An Act to amend the Pilotage Act

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

Sponsor

Lawrence Cannon  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of June 19, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Pilotage Act to give pilotage authorities flexibility in the manner of engaging the services of pilots, to provide the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities with the authority to choose a commercial arbitrator to resolve disputes between pilotage authorities and corporations providing pilotage services and to make an authority’s corporate plan and its objects considerations in the final offer selection process and in decisions of the Canadian Transportation Agency concerning pilotage tariffs.

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.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 7:35 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a huge sore point with the Conservatives in the room and I can understand. They are very sensitive to Bill C-6 and the very reckless and irresponsible tack that they took on that bill. However, Canadians will be happy to learn that the NDP stopped them in their tracks today. The bill is not law and hopefully over the next few months Canadians will make their voices heard.

It is important, relevant and pertinent because if we have concerns about the overall policy orientation of the government, coming back to Bill C-64, it is extremely relevant when we see the kinds of problems and mistakes in policy that the Conservatives have already made. Thankfully, one Conservative has just acknowledged that they have made a lot of mistakes, which is good. The first step of the rehabilitation program for the Conservatives is when they admit the mistakes they are making. Hopefully later on they can move to reconciling and actually fixing some of the errors that they have made in this first year and a half in government.

Because the orientation of the government raises serious concerns, when we look at Bill C-64 it brings more red flags. We have seen what the Conservatives tried to do with flight attendants after a lobbyist talked to them. We have seen what they tried to do with Bill C-6 after a lobbyist talked to them. Now we have the same kinds of issues raised with the act to amend the Pilotage Act.

What do we have? We have well-trained pilots who navigate coastal waters, particularly around the St. Lawrence Seaway. However, in my case, coming from British Columbia, what we are talking about, in many parts of the Pacific coast, are dangerous waters that can be very treacherous and that need to be known well and the pilots who navigate off the British Columbia coast are people who have a vast degree of experience and ability. They have been well-trained and they understand the importance of understanding the coastal waters. That training is an important asset to ensure that there are no accidents.

As we have seen when we look at Bill C-6, if the government's intention is to cause more accidents, one has to wonder why. What is the counterbalance? The Conservatives say in their news release, the same one that talked about consultations, and we know how credible that was, that flexibility will be important for authorities.

Flexibility, meaning what? Does it mean that they can hire people who do not have that high level of qualification? We fear that is the intent and that it is all influenced by dollars. The government is running billions and billions of dollars of surplus and it has not chosen to deal with any of the crises that many Canadians are experiencing, like the homelessness crisis. Certainly the Liberals did not put in place a housing program but the Conservatives have not chosen to either. What they want to do is simply put together surpluses without addressing some real issues.

We save a few dollars on pilots but we would have people who may be less qualified on the dangerous waters of the Pacific coast. That would make no sense whatsoever and that concerns us. When we look at the news release that accompanied this bill which the Conservatives tried to bring through in a matter of hours, it seems that the principal intention of the bill is to provide flexibility.

If the flexibility means hiring people who might not have the same degree of qualifications, of course we are concerned. If what it means is that we are trying to save a bit of money but putting our ships in danger, we are also talking about the marine environment and individuals, we need to think twice.

That is essentially the problem with Bill C-64. We look at the process where the Conservatives simply dropped the bill in the House a few hours ago and now want to bring it to second reading right away. The process raises concerns about where the government is going. We have its track record on trying to diminish the flight attendant ratio and in trying to push through Bill C-6, which, thank goodness, the NDP stopped because it clearly was not in the Canadian public interest. Now we see with this orientation a similar problem.

We then have the bill itself which seems to be a way of perhaps saving some money but it does not really address the issue of safety, which must be utmost in the government's mind.

For those reasons, we in this corner of the House have real difficulty with this bill. We have difficulty with the government's orientation and transportation policy generally, and we have difficulty because we are concerned that the government has not consulted the marine employees, the unions that are involved in marine transportation and are the experts in how transportation policy should be adopted. The government did not choose to consult with them. That is unfortunate and that is why we will be opposing this bill.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 7:35 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I appreciate the reminder from the hon. member for Palliser. The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster knows that he has to stay as closely as possible to the pertinent details of the bill before the House, which is Bill C-64.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 7:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have listened with great interest to my friend opposite, as the last hours of this session of Parliament wind down. He was here earlier today and he spoke many times to Bill C-6, the Aeronautics Act, which involved airplanes, pilots of airplanes and those types of issues. Now we are debating Bill C-64, the Pilotage Act. We are not talking about pilotage of airplanes any more. We are talking about the pilotage of ships.

I wonder if the member could try to stick a bit closer to the topic, the Pilotage Act, and leave Bill C-6 alone for a bit. We debated that bill at length earlier today. Could the member be a bit more relevant in his comments?

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-64. I expect to speak at length on this bill because there is a great deal to be said. However, I realize that, under the Standing Orders, I will only have 20 minutes.

First, I would like to explain the process that has led us, this Wednesday evening before the summer recess, to a discussion of this bill. Then, I will touch on our concerns, in this part of the House, with regard to this government's policies in the area of transportation. What it is doing is not in the interests of Canadians. I will come back to that. Finally, I will speak about the pilotage system and the impact of what the government is introducing today.

I will take my time in talking about these three aspects. I know that we will come back to this bill at second reading and that we will have an opportunity in the fall to discuss it in more detail.

I would like to start by speaking about the process around Bill C-64, which raises red flags right off the bat, particularly when we saw what happened with Bill C-6 which the NDP was basically able to stop the House from adopting today, thankfully. That bill would have pushed Canadian airlines right over the cliff in terms of safety and security for Canadians and their loved ones who are travelling on Canadian flights.

