An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Lawrence Cannon  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Transportation Act. Certain amendments apply to all modes of transportation, including amendments that clarify the national transportation policy and the operation of the Competition Act in the transportation sector, change the number of members of the Canadian Transportation Agency, create a mediation process for transportation matters, modify requirements regarding the provision of information to the Minister of Transport and modify and extend provisions regarding mergers and acquisitions of air transportation undertakings to all transportation undertakings.

It amends the Act with respect to the air transportation sector, in particular, in relation to complaints processes, the advertising of prices for air services and the disclosure of terms and conditions of carriage.

The enactment also makes several amendments with respect to the railway transportation sector. It creates a mechanism for dealing with complaints concerning noise and vibration resulting from the construction or operation of railways and provisions for dealing with the transfer and discontinuance of operation of railway lines. It also establishes a mechanism for resolving disputes between public passenger service providers and railway companies regarding the use of railway company equipment and facilities.

The enactment also amends the Railway Safety Act to create provisions for the appointment of police constables with respect to railway companies and procedures for dealing with complaints concerning them.

In addition, it contains transitional provisions and consequential amendments.

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.

Votes

June 14, 2007 Passed That the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be now read a second time and concurred in.
Feb. 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-11 be amended by deleting Clause 5.
Feb. 21, 2007 Failed That Bill C-11 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

March 22nd, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House of Commons on private member's Bill C-459, an act respecting the rights of air passengers, which was introduced in this chamber in November of last year. Our government strongly supports consumer protection measures, however, the bill is fundamentally flawed and would likely have impacts contrary to what it seeks to achieve. Furthermore, it is redundant given the passenger protection approach that already exists in Canada and this government's effort to strengthen it in recent years.

Let me start by noting that the bill calls for all-in advertising. I am pleased to remind the House that our Conservative government has already put in place these measures by way of regulations that were brought into force in December 2012, following extensive consultation with industry, consumers and other stakeholders.

Beyond that, Bill C-459 proposes a prescriptive regime that would increase the regulatory burden on air carriers and on travellers. It would introduce additional costs into our air transport system and it would not improve the passenger protection approach that already exists in this country. In Canada today, airline passengers are protected through provisions in the Canada Transportation Act. All carriers operating in Canada, or arriving or departing from Canada, are required to develop terms and conditions of carriage that they must respect. They must make those terms and conditions readily accessible to passengers.

The Air Transportation Regulations under the act specify the items that must be included in the terms and conditions of carriage, such as the carrier's policies regarding cancelled or delayed flights, lost or damaged luggage, and denied boarding due to overbooking. This establishes a clear basis on which passengers can raise concerns if they feel they have not been treated appropriately.

The Canadian Transportation Agency is mandated to resolve travellers' complaints by examining whether the carriers are acting in compliance with their terms and conditions of carriage and by assessing the reasonableness of the terms and conditions. The act also includes significant provisions to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.

If a traveller is not able to resolve his or her issues directly with the carrier and submits a formal complaint to the agency, the agency would begin by seeking a mutually satisfactory solution to the problem by way of alternative dispute resolution. If this is not successful, arbitration is an option. We know that in fact most complaints are resolved by way of mediation. In some instances, the agency has found that a carrier's terms and conditions of carriage are not reasonable, resulting in significant changes to the benefit of passengers. Recent such decisions have addressed questions such as lost baggage and denied boarding.

In short, our current system works. Furthermore, it does so because of the proactive stance that our Conservative government has taken on passenger rights.

In 2007, we took action to strengthen the consumer protection regime for air travellers by introducing measures as part of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. These amendments improved the transparency of carriers' terms and conditions of carriage and made the complaint process under the Canadian Transportation Agency permanent.

In 2008, we introduced Flight Rights Canada, an initiative to inform Canadians of their rights under the act. This also resulted in the creation of a plain language voluntary code of practice, which our major carriers adopted into their terms and conditions of carriage. I have already mentioned the airfare advertising regulations brought into force last year.

The prescriptive regulatory regime proposed in C-459 is not consistent with Canada's approach to consumer protection in transport. As written, the bill raises a number of questions and creates systems that would ultimately increase the burden on all parties.

To begin with, the proposed bill would only empower the agency to enforce provisions relating to duty to disclose pricing, announcements at airports and obligations to inform passengers of their rights at check-in. With respect to other matters such as cancellations, delays and denied boarding, consumers would seemingly have to seek redress through the courts if they are not satisfied with a carrier's response. This would be costly, time-consuming and a burden on the passengers as well as on the Canadian court system.

Bill C-459 seeks to address concerns that were identified with previous private members' bills on this subject, which made air carriers responsible for problems that are the fault of other parties, such as airports or navigation providers.

However, the current bill would introduce a new regulatory burden, namely that carriers would need to make a submission to the Canadian Transportation Agency proving the third party's responsibility. This would result in more red tape for the carriers and more work for the agency. The additional costs, obviously, would likely be borne by travellers and taxpayers.

Furthermore, the bill would recognize that carriers would not be made responsible for cancellations arising as a result of force majeure, particularly weather. The carriers would remain responsible for the situation resulting from force majeure, such as airport or tarmac delays, and we all know that weather is a major factor in this country.

The bill would create confusion between its provisions and the current provisions of the Canada Transportation Act. There is also potential conflict between Bill C-459 and the Carriage by Air Act, which brings into force passengers' rights provisions enshrined in the Montreal convention, an international treaty to which Canada is a party.

In conclusion, we are committed to promoting passengers' rights by way of an approach that minimizes costs and regulatory burden on all travellers in the air industry.

Bill C-459 would add nothing to this, but it does have the potential to significantly increase the regulatory burden and cost to Canada's air transportation sector and to create confusion within the regulatory regime without further addressing passenger needs.

For this reason, we cannot support Bill C-459.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members’ Business

February 7th, 2013 / 6 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the House regarding Bill C-459, the air passengers' bill of rights, which would establish terms and conditions including compensation and rerouting for the treatment of air passengers under various circumstances when air travel is cancelled, delayed, or baggage is misplaced.

This is a big country and as a result Canadians travel more by air than most people elsewhere. Many of us have experienced situations where our flight was delayed or cancelled due to weather conditions, mechanical issues or other reasons that we may not understand. Occasionally the delivery of luggage may be delayed due to tight connections, mishandling, malfunctions and various human factors. That is the key part.

People make mistakes every now and then. We do not like them, but they are a fact of life. Sometimes as passengers we feel we have not been treated fairly. We all find these situations frustrating. I have been there and I am sure all members have. One thing should be noted though. We are fortunate that in Canada there is a mechanism that provides passengers with a means to address these situations efficiently without engaging in onerous or costly legal wrangling.

Consumers have the right to expect to be treated fairly by airlines and therefore a process is in place for the impartial investigation of concerns. In particular, this means that a passenger, who has been inconvenienced and feels that his or her concerns have not been addressed adequately by the airline, can choose to file a formal complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency. The agency is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal that has a mandate to review unresolved consumer complaints against air carriers and to assist consumers to the extent possible.

Please allow me now to describe the regime that exists in Canada for the protection of air passengers' rights. As I have noted, Canada's policy for airline passenger consumer protection is based on a complaints-driven process. The carriers are expected to comply with their terms and conditions of carriage, which must be made readily available to the passenger. The terms and conditions of carriage are set out in carriers' policies with respect to important consumer protection matters including, but not restricted to, acceptance, loss and damage of baggage, taxes and fees, reimbursement, claims, flight cancellations, et cetera.

