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.

June 10th, 2014 / 9:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Okay.

Are you familiar with some of the aspects of the government's proposed legislation five or six years ago, Bill C-7, that Mr. Watson was describing? It was hoisted or subverted by the opposition at the time. There were elements, as I recall, of non-punitive reporting in that legislation. Are you familiar with those, and is that what you're looking for?

June 10th, 2014 / 9:05 a.m.
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John McKenna President and Chief Executive Officer, Air Transport Association of Canada

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee. My name is John McKenna, and I am the president and chief executive officer for the Air Transport Association of Canada. I am accompanied today by Mr. Mike Skrobica, our senior vice-president and CFO.

The Air Transport Association of Canada has represented Canada’s commercial air transport industry for 80 years. We have approximately 180 members engaged in commercial aviation operating in every region of Canada and providing service to a large majority of the more than 600 airports in the country.

Our members include large airlines, regional airlines, commuter operators, air taxis, aviation educational organizations, and flights schools. Our membership also includes the air industry support sector involved in all aspects of the aviation support industry. We refer to them as Industry Partners.

We really appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to address the important aspects of our industry that you have undertaken to study. The transportation of dangerous goods is an area where the airline industry has been most progressive for a very long time due to the obvious potential adverse impact on airline operations.

I will focus my comments on safety management systems. However, I will gladly answer questions on either dangerous goods or SMS.

The implementation of SMS was to be facilitated by amendments to the Aeronautics Act. Bill C-6 and Bill C-7 were tabled respectively in 2006 and 2007. Key proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act included the following: provisions to ensure employees of Canadian air carriers report safety concerns voluntarily without fear of legal or disciplinary actions, or what has been referred to as the non-punitive clause; provisions to allow for more self-regulation in low-risk areas of the Aeronautics Act, thus allowing the better use of Transport Canada resources for those areas of higher risk; additional tools for the Minister of Transport to ensure compliance; and increased penalties for contraventions.

The House of Commons was adjourned or prorogued before either of these two bills could be tabled for final reading. The amendments were on the table when the larger air carriers were involved in the collaborative development of Safety Management Systems and were supposed to help its implementation both at Transport Canada and with operators.

ATAC is convinced that SMS yields both a safety and financial return. It is, however, a considerable investment regardless of the size of the carrier's operations. Larger carriers designated as 705 operators in the Canadian air regulations tell us today that they wouldn't do without SMS, but all agree that they had underestimated the task at hand when they started its implementation.

In its 2012 watch list, the Transportation Safety Board showed that from 2001 to 2010 the 703 category—the air taxi operators—had incurred many more accidents and many more fatalities than the commuter operators—704—and the airline operators combined. During that decade, TSB numbers show that in the 703 category, 359 accidents resulted in 132 fatalities, whereas the commuter ops and the airline operators had reported 44 accidents and zero fatalities.

Canadian regulations mandating SMS have been in place since 2006, but so far only the 705 operators—the airlines—and the approved maintenance organizations that support them are obliged to implement a fully compliant SMS. ATAC wants to encourage and facilitate implementation of SMS for all commercial operators. We are very conscious of the fact that the SMS model that Transport Canada has approved for the 705 level is not reasonable for implementation by the smaller operators. In addition, the air transport industry has been getting mixed messages from within Transport Canada as to the future of full implementation of SMS throughout our industry.

Consequently, we have developed the ATAC SMS Tool Kit and Guide. This innovative tool, designed to help small and medium-sized operators develop, implement and maintain a compliant SMS, was distributed free of charge to all our members.

We spent over one year on the investigation into determining the type of appropriate SMS and subsequently developing the necessary tools and services required to help the small and medium-sized operators.

Our challenge was twofold. The first was to design an SMS model that would meet Transport Canada's requirements; the second was to come up with a model which would be accepted by the intended users that is commensurate with the size and complexity of their operations and that provides an operational and efficiency improvement.

