SMS was first proposed by the Liberals in Bill C-62 in 2005. Is that correct?
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Jean Lapierre Liberal
Not active, as of Sept. 28, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment deals with integrated management systems and authorizes the establishment of voluntary reporting programs under which information relating to aviation safety and security may be reported. It also authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certify persons undertaking certain aeronautical activities. Other powers are enhanced or added to improve the proper administration of the Act, in particular powers granted to certain members of the Canadian Forces to investigate aviation accidents involving both civilians and a military aircraft or aeronautical facility.
November 30th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB
SMS was first proposed by the Liberals in Bill C-62 in 2005. Is that correct?
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
June 2nd, 2008 / 6:05 p.m.
Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
The bill is very similar in most respects to its predecessor, Bill C-62, which was introduced in the House in September 2005 by the previous Liberal government. Therefore, the bill and its predecessors have been kicking around for approximately three years now. For those who doubt the Conservative government's approach to environmental issues, and that list is growing every day, I would remind them of the government's unusual commitment to recycling, that is to recycle legislation from the previous Liberal government. This is a situation which reminds me of an old saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.
Unfortunately, the previous Bill C-62 died on the order paper with the dissolution of Parliament, without having gone beyond first reading. Bill C-6, which was the predecessor to Bill C-7, was introduced before prorogation by the minister of transport in April 2006 and came up for a vote at second reading. Members of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party did not vote in favour, yet Bill C-6, which is now Bill C-7, still passed 195 to 71. Then it was sent to the House transport committee for further study and deliberation.
In preparing for these brief remarks, I reviewed certain segments of Hansard. I talked to some members of the transport committee and I was encouraged by the work that the committee did. I was very encouraged by the actions of the Bloc Québécois, which originally voted against the bill. After hearing from many witnesses, that party proposed amendments in committee, which addressed its concerns. When the bill came back to this assembly, the Bloc at that time voted for it. That is the manner in which the House ought to operate and that is the manner in which our committee system ought to function.
Members of the New Democratic Party, on the other hand, were unable to convince committee members of the merit of its concerns or arguments and amendments and it voted against it, instead of respecting the work done at committee. The NDP members moved a hoist amendment. Essentially they have taken their ball and gone home. If they cannot have their own way, no one can. In effect the work done by the parties that represent in excess of 80% of Canadians, as per the results of the last federal election in January 2006, is being stalled by the New Democratic Party.
Marleau and Montpetit teaches us:
The hoist amendment originated in British practice, where it appeared in the eighteenth century. It enabled the House of Commons to postpone the resumption of the consideration of a bill.
An analysis of hoist amendments moved in the House of Commons since Confederation shows that the cases in which this procedure has been used fall into two specific periods. The first was from 1867 to about 1920, and the second from 1920 to the present day.
The first hoist amendment was moved on November 28, 1867. Prior to 1920, it was the government, not the opposition, that used hoist amendments most often. Because the House had only a little time for government business during the short sessions of that era, the government sometimes felt obliged to dispose of a great number of private Members’ bills by using the hoist procedure so that it would have more time to devote to its own legislation.
Since 1920, the period set aside for government business has grown to take up the largest share of the time in the House, and hoist amendments have gradually come to be used almost exclusively by the opposition.
From an examination of the precedents, it is clear that hoist amendments were moved to motions for second and third reading during periods when there was considerable tension between the parties. Those amendments rarely passed: of the scores of cases recorded in the Journals, only four succeeded. In each of those four cases, the hoist amendment was moved by the government with the intent of defeating a private Member’s bill.
As members can see, in order to block the work done by the other parties, and not only the other parties but by Parliament itself, the New Democratic Party had to invoke an obscure parliamentary tactic, which is a rarity in the House and these times.
Again, dealing with the bill itself, it was dealt extensively and at length by the transport committee. I congratulate all members of that committee. The committee did its job. It took the appropriate time to consider, to deliberate on the bill, amendments were moved, debated, some were passed, some were not passed. That is the way the committee system should work.
There is a lot of noise in the House. I can hardly hear myself. Is there anyway you can restore order, Mr. Speaker?
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
October 31st, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a member of the transport, infrastructure and communities committee to speak in support of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
This was formerly known as Bill C-6 and Bill C-62 before that. It was previously worked on by the transport, infrastructure and communities committee. I am pleased it was brought back to the House and that our extensive efforts at committee were not wasted.
The bill deals with integrated safety management systems, SMS for short. It also authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certified persons undertaking certain aeronautical activities. Other powers are enhanced or added to improve the proper administration of the act, in particular powers granted to certain members of the Canadian Forces to investigate aviation accidents involving both civilians and a military aircraft or aeronautical facility. This enactment is a proactive measure to assist in preventing airplane accidents from occurring.
Bill C-7 is yet another example of Liberal legislation from previous parliaments being brought forward by the Conservatives, albeit with a new name and minor cosmetic changes. Under the previous Liberal government, Bill C-62 began the dialogue on the issues that eventually became Bill C-6 and now Bill C-7.
