Bill C-34 (Historical)
Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act
An Act to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
David Collenette Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Committees of the House
October 24th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
Ovid Jackson Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON
Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations, I have the honour to report, in both official languages, with respect to an order of reference made on Thursday, October 4; Bill C-34, an act to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
The committee has considered the bill and I report the bill back without amendments.
Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act
October 4th, 2001 / 12:35 p.m.
Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to Bill C-34 on behalf of the coalition. It is interesting that the government is introducing the legislation. There are many important issues concerning transportation in the country. This is not one of them. Airline security, the state of Canada's airlines, and commercial transportation at the borders are all far more important to the average Canadian than the housekeeping bill the government has put before us today.
As is frequently heard from all parties in the House, September 11 has changed everything. It has changed the way the world operates. If there is any doubt, particularly from a transportation point of view, I need only point to the events of yesterday when a passenger slit the throat of a Greyhound bus driver in Tennessee. This caused an accident in which six people were killed. It was a tragic event.
Greyhound's response was to immediately shut down its whole U.S. transportation network. That is the kind of response we are seeing when something like this happens. Prior to September 11 it would have been treated as an isolated incident and dealt with by local authorities.
In the wake of September 11 with these kinds of situations happening it is interesting that the Liberal government feels we need to debate a housekeeping bill to create the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada. The purpose of Bill C-34 is to create the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada, an independent quasi-judicial body which would act as a mechanism for administrative and enforcement actions taken under various transportation acts governing the marine, rail and aviation sectors.
The new appeal tribunal would replace the Civil Aviation Tribunal which was established in 1986. The Civil Aviation Tribunal is a functioning body. It has been in existence since 1986. The changes being introduced by the legislation would expand it into a transportation tribunal as opposed to mere aviation tribunal. It would carry out the same basic functions as the Civil Aviation Tribunal but its responsibilities would be expanded to the marine and rail transportation networks.
Reviews of decisions affecting the marine and rail sectors are currently conducted by senior departmental officials and the minister. I think Canadians feel it is wise to move these kinds of reviews to an independent body as is done in the aviation industry. They feel it is better to get these kinds of appeals out of bureaucratic hands. There is no question that would be good.
The real issue with this housekeeping bill is that the Liberal government has had plenty of time during its nine years in office to have made the necessary changes. The aviation tribunal has been around since 1986. Why has the government chosen this time to bring the legislation on to the floor of the House?
It is quite clear that this is not a main concern to many Canadians. We did a computer search of Canada's major newspapers for the last three months. We turned up exactly zero articles that mentioned the Civil Aviation Tribunal or the proposed transportation appeal tribunal. It is not on the agenda of the ordinary Canadian or for that matter any political party. It has not been on anyone's agenda.
As a former member of the transportation committee I can say that the committee never dealt with any issues regarding the tribunal although the processes were mentioned in passing and whatnot. If people and government committees have not been talking about the need for it, why does the government see it as the most important transportation issue for the House to be addressing?
This housekeeping bill concerns the makeup and legislative authority of this new tribunal. The Civil Aviation Tribunal currently consists of a chair, a vice-chair and six other full time members in Ottawa. There are 26 part time members around the country who are supposed to be chosen on their knowledge and experience in aeronautics.
Bill C-34 states that the new tribunal, which would bring in marine and rail component industries, would consist of members who collectively have expertise in transportation sectors in respect of which the federal government has jurisdiction. One has to assume that the makeup would be of individuals who have knowledge of the marine, rail and aviation industries. We do not know how many additional members would be appointed or what the expansion of the budget would be.
Last year the budget of the Civil Aviation Tribunal was $1.2 million. To the ordinary Canadian that may sound like a lot of money, but to a government agency it is a very small amount. Unlike many other government agencies, the tribunal did not use its full budget. It only used $1.12 million.
This is not an issue of a grand haven for patronage appointments. It is not a tribunal that will expand to a size that Canadians should be concerned about. It is a housekeeping issue of changing the parameters of how the tribunal operates to include other modes of transportation outside aviation.
I urge individuals who have concerns about where the tribunal is going, its makeup or its mandate, to contact a transportation critic member or a member of the transportation committee to raise their concerns because it has not been a topic of high interest to people in the transportation industries or to members of the transport committee. To date we have not heard from anybody with concerns.
The coalition will be supporting this housekeeping legislation. We are concerned that this has been considered a priority of the government and has been put on the House agenda before other very important transportation issues. We urge the government to move quickly on the transportation concerns that have been identified as a result of the tragic events of September 11.
The U.S. congress passed legislation for airlines just 10 days after the terrorist attacks. The American senate is holding hearings about its concerns regarding the Canada-U.S. border.
While the U.S. congress is talking about the important issues confronting its country and the world, we are talking about housekeeping changes that could have been done any time in the last nine years.
The coalition's concern is that the greatest failing of the government is not what is in the bill but that the bill is what it feels is its priority on transportation issues.
Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act
October 4th, 2001 / 12:35 p.m.
Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of the New Democratic Party as we give second reading to Bill C-34. It is always a privilege to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of the NDP and of my constituents in the Churchill riding.
Bill C-34 would establish the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada. The independent quasi-judicial body would be made up of people with expertise in the transportation industry and would be an expansion of the Civil Aviation Tribunal. The mandate of the Civil Aviation Tribunal was provided for by part IV of the Aeronautics Act.
The Civil Aviation Tribunal has been extremely successful and has been recognized as a model for the enforcement of the Aeronautics Act. It makes sense that such a tribunal be available to other areas in the transportation industry.
At the request of interested parties the Civil Aviation Tribunal holds review and appeal hearings with respect to certain administrative actions taken by the Minister of Transport. Extending the tribunal to other transportation areas is a move that I believe would be welcomed. The creation of the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada would provide the marine and rail industries and the aviation sector with an impartial appeal and review system.
The transportation appeal tribunal would replace the internal review process that currently exists. In the current system, enforcement decisions made by inspectors are subject to review only by senior officials or the minister. It would be preferable to have a separate and impartial body to hear appeals.
If anyone does not think the Department of Transport needs a separate and impartial body to oversee its decisions, we should look no further than at what the department is doing to hours of service regulations for the trucking industry. The bureaucrats responsible for that file are trying to get Canada to adopt an 84 hour work week for truckers. In certain weeks truckers would have to work 96 hours.
I will not get into the mountain of evidence from scientific experts in the area of fatigue and sleep deprivation indicating the sheer madness of the proposal. That can be done another time. My point is that the minister can do this with no accountability. He can do it through an order in council on the advice of his bureaucrats .
Truck driver hours of service regulations would not be covered by the legislation. Nor should they be. However the issue serves as a useful example of how it can be useful at times to have an impartial outside agency in place to review ministerial decisions.
All this is to say that the New Democratic Party supports the general principle behind the bill. We welcome greater scrutiny and oversight into ministerial decisions. Bill C-34, by providing for an independent quasi-judicial body to review decisions in the transportation industry, is a step in the right direction.
Having an independent and effective review and appeal process for the transportation industry quite frankly makes sense. The tribunal, in helping deal with appeals and reviews of administrative and enforcement actions, would prevent action from being taken in court. In short, the tribunal would simplify and streamline the whole appeal and review process.
We will need to look more closely at some of the finer details of the bill. It is important that the tribunal have members with expertise in all areas of the transportation industry. It is perhaps worth considering having separate tribunals to deal with individual appeals and reviews in each sector.
It may not be appropriate for someone without knowledge of the rail industry to rule on issues concerning rail. However I am sure this and other questions could be discussed at committee. The NDP is prepared to support the bill in principle at second reading.
Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act
October 3rd, 2001 / 5:05 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-34. I should note that the parliamentary secretary, who in his introduction deemed it appropriate to congratulate the minister for his availability and his quick reaction, seemed uncomfortable with the fact that the first debate we have on transportation is on a bill to establish the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada.
