House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.

Topics

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Halifax has 30 seconds.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a lot of time to respond, but it does not take long to respond to that. Jetsgo is an example of why it is just simply wrong-headed to suggest that the major responsibility for the safety management systems can lie with the airlines themselves. If we have even one irresponsible airline operating, then there is reason to be concerned and, frankly, reason to be critical of this legislation at this point in its current but hopefully not final form.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise on Bill C-7, the unsafe skies act, because I think it is important that Canadians are aware of what is actually in this bill that is being proposed by the Conservatives and that was proposed by the previous Liberal government as well.

Essentially, this bill would do for the airline industry what we saw done for the railway industry and for business aircraft. I will come back to that in a moment. What it does is hand over, through self-serve safety, SMS, the safety management systems of airlines, to the airlines themselves, to the corporate CEOs.

Why would this be proposed by the government? People who came before the transport committee, the chief bureaucrats at Transport Canada, were very clear that over the past few years we have seen a substantial increase in the number of flights in Canada. There is no doubt about that. There has been a steady and substantial increase from one year to the next in the number of flights in Canada.

What have Conservative and Liberal governments done? While they were handing out tens of billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts, they decided that they could cut back on the number of safety inspectors.

According to testimony at the transport committee just a couple of weeks ago, it turns out now that through attrition we have lost a couple of hundred flight inspectors. We are not even at the full strength we were at 10 years ago. We are now down to less than 750 flight inspectors for the entire country.

Let us picture this. We have an escalating number of flights over Canadian skies and a smaller number of people to protect the public interest. What is the brilliant plan? Let us hand over safety management systems to the airlines themselves.

As the member for Halifax said, with some airlines I do not think any of us would have any concerns at all. We have some very well run airlines in Canada. However, not all of them are well run.

And here is the problem with the unsafe skies act. Essentially what it would do is hand over safety management. Whether the airline is an Air Canada or a Jetsgo, it would simply take care of safety itself.

That is simply not acceptable to the vast majority of Canadians, who want to make sure when they put their loved ones on an aircraft that the aircraft is certified as safe and is overseen by registered flight inspectors through the Government of Canada with the tax dollars that Canadians pay to ensure the safety of the travelling public.

We have seen this story before. We saw the same kind of thing happen with railway safety. The government said that we did really did not need to have all those railway inspectors. It said that we should just hand over inspection to the railway companies themselves. What happened? There was an escalating derailment rate, with deaths across the country. Unfortunately, British Columbia in particular is a victim of that wrong-headed and irresponsible policy of self-serve safety in the railway industry.

We are dealing with that legacy today as we see more and more derailments. There are higher rates now than there were before this handover.

We saw the first implementation of SMS with business aircraft. With business aircraft, we had a perfect record. For over more than a decade under the previous system, with flight inspectors in place, business aircraft in Canada were perfectly safe. When I say “perfectly safe”, it essentially means that with business aircraft there were no accidents. There were no fatalities.

We turned over business aircraft to SMS and we have seen the first fatalities. Thus, through this wrong-headed--and let us call it what it is--budget-cutting measure, we have turned a perfect system into a situation where people now are dying, where people are victims.

It did not work for railways. It has not worked for business aircraft. Why would any member of Parliament in his or her right mind vote for a bill that is not going to help or enhance the safety of the travelling public but would essentially do the opposite?

I think it is fair to say that in this corner of the House the NDP has been saying since this bill first came forward that there were problems with it. We tried to fix it in committee. We got a number of amendments through.

Then the government and the Liberals worked together and basically steamrolled the bill through, badly flawed, as the member for Halifax said, with huge gaps that will have a result and an impact on the travelling public.

We do not have to look far. If it did not work for railways, has not worked for business aircraft, then we would think, rather than going for the three strikes and playing some sort of strange dice game with the lives of the Canadian travelling public, that the Conservatives would say that there is a problem here.

The government should say that it is going to have to withdraw this bill and actually look at it and see what the impacts are of cutting back on flight inspectors, handing over safety management to airlines, good or bad, and perhaps most particularly, ensuring both increased secrecy around safety problems that occur in the airline industry and also a get out of jail free card for corporate CEOs. They could violate the law, but they have a confidential reporting system that basically gets them around what essentially should be a safety system that protects Canadians.

