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.