The list of things invented by Canadians is small but interesting. It includes frozen fish, the zip, the steam foghorn, and the green plastic rubbish bag. But Canada's greatest invention of all is the one that has caused mankind the most trouble. I am talking about the telephone. A dozen times a day in every home, from Port Alice in British Columbia, to Gander in Newfoundland, the telephone rings, precisely at supper time, and it is a man apologising for the interruption, adding that he would like to sell you a magazine, or fix your roof, or sell you a house in Florida. You listen just long enough not to appear rude, but by then the soup is already cold. Alexander Graham Bell is turning in his grave. He never met a telemarketer, but if he had, back in 1874, he may well have torn up his patent application for the telephone and found another line of work altogether. Canadians talk on the phone more than anyone else, but they are also the most afflicted by telemarketers. More than 100,000 people make a living bothering the rest of us with unwanted sales pitches. They have skin as thick as rhino hide - most people hang up on them, and the rest are verbally abusive. One of my friends politely replies: 'Give me your home number, and I'll call you as you are getting into bed.' But the telemarketers score just often enough to make it worthwhile - statistics from the US show that less than 1 per cent of calls are successful, but they generate US$661 billion a year in goods and services. Now, the government is cracking down. It has introduced a bill that would set up a national Do-Not-Call Registry. You just post your phone number on the list, and the dreaded anonymous callers will no longer be allowed to ring your home. If they do, they face a stiff fine. The only possible exceptions are charities, opinion pollsters and, of course, political parties, who will keep their constitutional right to pester you whenever they want. In the US, the scheme is wildly successful. More than 70 million Americans have signed up, and offenders are dealt with harshly. Miss Cleo, a psychic with a Caribbean accent who offers to read your tarot card, was fined US$75,000 for violating Missouri's no-call law. I have one or two salient questions, however. How do I know that all those frustrated telemarketers will not simply shift their attention to spam e-mails? How much will this cost? A government gun registry was supposed to cost C$25 million ($158 million); the bill so far is C$1 billion, and rising. And finally, once they have relieved us of the misery, will the government please do something about those foghorns?