House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nuclear.

Topics

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Twelve.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

On, no. We added a couple just so we could have greater weight in consideration.

I just wonder what the hon. member is talking about when he says this is not a bill in the public interest. I am sorry. I think that we spent several months of study to ensure that it would reflect the public interest. To come into the House and deny the work of committee members to ensure that the public interest is first and foremost and put in this legislation so that it will be the law of the land is an unfortunate reflection on the good solid work of members of Parliament. I think he should withdraw that statement.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

As several of my colleagues have said already, this is a bill that has evolved over the course of many discussions, including those held in committee. We must remember that before the Conservative government decided to prorogue the House, the Bloc Québécois had voted against this bill—which was then Bill C-6—at second reading. Today, we are supporting Bill C-7 because it has changed considerably. I will try to explain this.

Earlier, I was talking about the history of this bill to my Liberal colleague. In the previous Parliament, when the Liberal Party formed a minority government, it introduced Bill C-62, in November 2005. Like the bill now before the House, that was a bill to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. When the Conservatives, in turn, formed a minority government, they brought back that bill in almost identical form, but for a few words. Those are the facts.

When the Conservatives reinstated Bill C-6, they did not bother to ensure that it met the needs of the industry and the people responsible for safety. I am referring to Transport Canada inspectors, and any other agency with the very specific task of looking after safety. We must not forget that Transport Canada had already allowed the airlines to implement their own safety management system without having any legislation for overseeing that system. Before reintroducing Bill C-6, the Conservatives did not bother to make sure that the safety management system had been accredited, although it was included in Bill C-6.

For those who are listening to us, I will try to summarize what the safety management system is. What it does is allow companies to have an internal way of operating that makes it possible for employees to report safety violations within the company. Without this framework, employees might be deterred from working to develop the security management system because they were afraid of losing their job or being reprimanded by their superiors.

This was the Bloc’s big concern. We did not want the safety management system being proposed again in Bill C-6 to replace the entire inspection system in place at Transport Canada. That system is in fact the source of the excellent safety reputation of the entire civil aviation system in Canada, and obviously in Quebec, for the Quebeckers for whose interests we stand up every day in this House. In our opinion, it was very important that the safety management system not replace the entire Transport Canada inspection system. That is why we voted against Bill C-6 at second reading.

We asked that witnesses, including representatives of the International Civil Aviation Organization, be invited to explain to the committee the entire process of implementing the safety management system. Canada was indeed a leader in implementing the safety management system in civil aviation. However, the ICAO representative gave us to understand that implementing a safety management system inside the airline....

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

I thank my colleagues for the applause. So if ever...

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I am sorry, but first, the Minister of Finance want to raise a point of order.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for permitting me to interrupt him here.

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act and to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001, and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Economic Statement
Government Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 4 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I wish to table the government's Economic Statement 2007.

Economic Statement
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Speech.

Economic Statement
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Yes, we will have a speech.

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel will have 15 minutes to conclude his speech.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to allow the hon. Minister of Finance the opportunity to speak. As you know, the Bloc Québécois would have liked to see this budget statement given before this House, but of course, the NDP refused. I therefore had the pleasure of giving the Minister of Finance a few minutes to put on his show.

Once again, I would like to return to the safety management system. It is very important that our citizens clearly understand the changes preferred by the Bloc Québécois regarding this bill, particularly in the interest of their safety. Civil aviation must reassure its clientele, and this was the Bloc Québécois' guiding principle when we voted against Bill C-6 at second reading and as we worked in committee, trying to advance the bill and convince the government that it was off track.

Still we succeeded thanks to the testimony of various stakeholders who did a good job of making the government understand the situation. It finally agreed that civil aviation companies could not be allowed to have a security management system that would replace Transport Canada inspections. The Bloc Québécois wanted to ensure that the entire inspection service was kept, including the inspectors, check pilots, and all the people who can show up occasionally at companies without warning to ensure that they are complying with high security standards. This inspection service had been the great strength of the civil aviation security system in Canada and Quebec.

That was how we did it. Similarly, we were able to make our various partners understand that a vote against this bill on second reading could become a vote in favour of it so long as some important changes were made. I am quite happy with the results. In a minority government, it is the opposition parties that have a majority in committee and we managed together to re-work this bill so that the security management system would be supported and supervised by a good inspection system similar to what we used to have and to what the witnesses told us.

