An Act to amend the Carriage by Air Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Motions in AmendmentAeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, like my NDP colleague, I find the bill seriously flawed.

I want to be clear: we know that from the outset this was basically a Liberal government bill. It is roughly the same bill that was placed before the House in 2005 by the Liberals. Back then it was known as Bill S-33. It was slated to go through the Senate before the House of Commons. It was introduced in the Senate by a Liberal senator but subsequently was ruled out of order because it was a money bill. Interestingly enough, it was challenged in the Senate by Conservative senators.

The bill then reappeared magically as Bill C-62 in the fall of 2006 and of course died on the order paper because of an election. Apparently there were forces at work that made this very bad bill disappear.

However, we have it back again. This time it is Bill C-6 and not much has changed from the bad old days of Bills S-33 and C-62. It is still flawed. It is the same old bill with the same problems.

Needless to say, there have been numerous concerns about the way in which governments, both the Liberals and the Conservatives, are dealing with this area of aeronautics policy and safety management.

One of the biggest concerns that we and other Canadians have is about accountability, accountability to Parliament, accountability to the people of Canada, and open and transparent decision making, all the things that the Conservatives said were intrinsic to their mandate and inherent in their philosophy and would be fundamental to the work of the House, the work that they would do here.

Yet here we are again, as we have been on so many other occasions over the last little while, with another example of the Conservatives reneging on accountability and the interests of Canadians because of expediency. On a fundamental issue of accountability and safety and security of the people in the country, the government once again is going the route of expediency rather than route of what is in the best interests of Canadians.

While we have made substantial progress, Bill C-6 emphasizes cutting costs rather than improving safety standards. There can be no compromise on airline safety. Let me repeat: there can be no compromise on the safety of Canadians. These are major policy issues that will have a direct impact on Canadians who travel by air. The financial bottom lines of Air Canada and WestJet unfortunately will be a factor in setting safety levels in this country.

Transport Canada will be relegated to a more distant role as general overseer of safety management systems, or SMS, as we have heard it called. Adequate safety costs money, but SMS will foster a tendency to cut corners in a very competitive aviation market racked by high fuel prices.

That of course will lead to concerns about the profit margin, with a lot of money for fuel and less money for profit. We know that in business profit is paramount. It is called bean-counting. That is where corporations analyze the degree of risk they are willing to take in order to make money. But when it comes to airline security I say that any risk is unacceptable, and I say not in Canada, no bean-counting when it comes to airline security.

In collaboration with stakeholders such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, airline inspectors and other representatives from the trade union movement, the NDP transportation critic successfully fought for a number of amendments to Bill C-6 in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Unfortunately, serious flaws still remain in Bill C-6. The bill will enshrine SMS, which will allow industries to decide, as I said before, the level of risk they are willing to accept in operations rather than abide by the level of safety established by a minister acting in the public interest.

The SMS would let the government transfer increasing responsibility to the industry itself to set and enforce its own safety standards. It is designed in part to help Transport Canada deal with declining resources and high projected levels of inspector retirements. This just cannot happen. The Government of Canada has to be responsible. It cannot relegate and slough off its responsibility to the industry.

While the NDP passed an amendment in transport committee that emphasizes a reduction of risk to the lowest possible level rather than just accepting or tolerating these risks, we are still concerned about the delegation of safety to corporations.

The NDP did manage to improve this legislation somewhat in committee. A new legislative requirement for the minister to maintain a program for oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety was passed. A new legislative obligation for the minister to require the aeronautical activities be performed at all times in a manner that meets the highest safety and security standards was passed. A new legislative requirement for the minister to carry out inspections of operators who use SMS was passed.

The NDP supported a government amendment to give the transport committee the unprecedented ability to review Transport Canada regulations that may have a reported safety concern.

Under pressure from the NDP, the government was compelled to introduce extensive amendments to limit the scope of designated organizations, the bodies that would assume the role of Transport Canada in setting and enforcing rules on airline safety.

An amendment was successfully pushed through to ensure that the Canada Labour Code would prevail over the Aeronautics Act in the event of a possible conflict.

An amendment was added that would ensure employees and their bargaining agents were included in the development and implementation of SMS.

The government was again compelled, after extended debate, to introduce a form of whistleblower protection for employees who report to Transport Canada that their employer is violating the law.

A new definition of safety management system was put into the legislation, emphasizing a reduction of risks to the lowest possible level rather than just accepting or tolerating risks.

We still have a number of concerns with Bill C-6 and the fact that it compromises the safety of Canadians. We believe that the travelling public and aviation workers deserve better.

We are also concerned with issues involving SMS secrecy, weak whistleblower protection and a lack of airline accountability. These compromises are unacceptable. They are unacceptable to the NDP, and I believe they are unacceptable to Canadians.

The airline industry would be permitted to increasingly define the safety levels of its operations. While the scope of designated organizations has been restricted, significant loopholes still remain. Unfortunately, an amendment ensuring these designated organizations respect key laws in their rule making was defeated.

There is no three year review clause for SMS, as is the case for designated organizations.

