Bill C-6 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.
Lawrence Cannon Conservative
Not active, as of June 13, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment deals with integrated management systems and authorizes the establishment of voluntary reporting programs under which information relating to aviation safety and security may be reported. It also authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certify persons undertaking certain aeronautical activities. Other powers are enhanced or added to improve the proper administration of the Act, in particular powers granted to certain members of the Canadian Forces to investigate aviation accidents involving both civilians and a military aircraft or aeronautical facility.
- June 20, 2007 Passed That Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6 be amended by deleting Clause 44.
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6 be amended by deleting Clause 43.
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6 be amended by deleting Clause 36.
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6 be amended by deleting Clause 35.
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6, in Clause 49, be amended by replacing line 14 on page 78 with the following: “(2) Sections 5.31 to 5.393 of the Aeronautics Act, as enacted by section 12 of this Act, shall not have”
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6, in Clause 49, be amended by deleting lines 14 to 16 on page 78.
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6, in Clause 12, be amended by deleting line 35 on page 11 to line 5 on page 16.
- June 20, 2007 Failed That Bill C-6 be amended by deleting Clause 12.
- Nov. 7, 2006 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
March 10th, 2011 / 5:15 p.m.
Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate Term Limits)
April 30th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of addressing the House today on the issue of Senate reform and specifically with respect to Bill C-10. I would like to state that I do support Senate reform. I do support sending this bill to committee so that the issue can be studied in full. However, any type of Senate reform must be logical, democratic and constitutional. I do not believe that this bill fits any of those three criteria.
Why has there been no consultation with the provinces at all by the government? The Conservative Party espouses provincial rights. The Conservative Party talks about that and tries to compare and contrast with other parties. Why has the Conservative government ignored provincial rights? Why have the Conservatives not consulted them? Why is this bill so urgent that the government cannot consult the provinces in circumstances where it had a virtually identical bill, Bill S-7, that was introduced prior to prorogation?
The Conservatives had no difficulty suspending Parliament and killing that bill through prorogation, yet they must now take the position that this is so urgent that, although they killed the bill through prorogation, they now do not have time to consult the provinces with respect to this bill. I think that is wrong.
If the government does not even know if the provinces will support any amendments, notwithstanding what the government is trying to do, or if the provinces are prepared to support amendments, what type they would be, why are we taking the time of the House of Commons to deal with this? Should we not first know that the provinces will support this?
In order to get a meaningful constitutional amendment through, which I believe is what needs to occur and not simply this bill, we need the support of 50% of the population representing at least seven provinces. Even on a basis of good faith, I would like to know why the government has not taken the time to consult with the provinces to see whether there is that form of support across the country for this.
I mentioned three criteria. One criterion is democracy. Whenever somebody talks about Senate reform, they assume that they are proposing something that should be followed or that there is some urgent need for it. If we are going to do this, we should not make the situation worse. My fear is that an eight-year term would be a risk to democracy, not a benefit.
Various people have thought about this. The Senate is supposed to be a chamber of sober second thought. In order to get that, we need people with some institutional memory and experience who have been around for a reasonable period of time. More than that, we need to consider what they will do when they are there.
I would refer to an article written by David Akin which appeared in the press a couple of weeks ago. There are arguments against the eight-year term. The main argument is:
For example, under the terms of [the Prime Minister's] initial proposals, any Prime Minister representing any party would be able, over the course of only two Parliaments, to appoint – yes, appoint – senators to every one of the 105 Senate seats. Talk about a rubber stamp! Any semblance of the institution’s independence would be gone.
The first issue, especially in circumstances where we have had minority governments since at least 2006, is that it would be a risk to democracy to allow any sitting prime minister to, in theory, appoint the entire Senate through only two mandates.
In short, the Liberal Party is in favour of Senate reform, but we have to work in conjunction with the provinces to get there. We would like to know what our provincial partners think. We do not think it is appropriate to ignore them and not consult them, as the government has done.
In terms of the exact proposals, other comments have been made. From that same article, I quote:
The proposals by the present government, one to limit the terms of senators to eight years, and another for indirect senate elections, are not real or meaningful reform, in that they do not propose to alter the Constitution in any way. In fact, they have been painstakingly designed to avoid doing so.
If we are to have meaningful, long-term, democratic Senate reform, it requires consultations with the provinces to get that required 50% of the population with seven or more provinces, and we need to amend our constitution in a proper manner. Anything short of that, frankly, is unacceptable.
There is another comment in terms of Senate reform and limiting the terms. We already have the risk that we have discussed in terms of having one prime minister potentially appointing the entire chamber if the term is eight years, but there is another issue also. I would like to go to a journal article of UBC entitled “Transforming Canadians Governance Through Senate Reform Conference, April 18-19, 2007”.
There is another issue, and I think this is actually the more important issue. It is not so much what the terms are for the Senators. I support doing something about this. I am not against it, but once again, it has to be democratic, constitutional and logical.
The bigger issue is not the term, but the legitimacy of the Senate once in power, because as indicated, having reference to the United Kingdom's House of Lords, the issue is to keep the chamber bipartisan, so we actually get sober second thought, the main original goal of the Senate, and we have some check, some thought about the legislative agenda of the House of Commons. I will read from this article as well. On the question of legitimacy, and it is talking about a presentation, it states:
—stressed the legitimacy of the currently constituted House of Lords in the sense of broad public endorsement of an appointed chamber challenging the legislation of a popularly elected government. The secret, Meg Russell argued, was in the partisan balance maintained in an the appointment to the House of Lords, so that neither government nor opposition alone had the ability to control the chamber. Legitimacy came from independent—or at least bipartisan—action by a parliamentary chamber, not only from the mode in which members were selected.
In short, the problem with the proposal in this legislation is that in theory it gives the Prime Minister the power to appoint the entire chamber and there is no check on how that gets done. We need a method to ensure that the bipartisan, the rough balance that we have in the Senate, is maintained so all parties are represented and so it is not simply a government Senate chamber, whatever the government of the day may be.
If we deal with Senate reform and spend the time of the House of Commons and of a parliamentary committee, bring witnesses in and incur expenses, should we also not know that it is constitutional? Why is there no reference to the Supreme Court of Canada?
In 2006 the Prime Minister, when he appeared before the Senate committee speaking on Bill S-4, said, “The Government believes that S-4 is achievable through the action of Parliament itself”. This is not democratic, and I do not think it is even constitutional. We have scholars such as Alexandra Dobrowolsky, the chair of the Department of Political Sciences, St. Mary's University, who clearly says “that the failure to consult with the province violates the constitutional conventions”.
The Library of Parliament of Canada disagrees with the Prime Minister. I will quote from its writings on August 17, 2009:
There is, however, an involved debate as to whether the constitutional amendment procedures introduced in the Constitution Act, 1982 would allow Parliament to modify the main characteristics of the Senate without the consent of the provincial legislative assemblies. The Supreme Court has issued an opinion stating that Parliament does not have that authority, but the decision dates from 1980 and thus precedes the amendment mechanisms introduced in the Constitution Act, 1982. The question is therefore unresolved.
I do not think it is responsible for the government to go through this process without first consulting the provinces, as I have already indicated, but also knowing whether this is constitutional.
It is common sense to state that there should be a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada to make this determination rather than requiring persons after the fact to engage in lengthy and expensive litigation to challenge this. I anticipate that if this goes through, some group will challenge this, there will be such legislation and we will be tied up. Why not, since the Prime Minister has the power, simply refer this to the Supreme Court of Canada now and seek a ruling?
There is a certain irony in terms of what is occurring with these proposals. I am going to read three quotes. The first is, “Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the Upper House”. The second is, “the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister”. Both of those quotes in 2004 were from the Prime Minister.
Another quote from the Conservative Party was “A Conservative government will not appoint to the Senate anyone who does not have a mandate from the people”. I am sure Canadians will find that most ironic considering what has taken place.
Another example from May 28, 1996, the Reform Party opposition day motion speaking to it at paragraph 3049, stated:
The Reform Party proposal for a triple E Senate, a Senate which is elected by the people with equal representation from each province and which is fully effective in safeguarding regional interests would make the upper House accountable to Canadians. Implementing changes to the Constitution to provide for a triple E Senate, an extension of Alberta's Senatorial Selection Act into other provinces, is the best means to proceed in permitting Canada's regions to have a greater say in Ottawa and bring democratic accountability to government.