The transport committee worked well on this bill. I commend our committee chair, the member for Brandon—Souris , for his excellent work as a chair who facilitated an open and generally positive exchange of ideas in the committee. I suspect the member for Brandon—Souris was not one of the Conservative committee chairs given the secret committee guide book on obstructing and controlling committee proceedings, as our committee was an example of how a minority Parliament should work, and that is what Canadians expect of their elected representatives.
The opposition's approach at the committee table was clear from day one. Public safety was and is our number one concern, not partisan politics as we have seen permeate so much of the government's manoeuvring in the 38th and now the 39th Parliament.
In Canada today there are numerous safety issues that require examination in all modes of transportation in Canada, namely the aeronautics safety measures such as those in Bill C-7, rail safety, port security and safety and marine shipping to name a few.
An issue that gets little attention is the manner in which the Conservative government reorganized the committees after forming a minority government last year. Under previous Liberal governments, the House of Commons had a single committee devoted to transport issues, the Standing Committee on Transport, providing a clear and manageable focus for the committee. Following the 2005-06 election and for reasons that have yet to be explained, the government decided to lump several key areas together in one committee, namely what we have now, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Clearly there are numerous transport issues today in Canada that should be reviewed by parliamentarians. However, the government decided that transport issues should receive only one-third of the attention of the committee as they ever have before.
Coming from a municipal background, I can also speak to the importance of infrastructure needs in our cities and communities. To suggest that urgent issues such as the looming municipal infrastructure crisis deserves only one-third of parliamentary committee time shows that the government is seriously out of touch with the needs of our cities.
One only needs to look at the comments of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on this week's economic statement to see the manner in which the Prime Minister has left municipalities and cities in the lurch.
Gordon Steeves, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated in a press release dated October 30:
The government has so far failed to tackle this [municipal infrastructure] deficit, one of the most critical issues facing Canada's cities and communities, with a long-term plan and commitment.
He said further:
Today's actions by the government leave this [municipal infrastructure] deficit untouched and continuing to grow, and the longer we fail to tackle it, the greater the cost when we finally do.
Despite the cooperative spirit and hard work done by all members of the committee, it was unfortunate that the bill died on the order paper following the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue and hence delay resuming Parliament in order to ultimately force confidence votes on the opposition apparently in the hope of forcing another federal election, which Canadians do not want.
It is a shame that we are double billing Canadian taxpayers for work already completed. Instead, we should be moving on to other new issues, such as the renewal and strengthening of Canada's Railway Safety Act, merely an example.
The transport, infrastructure and communities committee performed due diligence on the bill. We heard from many key witnesses, as stakeholders, such as the Air Line Pilots Association, Transport 2000 Canada, Union of Canadian Transport Employees, Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Air Canada Pilots Association, Canadian Federal Pilots Association, Helicopter Association of Canada, Teamsters Canada, Canadian Business Aviation Association, Air Transport Association of Canada, Canadian Airports Council, International Civil Aviation Organization, DaxAir Inc., Air Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, National Defence officials and Transport Canada officials.
The common theme with all of the witnesses who appeared before the committee—
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
October 30th, 2007 / 4:55 p.m.
Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC
After first reading and debate on second reading, the Bloc Québécois opposed Bill C-6—that is a fact. In fact, we had a number of misgivings about the safety management systems that would cover all aspects of safety and that did not provide us with guarantees that the scrupulous inspections done by the federal check pilots could continue. At the same time, we had a lot of indications to suggest that the number of check pilots would be reduced in the future.
I and my colleague from d'Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel made a serious and careful study of the bill. In committee, we held 11 meetings to hear witnesses from all the parties: pilots, federal officials and lobby groups. We also held six special meetings for the clause by clause study. After examining all of the clauses, we produced a report that has recently been tabled in the House, proposing 20 amendments to the bill.
Our concerns in the Bloc related specifically to the safety management system, and also the designated organizations, because we had no way of knowing precisely what their responsibilities would be in this system as a whole.
We heard the various parties, and even Mr. Justice Moshansky, an aviation expert, who conducted the probe into a major air crash. He told us that the clause dealing with designated organizations should be preserved, but narrowed. That is what we then did, taking into account all of the good comments received, and seeing clearly that this safety management system could produce good results.
It is important to note that opinion on many sides is that air safety in Canada is in very good shape, although it could still be improved. That is why, at second reading of Bill C-6, on November 7, 2006, the Bloc Québécois opposed the bill in principle in its original form. Not only did it not provide for improving safety, it ran the risk of having the reverse effect, based on the content of the bill at that time.
I would like to list a few of the main amendments to the Aeronautics Act proposed by Bill C-7. First, we are asking for additional regulation-making powers in relation to, for example, measures to reduce aircraft emissions and mitigate the impact of crew fatigue, and safety management systems for Canadian aviation document holders.