There is still no real accountability because this legislation seeks to heighten secrecy. It restricts access to information on the safety performance of airlines. Canadians will be left in the dark when it comes to important safety information. Public access under the Access to Information Act, the ATIA, to safety information reports provided to Transport Canada by air operators will be totally unavailable. We have heard about this.

The NDP amendments sought to preserve operations like ATIA in key areas. Unfortunately, these were defeated.

This new hands off enforcement policy by Transport Canada under SMS would mean that there would be no action taken against corporate offenders if there were problems. The government contends that companies will no longer divulge safety problems without this provision. We find this very unconvincing.

We believe there has to be protection. We believe this bill does not afford that protection. We demand that the government and this House consider the safety of Canadians first.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2006 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a little baffled. How can he possibly feel that added immunity from prosecution for airlines that violate certain safety rules under certain conditions, or heightened secrecy with less access to the information on the safety and performance of airlines, which have been endemic in Bill S-33, Bill C-62 and now in Bill C-6, make airlines safer?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2006 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend I saw a report in a newspaper regarding airline safety. It referenced the Air France crash of last year. One of the things it spoke about was the crew on that flight. One of the things that happens to people when they are in their seats and are so used to having a seat belt on is that they forget to push a button. In the shock of the situation, they do not lift the lever and that is why so many people who are in a fatal crash are found in their seats.

To my mind, what we are talking about is the deregulation of the safety aspects of the airline industry. At least two years ago, Bill S-33 was denied in the Senate and then Bill C-62 died on the order paper because there was no will to move it along.

On the immunity to prosecution, does the hon. member not think it would be better if the bill just died?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 7th, 2006 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6. I want to note that my colleague, our critic for transportation, is presently tied up in a very important committee proceeding dealing with softwood lumber. The member would have loved to have been here to begin the debate on this bill from the point of view of the New Democratic Party. I am only too pleased to take his place and to put on record our deep concerns with this bill.

I want members to know right at the outset that we find this bill to be seriously flawed and needing more than simply a referral to committee for verification purposes or for purposes of checking to see whether or not it jeopardizes the safety of Canadians in any way. Rather, we see the importance of basically beginning again or, in fact, making such major amendments at committee that we can deal with these concerns.

Let us put this bill into perspective. It is allegedly an extensive rewriting of the Aeronautics Act. Members of the opposition were given a short briefing on the bill and found a number of concerns.

I want to be clear that we know from the outset that this is basically a Liberal government bill. It is roughly the same bill as that which was put before the House by the Liberals. Back then it was known as Bill S-33. It was slated to go through the Senate before the House. It was introduced last summer in the Senate by the transport minister and was subsequently challenged in the Senate by the Senate Conservatives and ruled out of order as a money bill. The bill then reappeared as Bill C-62 in the fall of 2005 where, of course, it died on the order paper with the election.

Here we are back at it. This time it is Bill C-6 and not much has changed from the days of Bill S-33 and Bill C-62. It is still a flawed bill.

I am surprised that the Conservatives chose not to address some of the serious shortcomings of this bill and actually bring forward a decent piece of legislation that could be supported by all members of the House. Clearly, we want to see some up-to-date, modern legislation in this era of rapid travel around the globe by air, given all the controversy around airlines these days, and the numbers of problems that people have run into such as the efficiency of airlines, costs and, of course, safety and security. It is a timely piece of legislation, but I am afraid that this bill just does not meet the goal.

As it now stands the NDP will have to oppose this bill. We will continue to oppose it until some major flaws are dealt with. In the meantime, we are consulting with stakeholders. We will be seeking input and advice from concerned Canadians and involved organizations all over this country to get the best advice possible.

Needless to say, it needs some more time or it needs to be scrapped. Members can pick, but I would almost prefer to scrap it and start again. If the government is intent upon bringing forward a regurgitated bill from the Liberals, then let us ensure that it is done properly.

We will be looking for serious consideration of our amendments which we will propose at committee to address the serious flaws in the bill. Those areas include new safety management systems, immunity from prosecution for airlines that violate safety rules under certain conditions, and heightened secrecy and more accurate information on the safety performance of airlines. Those will be the broad areas that we will look at in pursuing amendments at the committee stage.

Needless to say, there have been numerous concerns about the way in which government, the way in which both the Liberals and the Conservatives are dealing with this area of aeronautics policy and safety management systems.

One of the biggest concerns that we and other Canadians have is on accountability, accountability to Parliament, accountability to the people of Canada, open and transparent decision making, all of the things that the Conservatives said were intrinsic to their mandate, inherent in their philosophy and would be fundamental to the work they would do in this House. Yet here we are again, as we have been faced with on so many occasions over the last little while, with another example of the Conservatives deciding to let all that talk about accountability float off into thin air and be set aside in the interests of expediency and, I would guess, extreme ideology.

Speaking of extreme ideology, it is interesting that today we received the news that the government has appointed an extreme right-wing thinker, Dr. Brian Lee Crowley, to the very important position of special adviser or visiting economist in the Department of Finance.

