An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Lawrence Cannon  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 29, 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 deals with integrated management systems and authorizes the establishment of voluntary reporting programs under which information relating to aviation safety and security may be reported. It also authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certify persons undertaking certain aeronautical activities. Other powers are enhanced or added to improve the proper administration of the Act, in particular powers granted to certain members of the Canadian Forces to investigate aviation accidents involving both civilians and a military aircraft or aeronautical facility.

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.

April 3rd, 2008 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Mr. Miller, for appearing. You're in the lion's den, obviously.

I challenge you as well, because I'm not pleased with the testimony I hear. I'd assumed somewhere along the line there'd be a mea culpa, there'd be acceptance of the fact that Mr. Lewis did his job, made findings that were based on evidence. In fact, his findings back up what we heard from many witnesses under this rail safety study. Not only this study itself, but this committee's study has had many witnesses that all support the conclusions Mr. Lewis has drawn, that there is a culture of fear within your organization.

To try to address that issue of the culture of fear within your organization, clearly it's going to attract some legislative amendments to the Railway Safety Act. It's unfortunate. I had a chance to compare the rail safety regulations with what we've now done in Bill C-7, which makes amendments to the Aeronautics Act. Quite frankly, the Aeronautics Act amendments are very specific now as to what's expected, including the area of addressing reporting by employees. You're not going to get reporting from employees if there's a culture of fear. One of the clauses within Bill C-7 is, of course, immunity provisions, so employees cannot be disciplined if they report safety issues within their company. If amendments like that come forward for rail safety, are you, the company, prepared to support immunity as a concept that will be legislated and required under safety management systems?

April 1st, 2008 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

But I think the concern is that if there is a culture of fear within CN, you're not going to get the kind of reporting we're trying to elicit from the very employees who are on the front lines.

I have one further question. Bill C-7 could be used as a model for further legislative amendments within the rail sector. Is that something you're looking at?

April 1st, 2008 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

The evidence we heard when we were discussing Bill C-7 was that the rate of reporting safety issues increased by 400% to 500% once immunity was in place. In fact, virtually all the witnesses we had, whether they were from industry itself or the unions, spoke favourably of immunity. The only other thing the unions wanted was to go one step further and turn it into true whistle-blower protection.

Am I assuming correctly that immunity is something you would seriously consider as part of the SMS regime, and perhaps as part of legislative amendments that will come forward from your department?

March 13th, 2008 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Chair, just after comments made by Mr. Julian, I'm wondering if we have unanimous consent to ask the government to bring back Bill C-7 and to move it forward at all stages through the House.

March 13th, 2008 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Just for the record, Justice Moshansky opposes Bill C-7, as do millions of other Canadians, which is why the government isn't implementing it.

There are many Canadians who came before your inquiry and said that SMS was the wrong approach. I'm wondering why their views aren't reflected in the report.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

January 31st, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, since this is the first Thursday question of the year, I want to formally welcome everyone back to the House of Commons. Hopefully, we will be even more productive in 2008 than we were in 2007.

Judging by the first sitting day, I think we will be.

So far, the House has passed Bill C-8, on railway transportation, and Bill C-9, on the settlement of investment disputes.

Moreover, Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Judges Act, and Bill C-27, on identity theft, have been referred to committee.

This is a rather good start.

We hope to keep up that level of productivity by quickly passing our legislation to strengthen the security certificates process, which started debate at report stage today. That is of course Bill C-3. We now have a House order to assist us in facilitating that debate. We will continue to debate the bill until report stage is completed.

While all members of the House do not understand the importance of the bill, I believe that the official opposition does. I hope that we can work together in a spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship to have it passed before the date identified by the Supreme Court of Canada as the date by which it would like to see the law passed, February 23.

Following Bill C-3 tomorrow we will continue with the unfinished business from this week, namely Bill C-33, renewable fuels; Bill C-39, the grain act; Bill C-7, aeronautics; and Bill C-5, nuclear liability.

Next week will be a safe and secure Canada week.

Debates will continue until the bill is passed by this House.

After that, we will debate Bill C-25, which would strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and Bill C-26, which imposes mandatory minimum penalties for producers and traffickers of drugs, particularly for those who sell drugs to children. We also hope to discuss the Senate's amendments to Bill C-13, on criminal procedure.

Finally, in keeping with next week's theme, I would suggest that my hon. colleague opposite explain to his colleagues in the Senate the importance of quickly passing the Tackling Violent Crime Act, the bill which is overwhelmingly supported by Canadians across the country, and which was the number one priority of the government throughout the fall session of Parliament and which passed this House last fall. It has already been in the Senate longer than its entire time in the House of Commons, yet the Liberal dominated Senate has not even started committee hearings on the Tackling Violent Crime Act.

