House of Commons Hansard #238 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gas.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-23, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act to give effect to a Protocol to amend the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air and to give effect to the Convention, Supplementary to the Warsaw Convention, for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air Performed by a Person Other than the Contracting Carrier, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

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June 4th, 1999 / 12:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock for the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Carriage By Air Act
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12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave, now?

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12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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12:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock for the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

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12:30 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Atikokan
Ontario

Liberal

Stan Dromisky Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-23 on the occasion of its third reading in the House.

On May 27 the members of the Standing Committee on Transport examined the proposed legislation in detail and voted unanimously to send it forward for third reading. I thank my colleagues for having dealt with this bill so expeditiously.

Members will recall that the purpose of Bill S-23 is to amend the Carriage by Air Act so Canada can officially ratify and become a party to two international instruments dealing with air carrier liability, those being Montreal protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara convention. These two documents update and modernize elements of the Warsaw convention which sets out the legal rights and responsibilities of the carrier, passengers and shippers in relation to international air transportation.

This bill will enhance air carrier liability coverage and requirements.

Montreal protocol No. 4 amends the liability regime as it applies to cargo by providing stricter carrier liability and establishing maximum limits. It also simplifies the cargo documentation requirements and authorizes the electronic transmission of information. This transmission of cargo information usually means other than the traditional multicopy air waybill and will provide significant cost savings to carriers and shippers.

It has become extremely important that Canada act quickly to see to this protocol as it came into effect internationally in June 1998. This means that until Canada has been able to deposit its own ratification documents and have the protocol come into effect in Canada, our carriers and our shippers are at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis their counterparts.

The Guadalajara convention on the other hand clarifies the relationship between passengers and shippers for the first part and carriers for the other. This convention is already widely in force. It distinguishes the contracting carrier from the carrier performing the carriage on its behalf and sets out the varying liability of each. This sharing of the liability between contracting and operating carrier when they are not the same has become increasingly important as international carriers, including both Air Canada and Canadian Airlines, join together in global commercial alliances and carry each other's passengers.

Both Montreal protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara convention have the unanimous support of the aviation industry. The industry supports Bill S-23 without reservation and urges parliament to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

I conclude by saying that the intent of Bill S-23 is both timely and non-controversial. It will provide clarity and certainty not only for our Canadian carriers, but for the international carriers with whom they co-operate or compete. It should reduce the potential for litigation and bring improved economies of time and cost to carriers and shippers.

We should move quickly to adopt this short but important bill. To delay would be to increase the length of time our carriers will be at a competitive disadvantage.

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12:35 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to briefly address Bill S-23, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act.

This is routine legislation to amend the Carriage by Air Act and bring Canada into line with other countries in order to implement Montreal protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara supplementary convention. These were themselves extensions of earlier agreements, the Warsaw convention of 1929, which is the basis of all rules governing international carriage by air, and The Hague protocol of 1995 which updated the Warsaw convention.

Among other things, the Montreal protocol simplifies and decreases cargo documentation and brings air billing into the 20th century by authorizing electronic transmission of documents. Unfortunately, it took 23 years to round up the requisite 30 national ratifications of the protocol in 1998, but at least the new rules are in place for the 21st century. It is now imperative that Canada get on board to help its carriers remain competitive.

The protocol also clarifies limits of carrier liability in order to avoid complex international conflict over the settlement of claims. A carrier will be responsible for damages even if it is not overtly negligent, but on the other hand, it cannot be assessed for damages beyond a mandated maximum even in the event of gross negligence. Thus both shipper and carrier are protected from catastrophic losses.

The Guadalajara convention extends the rules of the Warsaw convention to carriage performed by a carrier other than the one with whom the passenger or shipper actually entered into his contract. Why we are adopting this convention 38 years after its initiation is beyond me. The mills of the gods may turn slowly, but compared to the adoption of international rules with respect to air cargo, they are spinning wildly. In any event the bill is now before us and I urge the House to pass it without further ado.

My only serious problem with this legislation derives from its origin down the hall in what, because we are not allowed to call it by its proper name, I generally refer to as hog hollow. Some members refer to it as the other place. The hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans refers to it as the other house. Perhaps outhouse would be more appropriate.

The Senate as currently constituted has no legitimacy and it is not supported by the people of Canada. Nobody elected it and although I would be the first to admit that it does include a few hard working and public spirited individuals, it is overflowing with defeated Liberal and Tory candidates, retired bagmen and other assorted political hacks. At the moment it even has a couple of convicted felons clutched to its bosom.