Air carriers are required to publish their terms and conditions of carriage on their websites and to live by these terms and conditions. This is enshrined in legislation through specific provisions in the Canada Transportation Act. If a passenger feels that a carrier is not respecting its terms and conditions of carriage, he or she should begin by bringing a complaint first to the airline. As I mentioned earlier, if not satisfied with the airline's response, passengers may then take their complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which is empowered to provide recourse.

In 2007, our government took action to strengthen Canada's consumer protection regime for air travellers by introducing measures as part of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, which improved the transparency of carriers' terms and conditions of carriage and made the complaints process under the Canadian Transportation Agency permanent.

During the same period, our government introduced Flight Rights Canada, an initiative to inform the travelling public of the consumer protection approach that we have in place in Canada, their rights under this approach and how they can seek redress if something goes wrong when they are travelling by air. Flight Rights Canada included a six-point, plain language code of conduct defining service standards.

Canada's largest airlines have adopted these standards into their terms and conditions of carriage. They are now accountable for them as they are for all their terms and conditions of carriage. As my colleagues have no doubt noticed, Bill C-459 also includes provisions that regulate full fare advertising. On this issue, I am pleased to remind hon. members that this government has already taken action with the recently announced all-inclusive airfare advertising regulations.

On December 14, 2012, new air services price advertising regulations came into force that required any person who advertised the price of an air service to display the total price, inclusive of all taxes, fees and charges when selling flights within or originating in Canada. That is something I have experienced. Individuals book a flight, they think they have a price and all of a sudden all the other little things get added to it and it is not what they thought it was at the start. That is no more, thanks to this government.

The two key objectives of this new regulation are to enable consumers to readily determine the total price of an advertised air service and to promote fair competition between all advertisers in the air travel industry. When Canadians are travelling by air, they expect to be treated fairly by their carrier, as well as to be able to readily determine the full price of the air services they are purchasing.

Hon. colleagues must consider this private member's bill with prudence, as we cannot overturn the current policy by implementing a prescriptive and more burdensome framework. The bill could result in consumers having to take their cases to court in certain situations, as well as changes to the mandate of the Canadian Transportation Agency. It could translate into more red tape and costs to the taxpayer. That is the last thing we need.

Furthermore, elements of the bill could potentially have significant financial implications for airlines, which would translate into higher costs for travellers. This is not what we want. For example, while the bill recognizes that airlines should not be held responsible for incidents that are caused by third parties, such as air navigation service providers or airports, the onus could be on the carriers to prove that this is the case in a submission to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Similarly, under the bill, carriers would not be responsible for cancellations caused by weather, which is a major factor in our country. However, again, they could be placed in a situation where they would have to prove this by way of submissions to the agency. All of this would result in additional work and cost for both the airline and the agency. I need not remind members that higher costs to carriers would definitely translate into higher fares for air travel.

Let me underscore that this government is, as always, firmly committed to promoting a healthy Canadian air industry, without compromising the protection of the rights of Canadians. We have a robust system for protecting air passengers' rights and this government is proud to reiterate that it has taken steps to reinforce this and will continue to do so.

We do not have a perfect system, but it is a pretty good one. The bill would definitely make it worse, not better.

Railway Noise and Vibration Control ActRoutine Proceedings

February 9th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act (railway noise and vibration control).

Mr. Speaker, I thank my seconder from Laval—Les Îles who is one of the new bright young lights in the NDP caucus.

In many parts of the country, we have rail yards in urban areas where there are excessive, noisy activities in the evening. We are talking about idling of diesel engines, shunting and extended whistle blowing. This interrupts the sleep of constituents in my riding and, of course, Canadians right across the country.

The amendments to Bill C-11 simply have not dealt with the problem. Mediation has not worked. We have many examples where mediation has not been respected by the railway companies.

I am bringing forward this legislation to give very clear guidelines about what rail companies can do in the middle of the night in urban areas. They cannot do the shunting, idling and excessive whistle blowing that interrupts the sleep of so many Canadians.

I hope to get all party support on a problem that many urban areas experience. I am sure all members would agree that every Canadian has the right to a good night's sleep.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

February 2nd, 2012 / 9:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

To offer some background on the subject, Bill C-11—some of you might know it as the act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act—contained some provisions that required air carriers to include all fees and taxes in the advertised prices. Clause 27 also included the provision allowing the agency to make conditional and restricted regulations, to be enacted as Section 86.2.

With the exception of clause 27, the bill was brought into force on June 22, 2007. Madam Chow is quite right in her chronology. The reason that the Senate standing committee on transport infrastructure added that clause to the bill was to provide the airfare advertising clause some time to come into force, in order to reflect the transition that would be necessary for it to happen without harming competition.

Since 2007, the European Union has introduced regulations to the same effect. The United States did the same, and it has now come into effect on January 24, 2012. Clause 27 of the original bill is expected to be brought into force in the reasonably near future, and that will trigger the regulation. It was actually brought into effect already, in December last year—quite recently—but that just triggers the Canadian Transportation Agency to now develop the regulations, and that's exactly what the CTA is doing as we speak.

The government is committed to competition and to enhancing consumer protection with full-cost ticket advertising. That being said, we do need to ensure that the regulations are drafted properly, and that they are not harmful to an industry that employs people across this country. The agency has commenced the process of drafting regulations. Consultations with stakeholders are part of that drafting process, and it is expected to take approximately one year.

I do appreciate the urgency with which Ms. Chow wants to treat this matter. She has been passionate about the subject for a very long time, and I credit her with that. At the same time, I think she will agree that it is important that the agency is meticulous and precise in the way it applies these regulations and that the industry is able to transition towards them.

I think it's important to keep in mind a couple of things. This is an international business. This is not the kind of business where you're transporting someone down the street; you're transporting people across borders and across continental divides. There are countries in this world that don't have this regulation. When Canadians go online and try to find, for example, a connecting flight from Paris to Dubai, they'll have a whole series of options. If that same flight is advertised by Air Canada and the price is, let's say, $1,500—but that's an all-in price—and then they see that Emirates offers the flight for $600, but that's not all-in, the consumer could be tricked into believing they're getting a vastly better deal by buying from a foreign carrier.

As a result, that puts Canada's airlines at a potential competitive disadvantage. The problem I just identified is mitigated by the fact that the EU and the United States have now gone toward this regulation, but it is not completely eliminated as a problem. We believe the best way to move forward with full-price ticket advertising is to provide a window of transition, so that industry can find ways to confront the challenges that this new rule will bring in and to prepare ways to communicate to customers, who might be looking at a flight like the one I just described and do not understand the variance in regulations between the rules that apply to domestic Canadian carriers and foreign carriers that are in competition on some international routes.

That's the approach we're taking, and we are moving as quickly as it is responsible to do. So our members will have to oppose this particular motion, while acknowledging its worthy intent and the good work that the honourable member who moved it has done on the file.

Air Passengers' Bill of Rights.Private Members' Business

March 5th, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate on Bill C-310 brought forward by the member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Over the past Christmas season, severe weather wreaked tremendous havoc at airports across the country. I know that because I travel quite frequently. Being a member of Parliament from northern Alberta, I have the opportunity to travel on planes. I can assure the member and others in the House that if anyone knows what it is like to travel in Canada and enjoy the diverse weather across this country, it is members from the west because they have to do more travelling. I remember that bad weather forced many cancellations and delays, which obviously were beyond the control of the airlines. Unfortunately, too many people spent hours in airports lying across plastic chairs and getting snacks from vending machines. Some members in the House probably had that unfortunate experience.

Let me be clear. Protecting Canadian travellers is a priority for this Conservative government and will remain a priority for this government. We are committed to consumer protection and have taken measures to strengthen that protection.

In 2007, for instance, we brought forward Bill C-11, which improved transparency by requiring air carriers to publish their terms and conditions of carriage on their websites, a good step to put forward for consumers to understand what their rights are. The Canadian Transportation Agency was also mandated to continue its complaints process as a permanent program.

