House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was bank.

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Message from the Senate
Private Members' Business

December 7th, 2006 / 6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-213, an act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals).

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following private bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-1001, An Act respecting Scouts Canada.

Pursuant to Standing Order 135(2), the bill is deemed to have been read the first time and ordered for a second reading at the next sitting of the House.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to express my concerns about the shortfall of funding for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority to provide security services at Canada's airports.

Of particular concern to me is the Thunder Bay International Airport in my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River. This airport serves nearly 600,000 passengers each year. It is the only airport in Canada that does not charge an airport improvement fee to its passengers. In fact, it is the lowest cost NAS airport in Canada. However, this notable achievement has recently been put at risk.

The airport has just been advised that CATSA will not be paying for the full operating costs of the hold baggage screening system that was installed earlier this year. Annual operating costs for the baggage screening system are expected to be $250,000 per year. However, CATSA has indicated that it can only afford to pay $70,000 per year of the costs.

This shortfall of funds has left the airport holding the bag. As a result, the airport will be stuck with the expenses, despite the fact that airports are not supposed to be responsible for security expenses.

CATSA was set up in 2002 to provide air transport security. An air security tax was implemented to pay for these much needed services to ensure security for air travellers in the post-9/11 reality. The government has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from this fee. Revenues for the 2006-07 year are projected to reach $365 million.

In addition, there are currently $375 million in excess revenues in the fund, money that is no doubt collecting a tidy sum in interest revenues.

The way I figure it, at a minimum of 3% interest, the government is earning an additional $11,250,000 this year alone on that fund, but it will not give the Thunder Bay airport $180,000 to pay its bills.

I am very distressed that the government is downloading air security costs to our airports. In the case of Thunder Bay airport, this extra expense will require a 24% increase to raise the funds required to cover the cost. That increase will result in higher travel costs for Thunder Bay passengers, passengers who are already paying the air travellers security charge for their tickets. In essence, this is a double tax. This is more than shameful, I am sure the hon. member will agree with me.

But wait, it gets worse. As a not for profit organization, the Thunder Bay International Airport Authority must charge its customers, the airlines, in order to make money to pay operating expenses.

I am sure the government understands the basic principles of finance. In order to pay expenses, we must raise the money to do so. Spending more money than we make is not good fiscal policy.

The airport is now facing an increase of its expenses and, therefore, it must increase its revenues to pay those bills. The catch is this: the government charges rent to the airport authority based on its gross revenues each year. That is right, gross revenues. Therefore, by adding $180,000 to the airport's expenses, the government has also forced the airport to add that amount to its revenues.

Each dollar of increased revenue effectively carries a 1% surcharge to Transport Canada. and that surcharge is as high as 12% at Canada's largest airports, like Toronto Pearson International Airport.

This situation is absolutely hideous. The government shortchanges the airports by sticking them with the bill for security costs and that funding shortfall results in a windfall for the government.

6:35 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this issue, especially in regard to the role of CATSA within the Canadian aviation security environment and how it relates to airport operations.

CATSA fulfills its obligations and conducts its operations within a fixed budget that is allocated by the Government of Canada. This budget is about fairness to all Canadians and all Canadian airports. CATSA manages these funds in accordance with the government's Financial Administration Act.

At the time of its creation in 2002, CATSA was allocated $1.9 billion for a five year period ending March 31, 2007.

As a result of the increased passenger volumes and expenses, as the member has mentioned, and related screening operating costs, this Conservative government actually granted CATSA in budget 2006 an additional $133 million over two years. That speaks to this government's commitment to the safety and security of Canadians. This represents $45 million for 2006 and $88 million for 2007.

With regard to the responsibility of hold baggage screening, CATSA will be required by regulation to screen 100% of hold baggage on domestic and international flights. Safety and security is our paramount concern. This initiative is part of the government's commitment to enhancing security as a result of, obviously, 2001 events. This has translated into the deployment of 100 projects and 2,500 pieces of screening equipment to the 89 designated Canadian airports over the past four years. What an achievement that is.

CATSA is required by Transport Canada regulation to install security screening equipment in all designated airports. To achieve this, CATSA works in cooperation with airport authorities to design and install the appropriate screening system.

It is no different for Thunder Bay. CATSA signs agreements with airport authorities which clearly define the financial responsibilities for the installation of security screening equipment.

Canadian airports receive from CATSA the funding required to cover construction costs for hold baggage screening equipment and an annual contribution toward the maintenance of the conveyor belt system associated with CATSA's equipment.

The Thunder Bay International Airport collaborated with CATSA on seven different designs for the hold baggage screening area. After an engineering review, CATSA and the airport chose the design they liked and agreed upon a fixed sum for which CATSA would reimburse the airport to cover construction costs.

CATSA's total commitment to the Thunder Bay International Airport is over $3 million. That is for the construction and installation of new equipment, plus the maintenance costs for the conveyor belt system associated with CATSA's equipment.

Consistent with CATSA's policy, other maintenance costs outside CATSA's security screening system are the responsibility of the airport authority, including any expansionary initiatives put forward by the Canadian airport in order to meet traffic demands, which is the case in this particular situation.

CATSA continually conducts reviews with airports to ensure screening processes meet present and future needs.

CATSA fulfills its mission to protect the public by screening critical elements of the air transportation system as assigned by the government. It is no different for all airports across Canada.

This government and this Prime Minister consider safety and security as the highest priority, which is why $133 million was allocated in budget 2006 for CATSA, $26 million over two years for air cargo security and $95 million for rail and transit security.

This government will be fair to all Canadians and all Canadian airports, no matter what province, what territory or what political persuasion of that area.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the government has given more money to CATSA, then the government should be able to live up to its part of the agreement, which was for full operating costs.

If there is a shortfall that was not addressed in the initial agreement, the Thunder Bay Airport Authority advises me that CATSA had still indicated that it was on for full operating costs.

If the government is doing such a wonderful job, I believe the hon. member should take it to the minister and ask him to go to CATSA to see why it is not living up to its part of the agreement.

I believe that rather than compel the airport authority to reinstate an airport fee, a fee that very few airports around the world do not have, with the exception of Thunder Bay airport which is one of the few airports that does not have a fee, and then it is taxed, I am sure the hon. member will understand that this could happen to any airport at any time in western, eastern or northern Canada.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the conclusion that was reached by the member is exactly that. This is a balance between taxpayers and travellers at airports.

The Thunder Bay airport has the least amount of costs. It has no traveller costs and no airport fee. Most airports do have an airport fee and other expenses but it is a balance between taxpayers. They have funded what was required under the agreement.

CATSA does not pay for airport renovations to meet traffic demands, which is the situation in this case. It is being fair, but it is a balance for fairness for all Canadian airports and all Canadians. That is the mandate of this government.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow, at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:42 p.m.)