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

10:15 a.m.

NDP

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

You might have already mentioned this, but I'd like to know how high the airship can go.

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Fleets and Engineering, Discovery Air Innovations

Brian Bower

Are you talking about the length of the flight?

10:15 a.m.

NDP

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

No, it's 10 days, I think.

10:15 a.m.

Vice-President, Fleets and Engineering, Discovery Air Innovations

Brian Bower

The military surveillance vehicles can go for about 12 days. The U.S. specifications were for 21 days.

10:20 a.m.

NDP

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

How high can they fly?

10:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Fleets and Engineering, Discovery Air Innovations

Brian Bower

Up to 21,000 feet, in the case of the military surveillance vehicles, but only 10,000 feet for the commercial vehicles.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Poilievre.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Thank you very much.

I see in your list of recommendations we have here a lot of regulatory changes and updates. If we were to make those cost-free changes, would they allow you to pursue your enterprise? I'm talking to DAI.

10:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

It would be a step in the right direction. We are still faced with the challenge of funding this demonstrator.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Can you provide us with a list of government activities that DAI would be able to bid on were it up and running?

10:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

We could provide that—not today, obviously.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Right, but across the board, whether it's surveillance, movement of cargo to remote northern communities, or military applications, areas where the government is already paying someone else to do the same type of work and you believe your hybrid airships could do better....

10:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

I think we could easily provide that analysis, including our market analysis, if that is what the committee wishes to see. We can provide that.

May 10th, 2012 / 10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

You mentioned the military and the enormous advances in aeronautics during the wars. The difference I see between that and the kind of investment you seek today is that the government was actually purchasing a service. It was purchasing a product. Through that demand pull, there was massive industrial development.

That is distinct from an R and D investment or an industrial subsidy. There is a big distinction between government purchasing a service or product it needs on the one hand and creating an industry on the other.

Governments during the wars did not seek to create aeronautics industries. That wasn't their goal; their goal was to fight a war. To do that, they needed flying machines that could help them fight that war. The government was basically making a commercial transaction, which had the added benefit of creating an industry, but that was not the principle purpose of the government's activity.

The reason I asked my earlier question is that if there are things that government has to buy anyway, if there are transportation services the government has to buy anyway, and you can do those less expensively or better, then we can recommend to Public Works and other departments that procure those services to ensure that their RFPs are open to bids from enterprises like yours. Does that sound helpful at all?

10:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Government Services, Discovery Air Innovations

Garry Venman

That would definitely be helpful. I agree with your point about the government generating a war effort. The comment was meant to be illustrative of the outcomes. I would say that if there were a list of government services that could be met via a commercial application of airships, that would be extremely useful to us.

I think what I'd like to do is to provide the committee with a little more detail. In some cases much of it is about cost avoidance. For example, how much is spent taking people out of the remote communities of Canada and transporting them, typically by air, to major centres so they can receive health care? If we could change how that's done and look at the economics of that, there might be a compelling reason to pursue this.