While the elected accountable members of the House rapidly passed the bill, which I would like to remind everyone was a question of confidence, unfortunately it looks like the unelected, unaccountable Liberal dominated Senate is up to its old tricks again of delaying and obstructing in every way. Let me be clear. This government will not stand and allow Liberal senators to obstruct, delay and ultimately kill the bill. The Tackling Violent Crime Act was quickly passed in the House and Canadians expect the Liberal dominated Senate to act in the same fashion and pass it quickly.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When Bill C-7 returns to the House, there will be eight minutes left under questions and comments for the hon. member for Western Arctic.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-7 because I come from a northern environment where air traffic is essential to the very nature of the communities.

As well, I grew up on an airport. My father was an airport manager and worked for the Department of Transportation for 30 years. I think right now he would be very annoyed with me if I did not stand up and speak out on the issues surrounding air safety.

For my hon. colleagues in the Conservative Party who seem to think that a voice in the House of Parliament is something that is not important, that someone showing a side of Canada that perhaps is not fully represented here is somehow degrading to the House, is an unfortunate turn of words. I am here to represent my constituents as best as possible on a matter of serious significance to them.

When we think of aircraft safety, we think of maintenance safety, and when we look at those issues we can look at anecdotal examples. I can think of what happened last week in Sweden where corrosion on a part of the landing gear on one of our Canadian built planes resulted in the plane collapsing on the runway. Luckily there were no civilian deaths but it was a situation that happened because of maintenance schedules that obviously were not adequate for the situation the plane was in.

When we talk about maintenance schedules on aircraft, we have a great concern with that process.

I will give another example. I was at the Edmonton airport last year in the winter waiting to go north on a scheduled aircraft carrier. We all trooped aboard the plane and then we sat and waited. The pilot finally did an inspection and found a football sized dent in the rear aileron. This, obviously, was missed by the maintenance staff even though they did have a maintenance schedule in place. The plane was emptied and on we went.

I, as well as everyone else on that flight, would like to understand why that happened. With the absence of the proper ability to access that information we will not have those answers. Without careful attention to a regulatory and inspection process that can guarantee that we have high standards of maintenance, we can see this sort of thing occurring all the way down the line.

I will take a step backward and speak to the aircraft industry as a whole. In the north especially we are being impacted by changing climate conditions. This fall alone we have seen major problems in airport shutdowns in Norman Wells and in Inuvik for a whole four days. Our diamond mines lost four days of production.

We see these problems all over because of the changing climatic conditions and yet the past government reduced the federal government's role in maintaining aviation weather reporting. Many of our airports across the north do not have adequate weather equipment or observers on the ground providing information on a regular basis even though these conditions are changing. The travelling public is at risk.

Last year I flew out of Inuvik on a plane when the weather had changed. There is enormous pressure to fly in the north because people are trying to meet schedules, industrial activity is ramping up and everything is going much faster.

When the plane left Inuvik we flew 50 miles and never went more than 200 feet off the ground. I was not too concerned because I was flying over the delta where there are no hills higher than 200 feet. Although I knew it probably was not legal, we went along with it.

When we returned to the airport in Inuvik, I found the same weather system had resulted in a tremendous tragedy for that airline company about 200 miles away. One of its airplanes flew into a hill in the same weather system and under the same kinds of pressures to deliver passengers when the weather conditions were so difficult.

What we did with eight aircraft and weather safety as a cost cutting measure with Transport Canada when its policy impacted on us for many years is something that is an object lesson that we should apply to aircraft maintenance as well. We need to have a strong system in this country that is run by the government and one that guarantees aircraft maintenance is carried out in a proper fashion.

Of the 27 public airports in the Northwest Territories, only 6 have paved runways, the other 21 have gravel runways and 23 airdromes are certified. The others are registered airdromes.

The Northern Air Transport Association called on the government to increase the length of northern runways and to improve the instrument landing systems available everywhere. We may talk about northern sovereignty but most of our military planes cannot land anywhere in the north because the runways are too short. The instrument landing systems are not adequate. It is the federal government's responsibility to maintain a standard for all Canadians across this country. We have privatized airports. We have caused these issues by our relentless concern over the bottom line.

The Prime Minister is proposing a deep seaport at Nanisivik. He should consider that the airport at Nanisivik has difficulty with fog conditions many times during the year. Once again, the condition of aviation in the north has deteriorated with the changing climate. We need a different response other than the government saying that it is getting out of inspecting the maintenance conditions of aircraft.