Another amendment relates to new powers, comparable to the powers of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, to be assigned to the Canadian Forces Airworthiness Investigative Authority, so that authority can investigate air accidents and incidents involving military personnel and civilian business operators.
A third amendment would add provisions to encourage aviation document holders to voluntarily report their safety concerns without fear of legal or disciplinary action.
We would then like to include provisions for greater self-regulation in low-risk segments of the airline industry.
And last, we are asking that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities be given more resources for enforcing the law and imposing more severe penalties on offenders.
The provisions of this new bill are identical, with a few exceptions, to those of Bill C-62. The majority of changes were proposed to improve and increase regulatory powers with the objective of facilitating the implementation of safety management systems.
According to the department, these systems constitute a new approach to safety. Rather than depending on surprise inspections, this new approach places the emphasis on monitoring the safety practices established by the airline companies themselves. For example, a company will implement its own training procedures for its staff. Transport Canada will ensure that these procedures achieve the objectives and are actually followed.
In addition, a voluntary reporting system provides a mechanism for employees to evaluate themselves, enabling them to improve and to set an example for their colleagues. Individuals will not be identified when the self-evaluation forms are made public, in order to allow staff to use this mechanism without fear of consequences.
According to the department, this new approach has had good results in Australia and Great Britain. The purpose is to correct mistakes or failings of which Transport Canada may never have heard. The department believes that this initiative will provide the assurance of additional safety because the company will police itself, even before Transport Canada gets involved. The department hopes to concentrate its resources on the most sensitive areas.
At second reading, on November 7, 2006, our main criticism of the bill was the establishment of safety management systems, or rather the fact that they were being formalized.
It is true that at first glance this mechanism seems promising because it enables all stakeholders to make a contribution toward the improvement of safety. To do that, it provides a certain immunity and confidentiality without compromising information currently available. However, those management systems could very well be a pretext for the department to abandon its obligation for monitoring and inspection so that, in the end, it would have the reverse effect of contributing to an increase in the risks associated with air transport.
Safety management systems effectively remove the burden of safety management from the shoulders of the government and place it on the airline companies that are told to regulate themselves. In the opinion of the Bloc Québécois, that does not make sense. In an industry as competitive as air transport, cost cutting is a necessity. Safety then becomes another expense that has to be reduced as much as possible. Without the standards and frequent inspections by qualified personnel, it is probable that the most negligent carrier will set the standard because its costs will be the lowest. From time to time, an accident will serve as punishment to those who go too far, just as one or more serious accidents will serve to remind parliamentarians that their role is not just to vote for legislation but also to ensure it is applied.
Since that scenario is not the one that we support, the Bloc Québécois has proposed amendments to maintain and improve the monitoring and inspection role of the department. Safety management systems will not replace the department's inspections and will be better defined and regulated. The testimony of Captain Daniel Maurino of the International Civil Aviation Organization before the committee on March 21 speaks for itself.
My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel told him at that time that what he said during his appearance before the committee was important, and that his words needed to be properly understood. Captain Maurino agreed that ICAO advocated that all safety management systems must be subject to regulatory supervision. In other words, ICAO believes that an SMS is another way of ensuring safety, but we still need to maintain a system of regulatory supervision. When asked that question by my Bloc Québécois colleague, Captain Maurino responded in the affirmative.
The Aeronautics Act will contain a clear definition of a safety management system. It will make the minister responsible because “The Minister shall maintain a program for the oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety established by the Minister.” The legislation will specify the minimum content of regulation of the safety management system.
Concretely, the Minister of Transport could designate one or several organizations under certain conditions.
In particular, the organization would be subject to an aeronautical safety study, and the results of the study must show that its activities represent a low level of risk in relation to aviation safety and security.
Once a year, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will table a list of all designated organizations in both houses of Parliament. Finally, the provisions dealing with designated organizations will only come into force three years after royal sanction of the legislation.
In the view of the Bloc Québécois, this amendment was necessary because, at present, Transport Canada is having some problems in establishing safety management systems. It would thus be premature to give the green light to designated organizations to implement SMS when the department was still testing them.
Captain Maurino from the ICAO summed up the situation following another question when my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel — who can be rather voluble —indicated to him that Transport Canada’s approach caused a problem for us.
I will quote the exchange between my colleague and Captain Maurino.
Mr. Mario Laframboise: You audited Transport Canada's operations in 2005. In March of 2006, after safety management systems were put in place, Transport Canada terminated the National Audit Program which targeted the eight largest air carriers in the country. This means that the eight largest air carriers are no longer subject to an annual audit.
I won't ask you a question about that, because perhaps you're embarrassed by Transport Canada's actions, but I don't feel that Transport Canada is being reasonable by terminating an audit program simply because safety management systems were put in place.
Would you agree with me?
Capt Daniel Maurino: Yes, sir. In any change there is a transition period. What is the safety picture going to be in 20 or 25 or 30 years' time? Nobody really knows. If SMS evolves to the potential that we hope it will achieve, there may be a scenario in which audits are no longer going to be necessary.