These are the fundamental problems with the bill. It has not worked in the two sectors it has been implemented in. This is a big problem.

The Auditor General's report did not analyze the actual impact on safety. All she did was analyze how the paperwork was being handled by Transport Canada. The report that came out a few weeks ago was very harsh in condemning Transport Canada for not getting the paperwork right.

I am not concerned about the paperwork. When the Auditor General says that there are fundamental problems and flaws with the bill, I think the government should sit up and take notice. Members of Parliament should sit up and take notice.

But when the Auditor General says the paperwork has not even been done right, then we have to wonder about the impact with the implementation of this bill. If the government cannot get the paperwork right, we can be darn sure that it is not going to get the safety systems right.

The NDP initially was the spokesperson for the Canadian travelling public. I know now that there are members of the Bloc and the Liberal Party who are now questioning this whole issue and are concerned about it as more and more voices speak up against it, Judge Moshansky being one of them. There are the flight inspectors across this country who are concerned about the impact on safety. I could mention many more.

Fortunately, the fact that the NDP has been speaking up has led to other voices being brought forward. That is why we are opposing this bill.

Aeronautics Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster will have two minutes to conclude his remarks the next time this bill is debated in the House.

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

6:25 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to come back to the question I asked the Minister of the Environment a few weeks ago, on April 14, in which I mentioned a critical situation in the Pointe-au-Père National Wildlife Area, near Rimouski. That area has become part of Rimouski in the past few years. I agree with the hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup who says that is a very beautiful part of the country.

This site has been completely abandoned by the federal government. Campers and pets are allowed there unsupervised. The sewers are overflowing. As a result of the federal government's chronic lack of involvement, migratory birds have deserted the site.

This is a major problem because the government had declared the Pointe-au-Père site a protected area since it is an essential habitat for migratory birds that are at risk.

Lack of funding and human resources have really put this natural habitat at risk. I am sure my colleagues in this House understand what it means to save species at risk and to save a natural habitat.

The minister confirmed that he felt this national wildlife area was still valuable. He said there would be increased surveillance at the Pointe-au-Père site in particular.

I will personally see to it that the government keeps its promise and that both financial and human resources are allocated to protect this important site forever.

There is a lot of work to do because, as I said, this federally protected area has been not only neglected but outright abandoned by both the current and previous governments.

The Government of Quebec and the municipalities of Rimouski and, for a time, Pointe-au-Père, have had to do what they could to look after this protected area.

This issue is still current. The environment commissioner's latest report revealed that several federally protected areas are at risk for want of management plans and adequate resources.

Once again, what does the Conservative government plan to do about this, not just for our protected area in the Lower St. Lawrence, but for other areas within our borders?

Unfortunately, we have seen that the government does not really care about conservation organizations, such as ZIP committees—committees for areas of prime concern—which take care of various St. Lawrence River protection and promotion projects together with the Government of Quebec and communities.

These organizations have already been weakened by the government's delays in providing the funding they need for their projects, and now their projects are being put off even longer. That is what happened to 14 Lower St. Lawrence ZIPs, and one of them in particular.

Eventually, we got an answer. However, I would like to reiterate my question. Funding decisions for the new year are supposed to be made in October or November, so why are those decisions not made, and why are people not informed? Even though we prevailed for the Lower St. Lawrence—and I am really happy about that—there was no reason to make the ZIPs wait that long. That was ill-considered. These organizations are important to us, and we should be able to depend on the government to look after them.

6:30 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, conserving the wildlife heritage is a real concern to this government. I am, therefore, happy to return to the item raised by the independent member from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques last April 14 concerning the Pointe-au-Père National Wildlife Area.

The Pointe-au-Père National Wildlife Area, located on the outskirts of the city of Rimouski, is a popular destination and it is a source of pride for all residents in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region. It is also under a great deal of stress from human presence and we are, therefore, giving it very special attention.