This bill has nothing to do with the great debates of the last few weeks. Since the events of September 11, transportation has been in the forefront of all our discussions in the House. Take note debates were held, special committees were created and the first piece of legislation dealing with transportation to be tabled in the House is aimed at establishing an appeal tribunal.
As I said, the parliamentary secretary seemed uncomfortable, and I will take this opportunity to respond to some of the comments he made. He talked about the availability of the Minister of Transport. The parliamentary secretary said that the Prime Minister was always available, as well as the Minister of Transport. I should certainly hope so. The least we can expect from the Minister of Transport is for him to be here in the House to answer our questions and the least we can expect from the Prime Minister is for him to do whatever he can to be with members of all parties as often as possible to deal with such a serious situation as the terrorist attacks of September 11 against the United States.
The Minister of Transport was indeed available Monday when we had the emergency debate. All day that day, the propaganda machine of the Liberal government was hard at work on the radio and on television, delivering the message that there would be a great debate that night on the situation facing airlines in Canada following the sad events of September 11.
Everybody was looking forward to the minister's statement. True, he was here, but he did not have to be here to make the statement he made. We learned nothing new about what the government intends to do, what the airlines were asking or what the government's financial capability is to deal with the terrible events of September 11 and all the consequences.
This is worth mentioning. Monday night, 13,602 jobs were lost throughout Canada. I said in this House that we did not want to be doomsayers, we just wanted to prevent further job losses, but Boeing has since, just two days ago, announced more layoffs in Canada and the United States. Messier-Dowty, the landing gear specialist supplying Boeing and other airliners, has now put on hold the $70 million capital investment project previously announced as part of its expansion plan.
The situation is undeniably getting worse. Granted, the minister and the Prime Minister are availabl, but I wonder if they are also available when it comes to addressing these problems. They are available to discuss the issues, to use the propaganda machine, to be on television and on the radio to reassure everyone that they are dealing with the issues, but they should also be available to address the problems. I must say that is not what we have seen so far.
I am trying to stay calm, because the situation is getting worse and it will get even worse. It is unfortunate, but it is having a domino effect. It is the same thing all over the world, not only in Canada. We have to stop reacting.
The problem with the Minister of Transport and the Liberal government is that they are always reacting. These are difficult times, when action is really required, not reaction. That is what they did. The government intervened quickly in reaction to terrible situations. However, when the events are examined and security assessed, clearly the message was already there in the Ressam case. The United States gave Canada strong warning, saying “Look at the problem of terrorism in Canada. You should tighten your borders and your security”. Nothing was done.
I was surprised to hear employees of all the airlines, who came to meet me as transport critic, mention the Ressam case; they told me the airlines had not been asked to take any additional security measures. I assume that no additional measures were required of the others involved in security.
Therefore, despite what it knew, the government continued to follow its economic policy and announced a budget. It was mentioned earlier that there had not been a budget in 18 months. There was an economic update. The government tightened the belt, it is true. Canadians were asked to tighten their belts. Belts had to be tightened, but Canadians and Quebecers still had to be given the security they expected.
Belts were tightened, but the government did not invest in security. It is no longer involved in it. Security has been handed over to private companies according to the lowest bidder. We can see what that means. Security measures have been relaxed over the past 10 years.
In airports we get our boarding cards from electronic machines. There are no more personnel. Security experts all tell us that the first intervention in security matters is the instinct of the people who have worked in the field for years. I mean the employees behind the counter in airports who, instinctively and because of their training, are able to recognize security problems first.
Employees, human beings have been replaced by machines. Since September 11, there have been days when these machines were not used and other days when they were put back in use.
There is always a reaction somewhere. This is what must stop. The government, the Liberal Party, must stop thinking that it has all the solutions. It is true that things are going well for the Liberals. They are doing well in the polls, but at some point the political propaganda must stop and the government must give the public what it expects. Right now, people want to make sure that what occurred on September 11 never happens again.
Of course, we cannot ever guarantee anything in our societies, because they are liberal societies. The challenge for us consists in protecting liberalism in our societies while imposing as few constraints as possible, but we must have the required personnel at the borders, at airports and everywhere. We must be able to provide adequate training, but all this costs money.
The government must stop saying that it acts quickly when a catastrophe occurs. Sure, the Minister of Transport acted very quickly after the catastroph, but today we are asking him to be proactive and to invest so that such catastrophes do not happen again.
The old adage says that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Since September 11, the Minister of Transport has been trying to find a cure. The grim reality is that he never focused on prevention. The Liberal government decided to win the election by saving as much money as possible, but it did so in areas where it should not have, despite repeated warnings.
After the Ressam case in 2000, Canada was told to tighten security. It continued to save money, to make use of the private sector and, above all, to give contracts to the lowest bidder. It is not anybody's fault. No one can blame the employees who are there and who have not received the proper training. The only reason is that the government is trying to save money. It chose not to invest in our security. That is why we are faced with this grim reality today.
I understand why the parliamentary secretary is uncomfortable with Bill C-34, which establishes the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada. The current situation does not call for the establishment of appeal tribunals. It is a serious situation that must be dealt with in terms of security and in terms of economic intervention.
We certainly hope to see the kind of quick reaction that the member was talking about on the part of the government. So far the government's reaction has been purely political. Every week it has made a small announcement, but not in the House, not in front of members who were elected by their fellow citizens to discuss these things. The government does not make these announcements in front of parliamentarians.
Every week, in what will probably be an orchestrated performance with a good communication plan, the government will try to lull the good people of Quebec and Canada into thinking that it is looking after their affairs.
If the government had actually done this we would not be looking at the situations we are today. If the government were to take rapid action, if it were to step in quickly, it could try to prevent the domino effect in the airline and aviation industries and in international tourism. That is what is required and it must be done soon.
Right now all it will do is stand by while everything falls apart. It will let everything fall apart and will then take stock of the damage and slowly but surely decide to put up a few million dollars every week to show the public that it is looking after them and that it is capable of sorting out their problems.
That is not what is needed. What is needed is a real solution. What is needed is a real plan and it is time that the government told us what that plan is. It is not the time for the government to come to this House with a bill like Bill C-34, on which we are agreed. I say this up front. There will not be any long debates about Bill C-34 and the creation of the appeal tribunal, which should have been set up years ago.
For years now the Bloc Quebecois has been calling for the integration of these four tribunals that were subject to the Aeronautics Act, the Shipping Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Railways Safety Act. This is what this bill is all about and we are happy about it. However, it should have been done during the last parliament, and even a year ago.
At this time last year the government once again called an early election, which took all Canadians and opposition parties by surprise. It rushed the election. The government's goal was, of course, to win the election and as we can see it managed to do so.
Right now, however, Canadians and Quebecers are not feeling totally safe with a Liberal government at the helm. More and more, they approach the opposition parties to speak for them. The workers who lose their jobs come to the opposition parties to have their voices heard in this House.
This is exactly what we are trying to do and what we have been trying to do since September 11. We are trying to speak on behalf of those families who are going through some rough times because of their employment situation, but again, nobody in the House is listening to us. With legislation such as Bill C-34 the government is saying “See how we are trying to deal with the transportation issues”.
We are having serious discussions with various unions about the proposed changes to the Employment Insurance Act and the way to deal with all those job losses. Why is it always the little people and not the managers who are affected by the layoffs? Why is it always the young workers, those who have less seniority, who lose their jobs?
Why not arrange with the companies for major early retirement programs, which are expensive but are a one time thing? The money is paid out only once. It would be possible in the airline industry, with the help of the unions, to use attrition in the industry as a whole to benefit the young people who are the last to arriv, but the first hit by any draconian cuts, such as those that result from major events like those of September 11. The employees did not ask for this but they are being hit with it.