But we're at the beginning. I want to reinforce a notion that I have expressed already. We're talking about SMS as if SMS were a done deal. It is not. We're at the beginning. We haven't even landed. We haven't even started this campaign. I believe that what's going on here is the fate that trailblazers suffer, which is growing pains.
In many aspects, we're learning as we move, and we become wiser as we get additional feedback. What I'm trying to say is that this early in the game, taking any radical measures, whatever they might be, would be unwise. I think the elimination of an inspectorate force, audits, or other conventional mechanisms that have ensured safety in aviation for over sixty years would not be applicable until we are absolutely certain that what we're removing is being replaced by a better system.
I want to remind hon. members that Captain Daniel Maurino is the coordinator of Flight Safety and Human Factors for the International Civil Aviation Organization.
One of the Bloc Québécois' concerns involved the possible contradictions between Bill C-6 and certain parts of the Canada Labour Code. In court, the latter must apply. A number of amendments on this passed thanks to the Bloc Québécois. The provisions of the Canada Labour Code will prevail over the incompatible provisions of the Aeronautics Act.
With respect to protection for whistleblowers, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment to protect employees who provide safety information to Transport Canada inspectors in good faith. The amendment would prohibit holders of Canadian aviation documents from retaliating against such employees.
Amendments were also proposed to ensure that information used in SMSs, such as Transport Canada's audit and inspection reports, could be obtained through the Access to Information Act. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. As my colleague said earlier, you can't win 'em all. Once we see how well the law works, it will be clear what improvements are needed.
Even though senior Transport Canada officials said that these reports could be obtained, in practice, the legislation contains a list of exceptions that allow the department to withhold some information from the public. The Bloc Québécois would certainly have liked to change that with its amendments.
I want to emphasize that in the end, most of the Bloc Québécois' amendments to Bill C-7 were accepted, including the main ones concerning the maintenance of Transport Canada's monitoring and inspection measures and the monitoring of designated organizations.
These amendments make it possible for us to support this bill at third reading as amended by the Standing Committee on Transport.
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
October 30th, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
As several of my colleagues have said already, this is a bill that has evolved over the course of many discussions, including those held in committee. We must remember that before the Conservative government decided to prorogue the House, the Bloc Québécois had voted against this bill—which was then Bill C-6—at second reading. Today, we are supporting Bill C-7 because it has changed considerably. I will try to explain this.
Earlier, I was talking about the history of this bill to my Liberal colleague. In the previous Parliament, when the Liberal Party formed a minority government, it introduced Bill C-62, in November 2005. Like the bill now before the House, that was a bill to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. When the Conservatives, in turn, formed a minority government, they brought back that bill in almost identical form, but for a few words. Those are the facts.
When the Conservatives reinstated Bill C-6, they did not bother to ensure that it met the needs of the industry and the people responsible for safety. I am referring to Transport Canada inspectors, and any other agency with the very specific task of looking after safety. We must not forget that Transport Canada had already allowed the airlines to implement their own safety management system without having any legislation for overseeing that system. Before reintroducing Bill C-6, the Conservatives did not bother to make sure that the safety management system had been accredited, although it was included in Bill C-6.
For those who are listening to us, I will try to summarize what the safety management system is. What it does is allow companies to have an internal way of operating that makes it possible for employees to report safety violations within the company. Without this framework, employees might be deterred from working to develop the security management system because they were afraid of losing their job or being reprimanded by their superiors.
This was the Bloc’s big concern. We did not want the safety management system being proposed again in Bill C-6 to replace the entire inspection system in place at Transport Canada. That system is in fact the source of the excellent safety reputation of the entire civil aviation system in Canada, and obviously in Quebec, for the Quebeckers for whose interests we stand up every day in this House. In our opinion, it was very important that the safety management system not replace the entire Transport Canada inspection system. That is why we voted against Bill C-6 at second reading.
We asked that witnesses, including representatives of the International Civil Aviation Organization, be invited to explain to the committee the entire process of implementing the safety management system. Canada was indeed a leader in implementing the safety management system in civil aviation. However, the ICAO representative gave us to understand that implementing a safety management system inside the airline....
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
October 30th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON
Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague. It was very gracious of him to recognize that I am able to remove myself when there are theatrics going on, but that I am one of those who work hard when there is work to be done. What we have before us is the result of such work.
I want to reassure the hon. members that, even if the Bloc Québécois member contends that this bill is not similar to Bill C-62 introduced by the previous Liberal government, as I have said, and I will say again because I like to repeat it, this bill is the result of the work of members who wanted to lay upon the table a bill meaningful to all Canadians, regardless of where they live in Canada.
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
October 30th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC
Mr. Speaker, I will start by pointing out the Liberal member's conciliatory tone, and his desire to help this minority government work, going as far as groveling at times. I hope he will stand up to the Conservatives a little more firmly in the future.