In 2008 our government introduced the flight rights program as a result of, in part, Parliament's wish to protect consumers more thoroughly. This is a campaign to inform air travellers of the rights and options available to them should they encounter difficulties when travelling.

In budget 2009, again we introduced measures to modernize the Competition Act and to better protect Canadians from price fixing and misleading advertising, things which are simply not acceptable. The changes that this government made will instill greater confidence in advertising and more meaningful penalties to deter misleading advertising and mass marketing fraud, again things which are unacceptable.

I would like to highlight a few key components of the consumer protection measures we as a government have put in place for air travellers.

Under the Canada Transportation Act, all carriers operating within Canada are required to have written terms and conditions of carriage readily accessible to passengers. These are often printed on the back of the ticket or agreed to when reservations are made online so that consumers will know their rights at the time they purchase their tickets.

These terms and conditions must reflect the carrier's policy regarding persons with disabilities, the acceptance of children, cancelled or delayed flights, lost or damaged baggage, denied boarding due to overbooking, and ticket reservations. These currently exist. They reflect the passenger's rights as a consumer and the carrier's obligation.

Carriers are actually obliged to live up to these terms and conditions and if they fail to do so, consumers can turn to the Canadian Transportation Agency for recourse. The agency can impose different measures, including corrective measures, such as a refund of expenses incurred by the passenger, and can also direct a carrier to change or suspend its terms and conditions of carriage.

It should be noted that in the United States consumers must actually turn to the courts instead of an agency like the Canadian Transportation Agency when carriers fail to live up to their commitments. We all know that turning to the courts is very expensive and time consuming and, quite frankly, not acceptable to Canadians.

Countries in the European Union are required to have a complaints process, but the complaints processes in the European Union actually vary in their effectiveness and are more limited in scope to what we currently have in Canada. In Canada we have a consumer protection regime that ensures that the terms and conditions offered by carriers in Canada are not only reasonable but that carriers actually stand by them and stand up for consumers.

These terms and conditions are determined by international norms of practice, normal travel practice and healthy competition, which is so very important in today's global economic crisis. They are the carrier's commitments to its clients.

It is easy to understand the frustrations of passengers because, let us face it, many in the House are very frustrated by travel from time to time. The people who experienced the frustration of flights being delayed or cancelled over the Christmas season were, quite frankly, unhappy. Everyone travels hoping to arrive at their destinations on time. However, we live in a winter country. We live in a huge country, approximately 1.2 people per square mile, the lowest population density in the world. Given our climate, inevitably there will be unfortunate delays and inconveniences in travel, particularly in our harsh winters, our large snowfall and our dispersal of population.

Over the last couple of weeks I have heard from many industry representatives. I have had an opportunity to meet with representatives from WestJet, Air Canada and from other airline carriers that service our country. Let us talk about what they think. The Tourism Industry Association of Canada stated that it shares the concerns raised by the NACC, the National Airlines Council of Canada, regarding many aspects of the proposed legislation and does not believe that the highly prescriptive and punitive measures such as Bill C-310.

This sentiment was echoed by the Canadian Airports Council and the International Air Transportation Association. It represents 230 international carriers around the world, including all major airlines in Canada. The National Airlines Council of Canada said that while Bill C-310 claims to safeguard consumer interest, the proposed measures would in fact exacerbate delays and add a new layer of traveller inconveniences and costs.

It is also important for us to try to understand the operational realities of running an airline in today's competitive environment. For instance, bad weather in Vancouver will cause delays in Toronto. It will cause ripple effects across the country, especially during the busiest time of travel and especially during the harshest part of winter. We must also be mindful that safety must be the primary concern for our transportation system.

The Air Transportation Association of Canada in a letter dated March 4, 2009, states that it will lower passenger safety in Canada by encouraging more risk taking.

Yes, it will lower passenger safety in Canada by encouraging more risk taking. There is nothing more important to this Conservative government than the safety of Canadians and we are going to make sure that they remain safe while they travel. Safety must come first.

We can and must learn from other countries. We must review the United States' legislation, the European legislation and look at other options. We must also be mindful that Canada's weather and geography are truly unique and these realities must be taken into consideration when we think about what must be done to enhance consumer protection legislation and ultimately serve those whom we all serve in this place, Canadians.

I look forward to working with the member who introduced this bill and all members of the House and the committee cooperatively to find solutions that will protect Canadian consumers without punishing Canadian carriers for factors beyond their control.

We must ensure during this time of economic global downturn that we protect Canadians' interests and at the same time make sure that airlines remain competitive. It is a balancing act and we as a government will do the best job for Canadians.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 4th, 2008 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Fabian Manning Conservative Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in favour of Motion No. 465, put forward by the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. This motion deals with protecting the travelling public and is something that many people have been waiting for. The story of how this all came about is interesting.

During Christmas 2007 some major storms were experienced in Newfoundland and Labrador and throughout Atlantic Canada. Many flights were cancelled or delayed which created major havoc especially for people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and among them, people in my own riding of Avalon.

Many people in Conception Bay South, a town in my riding and one of the fastest growing communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, have the opportunity to travel back and forth to other parts of Canada.

A movement was started at that time by Woodrow French, the mayor of Conception Bay South. I met with Mayor French on a couple of occasions to discuss this issue and other issues. Mayor French involved many families and people who travelled. He sought and received the support of the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador association. He also sought and received the support of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. With that combination of support, Mayor French found a need and a want for a passenger bill of rights in Canada.

I am certainly delighted that the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte brought his motion forward because it gives us an opportunity to protect the travelling public. We hope we can do that through this process.

A lot of people are not aware that there is protection already in place in Canada. Canada's complaints process has been in place since 2000 and was made permanent by Bill C-11. It is one of the strongest features of Canada's consumer protection regime. However, like many other things, the regime and its strengths are not well understood by Canadians. We have not done enough to inform travellers of the consumer protections that exist and the redress available to them through this process. If passengers do not know their rights, they are unlikely to take steps to protect those rights.

There is no way that we can bring forward in this House, or any government can bring anywhere for that matter, a bill of rights that would dictate what the weather was going to be on a Friday or Saturday night, or whatever the case may be. Therefore, we have to work within the existing system. A bill or a motion will not dictate what the weather will be on any given night.

How passengers are treated when their carefully laid out plans are suddenly disrupted because of the weather or because of some other situation that might arise is what we are trying to deal with through this motion. Common courtesy is not something that we can legislate.

Because of the Christmas panic that ensued in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have a regime in place that we hope can provide some protection. Hopefully, by enhancing that and working with all members in the House we can bring forward something that would at least give people some kind of protection.

I heard many stories from people in my riding who contacted my office. Some had been in Halifax on December 22 and were told that due to flight cancellations, the next flight they could get to go home would be on January 2. Some people were in Toronto on Christmas Eve and were told that the first opportunity for them to get home would be on New Year's Day. Some people had to return to work on January 2 or January 3. That is totally unacceptable to the government and it is totally unacceptable to the travelling public.

I was delighted to hear the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca state earlier that we are not only supporting this motion, but we are going to make a concerted effort to inform Canadians of the rights and protections that are already in place.

I was delighted to hear the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, because if there is any area or town in this country that knows the importance of the travelling public, especially from Newfoundland and Labrador, it is Fort McMurray. A direct flight was brought in sometime in 2007. Every single day there is a direct flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Fort McMurray, Alberta. There are in excess of 60,000 people travelling back and forth between Fort McMurray and St. John's, people who either live in Fort McMurray permanently and visit family in Newfoundland, or who travel back and forth on turnovers. This is a major concern for all those people. Many times we refer to the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca as the eighth member from Newfoundland and Labrador because there is no doubt that his constituency is made up of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

I was delighted to see the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca on his feet here today announcing that our government is supporting this private member's motion. We are taking the concerns of the travelling public of Canada very seriously. We have a situation here where, as I said earlier, we cannot regulate the weather or how things happen, but we can provide protection. We can provide at least an opportunity for the travelling public to be treated fairly in a situation where people cannot have their concerns addressed in an airport at 2 o'clock in the morning.

