Evidence of meeting #42 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was airport.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Martin Eley  Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport
  • John Crichton  President and Chief Executive Officer, Head Office, NAV CANADA
  • Brigita Gravitis-Beck  Director General, Air Policy, Department of Transport
  • John Thachet  Legal Counsel, Legal Services, Department of Transport

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Good evening, everyone. Welcome to meeting 42 of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are studying the consequences of noise caused by airport operations in urban areas.

Joining us tonight from the Department of Transport is Mr. Martin Eley, director general of civil aviation.

At our last meeting we got to the end of the presentations, but we didn't get to questions. I apologize to the committee for being late. Circumstances prolonged the meeting I was in. But we're here, and we're going to open with questions.

I'll go to Ms. Jennings.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for the presentation that was made last week. The session was cut short.

The issue of airport noise is one that I've been engaged in since early 2008. As a result of significant complaints from residents in my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce--Lachine—which is on the Island of Montreal and includes the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, located in the city of Dorval—any attempts to get a reasonable hearing from the Aéroport de Montréal, ADM, on the part of citizens and on the part of elected officials, was basically brushed aside by ADM. ADM refused the invitations to come to public meetings, which were organized in at least one borough of the city of Montreal. The citizens organized, with my assistance and with the assistance of other elected officials, in order to attend the ADM's annual general meeting in ICAO's headquarters in Montreal in order to question the officials of ADM directly, given that they weren't getting any answers.

I see from your presentation that Transport Canada—the minister and through governor in council orders—has the actual authority to establish noise abatement levels and procedures and to implement them.

My question is, why isn't this being done in Quebec? Why isn't it being done in other areas of the country, where citizens and municipal officials, and in some cases regional officials, are complaining about the noise and the impact on the health of their citizens and other impacts as well?

7:10 p.m.

Martin Eley Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

I'd like to explain a little bit the general process.

The airports have a responsibility to have a consultative approach to establishing the noise reduction procedures in an airport. They're obliged to do that. Once those procedures are established, through a consultative process, they come to Transport Canada, we review them, we approve them, and then they get published by Nav Canada. The airlines are obliged to follow those procedures.

With regard to any issues that get addressed and are raised in the community, the airports have a responsibility to hear those complaints. They do not have a responsibility, specifically, to have committee hearings in response to those comments. They have a moral obligation to listen to the comments.

Their main obligation is to consult on procedures. If they change them, they have to go through a similar process. But if there's no change, they have no specific obligation to have a consultative process. It rests with them, as a responsibility to consult.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

When you say they have an obligation to undertake a consultation prior to submitting a plan with regard to noise abatement to Transport Canada, I can tell you that in Montreal, on the Island of Montreal, the so-called consultation involves a committee, for which it's very difficult to find out who are the members.

There are some elected municipal officials. I believe there's a member of Transport Canada, but I don't know the name. This committee meets in private. There are no notices that are given of the committee's meetings. We do not know how many times it meets a year. We don't know when it meets during the year. We don't know what's on the agenda. The decision that this committee.... There is no consultation that takes place with the citizens via this committee at all. There is no publication of whatever report and recommendations coming from the committee, which would then be sent to Transport Canada.

Basically, you're telling me that an airport authority has complete authority to do what it wishes, and there's no obligation for any real open, transparent, and accountable consultative process with the citizens.

7:15 p.m.

Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

Martin Eley

I'm not sure I have the information here in terms of the constitution of that, but that's certainly the membership of that committee. I believe that's information that we should be able to get and supply to you specifically, because once that is submitted to us, I believe it is part of the public record. If you don't have that information, then we should be able to get that information for you.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I have the information as a result of knowing someone who sat on the committee, but had it not been for that, it would have been difficult to find the names of everyone who was on the committee, the process by which those individuals were actually appointed to the committee, when the committee met, what the committee was considering, and any report that came out from the committee.

On the issue of noise abatement on the Island of Montreal coming from noise from the PET International Airport, there is no public consultation that takes place.

7:15 p.m.

Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

Martin Eley

The obligation is to consult when they're changing procedures. Those procedures may not have changed substantially in recent times, so they may not have had an obligation to consult in recent times.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

In that case, in my view, there's a weakness or a hole in the law and the regulations where they're only required to consult if they wish to make a change to the existing rules and procedures, because if there are a significant number of complaints coming from residents who are directly affected by the flight paths and the hours of the flights, there should be a requirement for further consultation to determine whether or not those procedures and rules and regulations regarding noise abatement for that particular airport are still effective.

7:15 p.m.

Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

Martin Eley

I think it's fair to say that the general practice that we have has been established over time, and, generally speaking, it has worked reasonably well. It may be that with increases in traffic there is time to review that. Nothing is planned at the moment. I take the comment.

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

I have to stop it there.

Ms. Mourani, I understand you're going to share your time with Ms. Lavallée.

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you for being here today, Mr. Eley.

I have a number of questions to ask you about Montreal airport. This is an issue that concerns my constituency. This question was put to me a few months after I was elected in 2006.

Aircraft noise is a problem in my constituency, depending on where people are in the riding. Some places are noisier than others. Generally speaking, most of the population is fed up. That's the situation.

Has Transport Canada studied the impact of ADM aircraft noise on health and quality of life and the overall impact on people's lives? I'm speaking to you specifically about ADM.

7:15 p.m.

Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

Martin Eley

With respect to health, Health Canada is responsible for that question.

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Have you commissioned a study?

7:15 p.m.

Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport

Martin Eley

No. Health Canada is responsible for health. Their representatives sit on our national review committee. It isn't our responsibility to consider health directly. It's their responsibility, not that of Transport Canada.

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

However, ADM is one of your responsibilities at Transport Canada. Am I mistaken or not?