In 2004, a total of 93,000 aircraft arrived and departed N.W.T. airports. That figure is up almost 15% from the year before and 25% from the year before that. We are seeing an enormous increase in traffic in the north and yet we have small carriers that rely on maintenance staff that are transient in nature. If we had a strong Canada-wide system, the transient maintenance system may not be that bad, but when we start breaking down maintenance systems by individual aircraft companies, when we start setting standards in a fashion where the technicians and mechanics who service these planes will need to re-learn every time they join a new company, these are difficult issues for aircraft maintenance and safety. Bill C-7 would create these difficulties.

We can say that we have kept some inspectors, and I understand that is the case, but if we degrade the inspection system in Canada by reducing the personnel, we will not have the same quality of system at the end of the day.

Yes, I stand up and ask questions about Bill C-7, absolutely. I support the work of our previous transport critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. In his discussions with me, he indicated that the bill was moving in the right direction. However, he felt that the work they had done in bringing the amendments forward at the last moment had changed. He felt that all the good words and all the goodwill that was on that committee evaporated at the end.

That was the problem last June. Our former transport critic asked us to stand up and talk about this bill because many of the issues that we had assumed would be included and taken care of through amendments were just not happening.

The level of air safety achieved in commercial aviation is, in no small part, the result of adding levels of responsibility. The delegation or devolution proposals of Bill C-7 go directly against this principle of redundancy. By removing regulatory oversight, we effectively remove a fallback position. However, that does not seem to be of concern to some members of Parliament, to the two larger parties that have such a strong principle of laissez-faire business in this country.

By reducing the inspection level and eliminating the ongoing development of a federally controlled and regulated air transport system, the government is going in a direction that we in the NDP do not consider appropriate. I am sure most Canadians would support us if they were to look at what the bill would create and the direction in which it would move us, just as we have seen in the rest of the deregulation of the aircraft industry across this country.

Transport Canada's own documents admit that the level of air safety has not substantially improved during the past 10 years. This is a reversal of the past history of commercial aviation where safety records were constantly improving. What is happening, why is it happening and how would this bill change that?

The bill is going to change it for the worse. It is going to continue the process that is going on now, where, through the deregulation of the industry, more and more of the decisions are being taken by people on the ground in situations where cost becomes a factor. How can we support this bill? How can we be assured that what we are doing is in the best interest of Canadians?

Studies have shown that the European community has an enviable aviation safety record and yet Europe has not and is not delegating or devolving its safety responsibilities to private designated organizations. The United States, which was the first to engage in economic deregulation, is not deregulating safety.

After Enron, Hollinger and WorldCom, governments are strengthening their regulation and enforcement of corporate governance. If we cannot rely on corporate directors and their audit committees to regulate financial activities with shareholders' money rather than when public lives are at stake, how can we count on the boards of directors of private aviation concerns, whose legal duties are to shareholders, to take full accountability for previously regulated areas of passenger safety? These are questions that the bill skirts. These are questions that Canadians do not want ignored.

There can be only one goal in aviation safety. It is not to understand how we can nickel and dime the system in order to provide a lower cost to compete with other carriers. The only goal should be the highest possible level of safety, which is what we are after and why we are standing up one after another speaking to the bill. It is not because we have any other interests at heart at all. It is not because we have the interests of large businesses or of large unions. It is because we have the interest of public safety in our minds.

Euphemisms, such as risk management, best practicable level of safety and commensurate with cost effectiveness, are not the kinds of words that we use. They are not the kinds of words that work for northerners.

We northerners have a difficult enough time travelling throughout the north. We do not want it made more difficult. We do not want our airline companies to be pushed to the limit even more through competition, through larger companies coming in, where they are taking risks that they know are risks and where they are taking risks that perhaps they do not know are risks.

This bill does not answer the questions for me. This bill does not answer the questions for northerners.

When we stand up here, we stand up for a good reason. We stand up for a purpose. We will continue to stand up on this. For all those who are flying in airplanes across this country and who may be listening to this debate, I urge them to speak to their MPs and ask their MPs to tell them whether this bill is going to increase their safety in the air. If those MPs can give them a good answer, then those MPs should be saying it here in the House of Commons.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your response and I do want to make it clear to the member that we would not have denied unanimous consent, because obviously making our statements in the House is important to all members. If there is a glitch with the clock, that should be corrected, but maybe next time we will do it through unanimous consent.

I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-7. As we know, this bill was in the last session of Parliament and was then known as Bill C-6.

I want to say right off that NDP members were very instrumental and worked as a very tight group in the last days of that session to fight the bill and try to keep it from going through the House. It was at third reading then. I am sure that my colleagues will remember that we rose in those last few days and kept the debate going.

In the House today, I have heard a number of members raise questions about that. What is the NDP doing? Why is it trying to hold up the bill? Some members are saying that it is a great bill and it had a great hearing in committee, that all those witnesses were heard and the bill has been fixed if there were problems. As we know, the government is obviously supporting the bill.