Thankfully, we in the NDP dug in our heels. We said it was inappropriate legislation and it should not pass. Now Canadians from coast to coast to coast will have the chance this summer to write to their members of Parliament and say it is unacceptable that the Conservative government diminishes flight safety.

It is unacceptable that the government created a get out of jail free card for company CEOs no matter what they do, as long as they record it in their internal systems. Transport Canada is handing over safety preoccupations to the companies themselves. Essentially that information cannot be used against the company CEOs to prosecute them, so they get a get out of jail free card.

The secrecy that we have talked about in terms of Bill C-6 is absolutely appalling, and I will come back to that in a moment. There is also the fact that there is no whistleblower protection.

Thankfully, tonight the NDP stopped the government and the Liberal Party in their tracks from taking the airline industry over a cliff.

Now we see the same sort of process developing for Bill C-64. This bill was brought forward for first reading yesterday. It was just thrown into the House rapidly and the government is insisting that it go to second reading today, very quickly.

What is it about the government orientation and initiative that it cannot intervene when it comes to the housing crisis, to support more access to post-secondary education, to deal with the health care crisis or to deal with the myriad difficulties that Canadians are living through? There have been a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs lost in the last few years. We have seen the softwood crisis ignite because of the softwood sellout. In each case the Conservative Party will not react.

The Conservatives act like deer caught in the headlights. They cannot do a thing to fix some of these crises that Canadians are experiencing but they find lobbyists who say we should amend the Pilotage Act and within 24 hours that legislation is pushed into the House, and the government wants to take it to second reading and pass it. The Conservatives cannot deal with any real problems. They avoid dealing with any of the real crises and problems that ordinary working families are experiencing but when a lobbyist pushes something, that bill comes right into the House. That is absolutely unacceptable.

The parliamentary secretary was talking a few minutes ago about consultations. He said he consulted stakeholders and despite the fact that colleagues from three corners of the House all asked him to reveal the names of anybody beyond company CEOs that he actually consulted, he did not come up with any names. We pressed him to reveal who these stakeholders were, these anonymous stakeholders who somehow believe this is great legislation. He was not able to reveal any of those names, which puts in doubt the entire background information that was provided in the news release that the minister pushed forward when he announced that he wanted to ram this bill through Parliament.

When the Conservatives talked about stakeholder consultation they mentioned a couple of towns. They met with somebody at some point I guess, yet they cannot reveal any of the actual employee groups, the people who do the work in marine transportation in Canada. It certainly raises red flags about what exactly the government is doing.

The Conservatives race to bring this bill to the House rather than address any of the real issues that Canadians are facing. They say that they have done some sort of consultation but they cannot reveal any names.

Then, to top it all off, we have seen how the Conservative government has derided and disrespected the marine employees themselves, the folks who do the work on shipping from coast to coast. The folks who actually do the work, the marine transport workers, the unions, the employee groups that are actually out there doing the work do not appear to have been consulted at all.

We have seen the government move in a direction where there is no more national marine advisory council. The national marine advisory council has been gutted. It used to exist to actually provide very important input from ordinary working men and women who work in the marine industry. They were cut right out and now this little elite group of CEOs was put together.

The transport committee sat on this issue and directed the government to bring all stakeholders together, to bring employee groups in, unions representing ordinary men and women who work in the marine industry, so that there would be real consultations.

So far the government has absolutely refused to have anything other than an elite process with CEOs. That is unacceptable despite the fact the transport committee provided clear direction.

When the parliamentary secretary said the government has had these consultations or it has actually listened to people in the marine industry, I am exceedingly skeptical about what consultations actually took place.

I will come back to this in a moment because then we can talk about what the actual results are of Bill C-64, the bill that the government is trying to ram through in a couple of days apparently.

I raised the issue about the overall orientation of the government on transportation policy and I would like to give two examples of why I am concerned with Bill C-64.

There are two reasons why I have some real concerns about where the government is heading and where the transport minister is heading. First, we had an attempt by the government last year to actually reduce the number of flight attendants on Canadian flights.

Why is that important? Flight attendants play that key safety and security role, particularly when there is evacuation required of an aircraft. We had the Air France disaster a couple of years ago where flight attendants played an extremely key role in ensuring that there was no major loss of life in that accident. The flight attendants were there to evacuate passengers.

If we think about it, the plane crashes and it is on fire and 100 people have to get out. The flight attendants are needed to help those individuals, particularly seniors and people with disabilities, to ensure that everyone gets out alive. There are only seconds to do that.

Ensuring that there are an adequate number of flight attendants on Canadian flights is of utmost importance. Yet, the government moved last year in the month of June to actually diminish the number of flight attendants on Canadian flights. What is wrong with that picture? It would have meant more danger for Canadians travelling on Canadian flights.

The NDP rolled up its sleeves as it is want to do and pushed the government back. The Conservative members in the House know very well that we forced the minister to retreat from that really irresponsible position and he has subsequently said that he will not lower the flight attendant ratio. He will not provide an excuse for airline companies to put a smaller number of flight attendants on Canadian flights. That means that Canadians are more secure. That is one example.

Let me refer to the other example, which is Bill C-6, which the NDP stopped in its tracks today. As a matter of fact all members of Parliament from the NDP were speaking on that bill and we managed to stop the government's agenda, which was to try to push through Bill C-6.