Large organizations accumulate and report colossal volumes of complex data. Organizational size and complexity and cultural change challenges would make it difficult for these organizations to implement reactive and proactive SMS processes simultaneously. Smaller organizations need to efficiently identify and meet the needs of the regulatory requirements by clearly identifying safety critical information as being different from nice-to-know information. This ultimately reduces the complexity of many of the processes, procedures, and subsystems of an SMS. Not separating business goals from safety goals simplifies and supports the cultural change necessary for the good implementation of an SMS.

The risk management system is the procedural meat of an SMS. The organization's safety oversight system is its risk management system. It is made up of four distinct processes: reporting, investigation and analysis, corrective action development and implementation, and the measurement of effectiveness.

One must avoid confusing Transport Canada's responsibility for safety oversight with an organization's obligation to meet the safety oversight requirements of an SMS. While impossible to achieve in any organization, freedom from error is even more difficult to achieve in smaller organizations in Canada. They generally employ a wide spectrum of experienced personnel, from neophytes to experts, operate the least sophisticated and often older equipment, and operate in the least technically sophisticated and, therefore, potentially higher risk environment. Given this reality and TC's regulatory requirement to create an SMS commensurate with the size and complexity of an organization, the goal is to provide verifiable insurance that operations are safe.

I conclude by repeating that ATAC firmly believes that safety management systems offer both safety and a financial benefit. SMS must be a major element of any air carrier's corporate culture for SMS to be fully functional and yield the many benefits it offers. The key message from Transport Canada as to the implementation of SMS in all segments of the air transport industry must be clear. We at ATAC want to help operators welcome this vital element into their corporate culture and day-to-day operations.

Thank you.

A safety management system is not just a strategic document. It is the implementation of an even greater safety culture. The plan, and its supporting processes, is the way an organization sets itself up and runs its day-to-day operations.

April 1st, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In response to questioning from Mr. Watson, yes, the NDP has fought long and hard on the safety issues, and we did fight on Bill C-6--and later on Bill C-7--because it wasn't simply the whistle-blower content of that bill that was offensive to us. I think the record will show that over and over again.

I'm interested in going back to this policy, because I think the policy is very important here. I'm glad you brought it in front of us. I have some questions. You say that section 5.0 has been added on. When was it added on? In February of 2010?

April 1st, 2010 / 9:30 a.m.
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Senior Officer, Research, Canadian Union of Public Employees

Richard Balnis

On the specific issue of the CBAA, I believe there is a transition period of one year. I understand that Don Sherritt will be leading a consultation process to bring back the old CAR 604 regulations that used to regulate these operators. They hope to do that in a year's time, but I think that is an ambitious timeframe.

In terms of other organizations, if you remember, during Bill C-7, people were saying airports, helicopters... There is a document we put in here, at tab 3, which is their policy to do new initiatives, to do safety partnerships. I think you should review that policy and, if you feel warranted, ask the minister to look at it and rescind that policy as well, so the CBAA experiment will be ended and the way forward...

My understanding is that this policy was introduced by Mr. Reinhardt, who worked for Mr. Preuss. Both of those gentlemen have since retired. Perhaps it's time for the new leadership and the minister to review tab 3 and say, “We don't think we need to go there.” I think that would go a long way towards sending a very clear signal on how to deal with things in this industry.

April 1st, 2010 / 9:05 a.m.
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Richard Balnis Senior Officer, Research, Canadian Union of Public Employees

Good morning. My name is Richard Balnis. I am from the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

CUPE represents 600,000 workers across Canada, and our airline division represents 8,500 flight attendants at six airlines in Canada. In front of you are my remarks in English and French. I will deliver my remarks in English. In addition, a book of documents accompanies that presentation. Those documents are also entirely in English and French. The first part of tab 1 has the English, while after the green paper you will find the French. That document is entirely bilingual. I would like to go through my remarks now.

Since they were discussed in 1999, we have been and continue to be critics of safety management systems in aviation. Our submission and accompanying documents address the first point of your specific study into aviation safety, “Transport Canada's Implementation of Safety Management Systems for the Aviation Industry”, and “in particular the delegation of oversight and administration for business aircraft” to the CBAA. We are also prepared to comment on other issues related to flight and duty time for flight attendants, or other issues or questions the committee may have.