Once again, employees who have lost their jobs may find it all very well for the minister to say on Monday “Look, security has finally been improved since September 11, flight decks will be better protected”. There are 13,600 of them who have lost their jobs. Some will lose their jobs with Boeing in Canada. Some will lose a job or not get the one they were in line for at Messier-Dowty. This will happen with other companies too. All these people are entitled to say to the Minister of Transport “Why did you not think of this before”?
Why did the Minister of Transport not think before of tightening flight deck security? That is today's harsh reality. The government reacted. It was quick, yes indeed. It found the solution, but why did it not think of it before? There are other airlines around the world with flight deck security measures.
This is a question we all must ask ourselves. We will have the opportunity to do so in the transport committee. My colleague in the Canadian Alliance said this earlier. This committee began deliberations this week. Believe it or not, air transportation was not even on the agenda of the government representatives sitting on the transport committee. Air transportation problems were not on the agenda. It was the agenda from the committee's previous deliberations, as if September 11 had never occurred. That was the harsh reality. That is the harsh reality. Why is this so? Because government members on this committee think their excellent minister is available, acts quickly, and will react swiftly if there is a problem.
I will repeat that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We should try to involve all those concerned, in all parties. In a crisis such as this one there is no room for politics or propaganda, but this is all the Liberal Party has been doing since September 11. Once more the public is being lulled by announcements.
Monday night's debate is a good example. It was announced on all radio and television networks that there was going to be a great debate that evening on the future of the airline industry in Canada. What did the minister have to say? He was very glad he had successfully addressed the issue of cockpit safety. He enumerated all the things he had done since day one of the crisis, but strictly nothing has been done concerning a financial assistance plan for the airline industry.
The day after the debate the Minister of Transport announced the investment of $160 million. That was just to cover the losses of September 11 to 16, when all of the airlines were grounded because of these tragic events. They experienced losses because their employees were stranded and so on.
The Minister helped out with those losses and must be thanked for that, but since then, since the airspace shutdown from September 11 to 16, 13,602 jobs have been lost. There will be even more job losses at Boeing. Messier-Dowty will not be able to carry out its $70 million capital investment plan announced last June. There will be other repercussions.
The same goes for international tourism, which has experienced huge losses in Quebec City and no doubt in most of Canada's tourist centres. What the Liberal government is doing with its propaganda policy is to watch and wait until everything comes tumbling down, then take note of the damage and see what it will be capable of investing.
Today the Minister of Finance said that the estimated surplus is not as great as expected; we are heading for an economic recession. He would not dare to use that term, of course. We will have a third or fourth quarter that may not be as good as forecast.
Obviously that is the way to get out of the situation without spending money and avoiding a deficit above all. No opposition party in the House, the Bloc Quebecois included, has called for the government to aim for a deficit. It is estimated, as we speak, that there will be a $13 billion surplus this year and that is with the worst case scenarios for the third and fourth quarters. That is reality.
Why do the Minister of Transport and all Liberal members of the House not decide to demand the true picture of Canada's economic situation from the Minister of Finance so they can pass it on to the public?
Finally, the government should meet with representatives of the airline, aviation and international tourism industries and those involved in tourism in general who are having such a terrible time. It should sit down with them and say “We are going to help you out”.
This is not what we feel. I realize that the parliamentary secretary was not comfortable when he presented Bill C-34, because the message really is that the government, the minister and the Prime Minister are available and quick to take action but only once the damage has been assessed. This is what is hard to accept for opposition members. The government will once again wait until the airline, aviation and international tourism industries collapse; it will wait until the house of cards comes tumbling down and then look at the whole situation and take quick action.
Naturally, this is hard to accept. As we speak, workers, both men and women, have lost their jobs. There will be others, particularly in Quebec, where the aviation and aerospace industries are concentrated, but also across Canada, because Boeing has investments right across the country. Large numbers of jobs are disappearing in this sector.
As for international tourism, it is not just Quebec that is affected. Our province attracts a significant proportion of international tourists, but there are cities in all regions of Canada that are centres for tourism and these cities are definitely feeling the effects of the September 11 events.
If government members in this House think that things are going well for international tourism, they should visit the tourist attractions in their ridings. They will realize that we are going through a serious crisis that will have major consequences.
I hope that the parliamentary secretary will tell his minister “Dear Minister, your availability and your quickness to react would be more useful before everything collapses, as opposed to after”. This is the message that the Bloc Quebecois wants to give to the House, and this is the view that it will promote in the coming weeks.
Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act
October 3rd, 2001 / 4:45 p.m.
James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC
Madam Speaker, Bill C-34, the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada act, would create a transportation appeal tribunal that would replace and expand upon the civil aviation tribunal by extending its jurisdiction to cover rail and marine. It makes consequential amendments to various other transportation acts in order to make this possible.
It is certainly a good idea, but given the circumstances in which Canada finds itself one has to ask the question: Why now? Why are we dealing with this now? Given all the other issues that are at stake in the aviation and the transport industries in general, why are we dealing with this issue now?
The legislation was tabled on September 26, 15 days after the terrorist attack. On the transportation side, the government could have chosen to table any legislation it wanted to. It could have tabled literally anything. The members of all the opposition parties have said that they would be open to any legislation that advances the ball in terms of airport security, airline security and now, given the reality of Air Canada and Canada 3000, the concerns we have with the layoffs and so on. We would be willing to consider any legislation that deals with the health and financial stability of the airline industry as a whole.
Instead, what does the government table? It tables the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada act. Do not get me wrong, it is decent legislation. In fact, the official opposition will support the legislation. However we have to ask where are the priorities of the government.
The immediate impact on the airline sector of the September 11 attack has been a serious lack of consumer confidence. Bookings are way down. Air Canada reports that bookings are down anywhere between 30% and 35%. There is a serious loss in consumer confidence.
People still have very serious safety concerns. I raised the issue in the House that Transport Canada, through its own internal studies and tests, tried to smuggle mock knives, guns and bombs past airport security. Transport Canada knows statistically that over the past year one in five attempts to smuggle replica guns, knives and bombs past airport security has been a success, or a failure, I guess, as the average Canadian would look at it.
Canadians have serious concerns about that. We have serious concerns about a gentleman flying from Yellowknife to Vancouver who managed to smuggle two submachine guns and several boxes of ammunition onto an airplane and onto the ground. The gentleman was drunk. He threw two submachine guns and a few boxes of ammunition into a duffle bag. He was not attempting to smuggle. He was not a MacGyver in a unique attempt to get things past security. He just threw this stuff in a duffle bag and walked onto the plane drunk. Airport security is failing in the country and it is having a dramatic impact on consumer confidence in flying, but the government is not doing anything about it.
The official opposition has repeatedly called in the House for the institution of air marshals. The institution of air marshals would be a dramatic and positive step in terms of airport security. The United States has been doing it on international flights for over 30 years. Air marshals are plainclothes police who are specifically trained to deal with security concerns on planes while they are in flight. As a deterrent, they are put cyclically on different flights so terrorists do not know which flights they are on and which ones they are not on.
If the government were to institute that post-September 11 it would do two things. First, it would add another level of security in the air. That is important. It is important given the realities we are facing; as the Prime Minister, the president of the United States, NATO, article 5, and the House have said, we are facing a war against terrorism, against people who do horrendous things like hijack planes and fly them into buildings. Once they are on those planes they use them as missiles and guide them in a kamikaze mission to murder innocent people. There is no other way to stop them but in the air with armed air marshals. This would provide another important level of air security.
What this would also do, and this goes under the issue of consumer confidence, is boost consumer confidence in a dramatic way. The government has failed to do that.
There have been calls for financial support for the airline sector. Again the government has not really said or done anything. The transport minister yesterday announced $160 million for Canada's air carriers for the out of pocket costs they incurred on September 11, and again the official opposition supports that, but he announced it across the hall. He announced it in a press conference.