That said, I should point out to him that Bill C-62 introduced under the Liberal majority government was nothing like the one before us today. A Liberal bill was introduced when the Liberals were in the majority. It was a far cry from this bill resulting from accommodations thanks to which we were able to open the government's eyes because, in a minority government situation, the opposition parties are in the majority at committee.
Motions in AmendmentAeronautics ActGovernment Orders
June 19th, 2007 / 1:40 p.m.
Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join the debate at report stage and third reading of Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
I want to begin by recognizing and paying tribute to my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster and the transport critic for the New Democratic Party, for being a stalwart champion of the interests of the consumer during this lengthy debate, the study of Bill C-6. It is generally agreed he has been a leader among the opposition parties to ensure that the voice and interests of Canadians are put front and centre as we go through this whole interesting debate about air transportation safety.
We are very concerned that both the tone and the content of Bill C-6 are really geared toward the financial bottom lines of these air transportation carriers and we could put at risk, or at least put back in the order of priority, the best interests of Canadians.
I should note that my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, worked in collaboration with stakeholders such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents a great many airline personnel and workers, and IAMAW, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Both these unions have advocated on behalf of the best interests of their own members, but also the best interests of the public at large when it comes to any changes that we make to the air transportation system.
A number of amendments were made at the committee stage, put forward by my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. That is perhaps why so many of us are taken aback today. We made amendments at committee that we believed were progress, with the cooperation of the various stakeholders such as the unions. However, then today, we find the federal Minister of Transport making a bid to sweep aside the changes to the airline bill, which were intended to ensure safety in the skies.
We find it very troubling that the government has tabled a motion to gut the very critical amendments to Bill C-6, which my colleague, Burnaby—New Westminster, and other members of the transport committee so diligently put in place. We cannot understand how a minister of transport, in all good conscience, could undermine the work of the committee. Its earnest interest was simply to do what was right for Canadians. It certainly has my colleague, the NDP transport critic, scratching his head and wondering what possible motivation there could be. What possibly could be driving the government to, if anything, back away from safety as priority number one. It is a grave concern to us.
We are very critical of Bill C-6 in its current form. There are a number of issues, in fact too many issues for me to deal with in any depth in the 10 minutes that have been allotted to me. I will point out some of the concerns in which I have a particular interest. One is Bill C-6, as contemplated by the government, will actually undermine and reduce the freedom of information, the freedom of Canadians to know what the safety situation is of airlines, in that it withdraws seven sections of the act from the Access to Information Act.
I sit on the committee that is responsible for privacy, ethics and access to information. It troubles me greatly to see government in any of its activities pull back from freedom of information. On those grounds alone, I would criticize the bill. The public has a right to know what the government is up to and surely the public has a right to know the safety and maintenance information about airlines. Airlines and carriers of the general public are not just the average private business.
Canadians have a right to be more involved in airline safety and they certainly need more thorough information. I am critical that Bill C-6 would remove sections from the scrutiny of the Canadian public through freedom of information laws.
I am also critical that the systems maintenance regime would now be put under the scrutiny of the airlines. We believe this is a stepping back again of government scrutiny and government supervision of airline safety management and essentially the airline industry would be permitted to increasingly define its own safety level of its operations.
One would think that the airline would make this a priority and that safety interests would be the airlines' top key concern and priority, but in our experience it is a legitimate role of government to take responsibility for those things.
I am also very concerned that another element of this bill would become very weak or in fact non-existent, and that is the whistleblower protection. While a form of whistleblower protection for employees has been introduced, there is no effective redress mechanism for employees who might suffer reprisals as a result of blowing the whistle.
I would remind members that this is one industry sector about which, for heaven's sake, the public has a right to know. The public has an interest in knowing if there are any shortcomings in the maintenance regime, and whistleblowers should be rewarded, not criticized and certainly not suffer any form of reprisals. Those three things, piled together, give more than ample reason to be critical of Bill C-6.
The bill has a rather rocky history in that it was introduced in the last Parliament by a senator in fact. It came to the House first known as Bill S-33, introduced by the other place. We are always suspect, frankly, when bills come to us through that back door mechanism. After a great deal of debate there, it was later reintroduced as Bill C-62 under the Liberal regime in September 2005, but it died on the order paper and did not go past first reading.
When we came to it in this particular Parliament, I note that a great deal of time has been spent on this already. It was introduced on April 3, 2006 as Bill C-6. After a brief staff meeting, the NDP was disappointed that the Conservatives and the Liberals initially struck a deal to pass Bill C-6 without any further amendments. This is why I began my remarks by complimenting my colleague, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, for the yeoman's job he did, virtually alone at the committee, to overturn that alliance that was put together by the ruling party and the official opposition that they would somehow ram Bill C-6 through in its flawed state.
There was clearly a lack of consultation with the stakeholders or these many amendments would not have been developed. I cannot imagine any government going forward with legislation like this without doing a comprehensive consultation with groups like CUPE and the IAM. When we received it back today and realized that this was not only not in its original form but that the amendments made at committee would be stripped back and undermined by the minister and that the Tory amendments intend to gut air safety, we could not help but stand up and be critical.