The Liberals, who first initiated the bill when they were in government, of course are supporting the bill, just as they now support a number of things from the Conservative government, including the Speech from the Throne and the so-called mini-budget. It is no surprise to us that they are supporting the aeronautics bill. The members of the BQ also have been supporting the bill.

However, I do want to put on the record that the reason we wished to hold it up in June, the reason we fought it, is that we think the bill is flawed. We think the bill has not had the scrutiny it deserves. We have had repeated concerns brought to us, particularly by the labour movement, people who work in this industry and who have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge. They work on the ground, just like the member for Parkdale—High Park said when she spoke about her knowledge of this industry.

I can tell members of the House that we take this very seriously. In our humble opinion, and we are one party in the House, we believe we have a responsibility: if we do not think a bill is good enough, if we think a bill is not right, we should not just roll over and let it go through.

That is why in June we debated the bill and tried to hold it up. In fact, we did hold it up. It would have gone through. Then, as we know, the Prime Minister prorogued the House. It is ironic. We are told by the government that these bills are so critical and they are being held up by the opposition, and, in the case of this bill, by the NDP. Yet it was the government itself and the Prime Minister himself that prorogued the House and in effect killed all of the bills that were before the House of Commons.

That was the tactic the government employed to buy some time, to see out the byelections or the Ontario election, whatever the reasons were. We obviously were not privy to what government members had in their minds, but the government itself decided to prorogue the House, delay the return of Parliament and in effect kill the bill in its former version, which was Bill C-6.

As we know, the bill has now been brought back. It is still at third reading. We in the NDP successfully put forward an amendment, or what is called a hoist motion, to have the bill sent back to the committee. I want to assure members of the House that we did so on the basis of our concerns. We did that on the basis that we really do believe the bill should go back to the committee.

It may well be that other members are satisfied. It may well be that other members think this is a fine bill and that is the end of the story. We do not. We think there are significant concerns that should be addressed. From our point of view, we are doing our job as parliamentarians to debate the legislation, to defend the public interest, to represent the public interest and to represent the interest of public safety, particularly as it relates to airline safety.

On the record, I do want to mention the tremendous work of our former transport critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. He almost single-handedly raised the issues around the bill and alerted people out in the broader community so they could come before the committee. He has gone through the bill with a fine-tooth comb, looking at the changes that are about to take place.

This is where we have a very strong difference with other members in the House. We think the changes proposed in Bill C-7,, the aeronautics bill, are not in the public interest. They will not improve and strengthen safety provisions in the airline industry.

We are extremely concerned that, overall, this is the beginning of a slippery slope. In fact, one might argue that the slippery slope began a long time ago with previous Liberal governments. They began with this massive environment of privatization and deregulation.

We know it is something that the big airline industry has long coveted. We are now in that environment where deregulation and privatization are the victim of the day. However, when it comes to safety, I truly believe that Canadians, whether they live in large urban centres and mostly access airline travel through large airports such as Pearson, Vancouver or Montreal or wherever it might be, or live in smaller communities and rely on regional airports that maybe do not have the same kind of equipment and technology that is available in the larger centres, absolutely rely on us as parliamentarians to go through this kind of legislation. If there is a shadow of a doubt that it does not meet a strong and high standard around safety and protecting the public and the people who work in that industry, I think they expect us to not allow this legislation to pass.

We are attempting to bring those concerns forward. As the member for Parkdale—High Park said, what is the government for? What do we do in this place?

We do many things. We all have issues that we represent in our riding. However, overall we have a responsibility to represent that broader public interest against all kinds of pressures, from big corporations, from offshore interests, from people who have an agenda, the CEOs who have an agenda to only look at the bottom line. Our job is to make those balances and to overall represent the public interest.

I want to speak a bit about the specific concerns I have about Bill C-7. I know they are shared by my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. They revolve around really three key questions, one of which is the new safety management system, the SMS as it is being called. The second involves the immunity for prosecutions from airlines that violate safety rules under certain conditions. The third is the heightened secrecy and the fact that there will be less access to information on the safety performance of airlines under this bill than we had previously.

It raises the question as to why. Why would the bill take us in that direction? I am not sure I know the answer to that, other than I know it is a really bad direction and we should not allow it to happen.

It is part of this bigger picture of deregulation. It is part of a bigger picture that the Conservative government has adopted; that it is better to have no rules, that it is better to allow self-regulation by industry, and there may be some instances where that is warranted. By and large that is not a good direction to take, particularly with the airline industry.

I will speak on the first point, the new safety management systems. This is at the heart of the bill we are debating today. We believe it will affect the safety of the travelling public and crew members.

New Democrats are very concerned that the SMS system is supposed to be a management system that has been developed to allow air operators to improve safety levels by building on existing safety regulators. We know Transport Canada, both in committee and elsewhere, has insisted that this new safety management system is not a deregulation, but we think it is. There we begin our entrance onto the slippery slope.