He did not show due respect to this place by announcing it here where we could have had an open debate to find out exactly how the $160 million was arrived at and how it was meted out to the different air carriers. Every party in the House has said that it will support the idea of paying for the out of pocket costs incurred by the air industry. If the minister had announced that in the House rather than at a press conference he would have had political parties supporting it; that would have been a vote of confidence for the airline industry that the government did not seize upon. The government is failing in that sense.
The United States congress has approved over $15 billion for the air industry. I am not calling for us to give $15 billion to the air industry or 10% thereof, but the U.S. has put concrete legislative proposals on the table, good or bad, in the long term interest or not, and we are dealing with the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada act.
Air Canada has asked for $3 billion to $4 billion in bailouts. The government has not ruled it out. The official opposition sure has. We could currently buy every single share of Air Canada stock in the stock market, I am told, for in the neighbourhood of $695 million to $711 million.
Air Canada has publicly said that it wants $3 billion to $4 billion but its net worth, if one were to purchase every single share of its stock, is in the neighbourhood of $700 million. Somehow that does not add up yet the government has not ruled that out as an option. In fact it has not put any numbers at all on the table for us to discuss and to deal with. It has not brought a single thing before the transport committee for us to deal with and sink our teeth into so that we can contribute to a positive alternative solution to the situation we are facing.
The transport minister needs to reassure the public that the government is doing something. Bill C-34 does not reassure the public that the government is doing something because of the September 11 attack. The fact that we are debating Bill C-34 right now is an indication that the government is totally out of step within the realities of the world post-September.
Since I have been the transport critic for the official opposition or since I have been a member of parliament, I have not had a single call to my office asking me when Bill C-34 would be tabled nor have I had people telling me that they are really curious about the transportation appeal tribunal act or that as I am their member of parliament they really want me to expand the civil aviation tribunal so could I please deal with that. That is a really important issue right now.
The terrorist attacks and the status of Air Canada with 9,000 to 12,000 people laid off can be put aside. We talk about a tribunal act. Nobody is calling for that. We have to wonder: To whom is the government listening? What leadership role is it fulfilling by doing this?
Again, the government needs to address safety concerns for a whole host of reasons, like boosting consumer confidence and providing more security for flying Canadians. It also needs to ensure long term competition in the air industry.
I noted that the transport minister in an interview yesterday said that we may need to have a thorough restructuring. He said this at the same press conference where he announced the $160 million for the airline industry. He said that we may have to restructure the entire airline industry again, not that the restructuring that was done 24 months ago was bad, but it may need to be restructured again. However, we should not ask him if the last one was a success or not, but we may have to restructure again.
Those are the sorts of things that we need to be dealing with, the restructuring of the airlines, airport security and airline security. The situation with Canada 3000 may be more volatile in the short term than that of Air Canada. The transport minister is just not showing leadership.
We should compare what Canada's transport minister, the finance minister and the Prime Minister are doing with what the United States is doing. In Chicago on Thursday of last week President Bush did three things. First, he called up the national guard and placed guardsmen at inspection stations in airports. They are still there. He said:
--we will work with the governors to provide security measures--visible security measures--so the traveling public will know that we are serious about airline safety in America.
The second thing he did was dramatically increase the number of air marshals on planes. He said:
When Americans fly, there need to be more highly-skilled and fully-equipped officers of law flying alongside them.
The third thing he did was give $500 million in new funding for aircraft security, the physical infrastructure of planes. He gave grants to airlines for enhanced cockpit protection. He will work with the pilots and airlines to fortify doors and provide stronger locks so pilots will always be in command of the airplane and no one can get into the cockpit.
Again this goes back to what I said before, about the transport minister announcing $160 million, but across the street. He announced that the government would be closing cockpit doors and that it would be mandated now on every flight. Fine. That is good and we support that. It is a solid step in the right direction. Good show. However, again he announced it outside the House.
I will applaud the minister when he announces an initiative, a bold initiative, any initiative, a meagre initiative, but that will be the day when he actually does it in the House. When he does he will earn our applause. However he has not done it yet and he is abdicating his responsibility to make parliament the decision maker in terms of the long term interest of our airline industry, in terms of security and in terms of competition. Parliament should decide it, not just the transport minister. The transport minister can propose it. That is the duty and obligation of the transport minister and of the executive of the government, but parliament as a whole should be deciding these issues.
Relative to what the United States has done, the government's response has been utterly and completely lacklustre. Air Canada, as I have said, has announced that it will lay off 5,000 people in addition to the 4,000 already announced. The numbers may be as high at 12,000 when all is said and done.
I have called on the transport minister, and I will do it again, to do four concrete things. I call on him to reconvene the transport committee, which happened on Monday, but to give us a set agenda to address the security and financial issues the air industry is facing.
I was happy to learn this afternoon that the transport minister announced he will be appearing before the transport committee tomorrow. I hope he comes with better answers and solutions than he came to the House with when we had our take note debate on the airline industry as a whole. He came to the House and said literally nothing. He said that everything was fine. He did not mention any specific numbers with regard to Air Canada. He did not share with the House the specific financial crunch that Air Canada is facing. He did not tell the House exactly what Air Canada has asked him for in private, which he could share with the House so that opposition members could consider those numbers and consider how we might approach these things. He did not say anything. I hope that when he comes before the committee tomorrow he actually has something concrete to contribute.
The second thing the transport minister should do is ask Robert Milton of Air Canada and the heads of all of Canada's national and regional air carriers to appear before the transport committee immediately, for the committee to hear arguments for and against any potential financial support.
The third thing he needs to do is institute air marshals today, as I said, to boost consumer confidence in the airline industry and to offer another layer of air travel security. We have to think of this not only in the context of boosting consumer confidence and within the context of giving another layer of security in the air but also to the extent that specifically, if there is ever a financial bailout beyond the $160 million, the lion's share of that money will go to Air Canada, principally because it has a dominant share of the domestic air travel in this country with the customers it flies. It will take the lion's share of that money.
Given that reality and the fact that Air Canada is the only real Canadian based competitor that competes internationally, Air Canada will be competing against American carriers that now have air marshals. In the United States as a whole there are over 12,000 people who are now being trained and assigned as air marshals. Air Canada will be competing on the international stage with Lufthansa, United, American Airlines, Continental and a host of other air carriers that will all have air marshals on planes.
In the future when people fly the questions they will ask will not simply be about what the in cabin amenities will be, how long the flight will be, how much leg room they will have, what movies will be shown and whether a hot or cold meal will be served. They will also be asking serious questions about the security of the airplanes. They will ask about cockpit doors. They will ask about air marshals.
In regard to the United States having air marshals, the transport minister said in the House that he is ruling out the idea of air marshals altogether as an extreme and radical proposition. He is just ruling it out right away. What he has done is cement himself into a position that will force Air Canada into a situation where it has a competitive disadvantage with other international carriers in trying to bring more people on board. That is a big mistake, not only in the security sense, not only in the sense of not boosting consumer confidence but in the sense that he is putting Canadian carriers at a competitive disadvantage by ruling out the idea of air marshals. That is a big mistake.
The fourth thing I would ask the transport minister to do is ask all of Canada's air carriers to submit a full list of their direct out of pocket expenses incurred during the days that Canada's airports were shut down so that consideration can be given to compensation for those costs. We are told that the transport minister has those numbers and therefore acted to give $160 million. We support the giving of the out of pocket costs, but it is very difficult to say whether or not we support the precise figure of $160 million when the transport minister has not tabled the exact figures before the House.
The out of pocket costs incurred by the airline industry on September 11 are legitimate costs. The skies were closed, not because of any market forces but because of a government mandate. Therefore it is entirely reasonable for the government to compensate the airlines for the closing of the skies.
I assume those airlines gave the transport minister an itemized list of what all their expenses were but he has not shared them with the House. That is irresponsible. Given the fact that we have not had a budget in 18 months and we may not have a budget for another 18 months as we have not had a firm commitment on that front, the House needs to send a signal by voting on specific measures. I would be proud to vote in favour of giving $160 million to the airline industry, given that the appropriate accounting has been done for those expenses. That would be a signal from the House that we will support the airline industry for the tough times it experienced on September 11.