People will notice that a number of speakers from the NDP are speaking back to back on this bill because the public has a right to know and the public deserves to know. The public should know what is going on in our air transportation safety system and I do not believe, if it were left to the devices of the ruling party and its partners in crime, the official opposition, which has been absent, AWOL as it were, in terms of doing its job as official opposition and bringing the government to task for the glaring problems and oversights with this--
Motions in AmendmentAeronautics ActGovernment Orders
June 19th, 2007 / 1 p.m.
Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with very strong concerns regarding Bill C-6. We heard earlier how this bill has come back to haunt this place on several occasions. It began in the other place where it was first introduced, on May 16, 2005, if I recall correctly. At that time the Senate Speaker withdrew the bill because it had funding implications which of course were not appropriate. The government of the day subsequently followed with Bill C-62.
The current bill that is before this place today, rather than improving safety standards, the safety management system will allow the airlines to decide what level of risk they are prepared to take. Each member of the House travels regularly. I wonder how members are going to feel as they board the planes knowing that a lot of the accountability is no longer there and that the industry itself, an industry that is under extreme financial pressures, is going to decide what maintenance to do and when to do it. For myself that raises some very tremendous concerns.
Almost daily in this place we hear government members talk about accountability and in various areas we agree with them. We hear about accountability that has to do with a violent offender and whether people have a right to know when the violent offender is in their community and things of that nature.
Section 7 of Bill C-6 flies in the face of all of those statements. We hear the Conservatives going on ad nauseam about accountability, but section 7 takes away the right of Canadians to have access to information. Let us think about that for a moment.
Recently at the Hamilton airport there were two incidents where planes that were set to fly overseas had to return to the airport. The very next day in the Hamilton Spectator and other news media across the country, there was a story which told what had gone on and what was being done to account to the passengers and allow them to have some peace of mind as they set about their journey later on.
If that company had not understood that somewhere behind the scenes there was a sense of accountability, where the company knew that whatever decisions were made regarding those flights would come back and rest on its shoulders in the near future, perhaps those stories and the accounts from that company might have been less forthcoming with the information as to what had happened and what went wrong.
It is amazing to me that the government would actually entrust the safety of Canadians to this industry. It is not that the industry has proven to be irresponsible, and I am not suggesting that, but on the other hand when they are looking at the balance sheet and they have shareholders and people with great interest in the bottom line where, is the cut-off point? Where does it become truly in the interest of the public as opposed to the interest of the company when they are trying to decide the cuts?
I often refer to a very wise, I would even go so far as to call him a sage, writer. His name is Kris Kristofferson. He wrote songs in the 1960s and 1970s and still is a well-known performer around the world today. In fact, he is an activist on many fronts. By the way, he is no relationship to the member for Hamilton Centre. He wrote in the 1970s that the law is for the protection of the people.
In my experience, and I think of many members of the House as we review the legislation that has evolved through this place over many years, we would agree with that statement, that the law is for the protection of the people, but in this case with Bill C-6, is that truly the case? We have to ask ourselves that. I am not so sure. In fact, I cannot quite understand how they could get to this place.
Many members present will likely remember the confrontation in the United States in the 1980s between President Ronald Reagan and the air traffic controllers. At the time, Mr. Reagan took what I think was an amazing stand when he actually had all the air traffic controllers in that country fired. How inconsiderate, to say the least, to the safety of the public, but following that there was the deregulation of the airlines in the U.S. and the number of air crashes and near misses went up tremendously. I am very concerned that we are facing the same thing in this country.
There are all kinds of problems when we look at the various information that comes to us. We talk about Jetsgo's problems and how it was ignored and the probe into the death of the discount airline not that long ago and how it revealed shortcomings in existing legislation and here we are talking about weakening the legislation that protects people.
The NDP in committee put forward a number of amendments and one was a requirement for the minister to maintain a program of oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety, and that was passed. I cannot imagine a person in this place who would disagree with something as fundamental as the government having accountability and authority over the airlines to ensure they follow safety practices.
Coming from the labour movement, I will give an example that I use quite often. We have worker health and safety committees throughout the workplaces in Ontario. I will use a hospital as an example. Many hospitals are moving to offloading or contracting out the health services because they see it as a fundamental work and that it is easy for someone to come in to do. Today, when a CUPE member or an SEI member is doing the work, when people go to the hospital and see a problem they take it to their health and safety committee which carries it to the company where it gets a response. Hopefully, in due course, whatever the issue is it gets resolved.
If workers are there earning minimum wage, that worker will see that same thing but because they are under the gun of the low wage, the lack of accountability and not having that health and safety committee to protect their interests, they will simply keep their head down and keep working. Whatever the problem is remains and grows and grows. In the hospital systems throughout this country we are fighting varying forms of bacteria and other things that are taking residence in the hospitals.
