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Bill 602P - Email Tax for Canada
Netlore Archive
Description:  Email hoax
Status:  False
Circulating since:  April 1999
Analysis:  See below
Posted: 04/20/99

(See also:  Bill 602P, U.S. Version and Bill 602P, Australian Version)

A new, localized variant of the venerable modem tax legend (a perennial headache for the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S.) has swept across Canada during the past week in the the form of a bogus email alert. The message claims that the Canada Post Corporation (the post office) is pushing legislation to impose a 5-cent surcharge on every email "delivered" to Internet users...


Internet Subscriber:
Please read the following carefully if you intend to stay online and continue using email:

The last few months have revealed an alarming trend in the Government of Canada attempting to quietly push through legislation that will affect your use of the Internet. Under proposed legislation Canada Post will be attempting to bill email users out of "alternate postage fees".

Bill 602P will permit the Federal Govt to charge a 5 cent surcharge on every email delivered, by billing Internet Service Providers at source. The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP. Toronto lawyer Richard Stepp QC is working to prevent this legislation from becoming law.

The Canada Post Corporation is claiming that lost revenue due to the proliferation of email is costing nearly $23,000,000 in revenue per year. You may have noticed Canada Post's recent ad campaign "There is nothing like a letter". Since the average citizen received about 10 pieces of email per day in 1998, the cost to the typical individual would be an additional 50 cents per day, or over $180 dollars per year, above and beyond their regular Internet costs.

Note that this would be money paid directly to Canada Post for a service they do not even provide. The whole point of the Internet is democracy and non-interference. If the Canadian Government is permitted to tamper with our liberties by adding a surcharge to email, who knows where it will end. You are already paying an exhorbitant price for snail mail because of beaurocratic inefficiency. It currently takes up to 6 days for a letter to be delivered from Mississauga to Scarborough.

If Canada Post Corporation is allowed to tinker with email, it will mark the end of the "free" Internet in Canada. One back-bencher, Liberal Tony Schnell (NB) has even suggested a "twenty to forty dollar per month surcharge on all Internet service" above and beyond the government's proposed email charges. Note that most of the major newspapers have ignored the story, the only exception being the Toronto Star that called the idea of email surcharge "a useful concept who's time has come" (March 6th 1999 Editorial)

Don't sit by and watch your freedoms erode away! Send this email to all Canadians on your list and tell your friends and relatives to write to their MP and say "No!" to Bill 602P.

Kate Turner
Assistant to Richard Stepp QC
Berger, Stepp and Gorman
Barristers at Law
216 Bay Street
Toronto, ON
MlL 3C6

Comments:  Canadians, take a deep breath. This latest round of "email tax" hysteria has no more validity than the similar rumors goading your neighbors to the south for the past decade.

As columnist Gary Dunford advised in the Toronto Sun shortly after this rumor appeared, "Don't rush to the keyboards and phones. The lawyer does not exist. The law firm whose name appears on the alert does not exist. There is no MP named Schnell. Forget Bill 602P; that's not even the way bills are numbered."

Dunford knows whereof he speaks.

Scour Parliament's Government Bills site and see if you can find a "Bill 602P." You won't be able to. No such bill was ever introduced.

Search your newspapers for a single reference to an "email surcharge" proposal in 1999. You won't find one, except in connection to this hoax.

Even the alleged March 6 editorial in the Toronto Star is a figment of the hoaxer's imagination. The newspaper's editorial page for that day made no mention whatsoever of a tax on email.

Lastly, Canada Post itself disavowed the hoax in a press release dated April 20, 1999.

Like any rampant rumor, this one plays on legitimate fears we all share. Everyone feels threatened by the government's hungry eye on our pocketbooks. None of us want to see the miraculously low cost of Internet access inflated due to Parliamentary hijinks. The rumor may be false, but the anxiety it feeds — and feeds upon — is real.

"Is an email tax any less believable than using Mounties to make Canadians stop watching 'foreign' TV?" wonders columnist Gary Dunford.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Welcome to the Golden Age of Paranoia.

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Further reading:

Bill 602P - U.S. Version
Believe it or not, Canadian MP Tony Schnell is also a member of the U.S. Congress!

Bill 602P - Australian Version
And in 2001, Tony Schnell apparently moved to Australia to wreak the same havoc there

Current Net Hoaxes
The Urban Legends Top 25

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