The government has accepted the commissioner's report and is committed to taking the action that the previous Liberal government failed to take. Many of these problems were flagged under the Liberals years ago. What did they do? They did absolutely nothing.

Our government is clearly taking action where the former Liberals fell short. In the 2007 budget, our government announced a 50% increase in funding to enforce environmental legislation, which amounts to 105 additional officers across Canada, including 38 specifically assigned to wildlife conservation legislation. In particular, this funding will enhance monitoring activities within Environment Canada's protected areas network.

Canada has tough environmental regulations, the toughest in Canadian history. However, regulations mean nothing to polluters in the absence of a strong team of environmental enforcement officers. This government is committed to protecting and preserving our fragile lands.

Our environmental officers regularly visit the national wildlife areas and migratory bird sanctuaries to ensure the regulations are being upheld.

To answer the concerns raised by the member today, officers visited the Pointe-au-Père National Wildlife Area on April 16 and corrective action will be taken.

It is through the strong leadership of the Prime Minister and the environment minister that we are getting things done and ensuring that our environment remains clean, safe and protected. It will take time to clean up the legacy of Liberal mismanagement on federal protected areas but we are taking action with real dollars, moving forward and getting the job done.

I look forward to the member's support. We need to work together and hopefully she will support the commitments that this government has made and the real dollars that we are putting into protecting these sensitive areas.

6:35 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the 40 seconds or so I have left, I would like to say that it is surprising to hear the Conservative government blaming others again. The Conservative Party is the one in power at this time.

I am glad I asked the question on April 14 and 16. People were there to keep a close watch and look into what was happening at Pointe-au-Père, in order to solve the problem of the gross negligence that we have seen.

As for the government's obligations, can the parliamentary secretary tell us in practical terms how much Environment Canada will invest in this site in order to correct the situation? He talked about 35 people across Canada, but how many people will visit the Pointe-au-Père site on a regular basis, in order to ensure that it will be revitalized?

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member acknowledged the presence of the government. We are in government and, unfortunately, she voted against the funding for which she is now asking.

I would like to remind the member opposite of some of the examples of this government's commitment to the environment and conservation just in the last year alone.

We have committed to a 50% increase in the number of enforcement officers to ensure these stringent regulations are respected. We have massively expanded the Nahanni National Park Reserve, setting aside a land mass twice the size of Nova Scotia in the Northwest Territories for a future national park. We have created the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, which is the largest freshwater marine park in the world. I could go on and on.

We are getting it done. I would ask the member to support the government, not only in words but in actions.

6:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 9, 2008, a little over two months ago, I asked a question in this House about what is being done by the federal government to help the manufacturing sector to get through the current crisis. I mentioned that the federal government's current aid in the $1 billion trust fund granted $20,000 per job lost in Alberta compared to $2,276 in Quebec, while Alberta has lost just 2% of jobs compared to 34% for Quebec over the past three years. This illustrates the unfairness of the current system.

In the meantime, unfortunately, a significant number of job losses have been added—just look at the automobile plant closure in Oshawa. Those job losses have a major impact throughout Quebec because 2,400 jobs in Quebec are tied to sub-contracts with that plant.

Unanimous recommendations from the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology were supported by the Standing Committee on Finance with respect to refundable tax credits for companies that do research and development. We do not see the federal government taking any action. Does its ideological approach, whereby only the rules of the market matter, still apply? The public does not support that approach.

Or is it because it wasted money and did not use the tools it should have used, such as the $10 billion surplus it put toward the debt on March 31, 2008, even though Canada's debt to gross domestic product ratio is better than any other G-7 country's? The “pay off the debt” mentality is not meeting today's needs. Instead, we need the government to put money into the economy, not in the form of subsidies, but in the form of a fiscal framework that would help our companies deal with these realities.

Can my colleague tell me whether the Conservative government has a plan for new ways to help the manufacturing sector, which is still facing the same difficulties? That is what is happening now in Quebec and Ontario. Right now, Canada has a two-speed economy. When the Bank of Canada sets the interest rate, it has to take into account the pro-inflationary situation in Alberta and the situation in the east, Quebec and Ontario, which are having a much harder time keeping their economies going.