What happened to that? What happened to the positions of the government members when they were in opposition? Why are they not fulfilling their promises in seeking an attempt to bring meaningful Senate reform to Canada with consultations with our provincial partners? Why this legislation in this form? It is not democratic and it is quite ironic that the government is doing this considering its various prior statements.
In terms of other broken promises, I already read the quotes of the Prime Minister in terms of never appointing senators who have not been elected. I find it ironic that a record was broken with the Prime Minister appointing 27 senators in one year. There have now been 33 unelected senators appointed by the Prime Minister, despite very clear promises that he would never do that. That must go to the credibility of the government. Of course this is not the only promise that has been broken.
We also had the promises of income trusts, the public appointments commission, to never run deficits, to follow fixed election dates, which we know did not take place during the last election, and to not raise taxes, although we have a huge payroll tax, which, according to economists, will kill 200,000 plus jobs. This is just a litany of broken promises by the government that Canadians frankly need to know about.
Since this is under the democratic ministry, let us talk about democracy. With the 33 Senate appointments that the Prime Minister has made, let us examine them. These were not bipartisan appointments for the benefit of Canadians. Essentially these were Conservative mainly defeated candidates. I think Canadians need to know this.
I quote an article, once again by David Akin, of January 20, 2010. He states:
There is an irony to the appointments [the Prime Minister] has made that is not lost even on some of [the Prime Minister's] own advisers and supporters. As a young Reform party organizer and MP, [the Prime Minister] campaigned vigourously to make the Senate more independent of the prime minister. And yet, to create the Senate he wants, [the Prime Minister] now needs a Senate that will do precisely what he wants.
With the five members he is expected to appoint Friday, [the Prime Minister]—who once said he would never appoint senators—will have named 33 senators since taking office in 2006...
Who are those people? He goes on to state:
In fact, 20 of the 33 appointees were failed Conservative candidates, former political staff to Harper or the party, or were members of the Conservative party or its predecessor parties, the Reform party, the Progressive Conservative party and the Canadian Alliance.
I think Canadians have a right to know who those people are. This is the lost: Bert Brown, Reform Party organizer; Claude Carignan, failed Conservative candidate; Fred Dickson, adviser to former Nova Scotia Premier John Buchanan, a Progressive Conservation; Nicole Eaton, writer and community leader who chaired the Conservatives last two national conventions; Doug Finley, Conservative national campaign manager; Michael Fortier, co-chaired of Conservative national campaign; Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, former Progressive Conservative MP; Stephen Greene, Reform Party staffer; Michael MacDonald, Conservative Party executive; Fabian Manning, former Conservative MP, lost re-election in 2008; Yonah Martin, failed Conservative candidate; Percy Mockler, New Brunswick Progressive Conservative; Richard Neufeld, provincial politician active in social credit reform and B.C. Liberal Party; Don Plett, former Conservative Party president; Michel Rivard, failed Canadian Alliance candidate; Judith Seidman, co-chaired the Prime Minister's 2003 leadership bid; Carolyn Stewart Olsen, long-time Prime Minister communication aid; and the last, John Wallace, failed Conservative candidate.
In terms of John Wallace, I will have to admit I know him. He is a good appointment. However, did the Prime Minister actually ask Senator Wallace before he was appointed to limit his term to eight years? Did he know this was coming? Senator Wallace gave up his lucrative business to come here. Maybe he should have asked him. Maybe that would have been fair. Maybe that would have been trustworthy.
There is a history here. Why are we dealing with this Senate reform package now? Obviously it was not urgent, because if it were so urgent, the government would not have killed it by proroguing Parliament, which also killed the legislation. It would have continued with Parliament to ensure this was taken care of before.
We do have urgent matters, though, that the government has sought to avoid by bringing forward this type of legislation, Senate reform at this stage. I am not saying we should not do this at some point, but why now? I have made this point in terms of the law and order legislation as well. Although I support almost all of it, why now? Why not deal with the issues that are urgent for Canadians when we are living through the worst recession since the last depression? Why now?
I am going to give one example. I have a top 10 list here that, frankly, the government should have dealt with already or should be dealing with, which it is seeking to avoid. This has nothing to do with the recent scandals and everything that has been going through question period. It has to do substantive issues that matter to Canadians for their ordinary daily lives. They are simply being ignored.
I sat in the transport committee this week, but I am not on the committee. I was shocked. In questioning pilots, as one example, members talked about these new SMS safety standards. In 2007 there were amendments to the Aeronautics Act contained in Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act. This would have clarified Transport Canada's authority to regulate SMS, enhanced the sharing of safety data with Transport Canada and provided protections for employees who reported safety concerns internally under SMS.
The pilots who testified clearly stated that this was something they needed, that it was important, that it was required for the safety of air passengers across Canada. How many Canadians travel on aircraft? Yet it has not been reintroduced and the pilots, who were before the committee, want it introduced. Why has that not been done rather than go through with this law and order legislation and go through Senate reform at this stage? Why not pick other meaningful things that should be dealt with for the benefit and safety of Canadians?
As I essentially have no time left, I will not have a chance to go through the entire list. That is one example, and there is a whole litany of those that have been ignored.
April 1st, 2010 / 9:45 a.m.
Jeff Watson Essex, ON
I appreciate that. We're getting to a difference of opinion here at the table. This committee, of course, as you well know, took up Bill C-6 some time back. Three parties, certainly, were working to make some of the improvements you were suggesting with respect to whistle-blower protection or that kind of non-punitive reporting.
I will remind everyone, for the record, and for those who are watching, that of course it was the NDP that scuttled that legislation. I think that's an important consideration, because we were close to something that I think is very important in this particular area.
April 1st, 2010 / 9:05 a.m.
Richard Balnis Senior Officer, Research, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Good morning. My name is Richard Balnis. I am from the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
CUPE represents 600,000 workers across Canada, and our airline division represents 8,500 flight attendants at six airlines in Canada. In front of you are my remarks in English and French. I will deliver my remarks in English. In addition, a book of documents accompanies that presentation. Those documents are also entirely in English and French. The first part of tab 1 has the English, while after the green paper you will find the French. That document is entirely bilingual. I would like to go through my remarks now.
Since they were discussed in 1999, we have been and continue to be critics of safety management systems in aviation. Our submission and accompanying documents address the first point of your specific study into aviation safety, “Transport Canada's Implementation of Safety Management Systems for the Aviation Industry”, and “in particular the delegation of oversight and administration for business aircraft” to the CBAA. We are also prepared to comment on other issues related to flight and duty time for flight attendants, or other issues or questions the committee may have.
When the CBAA approach first became public in 2001, we said that this was industry self-regulation and it was wrong. The CBAA took over certification of business aircraft in January 2003 as a result of a ministerial exemption. We repeated our concerns about the CBAA approach when we appeared before you on May 2, 2007, during your consideration of Bill C-6, later Bill C-7. On December 28, 2007, we released 337 pages of documents under access to information legislation. We have since learned that at the same time that Bill C-6 was before Parliament, Transport Canada inspectors missed serious issues of regulatory non-compliance with regard to how CBAA was conducting its operations.
In tab 1 is our detailed analysis of those 337 pages. I have a set of those documents, which I can leave with the committee. They are in English only. I don't intend to create any controversy by tabling English-only documents, but I can leave it with the clerk if you wish to review it to make sure that what we say in tab 1 is accurate.
We also learned, as you can see in tab 1, that there were serious shortcomings in how CBAA was conducting its operations in other areas as well. Moreover, Transport Canada senior manager Don Sherritt overruled the inspector conducting this audit, who found that the CBAA corrective action plan would be ineffective in addressing these identified deficiencies. To our knowledge, SCOTIC has been told none of this.
As the Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported on its investigation into the crash of Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce at Fox Harbour on November 11, 2007, “Transport Canada did not document its decision to close off the CBAA assessment even though the CBAA had not submitted an acceptable corrective action plan”. In tab 2 you will find, in English and French, the extracts of that report's conclusions. The TSB further found that it took another review, on March 11, 2009, for Transport Canada to conclude that the assessment it had conducted, which ended on September 21, 2007, had been “fully addressed”, nearly eighteen months later.
Fortunately, Minister Baird has finally agreed with us nearly a decade later. As he told media on March 16, 2010, “Right now it's self-regulation for corporate jets...”. Referring to the Fox Harbour crash, he said, “We learned from a recent report that it's simply wrong for industry to regulate itself”.