When the CBAA approach first became public in 2001, we said that this was industry self-regulation and it was wrong. The CBAA took over certification of business aircraft in January 2003 as a result of a ministerial exemption. We repeated our concerns about the CBAA approach when we appeared before you on May 2, 2007, during your consideration of Bill C-6, later Bill C-7. On December 28, 2007, we released 337 pages of documents under access to information legislation. We have since learned that at the same time that Bill C-6 was before Parliament, Transport Canada inspectors missed serious issues of regulatory non-compliance with regard to how CBAA was conducting its operations.

In tab 1 is our detailed analysis of those 337 pages. I have a set of those documents, which I can leave with the committee. They are in English only. I don't intend to create any controversy by tabling English-only documents, but I can leave it with the clerk if you wish to review it to make sure that what we say in tab 1 is accurate.

We also learned, as you can see in tab 1, that there were serious shortcomings in how CBAA was conducting its operations in other areas as well. Moreover, Transport Canada senior manager Don Sherritt overruled the inspector conducting this audit, who found that the CBAA corrective action plan would be ineffective in addressing these identified deficiencies. To our knowledge, SCOTIC has been told none of this.

As the Transportation Safety Board of Canada reported on its investigation into the crash of Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce at Fox Harbour on November 11, 2007, “Transport Canada did not document its decision to close off the CBAA assessment even though the CBAA had not submitted an acceptable corrective action plan”. In tab 2 you will find, in English and French, the extracts of that report's conclusions. The TSB further found that it took another review, on March 11, 2009, for Transport Canada to conclude that the assessment it had conducted, which ended on September 21, 2007, had been “fully addressed”, nearly eighteen months later.

Fortunately, Minister Baird has finally agreed with us nearly a decade later. As he told media on March 16, 2010, “Right now it's self-regulation for corporate jets...”. Referring to the Fox Harbour crash, he said, “We learned from a recent report that it's simply wrong for industry to regulate itself”.

The CBAA experiment was therefore ended by Minister Baird. It is too bad that it took crashes for this ill-conceived policy to be abandoned. Unfortunately, one could go to the Transport Canada website as late as March 30--Tuesday of this week--and still find a 2009 “Safety Partnership Programs Framework” document, which we've included in English and French in tab 3, which allows similar adventures in delegation to industry and industry self-regulation to continue.

We ask that you recommend to Minister Baird that he cancel this policy approach as well. Let us learn from the lesson of the CBAA.

On the issue of government oversight in an era of SMS, which I think is the central focus of your deliberations, we told you on May 2, 2007, that Transport Canada was implementing a new diminished role for itself under its new SMS regime, contrary to established international norms. At that time, we quoted Transport Canada assistant deputy minister Marc Grégoire, who said that there will be a “shifting relationship” between airlines and Transport Canada under its new SMS regime. As he said on April 25, 2006:

There must also be a willingness on the part of the regulator to step back from involvement in the day-to-day activities of the company in favour of allowing organizations to manage their activities and related hazards and risks themselves.

Despite the claims that things were changing when Transport Canada representatives appeared before you on March 30, 2010--and some of those changes are overdue and welcome--there will be no change in this fundamental approach. If you do not believe us, look at Transport Canada's own documents dealing with SMS and government surveillance, which we've included in our documents.

On March 22, 2010, less than two weeks ago, Don Sherritt provided participants at a CARAC consultation meeting with the document found in its entirety at tab 4, in English and French. As you can see in the marked passage on page 3 in the English version and on page 1 of the French, SMS and performance-based regulations and standards will permit “each operator to manoeuvre within the designed 'playing field' based upon their targeted risk indices and safety requirements”. In our view, that is an unprecedented level of air operator autonomy from government oversight.