We believe it is part of a deregulation and a significant change for two reasons. First, there will be a new role for the regulator that will increase the level of delegation previously performed by Transport Canada and that role will be delegated to the airlines.

Many members of the NDP have spoken on this issue over the last few days. We are very concerned because it was a function that was carried out by a government department, Transport Canada. Even though there might have been issues and concerns over various situations that arose, overall one has some level of faith in a government agency performing the function of a safety management system.

To now shift it to the airlines and make them, in effect, self-regulating in terms of safety rules and self-monitoring is something we should be very concerned about. We need to ask the question as to where this will lead. If we allow this to happen in this industry, in what other industries or instances will it also happen? This is the direction the previous government was taking and now it appears the Conservative government is also taking that direction.

Related to the question of the safety management system is a transfer of the determination of appropriate risk levels from Transport Canada to the airlines. The NDP would argue that this is again shifting the rules and responsibility from a public government agency, which is accountable to the House of Commons and the people of Canada, to the airlines. The public interest becomes a little less clear . We have to question whether that shift in the safety management system will mean that there is a greater interest in terms of what the interests are of the private shareholders. Those are very serious questions.

I was not in the committee, and I will be the first to say that. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster was. After speaking with him, I know that there were very detailed discussions. Witnesses came forward and expressed their concerns about this function of the safety management system.

I realize there are members in the House who are satisfied with what they heard from the department and what they see in the bill, but the NDP is not. On that ground alone, the safety management system, we are not satisfied that the public interest test has been met.

We are very skeptical about this movement of responsibility from the government to the airlines. We are also very concerned about what the consequences of that might be in the long term for the travelling public, as well as for people working in the airline industry who are all of a sudden in an environment that becomes a self-regulating situation.

It is more preferable to have an outside body that clearly establishes rules, regulations and benchmarks in terms of what the risk and safety levels are for people who work in that industry and who may feel the pressure from their employers to cut a little corner here, cut a little something there. There are those pressures in the workplace, so having the clear mandate of Transport Canada to lay out that level is very important for the workers in the industry. They have something on which they can call. That is our first concern.

The second concern, as I mentioned, has to do with what we understand to be the immunity from prosecution for airlines that violates safety rules under certain conditions. Again, this is something about which the public should be very worried. We need to be very clear that under this proposal, Transport Canada has not granted whistleblower protection to employees who may report that their air operator is not following the law.

I find this very ironic. The government brought in Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act. It was its first bill after its election to a minority Parliament, and the NDP supported it. The act was meant to be about setting out broad parameters and very specific provisions and regulations to ensure there was accountability, that there was whistleblower protection, that people could be protected in their workplace.

Therefore, it seems to me rather ironic that now under Bill C-7 we have a number of provisions that will provide immunity from prosecution. It does not have whistleblower protection, so that really creates a very uncertain environment for people who may be in the know. They may have information they think is important. They may feel they have an individual obligation to report violations or situations that are not safe. Yet they will not be protected.

We think this is another serious issue and flaw in the bill. This is another reason for it be sent back to committee.

The third issue has to do with the fact that there will be less access to information on the safety performance of airlines.

From time to time, we read about serious incidents that take place in air travel. It is something that alarms people.

Like other members of the House, I travel a lot. I mostly travel between Vancouver and Ottawa, and I do not particularly like using air travel. I do it however because I am from Vancouver and it is the way I get to work and get home. We have this faith that the pilots, the flight attendants and the ground crews know what they are doing, and I do. I have a lot of confidence in those people.

In fact, I was on a flight the other day, leaving from Pearson to go to Vancouver. We were zooming down the runway and about to take off. Just before takeoff, the pilot slammed on the brakes and it became clear we would not be taking off. Everyone was wondering what was happening. Over the public announcement system, the pilot said that there was something wrong. He did not know what it was so he aborted the takeoff. The 300 people on the plane were hugely relieved he had made that decision.

We went back to the gate. We sat around for an hour, which nobody really minded, because they were checking out safety provisions. In the end, the aircraft was grounded. We all had to scramble around for other flights. However, I was glad because I sure as heck did not want to fly in a plane that might be unsafe.

People worry about this. They rely on those professionals to make the right decisions, even at the last minute, even at the last second.

With this bill, we believe there will be less security on those issues. There will be less access to information to find out what is going on. For example, there are seven sections of the Aeronautics Act that will be added to schedule II of the Access to Information Act to ensure that there is no access to information. Why is that? Why would there be this shift?

I do have other issues to raise but those are some of the concerns that I put forward from my party and the reason we believe the bill should be sent back to committee and given a thorough review.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member has a point. It was my understanding that there was an implied unanimous consent. Next time I will be more prudent.