Specifically on Bill C-34, the transportation appeal tribunal act, on the face of it the idea of a transportation tribunal is a good one. It is clear that some bright person looked at the civil aviation tribunal which so efficiently deals with the suspension of a pilot's licence and with airworthiness certificates, and said "I bet this would work in shipping and I bet this would work in rail as well". It has been expanded and we support that.
It is a good idea. Anything that lets minor disputes be settled outside the court system, specifically when the decisions are made by people with some expertise in the area in question, is a positive step. To have some injection of some common sense into disputes makes a lot of sense and we support it.
However, the transport committee really needs to be brought into a broader discussion, as I have said before, not only on this legislation but on other pieces of legislation. Canadians think that the transport committee should be plugged in so that we can make travel safer on airplanes, highways, rail and in seaway navigation. They want us to encourage competition, service to communities and affordable prices. Right now Canadians want airline competition among healthy airlines. They want safer skies, better airport security, stronger cockpit doors and air marshals. They want the same standards the United States has.
Let us have a level playing field. We always talk about a level playing field in terms of trade and in a lot of areas. Let us talk about a level playing field in terms of aviation as well.
The transport committee needs to deal with a lot of things and it is not. We have some extraordinarily experienced parliamentarians on the committee. I think of the member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley who used to be the transport critic for the official opposition. I think of the NDP member for Churchill, an outstanding member of parliament who has done a lot of hard work on committee. I think of the member for Toronto--Danforth and the member for Winnipeg South. There are a lot of very good, highly competent, very experienced people in the transport committee who are really ready and anxious to do a lot of good work, to help contribute.
The transport minister has not plugged in the committee. He has not given us any guidance or pushed us forward. He has not tabled any meaningful legislation. What on earth are we doing talking about Bill C-34, a tribunal act, when at this very moment we could be talking about airport security and the question of whether or not we should re-nationalize airport security?
We could be talking about the guiding principles of a possible bailout for the airline industry and whether or not it is appropriate. We could be talking about air marshals. We could be talking about mandating that older planes still in service have reinforced cockpit doors with the newest technology such as the Kevlar coming out of Boeing.
That is the sort of legislation we could be dealing with, but we are not being shown that leadership. We are being shown legislation, well meaning, decent legislation that would cut down on bureaucracy and would increase efficiency and inject some common sense into things, but on the radar screen of Canadians in terms of the legislation they want to see and the priorities they have for the transport committee, the transport minister and the transport industry of the country, the legislation is way wide of the mark. Canadians deserve better. They deserve better leadership.
I have one piece of advice for the transport minister. I have told him this in private and I have told him that I will say it publicly. I will do so now. The best thing parliament can do on a cross-party basis for the airline industry as a whole in this time of crisis is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. and announce the kinds of things that President Bush did in Chicago on Thursday of last week.
President Bush went to Chicago and stood on a podium in front of 1,200 airline employees, the people who check the bags, the in-cabin flight crews, pilots, security guards, everyone. He stood in front of 1,200 of them with the transportation secretary at one shoulder, with the governor of Illinois at the other shoulder, with a couple of senators on his flank and members of congress and the state assembly on the other flank. He stood on that big stage with a big American flag and he said his government would put air marshals on planes, mandate the reinforcement and renovation of cockpit doors, beef up security on the ground with the latest technologies and retrain everyone on the ground. "Fly the friendly skies" he said. He said there was no reason why Americans should not fly in their country. He said America will not be afraid, Americans will not allow the terrorists to alter their way of life, they will soldier forward.
President Bush did it. He made a big public statement. However the transport minister said in the debate on Monday night that he does not want to make big public statements. I know that he is not a shy man. He is a good guy, but he needs to make big public pronouncements. That is precisely what is called for. He says he does not want to make big public pronouncements because he does not want to send some kind of signal. Most people I talk to do not understand the signal he is trying to avoid.
The transport minister says he wants to make little announcements such as the announcement that he made across the street in a press conference. He wants to make announcements in scrums. He wants to make announcements as he is running down the hall and avoiding reporters. He does not want to stand up and make big public announcements, but that is exactly what is called for, a big public announcement, a big vote of confidence and a big boost to the airline industry, to say to Canadians that we are taking action, that we will not let the terrorists alter our way of life. That announcement would say to people that they are safe in the skies, the government is behind them, the airlines are safe and the Government of Canada will not fail them.
If the minister did that and put in the measures we are talking about, the kinds of measures I have outlined in my talk, if he put those things on the table, the official opposition would be proud to stand behind him if he initiated those things, because that is progress and growth and a step in the right direction. I am sure the other opposition members would be as well. We reconvened the transport committee on Monday and had a meeting yesterday. Right off the top, across all party lines, we all said that the big thing we want to talk about when the transport minister comes to committee tomorrow is the issue of airline security. We are all concerned about this, just as all Canadians are concerned about it.
Rather than substantive legislation and a substantive signal from the transport minister that he will get behind this, encourage, push and mandate new security measures, what do we get? We get Bill C-34, the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada act.
This is an abdication of leadership. This is an abdication of responsibility on the part of the transport minister. We need to be showing leadership, putting real solutions forward and seizing the moment, carpe diem, so we can encourage more people to fly and have a better transportation industry. Bill C-34 does not accomplish that.
It is a real disappointment to have to say as a Canadian, not even as a parliamentarian, that the government is sleepwalking through what may be the largest crisis in our transportation industry with the layoffs at Air Canada and sagging consumer confidence. The government is sleepwalking through this entire episode and abdicating its responsibility to show leadership and put substantive reforms on the table that will make our industry better.
Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act
October 3rd, 2001 / 4:30 p.m.
André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport
Madam Speaker, it gives me pleasure to have the opportunity to speak about the establishment of the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada. We are going through a period characterized by great insecurity in the field of transportation and this affects not only the Department of Transport but almost all departments. Clearly there is no simple solution to a complex problem.
In this spirit, I wish to pay tribute to the excellent work done by our colleague, the Canadian Minister of Transport, who has played a very important role in co-ordinating the activities of various departments. From the very first day of the crisis, when terrorism invaded all the countries of the world, he showed great wisdom in implementing concrete measures, which will not be in place forever but which were very important in the short term.
I have frequently heard certain members of the opposition criticizing some of these measures. They would have liked to see a simple response to something as complex as terrorism. Nonetheless, the minister has moved forward, implementing measures which will help, in the very near future, we hope, to put the airline industry back on its fee, and which will have an impact on all economic activities and all aspects of our economic and social life.
It should be pointed out that in spite of the grievances of some opposition members, there are many who would find it a lonely place if they were members of other western parliaments. I think that Canada and the Canadian parliament have been models of consultation and information since the beginning of the crisis.
We have had tens of hours of debate, the Prime Minister has been present at almost every oral question period and the Minister of Transport has been present at all of them. He was also here throughout the emergency debate that we had on Monday evening to discuss the air transportation issue. I should also mention the availability of all the committee members. Not many parliaments in the western world have been so open to a largely public discussion on the enormous challenge that faces us in the area of security.
I am pleased to support Bill C-34, an act to establish the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts. This bill is another illustration of the federal government's commitment to reform the legislation on national transportation and to improve safety and security in the national transportation system.
In order to have the safest possible transportation system, it is very important that Transport Canada officials have a broad set of effective powers to ensure compliance and enforce regulations.
When serious offences are committed, we rely on criminal proceedings and penalties. We will continue to deal with these types of offences through the use of enforcement powers and criminal penalties. However, because of certain acts governing transportation in Canada, the department has had to rely on criminal proceedings to deal with minor offences.
