of the world.
Subtopic: TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic: MEASURE TO ENACT