I want to congratulate Mayor Woodrow French of Conception Bay South, who on February 13, I believe it was, sent a letter off to the Prime Minister, asking him to look at bringing in a passenger bill of rights similar to ones in other parts of the world. When we did some research on that, we found that the passenger bills of rights in other parts of the world do not exactly fit everything that we have here in Canada.

Hopefully, we can enhance what we already have in place to protect consumers and the travelling public. We want to ensure that the concerns that are being brought forward to members of Parliament are addressed and that we can have something in place so that at least people travelling do not have to worry that they are not being treated fairly.

We have a large geographic region. I mentioned the daily flight between St. John's and Fort McMurray. We travel long distances. Sometimes people arrive in one town but their luggage is in another city. Some people do not find their luggage at all. The attitude sometimes of the airlines is well, too bad. That is not an attitude Canadians should have to put up with. It is absolutely unacceptable that the travelling public of Canada have to put up with anything less than the service they pay for and deserve.

We as a government are here today to make sure that the protections that are in place are enhanced for the travelling public. of Newfoundland and Labrador in our case. I am delighted that a member from Newfoundland and Labrador brought this motion forward. In that way, every one who travels can know that if something goes wrong, if something does not work out, there is protection and that those who are responsible have to step up to the plate and say, “We are responsible for what happened”. They are not responsible for the fog, they are not responsible for the snow, they are not responsible for the wind, but they are responsible for the paying customers who deserve a service that sometimes we find is lacking.

I am delighted that we are here today to support the motion. I look forward to enhancing the protections that are in place now so that members of the travelling public of Canada feel that they are protected in some ways and feel more comfortable when they sit on a plane. After all, it is a major mode of travel now.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 4th, 2008 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate on Motion No. 465.

I want to read the text of the motion so the folks who are watching will have some understanding of what we are actually considering tonight. The motion reads:

That the House call upon the government to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights similar in scope and effect to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within Europe and the United States for the purpose of protecting passenger interests in a consistent and rules-based way and to provide a means of ensuring adequate compensation being offered by the airline industry to airline passengers who experience inconveniences such as flight interruptions, delays, cancellations, issues with checked baggage and other inconveniences incurred while travelling on commercial passenger airline services originating from anywhere in Canada.

I appreciate that we have the opportunity to discuss this this evening and have had another occasion to do so. At that time, the NDP transport critic, the member for Windsor West, indicated that this motion had his support, and it is something that has my support as well. It is an important initiative.

Over the years, consumer protection has been an area where we have fallen short in Canada. There was a time in Canada when we actually had a minister of consumer affairs and that was an integral part of our government. It was seen as an important post in government, someone who had the specific responsibility to look out for Canadian consumers in all manner of ways to protect consumers. That was specifically on the agenda.

Unfortunately, over the years that capacity of government has kind of dwindled down and is not what it once was. It might be a desk in a department someplace now rather than a full-fledged department in its own right. There has been something significant lost with those changes over the years.

Recently, in many ways we have seen concerns around consumer protection come to the fore again, whether that be with regard to food products, with regard to toys imported from overseas or with regard to the concerns with pet foods that were very much on the minds of many Canadian pet owners in recent months. There have been many places where we seem to have fallen short of offering appropriate protection to Canadian consumers and where our government has been slow to take initiatives to offer that kind of protection.

That is an appropriate role for government. It certainly seems to me that Canadians, as we come together collectively, as our government, would want us to take that kind of responsibility to ensure that our fellow citizens are safe and secure, and that they get value for the products that they consume and the services that they purchase. It seems to me that is an entirely appropriate role for our federal government, especially so in the area of transportation, which is clearly something that is a direct responsibility of the federal Government of Canada.

This is an important initiative to be discussing. There is a lot of room for improvement in how we ensure that consumers of airline services are protected in Canada. It is very important that we have clear, accessible information about what the protections available to passengers are,. The clearer, more accessible and better organized that information is the better off we will all be.

I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport say that Canada would be taking measures to publicize the protections that are available now to Canadians. That is a good initiative but I wish it had happened sooner. I wish we could have seen some tangible result of that commitment by now, but perhaps organizing that in some way that makes sense to consumers, with information that they can use easily and readily, will be an important step to take.

However, that commitment should not deter us from pursuing the motion that is before us today. It seems to me that we have not had that commitment, that we have not seen the government move in that direction.

Since we do not have that kind of information readily available, the House should put pressure on the government to organize an airline passenger bill of rights and organize it in that kind of format so people will know what the airlines' responsibilities are and what their rights as passengers are.

We know there have been very serious issues related to airline passengers. We had the 10-hour incident where people were kept on a plane on the tarmac and were denied access to appropriate hygiene and food. It took a 911 call to get the kind of help those folks needed. I am sure we all believe that it should never happen again and that it should never have happened in the first place.

We also have seen situations arise, especially at times of mergers or bankruptcies of airlines, where many passengers are inconvenienced or right out of luck when it comes to their travel plans. I think all of us would agree that it is not an appropriate time either.

We have seen weather delays but we know we cannot always control that. However, we do want to ensure that the response to those kinds of delays is done appropriately and with the consumer and passenger in mind.

There is also the issue of pricing of airline tickets and the advertising of those airline tickets. We have seen a significant concern around the hidden costs in airline advertising about ticket prices. This is something that we thought we had taken some initiative on in the House. There were proposals in Bill C-11, which was passed almost a year ago, that would have had some effect on that had the government taken the necessary action to implement it. We are still waiting on that and I think it is very important.

The member for Windsor West has asked in the House, as recently as April, when we would be seeing the implementation of that policy that was passed in the House.

We need to ensure the airlines are not hiding fees and not misleading consumers about the actual cost of flying in Canada. We want to ensure that what is called all-in pricing is the standard for airline advertising here in Canada. The mechanism to do it is in the legislation but, unfortunately, the government has not acted to actually put that into practice yet in Canada. It needs to do that without delay because that would be a significant improvement in consumer protection for Canadians.

There are a number of proposals already. We have heard that the European Union has such a consumer airline passenger bill of rights in place. We have seen attempts to do it in the United States and we know there are ongoing discussions in the United States.

The Canadian Association of Airline Passengers and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre have a proposal around an airline passenger bill of rights that includes things like public participation to ensure the public is consulted and is part of the process of developing such a code and developing awareness around issues of safety, pricing and service quality; that safety principles are important; that the importance of public safety and decision making is emphasized; that normal and emergency levels of service are clearly elucidated; that there is a culture of safety in the airline industry; that additional risks arising from mergers and restructuring that would affect passengers are addressed; that there is access to public safety information for passengers; and that in the event of accidents that passengers are entitled to rescue and firefighting services that are equal to or better than international standards.

Those are all some of the things that would be part of that kind of passenger bill of rights. There is also the whole category of service quality, that there needs to be full passenger information disclosure, that there are certain standards of onboard quality and that there are general service standards available to the public, just basic common courtesy needs to be one of those. The whole area of fair pricing rules is one that is very important.

The regulation of the airline industry is another key area that is part of this proposal from the Canadian Association of Airline Passengers for an airline passenger bill of rights. I think this motion gets us going in the right direction and I am happy to have been able to speak in favour of it this evening.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 4th, 2008 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Motion No. 465 from the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, concerning rights for airline passengers.