What does Bill C-6 do? It simply contracts out safety from Transport Canada to other companies. Some companies will be responsible, there is no doubt. Some companies will be very responsible. We have seen with the railways that some companies handle the additional responsibility of safety and hold the issue of safety uppermost in their minds, but other companies do not.

We saw with the railway industry when that was done how the CEO of CN decided that cutting corners was quite okay. Corners were cut to increase profits.

What we have seen in British Columbia and in other communities across the country is a lot more environmental devastation and loss of life because the CEO of CN was not as concerned about safety as he was concerned about profits. We essentially saw a gutting of the safety culture within CN. That is not me speaking.

The actual audit done on CN showed there was a dysfunctional relationship between upper management and those who did the work in regard to safety. Many of the workers at CN felt they were getting excessive pressure to try to simply cut corners on safety.

The government is now doing the exact same thing with the airline industry. It is saying that it will contract that out and companies will have to take care of themselves. What is wrong with that? Witnesses at transport committee said very clearly that would lead to a race to the bottom. Even presidents of airline companies, like Kirsten Brazier, who came forward from Dax Air, said that if we put this system into place, it would be a race to the bottom and companies would try to cut corners in order to stay alive.

That is what the Conservative government is doing. It is giving away the transportation responsibility for safety to the airline companies. Even more, the government is saying that a company CEO who makes a huge error will be protected. This is a get out of jail free card. The CEO will not be prosecuted.

There is also an excessive, absolutely paranoiac level of secrecy and confidentiality. The safety information that used to be part of the public domain, safety information that Canadians should have access to know which airline to choose, will now be treated like confidential tax information and locked away for decades.

Imagine how Canadians would feel if they put their loved ones on a Canadian flight, that airplane crashed and they found out 20 years after the fact that Transport Canada was well aware of the safety violations, but chose to do nothing about it. Therefore—

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 7:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know it is difficult given that there are so many people who want to ask questions. I would say to my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel that the total number of air safety inspectors is decreasing. The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities noted that the number of inspector positions went from 800 to fewer than 700. So we see, again, that the Conservative government is not ready to fill vacant positions. Bill C-6 has shown us that there is a gradual and consistent decrease in the number of inspectors. Even if the NDP and the Bloc Québécois made amendments, Bill C-6 is still seriously flawed.

Lobbyists did in fact apply pressure, but, apart from the pilots who talked about safety management systems, very few people addressed the practical outcome of this debate. My colleague is quite right about Bill C-64, because it was indeed pressure that ultimately led to the change and to the bill. I do not understand why he fails to see the similarities between Bill C-64 and Bill C-6. Although Bill C-6 was improved by the amendments of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, it is still far from guaranteeing airline safety as much as we all would like. Similarly, Bill C-64 does not do enough to ensure safety in the marine transportation sector.

Does my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel not see the similarities between the two bills?

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 7:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like my colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster, who does an excellent job for British Columbia and who is a strong champion of that province, to distinguish between Bill C-6 and Bill C-64, which is before us.

He knows very well that Bill C-6 was supported not only by the owners' lobby but also by the pilots and the flight attendants. They represent two completely different worlds. Bill C-6 implements the safety management system for airports and all things pertaining to airplanes. Airlines need this dual safety net. My colleague has not yet come to an understanding of that fact. However, he will probably be able to understand that we have been able to protect the inspections. It is important to have a safety management system not only to ensure that companies implement an internal plan to improve safety based on voluntary reports, but also to ensure that an inspection system is in place. I am thoroughly convinced that we have protected this aspect.

The Bloc Québécois amendments, most of which he supported, were designed to put in place a proper inspection system, which the rail system does not have. Since we are looking at this issue this afternoon, the rail system has a safety management system, but there is no legislation providing for an inspection system. Therein lies the problem. There are only 25 railway inspectors for the whole country, whereas there are about 800 inspectors in the airline industry in Canada. We need to protect that, and I believe that is what we have done in Bill C-6.

However, he is quite right about Bill C-64. Attempts are being made to resolve this issue, but the ship owners' lobby is very strong. I was lobbied between 2000 and 2006. The ship owners' lobby is very strong on the issue of pilotage. This lobby believes that it can replace people with machines, but that is not how things work. It would be a good idea for us to sit down with the pilots so that they can explain that geomorphology is not something a machine can handle when there is wind or flooding in an area or when groundwater shifts sandbanks.

These people know how things work and where the water runs down off the mountains and where it flows into the St. Lawrence River, in the estuary or in the seaway. These people know their stuff, just as they must in British Columbia. They know how things work. Pilotage takes a human being, and a machine is no substitute. This is true elsewhere in the world, and I see no reason why things should be different here.

I agree with my friend about Bill C-64. The Bloc Québécois and the NDP will block the ship owners' lobby again. We will make sure the quality of our waters can never be threatened. When all is said and done, we are protecting neither the pilots nor the ship owners, but the people who live near our beautiful bodies of water and often get their drinking water from them. We need to avoid disasters and accidents wherever possible.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 7:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much enjoyed the presentation given by my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel on the subject of Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Pilotage Act.

He very clearly stated that lobbyists and business leaders prefer to disregard the importance of safety as ships navigate the waters of Quebec and British Columbia, where there are very competent, trained people who are very familiar with the waters. This is an important factor. This is an example of how this government gives in to pressure without considering the repercussions.

Here on this side of the House, we said the same thing about Bill C-6. In an effort to save money, air industry lobbyists applied a great deal of pressure to diminish airline safety. Fortunately, the NDP managed to prevent the passage of Bill C-6 here today. I hope the government will rethink its entire approach to this issue.

