Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the parliamentary secretary for bringing back a bill that the committee, as he acknowledged, worked diligently to promote. I am especially delighted because this is another one of those bills in a long list of bills that has been derived from Liberal initiatives in the last Parliament, similar to Liberal initiatives of the last Parliament or depend heavily on those transport bills that were introduced prior to the 2005-06 election.
I had hoped that the parliamentary secretary would have taken a little more of a moment to celebrate the success of bringing forward such legislation, inasmuch as it indicates that this Parliament can actually work. No bill can come out of committee without the cooperation of the majority of the members and that means there is a coming together of ideas on the main points of the legislation.
I am still looking forward to a piece of legislation that will be uniquely government and not so dependent on the opposition. However, speaking for all Canadians, this actually is a classic bill that deserves to be passed through the House with great speed because members of all parties worked to perfect it. In fact, every member of all three opposition parties worked hard and debated vigorously, sometimes acrimoniously, to ensure there were improvements.
As the parliamentary secretary has indicated, a series of witnesses appeared, and appeared more than once, and they too presented some suggestions for improvement that would have enhanced air traffic and air travel in the aviation industry in Canada. We all assume that everybody is working for the public good.
However, under the scrutiny of questions from members of Parliament of all parties in committee, demonstrating that this democratic process does work and in fact worked productively, we were able to come forward with what is now Bill C-7 and present it to the House.
Regrettably, and I must introduce this little negative moment, the bill did not get through the House in June, as it should have. I think all of us were expecting that it would, especially when all members were working together. One of my colleagues from the NDP, who worked diligently in committee to fight every improvement and then voted to accept them all, came into the House and said that he had changed his mind. Such is the way of politics. However, my compliments still go out to that member for having helped to improve the bill. He was not alone. Government members had to demonstrate that they were ready to accept the very good positions that other members had worked diligently to bring forward.
The parliamentary secretary says that he wants to put everybody's mind at ease, and so he should. He should put everybody's mind at ease because the bill was structured such to establish a new management system, the main focus of which would be the ongoing improvement of safety measures. Safety first. Imagine, with air traffic and air travel constantly on the increase, that we would have, as our very first and most important consideration, the safety of the travelling public. That safety can have absolutely no compromise.
When the debate came forward on the kinds of systems that would be in place, voluntary ones some would say, that would encourage employees, employers, entrepreneurs and all those associated with the aviation industry, whether they are ground crew or air crew, to come forward and make their own suggestions to this system without penalty, that they would do so without fear of retribution.
Imagine, in 2007 we are talking about people who have to be given assurance that to do the right thing should not bring any negative consequences to their jobs. Imagine that. Imagine for a moment that some of those people might not have done the right thing and put in jeopardy a flying public, a travelling public, that increasingly depends on air transportation to move from point A to point B.
I focused on the travelling public, but of course there is also cargo that depends on this modern mode of transportation. It was sufficiently important to give that kind of assurance to establish a psychology of cooperation, to establish a common psyche, that says we all have a commitment to each other and we must all work to ensure that the equipment that we take off the ground and put in the air is safe for all those who use it, whether they are up in the air while it is being used or on the ground when it eventually comes back down again.
Members of Parliament understood that very important feature and said what we need to do is establish that climate, make sure that people voluntarily come forward and put in place a mechanism that says there must always be a ministerial presence, that government will always be there to ensure that the regulatory process guarantees that there will be no transgressions committed against those who come forward to contribute to a climate of mutual cooperation.
There are some pretty heavy and committed interests who came forward and said, “We want you to be absolutely sure”. Members from all sides said these people had a point and in amendment after amendment, debate after debate, all of these issues were put forward.
We see before us now a bill that says we have taken into consideration all of those issues and have put in place a safety management system that does not replace the ministerial regulatory oversight required to ensure that the weight of the law is behind all regulations, all systems, and all requirements to ensure that the public that is being served is always put forward with its security and safety first and foremost. If nothing else, merited support in this bill, that one factor does.
All members of Parliament on that committee deserve credit for this because all of them knew that was something upon which no one could compromise, and no one did. No one did. There was no partisanship associated with that, but there was a lot of very difficult introspective scrutiny applied to each and every sentence. And I dare say, and I know the parliamentary secretary will agree with me, that every word, in some cases punctuation marks, was scrutinized for fear that the bill would be less than what the intention of every member around the table thought it should be.
This was done in English and in French. It was the same for members of the Bloc. They have a completely different political position than we do here, but they too were concerned about the interests and safety of the travelling public. The discussions and debates were the same in both French and English, and equally vigorous.