The spirit of my colleague's motion is not unique to Canada. Similar regulations already exist in other countries, and could even serve as models for an airline passenger bill of rights.

In 2004, the European Union adopted Regulation No. 261/2004 of the European Parliament and Council of the European Union. This regulation came into force on February 17, 2005, in the 25 member states of the European Union. The United States has a similar regulation established by the Air Transport Association.

In general, these regulations set out the rights of airline passengers and the responsibilities of carriers, for example: to provide compensation for passengers who are denied boarding by the carrier; to reduce any problems and inconveniences to passengers whose flights are cancelled, by encouraging carriers to inform passengers of cancellations and propose an alternative; to see to the needs of passengers with reduced mobility and their attendants; to inform passengers of their rights if they are denied boarding or if their flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, so that the passengers can properly exercise those rights.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of adopting such a bill of rights, although it recognizes that airlines cannot be held responsible for any mistakes made by other industry players such as NavCanada, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or the Canada Border Services Agency.

It is important to answer two distinct questions regarding the motion we are discussing today. First, what are the responsibilities of all the service providers in the airline industry with respect to this issue? Second, what exactly are airline passengers' rights? The Bloc Québécois recommends that Parliament take decisive measures on a matter that is of vital importance to Canadians: creating guaranteed protection for the rights of airline passengers.

These measures will apply to all industry players involved in serving passengers. The industry as a whole will be responsible for implementing these measures.

I would now like to talk about the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, of which I am a member. In 2007, the committee heard a number of witnesses when it examined Bill C-11 concerning complaints about air travel.

The witnesses included Marie-Hélène Beaulieu and Christiane Théberge of Option consommateurs, a Montreal-based consumer advocacy group, Michael Janigan and Michael Pepper of the Travellers' Protection Initiative, and Fred Gaspar, Vice-President, Air Transport Association of Canada, all of whom appeared before us on October 5, 2006.

I would like to read part of Ms. Théberge's testimony:

The second concern we would like to address is with respect to [much-needed] airfare advertising transparency.

[Travellers' Protection Initiative] does not believe that the airlines will willingly change their advertising practices. We see every indication that they increasingly tend to break up their airfares and announce one way fares when these are not even available. We have seen cases where consumers, upon completing the transaction, had paid 25%, 50% or even 90% more the amount initially advertised by the airline.

In the past, the airline industry has promised to take voluntary measures but they never delivered the goods. We are therefore skeptical of arguments put forward by the airlines, in other words that the airline industry can be self-regulating with respect to consumers' interests. Despite years of discussions with the airline industry and a series of false starts, the airline industry has not moved voluntary on this issue.

We believe that the requirement to full disclosure, with details, should be firmly entrenched in the legislation and apply to all airlines which advertise in Canada. After all, air carriers providing services in United States are already subject to these requirements.

As I said earlier, many of the issues we are discussing today were addressed during the committee's study of Bill C-11. That bill was passed here at third reading, was passed by the Senate, and received royal assent on June 22, 2007.

This legislation provides enhanced consumer protection for air travellers. These enhancements were in addition to existing consumer laws. Under this legislation, airlines are now required to prominently display and post their terms and conditions of carriage at their business offices. This legislation also made permanent the informal and flexible complaints resolution process within the Canadian Transportation Agency. It integrated the role and functions of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner with the authority and day to day operations of the agency.

In order for these new measures to be officially adopted following royal assent to Bill C-11, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has to approve them by order in council. Almost a year after the new legislation was passed—it has been just about a year now—these measures still have not been ordered by the minister.

This week, in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we passed a motion calling on the minister to appear before our committee in order to give us some follow up on his discussions with the industry, which might explain the delay in adopting the order in council regarding the provisions of Bill C-11.

Despite the passage of Bill C-11 nearly a year ago, it is clear that consumers are still not benefiting from the provisions of that legislation. This is why the Bloc Québécois will support the motion being debated here today: in order to do something about the Conservative government's failure to act when it comes to the rights of air travellers.

My colleague has had to move Motion M-465 in order to do something about the unwillingness demonstrated by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities regarding the bill introduced by his own government.

If the motion were adopted and enforced, consumers would receive a good deal of publicly available, government sanctioned information.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I support the motion before us, in order to ensure that air travellers get the real protection they deserve and in order to strongly urge the minister to take action on this issue, which greatly concerns consumers.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

June 4th, 2008 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of Motion No. 465, moved by the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.

Members of the House should realize that this motion is actually motivated by events that happened in Newfoundland during Christmas, 2007 and again in central Canada during reading week in 2008. In both cases Canada's airlines were flying full airplanes during a peak travel period. Indeed, in both cases severe storms closed major airports and resulted in hundreds and hundreds of flight cancellations. Because of the huge numbers of people travelling, the airlines had real trouble finding empty seats on other flights in order to accommodate the passengers from the cancelled flights. In some cases the airlines actually removed luggage from their airplanes in order to be able to carry as many extra passengers as possible. In another case one of the airlines actually added three extra wide-body jets for flights to one destination in a desperate effort to clear the backlog.

No jurisdiction anywhere has passed legislation that would force airlines to operate in a storm, or to bump paying passengers in order to accommodate other paying passengers from a weather cancelled flight.

This motion proposes a Canadian airline passenger bill of rights based either on the European model or U.S. legislation that has been proposed.

European regulation No. 261/2004 establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delay of flights, and deals with the very concerns raised in this particular motion, and it has the force of law. I will refer to it as the European charter. It deals with denied boarding, delays and cancellations.

Curiously though, the European charter does not deal with luggage at all. In that sense it does not address one of the most significant complaints of the Newfoundlanders whose Christmas nightmares prompted Mayor Woodrow French and Mayor Graham Letto to call for this motion.

Furthermore, article 5(3) of the European charter takes away a passenger's right to compensation if the airline is forced to cancel a flight due to extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. Extraordinary circumstances clearly include weather conditions that are incompatible with the operation of the flight.

The European Directorate-General for Energy and Transport stresses the importance of flight safety in evaluating weather as an extraordinary circumstance. It states:

Weather conditions are by their nature unpredictable and it is not therefore possible to create an exhaustive list of the circumstances that may lead to weather related disruption. In evaluating an incident, [one] has to bear in mind that the safety of flight operations has to be the overarching priority and should therefore consider each incident on its own merits.

The Canadian approach is similar in that it recognizes, for this government especially, that safe operation of the aircraft is absolutely paramount. In fact, Canada's air transportation regulations specifically excuse “delays due to weather conditions affecting safety or abnormal operating conditions”.

However, the motion also refers to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within the United States for the purpose of protecting passenger rights.

The major advocate of airline passenger rights in the United States is Kate Hanni, president of the Coalition for an Airline Passengers' Bill of Rights. She is very familiar with existing airline passenger rights in the U.S. and understands that a European style bill of rights is not what North America needs. Her 11 point bill of rights focuses almost entirely on providing relief to people stranded for hours on an airplane. The only other major new idea is to compensate bumped passengers, or passengers delayed due to flight cancellations or postponements of over 12 hours, by refund of 150% of the ticket price.

Although there are various legislative proposals in the United States, none at this time have the force of law. I repeat: none. The only one ever to be passed by a legislature, specifically New York state, dealt almost exclusively with rights for passengers detained on an aircraft prior to takeoff or after landing.

Before members of Parliament spend a lot of time examining legislation in other countries, it would probably be very helpful to look at the current Canadian situation.

First, after researching this, I will note that it is important to understand that Canadian air travellers have more legislated rights than travellers in any other country in the world. That is right: currently we have more legislated rights than anywhere else in the world.