On a personal basis I have nothing against Brian Crowley. In fact, 30 years ago this year we were both parliamentary interns in this place. At that time Brian Crowley was a rather progressive individual. I thought if anything he was leaning toward the New Democratic Party, but clearly he has had a metamorphosis along life's journey and has emerged at the other end of his life as a radically extreme right-wing individual who has the audacity to oppose such fundamental policies as pay equity for women. He feels that is not a real public policy issue and has no basis in fact in terms of it being an economic question and a fundamental human rights issue. He opposes employment insurance on most accounts. He has recommended basically a continental integration scheme between Atlantic Canada and the Atlantic northeastern states. He has certainly spoken out against notions that are important for this country such as equalization and sharing of resources and talent across this land.

I found it very interesting that the Minister of Finance named him as his special adviser, filling a very important position in the Department of Finance. I thought that with some of the minister's recent statements and some of his concerns about corporations paying their fair share of taxes he had seen the light and was coming around to more New Democratic thinking. I thought he was beginning to realize the importance of a more balanced approach on economic and fiscal matters, and then he turned around and did something like this today. I do not know.

Needless to say, that is an indication of where the government really is going. It is probably a good thing that this happens every so often, that the government will make one of its patronage appointments just like it did in terms of climate change. It appointed to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council someone whose thinking is alien to the very notion of climate change . And here we are with someone from a right-wing think tank in Atlantic Canada in the Department of Finance.

Maybe it is a good thing, because then we really get to understand and see that despite all their attempts at trying to portray themselves as warm and fuzzy Conservatives, they are really hard-nosed extreme right-wing reactionaries. These kinds of appointments actually remind us what kind of battle we are in, what we are up against and how we always have to be vigilant. We should never let our guard down. We must always question authority, as we tell our children, question government and continue to push and press and fight for change.

Today we are dealing with the Aeronautics Act. On a fundamental issue of accountability, safety and security of people in this country, the government once again is going the route of expediency rather than the route of what is in the best interests of Canadians.

Let me go through a few of our concerns. Let us start with safety management systems. For members who are interested, this issue is found in clause 12 of Bill C-6. That clause seeks to give authority to the governor in council to establish and implement management systems, better known as safety management systems, or SMS. It is important to note that this is at the very heart of the changes to the Aeronautics Act that will affect the safety of the travelling public and crew members.

This process of SMS is well under way and it is being quarterbacked by the director general of civil aviation, Mr. Merlin Preuss. It is important to note there are real concerns about this whole approach in the bill. There must be strong accountability measures built into the bill and there must be a clear attempt to protect the public interest. Our question is how is the public interest protected under SMS?

It would seem that if anything, there will be increased reliance on time consuming and costly lawsuits to deal with inevitable systems failures. Many of these problems and complaints will be initiated by the victims or the surviving families of these breakdowns. Let us face it; we have to think about the future, and if we have not put in place an ironclad safety system that is not so overwhelmed by process and leads to possible lawsuits, we are only asking for doom and gloom or disastrous consequences.

It should be noted that Transport Canada officials have candidly admitted that some U.S. Federal Aviation Administration officials have said that Canadians are giving away the store with SMS. That whole area is of deep concern to us. I could go on at length about some of the problems under SMS, for example, that it will be the airlines that decide safety levels for the travelling public. Robert Milton will now be safeguarding the public interest. Henceforth Air Canada's bottom line will be the factor in setting safety levels for that airline.

I could talk about the fact that there will be a consequent shift in relationship between airlines and Transport Canada. As Marc Grégoire, the ADM of safety and security has said:

There must also be a willingness on the part of the regulator to step back from involvement in the day-to-day activities of the company in favour of allowing organizations to manage their activities and related hazards and risks themselves.

We would like to see this whole area dealt with in a serious way, if not by throwing out this bill and starting again, then certainly by the Conservatives accepting some very major amendments to the bill. That is one concern.

Let me go to another one that has to do with the delegation of rule setting to private bodies, obviously a deep concern. Whenever we give away authority from Parliament or an authorized body, then we are causing problems for ourselves down the road. I am referring to clause 12, the new parts of section 5 of the act.

Through SMS we are supposed to enhance aviation safety because it supposedly builds on a robust set of minimum standards set by Transport Canada in the public interest. In the various public and private statements, there have been very evasive comments on the level of basic regulation that will be maintained in the future.

We are concerned, given the way the legislation is worded and given the rather vague description around all of this in the bill, that actions will speak louder than words. Transport Canada has already transferred the actual operation of the regulatory regime for certain classes of air operators entirely to the private sector. It has done so even though the new section 5.31 in clause 12 of the bill has yet to be passed authorizing such designation to organizations. That is shocking. Here again the Conservatives are doing exactly the opposite of what their words intended, which was to allow for due process and to ensure open and transparent actions and to put in place strong measures of accountability.

This transfer which was not authorized in any way actually occurred for business aircraft in March 2005. Who is next? What else will happen? Transport Canada is now openly speaking about doing the same for commercial operators, most recently at the Canadian aviation safety seminar last April in Halifax.

I guess the fox is in charge of the hen house. If not now, certainly soon the foxes will be running their own hen houses. It fits with the general philosophy of the Conservatives who have often said that the least government is the best government. Their idea of government is very narrowly focused. When they think of government they think of very narrow specific roles for government.