I have two question for my hon. colleague. First of all, in both cases, that is, Bill C-6 and Bill C-64, did he notice the government's tendency to give in to pressure from lobbyists?

Second, does he agree with us that Bill C-6 and Bill C-64 should be withdrawn?

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 6:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill C-64, which was introduced by the government and seeks to amend the Pilotage Act. I am glad to be taking part in this debate because it is important to look at the whole pilotage situation and understand how, in 1972, we came to have a Pilotage Act whereby our territorial waters are protected by qualified pilots who take charge of ships entering our waters.

I was saying earlier to the parliamentary secretary that we have to be careful when we open up the Pilotage Act, because in solving monetary problems, we may be threatening the security that has been in place for decades to protect our waters. This is especially important because there is more and more traffic in our territorial waters.

When I think of Quebec, I think of the St. Lawrence River and the St. Lawrence Seaway that leads to the Great Lakes. This is important, because there are more ships and boats plying these waters, pleasure craft and other vessels. We decided finally to protect the security of marine transport by ensuring that the pilots who take charge of ships and large marine craft trading in our waters are fully qualified and know the St. Lawrence River and Seaway like the back of their hand. It is impossible to completely avoid marine catastrophes or accidents, but the pilots have to know what they are doing and not just use the equipment. For years, people have been trying to have us believe that there is sophisticated electronic equipment. But there is no substitute for human experience when it comes to protecting the safety of our waters in conditions such as high winds and groundwater movement.

This is imperative for the Bloc Québécois. No law can jeopardize that safety, having foreign ships piloted by our own marine pilots who know the St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. That is the objective we must never forget and never jeopardize. When I meet with marine pilots and marine pilots' associations and they tell me that this bill could jeopardize the entire pilotage system, then I have a problem with this. As I was saying, I have a problem with this because there is more and more marine traffic and the water quality of the St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes is even more important because most of the cities and towns along the river and the seaway get their drinking water from this wonderful navigable waterway, the St. Lawrence, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. We cannot take any chances.

I listened closely to what the parliamentary secretary was saying and I know that there is a money problem, among other things, within the pilotage authority, in the Laurentians. In the past few years, the Laurentian Pilotage Authority has had some financial problems that could have been resolved and may be resolved in the coming weeks. Obviously, I know that the boards of administration of these authorities have pilots on them and also employers, shipowners and stakeholders.

We have been talking about the Laurentian Pilotage Authority's deficit for years. I think there will end up being some agreement since the shipowners have realized that the contract that was negotiated a number of years ago may have benefited them. I should point out that there are four authorities across Canada. Everything is going well for the other three, but for the Laurentian Pilotage Authority, there may have been a negotiation that benefited the shipowners. In my opinion, that is where the government could have stepped in. Not with a bill to change everything that is happening in the other authorities, but to be able, through negotiations, to put pressure on the shipowners.

He should have pointed out that there was a deficit at the Laurentian Pilotage Authority. It has difficulty hiring pilots and covering expenses. Pilots put in hours but are not paid because of the lack of money.

Personally, I thought that the Conservative government would have pushed the issue. On the contrary, it has made an amendment to the legislation that runs the risk of jeopardizing all the other pilotage authorities.

Having been the Bloc Québécois transport critic from 2000 to 2004—and also since the 2006 election—, I know that shipowners are constantly trying to have the pilotage system abolished.

The government must keep in mind that it must protect, for reasons of marine safety, the quality of the waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes, and also the Pacific waters around Vancouver. Safeguarding water quality is just too important.

Cities located along these navigable waterways draw their water from them. We must ensure that we never jeopardize this pilotage system. The objective of shipowners is to succeed in abolishing the pilotage system by any means. They claim that with today's electronic equipment there is no longer a need for these pilots. Thus they can save money.

At this time, we cannot abandon the pilotage system because of the extent of marine traffic, not only merchant ships and freighters but also pleasure craft.

Let us look at what is happening on large bodies of water flowing inland in other countries, such as the Mississippi in the United States and others in Europe. They all have pilotage systems. It remains the best way to ensure that people with a thorough knowledge of the waterway take charge of the vessels. They know the winds, the waters and the groundwater movement. They know that, with torrential rain, sand accumulates at certain spots in some parts of the St. Lawrence River and that it shifts after a few days. The pilots are familiar with the geomorphology.

To become a pilot and to be a member of a pilotage association, you must take courses and pass the exams. That has been the case since pilotage associations were established. They are our best safety measure, even though they do not come with a 100% guarantee.

It is true that there have been some accidents. We are not the only ones in the world to do this. Everyone with major waterways entering their land is protected by pilots. I will repeat this for the Quebeckers and Canadians listening, these pilots take charge of foreign ships.

As soon as these ships enter the St. Lawrence River, the pilots take charge. Each pilotage authority leads them to a particular destination. For example, if they must get to the Great Lakes, the pilots take them to the Great Lakes; if they must get to Quebec City, the pilots take them to Quebec City. If they must get to Montreal, another pilotage authority sets out from the mouth of the St. Lawrence and goes to Quebec City. There is also one from Quebec to Montreal. Then, another one takes over from Montreal to the Great Lakes. They exist in western Canada as well, in the Pacific. This ensures better safety.

I hope the government has understood this. We need to try to fix an administrative or monetary problem that was perhaps created by the industry. I am not accusing anyone, but this was allowed to deteriorate. Maybe it suited the shipowners that the Laurentian Pilotage Authority was not working, since this proved that the whole system did not work. I have a hard time accepting that. I am not sure that the shipowners are thinking about the interests of the people in the area and people in general when the time comes to make business decisions. It is their personal interests at stake instead of public interest.