The CBAA experiment was therefore ended by Minister Baird. It is too bad that it took crashes for this ill-conceived policy to be abandoned. Unfortunately, one could go to the Transport Canada website as late as March 30--Tuesday of this week--and still find a 2009 “Safety Partnership Programs Framework” document, which we've included in English and French in tab 3, which allows similar adventures in delegation to industry and industry self-regulation to continue.
We ask that you recommend to Minister Baird that he cancel this policy approach as well. Let us learn from the lesson of the CBAA.
On the issue of government oversight in an era of SMS, which I think is the central focus of your deliberations, we told you on May 2, 2007, that Transport Canada was implementing a new diminished role for itself under its new SMS regime, contrary to established international norms. At that time, we quoted Transport Canada assistant deputy minister Marc Grégoire, who said that there will be a “shifting relationship” between airlines and Transport Canada under its new SMS regime. As he said on April 25, 2006:
There must also be a willingness on the part of the regulator to step back from involvement in the day-to-day activities of the company in favour of allowing organizations to manage their activities and related hazards and risks themselves.
Despite the claims that things were changing when Transport Canada representatives appeared before you on March 30, 2010--and some of those changes are overdue and welcome--there will be no change in this fundamental approach. If you do not believe us, look at Transport Canada's own documents dealing with SMS and government surveillance, which we've included in our documents.
On March 22, 2010, less than two weeks ago, Don Sherritt provided participants at a CARAC consultation meeting with the document found in its entirety at tab 4, in English and French. As you can see in the marked passage on page 3 in the English version and on page 1 of the French, SMS and performance-based regulations and standards will permit “each operator to manoeuvre within the designed 'playing field' based upon their targeted risk indices and safety requirements”. In our view, that is an unprecedented level of air operator autonomy from government oversight.
We were further told at that meeting that government oversight in this environment of operator manoeuvrability would be conducted in accordance with Transport Canada staff instruction SUR-001, entitled “Surveillance Procedures”, which is also reproduced in its entirety in tab 5. There are 66 pages in English and 72 pages in French. The fundamental premise of this approach is that government surveillance is designed to ensure that the operators have procedures in place to comply with regulations, not that inspectors will ensure compliance with regulations.
As an explanation of what you were told on Tuesday, if there are sufficient resources remaining, there “may” be other government surveillance activities to ensure such government regulatory compliance, such as the inflight or ramp inspections that were mentioned to you. Please, in particular, see section 5.0; that passage has been added in the last two months.
While this is an important addition to earlier editions of this document, there are still significant problems with SUR-001. First, these supplemental surveillance activities are discretionary and entirely dependent upon resources. Without adequate resources, these supplemental surveillance activities will not be done, although they are there on paper. Second, these surveillance activities are important in themselves. As you will see in tab 6, the Atlantic region of Transport Canada disagreed with the Ottawa head office approach of having only higher-level oversight activities, such as program validation inspections, enhanced monitoring, and assessments, because "they do not address day-to-day oversight of companies and do not include intelligence-gathering activities, which are important in providing data for safety monitoring". That is in tab 6 in its entirety.
Finally, in tab 7 we have prepared a case study of maintenance violations in 2007 at Southwest Airlines, a major American air operator. As that analysis shows--and if we have time in questioning, we can spend more time on it--it is only through mandatory, no-notice, and hands-on inspections, with effective whistle-blowing protection for front line inspectors who have to go against managers who may have cozy relationships with the operators they oversee, that the public's safety can be assured.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. We have other comments as well, including the lack of any flight and duty time limitations for flight attendants, something we have been seeking without success from Transport Canada since 1991.
We look forward to your questions on anything we've presented and on any other area that you would like to question us on.
June 2nd, 2008 / 6:10 p.m.
Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.
During the 38th Parliament, I think the committee spent most of its time on this legislation, and I congratulate the members for that.
We have a situation now, as everyone in this assembly knows, wherein a lot of the committees are breaking now. They are not working at all. A certain matter comes before the committee, it is moved, a majority of the members of the committee vote in favour of it and then the Conservative Party filibusters it or, in one case, the chair walked out. We had the Cadman affair and the in and out election scandal.
I assume by the end of this week we are going to have, if the situation involving the previous minister of foreign affairs comes before a committee and if the other situation involving the leak on the NAFTA issue during the democratic primaries in the United States comes before the committee, two additional committees in the House dysfunctional.
However, going back to the legislation, this is a complex change in the whole system of aeronautic oversight, bringing us in line with emerging international standards, standards, which are mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization. It states that each member country must establish a safety management system. I believe those systems have to be in place by the year 2009. Under that general oversight system, each company must implement a safety management system that is acceptable to the regulatory body in that country.
Work has been ongoing. This is not starting now. I believe the Department of Transport started it at least five years ago. Initial work went on. Some pilot projects with certain companies in certain regions were implemented. It is an ongoing process.
The Office of the Auditor General did an extensive performance audit on this work. It was released in the March 2008 report of the Auditor General. I believe five recommendations were made to the Department of Transport. I would not consider that a bad report. I would not consider it a good report. However, it did make some good recommendations as to this ongoing work, which is basically a change in the safety methodology as to how the Department of Transport undergoes it.
However, as I pointed out previously, the bill has been with this assembly for three years now, in various forms. The committee listened to the stakeholders and it deliberated and debated every aspect of the bill over what I consider to be a very extended period of time. Prior to prorogation, when the bill, at that time was known as Bill C-6, the committee began hearings on February 12, 2007, and concluded in June of that year, after devoting 17 meetings to the legislation.
In the 38th Parliament, it was the single piece of legislation to which the committee devoted the largest amount of time, which is apparently a rush job. Again, I want congratulate the committee for the excellent work it did on the legislation.
The committee during its hearings heard from the International Civil Aviation Organization, Transport Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Air Transport Association of Canada, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, the Air Canada Pilots Association, the Canadian Business Aviation Association, airline companies both big and small, Teamsters Canada, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, Justice Virgil Moshansky from the Dryden air crash review, and the list goes on.
After these presentations, amendments were made to Bill C-7 by all members and a majority of these amendments were passed in committee, based on the testimony that came forward from the many stakeholders and other witnesses, who presented before the committee.
Some of the key amendments to the bill made by the committee were: providing a definition to explain safety management system and updating the International Civil Aviation Organization's standards. There have been several amendments made to the Aeronautics Act over the years, but none of these amendments actually seemed to address the matter of bringing Transport Canada's standards and regulations up to the ICAO standards. The amendment was put forward by the Bloc, NDP and Liberal members of the committee.
Another amendment was having the minister be responsible for the development and regulation of aeronautics and the supervision of all matters related to aeronautics. Therefore, making aeronautical activities meet the highest safety and security standards.
Finally, ensuring that regulatory oversight is not replaced by safety management systems, so that safety management systems that have to be implemented by each company that operates in the aeronautics industry in Canada, whether it be the carriers, the maintenance companies or the supplies would have an additional layer of safety available to Canadians who use the airplanes.
The facts speak very clearly, the number of people using airplanes in Canada is increasing dramatically. I believe the last figure we have is for the year 2006. In that year there were 99 million passenger flights taken in Canada, which was a 6% increase over the previous year, 2005. Industry estimates indicate that that will increase by about 40% between now and 2015. There is a tremendous challenge out there for our regulatory authorities.
Back to Bill C-7. I submit that this bill was under extreme scrutiny from all members of Parliament on this particular committee. Safety was the fundamental question addressed by members on the committee when examining this bill.
The new safety management system addressed in Bill C-7 focused on ongoing improvements to safety measurements in the aeronautics industry. Safety management systems would allow companies to have an internal way of operating which will enable employees to report safety violations confidentially within the company.
I should point out that was a point of contention within the committee debates, whether it should be confidential or it should be open. Finally, it came down that it should be confidential because of course we knew that employees would fear losing their jobs or being reprimanded by management for reporting safety violations. That ties in with the recent whistleblower legislation that was introduced. These matters can be dealt with confidentially.
We do not want people to be allowed to abuse the system. If they were involved in any way with the violations of any safety code, we certainly would not want them being allowed to report that violation in a confidential manner.
With Bill C-7, Liberal members on the committee felt it was necessary to have an environment that would encourage people to come forward voluntarily in reporting safety errors, which would therefore create an effective preventive system against any future aviation accidents.