The hon. member for Vancouver East is recognized to resume debate on Bill C-7, I hope.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my comments on Bill C-7, I want to ask you a question about the statement that was just made, not that we would have objected to it. I did not understand that there was a problem with the timing on the clock.

Was that done as a point of order or was it something that would have required unanimous consent because we were in effect intervening in a debate? We would not have objected, I want to make that clear, but just as a matter of process, could the Speaker advise us? I actually was waiting for a motion to be put so that the member could make his statement.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today unfortunately to express that we will not be supporting this bill. Substantial progress was made at the committee stage, but Bill C-7 still emphasizes cutting costs rather than improving safety standards. There can be no compromise when it comes to airline safety.

Bill C-7 constitutes a major change in how aviation safety will be addressed in Canada for years to come. It would enshrine in aviation safety the safety management system, or SMS, as part of Transport Canada's agenda to implement SMS in all modes of transportation, sometimes with disastrous effects as we have seen in the case of rail SMS with the escalating number of train derailments. We have all seen terrible examples of train derailments and other safety problems on the railway system. We believe that the introduction of SMS has been a factor.

Specifically, SMS is intended to allow the industry to increasingly decide the level of risk that those in the industry are willing to accept in their operations, rather than abide by the level of safety set by the minister acting solely in the public interest.

SMS is also designed to help Transport Canada deal with declining resources and high numbers of projected inspector retirements. As the former chair of the government operations committee, I know that there has been and continues to be an examination of the generational change in all of the public sector positions.

This is an opportunity now for the people who are in these jobs today to pass their skills, experience, knowledge and expertise on to the younger generation who are looking for more skilled and better paying jobs.

I spoke earlier today about the disastrous layoffs that are taking place in the manufacturing sector. Young people are trying to support themselves and their families. They are trying to pay their mortgages or their rent, but the jobs that would pay them enough to be able to do that are being lost. Quite frankly, while the government has said that lots of jobs are being created, a minimum wage job in the service sector does not pay the bills of the average Canadian family today.

We have an opportunity with a generational change in the public service to offer good jobs, interesting jobs, highly skilled jobs, decent paying jobs to a whole new generation of young people, but instead, the government is looking for ways to deny those opportunities. It is looking for ways to eliminate those job opportunities, to get rid of the need for jobs in what I would argue is one of the most safety sensitive sectors of our economy, the transportation sector.

Clearly, because Canada is such a vast country, airlines, rail, interprovincial trucking, shipping, all forms of transportation are fundamental to our economy. They are fundamental to who we are as a nation. They rest upon the absolute security that the utmost is being done to protect the safety of those who are using the transportation system, but also to protect the communities across Canada that would be very vulnerable to an erosion of transport safety, especially in the airline sector.

SMS will let the government increasingly transfer responsibility to the industry itself to set and enforce its own standards, because the government will have less and less of its own resources to do these activities.

Again I have to ask about the logic in cutting taxes for bank presidents and giving more money back to the oil and gas sector. The government tries to hide an embarrassment of riches rather than investing in communities, investing in people, investing in social services, investing in infrastructure, and investing in the generational change that the government is facing. Baby boomers are retiring and young people are looking for decent and secure skilled jobs so that they can make a contribution to this country. This is an opportunity in the transportation sector that is being squandered by the government.

This bill was originally a Liberal bill sponsored by the former transport minister. The Liberal and Conservative members were initially willing to pass the bill without further amendments. Then the chorus of opposition began and there was real concern from the witnesses who were heard by the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities. Those witnesses included: Justice Virgil Moshansky of the Dryden crash inquiry; two Transport Canada inspectors unions, the CFPA and UCTE; the Canada Safety Council; some smaller air carriers and operators; Ken Rubin, an access to information expert; and unions representing flight attendants, the Teamsters and CUPE.

Their criticism focused on the unprecedented and unacceptable decline in regulatory oversight by Transport Canada and the greater ability for the industry to set and enforce its own safety standards out of public sight and scrutiny, among other issues. It is unfortunate that the only time transportation safety seems to make the front pages of the newspapers is when a disaster takes place. If the average Canadian knew that this bill was transferring responsibility for safety regulations and enforcement over to the very companies that increasingly are engaged in the incredibly fierce competition in the airline sector, they would be concerned. Canadians would be concerned that perhaps the temptation would be too great in some instances that the needs of the operation, the need to have the business imperatives would take precedence over public safety.

Having said that, we have some of the best airlines in the world. We have award winning airlines. We have an excellent record of safety, but that is because we have had stringent safety requirements.