Criminal proceedings can be very costly and in some cases they can drag on for years. Moreover, the vast majority of offences under the various federal transportation laws are not of a criminal nature. There is a huge discrepancy between the offence and the criminal penalty that may be imposed. For these two reasons, there has been in recent years a marked tendency to decriminalize federal transportation laws and implement an administrative process instead of resorting to criminal proceedings, except for serious offences.
Administrative measures can take various forms: licences, certificates and permits may be suspended or revoked; compliance transactions may be concluded; pecuniary penalties may be imposed; and orders can be issued.
Current federal legislation on transport, as well as that proposed, contains examples of these administrative powers.
There is another point that is as important as the matter of administrative powers and that is the need for individuals and businesses that have been taken to court to have recourse to an independent entity able to review the way Transport Canada is using its powers.
As far as aviation is concerned, individuals and companies against which administrative measures have been applied under the Aeronautics Act have recourse to the civil aviation tribunal. There is no similar tribunal for the maritime or rail sector. In those sector, the examination processes, if there are any, take place typically within the department.
The purpose of Bill C-34 and of the creation of the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada is to enable the maritime and rail sectors to have the same effective right to recourse as the civil aviation sector does with the civil aviation tribunal with respect to administrative decisions by Transport Canada.
The civil aviation tribunal was created in 1986 to examine cases of infractions of the licensing or other regulations by companies or individuals under the Aeronautics Act. The tribunal is completely independent of Transport Canada.
For more than 15 years, the civil aviation tribunal has been providing admirable service to the aviation industry and the department. In the course of a typical year the CAT holds about 100 hearings as well as settling some 100 other cases without involving the entire hearing process.
The new transportation appeal tribunal of Canada would replace the civil aviation Ttibunal as well as encompassing the marine and rail modes. The three major circuits would therefore be integrated. Cases would be heard relating not only to the Aeronautics Act but also to the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Marine Transportation Safety Act and the Railway Safety Act. Thanks to the creation of a multimodal tribunal, the aviation, maritime and rail sectors would all have similar rights of recourse in connection with administrative decisions by Transport Canada.
The new tribunal would adopt many of the specific characteristics that have made the civil aviation tribunal so effective. Members of the transportation appeal tribunal should possess expertise in the specific transport field. For example, cases relating to the maritime shipping sector would be heard by tribunal members with knowledge of that sector, and the same for the rail sector.
Under this approach all the cases would be heard by people who have the necessary technical and operational background to understand the evidence, determine if all the regulations and security standards were complied wit, and identify the impact on security of failing to comply with regulations or of engaging in dangerous practices.
The process the tribunal would adopt would be informal, inexpensive and quick, because the tribunal would be an administrative body as opposed to a court of justice. It would not be subject to some of the costs, restrictions and other matters associated with criminal procedures.
Operators or individuals could represent themselves instead of hiring a lawyer, but the parties would be free to do so if they wish to.
The new tribunal would examine all the cases in two stages. First, a review hearing would be held by a single member of the tribunal. After having heard the two parties and taking into consideration all the evidence adduced, the member would make a determination. The individual against whom the measures would be taken could appeal to an appeal panel, which would usually consist of three of the members of the tribunal.
In some cases the department could also appeal the determination made by the member and the decision of the tribunal would be final. Moreover, the appeal could not be taken to the courts if it was based on the same facts as those examined by the tribunal.
The powers of the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada would depend on the nature of the cases it hears. Should the penalty be essentially punitive, the tribunal's decision would take precedence over that of the department. A good example would be the levying of a monetary penalty by the department based on the breach of a regulation.
After considering the evidence provided by the parties, the tribunal would be authorized to make a final, mandatory decision as to whether or not there actually was an offence committed and, if so, what the appropriate penalty should be.
Conversely, when measures are more concerned with qualifications for holding a licence, a certificate or other documents, and other matters of safety and security, the tribunal could, as a general rule, merely confirm the department's decision or refer it back to the department for review.
The purpose of the bill is not to water down the Department of Transport's basic responsibilities for safety and security under various statutes. As I have already said, the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada would operate in essentially the same manner as the civil aviation tribunal.
I am certain that the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada, as proposed in Bill C-34 would provide the department and the air, rail and marine sectors with a process for reviewing enforcement measures that is fair, rapid and cost effective. The tribunal would promote greater compliance with federal statutes governing transportation and would enhance safety and security in the national transportation system.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
September 27th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we will continue with Bill C-27, the nuclear waste bill, followed by resuming the debate on Bill C-33 on Nunavut surface rights. Should this bill be completed before the end of the day I would then propose to advance the emergency debate previously scheduled for this evening.
Tomorrow we will debate Bill C-32, the Costa Rica trade agreement. I do not propose to call other legislation tomorrow.
On Monday we will begin consideration of Bill C-31 concerning the Export Development Corporation, followed by Bill C-30, the courts administration bill, followed by any previously listed business that has not been completed if such is the case.
Immediately after I complete reading this statement I will be proposing a special order which will make it possible to have a take note debate on the airline industry on Monday evening.
Tuesday shall be an allotted day. On Wednesday we will deal with Bill C-34, the transport tribunal bill, and any unfinished business.
For Thursday and Friday I hope to be consulting with House leaders of all parties regarding the adoption of the modernization committee report, second reading of the foreign missions bill which will be introduced shortly, and the miscellaneous statute law amendment bill that we pass once per parliament.
Pursuant to the business statement I just made, I believe you would find unanimous consent pursuant to earlier discussions to move a motion. I move:
That, at 6.30 p.m. on Monday, October 1, 2001, the House shall continue to sit and shall resolve itself into a committee of the whole to consider a motion “That the committee take note of the difficulties experienced by the Canadian airline industry”, provided that, during consideration thereof, (1) the Speaker may from time to time act as Chair of the committee (2) no Member shall speak for more than ten minutes (3) the Chair of the committee shall not receive any quorum call or any motion except a motion “That the committee do now rise”, (4) when no Member rises to speak, or at 10.00 p.m., whichever is earlier, the committee shall rise and (5) when the committee rises the House shall immediately adjourn to the next sitting day.
Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act
September 26th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
Don Valley East
Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Question Period
June 13th, 2001 / 3 p.m.
Don Valley East
David Collenette Minister of Transport
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows, since he is from Alberta, that this is a very complex issue, a complex problem. The reason we have had no results in the last little while is that the parties have been seriously negotiating.
We believe they are close to an agreement on the contracting provisions. Once that occurs I think the hon. member will be satisfied that the changes we brought in last year in Bill C-34 will indeed work.
Oral Question Period
May 10th, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.
Don Valley East
David Collenette Minister of Transport
Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, the whole question of western grain transportation is exceedingly complex.
What we did in Bill C-34 was start to move to a more competitive system in the tendering out of contracts by the wheat board. This particular legislation is working. There is an improvement in the transportation of grain.
As the review unfolds in the next year and as we bring forward amendments to the act, the hon. member can address those concerns in a more meaningful way.
Oral Question Period
May 10th, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.
Don Valley East
David Collenette Minister of Transport
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is asking me to reflect upon a decision made by the Canadian Transportation Agency to deny running rights for shortline railways on CN and CP tracks.
I might advise the hon. member that there is a panel that is due to report to me in July, the Canadian Transportation Act review panel. There are very prominent people on this panel. They will be addressing this particular issue, as instructed by parliament in the debate on Bill C-34.
Oral Question Period
May 10th, 2001 / 2:40 p.m.
Don Valley East
David Collenette Minister of Transport
Mr. Speaker, I believe that Bill C-34, passed before the last election, was one of the more successful pieces of legislation in restoring some equilibrium with respect to pricing of grain on the prairies.
Under that legislation farmers, the producers, will be receiving about $175 million in benefits. I believe the figure the hon. member has calculated is wrong in the sense that he did not include all the various components of the cost.
Grain is moving. It is moving better than it was before. I am sure there will be more improvements in the future.
February 13th, 2001 / 7:50 p.m.
Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB
Mr. Speaker, tonight we are here, as was stated earlier, to talk about an agricultural policy. Actually what we are here talking about is the lack of any sensible agricultural policy on the part of the Liberal government.
Is there a crisis in agriculture in Canada? When we talk about the grains, oilseeds and corn producers and the Prince Edward Island potato producers, there is a darned serious crisis, a crisis that involves the very livelihood and social fabric of many communities in western Canada, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and in fact farmers in every province. Yes, this debate is necessary but it is not about agricultural policy, it is about a real crisis that is happening right now.
I would like to touch for a moment on the history of this crisis because this did not come up just tonight or last week. This came up five to ten years ago. The lack of policy from governments over the past 30 years, no long term strategy for agriculture and no willingness to change and evolve as agriculture needed to evolve and change over time, is what is missing and the reason we are in a crisis today.
In 1997 we had a bill called Bill C-4, the famous Canadian Wheat Board amendments bill. The Canadian Wheat Board was never changed to a voluntary wheat board the way it should have been so that farmers could go ahead and market their own grain and increase their incomes. Those who needed the services of the wheat board could still have availed themselves of it via a voluntary process. We would have had value added as the pasta producers were trying to do. It would not be obstructing the durum producers of southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba who want to form a durum cartel with their North Dakota neighbours.
The failure of this government is very evident in the bills that it has tried to put forward, which have continued the excessive regulation of the agriculture industry and have not freed it up. I will give a couple of examples in a few moments that will show that.
The other bill that really hurt farmers was Bill C-34. What did we get from that debacle and the two years of wasted time we spent on the Estey-Kroeger report bringing up all the good solutions on the rail transportation system and on how the transportation of our grain to the ports had to be a commercial contract based system? We got a whole bunch of regulations with no solution, big debates and disputes between the various entities on moving our grain to port.
We have tried over the course of the last two years to deal with agricultural issues. We have had emergency debates on agriculture income. We can look in Hansard . We have had supply days on agriculture income. We have had an emergency debate on the grain strike in Vancouver. A grain strike could happen again. It happened in Montreal. It hurts producers like the pulse producers who shift containers over.
The pulse industry is one of the bright spots on the prairies in that they are actually making money growing pulse crops. It is another example of what the government is not doing and certainly could be doing. Western farmers and Ontario farmers are producing pulse crops. The government is always talking about research, but it does very little in the way of pulse crop research. There is one researcher in Saskatoon who does a bit in this regard, but there are three full time researchers working on wheat.
The government is working with Monsanto to develop a GMO wheat and will still have wheat at the same value it is today. Wheat is sold right now for below the cost of production. Pulse producers could make a profit on what they produce, but they could use some federal government dollars to match up with their producer dollars to do research. Where is the government on that? It is not providing that matching dollar. It still wants to do research on canola and wheat. Its priorities are all wrong in that area.
I have just talked about the transportation issue briefly. They cannot guarantee their customers overseas in India and other places that they will have product delivered to them on time. That is another suggestion the government could work on. Final offer arbitration is good example that could be used to ensure that the containers are loaded on to the ships and shipped to the customers. The Estey-Kroeger report should have been implemented and it was not. That also hampers our reliability in delivering our products.
The government has let the crisis build and build. We have talked about solutions, but the only solution is to go with what farm groups are saying, that they need $1 billion over and above existing safety net programs. There has to be an immediate cash injection before spring seeding. That means right away. The government has agreed to the emergency debate and it has no choice but to implement an immediate cash injection.
The problem with the AIDA program and the new CFIP is that it leaves out the farmers in crisis: the grains, oilseed, corn and, as of late, soybean producers.
I know my colleagues in the farming business will certainly have heard, but did anyone else hear what happened to commodity prices yesterday? Did they go up or did they go down? We are talking of grain, wheat, canola and the other crops in crisis. The futures market is down on every blasted one of them. Very clearly that is the problem today.
Farmers need to get their crops in the ground. They need to be able to adjust to other crops. However, the problem is that when the government cut out all the subsidies, including the Crow rate, it never replaced them with a decent, predictable long term program that helped all farmers as opposed to just a few. AIDA seemed to help hog farmers, but it did not help farmers who were suffering from the longer term problem of low income over many years.
Let us talk about trade issues for a moment. The government seems intent on irritating the Americans at every turn. Lately North Dakota has seen fit to pass some legislation, or at least present it in the house, partly because of the agreement our government made with the United States two years ago when we were having problems with R-Calf, the cattle business issue that went back and forth in the west in particular. They had a 40 point agreement where they would sit down before trade disputes arose. Before a trade dispute arose, such as the Prince Edward Island potato issue, the government would get together with United States farmers and politicians and prevent trade action.
Now we see trade action happening with Brazil. Is that not an interesting little case? We have political debts being paid to Bombardier and the province of Quebec. In order to get back at Brazil in any sniping little way the governement could, the agriculture minister had to be involved because it involved an importation of beef from Brazil. That importation of beef was stopped because of political interference. It was not stopped because of any other issue. In the next couple of days we will see that ban lifted.
When our NAFTA neighbours, the United States and Mexico, see political interference on trade issues they will not be very happy with the government. I do not have the inside track on what they are telling the government, but I can say that the United States secretary of agriculture is no doubt phoning Ottawa to tell the Prime Minister to life the ban on beef because it is hurting trade between the Americas.
If the intent of the government is to irritate our trade partners, there is no hope for our farmers. It is too bad that the government was not thrown out in the election of November 27 because it has ruined agriculture and I see no solutions coming from over there.
Employment Insurance Act
February 5th, 2001 / 12:15 p.m.
Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB
Mr. Speaker, first I want to wish you good luck in your new position as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. I am sure the future holds interesting promises.
Second, I wish to thank the electors of Acadie—Bathurst who have put their trust in me for a second mandate as their representative in the House of Commons. I have always said that it was an honour and a privilege to represent the people of Acadie—Bathurst.
It is also a pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-2. This bill was long in coming. Yet, as I will explain later, it does not go far enough. It was long awaited by those who have to rely on employment insurance benefits because of the EI economic region they live in.
As we know, legislation was passed in 1996, which may even be responsible for my getting elected in 1997, because of changes that the Liberals had brought to employment insurance. Members will remember that my predecessor, Doug Young, introduced changes to employment insurance and described people back home as lazy and do-nothings, people who did not want to work. He did not defend the interests of our region.
We ended up with a bill on employment insurance similar to the one before us today, which needs to be amended.
Bill C-2 now before us is an unfortunate one. In May 2000, through a motion that I had introduced in the House of Commons, I made a request to change employment insurance. My colleague and neighbour, the hon. member for Miramichi—there did not seem to be any problems in Miramichi—asked that changes be made to the EI plan rather than to the legislation.
The House passed my motion unanimously. All members present in the House of Commons supported my motion requesting that changes be made to the employment insurance plan. In October, with Bill C-34, we proposed changes to the EI plan. Why was it not passed? Because the Liberals preferred to wait till the last minute, because they knew that the Canadian Alliance was against all changes to the plan.
The Canadian Alliance had its leader come to Bathurst, New Brunswick at the Keddy's Hotel to meet the Alliance candidate, Jean Gauvin. The day before, the Alliance leader had said in western Canada “No changes to EI. There should even be more cuts”. Once in New Brunswick, he told Jean Gauvin, his candidate, that if the Canadian Alliance were elected it would save EI and help Atlantic Canadians. He was speaking from both side of his mouth.
The next day, in Hamilton, Ontario, he said “EI will be cut in Atlantic Canada. These people have to be put back to work. They do not want to work and are dependent on employment insurance”.
Again this morning, we heard what the Canadian Alliance member had to say.
The Canadian Alliance does not understand our country. It does not understand working men and women. It does not understand the jobs in the country. It is time it got out of Alberta and B.C. and came down to the Atlantic.