In addition, Liberal members wanted to ensure federal representation would always be present to guarantee the regulatory process would still be in place. A safety management system is not deregulation in Bill C-7. Members on the committee made certain when examining the bill that Transport Canada would have regulatory oversight of that particular industry.
That is why, in my humble assertion, this bill really ought to have received royal assent last June. That is why I am surprised to see the bill still here in this House. The NDP has now decided it is not willing to support Bill C-7, despite hearing a number of witnesses and stakeholders in committee and despite the desire of members to have this bill go forward in the House.
Committee members have done a good job. The motion we are debating today is with respect to Bill C-7. It is, in my view, just another attempt by the NDP to filibuster in the House to delay the bill, to see it not come to a vote. I hope it comes to a vote soon. I do hope that the House can move forward on Bill C-7 and allow all members to vote on the bill as soon as possible.
February 14th, 2008 / 11:55 a.m.
Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
So I was saying that the members in the House and those around this table are concerned about declining voter turn-out in the electoral process. We'd like to increase turn-out levels because the figures are constantly falling. We're looking for the reasons for that because we would like to provide solutions.
Mr. Van Loan's comment was really relevant. He said that, if the situation remained unresolved, poorly understood, that would undermine public confidence in the electoral process. That's one of the concerns of all members. We've previously spoken about that.
Mr. Van Loan also told the Globe and Mail that we had seen the consequences of that decision in the byelections that were held in Quebec in September. He also said before a committee that, when anyone starts ridiculing the established electoral rules, people begin losing confidence in their electoral system, and he didn't believe that we parliamentarians could let that be done without reacting.
That's why Bill C-6 is really of capital importance. There were some stupid things—
Stupid things were done during the election. People showed up with Darth Vader helmets to take advantage of what people perceived as a loophole or a poor interpretation of the electoral law. They made a mockery of the electoral system. In doing so, they have eroded the confidence of people who didn't do that, who had the good sense to not mock the system in that way, because they ask what's happening with the electoral system if it allows that to even occur. As I mentioned, this is a matter of concern for everybody in this room and everybody in Parliament, which is why we came up with Bill C-6.
That's why we decided to have official meetings here in committee, where the business on the agenda was to study Bill C-6 and to implement a solution as quickly as possible to improve the situation because that situation was utterly unacceptable. As I said, why aren't we on the right track? That's why I'm proud to introduce a motion to ensure that we are on the right track.
I quoted a number of remarks by Mr. Van Loan and my friend Mr. Guimond.
As regards the Liberal Party, I'd like to talk about the opinion of the leader of the official opposition, Stéphane Dion, on veiled voters. This comes from a September Canadian Press article stating that Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion is of the same view and that, in his opinion, it must be possible to identify people who are going to vote. The article states that Mr. Dion said in Vancouver that Elections Canada should assign female staff to the polling stations to identify women under their veils, something a man would not have a right to do.
Mr. Dion also stated that his party did not agree with Elections Canada, which he asked to reverse its decision. He added that, ultimately, a person must be able to be identified at the time of voting.
We see that the concerns are all well expressed and well stated everywhere.
One National Post article states that the Liberal leader, Stéphane Dion, whose party is having trouble finding support in the province, is also opposed to this measure. The Liberal leader says he believes that citizens are required to reveal their identity when they vote in an election. That's why he would like Elections Canada to reverse its decision and to require women to show their faces in order to prove their identity.
The words used to discuss the situation are strong and direct. I've made a few references to Mr. Mayrand's letter stating that Mr. Dion's remarks were not—
They weren't convincing enough to have him change his decision regarding veiled voting.
Stéphane Dion also went on to say that he had a real concern with the byelections. There were byelections at that time, so it wasn't just an esoteric argument, which we had time to consider. There were some very real byelections approaching in which people voted.
The integrity of the electoral process is paramount. If we want Canadians to participate in the electoral process, then we need to ensure that they in fact have a high level of confidence that the electoral process is sound. I would say that of all the laws we pass, some of the most important are those that concern electoral reform, because it affects each one of us, yes, personally.
But I don't think any of us here is vain enough to think we will be MPs for eternity. It also affects the future of our government. MPs come and MPs go. Even for MPs who have served for extremely long terms there comes a point when they go, and a new election determines who will replace them as MPs. If Canadians find fault with the system, then they aren't so interested in participating. Their skepticism increases--it does not decrease--particularly when they see a flagrant mockery of a misapplication of the law.
That's where Bill C-6 is important, because it directly addresses this concern, and it's a concern that was identified by many people.
Just to go on, in La Presse,
here's what it said: Mr. Dion also said he hoped that an amendment would be passed to have all voters vote with their faces uncovered in the next Canadian election. “There has to be an amendment,” he said. “However, that will come in time. Byelections are being held now. We want them to be held in a peaceful atmosphere. We disagree with Elections Canada's decision, but we respect it.”
He quite rightly put his finger on the point that this needed to change not just for the byelections but for the long term. He was recommending an amendment at that time simply to find an immediate solution because of the impending byelections.
December 11th, 2007 / 10 a.m.
Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC
I think we need to know that.
I would like to follow up on what Monsieur Laframboise and Mr. Carrier raised, which is the whole issue of safety management systems. I, too, am disappointed by the lack of rigour with which safety management systems have been implemented within the railway system.
We've had a lot of evidence on, I believe, Bill C-6, when it dealt with aviation safety. I think there was a general consensus, in fact an overwhelming consensus, that safety management systems, first of all, were good, that they were very helpful in improving safety within aviation, and secondly, they were actually working; they were achieving the results they were intended to achieve.
For example, the evidence before this committee was that the number of reported incidents went up by 400% to 500%. That's good news; it's not bad news, because we have more front-line workers reporting problems right where they're starting, rather than waiting until we have a huge incident like a derailment.
I didn't hear that from the testimony we heard on rail safety. I want to know why that is. I'm a little concerned about the fact that the only whistle-blower protection right now is under the auspices of the TSB. With the aviation safety management system, it was very clear there was immunity for the front-line workers when they reported matters that could lead to safety issues. I'm not hearing that in this review.
Perhaps you could respond.
November 2nd, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your response and I do want to make it clear to the member that we would not have denied unanimous consent, because obviously making our statements in the House is important to all members. If there is a glitch with the clock, that should be corrected, but maybe next time we will do it through unanimous consent.
I want to say right off that NDP members were very instrumental and worked as a very tight group in the last days of that session to fight the bill and try to keep it from going through the House. It was at third reading then. I am sure that my colleagues will remember that we rose in those last few days and kept the debate going.
In the House today, I have heard a number of members raise questions about that. What is the NDP doing? Why is it trying to hold up the bill? Some members are saying that it is a great bill and it had a great hearing in committee, that all those witnesses were heard and the bill has been fixed if there were problems. As we know, the government is obviously supporting the bill.
The Liberals, who first initiated the bill when they were in government, of course are supporting the bill, just as they now support a number of things from the Conservative government, including the Speech from the Throne and the so-called mini-budget. It is no surprise to us that they are supporting the aeronautics bill. The members of the BQ also have been supporting the bill.
However, I do want to put on the record that the reason we wished to hold it up in June, the reason we fought it, is that we think the bill is flawed. We think the bill has not had the scrutiny it deserves. We have had repeated concerns brought to us, particularly by the labour movement, people who work in this industry and who have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge. They work on the ground, just like the member for Parkdale—High Park said when she spoke about her knowledge of this industry.
I can tell members of the House that we take this very seriously. In our humble opinion, and we are one party in the House, we believe we have a responsibility: if we do not think a bill is good enough, if we think a bill is not right, we should not just roll over and let it go through.
That is why in June we debated the bill and tried to hold it up. In fact, we did hold it up. It would have gone through. Then, as we know, the Prime Minister prorogued the House. It is ironic. We are told by the government that these bills are so critical and they are being held up by the opposition, and, in the case of this bill, by the NDP. Yet it was the government itself and the Prime Minister himself that prorogued the House and in effect killed all of the bills that were before the House of Commons.
That was the tactic the government employed to buy some time, to see out the byelections or the Ontario election, whatever the reasons were. We obviously were not privy to what government members had in their minds, but the government itself decided to prorogue the House, delay the return of Parliament and in effect kill the bill in its former version, which was Bill C-6.