As I said before, the International Civil Aviation Organization representative came to tell us that when a country decides to go to a security management system, it should keep an inspection service to supervise it. That is what this bill does: the minister and Transport Canada are required to inspect the large airlines that have their own security management systems. The management system is just added to the entire security service. It does not replace Transport Canada’s inspection service but is added to the security already provided. This will enable employees to report security problems within the company to their employer without having to fear disciplinary action, thanks to an entire system established under this bill.

We obviously needed to ensure that employees who reveal information about security lapses are protected. We did not want to go so far as an informer system but chose rather a system that would help improve the company and improve its security. This whole system is supervised, and we were obliged, of course, to ensure that the Canada Labour Code took precedence over anything in the legislation. This took time, but the government and my colleagues in the opposition understood very well why we were doing it.

We needed to make sure that if employees had employability problems as a result of making statements within the framework of this system, their employment would be protected. As far as the Canada Labour Code is concerned, it was important to us that it take priority over this bill because this affected the interests of employees in the entire civil aviation system.

Obviously this safety management system starts with those who work on maintenance on the ground or those who take care of any type of maintenance of the plane, including pilots and cabin crew. All these people who work in the civil aviation industry and in a company are now part of this safety management system, which currently applies to the eight major airlines and will also apply to smaller companies.

As far as the smaller companies are concerned, Transport Canada came up with what is called a designated agency, whereby the smaller companies that take adventure tourists by jet or by helicopter to tourist destinations in northern Quebec or other parts of Canada, can be supervised by a designated agency.

Until the larger companies manage to establish a truly effective safety management system, properly inspected by Transport Canada, then it will be rather difficult hand off to designated agencies the companies that are beacons to every part of the industry, the smallest public air carriers, where there are fewer travellers than on the major airlines.

As long as there was no balance in the larger companies, we felt it was too soon to entrust this to other agencies, to create designated agencies to take care of the smaller companies that would have to follow the same safety standards as the larger companies. That is what we wanted to be sure of.

However, before delegating to intermediaries the monitoring of all these activities at smaller public airlines, we wanted to ensure that the system was well in place at major companies. This is why there will be a waiting period before the designated organization is established. Indeed, this organization may become operative three years after the bill receives royal assent. Therefore, designated organizations are maintained. Indeed, such organizations can be established under this legislation.

During those three years, Transport Canada will be able to properly select these organizations, so that we, and of course the public, can be quite familiar with the organizations that will monitor smaller companies. We must be in a position to ensure that they are properly inspected and monitored. It is possible that companies that build aircraft or other things be appointed as designated organizations. This is rather difficult, because these companies have clients.

We want to ensure that these people, because they deal with clients, tighten up safety standards somewhat. We want to ensure that an effective inspection and management system is in place, so that the people, the organizations or the companies that become designated organizations are well aware that they will be monitored by Transport Canada. This is why inspectors will be conducting on-site verifications and inspections at any time, at both larger and smaller carriers, so that everyone who may some day travel on a public airline will be truly protected, and so that their safety will never be compromised.

This is the objective that has always been behind the Bloc's statements in the House. This is why, as I said, we voted against Bill C-6, which is now Bill C-7, at second reading. That bill was incomplete, and it did not guarantee that the inspection system in Canada would be preserved. Instead, it suggested that the safety management system would replace Transport Canada's whole inspection system, which has been in place for the past 30 years.

This bill incorporates the same inspection service. We have been assured that the same number of inspectors will be maintained and perhaps even increased, if necessary. Moreover, the security management system within an operation will allow all employees, regardless of category, whether they work on the ground, in maintenance, in passenger service, as pilots or in other occupations, to file a complaint or disclose a breach of security, which would then enable Transport Canada to investigate any safety management system.

There would be Transport Canada specialists to verify the safety management system and there would also be inspectors to go into a company at any time to examine the quality and condition of aircraft, to determine whether pilots have the required skills, and so forth. All of that, of course, is intended to protect the safety and security of Quebeckers as well as that of Canadians.

On that point, we will never back down.

Apart from the safety management system, we agree with the objectives of this bill as presented: to maintain current monitoring and inspection measures; to qualify designated organizations by establishing a period of three years before they are authorized to exercise their responsibilities. During that period, Transport Canada will take the time to train, coach and supervise those organizations, and later, inspect them. Finally, this legislation will be harmonized with the Canada Labour Code.

If we are moving toward a system where employees have the privilege and the power to point out breaches of security within their operation, it is essential that those employees are protected. To do that, this bill must be harmonized with the Canada Labour Code. We want whistle blowers to be protected. In that way, people who file complaints or disclose breaches of security will be protected and there will be access to an audit and inspection report, through access to information procedures.