Let us take that same view of health and safety to the airline industry. When we are flying at 35,000 feet we want to be sure that the person who has worked on that aircraft has followed every bit of due diligence and has had no directives to cut corners or the benign neglect that can come from legislation like this where the employer will tell employees that they have so many minutes to get that aircraft ready.
I do not know if members are aware of this but the people who put the aircraft in the air and the ticket people who pass us on to the airlines are not well-paid. Air Canada has contracted out that work and if the aircraft is late in leaving they are not even paid. The emphasis is on getting the plane into the air. If we transfer that same kind of thinking to the mechanics, the pilots and the ground crews, we will be putting the airlines at risk, which is precisely what Bill C-6 does. It opens a door at all levels and puts the Canadian public at risk, and we cannot have that. I assume and expect that the members present will totally disagree with Bill C-6.
Motions in AmendmentAeronautics ActGovernment Orders
June 19th, 2007 / 12:45 p.m.
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.
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.
April 23rd, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for appearing today.
I've been listening to the testimony on Bill C-6 for a while here. Bill C-6, as a bill, is no surprise. What surprises me are the last-minute allegations that have been coming in the last couple of weeks or so.
Bill C-6 was preceded by Bill C-62. We already heard that in the last Parliament. As I understand it, there were pretty lengthy consultations prior to Bill C-62 as well, before it was introduced. No one raised concerns during that whole process about the inspectorate or the safety issues. The previous government, now the official opposition, didn't raise any caution flags.
As somebody listening to this and following this along and participating in moving Bill C-6 forward, I'm now confronted with hearing the “ifs” or the “might haves” or the “could” or “possibly”. I'm still waiting for some solid evidence that somehow SMS is either going to be a bad thing or that Transport Canada's not fulfilling its obligations, and I'm not hearing that.
SMS—and I've said this before to the committee—is not theory in Canada; it's actually in practice. We have something to look at, at least the beginning of a track record on that. Are we teaching others around the world about SMS? Are we showing others how SMS works? Can you tell us who? What other countries are learning from our experience? Because we have experience in it now; it may not be a lot, but we have experience in it now. Can you enlighten us a bit on that?
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
November 7th, 2006 / 3:55 p.m.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders
November 7th, 2006 / 1:45 p.m.
Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about some elements of the bill first and then use the opportunity to go on to talk about some safety elements related to my riding. They may not be totally connected to the bill, but as everyone knows, I always like to talk about my riding and the issues that are important to it.
Bill C-6 which amends the Aeronautics Act, will provide Transport Canada with an increased ability to maintain and increase safety and security of Canada's aviation systems.
If an imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we in the Liberal Party are very flattered as this proposed legislation mimics Bill C-62 introduced by the former Liberal government in the last Parliament. When talking about flattery, I must say you are doing an excellent job, Mr. Speaker, for your first time in that chair.
Where the safety and security of the flying public and air transport employees are concerned, there can be no compromise. That is why this legislation is so important. There can be no compromise on safety.
Canada is a geographically large and vast country. It is essential that we have the ability to travel by air safely and securely between our large urban centres as well as between the outlying remote communities. Air transport links us as a country from sea to sea to sea.
Air travel is necessary for Canada to compete in the global economy, to allow our tourism industry to flourish, and to unite family and friends who may live half a continent away. Canadians have come to rely on, indeed most take for granted, the safe, secure transportation system of our aviation industry.
We can see that particularly in the north. There are many communities that we cannot even get to except by air. Just to get to work every week I fly every month more than the entire circumference of the world. When I get home, I have to cover an area larger than any country in Europe. Often we use small planes. It is instrumental, part of commuting, that there be safety provisions, both mechanically, legislatively and personnel wise.
This act and its predecessor, Bill C-62, have resulted from extensive consultations through the Canadian Aviation Regulatory Advisory Council and reflect the learned input of labour and management organizations, operators and manufacturers, and aviation associations, all of whom consider safety their number one priority.
I would not be as comfortable in sending this to committee for further study had there been not all this consultation done with labour, manufacturers and those companies that are involved in the industry. They are the experts in the industry and know what needs to be done to ensure the highest level of safety.
The legislation addresses a myriad of administrative clauses so essential for the smooth and safe operations of our aviation systems. The devil is in the details and this devil has been put in its place by the legislation.
The act provides for the establishment of an integrated management system providing for the cumulation of dates that will help Transport Canada to better manage and regulate safety and security concerns, and to set standards leading to continued improvements to adapt changing circumstances. The aim is create a culture of safety and to continuously engage the aviation industry in amending or developing regulations.
One interesting and innovative approach is that the legislation authorizes the establishment of a voluntary reports program under which information relating to aviation safety and security may be reported without fear of reprisal. The program provides for individuals to provide confidential reports of regulation violations, not with the view of punishment but to identify and correct mistakes and to make safety improvements.
To err is human and if mistakes do happen in a less safety regulated environment, let us learn from those errors with immediate disclosure.