I remember the debate around the deregulation of the airline industry. What was stated by the government of the day was that fundamental in a deregulated airline environment was the requirement to make safety absolutely paramount. It was argued at the time as a way of reassuring Canadians that there would be no compromise to safety. Under no circumstances would safety requirements be slackened or would there be any undermining of regulations or safety inspectors that protect Canadians in the transportation sector.

Here we are many years later and I fear that is exactly what is happening. The people who work in this industry, the ones who are closest to it who see airline operations every day, are the ones who are expressing concerns about this bill. As parliamentarians we have to listen to their concerns and take their concerns very seriously.

As I said, this bill has been amended. Some amendments were adopted unanimously, but unfortunately, the amendments only go part of the way.

The other half of the work has been left undone and it represents serious flaws in the bill that continue to jeopardize Canadian aviation safety and the safety of the travelling public and aviation workers. We have been proposing further amendments that would actually improve aviation safety, not reduce it.

Part of the problem with the bill, which I will highlight, is that it heightens secrecy. When there are public regulations and enforcement, there is public scrutiny. When safety requirements, their determination and enforcement are left to individual companies to determine, then a veil comes over the safety provisions and we will not have access to safety information.

Our amendments would have preserved the operation of the Access to Information Act in key areas but that proposal was defeated at the committee stage, which makes us very concerned about the secrecy provisions.

We are also concerned about the lack of whistleblower protection. While a form of whistleblower protection has been introduced, there is no effective redress mechanism for employees who face reprisals taken against them, other than a warning or possible fine.

However, it is small comfort to a person who, out of concern for the travelling public, raises an issue of public safety and then is penalized for doing so, potentially even losing his or her job, which is disastrous. It is a potential outcome that most people would simply not risk. I would hate to think that safety concerns are not brought to the attention of the public, especially if they have been brought to the attention of the airline and no action is taken.

Employees are granted immunity from prosecution for reporting violations only under certain conditions but conditional whistleblower protection is really no protection at all and this ought to be of great concern to all Canadians.

The bill would provide the airlines with the same opportunities as whistleblowers to divulge breaches in SMS regulations with impugnity, but under the new hands-off enforcement policy of Transport Canada under SMS, no action will be taken against corporate offenders if the problem is corrected in a timely fashion. It is like someone travelling down the highway at 150 kilometres and, even though it comes to the attention of the police, by deciding to voluntarily slow the car down under the speed limit no action will be taken. It is not the way the law of the land should work.

The government contends that companies will no longer divulge safety problems without this provision. This is unconvincing. It is kind of an unwillingness to enforce what ought to be strict, visible, clear public regulations that assure Canadians and the travelling public of the utmost in safety.

I want to quote Dave Ritchie, the president of the machinists union, which represents mechanics and ramp workers who are very concerned about safety. Mr. Ritchie says:

Without constant and effective public regulation, corporations will constantly push the limits of safe operations, at growing risk to the traveling public.

While the government’s intention to download the regulation and monitoring of safety to the private sector is dangerous, we are particularly concerned about the use of SMS in foreign repair stations. If the effective monitoring by Transport Canada of SMS in Canada is problematic, it is even more unlikely at foreign worksites.

Canadians rely on transportation and they have confidence in their transportation system. I believe we must maintain that integrity but that is not the case with the bill. I regret that the proposed changes that would have made the bill acceptable have not been adopted in their entirety. Canadians will be the worse off for it.

I regret to say again that we will not be supporting the bill. It is a real missed opportunity to reassure Canadians about their transportation safety.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for talking about what is so important and so essential about this bill we are looking at today, Bill C-7.

I want to start by talking a little about my community of London—Fanshawe. There is a wonderful airport in London--Fanshawe, the London International Airport. It is certainly not as grand as Pearson or the airport in Vancouver, but it is a remarkable little airport inasmuch as it has an impeccable safety record. The people who work there take great pride in keeping the public safe and doing their job in an exemplary way. They have remarkable community relationships and have made it very clear that safety is first and foremost when it comes to London.

We have heard about the experiences of my colleague in regard to the tragedies that have ensued for the people of her community. We most certainly do not want these kinds of tragedies to proliferate across the country. That is why the New Democratic Party is opposing this bill. That is why our critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has been so very clear and so very vociferous about the concerns here.

When we read through the flaws that he sees in Bill C-7, I am sure that all members of the House will agree that we need to take a careful look at this bill. We need to consider very carefully before we proceed.

According to my colleague from Vancouver, the bill is seriously flawed and still needs amendment. Among those flaws are those having to do with the new safety management systems, the immunity from prosecution for airlines that violate safety rules under certain conditions, the heightened secrecy and less access to information on the safety performance of airlines, and the fact that this information is out of the reach of the Access to Information Act.

That should send chills down the spines of everyone who has ever boarded an aircraft in this country or who is contemplating boarding an aircraft in this country. We cannot get the access we need to the information we need to know that we are indeed safe.