We must bear in mind that history tends to repeat itself. Some businesses, even some Canadian businesses, fly all sorts of flags, in order to pay less taxes. I hope Canadians understand that the only thing these shipowners are thinking about is their bottom line, and not public interests.

The Conservative government must therefore stop protecting the shipowners' lobby because these people are thinking only of their own interests. Since becoming the transport critic for the Bloc Québécois, I have noted that the stated aim of these shipowners has always been to do away entirely with the whole pilotage system. They see it as an additional expense. Clearly, when their ships enter the waters of the St. Lawrence, making their way towards the Great Lakes, these ships are taken under the responsibility of specialized pilotage authorities and they must pay the pilots' wages. That is how it works. Each pilotage authority has its own pricing agreements, whether it is by the tonne, by the hour, or whatever the case may be.

As for the Laurentian Pilotage Authority, over the past few years, contract negotiations have been concluded to the detriment of pilots and to the advantage of shipowners. A good balance has never been achieved. The shipowners were the winners and the Laurentian Pilotage Authority has slowly been losing money. No one has been willing to say that the fees should be adjusted to allow it to get by. Why? Simply because there are more ships, and there is more transport and traffic, so this requires more pilots. In the manner in which the contract was negotiated, every time a pilot piloted, the authority was losing money. This explains why the deficit is higher than expected, and the government knows this.

With this bill, we hope to correct an administrative mistake, an economic mistake, a financial mistake. We run the risk of jeopardizing the entire pilotage system, which is protected by legislation adopted in 1972 that has never been reopened since. Why? Because it is too important.

The problem is that every time we try to touch this legislation, the pilots feel that the shipowners are trying to do away with them. The fact is that for shipowners, pilots are an unnecessary expense. But for the people living along the St. Lawrence River, the St. Lawrence Seaway or the Great Lakes, pilots are the best way of protecting their drinking water and their safety. Pilots prevent environmental disasters such as spills of oil, hazardous goods or anything else that could pollute the waters. We need pilots who can take charge of all foreign ships entering our waters and guide them through our beautiful waterways. Pilots are our best guarantee of safety.

Nothing is ever guaranteed 100%, but these pilots are trained, have diplomas and certificates and are supervised by the pilotage authorities. They know their area's geomorphology. For example, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, there is a pilot who knows that area. Another pilot will take ships from Quebec City to Montreal, and another from Montreal to the Great Lakes.They know their area, and each one has a particular specialty. This safeguards the waters of the St. Lawrence River, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes and protects the quality of those waters so that they are not polluted by disasters or shipping accidents.

Hon. members have no doubt grasped that the Bloc Québécois will always be opposed to this bill, especially since the pilots' associations have told us that they are opposed to the bill.

The government must continue negotiating, and I hope that in the coming weeks an agreement will be reached and the government will make shipowners understand that the Laurentian Pilotage Authority situation must be resolved. Clearly, the problem is contractual and financial. The government has many other ways of exerting pressure on shipowners with a view to striking a balance. I hope that an agreement will be reached in the coming days and weeks.

Once this is resolved, the bill that was introduced today will no longer be necessary. In fact, it goes without saying that no pilotage authority should ever have a deficit. That is all well and good. The problem is that we have to make sure that everyone at the table understands that. We do not need legislation for that. They just need to sit down and strike a balance. We need the necessary revenue in order to pay the marine pilots who will take charge of the ships and so forth. That can be done without amending the legislation. All we need is people who want to sit down at a table, negotiate, get along well, and a government that wants to put pressure on the shipowners.

We do not need a government that gives in to pressure from the shipowners to abolish the legislation in order to get what they have been wanting for decades, the abolition, for purely financial reasons, of the pilotage system that guarantees our safety.

The Bloc Québécois will vote against Bill C-64. The members from the Bloc will be in committee to put forward amendments or to remove from this legislation everything they do not agree with. Much of what is in this bill should be taken out. We will see what happens.

Nonetheless, one thing is certain: what I heard come out of the mouth of the parliamentary secretary is not reassuring. The parliamentary secretary said that he was listening to the stakeholders. He was not listening to the stakeholders; he heard the stakeholders. He did not listen to them because the pilots said that was not what they needed. They did not need an amendment to the legislation, they needed the government to put pressure on the shipowners to resolve the problem of the Laurentian Pilotage Authority. That is all they needed.

There is nothing that reassures us in this bill. For a number of years we have gone to great lengths to ensure that this system was the best, not for shipowners, not for pilots, but for the safety of the people living along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. We must ensure their safety and the safety of those navigating the waters. Many pleasure craft navigate these waters. We must also ensure the quality of the water, since a number of towns get their water from the St. Lawrence River, the Seaway or the Great Lakes. We must ensure the water quality. We must go a little further and tell the shipowners to stop thinking about the bottom line and start thinking about the people living along these great waterways, so that they can have an adequate and acceptable quality of life.

When we look at things objectively, we can see that everyone's problems must be set aside to focus on the public interest. Public interest requires an authority, a pilotage act and healthy pilotage authorities. At all times, we must take charge of foreign ships, those entering our waters whose pilots do not have the proper accreditation. Pilots must also have completed the course, been accredited and have the necessary licences to navigate these ships in our waters.