It is one of the whistleblower protections in the public service with essential safety and security as its end good. Better to prevent a tragedy than not to have the information.
The protections in section 5.396, part (1), will not apply. However, if there has been a prior contravention of the act within a prior two-year period before to or subsequently, there is a management system of the employer that encourages an employee to disclose a system if the employer did not do so.
I would add a cautionary note, however, that the government and Transport Canada in particular must be vigilant on the safety performance of airlines and by monitoring violations of safety rules must ensure that the whistleblower aspect of this clause in fact has the intended effect of improving aviation safety.
We must be mindful of an incident reported by the media where airline mechanics acknowledged being pressured to release planes with defects that could compromise public safety. Such conduct is simply and utterly unacceptable, not only for the confidence of our flying community in the planes that crisscross our skies but also for the economic stability of airline companies. Second best or next time just does not cut it.
In an earlier hour of this debate I asked about, and I hope the witnesses in committee will be prepared to provide some information on this, mandatory reports. What was the incidence of non-compliance when these reports were missing? What type of percentage? What was the number and with this new voluntary reporting system, what effect will that have? Will there be more chances for abrogation or less chances? Would it result in more reports being put in or less reports?
As my colleague mentioned in his speech before mine, there would not be, on occasion, reports to be collected. What effect would this have? If Transport Canada does not have all the reports to do analysis on, is there a possibility that these reports could act like the canary in the mine shaft and be a warning?
There are all sorts of excellent airline companies in the north. There is Air North flying out of Whitehorse, and I know the member from Thunder Bay will be happy to hear about that one. There is First Air, Canadian North, Alkan Air, all small airlines in this country that are very useful and helpful.
However, in their combined reports there may have been one particular mechanical failure to a particular part of the plane. Hopefully, there are not very many in this industry because the results could be devastating. If Transport Canada has all these reports and sees the very same mechanical failing and maybe two months later the same mechanical failing elsewhere, could it put those together and analyze them and prevent a potential tragedy by having that accumulated information? By having the information regarding an airline, a manager of an airline would be quite interested in having this information regarding the safety of his airline. I am hoping the witnesses can comment on this and how it would relate to the new reporting system and its effect.
I also want to mention inputs I have had from local airlines. One flying out of Watson Lake in Yukon was unhappy about some of the conditions, not necessarily safety but related to maintenance on the runways related to gravel. That was for the Dawson City Airport.
Transport Canada has an excellent program that provides grants for improvements to help airport safety across the country. It is an excellent program. We have had excellent projects in Yukon, but unless the amount of money increases in that program, all the projects that need to be done to improve safety at Canada's airports cannot be completed.
On the other side, I had a letter a few days ago about an aircraft flying from Watson Lake to Whitehorse, I believe, a flight of a couple of hours. It was a small plane. In the north, of course, it is a whole different environment, with all sorts of small planes with different technologies. There are bird dogs for the forest fires and the mining camps. There are float planes taking in tourists for canoe trips. This particular small plane landed at place called Teslin, about two hours from Whitehorse, because there was bad weather. These people complimented Sue and Linda at the Teslin airport for the wonderful reception. They were delighted that there was an airport in a town of only several hundred people.
This is an essential investment in Canada's north. It may not seem at the outset to be very economical, but we cannot put a price on a life. That airport was ready for that small plane to come down in bad weather. It is essential, and we need to keep up the investment in the small and rural airports across this country, not underestimate them for something as simple as dollars and cents at the expense of life.
Another thing I want to talk about is one of our major airlines in the north. Although it is a major airline and uses the same planes, like 737s, to be economical and to survive in that environment it needs to put baggage in part of the plane and passengers in another part of the plane. Otherwise, it would need much smaller planes, which would not be economical and would not be as comfortable for the passengers. The airline could not survive.
We do not need any regulations that are unnecessary, regulations that would, for instance, preclude putting baggage in the main compartment. It has been done for years. It is totally safe in the northern environment. It is absolutely essentially that it continue.
As always, I am promoting a rural lens on regulations, a northern lens, to make sure that legislation is effectively looked at from the perspective of small rural communities where we can maintain safety but also be flexible so that it is realistic in the environment we are talking about.
This will probably be the last bit of time we have before members' statements and I thank the Conservatives for all their support for my speech as well. I know they are always enthralled with my speeches.
It is a fact that we now have thousands of flights going over the north pole, the circumpolar area. That never occurred in the past. That is a whole new safety regime. The distance from airports is longer and there is a different type of landing potential in emergencies, but most important for me is the lack of search and rescue north of 60.
Many members have heard me talk about this in the House and in committee and have seen it in the newspapers. The fact that we do not have a single DND search and rescue plane north of 60 is unacceptable. We definitely have to work on that. Why would we have all our search and rescue planes close to the Canada-U.S. border and have to fly all that distance to save someone on one of these flights?
I am happy to have contributed to the debate. We look forward to sending the bill to committee.