One might think that because I so thoroughly dislike the institution as currently constituted that I would share the view of those MPs including the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs who at one time or another have called for its abolition. Not at all. The Fathers of Confederation created the institution for a good reason. That reason, although they referred to it as sober second thought, was really to protect the citizens of Canada from their own duly elected legislature.

Now that the House of Commons has degenerated into a rubber stamp for an elected dictatorship, we need an effective Senate more than we ever did. Right now it is not protecting anybody. Why not? Because its appointed Liberal majority has become a mere extension of the PMO, a yes sir, of course sir institution, as malleable and ineffective as the Liberal backbench.

The answer to the problem is not to precipitously trash the institution. The answer is to fix it. The ideal Senate would be a triple E Senate, elected, effective and equal. This is a concept I heartily endorse. I realize there are barriers to getting such an institution and that these barriers are formidable since this would require a major constitutional amendment requiring the consent of all provinces. But reform can proceed as it did in the U.S.A., incrementally.

The United States did not always elect its senators. As a matter a fact the first state to do so was the state of Oregon around the turn of the century. Once it set the precedent, the idea caught fire. It was only about a decade before all of the then lower mainland states had fallen into line.

One E, effective, already exists in theory in the Canadian Senate because the Senate has great power under our constitution. However, it is not generally exercised because of the institution's illegitimacy.

The second E, elected, requires no change other than a change in the heart of the Prime Minister. We have already had one highly respected elected senator, the late Stan Waters. We have right now revved up and ready to come to Ottawa two Alberta senators in waiting who were elected at large by the electors of the entire province of Alberta, Mr. Ted Morton and Mr. Burt Brown. However, the government of today refuses to recognize the wishes and desires of the people of Alberta and those two senators, even though senators—

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12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is the hon. member going to deal with this piece of legislation at any point in time in his diatribe?

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12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I must ask the hon. member who has the floor to try to be more careful in the words that he chooses when he speaks of the other place and also to debate the bill before the House.

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12:40 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, had the hon. member for Brandon—Souris had his ears open, he would have heard me speaking at some length on the details of the bill. I am sure the hon. parliamentary secretary will confirm that.

There is a direct relevance and connection between the use of the Senate as a vehicle for transmitting bills to the House and the bill which was actually transmitted. To me this is a fairly logical connection.

This is a matter of grave importance to the people of Canada. Nothing is more important at the end of the day than the way in which we are governed. All of the other decisions that are made hang on that particular aspect of our lives. If we do not have a good framework for government we cannot have good government. That is fairly simple.

I would reiterate that I never again want to see important legislation coming to the House from that other place and, in effect, taking over the powers of the House of Commons. This is not right. It is not done to my knowledge in the mother of parliaments on which we base our procedures here. It is high time that we brought ourselves into the 20th century and have in the Government of Canada an elected, effective and, hopefully one day, equal Senate.

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

Rick Laliberte Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to speak directly to Bill S-23. Everyone has concerns about the origin of the bill, but we also have to acknowledge to Canadians and to parliamentarians that the bill is to amend the Carriage by Air Act. Canada passed the Carriage by Air Act in 1947 to enact the 1929 Warsaw Convention. Back then, we had biplanes.

Flying to orbit the globe, as Ms. Payette, one of our honourable Canadians, has done and who is now on her way back home, and this whole evolution of air transportation and aerospace transportation is now before us. However, with this modernization came two agreements: the 1988 Montreal protocol and the 1961 Guadalajara convention.

This modernization by amending the Carriage by Air Act is long overdue. The last update, as we said, was over 40 years ago. We have challenges before us in this whole development.

I would like to place a challenge before the House, the government and I guess the Senate. Perhaps there was shortsightedness in the Senate, or perhaps the day was a little blurry or a little too busy, but I think it has overlooked a major issue, a passenger bill of rights for Canadians. We recently witnessed the drafting of such a bill of rights in the United States which will protect the rights of passengers.

The bill is not only about modernizing the whole issue of primary carrier responsibilities. If I board an Air Canada plane tonight and I then have to switch planes, which happens to be Canadian Airlines or Athabaska Airways, the primary responsibility for any rights or liabilities I have would rest with the primary air carrier, which would be Air Canada. Whichever carrier owns the plane I first board becomes the primary carrier. This is highlighted in the bill.

The Montreal protocol is very interesting. It allows air carriers to now use new technology to transmit documents electronically and updates the currency references in the conventions from French francs to the International Monetary Fund of conversion units.