The government has the tools at its disposal, so will it decide to use them to ensure that our economy can benefit fully from a little boost in desperate times, when the rising dollar, linked to the rising price of fuel, is wreaking havoc on our ability to compete in the North American and global economies?

Is it not time to use some new tools? Should the government not step up with some new development tools and new ways to support businesses so that we can keep our jobs? Because without that, once all of our manufacturing jobs are gone and have been replaced by maintenance and sales jobs, we will not have what it takes to make our economy work.

Can my colleague comment on whether the government plans to change its approach?

6:40 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the strength of the Canadian economy. We all recognize that Canada is not an island. Challenges from abroad will impact our economy, but we are well positioned to weather global economic uncertainty. Our economic fundamentals remain strong.

As of June 2008, the OECD economic outlook reported:

Canada has entered the current period of weakening global growth from an enviable position.

Indeed, our labour market remains strong. We are still recording job growth, wages are still rising, and a record number of Canadians are in the job market. Indeed, while the United States lost nearly 50,000 net jobs in May, Canada created over 8,000 net new jobs that month. In fact in Quebec alone, we see the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years.

According to Statistics Canada, in May employment rose by 18,000 in Quebec, with a big positive rebound in manufacturing jobs with gains, for instance, in the aerospace industry. Additionally, as the Montreal Gazette recently noted, Quebec is benefiting more than many would think from the same resource boom that has impacted western Canada. It said:

With a forecast $10.8 billion in output this year, Quebec's mining industry is...growing like blazes, helping to spur still more billions in new investment.

Little wonder we now hear continual talk of job shortages and the need for more skilled workers from the province. For instance, just earlier this year Quebec launched an initiative to fill the huge gap in the province's labour shortage caused by an aging workforce. Indeed, some estimates suggest almost 700,000 jobs will need to be filled by 2011 to address this situation.

One of the most striking examples of the extent of Quebec's labour shortage, as referenced in a March 2008 Globe and Mail article, can be found in the community of Baie-Comeau where:

--as many as 600 of the 1,500 workers at the Alcoa aluminum smelter will retire in the next five years.

In the words of Quebec Premier Jean Charest:

These jobs pay on average $60,000 a year. They are good jobs. But you know what? They have a problem in Baie Comeau. Alcoa has a challenge.

To help address that challenge, the Government of Canada is at the table with tangible and constructive measures to support worker retraining and helping communities take advantage of the economic opportunities of tomorrow.

Two of those very positive measures that our government has introduced in that respect are the $1 billion community development trust, which supports communities and workers, and the targeted initiative for older workers, which budget 2008 extended with an additional $90 million in support.

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague referred to OECD remarks, but the OECD also make the following comments.

First, right now, Canada has a two-speed economy, and that is a very dangerous trend because it creates a spiral that puts Quebec and Ontario at a disadvantage. We could well find ourselves in the same position as Holland when petroleum development gained significant momentum and brought other industrial sectors crashing down.

Second, the OECD asked for a new approach to climate change. A lot of jobs could be created in that field.

Finally, some companies are doing well. Five out of 25 industrial manufacturing sectors in Quebec are moving forward, but 20 are moving backward.

Will the government finally provide an assistance program for older workers that will not only retrain people to do other jobs, but also ensure that if they cannot be retrained, they at least have access to something to bridge the gap to retirement?

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that my colleague from the Bloc will recognize the tangible and constructive measures this government brought forward. Including those I mentioned earlier, we have also helped the manufacturing sector with $9 billion in tax relief, including broad-based tax reductions as well as a temporary accelerated write-off for investments in machinery and equipment.

These tax relief measures, along with the community development trust and targeted initiative for older workers, are broad-based measures. Again, our economic plan, “Advantage Canada”, is working for Canadians and Quebeckers.

We are seeing in the May employment data, 18,000 net new jobs in Quebec and there are more positives on the horizon. As Jay Bryan pointed out in the Montreal Gazette this weekend:

The backlog of unfilled orders among Canadian manufacturers has grown strongly in recent months, and is now 20 per cent higher than it was at this time last year.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

(The House adjourned at 6:47 p.m.)