Everybody wanted to move forward. That is why I needed to introduce that little moment of regret because the bill should have sailed through the House at third reading in June. It should have received royal assent in June. It should have been proclaimed in June.
I know, Mr. Speaker, you are really interested in this because there are a lot of Canadians, not only in your province but in the provinces that all of us represent, who are interested in the consequences of the bill not only immediately but economically as well.
Why would we not have done this in June? Why are we waiting until almost November? Good legislation takes a while in its construction, in the infrastructure to put it together, and to get a consensus built. It is time consuming and energy demanding.
Why are we waiting until the beginning of November for a bill that was virtually unanimously agreed upon? I know my colleague from Burnaby will say it was not unanimously agreed upon. He had an opportunity to vote on every single amendment, sometimes he accepted it, sometimes he did not. We agreed with much of the input that he presented for our consideration. When it came time to support the bill, he withdrew his support. That was his decision. He represents a party that has a particular position. God bless those members, they have to address that with their own constituents.
That was not our decision. When I say ours, I mean the constituency of all Canadians who want to ensure that the system that is put in place to guarantee the safety and security of the aeronautics industry is one that should be first and foremost for us all.
We went a little bit further than that. We also took into consideration the role of military DND flights in Canada. We examined the role that it plays in establishing such a system and how it operates in the event that there are incidents or accidents that involve either its personnel or its aircraft.
Some people might ask why that would be significant. It is significant for all of us because it is the one time that one department transcended the interests of all other departments with respect to jurisdiction and what it would do in the unhappy event of an incident or an accident that would engage either DND, its personnel, or any of the private sector players in the field.
We took a look at their considerations. I dare say that members of Parliament began to challenge some of the jurisdictional expertise that was brought to bear and tried as much as they could to bring about a confluence of the interests that are pan-Canadian.
We also looked at the distinctions that surface between the small operators, and there are many of them in Canada given our great geography, our great distances, and the nature of the business itself, as well as the large carriers, those that employ thousands of Canadians in a fashion that many of us do not appreciate fully. But without the kind of rigour and oversight required, and without the commitment of each and every one of those men and women, whether they were working on air side or port side, whether they were working on the technological side or whether they were working in terms of establishing that environment for service, each and every one of them had to make a contribution toward that cooperative, collective sense of mutual benefit, mutual cooperation, and mutual security. Those were other issues that were addressed.
There were moments, I am sure the parliamentary secretary in his statement said there were some difficult moments and some issues that were designed to come forward. Transport officials began with a particular position and ended up with a position that was reflected in the bill that is before us today. They brought forward their technological expertise, their understanding of the issues and, compliments to all members who were on that committee, caused committee members to absorb all that expertise and that experience, and then to work together. It is a unique situation. I am sure that the parliamentary secretary will agree.
In fact, it was the chairman of the committee who probably guided everybody toward this particular position where he essentially said all of this must reflect all of us. There was no “we-they” in a situation that saw the expertise of Transport Canada coming forward through this bill.
I said at the outset in some jest, but actually reflecting the reality of the situation, that I was a member of a government that brought forward the parent of this legislation and a series of others. I am hoping that the Minister of Transport will go through all those bits of legislation that we presented and say that we have to revive these, just as we revived this one.
I must say that there are rare moments in this House when all members come together and say, “This bill should be passed immediately. Let's eliminate the rhetoric associated with delay. Let's eliminate all the issues that are related with partisanship and the perceived advantage that one gets by delaying”.
From our perspective, this is one bill, and I repeat myself, I know, I am not in the habit of doing that as my colleagues on the committee will tell, but we should do it and do it today. In fact, if the parliamentary secretary calls for unanimous consent to have this passed at third reading today, he would get it from me. But I know he would not get it from our good colleague from Burnaby, who has developed sort of I guess it is a cheval de guerre position against the bill.
I know members want to hear what everybody else has to say. Compliments to members of Parliament who have acknowledged the Liberal genesis of this bill. Compliments to those Liberal members on the committee who saw the wisdom of the changes that we put forward and said, “Let's get it done together”. I do not want to be too begrudging of compliments to the others, but there were Bloc members and Conservative members who said, “We see eye to eye on this, so let's get it done”. And we have got it done.
Now we rely on the government and the Bloc to make sure that this passes right away and if they are convincing enough, apparently they can be, they can convince the NDP members to say, “We said all we had to say in June”. I am sure they exhausted their voices. Now all they need to do is recognize what is right and pass this legislation.