I would like to speak about the first issue of new technology and the whole issue of the environment and how much paper is being wasted on the issue of air transportation in the country.

When we board a plane today, our plane tickets and boarding passes are all made out of flimsy paper that is derived from the fibre of trees. With the millions of passengers, not only in Canada but worldwide, this whole issue has to emerge to a new format. It could be done through the electronic monitoring of passengers in some shape or form, either by card registry or as we do with Interac. A few years ago we dreamed of not seeing a plastic based currency but it is now a reality.

This bill amending the Carriage by Air Act will require and challenge the air transportation industry in Canada to look at the new technologies that will be available for them to be competitive.

In my closing comments, I will speak about competitiveness. I read an article about Canada being pushed on several fronts toward integration with the United States. There is a fear that our Canadian airlines, such as Air Canada and Canadian, would be swallowed up and integrated into an American interest in the future.

We are here to protect our sovereign rights and to make our rules, regulations and passenger bill of rights. We must protect our needs and our industries and make them competitive. One way of doing it is by bringing this forward into the House and by regulating and modernizing our laws.

Unfortunately, the bill before us originated in the Senate and it might be a little shortsighted in terms of not expounding on a bill of rights. If there are opportunities for the government and the minister to possibly amend this bill, it should be done in the near future. Maybe in this parliament we will see that take place here in Canada.

A passenger bill of rights and electronic forms of transactions for passengers, which will eliminate the use of cutting down trees for paper, will protect our aviation industry and the rights of passengers.

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12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I do not wish to take up an extraordinary amount of the House's time, but I would like to speak on behalf of our transportation critic for Cumberland—Colchester.

I would like to take a moment to express our support for Bill S-23. The bill not only receives our support but the support of the Air Transport Association of Canada, a body representing the major airlines and many cargo operators as well. The industry regards this legislation as long overdue and essential for the modernization and commercial viability of Canadian commercial aviation.

I would be remiss if I did not respond briefly to the member from the Reform Party who suggested that because the bill is an S-bill that came from the Senate that perhaps it does not provide a good service for Canadians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not everybody has a lock on all the ideas. The Reform members should certainly recognize that because, quite frankly, I do not believe they have a lock on any good ideas.

The Senate, in its wisdom, decided to bring forward a piece of legislation that is needed and necessary in the industry. The bill amends the Carriage by Air Act by implementing two international agreements respecting air flights, the Montreal Protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara Supplementary Convention.

These multilateral agreements modernize the rules regarding airline liability for passengers and cargo, and also simplify documentation for the international carriage of that cargo. They were originally established under the Warsaw Convention of 1929 and its amendment, the Hague Protocol of 1955.

The Montreal Protocol No. 4 deals exclusively with cargo. It provides that a carrier is liable for damages to cargo to the limits of the liability, but only after those damages have been estimated. As a result, the carrier cannot escape liability by taking all necessary precautions and cannot be assessed damages beyond the maximum limit, even in the event of gross negligence.

Another important feature of Protocol No. 4 is that it changes airline liability for damage to cargo on board an aircraft by removing the requirement that a plaintiff prove that the airline was at fault. Together, these changes will reduce the litigation and contribution to controlling costs associated with insurance and cargo rates.

The Montreal Protocol No. 4 came into effect in the United States in March of this year and thus puts U.S. carriers at a competitive advantage over Canadian carriers.

The Guadalajara Convention clarifies the relationship between passengers and shippers on the one hand and air carriers on the other. It is also widely in force and clarifies the application of the Warsaw Convention to situations where the contract of carriage was made by a carrier that did not actually perform some or all of the carriage by air.

Bill S-23 has received unanimous support. I say that again. Bill S-23 has received unanimous support. All potentially affected parties, including carriers and their associations, the Air Transport Association of Canada, manufacturers, shippers, tour operators, consumers and the legal profession were consulted.

As I have stated, the legislation is long overdue. All aspects of the bill are already in practice worldwide. Canadian carriers and airlines realize it is good business, so does the PC Party. We support the bill and urge quick passage.

Because it came from the Senate does not mean that it is an inferior piece of legislation. What it means is that it was brought forward by a group of individuals who saw a need, reacted to that need and brought it forward to this House.

The Reform Party will never accept that. It never has, it never will and it never can accept that principle. Quite frankly, it is very frustrating for not only myself but most Canadians.

We will support the bill regardless of the letter on it because it is the right thing to do.

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12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?