Further, through the passage of Bill C-11 just recently, the government has strengthened the complaints provisions in the Canada Transportation Act and requires airlines to publish their tariffs or the terms and conditions of carriage for both domestic and international travel. The Canada Transportation Act requires Canadian airlines to actually file their tariffs with the Canadian Transportation Agency. This makes those tariffs legally binding.

The United States does not have a realm of legally binding passenger rights at this time. The European realm has inconsistent enforcement and, as I said, does not cover baggage claims. In practical terms, Canadian travellers already have far more rights, with better enforcement, than travellers in either the United States or Europe.

Canadian travellers currently have the following rights. I would like to go through them. First, there is compensation for denied boarding. Second, there is compensation for flight cancellations. Third, there is care during delays. Fourth, there is compensation for lost or delayed baggage.

First, on compensation for denied boarding, in order to be eligible for denied boarding compensation a passenger has to meet the airline's minimum check-in time. In a situation where an aircraft is oversold or a smaller aircraft is substituted at the last minute, it is the practice of Canada's airlines to call for volunteers to take a later flight. Indeed, typically a volunteer will be offered a credit for future travel of $100 or more as well as transport on a later flight.

If there are not enough volunteers, though, passengers may be denied boarding on an involuntary basis. Here, the passenger is typically offered free transport on another flight or a refund of the fare paid. In cases where the airline's next flight is not relatively soon, the carrier will often try to get the passenger a seat on another airline flight, even if that seat costs more than the passenger paid.

Where a passenger must wait another day to take the airline's next flight, the carrier will pay for meals, hotel accommodation and airport transfers as necessary. I know this because it recently happened to me. The carrier was very accommodating.

Second is compensation for flight cancellations. If a Canadian airline cancels a flight, the airline will undertake to ensure that the passenger is routed or transported to his or her ultimate destination as per the contract of carriage, within a reasonable period of time and at no extra cost to the traveller. If this cannot be done, the passenger is actually offered credit for a future flight or a full refund.

Third is care during delays. If the delay is within the carrier's control, such as a mechanical problem, the carrier will pay for meals as well as a hotel stay and airport transfers if appropriate.

Finally, there is compensation for lost or delayed baggage. If an airline loses a passenger's baggage, it will pay provable damages or a minimum financial compensation. The actual amounts vary by airline, but in each case the full legal details are contained in the airline's tariffs. They have the force of law in Canada and they are enforced by the Canadian Transportation Agency.

In conclusion, even though Bill C-11 received royal assent a year ago, most Canadians do not know what the rights of air passengers are or how to go about enforcing those rights. Thus, as a result of the passage of this motion and the support by this Conservative government, Canada will take steps to publicize passenger rights of Canadians and the ways to enforce those rights. This is good news for Canadians.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

April 17th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope that I will be equal to the task of demonstrating the degree of respect you have observed.

I want to compliment my colleague from Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte because I think he presented his motion in a most precise, persuasive and, I might say, compelling fashion.

I note that in part of our discussion we highlighted some of the points by focusing on what happened in the beginning of March. However, I remind all colleagues who have made some very thorough and thoughtful presentations that the motion was actually presented before the events of the beginning of March which underscored the need for this motion.

I think that the motion has stimulated good debate. I want to focus on a couple of points, if I might, first, before I carry on.

This is a debate that has been long overdue. We have, from Canada's four major airports, at least 60 million passengers utilizing plane service every year. That is twice the population of Canada. So, as my colleague in his motion indicated this is not a service for the elite; it is for everybody. We have come to point where we need to address the specifics about good service. It is time, as my colleague from Windsor West said, that Canada got with the program.

The Europeans have gone through this kind of turmoil. They continue to go through turmoil, but they have recognized that what needs to be put in place is a rules-based system to which both the service provider and the client can point to for an appropriate level of service.

My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel says more or less the same thing. He says what we need to do is point the finger at all of those who have a responsibility but the responsibility, first and foremost, rests with the regulator.

My colleague from Abbotsford pointed out that perhaps we might be moving a little too quickly on this, and perhaps unnecessarily so, because we have already passed Bill C-11 in this House after some thorough discussion in committee and that provides the bases for a bill of rights, that is, a series of services to be provided by the carrier to its clients whether they be passengers or material that needs to be transported. So, we are dealing with a system that is not only a transport system but it is a transportation system.

I dare say, if I might, that we can add that this is no longer just a service; it is in fact an experience with real live individuals. Roughly 60 million of them a year in Canada are engaged in just those four major airports.

Back to what my hon. colleague from Abbotsford indicated in Bill C-11. There is a clause, clause 27, that calls on the government to help put in place what we might refer to in this motion as a bill of rights, to work with the industry, to consult with all the stakeholders, and to come forward with a basic standard of service criteria to which everybody can point. The government has not acted on that, yet.

Furthermore, there is another clause in Bill C-11, and I know my colleague knows this for sure because he, along with me and the member for Windsor West and the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel worked on this in committee, clause 64, that imposes on the cabinet an obligation to ensure that clause 27 is enacted. In other words, that those consultations take place and that the criteria, the regulatory framework, be put in place.

Not only has been clause 27 not been acted upon, clause 64 has virtually been ignored and so, one should not be surprised that my colleague would present Motion No. 465 in order to address these issues.

It is important for us to get a handle on that relationship between carriers, for example, one of them, Air Canada, who last year reported operating revenues in excess of $10.5 billion, and its vast clientele. There has to be a relationship where the clients, the passengers, can accede to a rules-based system that says this is what we contract to receive. I pointed out Air Canada perhaps unfairly. It is all carriers.

I point to Air Canada because my colleague from Windsor West and I both were part of the panel. I see that he pointed to it again today, that in response to the activities to the events of last March, instead of looking at how to enact some of these rules voluntarily, Air Canada came forward with a package that said “pay $25 or $35 and you can enhance your service”.

Now we are talking about increasing prices for a level of service that everyone expected would be part of the ticket price initially. I do not know whether that was good public relations or not. The people who we deal with at Air Canada are always wonderful people, but certainly the company in this instance made an error.

However, this motion is not in response to that error. It is in response to a genuine need, a get with the program need for Canada to join such other countries like those in the EU and the United States in coming forward with a bill of rights that says that passengers are entitled to this kind of service.

It cannot simply be case of caveat emptor. It has to be a case where there is a reciprocal obligation implied, understood and accepted by the carrier that receives the money as its part of the contract.

My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel says we should include as well all the other service providers. He points to the fact that the Air Transport Association of Canada says it accepts this concept in principle. It does accept it, but we should bring into the equation all those other associations, many of which operate thanks to the regulator's authority, for example, Transport Canada, and that is fine.

However, my colleague's motion is very specific about what should be included. It does not necessarily point to what CBSA and CATSA and what anyone else might do. They have their responsibilities under a different set of regulations and they are held accountable for them. They should be held accountable for the service that they must provide not only to the airport authorities or to the carriers but to the passengers as well.

The most important thing is for this House to be seized with the thrust of the motion. The thrust of the motion says there are already models for us to follow. People have already gone to court to ensure that some of these be enacted, witness the example in the United States that my colleague so rightly pointed out.

However, there are also examples in Europe and 27 European countries are getting together and accepting it. All 27 countries and jurisdictions are in a position to adopt a bill of rights that addresses specific items. My colleague from Abbotsford said yes, but there are three specific areas. Three specific areas no doubt, but there are an addition 12 others that indicate the kinds of elements that must be addressed in this bill of rights.

We have models. We have American models and we have European models. There is no reason why we cannot adopt both. As the mover says, if everyone else can provide that service and constrain our carriers to provide that service when they fly over foreign airspace, why can those same carriers not be constrained, compelled and encouraged to provide a bill of rights for those same passengers over Canadian airspace?