As we know, the bill has now been brought back. It is still at third reading. We in the NDP successfully put forward an amendment, or what is called a hoist motion, to have the bill sent back to the committee. I want to assure members of the House that we did so on the basis of our concerns. We did that on the basis that we really do believe the bill should go back to the committee.
It may well be that other members are satisfied. It may well be that other members think this is a fine bill and that is the end of the story. We do not. We think there are significant concerns that should be addressed. From our point of view, we are doing our job as parliamentarians to debate the legislation, to defend the public interest, to represent the public interest and to represent the interest of public safety, particularly as it relates to airline safety.
On the record, I do want to mention the tremendous work of our former transport critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. He almost single-handedly raised the issues around the bill and alerted people out in the broader community so they could come before the committee. He has gone through the bill with a fine-tooth comb, looking at the changes that are about to take place.
This is where we have a very strong difference with other members in the House. We think the changes proposed in Bill C-7,, the aeronautics bill, are not in the public interest. They will not improve and strengthen safety provisions in the airline industry.
We are extremely concerned that, overall, this is the beginning of a slippery slope. In fact, one might argue that the slippery slope began a long time ago with previous Liberal governments. They began with this massive environment of privatization and deregulation.
We know it is something that the big airline industry has long coveted. We are now in that environment where deregulation and privatization are the victim of the day. However, when it comes to safety, I truly believe that Canadians, whether they live in large urban centres and mostly access airline travel through large airports such as Pearson, Vancouver or Montreal or wherever it might be, or live in smaller communities and rely on regional airports that maybe do not have the same kind of equipment and technology that is available in the larger centres, absolutely rely on us as parliamentarians to go through this kind of legislation. If there is a shadow of a doubt that it does not meet a strong and high standard around safety and protecting the public and the people who work in that industry, I think they expect us to not allow this legislation to pass.
We are attempting to bring those concerns forward. As the member for Parkdale—High Park said, what is the government for? What do we do in this place?
We do many things. We all have issues that we represent in our riding. However, overall we have a responsibility to represent that broader public interest against all kinds of pressures, from big corporations, from offshore interests, from people who have an agenda, the CEOs who have an agenda to only look at the bottom line. Our job is to make those balances and to overall represent the public interest.
I want to speak a bit about the specific concerns I have about Bill C-7. I know they are shared by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. They revolve around really three key questions, one of which is the new safety management system, the SMS as it is being called. The second involves the immunity for prosecutions from airlines that violate safety rules under certain conditions. The third is the heightened secrecy and the fact that there will be less access to information on the safety performance of airlines under this bill than we had previously.
It raises the question as to why. Why would the bill take us in that direction? I am not sure I know the answer to that, other than I know it is a really bad direction and we should not allow it to happen.
It is part of this bigger picture of deregulation. It is part of a bigger picture that the Conservative government has adopted; that it is better to have no rules, that it is better to allow self-regulation by industry, and there may be some instances where that is warranted. By and large that is not a good direction to take, particularly with the airline industry.
I will speak on the first point, the new safety management systems. This is at the heart of the bill we are debating today. We believe it will affect the safety of the travelling public and crew members.
New Democrats are very concerned that the SMS system is supposed to be a management system that has been developed to allow air operators to improve safety levels by building on existing safety regulators. We know Transport Canada, both in committee and elsewhere, has insisted that this new safety management system is not a deregulation, but we think it is. There we begin our entrance onto the slippery slope.
We believe it is part of a deregulation and a significant change for two reasons. First, there will be a new role for the regulator that will increase the level of delegation previously performed by Transport Canada and that role will be delegated to the airlines.
Many members of the NDP have spoken on this issue over the last few days. We are very concerned because it was a function that was carried out by a government department, Transport Canada. Even though there might have been issues and concerns over various situations that arose, overall one has some level of faith in a government agency performing the function of a safety management system.
To now shift it to the airlines and make them, in effect, self-regulating in terms of safety rules and self-monitoring is something we should be very concerned about. We need to ask the question as to where this will lead. If we allow this to happen in this industry, in what other industries or instances will it also happen? This is the direction the previous government was taking and now it appears the Conservative government is also taking that direction.
Related to the question of the safety management system is a transfer of the determination of appropriate risk levels from Transport Canada to the airlines. The NDP would argue that this is again shifting the rules and responsibility from a public government agency, which is accountable to the House of Commons and the people of Canada, to the airlines. The public interest becomes a little less clear . We have to question whether that shift in the safety management system will mean that there is a greater interest in terms of what the interests are of the private shareholders. Those are very serious questions.
I was not in the committee, and I will be the first to say that. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster was. After speaking with him, I know that there were very detailed discussions. Witnesses came forward and expressed their concerns about this function of the safety management system.
I realize there are members in the House who are satisfied with what they heard from the department and what they see in the bill, but the NDP is not. On that ground alone, the safety management system, we are not satisfied that the public interest test has been met.
We are very skeptical about this movement of responsibility from the government to the airlines. We are also very concerned about what the consequences of that might be in the long term for the travelling public, as well as for people working in the airline industry who are all of a sudden in an environment that becomes a self-regulating situation.
It is more preferable to have an outside body that clearly establishes rules, regulations and benchmarks in terms of what the risk and safety levels are for people who work in that industry and who may feel the pressure from their employers to cut a little corner here, cut a little something there. There are those pressures in the workplace, so having the clear mandate of Transport Canada to lay out that level is very important for the workers in the industry. They have something on which they can call. That is our first concern.
The second concern, as I mentioned, has to do with what we understand to be the immunity from prosecution for airlines that violates safety rules under certain conditions. Again, this is something about which the public should be very worried. We need to be very clear that under this proposal, Transport Canada has not granted whistleblower protection to employees who may report that their air operator is not following the law.
I find this very ironic. The government brought in Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. It was its first bill after its election to a minority Parliament, and the NDP supported it. The act was meant to be about setting out broad parameters and very specific provisions and regulations to ensure there was accountability, that there was whistleblower protection, that people could be protected in their workplace.
Therefore, it seems to me rather ironic that now under Bill C-7 we have a number of provisions that will provide immunity from prosecution. It does not have whistleblower protection, so that really creates a very uncertain environment for people who may be in the know. They may have information they think is important. They may feel they have an individual obligation to report violations or situations that are not safe. Yet they will not be protected.
We think this is another serious issue and flaw in the bill. This is another reason for it be sent back to committee.
The third issue has to do with the fact that there will be less access to information on the safety performance of airlines.
From time to time, we read about serious incidents that take place in air travel. It is something that alarms people.
Like other members of the House, I travel a lot. I mostly travel between Vancouver and Ottawa, and I do not particularly like using air travel. I do it however because I am from Vancouver and it is the way I get to work and get home. We have this faith that the pilots, the flight attendants and the ground crews know what they are doing, and I do. I have a lot of confidence in those people.
In fact, I was on a flight the other day, leaving from Pearson to go to Vancouver. We were zooming down the runway and about to take off. Just before takeoff, the pilot slammed on the brakes and it became clear we would not be taking off. Everyone was wondering what was happening. Over the public announcement system, the pilot said that there was something wrong. He did not know what it was so he aborted the takeoff. The 300 people on the plane were hugely relieved he had made that decision.
We went back to the gate. We sat around for an hour, which nobody really minded, because they were checking out safety provisions. In the end, the aircraft was grounded. We all had to scramble around for other flights. However, I was glad because I sure as heck did not want to fly in a plane that might be unsafe.
People worry about this. They rely on those professionals to make the right decisions, even at the last minute, even at the last second.
With this bill, we believe there will be less security on those issues. There will be less access to information to find out what is going on. For example, there are seven sections of the Aeronautics Act that will be added to schedule II of the Access to Information Act to ensure that there is no access to information. Why is that? Why would there be this shift?
I do have other issues to raise but those are some of the concerns that I put forward from my party and the reason we believe the bill should be sent back to committee and given a thorough review.
November 2nd, 2007 / 10:20 a.m.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for talking about what is so important and so essential about this bill we are looking at today, Bill C-7.
I want to start by talking a little about my community of London—Fanshawe. There is a wonderful airport in London--Fanshawe, the London International Airport. It is certainly not as grand as Pearson or the airport in Vancouver, but it is a remarkable little airport inasmuch as it has an impeccable safety record. The people who work there take great pride in keeping the public safe and doing their job in an exemplary way. They have remarkable community relationships and have made it very clear that safety is first and foremost when it comes to London.