We were further told at that meeting that government oversight in this environment of operator manoeuvrability would be conducted in accordance with Transport Canada staff instruction SUR-001, entitled “Surveillance Procedures”, which is also reproduced in its entirety in tab 5. There are 66 pages in English and 72 pages in French. The fundamental premise of this approach is that government surveillance is designed to ensure that the operators have procedures in place to comply with regulations, not that inspectors will ensure compliance with regulations.

As an explanation of what you were told on Tuesday, if there are sufficient resources remaining, there “may” be other government surveillance activities to ensure such government regulatory compliance, such as the inflight or ramp inspections that were mentioned to you. Please, in particular, see section 5.0; that passage has been added in the last two months.

While this is an important addition to earlier editions of this document, there are still significant problems with SUR-001. First, these supplemental surveillance activities are discretionary and entirely dependent upon resources. Without adequate resources, these supplemental surveillance activities will not be done, although they are there on paper. Second, these surveillance activities are important in themselves. As you will see in tab 6, the Atlantic region of Transport Canada disagreed with the Ottawa head office approach of having only higher-level oversight activities, such as program validation inspections, enhanced monitoring, and assessments, because "they do not address day-to-day oversight of companies and do not include intelligence-gathering activities, which are important in providing data for safety monitoring". That is in tab 6 in its entirety.

Finally, in tab 7 we have prepared a case study of maintenance violations in 2007 at Southwest Airlines, a major American air operator. As that analysis shows--and if we have time in questioning, we can spend more time on it--it is only through mandatory, no-notice, and hands-on inspections, with effective whistle-blowing protection for front line inspectors who have to go against managers who may have cozy relationships with the operators they oversee, that the public's safety can be assured.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. We have other comments as well, including the lack of any flight and duty time limitations for flight attendants, something we have been seeking without success from Transport Canada since 1991.

We look forward to your questions on anything we've presented and on any other area that you would like to question us on.

Thank you.

November 30th, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Airline Coordinator, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Carlos DaCosta

There are too many conflicting and competing interests, and there are too many humans involved in the process. It is therefore bound to fail.

I've seen some of the examples already, such as the ones I have listed, and I'm sure there are more. I've gathered these in just the last two or three weeks, and there are more out there. It's just a matter of getting people to be comfortable enough to come forward and tell me.

They're telling me that the system is failing, just as it has in the States. I know the Americans don't have SMS in place, but they have a rigorous system in place under which they do spot checks, and yet Southwest was caught with its pants down. What does that tell you--if they put in SMS it's going to get better? I mean, they were purposely hiding from the FAA the fact that they weren't doing these inspections, so why would SMS make it any better? They're already telling you that they're not professionals, that they're not acting in the best interests of their passengers and safety, so why would SMS make it any better? It just gives you another tool to therefore continue to operate in the way you have been so that nobody will find out what's going on.

The difference between the Americans and us is that they have a much better whistle-blower protection system in place. They've done a lot of research into it; we have not. I believe ours is still sitting in the bill somewhere on one of the shelves in Parliament. Bill C-7 hasn't come forward yet.

February 26th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Lobbyist, Teamsters Canada

Phil Benson

Again, the devil is in the detail. I did talk in my presentation about the so-called smart regulations—which leads us to safety management, which leads us to oops.

In terms of safety management systems or best business practices, you don't require a government agency plan to do that. Basically, it's deregulation because business knows best. That's why I like the use of safety plans.

One example, because it came up the other day, was brother Bernardino. On August 26, 2003, two million pounds of frozen food fell on him in VersaCold. I went down a couple of years ago to tour the plant. The HR director showed me all the stuff he was doing, way above anything required by regulation. I was astounded. I asked why. He said somebody had died on his watch and it wasn't going to happen again. He wanted to see if we could get the government to enact or “prescribe” regulations, which was a bad word. Nobody wants to do it.

The last question I asked him was, “How much does it cost?” He said, “Cost? It saves us a fortune.” He said every time he goes to the board of directors they say to him, “Do more safety; it's really good.”

At the end of the day, when you talk about safety management systems, which is something we have universally been attacking, why I like safety plans is that they are something that companies can do without regulation. They don't require it. But really, it comes to Mr. Greenspan's oops.

