Evidence of meeting #36 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was air.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Geoffrey Tauvette  Director , Fuel and Environment, WestJet
  • Didier Toussaint  President and Chief Executive Officer, Top Aces Inc.
  • Garry Venman  Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations
  • Brian Bower  Vice-President, Fleets and Engineering, Discovery Air Innovations

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Are you talking 2015 to actually have a commercially viable operation? Am I understanding that correctly? Or is that just to get to the demonstration point?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

That would get the demonstration complete, but our hopes would be, then, to subsequently take that demonstrator and put it into commercial operation while the remainder of the fleet is being manufactured.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

The demonstration work is going to be done in 2015. What's your projection for when you're actually going to sign commercial contracts after 2015, and be ready to start developing a facility and to be building, hopefully, like you say, several more or quite a few more of these particular hybrid air vehicles?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

By the end of 2014 to mid-2015, we will have completed that demonstration phase. The only thing really that would stop you from going to commercial operations at that point would be one of the industry partners saying, “Okay, we're happy with the technology. Let's enter it into commercial operations.”

At that point, you would then crank up your manufacturing process.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Have you starting building?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

No, we have not started building.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Is the engineering and all that completed on the prototype that you want to build?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

There are still some design elements to be completed.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Elmwood—Transcona, MB

When you're saying 18 months and 2014, I'm just looking at the math and seeing it means that you pretty well have to start today. Eighteen months from now is the end of 2014. Are you at that stage?

I guess what I'm trying to do here is build a case for.... What's the return on investment timeframe? If the government does invest in this, what is the ROI?

You were looking at basically out-of-the-box financing because of your concerns with standard financing. What's the ROI on your venture, never mind all the other possibilities, but on your venture itself?

10:10 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

To answer that question, we would have to bring you a business plan. We can do that, but for me to answer that question now would be speculative at this point in time.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Ms. Day, welcome.

May 10th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Good morning. Thank you for answering our questions.

The budget will soon be adopted, and the Government of Canada will vote on funding that will enable big businesses to promote the safe use of natural gas in our homes and to advertise to say that it is a very clean source of energy. So we can say that nothing has been lost from the start. Everything is possible with our taxes, and that money will not be going back to taxpayers. Just to reassure you.

We are talking about research and development. You work in pure research and development. Bombardier wouldn't have its current infrastructure if our various governments had not, at one point, invested and approved loans that were later paid back and that enabled the company to develop. We would almost believe we were in Star Trek. We're talking about prototypes that still need to be developed, and that's no small feat.

I'm a little bit concerned about the various ranges of maintenance and other services at the Jean Lesage Airport. I have difficulty imagining this mode of transportation, which is larger than the airport itself, landing where we live. But what I really like about your product is that it can go anywhere. It can transport dozens of houses to a given location, in order to develop a region. Frankly, the big oil companies and diamond and gold mining companies will need to put their infrastructures in place quickly. Infrastructure has often been mentioned as one of the problems with getting established.

My question is along those lines. When it comes to the transport of liquids, could they be adapted to replace pipelines and transport natural gas from Alberta to western Canada, for example?

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Fleets and Engineering, Discovery Air Innovations

Brian Bower

Yes, I would say so. There are ISO liquid transport systems with a container that can carry close to 30 tonnes. They can transport liquid gas, while respecting the standards for transporting dangerous goods. For transporting untreated materials, even if it's something worth $3 per cubic metre, our market studies show that air transport is not cost effective if there are no other options for delivering the product. It would be better to use roads or waterways.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

There was a lot of development in this type of transport in World War I and World War II. It used hydrogen and was very dangerous. We all remember the zeppelins that caught fire in New York. Well, we don't remember it, but we've seen it. It's big, it's huge. Of course, we need to make people safe because an accident would have enormous consequences. But what you can do is go and find all the cargo with a boat.

The engine isn't small, so where there is space, could you really land it anywhere, on water or on various kinds of terrain?

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Fleets and Engineering, Discovery Air Innovations

Brian Bower

It can land on any flat surface that can support a certain weight, within two feet. We don't use hydrogen to make the airship fly, but instead we use helium, a non-flammable gas. Depending on the weight of the load when the airship lands, it can land vertically.