As I have already explained, each entity has its own accreditation. For example, from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to Quebec City is one accreditation. From Quebec City to Montreal is another, and from Montreal to the Great Lakes yet another. There is also one for the Pacific, in Vancouver. This is the best way of going about it. Canada is not the only country with such a system. This system is used on the Mississippi, in the U.S., and in other European countries where there are major inland navigable waterways. They all have this protection. We must ensure that local pilots who are familiar with the waters take charge of foreign vessels. We must keep this system even if Canadian companies tell us that these are our own ships. Canadian companies often fly under the flag of a foreign country and want the least expensive pilot. They do not care if the pilot is from Liberia or another country.

This bill definitely does not protect our citizens. The Bloc Québécois will vote against this bill.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-64, an act to amend the Pilotage Act, a bill that was introduced yesterday in a mad rush by the government to try to convince Canadians that it is doing more than just producing taxpayer subsidized attack ads on its opponents and, of course, taxpayer subsidized logos for millionaire NASCAR race teams. With the government having run on the mantra of doing things differently, I guess Canadians are getting to see what doing things differently means for the Conservatives' 18 month old, tired, and not so new government.

Having said that, I note that Canada is blessed by three strikingly beautiful coasts and the St. Lawrence Great Lakes Seaway. We are a country blessed with a multitude of waterway systems that have played a defining role in the historic and economic development of our country.

Pilotage authorities have played a key role in ensuring a strong and safe marine transportation system. The four regional pilotage authorities, Atlantic, Laurentian, Great Lakes and Pacific, have played an important part in ensuring safe marine navigation in Canada.

Because pilotage authorities were created under the Pilotage Act, and each directed by a full time chairperson, they are crown corporations. Today the dynamics of Transport Canada are such that marine transportation, particularly marine transportation on the St. Lawrence Great Lakes trade corridor, is fiercely competitive with other transportation modes.

As pointed out in the submission of the Hamilton Port Authority during consultations in early March of this year, this competition has led to marine transportation losing a portion of its traditional cargo to rail and truck transportation. While this competition between transportation modes will like be a permanent feature, a doubling of trade in 10 years and a tripling in 15 years is likely to place significant pressures on the capacity of land-based modes, which most Canadians, particularly those in urban centres like the greater Toronto area, already recognize as a fact of life.

In this context, those involved in the transportation of cargo recognize that they have a choice of modes and will always seek the most effective mode for their particular needs. Those in the marine industry have done their best to respond to the challenges they face and have worked diligently to improve their overall competitiveness in today's climate.

For instance, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, which is now managing the assets of the seaway, recently introduced an incentive tolls program in an effort to draw in new business. As well, Canada port authorities are more interdependent and responsive to the needs of their customers.

Additionally, stakeholders have worked diligently to better market the potential of marine transportation. Once again, in the case of the St. Lawrence Great Lakes Seaway system, it is estimated to operate only at 50% of its capacity. Many stakeholders have underscored that this underutilization is largely due to expenses.

Some marine stakeholders have stressed that they face significant hurdles in the form of regulatory challenges, which include but are not limited to a pilotage regime. By working together under the Hwy H2O marketing campaign to jointly promote the system, those in the marine industry have succeeded for a time in stopping the decline in tonnage and transits by attracting new business and new services onto the waterway.

The concern is, however, that this effort will not be sustainable, especially if the greater efficiencies passed back to customers are negated by excessive pilotage tariff increases. International vessel operators, commodity traders and other potential customers regularly cite pilotage as a disincentive. This is not just about cost. It is also about the reliability of service and the inability to predict with the required degree of accuracy what the pilotage cost, the bottom line, is going to be when contemplating a pro forma voyage estimate.

This is particularly challenging for the operators of the smaller multi-purpose type of vessels that potentially represent the future for the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes trade corridor. In fact, this sector has shown the greatest growth over the last two years.

It should be remembered that the Pilotage Act dates back to 1972 and governs the operation, maintenance and administration in the interests of safety and efficient pilotage service within one of the four regions. In short, pilotage authorities are in the business of mitigating risks to navigation and ensuring the protection of our marine environment.

Pilotage authorities can set fair and reasonable user charges that allow the authorities to sustain themselves financially. This means that pilotage authorities hire pilots either as employees or pilot corporations, and the act outlines how they are to negotiate service contracts with pilot corporations. Pilotage authorities are given broad powers in a number of areas of acquisition, as well as regulatory responsibilities.

When the consultations on the amendments to the Pilotage Act were held in early 2007, a number of important concerns remained. These concerns were underscored by the Shipping Federation of Canada, which stated that the consultation that took place focused exclusively on “the financial self-sufficiency of the pilotage authorities, rather than addressing the more pressing question of whether the Pilotage Act's overall objectives of providing a safe and sufficient pilotage service are actually being met”.

While Bill C-64 claims to give pilotage authorities flexibility in the matter of engaging pilots, its overall effect will be to permit authorities to no longer be restricted to locally trained and locally engaged pilots. Given the expertise and the knowledge base that locally trained and locally engaged pilots bring to the table, and given their role in ensuring a strong and safe marine transportation system, this aspect of the bill should give pause to all concerned.

Furthermore, not only are there issues of an acceptable level of navigation safety in the four regions, but the cost factors for shippers and insurers in the event of an accident have yet to be fully determined within the scope of this proposed legislation. It is not yet clear that pilotage technology has advanced to the extent that pilots on our nation's water systems have become expendable. The relatively few number of marine occurrences in the past year could very well be seriously jeopardized by this hastily drafted legislation.