When it comes to security and to safety, at some benchmark level we believe it's up to you to make sure that it's there. That's why the one amendment we asked for in the bill was the same amendment we had in Bill C-7, to allow the two transport committees to review regulations made under safety.

The answer is yes, we'll have to sell this bill, and we will.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2008 / 1:35 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Western Arctic quite rightly points out that it is the absence of a cohesive plan, an overall central strategy that is worrisome, because often these piecemeal bits and pieces are at the whim or the will of an aggressive corporate lobby. They are individual incidents but they create a motif or a theme.

We recently dealt with Bill C-7 where the government is dismantling the safety associated with the air transportation system. Now we are dealing with the nuclear industry where the government is dismantling the safety provisions in the nuclear industry. I would suggest that not one person in this House should vote on this bill until they have read Dr. Helen Caldicott's book, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. I implore members to get the book out of the library and read it. I will put it back today because I have read it.

I want to point out that the nuclear safety record in the world when compiled is a staggering and horrifying list. We have the explosion and combustion of the graphite reactor core in Pripyat, Ukraine that spread radioactive material over much of Europe. That was not in 1956 at the advent of the nuclear age. That was in 1986. Some 300,000 people had to be evacuated from the fallout areas.

We would think that would have ground the nuclear industry to a halt and that it would have regrouped to ensure that could never, ever happen again. However, in 1989, in Greifswald, Germany, fuel damage operators disabled three of the six cooling pumps. However, instead of the automatic shutdown, the fourth pump failed causing excessive heating which damaged and exposed 10 fuel rods. Workers again were hurt.

Earlier that year, at Hamm/Uentrop power station in Germany, fuel damaged spherical fuel pebbles became lodged in a pipe used to deliver fuel elements.

The technology is so complex that every step of the way is fraught with potential failures. I am a tradesman. I am a carpenter by nature and I have been in installations of hydroelectric dams. I have never worked on a nuclear power plant but I know the complexity associated with generating energy and the room for failure in a hydroelectric dam when it stops producing energy for a while.

The possibility for failure in an incident associated with a nuclear power plant is that it can devastate whole communities, whole regions and contaminate them for generations to come. However, the government is trying to pass a bill today that would put the maximum liability on any nuclear company that has this kind of a nuclear incident, for Monty Burns, $650 million, which is peanuts. A couple of hundred people alone who were affected by some of these accidents would easily burn that up in the liability lawsuits that are bound to follow.

Somewhere out there Homer Simpson is running a nuclear power plant. Somewhere out there Monty Burns is lobbying the Conservative Government of Canada today to ensure the safety regulations are not too onerous because “How am I supposed to make a buck cranking out nuclear energy if you make me pay for my mistakes?”.

I put it to the government that if we are looking to nuclear power to meet our energy needs in the coming decades, we are not trying hard enough. In fact, we have ignored the obvious and we have embraced the outdated technology.

The post-war era was tragic in many respects. The petrochemical industry, the asbestos industry and the nuclear industry ran amok. We are just beginning to realize that we have soiled our own nest to the point where we can hardly live here any more if we do not change our ways.

We do not want to see the Darlington nuclear power plant doubled in size. We want to see it shut down. We want to see clean energy from demand-side management, from energy retrofitting, from solar and wind energy. We do not want to see the industry contemplating the next generation of nuclear power.

Some of us believe it was a mistake. We believe that a government with some vision and leadership would have done more than expand or compound the problem. We also believe that an opposition party with some leadership would come up with something better than the carbon tax that it is flogging today, because it will not tax the guy who drives the Hummer. The people who are trying to heat their home in the western Arctic at $800 a month for home heating fuel will to pay the carbon tax. The guy driving the Hummer will pay nothing because it is excluded.

The government will take money from the person in the western Arctic heating their home but give a tax break to the guy driving the Hummer. That is the most convoluted, pretzel logic I have ever heard in terms of meeting a well-defined environmental problem.