On the subject of access to information, the Conservative government still has the bad habit of making such reports as inaccessible as possible. That is not acceptable as part of a bill that provides for 95% of what we are asking for. Obviously, some documents will be made available to the public, but they will protect the great majority of documents from access to information.

Transport Canada and the federal government tell us that it is also necessary to protect the individuals who make those disclosures. Their names and other information must be hidden. We were ready to do that and even to give direction to the information commissioner. We are aware that this could cause problems for national security. Some information must not be disclosed.

However, for the rest, if we know that some employees have made disclosures after an accident, within a company where a safety management system has been established, we would want the entire file to be available to the public. We now understand that will not happen. Only a summary of the disclosure will be available to the public.

We have made some gains but some day there will have to be a real battle over this bill. Time will tell what kind of documents are provided through access to information.

We can understand that it is necessary to protect the names of the people who disclose information. We also understand that those must be voluntary disclosures. Accordingly, companies must encourage their employees to make voluntary disclosures. We can also understand that if the documents are made public, some companies would want to prevent employees from doing so.

We think that once the whole system is up and running, we will have to revisit the access to information issue. If ever an incident or a disaster were to occur, the people of Canada and the whole world would want to know about the company's safety record. That way, we would know whether such accidents happen often and whether companies are doing everything they can to prevent them.

All we are saying is that Transport Canada's report will be made public. The report will summarize briefly—or at length—audits of the company.

That means that we will never see the statements signed by employees. We will just have to accept Transport Canada's periodic audit reports. When Transport Canada audits a company, it has to keep an audit report that details certain criteria, requests and complaints submitted by the companies, but that does not name names. It will be pretty vague. In time, we will see how well this works.

Refusing to make these documents public is the Conservatives' modus operandi, as we have seen over the past few months.

We, the Bloc Québécois, are rather satisfied with the rest of Bill C-7. It differs significantly from what the Liberals introduced in Bill C-62 when they formed a minority government. It even differs significantly from what the Conservatives first introduced.

They copied and pasted what the Liberals did without consulting industry and without ensuring that appropriate safeguards would remain in place. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois was there to help our colleagues understand that once again, safety was about to be eroded. We protected the interests of Quebeckers and those of Canadians, and we are proud of that.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his presentation.

He spoke about the fact that, at the outset, the bill had many problems. The Bloc and the NDP voted against Bill C-6 at second reading, given all the problems with the legislation.

Because of the many problems with the bill, we were able to correct barely half. This bill still has tremendous problems.

First there is the problem of self management. My colleague knows that allowing airline companies to manage their own safety systems poses a problem. Next, chief executives are not penalized if they violate Canadian laws. In addition, there is the matter of access to information and the fact that we now have seven additional sections. The information to which Quebec consumers have access should be set out in the Access to Information Act.

Given these three major problems that were not corrected in committee, because the Liberals decided to support the Conservatives, I find it difficult to understand how the Bloc could support such a bill. It is true that the Bloc and NDP efforts did make it possible to correct some of the problems with this bill. However, the bill is far from being in the public interest. I do not understand the position of the Bloc Québécois.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to make my NDP colleague understand the problem he did not see.

Safety management systems already exist in Canada. If we do not do something quickly, this could deteriorate. For the Bloc, it is clear that self-assessment, along with maintaining an inspection service identical to the one we have now—as we succeeded in making the government understand—is no longer self-inspection. The system is in addition to current safety measures and is supported by Transport Canada. This was difficult because Transport Canada wanted to replace its inspection service with this safety management service. The problem is that it is already in force. The eight biggest airlines are already using the safety management system. They must be encouraged.

As for the other part of his problem—making everything public—that worries me. One thing is certain: if we want to encourage the disclosure of information, we must encourage the company to give its employees the requisite means. If everything down to the last comma is made public, there could be a problem when it comes to implementation. We want this to be implemented as soon as possible. This is why I said we would probably change our minds about what is made public through the Access to Information Act. I think that when there are tragedies, there will be questions from the public and the media, who will find that what Transport Canada provides is not enough. I do not want to jeopardize the ICAO's supervision of the existing system. We are not the only people in the world with this system.

The International Civil Aviation Organization would like safety management systems to be implemented in all countries. Canada has implemented such a system, and our great concern is that it will eventually replace the inspection system, which would be a mistake according to ICAO representatives. I think that the problem is that my NDP colleague might have had a little trouble grasping that but, the more he discusses with us in this House, the more he is progressing.