We have heard about the experiences of my colleague in regard to the tragedies that have ensued for the people of her community. We most certainly do not want these kinds of tragedies to proliferate across the country. That is why the New Democratic Party is opposing this bill. That is why our critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has been so very clear and so very vociferous about the concerns here.
When we read through the flaws that he sees in Bill C-7, I am sure that all members of the House will agree that we need to take a careful look at this bill. We need to consider very carefully before we proceed.
According to my colleague from Vancouver, the bill is seriously flawed and still needs amendment. Among those flaws are those having to do with the new safety management systems, the immunity from prosecution for airlines that violate safety rules under certain conditions, the heightened secrecy and less access to information on the safety performance of airlines, and the fact that this information is out of the reach of the Access to Information Act.
That should send chills down the spines of everyone who has ever boarded an aircraft in this country or who is contemplating boarding an aircraft in this country. We cannot get the access we need to the information we need to know that we are indeed safe.
The irony of this, of course, is that we now have a government that is so determined to cuddle up to George Bush that it is willing to allow no fly lists. The government is willing to allow the Americans to have access to information about passengers who are boarding Canadian aircraft, but the government is not willing to look at the planes themselves. The government is not willing to say to the companies that they have to make sure the mechanics of the planes are absolutely safe, that the nuts and bolts and the things that truly reflect safety are in place.
As I have said, we oppose this bill. We have been remarkably fortunate in Canada, but the time is coming, if we allow this bill to go forward, when we will not feel nearly so safe and we will not be nearly so fortunate.
I want to give some sense of the background here. Bill C-7 constitutes what my colleague calls a revolution in how aviation safety will be addressed in Canada for years to come, not just right now and not just in the next few months, but for years to come. It enshrines aviation safety management systems, SMS, as part of Transport Canada's agenda to implement SMS in all modes of transportation, sometimes with disastrous effects, as is the case with rail safety management.
We know about the numerous derailments since the privatization of rail safety. We constantly hear about them in the news. We know that the effect is not only a human effect, but an environmental effect. We hear of trains going into rivers and trains derailing. The cost in terms of the environment and human life is simply not acceptable.
We have experience with the privatization of rail safety, but apparently that is not enough. We cannot seem to learn from that. We now need to take the next step and risk safety in the air. As frightening and as dangerous as a train wreck is, it is on the ground. It gets a whole lot scarier at 30,000 feet.
The SMS is also designed to help Transport Canada deal with declining resources and high levels of projected inspector retirements. I find it interesting that apparently we need at least 100 additional inspectors to ensure the safety of our airlines. I guess the Conservative government cannot be held solely responsible here. It is very clear that the Liberals had a whole lot to do with cutting the service sector of Canada and crippling those who provide services to Canadians, underscoring the fact that apparently the Liberals were not concerned about the kind of services that Canadians receive, including safety on our railways and safety on our airlines.
We need these inspectors and nobody seems to be prepared to ensure they are there. If they are there, then we do not need to rely on the industry itself being the arbiter in terms of what is safe and what is acceptable.
I would like to give the House a little history on the bill. Originally, it was a Liberal bill authorized by former transport minister Jean Lapierre. Apparently, after a 45-minute staff briefing, the Conservatives and the Liberals were initially willing to let Bill C-6 pass without further amendment. However, that raised a lot of alarm bells. There was growing concern and opposition to Bill C-6 from a wide range of witnesses who appeared before the standing committee over a series of many months. These critics, and this is significant, included Justice Virgil Mochansky of the Dryden crash inquiry; two Transport Canada inspectors; unions; the CSPA; the UCTE; the Canada Safety Council; some smaller air operators; Ken Rubin, an access to information expert; the teamsters and CUPE representing flight attendants; as well as the IMAW.
The criticisms from those witnesses focused on the unprecedented and unacceptable decline in regulatory oversight by Transport Canada and the greater ability for the industry to set and enforce its own safety standards out of public sight and scrutiny and away from the critical eyes of our community. That is at the centre of all of this.
The airlines get to determine what is safe and what is not safe. It is kind of like bean counting. A corporation assesses how much it will cost to meet certain safety regulations compared to the lawsuits that would ensue as a result of accidents. If the corporation deems that it would be less expensive to simply allow the accidents to happen and face the lawsuits compared to the maintenance and safety costs, it opts for the bean counting, it opts for allowing the suits to go forward.
I would suggest that in a country where we pride ourselves on the restrictions, the controls and the oversights that keep our people safe, this is simply not acceptable.
In the face of this widespread opposition, the government was forced to make some amendments. In other cases, the three opposition parties united to force these amendments on the government.
We saw a number of amendments in the detailed clause by clause. The new legislation required the minister to maintain a program for the oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety and a new legislative obligation for the minister to require that aeronautical activities be performed at all times in a manner that meets the highest safety and security standards.
There were many more amendments. An amendment was added to ensure that the Canada Labour Code would prevail over the Aeronautics Act in the event of a possible conflict. An amendment was added ensuring employees and their bargaining agents would be included in the development and implementation of SMS, something that is certainly not happening today.
After extended debate, the government was compelled to introduce those amendments, as well as a form of whistleblower protection for employees who report to Transport Canada that their employer is violating the law.
A new definition of the safety management system was put into the legislation, emphasizing a reduction of risk to the lowest possible level, rather than just accepting or tolerating these risks to ensure the industry does not accept other higher levels of risk in its day to day operations.
The government then tried to kill this bill in committee. It wanted none of it. If we look back at these amendments, they make perfect sense and yet the government was quite willing to kill the bill to get rid of these amendments, instead of having the concern it should have for the people of our community.
October 31st, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON
Mr. Speaker, I used to work for CN 30-some years ago and I have seen quite a change in what I would consider the level of rail safety that has been deemed acceptable, and I am not quite as excited about those changes.
In fact, just removing the cabooses for the electronic light that was put on the back has taken people out of that particular venue of safety of watching what are known as hot boxes, and I am sure the member understands what that is.
However, coming back to Bill C-7, SMS is something like the fox watching the chickens because the hon. member is saying that the industry will be able to monitor itself and decide what risk is acceptable. I spoke on Bill C-6 in this House and every time members of this place get on board a plane they had better start thinking twice because this is a significant degradation of the safety of our airlines.
October 31st, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.
Don Bell North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, the common theme with all the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee was the concern that the safety management systems, the SMS, would be replacing regulatory oversight. Liberal members on the committee shared the concerns of the witnesses on the SMS and worked with members of the committee to ensure that management systems would not replace regulatory oversight and that the management systems would be just an extra layer of protection.
In addition, the Liberals listened to the witnesses' concerns on the possible reduction of aviation inspectors with the implementation of this management system. If Transport Canada was going to essentially diminish the role of the inspectorate or eliminate it altogether, Liberals would not support the bill.
Judge Virgil Moshansky, commissioner of the inquiry into the Air Ontario jetliner crash at Dryden, stressed the importance of the role of the inspectorate and the consequences that could occur if regulatory oversight is replaced.
Presently, it is my understanding from department officials and going through the bill clause by clause and adding amendments that the management systems, the SMS, will not replace the role of the inspectorate or eliminate it altogether.
As the official opposition transport critic, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, offered yesterday in the House, we would be pleased to see a motion from the government requesting unanimous consent to have Bill C-7 passed at third reading today and such a motion would have my support.
As the opposition critic for the Pacific Gateway, which incidentally was also a Liberal idea that has been rebranded in blue by the current government, it has even used the same minister, I can speak to the urgency with which we as legislators must act when we commit to making such sweeping regulatory changes to any part of Canada's vast transportation modes and network, be they rail, port systems, or aeronautics, as found in Bill C-7.
While the benefits of robust measures to ensure public safety in all modes of transportation are obvious, the economic benefits that can be reaped by a streamlined and effective transportation system, with public safety as an absolutely essential component, cannot be ignored.
In the case of the Pacific Gateway, our competitors in the U.S. and Mexico are not waiting for Canada to get our house in order on transportation safety and infrastructure issues before expanding operations.
Embracing the unprecedented economic opportunities for Canada and the Asia-Pacific are not served by a prorogation of Parliament, which effectively slams the brakes on important transportation initiatives such as Bill C-7.
To repeat a point I made earlier, Bill C-7 sought to establish safety management systems that, generally speaking, establish voluntary reporting measures for employees and front line workers to report safety concerns to superiors in upper management.
