House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugee.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Airline Industry
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

March 26th, 2012 / 3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The Chair has notice of a request for an emergency debate by three members.

Airline Industry
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 19, Aveos shut down all of its operations in Montreal, Mississauga and Winnipeg, while maintaining the operations of its subsidiary, Aeroman, in El Salvador.

This will be devastating for about 3,300 unionized and non-unionized employees, and constitutes a direct threat to maintaining Quebec and Canadian expertise in the maintenance of jumbo jets and in high tech. Montreal has been hit especially hard, with the loss of about 2,400 unionized and non-unionized jobs.

In 1988, as one of the conditions for privatizing Air Canada, the Conservative government insisted that maintenance centres would have to remain in Montreal, Mississauga and Winnipeg. These conditions were included in the Air Canada Public Participation Act. The importance of the aerospace industry is one of the reasons why the Minister of Finance is responsible for enforcing the 1988 legislation, which is why I addressed my question to him today.

Furthermore, on March 20 the Quebec premier threatened to take legal action against Air Canada because it violated the 1988 act, and against the Government of Canada because it failed to enforce the legislation.

The mayors of Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga also highlighted the importance of acting quickly and bringing the parties together in order to preserve the infrastructure and the high tech jobs. The mayors reminded us, correctly, that Air Canada is not an average private company, but rather our national carrier. We therefore need to come up with solutions in the spirit of the 1988 legislation, under which Air Canada must keep its maintenance centres in their municipalities—not in Windsor, but in those municipalities.

In this unstable context, Air Canada pilots have also publicly expressed their concerns about the safety of the planes they are flying. It is all very worrisome.

There is also an urgent need to debate this matter because of the dubious negotiations surrounding this shutdown and the entire issue of the depletion of Air Canada's assets since 2005. On March 19, 2012, Aveos filed for CCAA protection, stating that, “its main client reduced, cancelled and deferred maintenance work...which resulted in about $16 million in lost revenue in less than two months”.

Experts agree that Air Canada had to have known that its service provider was in trouble. But instead of helping Aveos, Air Canada took work away from it. Yet Air Canada has a contract with Aveos to maintain its planes until 2013. Why did Air Canada push Aveos to the brink of bankruptcy? And why did Aveos allow Air Canada to do so and not demand that the company honour its contractual obligations?

Air Canada's parent company is ACE Aviation Holdings, which plans to pay its shareholders a final bonus of nearly $300 million on April 25. According to economic reporter Martin Vallières, by liquidating various parts of Air Canada, including its technical services, ACE Aviation Holdings has managed to pay its shareholders roughly $4 billion over the years, through stock redemption and other procedures.

By failing for years to compel Air Canada to obey the 1988 act—this is not a new situation—the Government of Canada has been a willing accomplice in liquidating the assets of a Canadian company to benefit shareholders who, increasingly, are foreign, including Robert Milton, ACE Aviation Holdings' president, who, as the instigator of this shady financial operation, has paid himself $52 million in salary and bonuses since 2006.

In conclusion, unless this situation is turned around, this government's inaction will leave Air Canada a sick corporation, a pale imitation of its former self, a company that failed to meet its legal obligations to maintain, primarily in Montreal, its top-quality aircraft maintenance expertise.

Mr. Speaker, I therefore request an emergency debate, because what is happening is completely lacking in common sense.

Airline Industry
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I believe this is a critically important issue.

As we heard today in question period, it appears that the government is somewhat acknowledging there could be a violation of the law, through the Air Canada Public Participation Act, to the degree in which it is now referring it to a committee.

We disagree. We believe that the government needs to take stronger action. I would argue that all members of the House currently believe something has really gone wrong here. We in the Liberal Party acknowledge that Air Canada has in fact broken the law.

Earlier today in question period, I read precisely what the Air Canada Public Participation Act says and it guarantees those jobs. I would like to emphasize how critically important this issue is.

In terms of the law itself, on April 12, 1988, here in the House of Commons, the Conservative deputy prime minister at the time, Don Mazankowski, said, first, “Maintenance and overhaul centres in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Toronto are fundamental to the success of Air Canada”. Second, “None of these centres will lose its importance”. Third, “The centres will continue to expand”. Fourth, “The company fleet maintenance will continue to be done at those locations”. Fifth, “The act would have to be amended if there were going to be any modification concerning the transfer of Air Canada's overhaul centres to another location”.

The law is very clear. The issue we need to debate today in an emergency fashion is whether the government will enforce the law or change the law?

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that you might want to consider canvassing the House to see if there would be leave to accommodate this very important debate today.

Airline Industry
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, we too are requesting an emergency debate on the closure of Aveos' Canadian facilities. I will not launch into a substantive debate because I believe we will have the opportunity to do so during the emergency debate.

We have heard a lot about this issue today and for the past week. I would like to emphasize the need for this emergency debate and the reasons why we have to have it right now.

We believe that with the closure of the Aveos facilities, Air Canada is currently violating the law. We also know that since Aveos has declared bankruptcy, it has already announced its intention to liquidate assets as soon as possible, while currently under bankruptcy protection. That protection will be lifted on Tuesday, April 3.

As parliamentarians in the House of Commons, we have to be prepared for the moment when this protection is lifted in order to prevent the liquidation of assets. We have to protect not only the jobs, but also the expertise that the company has developed over the years, initially through Air Canada of course, and ensure that Canada can maintain its expertise in aeronautics. It would be extremely harmful if Aveos were to leave and if it had to be scattered to the wind because we did not react quickly enough.

For those reasons, we think there should be an emergency debate in the House of Commons and we are requesting one as soon as possible.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I listened carefully to the presentations by the hon. members for Ahuntsic, Winnipeg North, and Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques and I understand and very much respect the importance they are giving this matter.

However, in these matters, the Speaker must be guided by the Standing Orders. Standing Order 52(5) indicates very clearly that “the Speaker also shall have regard to the probability of the matter being brought before the House within reasonable time by other means”.

The chair notes that the budget presentation is scheduled for this Thursday and this will be followed by four days of debate in which members are accorded very wide latitude in discussing economic matters of interest to them and to their constituents. In that sense, the Chair is not persuaded that this matter, as important as it is, meets the requirements of the Standing Orders at this time.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering, given your ruling, is it possible to request unanimous leave of the House to allow for the debate to occur?

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Winnipeg North is seeking unanimous consent of the House to hold an emergency debate tonight. Is there unanimous consent?

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

There is no consent.

There is another point of order. The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a clarification pursuant to your decision.

In my presentation, I said that Aveos' creditor protection will be lifted on April 3. Mr. Speaker, you said that there will be four days of debate on the budget to be presented on Thursday. The budget debate will end after the bankruptcy protection is lifted. Thus, the company could liquidate its assets in the meantime.

I believe this is an important factor to be taken into consideration in making your decision. If we wait until the budget debate is over, it could be too late for the House to take action. I was wondering if you could reconsider your decision after consultation.

Speaker's Ruling
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I do appreciate the point raised. There are other factors for the Speaker to take into account as to whether or not it meets the test. I mentioned one, that the debate tonight would just be a debate in and of itself. In that respect, I do find that the opportunity to debate during the budget would satisfy the need for members to address the issues that have been raised.

Therefore, the Chair considers the matter closed in that regard.