The irony of this, of course, is that we now have a government that is so determined to cuddle up to George Bush that it is willing to allow no fly lists. The government is willing to allow the Americans to have access to information about passengers who are boarding Canadian aircraft, but the government is not willing to look at the planes themselves. The government is not willing to say to the companies that they have to make sure the mechanics of the planes are absolutely safe, that the nuts and bolts and the things that truly reflect safety are in place.

As I have said, we oppose this bill. We have been remarkably fortunate in Canada, but the time is coming, if we allow this bill to go forward, when we will not feel nearly so safe and we will not be nearly so fortunate.

I want to give some sense of the background here. Bill C-7 constitutes what my colleague calls a revolution in how aviation safety will be addressed in Canada for years to come, not just right now and not just in the next few months, but for years to come. It enshrines aviation safety management systems, SMS, as part of Transport Canada's agenda to implement SMS in all modes of transportation, sometimes with disastrous effects, as is the case with rail safety management.

We know about the numerous derailments since the privatization of rail safety. We constantly hear about them in the news. We know that the effect is not only a human effect, but an environmental effect. We hear of trains going into rivers and trains derailing. The cost in terms of the environment and human life is simply not acceptable.

We have experience with the privatization of rail safety, but apparently that is not enough. We cannot seem to learn from that. We now need to take the next step and risk safety in the air. As frightening and as dangerous as a train wreck is, it is on the ground. It gets a whole lot scarier at 30,000 feet.

The SMS is also designed to help Transport Canada deal with declining resources and high levels of projected inspector retirements. I find it interesting that apparently we need at least 100 additional inspectors to ensure the safety of our airlines. I guess the Conservative government cannot be held solely responsible here. It is very clear that the Liberals had a whole lot to do with cutting the service sector of Canada and crippling those who provide services to Canadians, underscoring the fact that apparently the Liberals were not concerned about the kind of services that Canadians receive, including safety on our railways and safety on our airlines.

We need these inspectors and nobody seems to be prepared to ensure they are there. If they are there, then we do not need to rely on the industry itself being the arbiter in terms of what is safe and what is acceptable.

I would like to give the House a little history on the bill. Originally, it was a Liberal bill authorized by former transport minister Jean Lapierre. Apparently, after a 45-minute staff briefing, the Conservatives and the Liberals were initially willing to let Bill C-6 pass without further amendment. However, that raised a lot of alarm bells. There was growing concern and opposition to Bill C-6 from a wide range of witnesses who appeared before the standing committee over a series of many months. These critics, and this is significant, included Justice Virgil Mochansky of the Dryden crash inquiry; two Transport Canada inspectors; unions; the CSPA; the UCTE; the Canada Safety Council; some smaller air operators; Ken Rubin, an access to information expert; the teamsters and CUPE representing flight attendants; as well as the IMAW.

The criticisms from those witnesses focused on the unprecedented and unacceptable decline in regulatory oversight by Transport Canada and the greater ability for the industry to set and enforce its own safety standards out of public sight and scrutiny and away from the critical eyes of our community. That is at the centre of all of this.

The airlines get to determine what is safe and what is not safe. It is kind of like bean counting. A corporation assesses how much it will cost to meet certain safety regulations compared to the lawsuits that would ensue as a result of accidents. If the corporation deems that it would be less expensive to simply allow the accidents to happen and face the lawsuits compared to the maintenance and safety costs, it opts for the bean counting, it opts for allowing the suits to go forward.

I would suggest that in a country where we pride ourselves on the restrictions, the controls and the oversights that keep our people safe, this is simply not acceptable.

In the face of this widespread opposition, the government was forced to make some amendments. In other cases, the three opposition parties united to force these amendments on the government.

We saw a number of amendments in the detailed clause by clause. The new legislation required the minister to maintain a program for the oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety and a new legislative obligation for the minister to require that aeronautical activities be performed at all times in a manner that meets the highest safety and security standards.

There were many more amendments. An amendment was added to ensure that the Canada Labour Code would prevail over the Aeronautics Act in the event of a possible conflict. An amendment was added ensuring employees and their bargaining agents would be included in the development and implementation of SMS, something that is certainly not happening today.

After extended debate, the government was compelled to introduce those amendments, as well as a form of whistleblower protection for employees who report to Transport Canada that their employer is violating the law.

A new definition of the safety management system was put into the legislation, emphasizing a reduction of risk to the lowest possible level, rather than just accepting or tolerating these risks to ensure the industry does not accept other higher levels of risk in its day to day operations.

The government then tried to kill this bill in committee. It wanted none of it. If we look back at these amendments, they make perfect sense and yet the government was quite willing to kill the bill to get rid of these amendments, instead of having the concern it should have for the people of our community.