Following the hearings, those witnesses expressed concerns that a system such as SMS should not completely replace ministerial oversight but instead serve as an additional layer of accountability, and amendments to this effect were accepted and became part of what is today Bill C-7.
This is an example of why I was insistent on such changes because they relate similarly to an issue that I have embraced, rail safety in Canada. The issues and concerns that have arisen in my home province in recent years following the sale of B.C. Rail to CN have brought to light many rail safety concerns.
Following a motion that I tabled at committee that was coincidentally passed exactly one year ago today, our committee began an extensive study on rail safety in Canada. It led to the minister announcing a special panel review of the Railway Safety Act. I testified before that panel in Vancouver. Unfortunately, prorogation of Parliament has delayed, but hopefully not stopped, our committee's report on rail safety.
In regard to rail safety, the Conservatives have not been open and accountable to Canadians. The Conservative Minister of Transport sat on results from a Transport Canada audit of CN for over a year. Previous Liberal transport minister Jean Lapierre, who had ordered the audits, had promised to make the findings public once the audits were completed. Under the Conservative government it was not until access to information requests and pressure from the committee compelled the government to quietly release the audit findings on its website with no fanfare, media advisory, or press releases.
Amending Bill C-7, the Aeronautics Act, relates to the rail safety issue. As in the case of rail, there is clear evidence of the need for an additional layer of safety reporting that ministerial oversight provides. In the case of rail safety, some examples of needed ministerial oversight include safety audits at CN which were ordered by the minister and conducted by Transport Canada, which brought to light many important concerns and section 31 ministerial orders that compel operators to comply.
In the case of rail, a system of SMS relying solely on employee reporting would prove problematic, as in the case of CN, because Transport Canada's audits as was revealed, there is a reluctance among employees to speak out on some safety issues for a variety of reasons.
Bill C-7, as reported back to the House last spring by our committee as Bill C-6, represents a balanced compromise, one that took into account a wide array of opinions from key stakeholders and cast partisanship aside in the name of public safety and ensuring a robust and successful aeronautics industry in Canada.
I encourage members to do the work Canadians sent us here to do in this minority Parliament and finally finish the work on this bill, so we can move on to other important issues that require our attention as parliamentarians.
October 31st, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
Don Bell North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a member of the transport, infrastructure and communities committee to speak in support of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
This was formerly known as Bill C-6 and Bill C-62 before that. It was previously worked on by the transport, infrastructure and communities committee. I am pleased it was brought back to the House and that our extensive efforts at committee were not wasted.
The bill deals with integrated safety management systems, SMS for short. It also authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certified persons undertaking certain aeronautical activities. Other powers are enhanced or added to improve the proper administration of the act, in particular powers granted to certain members of the Canadian Forces to investigate aviation accidents involving both civilians and a military aircraft or aeronautical facility. This enactment is a proactive measure to assist in preventing airplane accidents from occurring.
Bill C-7 is yet another example of Liberal legislation from previous parliaments being brought forward by the Conservatives, albeit with a new name and minor cosmetic changes. Under the previous Liberal government, Bill C-62 began the dialogue on the issues that eventually became Bill C-6 and now Bill C-7.
The transport committee worked well on this bill. I commend our committee chair, the member for Brandon—Souris , for his excellent work as a chair who facilitated an open and generally positive exchange of ideas in the committee. I suspect the member for Brandon—Souris was not one of the Conservative committee chairs given the secret committee guide book on obstructing and controlling committee proceedings, as our committee was an example of how a minority Parliament should work, and that is what Canadians expect of their elected representatives.
The opposition's approach at the committee table was clear from day one. Public safety was and is our number one concern, not partisan politics as we have seen permeate so much of the government's manoeuvring in the 38th and now the 39th Parliament.
In Canada today there are numerous safety issues that require examination in all modes of transportation in Canada, namely the aeronautics safety measures such as those in Bill C-7, rail safety, port security and safety and marine shipping to name a few.
An issue that gets little attention is the manner in which the Conservative government reorganized the committees after forming a minority government last year. Under previous Liberal governments, the House of Commons had a single committee devoted to transport issues, the Standing Committee on Transport, providing a clear and manageable focus for the committee. Following the 2005-06 election and for reasons that have yet to be explained, the government decided to lump several key areas together in one committee, namely what we have now, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Clearly there are numerous transport issues today in Canada that should be reviewed by parliamentarians. However, the government decided that transport issues should receive only one-third of the attention of the committee as they ever have before.
Coming from a municipal background, I can also speak to the importance of infrastructure needs in our cities and communities. To suggest that urgent issues such as the looming municipal infrastructure crisis deserves only one-third of parliamentary committee time shows that the government is seriously out of touch with the needs of our cities.
One only needs to look at the comments of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on this week's economic statement to see the manner in which the Prime Minister has left municipalities and cities in the lurch.
Gordon Steeves, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated in a press release dated October 30:
The government has so far failed to tackle this [municipal infrastructure] deficit, one of the most critical issues facing Canada's cities and communities, with a long-term plan and commitment.
He said further:
Today's actions by the government leave this [municipal infrastructure] deficit untouched and continuing to grow, and the longer we fail to tackle it, the greater the cost when we finally do.
Despite the cooperative spirit and hard work done by all members of the committee, it was unfortunate that the bill died on the order paper following the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue and hence delay resuming Parliament in order to ultimately force confidence votes on the opposition apparently in the hope of forcing another federal election, which Canadians do not want.
It is a shame that we are double billing Canadian taxpayers for work already completed. Instead, we should be moving on to other new issues, such as the renewal and strengthening of Canada's Railway Safety Act, merely an example.
The transport, infrastructure and communities committee performed due diligence on the bill. We heard from many key witnesses, as stakeholders, such as the Air Line Pilots Association, Transport 2000 Canada, Union of Canadian Transport Employees, Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Air Canada Pilots Association, Canadian Federal Pilots Association, Helicopter Association of Canada, Teamsters Canada, Canadian Business Aviation Association, Air Transport Association of Canada, Canadian Airports Council, International Civil Aviation Organization, DaxAir Inc., Air Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, National Defence officials and Transport Canada officials.
The common theme with all of the witnesses who appeared before the committee—
October 30th, 2007 / 4:55 p.m.
Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC
After first reading and debate on second reading, the Bloc Québécois opposed Bill C-6—that is a fact. In fact, we had a number of misgivings about the safety management systems that would cover all aspects of safety and that did not provide us with guarantees that the scrupulous inspections done by the federal check pilots could continue. At the same time, we had a lot of indications to suggest that the number of check pilots would be reduced in the future.
I and my colleague from d'Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel made a serious and careful study of the bill. In committee, we held 11 meetings to hear witnesses from all the parties: pilots, federal officials and lobby groups. We also held six special meetings for the clause by clause study. After examining all of the clauses, we produced a report that has recently been tabled in the House, proposing 20 amendments to the bill.
Our concerns in the Bloc related specifically to the safety management system, and also the designated organizations, because we had no way of knowing precisely what their responsibilities would be in this system as a whole.
We heard the various parties, and even Mr. Justice Moshansky, an aviation expert, who conducted the probe into a major air crash. He told us that the clause dealing with designated organizations should be preserved, but narrowed. That is what we then did, taking into account all of the good comments received, and seeing clearly that this safety management system could produce good results.
It is important to note that opinion on many sides is that air safety in Canada is in very good shape, although it could still be improved. That is why, at second reading of Bill C-6, on November 7, 2006, the Bloc Québécois opposed the bill in principle in its original form. Not only did it not provide for improving safety, it ran the risk of having the reverse effect, based on the content of the bill at that time.
I would like to list a few of the main amendments to the Aeronautics Act proposed by Bill C-7. First, we are asking for additional regulation-making powers in relation to, for example, measures to reduce aircraft emissions and mitigate the impact of crew fatigue, and safety management systems for Canadian aviation document holders.
Another amendment relates to new powers, comparable to the powers of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, to be assigned to the Canadian Forces Airworthiness Investigative Authority, so that authority can investigate air accidents and incidents involving military personnel and civilian business operators.
A third amendment would add provisions to encourage aviation document holders to voluntarily report their safety concerns without fear of legal or disciplinary action.
We would then like to include provisions for greater self-regulation in low-risk segments of the airline industry.
And last, we are asking that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities be given more resources for enforcing the law and imposing more severe penalties on offenders.