We have been let down by both sides of the House today, with the exception of this little end where the NDP lives, where people are hearing some reasoned debate. The Conservatives have let us down with Bill C-5, hobnobbing with nuclear lobbyists again. I believe they have fallen victim to a bunch of clever lobbyists again. We have been let down by the official opposition as well because those members have come up with something that will suck all the life out of the debate about reducing carbon emissions.

We only get one shot to capture the public's imagination, if we are to talk about limiting carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the debate is going to be about defeating this bad idea instead of being about solutions. We are going to have to waste our energy defeating the government's bad idea first before the genuine debate can begin.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2008 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for this opportunity to continue on the same vein as my colleague from Vancouver East with our concerns and reservations about Bill C-5, the nuclear liability and compensation act.

I actually asked for permission to join in this debate. I came sprinting to the Commons from my office in West Block hoping for the opportunity to rise and speak to this bill. I noticed there was another debate going on the last time I tuned in on my television and that seems to have collapsed. When this bill came on, I said to myself, “Self, this is a bill that you want to be involved in. You want to be on the record”.

I said that to myself, partly because one of the most important books to come across my desk in recent memory is one that a colleague sent to me. It is written by Dr. Helen Caldicott, a name that many of us remember well, a well-respected, internationally acclaimed scientist. The title of her book is, Nuclear Power is not the Answer.

Dr. Caldicott felt compelled to write this book because, as the world grapples with the obvious risks to the environment by greenhouse gas emissions, it is tempting, seductive almost, to revisit nuclear power as perhaps the source of energy that might not contribute to global warming. In the temptation to be lured in that direction, we fear, and she fears in her book, the world is overlooking the potential risk and the gaps in the technology that cannot give assurance to the world's citizens that this is the right way to go.

We in the NDP were alarmed in that sense when Bill C-5 was introduced. We spoke against it immediately, saying that the last thing we want to do at this point in time, when the world is being attracted to revisit nuclear energy as a viable option, is in any way diminish, undermine or deregulate the safety regime associated with the nuclear energy system as we know it. It is a shocking idea. As I said, I want to build off the comments of my colleague from Vancouver East. It seems to be a worrisome motif, a hallmark almost of the corporate sector today, that it is trying to further deregulate and undermine the environmental standards and reviews that are necessary.

As the world becomes more aware, we become more insistent on developers and industries to be more compliant and to be more sensitive to environmental issues. That is a nuisance to them. They have been forced by the general public to go in a direction they do not want to go. The only way they can maintain the status quo or even diminish the status quo in terms of safety is by regulation. Bill C-7, which was before the House earlier this week, is along the same vein. It would dismantle or certainly diminish a safety regime.

I asked a page to go to the Library of Parliament, that wonderful resource, and bring me a copy of Dr. Helen Caldicott's book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer. To her credit she found it in jig time. I strongly recommend it to all of my colleagues in the House of Commons, in the context of debating this bill. They should pick up this book and go through some of the important points that this internationally well-respected scientist cautions us about. I am just going to read some of the titles of the chapters. I am not going to read from the book at any great length.

Dr. Caldicott goes through the whole costing of nuclear energy. As seductive as nuclear energy is, even on the face value, it is extremely expensive. She spends one chapter chronicling the whole cost of nuclear energy when we contemplate the insurance, never mind the cost of cleanup if there was in fact, God forbid, an accident, and the pollution, et cetera. I will come back to Dr. Caldicott in a minute.

I think we are better than this. I think we are better than expanding our nuclear system in the context of meeting our energy demands and needs. Let me explain what I mean by that.

I used to be the head of the carpenters union, the head of the building trades union in the province of Manitoba. The government of Manitoba lost a major power deal with the province of Ontario. The hydroelectric power sale somehow fell apart which resulted in the cancellation of a hydroelectric dam. That would have employed 1,500 of my members for five years. I was running the carpenters union at the time. It was devastating. It forced us to take stock, to do some research as to how we might cope with the loss of the job creation opportunities associated with building a hydro generating station.