Moreover, it appears that through this legislation pilots will be restricted to their job functions as pilots only. They in fact will not be permitted to serve as directors of their association and still hold their licence. Those associations also will have to operate without government assistance, having to meet all of their operating costs through sources that presumably come from fees only. This will also constitute an additional disincentive to serve on professional boards for pilots, who then only hold their licence if they restrict their activities to pilotage specifically.

The proposed amendments to the Pilotage Act would also have the effect of transferring additional investigative authority to the Department of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, giving it the freedom to operate without regard for transparency and openness. The Conservative government's mantra of transparency and openness appears to have been thrown out the window in this legislation.

The Minister of Transport would no longer be compelled to investigate upon receipt of notice of objection. The decision to do so would be at the minister's discretion. The minister may also appoint a person to investigate the proposed regulation. That investigation could be done internally and the investigator would then report back to the minister. However, the minister would not be bound to do anything other than receive a report.

The bottom line is that there is no accountability here. The Conservatives like to talk accountability, but as this legislation shows, talking and delivering are two very different things, and Canadians continue to be shortchanged by this secretive and controlling government.

I would like to once again quote from the stakeholders who unanimously disagreed with this legislation. They stated that it was their hope that the government will take into consideration the views of those intimately engaged in the marine industry before proceeding further.

Unless there is a further substantial review of these proposed changes to the Pilotage Act that can take into account the concerns of all stakeholders, and where safety concerns are not trumped by other concerns, we cannot support this bill as it currently stands.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 6:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Fort McMurray—Athabasca for bringing forward this work as we wind down the work in this House before the summer recess.

I have some comments tangentially related to this debate on Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Pilotage Act. The member has brought forward an important piece of work.

What we do here as members of Parliament is very important. What we are doing here today as we wind down for the summer break reminds me of the work that another distinguished Canadian did some 50 years ago in this place, somebody who represented the Great Lakes port of Hamilton. I am sure that had she been here today she would have been very proud.

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Diefenbaker government and the day the first woman was appointed a federal cabinet minister, and that woman was the Right Hon. Ellen Louks Fairclough.

I had the honour of meeting Madam Fairclough just a few years ago. She lived out her days in Dundas, Ontario. This remarkable woman served as minister of citizenship and immigration, and was postmaster general. She passed away in 2004 at the old age of 99 years. She demonstrated an interest in a wide variety of subjects, sort of like the subjects we are debating today: housing, income tax, employment insurance and the status of women. She introduced bills for equal pay for equal work of equal value. She was a member of Parliament for Hamilton West over four elections and one byelection.

I believe she was a role model for all of us, including the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, who is conducting the work of this government even in the last day before the summer recess. I commend him for his work on this issue. I am sure had Madam Fairclough been here today, this remarkable woman would have been an avid participant in this debate and would have been very supportive of the work that we are undertaking.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the parliamentary secretary.

Given the fact that the government is rushing forward with this bill that was only actually brought forward for first reading 48 hours ago, and because of some of the real problems we have seen in the transportation policy brought forward, thank goodness we just stopped Bill C-6 in the nick of time. At least Conservative members will have a few months to go home and think about the actions that they may take on Bill C-6.

Coming back to Bill C-64, the parliamentary secretary talked about consultations. This is the same Conservative government that has refused to bring marine employees in through their unions into a national marine advisory council, despite the fact that we have had very clear guidance from the transport committee saying that this needs to be put in place.

Marine employees, those workers who work in marine industries, need to be at the table when there is discussion around national marine transportation policy. It is logical. It makes sense that we would actually consult the people who know the most about marine policy. It is certainly not the CEOs. It is the people who actually do the job. Those are the folks who need to be consulted.

I enjoyed his speech, as I always do, but when he talked about stakeholders, could he tell us, were employees consulted, were unions consulted, or were the stakeholders simply company CEOs?

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 6:20 p.m.
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Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to present the House with Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Pilotage Act.

The Pilotage Act creates four pilotage authorities, the Atlantic, Laurentian, Great Lakes and Pacific, all of which are crown corporations. Pilotage in this particular case refers to the marine pilots who assist vessels in navigating coastal and inland waters, a very important issue in Canada with trade.

The amendments proposed in this bill would bring about the necessary administrative changes to the legislation that governs marine pilotage in Canada and would also provide these four pilotage authorities with the required administrative tools to assist them to become and remain financially solvent, a requirement under the Pilotage Act.

This bill is a critical step toward ensuring that legislative objectives and obligations in the act do not establish processes that contradict an authority's responsibility to remain financially self-sufficient and that the relationship between the pilotage authorities and pilot corporations is established as a commercial one, a very important piece of legislation.

Before I move on though, I would like to have an opportunity to provide the House with some background on the Pilotage Act and the impetus for the amendments to this particular bill and why it is so important at this stage.

The act allows for the creation of pilot corporations to provide pilot services via a commercial contract with an authority. Once a pilot corporation is formed in a specific area, an authority has no choice but to contract with the corporation for services. We now know, in essence, this creates a monopoly, which is not conducive to good business practices and an ongoing competitive environment that helps consumers and Canadians.

The act actually outlines how contract disputes between a pilotage authority and a pilot corporation are resolved via mediation and, if necessary, arbitration, which is based on a final offer selection process. During this process, the arbitrator selects one of the two final offers presented in its entirety. This means that the arbitrator cannot adjust the offers or select parts of an offer presented. He or she must make a choice.

Therefore, during service contract arbitration between an authority and a pilot corporation, an arbitrator could make a decision based on one of the two final offers presented, which could cause that authority to publish an amended tariff regulation. It is very important. The increased tariff sought by the amendment would allow that authority to cover the increased cost of the service contract.