The provisions of this new bill are identical, with a few exceptions, to those of Bill C-62. The majority of changes were proposed to improve and increase regulatory powers with the objective of facilitating the implementation of safety management systems.
According to the department, these systems constitute a new approach to safety. Rather than depending on surprise inspections, this new approach places the emphasis on monitoring the safety practices established by the airline companies themselves. For example, a company will implement its own training procedures for its staff. Transport Canada will ensure that these procedures achieve the objectives and are actually followed.
In addition, a voluntary reporting system provides a mechanism for employees to evaluate themselves, enabling them to improve and to set an example for their colleagues. Individuals will not be identified when the self-evaluation forms are made public, in order to allow staff to use this mechanism without fear of consequences.
According to the department, this new approach has had good results in Australia and Great Britain. The purpose is to correct mistakes or failings of which Transport Canada may never have heard. The department believes that this initiative will provide the assurance of additional safety because the company will police itself, even before Transport Canada gets involved. The department hopes to concentrate its resources on the most sensitive areas.
At second reading, on November 7, 2006, our main criticism of the bill was the establishment of safety management systems, or rather the fact that they were being formalized.
It is true that at first glance this mechanism seems promising because it enables all stakeholders to make a contribution toward the improvement of safety. To do that, it provides a certain immunity and confidentiality without compromising information currently available. However, those management systems could very well be a pretext for the department to abandon its obligation for monitoring and inspection so that, in the end, it would have the reverse effect of contributing to an increase in the risks associated with air transport.
Safety management systems effectively remove the burden of safety management from the shoulders of the government and place it on the airline companies that are told to regulate themselves. In the opinion of the Bloc Québécois, that does not make sense. In an industry as competitive as air transport, cost cutting is a necessity. Safety then becomes another expense that has to be reduced as much as possible. Without the standards and frequent inspections by qualified personnel, it is probable that the most negligent carrier will set the standard because its costs will be the lowest. From time to time, an accident will serve as punishment to those who go too far, just as one or more serious accidents will serve to remind parliamentarians that their role is not just to vote for legislation but also to ensure it is applied.
Since that scenario is not the one that we support, the Bloc Québécois has proposed amendments to maintain and improve the monitoring and inspection role of the department. Safety management systems will not replace the department's inspections and will be better defined and regulated. The testimony of Captain Daniel Maurino of the International Civil Aviation Organization before the committee on March 21 speaks for itself.
My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel told him at that time that what he said during his appearance before the committee was important, and that his words needed to be properly understood. Captain Maurino agreed that ICAO advocated that all safety management systems must be subject to regulatory supervision. In other words, ICAO believes that an SMS is another way of ensuring safety, but we still need to maintain a system of regulatory supervision. When asked that question by my Bloc Québécois colleague, Captain Maurino responded in the affirmative.
The Aeronautics Act will contain a clear definition of a safety management system. It will make the minister responsible because “The Minister shall maintain a program for the oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety established by the Minister.” The legislation will specify the minimum content of regulation of the safety management system.
Concretely, the Minister of Transport could designate one or several organizations under certain conditions.
In particular, the organization would be subject to an aeronautical safety study, and the results of the study must show that its activities represent a low level of risk in relation to aviation safety and security.
Once a year, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will table a list of all designated organizations in both houses of Parliament. Finally, the provisions dealing with designated organizations will only come into force three years after royal sanction of the legislation.
In the view of the Bloc Québécois, this amendment was necessary because, at present, Transport Canada is having some problems in establishing safety management systems. It would thus be premature to give the green light to designated organizations to implement SMS when the department was still testing them.
Captain Maurino from the ICAO summed up the situation following another question when my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel — who can be rather voluble —indicated to him that Transport Canada’s approach caused a problem for us.
I will quote the exchange between my colleague and Captain Maurino.
Mr. Mario Laframboise: You audited Transport Canada's operations in 2005. In March of 2006, after safety management systems were put in place, Transport Canada terminated the National Audit Program which targeted the eight largest air carriers in the country. This means that the eight largest air carriers are no longer subject to an annual audit.
I won't ask you a question about that, because perhaps you're embarrassed by Transport Canada's actions, but I don't feel that Transport Canada is being reasonable by terminating an audit program simply because safety management systems were put in place.
Would you agree with me?
Capt Daniel Maurino: Yes, sir. In any change there is a transition period. What is the safety picture going to be in 20 or 25 or 30 years' time? Nobody really knows. If SMS evolves to the potential that we hope it will achieve, there may be a scenario in which audits are no longer going to be necessary.
But we're at the beginning. I want to reinforce a notion that I have expressed already. We're talking about SMS as if SMS were a done deal. It is not. We're at the beginning. We haven't even landed. We haven't even started this campaign. I believe that what's going on here is the fate that trailblazers suffer, which is growing pains.
In many aspects, we're learning as we move, and we become wiser as we get additional feedback. What I'm trying to say is that this early in the game, taking any radical measures, whatever they might be, would be unwise. I think the elimination of an inspectorate force, audits, or other conventional mechanisms that have ensured safety in aviation for over sixty years would not be applicable until we are absolutely certain that what we're removing is being replaced by a better system.
I want to remind hon. members that Captain Daniel Maurino is the coordinator of Flight Safety and Human Factors for the International Civil Aviation Organization.
One of the Bloc Québécois' concerns involved the possible contradictions between Bill C-6 and certain parts of the Canada Labour Code. In court, the latter must apply. A number of amendments on this passed thanks to the Bloc Québécois. The provisions of the Canada Labour Code will prevail over the incompatible provisions of the Aeronautics Act.
With respect to protection for whistleblowers, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment to protect employees who provide safety information to Transport Canada inspectors in good faith. The amendment would prohibit holders of Canadian aviation documents from retaliating against such employees.
Amendments were also proposed to ensure that information used in SMSs, such as Transport Canada's audit and inspection reports, could be obtained through the Access to Information Act. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. As my colleague said earlier, you can't win 'em all. Once we see how well the law works, it will be clear what improvements are needed.
Even though senior Transport Canada officials said that these reports could be obtained, in practice, the legislation contains a list of exceptions that allow the department to withhold some information from the public. The Bloc Québécois would certainly have liked to change that with its amendments.
I want to emphasize that in the end, most of the Bloc Québécois' amendments to Bill C-7 were accepted, including the main ones concerning the maintenance of Transport Canada's monitoring and inspection measures and the monitoring of designated organizations.
These amendments make it possible for us to support this bill at third reading as amended by the Standing Committee on Transport.
October 30th, 2007 / 4:50 p.m.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I support the word wrong. I think Bill C-7 is simply wrong.
The witnesses who came before committee, not the ones who were trying to promote the theory of SMS, consistently said that with respect to the actual practicality of its application, this was the wrong bill. The parliamentary secretary is trying to pretend that is not the case. It happened. Witness after witness said this was the wrong bill.
Two classes of witnesses appeared before committee: those who supported the theory of SMS but did not in any way discuss the practicality of what was in Bill C-6 and what would be amended in Bill C-6; and those who said the practicality of how this would be implemented would be wrong for Canada and wrong for air safety. That was clearly a contradiction from the very beginning.
Conservatives continued to say that people spoke to SMS in theory so that must have meant they supported the bill. Very clearly, under questioning from the NDP and from other colleagues in the House, witness after witness said that the practical implementation of Bill C-6 was wrong for air safety. That was the conclusion, and that is why we are voting no.
October 30th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, because he is starting to make personal remarks. This is unworthy of him, given his past and all the work he has done in committee.
In many respects, we are the only adult party in this House. It is not childish to adhere to basic principles. It is not like the Bloc, which wanted absolutely nothing to do with the softwood lumber agreement and then changed its mind 24 hours later. The same thing happened with the Conservative budget. The Bloc was opposed to the budget, then supported it. The Bloc was opposed to Bill C-7 and now is in favour of it. They have to justify these flip-flops, which are clearly not in the interests of Quebeckers.
We always said we were opposed to the idea of the companies managing safety themselves. We always said we did not want to give in on the whole issue of access to information. We were firm about that. There is also the whole issue of allowing company executives to break the law without suffering the consequences. We always said were opposed to those aspects of the bill.
From the beginning, the NDP was consistent, at second and third reading. What I do not understand is why the Bloc changed its mind when that is not at all in the interests of Quebeckers.