That is the essence of this motion. Let Canadian passengers be treated on a par with Canadian passengers flying other carriers in other jurisdictions. We should offer no less and I encourage this House to adopt my colleague's motion.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

April 17th, 2008 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Motion No. 465 this evening. The NDP supports this motion.

About a month ago, I issued a challenge to the government to bring forward a passenger bill of rights. Motion No. 465 is very complementary to that. I would like to read the motion for those who are joining the debate tonight.

The motion is very open and also provides a mode of flexibility and has been crafted in a very good way. The member should be recognized for that because it provides an opportunity to have a good debate about airline passenger service in this country and the way in which problems and issues are dealt with and whether or not we are satisfied with the status quo.

Most people across the country are not satisfied. Most people recognize that, not only in the European Union but also in the United States.

The motion addresses a few of the concerns. I am concerned that members of the Conservative Party do not want to participate in this type of process. This process would be helpful and would also get to other airline issues that need to be debated in this country.

The motion states:

That the House call upon the government to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights similar in scope and effect to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within Europe and the Unites States...

I will halt there for a second, because what the member has done, and this is what I was concerned with in regard to the government's presentation, is clearly outlined that other jurisdictions have enacted legislation, for example in the European Union. The Bloc member went through some of the details of that legislation which was to deal with very difficult problems that the EU had and the EU felt that it had to enshrine something.

The member also recognizes the fact that the United States is going through a process. There is a bill in the house and a bill in the senate in the United States with respect to a passenger bill of rights. There has been a significant change in the U.S. airline industry and it has rocked the nation in many respects. There are going to be continued issues around passengers and their ability to get value because there is going to be another potential merger. There has been a lot of change, a lot of bankruptcies and many other issues. We have seen all too often footage not just in terms of weather delays but also cancellations related to aircraft being grounded and airlines that have gone bankrupt. A lot of travelling Americans and Canadians have been left high and dry.

These are very important issues. The member has acknowledged that those are the ones to be looked at.

When we look at this issue we cannot put our heads in the sand and say that the European Union has not solved everything and the United States has not quite done it yet so we should just forget about it and wait and see what happens.

There is an opportunity in the House to actually engage in this. Airline travel involves everything. We travel on personal visits with our families and our friends but airline travel is also very important for business and economic development across the country, especially as we are looking at competing in larger markets.

These issues are very important. When a person purchases a ticket, it should come with some basic rights. That is what we are really getting at.

The motion continues:

...for the purpose of protecting passenger interests in a consistent and rules-based way...

I want to stop there. When we talk to airline passengers and when we talk to people who work in the industry itself, the rules based approach is very important. People do not understand all these aspects. There are hidden charges. I know the industry is very concerned with a number of different fees that have been added on by the government. One example is the airline security tax. There have also been increased costs for landing fees. Also Nav Canada has been allowed to accumulate over a $60 million surplus. All these costs have to be passed on to the passenger.

There is concern from the industry that there has not been a real review of those types of things and those costs get passed on to the consumer. Similarly, there has to be a rules based approach when it comes to expectations when a person buys a ticket.

Bill C-11 was mentioned, but the fact of the matter is even when there is legislation the government has failed to live up to some of the principles of the legislation. In particular on Bill C-11 there was supposed to be consultation with different groups of Canadians about how to bring in a ticket pricing element that was fair and transparent.

CBC's Marketplace had very good program that outlined how some ticket prices have increased 50% because of fuel charges. People see a flight advertised at a certain price, but when they go to purchase their ticket, they are in for a big shock. We should have a rules based approach on issues like that so consumers know when an advertised price includes that charge, when it does not and all the airlines would have to follow that.

Having that element specifically mentioned in the motion gives some good ground to create fairness. This would create expectations not only with regard to when passengers should arrive, but what they should do to prepare themselves for air travel and what they should do in their conduct in air travel. Also, there would be an understanding of the company's obligations so that passengers can meet those types of conditions.

I have talked to representatives of some of the companies. They have expressed a bit of concern around issues related to checking in and so forth. For example, if there are not enough security officers to screen people, there is a problem. If people arrive too late, there is a problem.

In this debate, we can look at that context. We can look at the issue of whether the security charge that has been applied and continued by the government is going to be one that has value in terms of making sure that air travel is safe, but also making sure that we are going to reduce wait times and meet a mandate within a passenger bill of rights. Those issues can now come to the forefront.

The end of the motion is important as well. It talks about:

...adequate compensation being offered by the airline industry to airline passengers who experience inconveniences such as flight interruptions, delays, cancellations, issues with checked baggage and other inconveniences incurred while travelling on commercial passenger airline services originating from anywhere in Canada.

It refers to “such as”, and therefore, it does not have to be exclusively those items. The items can be looked at to determine whether they are appropriate or not, but at least it opens up that opportunity.

It is important to note that some airlines are actually moving on some of these items right now but they are charging extra fees for them. One airline has introduced a new service where for $25 or $35 passengers rise up a level and are able to bump other passengers. There are also emails and other services with regard to food and hotel accommodation.

Some of those things should be included in the price of the ticket right now but they are going to offer those services, the costs of which are going to be passed on to the customer. It is going to create another class of individuals who will be able to afford that $25 or $35, depending upon the fee, who will then purchase better tickets than other people who did not want to put that money on the table or could not afford to put out that money. That is important, because if we do not set some minimum standards and expectations with regard to airline passenger travel, then the companies are probably going to take advantage of customers. That is not right.

I only have a couple of minutes left, but I want to touch on a couple of issues. The issue of the Cuba to Montreal flight was mentioned. It is really important to acknowledge that those people were stuck on a plane for over 10 hours without the proper hygiene, nourishment or supports. They were having to sit in those seats for a long period of time. The basic health and sanitation systems had failed on the plane, and it took a 911 call to get some action.

That is enough to say if this extreme situation is going to happen in our country, in our nation's capital, there needs to be a change. We cannot simply leave things to the courts and other types of operations where there are no expectations or rules. We need to establish a bill of rights.

I will conclude by pointing out that we are going to once again have an opportunity to move forward on this or we will fall behind and watch our competition move ahead. It is important to point out that we will lose out on this.

In my area, many people choose to fly from Detroit, Michigan as opposed to going from Windsor on another air carrier to Toronto. That is because of the extra rights they are granted. The airlines and groups that are involved want to develop something right now. They want to clear the air. This motion is a start.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

April 17th, 2008 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing this motion forward. In principle, I do support the motion. Whatever we can do to strengthen consumer rights in Canada is welcomed.

I am also an air traveller. I travel every week to and from my riding, and I know what it means to be delayed, to sit on the tarmac waiting for a plane to take off.

I want to start by unequivocally stating that our government is committed to consumer protection for Canadians. Our country has a solid, effective and constantly improving consumer protection regime, and that applies to those Canadians who travel by air.

Canada's approach to air travel has always been to put the safety of the travelling public first. That is non-negotiable. That is why Canada is a world leader in aviation safety, as the member mentioned. Canada has even been cited by the International Civil Aviation Organization as having among the best safety standards in the world. Safe operation of our aircraft is our paramount consideration.

What about some of the other aspects of air travel? What about the comfort, safety and convenience of the travelling public?

The motion before us asks us to do a number of things. It calls upon our government to protect air passengers' consumer interests in a consistent and rules based way. It also asks us to provide adequate compensation to air travellers who experience inconveniences and delays on commercial flights originating in Canada.

The motion seeks to address those concerns by formally calling upon our government to implement a passenger bill of rights similar to the one in Europe and the one in the United States. Let us look at those models. Let us first review the situation in the United States.