As permitted under the Pilotage Act, stakeholders can file an objection with the Canadian Transportation Agency on the basis that the tariff increase is actually harmful to the public interest. The agency, in turn, can disallow the tariff increase on the grounds of public interest, a decision that can cause an authority to assume an unsustainable debt load.

Unfortunately, this is not entirely a hypothetical situation. This string of events recently occurred with regard to the Laurentian Pilotage Authority, which prompted Transport Canada and this government to seek approval via an order in council to rescind a Canadian Transportation Agency decision, a very rare event indeed to say the least and one we would prefer not to have to repeat, but if this section of the act is not amended it is very likely it will take some intervention on the part of the government each and every year.

This action, however, was a temporary measure and this government looks for long term solutions to the issues which came about as a result of the governance related elements of the act that contradict the legislative requirement of an authority to be financially self-sufficient. Although the impetus for the amendments itself is the Laurentian Pilotage Authority's experience, as I just described, and the amendments provide a long term solution which we are looking for with regard to their specific issues, these amendments would not affect the way in which the other authorities conduct their business.

The amendments would provide options for all authorities to implement and they would give them flexibility to conduct business in a financially sustainable manner. This is a good thing.

The amendments in the proposed bill would provide specific additional tools to assist authorities to remain financially self-sufficient. These crucial amendments impact the governance tools for these crown corporations. As such, Bill C-64 is considered a “machinery of government bill” that is absolutely essential to carry out government business as it relates to the safe and efficient marine pilotage services and are strictly administrative in nature.

Our Prime Minister approved stakeholder consultations and as all members of the House are aware, the government consults with stakeholders because it is the right thing to do.

On four particular amendments to the act, late in January 2007 was when most of the consultations took place. Stakeholder reaction to the proposed amendments was swift and varied.

Two of the four amendments did not receive stakeholder support and as such the proposed amendments have been adjusted to reflect concerns raised by stakeholders during the consultations. Yes, the government listens and acts.

Two of the proposals received varying degrees of support with some stakeholders actually agreeing with our proposals and others adamantly opposing them. The proposed legislation therefore forges a middle road between the two, a compromise situation in the best interests of all parties involved.

As previously mentioned, the bill contains proposed amendments to the Pilotage Act relating to governance issues for crown corporations that do not impact the level of safety or the environment. Those are two very important issues for the government.

In order to add greater certainty to the functioning of the act concerning governance, the amendments proposed have the following five objectives and I would like to go through them.

The first objective is to introduce a level of flexibility in the process of engagement of pilots and to redefine the relationship between an authority and a pilot corporation as a commercial relationship.

The second objective is to amend the service contract negotiation process to reflect the commercial relationship to make sure it remains viable, competitive and adds proper service.

The third objective is to explicitly state that pilot authorities must remain financially self-sufficient. This is very important.

The fourth objective is to provide flexibility to the role that the department provides when amendments are made to specific regulations.

Finally, the fifth objective is to provide greater latitude to the Canadian Transportation Agency when reviewing objections to new tariff regulations published by an authority.

These are all great amendments and we are hoping that all members of the House will be able to support them and we believe they will.

The proposed amendments in the bill add flexibility to the Pilotage Act that will allow an authority to actually hire employee pilots while simultaneously contracting with the pilot corporation. If it makes good business sense to do so, and it does, with this change authorities would be free to hire their own employee pilots to match their workload and have the option of actually entering into a service contract with a pilot corporation if needed. In this way they can control their overall cost of providing the service and subsequently have greater control over their finances.

If an authority chooses to contract with the pilot corporation for services, then the proposed amendments in the bill will provide an even playing field, especially during service contract negotiations. If an authority and a corporation cannot agree on the terms of a contract, then mediation and arbitration is still a legislated requirement.

However, with these amendments the arbitrator will have the ability to actually assess the offers presented in light of a summary corporate plan of the authority and the legislated requirement for an authority to be financially self-sufficient. These are options not previously afforded to the arbitrator which are very important. The goal is to ensure that the arbitrator has taken into consideration the financial needs of the authority when rendering a decision.

With the proposed amendments in the bill the financial needs of the authority will also be considered by the Canadian Transportation Agency when it renders a decision on objections to tariff regulations.

It is important that the two entities mandated to make decisions impacting the financial self-sufficiency of a crown corporation use the same criteria on which to base their decisions. Given that the 2000 Auditor General's report stated: “The corporate plan is the cornerstone of the control and accountability framework for crown corporations”, this amendment itself is relevant and will increase the significance of the corporate plan during arbitration and during CTA deliberations. This is very important.

Bill C-64 has been drafted in response to a significant negative financial situation experienced by one pilotage authority. While providing a solution for the Laurentian Pilotage Authority, it would also give the remaining authorities options that would safeguard them from experiencing the same situation in the future.

The government listens to stakeholders and then makes the best decision possible.

The department's legislative initiatives remain consistent with the overall federal transportation framework. It emphasizes a national vision of safety, efficiency and environmental responsibility. These are three very important aspects to this government, especially the national vision. For so many years without a national vision, its takes this Prime Minister, this minister and this government to move forward with that agenda.

The changes introduced in Bill C-64 have been requested by some marine stakeholders and are welcomed by the Department of Finance, the Auditor General's Office and the Canadian Transportation Agency.

I ask for the support of all members of this House as I introduce Bill C-64. It is my pleasure to do so now.

Pilotage ActGovernment Orders

June 20th, 2007 / 6:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

moved that Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Pilotage Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Pilotage ActRoutine Proceedings

June 19th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-64, An Act to amend the Pilotage Act.

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