House of Commons Hansard #46 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to speak again on the issue of aviation safety.

On October 18, I asked the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities why we had not seen the government follow up on its commitment to bring on line a full complement of operational inspectors for our aviation industry.

The minister said that I was attacking the integrity of the Transport Canada workers. Nothing could be further from the truth. I was attacking the integrity of the bureaucracy in the government, which in May 2010 promised us, at the transport committee, that it would go through the process of hiring some 98 Transport Canada aviation operational inspectors who were missing at that time.

The sad state is it is worse. There are fewer aviation inspectors now than there were in May 2010. We have actually stepped backward a bit from that point.

I certainly did not attack the integrity of the inspectors, who are working flat out without a full staff. However, the government, which promised to do this and knew these problems were developing in aviation safety for small carriers across the country, in November 2009, when it delayed the implementation of SMS for small carriers, admitted we had a problem in safety in Canada among small carriers.

The crashes that have occurred across northern Canada in the past 12 months all appear to be operational in nature and appear to be the kinds of crashes that are associated with the operation of an aircraft, not mechanical in nature. It certainly sheds some light on what is happening inside our aviation system.

I was transport critic for this party in the last term. The transport critic before me put the same effort into aviation safety. We understand the importance of it to Canada and to the people who have to fly in small planes in conditions that are fast-changing across northern Canada, where climate change has made the weather systems very uncertain.

The situation now is we have 595 positions in aviation safety across the country and only 382 are filled. This is especially noted in the Prairies and northern regions and in the Atlantic regions. These are issues that affect people flying.

What has caused this issue? The issue has been exacerbated by the government, first, pushing the small carriers into SMS. Then when the government removed them from the SMS system, it did not really put back in the system of oversight that was used prior to that.

Now we have a situation where small carriers are not bound by SMS, yet they do not have the oversight, the on-the-ground inspections that small aircraft carriers across the country relied on to keep their safety standards to a high extent, and this is a bad situation.

The simple message for the government is to hire the inspectors, put the system back in order and give the Transport Canada workers the manpower they need to do the job for Canadians across the country.

November 15th, 2011 / 6:50 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, Canada has one of the safest air transportation systems in the world, a fact recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization. During the last decade we have seen a continual decline in the accident rate. In fact, we recently saw the total number of accidents decline to the lowest recorded figure in 10 years. Those are numbers we can be proud of.

Make no mistake though, Transport Canada officials take every accident seriously. Our thoughts go out to those affected by the tragic accidents in the north. We are supporting the Transportation Safety Board in getting to the bottom of those incidents.

To date, Transport Canada has taken several steps in response to the accidents. We have appointed a minister's observer to support the investigation and to keep the department informed of its progress. We are conducting a post-accident review to verify compliance with aviation safety regulations. We are evaluating if there are any issues that need immediate attention. We are reviewing data to determine if these accidents represent a trend when compared to past years.

I appreciate that now more than ever northern air carriers are faced with many unique challenges. Their services are crucial to the livelihood of many and they do excellent work every day to support their communities. Transport Canada has a robust safety program in support of these operators and verifies the safety of their operations.

The implication that our oversight program is weak is false. We dedicate more than 80% of civil aviation safety resources to oversight activities like inspections. Since 2007, our inspector position totals and staff have increased. What is more, our oversight model is based on a risk approach that allocates resources to the areas where they provide maximum safety benefit.

Our surveillance procedures include planned and unplanned inspections to verify compliance with aviation regulations. These inspections involve on-site interviews with staff and reviews of companies' safety practices. Today, in addition to traditional surveillance methods, our inspectors evaluate the safety systems within companies. Companies go beyond meeting traditional checks and balances and ensure that they tailor their safety and their risk management strategies to their operations.

This approach is a global standard and our work has put us ahead of the world. I stand proud that our experiences can be used as a model for other authorities around the world to follow as they implement their safety systems.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, certainly we can talk about Canada's aviation safety record. We can talk about SMS as being leading edge, but in reality, there is no other country that would institute SMS without proper oversight. This is the question that we have for the government. Why has this not happened?

The Conservatives agreed in 2010 that they would replace and fully complement our operations inspectors across this country, but they have not done that. When it comes to the situation right now in terms of the safety of the travelling public, we can divide it into two groups. Statistically, if we take Canadian aviation as a whole, large carriers that have the internal ability to provide good safety systems are generally safe, but with respect to small carriers, the government agreed in 2009 to back off from SMS with small carriers, and that is where we need the oversight. I wish the government would go ahead with this in a good fashion.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, Canada's aviation safety record is one of the best in the world. We recently saw the total number of incidents decline to the lowest recorded figure in 10 years. When an accident does happen we do take it seriously. Transport Canada is looking closely at the recent accidents that have taken place to which the hon. member has alluded to determine if there are any issues that need to be addressed immediately. However, it is inappropriate to attack our aviation safety program when it has received international recognition as a world leader.

As a result, the department has continued to work with stakeholders in order to preserve the security and the safety of our system to protect Canadians and to keep our planes in the sky.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:58 p.m.)