I hope that we go to committee. I hope the parliamentary committee travels across the country. I will invite it to come to my home area. I hope Jean Gauvin will have the guts to sit in the hall and listen to the Canadian Alliance's feelings on employment insurance.
That party's leader said it would not change EI and that if elected it would protect the working people. The Alliance is two-faced. It was two-faced when it said that if elected it would refuse the pension plan. Now its members must look at it again for the good of their families. That is what they are saying now.
That party's leader said he would never take up residence in Stornoway because it was a grassroots party, and he moved into Stornoway. He said he would never use a limousine and he used one. I am sick and tired of listening to how the Alliance feels about our country and especially how it treats working people.
I will now switch topics because I do not want to spend more time on the Canadian Alliance. The Liberals are the ones who made the changes. They listened to the Reform too much when it was in the House of Commons.
We have the example of Hamilton, Ontario, right now. Workers went on strike. When the strike was over the company decided the workers had nothing to do with the strike and wanted them to return to the 85% level of production needed. They punished them by not allowing them to collect employment insurance.
The Liberal government supports Stelco which is against steelworkers local 5328. That type of program is against working people. It is not acceptable.
The surplus in the employment insurance fund is $32 billion and all of it was taken right out of the pockets of workers without their permission. I have put it this way because I am not permitted to use the word that comes to mind, although according to the definition in the dictionary, it is stealing. That is what it is; $32 billion was taken from men and women who have lost their jobs, the least well off in our society, who have no means of defending themselves, who cannot afford big name lawyers to take their case to court. These people cannot defend themselves.
It is a disgrace what the government says in the throne speech:
Now Canadians must undertake another national project—to ensure that no Canadian child suffers the debilitating effects of poverty.
It is a disgrace because 1.4 million children do not have enough to eat. These children are hungry today. What does the government say in the paragraph just before this one? It says:
There was a time when losing a job also meant immediate loss of income for workers and their families. And so Canadians created Employment Insurance.
The government should have gone on to say that these people were robbed by the Liberals. It should have said so in its throne speech because that is what happened. What the government did was a disgrace.
In October, not long after a motion to make changes to the employment insurance plan was introduced and approved in the House and the Liberal government said it would amend Bill C-34, it called an election.
With all due respect, the members from Madawaska—Restigouche, Beauséjour, Gaspé—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and my opponent, Bernard Thériault, all said “We want to be in the Liberal Party. We want to be in the governing party because we want to be part of the government so that we can change things”.
Bill C-2 is exactly the same as the one introduced before the election. This is a disgrace. It really is disgraceful to hear candidates like Bernard Thériault say to the population in the Caraquet area that when the Prime Minister came for a visit in Belledune, he did more in five minutes than I had done in three and a half years.
The people from the Acadian peninsula and Acadie—Bathurst did not believe that. This is why he did not get elected. People woke up and decided they would not be bought for 5%. This is what happened in my area.
How many times have I said in the House that there is a big difference between a seasonal worker and somebody working in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. The situation is completely different for a seasonal worker.
The Liberals must realize that it is impossible to find cod under the ice in Chaleur Bay in February. They must realize that blueberries cannot be picked under the snow. They must get this into their heads.
It is about time the Liberals understood that we cannot cut Christmas trees in July. This is the way the industry works in the region. Given the quotas imposed by the government, we cannot cut wood in winter in our region, in New Brunswick and in Atlantic Canada.
As I have said many times already, the people in major urban centres are always happy to receive our 2x4s to build their houses but people in my area have no choice. When the fishing season is over, it is over. There are no other jobs. Putting the cart before the horse is not the way to go. Let us put the horse in front of the cart and be sensible about the way we work at improving the economy so that people can find work. Do not take away their last resort, the only way they have to put food on the table.
It is totally unacceptable that in 2001 children are going to school on an empty stomach. The throne speech tells us that the government wants to put an end to child poverty but it is the Liberals themselves who made them poor. This is a fact.
They say they want to help people get an education so that they are better trained but they penalize people who work in the construction industry. Nowadays people who go to a technical school or a community college are penalized. Before they were not penalized when they received unemployment insurance benefits to finish school or improve their training. Now there is a two week penalty. In the meantime they have no income. For someone who works 12 months a year, this makes no sense.
People working in the industry, for example, who wanted to become better in their trade and obtain more knowledge, were being sent to community college and did not have a two week waiting period for employment insurance. The first day they entered community college they are paid.
Today what do people get? People feel they are finished because they have no money to buy food or provide for their families. Employment insurance was not meant to hurt working people. The $32 billion does not belong to the Minister of Finance to balance his budget on the backs of people who lost their jobs. The billions of dollars in the fund was to help individuals who did not have jobs. The throne speech said that Canadians chose to have employment insurance, but the Liberals chose to take it away from them. That is not right and it is not fair. It is totally unacceptable.
Back home, in the Acadian peninsula, in the Bathurst area or in Gaspé, we have jobs in various sectors. Some people work in the forest industry, others in the fisheries, while others work in tourism. Back home there is no more work after August 15. All the visitors are gone. Work starts on June 15 and ends on August 15th.
All those who work in the tourism industry have a problem. As for the fisheries, the lobster season starts May 1 and ends June 30th; herring fishing starts August 28 and goes until around September 15 or 20. After, there is nothing, absolutely nothing. Does it mean we should close down the Atlantic fisheries, that we should lock it up? We will have to close it down and it will be all over. It is a pity.
Yesterday, a lady in Moncton called me from Albert county. She had called the new Liberal member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac. I do not know if there is a word to describe this member. I will not say his name in the House. She told him she had a problem with her employment insurance. He said that all the members are from Ontario and that we are too small a number to bring about changes to the employment insurance, we are on our own.
He should never have run if he feels he is too small and on his own. He should be in politics to speak up for the people of his area, this is what the campaign was all about. I invite the new members from our region who are very familiar with the issue of seasonal work to help their Liberal colleagues acquire a better understanding of this issue.
Whether in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, the situation is the same as in northern Ontario, Manitoba or British Columbia. A logger without a job is just that. One cannot change a logger into a cook. That is the problem. The same thing goes for plant workers. We need those workers.
Hopefully we will not fight when the bill goes to committee. Today, I tried to describe the real problem facing our regions. Families are being destroyed and people arev killing themselves because they do not have anything to eat. Heads of families call to say they have nothing to give their kids during the spring gap, from February to May. They have nothing left.
What is the solution: work, employment insurance, welfare? No. We need a better system. The only way we can have a better system is by sitting down and talking like civilized people and by listening to the problems of Canadians, of workers across the country. Workers are workers, whether they are in the Gaspé Peninsula, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, and we must understand them.
It is not easy for those people who are struggling in an industry that is very dear to us. People in Ottawa love to eat fish and lobster but there is no lobster in Lake Ontario or in Lake Huron.
There is, however, in Chaleur Bay in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean as well. An understanding of and an openness to our seasonal industries is required.
Once again, and I will keep on repeating this, it should be possible to speak to one another and find solutions. It is not a question of considering Bill C-2 again and passing it as quickly as possible. The people concerned are tired of being studied. Action is required now.
I urge the parliamentary committee to visit my riding to see what it is like for men and women who work in fishplants and for woodcutters. I invite them to pay us a visit and get the whole picture. Perhaps then they would understand the situation.
The leader of the Canadian Alliance drew up the plan in half an hour in Bathurst. He understood that changes to the employment insurance were needed. The only problem was that when he left he forgot that the Atlantic provinces belonged to Canada and said that we should cut them again. That is how fast he forgot.
I hope the Canadian Alliance is willing to work for the better of Canadian men and women and that it has an open mind, not just for big corporations, but for the little guy and the little woman who works day after day to try to make a living.
I am glad to have had this opportunity to speak about the problems in our region. I can, if necessary, provide further details. What we need are real solutions that make EI accessible to those who need it.