As it turns out, the United States actually has no national passenger bill of rights. Although the state of New York tried to adopt a law which would have addressed health and safety concerns related to long delays on the tarmac, the U.S. Court of Appeals actually struck down the law. Despite past efforts, the United States has never been able to implement a broad passenger bill of rights to date.

Not only does the United States not have a passenger bill of rights, but it does not even have a complaints mechanism available to passengers. A discontented passenger is left to deal directly with the airline and has no other recourse for resolution aside from the courts.

Only Europe has a passenger bill of rights at this time, and it is appropriate for us to reflect on the particular circumstances of that bill of rights.

The fact that the European Union has some 20 different member states, many with their own air carriers, explains why the EU was so anxious to have a consistent set of rules and approaches to consumer complaints.

What was worse was that in Europe there were persistent challenges with congestion and overbooking, challenges which existed as early as the 1990s, which is approximately when the European passenger bill of rights was originally introduced. The European aviation industry was known to regularly overbook passengers, cancel undersold flights and make refunds very difficult.

Europe also faced serious challenges when its airline industry saw over 35 low cost carriers exit the market between 2003 and 2006. That in itself would have been a huge blow to consumer confidence in the European airline industry.

The European Union passenger bill of rights addresses specific situations where either boarding is denied by the carrier or flights are cancelled or delayed for a long period of time.

That bill of rights also requires each member state to have an enforcement body to deal with consumer complaints. Surprisingly, its enforcement process has many similarities to our Canadian approach. Just as in Canada, enforcement bodies in the EU provide recourse to passengers for complaints not resolved by the carrier.

However, European Union resolution of complaints is limited to the very issues I have already articulated: denied boarding, cancellations and delays. This is different from our system where our complaints enforcement body, the Canadian Transportation Agency, has a much wider mandate. The agency has the power to address a wide variety of air traveller complaints as reflected in the broad range of carriers' terms and conditions.

The EU passenger bill of rights does not address the concerns raised by the United States regarding lengthy delays on the tarmac, nor does it address the issue of lost baggage.

Let me elaborate further on the situation right here in Canada.

I would first like to address the unfortunate circumstances that have probably triggered the motion before us. Let us not beat around the bush. This last winter was a tough one for Canadians. It is easy for me to sympathize with those people who were victims of delayed and cancelled flights during the 2007 Christmas holiday season as a result of the winter storms in eastern and Atlantic Canada. I happened to be one of those passengers. Indeed, some Canadians rely on air transportation as their only means of travel. It is also regrettable that vacationers had their reading week and spring break trips cancelled or significantly delayed as a result of the massive storms that hit Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal on March 8 and 9. These were very unfortunate events that are a product of our northern climate.

I began my comments with the statement that we in Canada are fortunate to have strong consumer protection laws. Let me take a few minutes to remind members of what that regime actually entails.

In Canada, as in most other countries, the terms and conditions of carriage are set by carriers that compete aggressively with each other. They are not set by government. This approach is consistent with our privatized air industry framework which relies heavily on the competitiveness of the marketplace to ensure that terms and conditions of carriage are reasonable and fair.

In Canada, airline passenger rights are protected through the provisions in the Canadian Transportation Act. All carriers operating within Canada or arriving or departing from Canada are required to develop terms and conditions of carriage and to make them readily accessible to the public. The information contained in the carrier's terms and conditions of carriage is important to consumers because it sets out that carrier's obligations and commitments to passengers.

As my colleagues in this House know all too well, the Canadian Transportation Act was recently amended unanimously by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. I am a member of that committee and I was part of that review process.

Bill C-11, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, was passed and received royal assent in June of last year. It included enhanced consumer protection for air travel. These enhancements were in addition to existing consumer laws that we already had in place. I would like to list some of those improvements we made under Bill C-11.

Under that bill airlines are now required to prominently display and post their terms and conditions of carriage at the business offices of their domestic airlines. Bill C-11 also made permanent the informal and flexible complaints resolution process within the Canadian Transportation Agency. It integrated the role and functions of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner with the authority and day to day operations of the agency.

The changes introduced under Bill C-11 are improvements to an already open and transparent reporting process. It is also important to understand how the complaints process in Canada works.

Canadian passengers are first required to address their complaints directly to the airline. To me, that seems reasonable. They then have recourse to the Canadian Transportation Agency if they are not satisfied with the carrier's response. Consumers can also seek redress and file a complaint with the agency if an airline fails to follow its terms and conditions of carriage. As a result of the complaints process, the agency can then assess monetary damages, if appropriate.

When considering whether to introduce our own passenger bill of rights, we have to consider many of the elements that are already in place in Canada. These are terms such as those that lay out the obligations of a carrier when flights are cancelled or delayed, conditions that determine how lost baggage is dealt with, which does not happen in the European Union, and an existing thorough and comprehensive complaints process.

The bottom line is that Canadian air passenger consumer protection laws are much stronger than those in the United States, and they more than hold their own when compared to the passenger bill of rights in the European Union.

Let us wind up this discussion by simply saying that Canada should not sell itself short. We are doing a good job in the area of consumer protection. What I do not want to do is till soil that has already been thoroughly tilled.

While I do not for a moment question the motives of the mover of this motion, I am not yet certain that a new passenger bill of rights is absolutely necessary, but I am certainly open to hear his remarks and the rest of the debate on this motion. I am certainly open to having my mind changed on this issue.

Airline Passenger Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

April 17th, 2008 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member and I share a concern that consumer protection be robust in Canada, especially for those who use the airlines to travel. He made specific reference to a model that I think he would like us to follow, the model used by the European Union, which has a bill of rights for airline passengers.

Given the fact he has quoted that as a model, could he elucidate for us a little further the advantages that model would have over Canada's current system? Perhaps he could also comment on Bill C-11, which was passed in the last Parliament and which seriously enhances consumer protection for airline passengers in Canada?

Air TransportationStatements By Members

April 10th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 27, 2007, the House passed Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. This bill, for one, required airlines to provide details about pricing when tickets are sold.

Amendments from the Senate, supported by the Conservatives and the Liberals, who gave in to pressure from airline industry lobbyists, removed this requirement. The Bloc Québécois was opposed to these amendments, believing that they went against the collective good. One year later, airline companies continue to hide fees from consumers. This is unacceptable.

As it stands, there is no law or regulation requiring airline companies to publicly declare all of the fees included in ticket prices, unlike travel agents and wholesalers in Quebec and Ontario. The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities must step in immediately and require that airlines publicize all of the fees included in tickets sold to passengers.

November 29th, 2007 / 9:30 a.m.
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Chairman, Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, Coalition of Rail Shippers

Robert Ballantyne

Yes, that is our position, that's our preferred position, that the bill be passed as written. I do understand there are, for example, several administrative issues that related to the timing of this bill and Bill C-11, which has become law. That will mean there will be some technical changes, and that's of course understandable. In terms of the issues of substance, yes, we think that clause 1 of the bill, which deals with subsections 27(2) and 27(3) of the act, should be repealed. This is something that, as I recall, was recommended by the statutory review committee back in 2001. We think this is a hurdle that is particularly difficult because “substantial commercial harm” isn't particularly well defined, and our understanding is that the Competition Bureau doesn't look favourably on these kinds of provisions. So we think the repeal of that is fundamental and very important.

With regard to clause 3, we think the wording is fine the way it is. It's clearly meant to deal with charges other than what would commonly be called the freight rate or the charge for the movement of traffic. So we think this covers it off all right, but I would assume that when the Transport Canada people come for the clause-by-clause next week they'll do whatever they feel is appropriate there. We've had some discussions with them about the kind of change they want to make, and while we would prefer to see it left the way it is, they'll play it however they think is appropriate.

I'm sorry, on your other point...?