I commissioned some research. We published a report called, “A Brighter Future--Job Creation through Energy Conservation”. We compared the job creation opportunities in a large megaproject such as the Darlington nuclear power station, which it has just been announced they intend to double in size. Let me backtrack. The original bill for Darlington was going to be $4 billion. By the time the dust settled, it was turned on and it generated its first unit of energy, the bill was $15 billion and I do not think they have finished spending yet.

What we learned in the comprehensive study, and I raise this in the context of Bill C-5, is that demand side management of our precious energy resources is far smarter than the supply side management in a number of significant ways.

A unit of energy harvested from the existing system by energy conservation measures is indistinguishable from a unit of energy produced at a generating station, except for a number of key important things. First, it is available at one-third the cost. The unit of energy that we harvested from the existing system by eliminating waste and by energy conservation measures is available at one-third the cost of generating a new unit of energy at a hydroelectric dam or nuclear power station.

The second great advantage is that the new unit of energy is online and available immediately. In other words, the second we turn off a light switch in a room, that unit of energy conserved is available to be used at the house next door or to be sold offshore internationally. We sell a lot of power from Manitoba to Minnesota and the states directly south of us.

If we had an east-west grid for electricity, we could in fact close down every coal-fired plant in Ontario by selling them clean hydroelectricity from Manitoba. I think most Ontarians would be happier to get cheap clean power from Manitoba instead of expensive dirty power from coal-fired generating stations or, God forbid, risky electricity from nuclear power stations.

Another advantage between demand side management units of energy, or units of energy harvested from the existing system and ones produced at a generation station, is the lag time where one does not have to borrow money to do it. In fact, many energy retrofits can be done through a process where the upfront cost is paid for, free of charge to the property owner, and the financier is paid back out of the energy savings over the next three, five or seven years. That is a great system. It is sweeping the Building Owners and Managers Association, those property owners that own skyscrapers and large institutional, commercial and industrial buildings because their energy costs are going through the ceiling. They can have off balance sheet financing to renovate and energy retrofit those buildings for which they do not pay a single penny. They pay it out of the energy savings over the next three to five years until that renovation is complete.

The federal government would be a perfect place for that. You would be surprised to learn, Mr. Speaker, or maybe you would not be surprised to learn because, being in charge of the parliamentary precinct, you do supervise a great number of publicly owned buildings, there are 68,000 federally owned buildings in Canada, many of which were built during a period of time when we were wasteful in our design and usage of energy. They are energy hogs, really. They are wasteful. There have been some legitimate efforts to try to upgrade and modernize those buildings to make them less wasteful, but there has never been a comprehensive plan to deal with a significant number of these buildings.

Imagine what a demonstration project that would be, if the federal government of the day actually engaged in energy retrofitting thousands of these buildings that are owned by the-

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2008 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for rising to speak on her concerns about the bill and I am sure she will be speaking later on it as well at greater length. She echoes my concerns and those of the NDP. I would point out that Gordon Edwards, who is the president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, has said that any vote for this bill would be taken as an approval of nuclear power. It is a concern about the safety standards and the fact that the bill, as part of a larger privatization agenda that the government is so eager to rush forward on, is something that damages the public interest.

I am very glad that the member mentioned Bill C-7 which is the next bill behind that because it is exactly the same kind of track. It is a track of privatization. It is a track of deregulation. It is a track of putting the public interest below private interests and that is exactly what we do not want to see. A majority of Canadians believe we are here in this place to protect their interests, particularly when it comes to questions of significant liability around a nuclear incident and accident.

As the member has pointed out, people may be impacted by an accident and they may receive significant health concerns as a result, or that may manifest itself in a future generation if it were something that was very serious. People want to know that they have legal protection.

Yet, it seems to me the protection that is provided in the bill is really shortsighted. It is minimal. It is at the bottom of the international standings of what these protections are all about. Why would Canada, as is commonly phrased, be racing to the bottom? Why would we not be ensuring that we are leading the way with standards, whether it is on the environment, labour rights, or social standards?

This is part of a huge agenda that is taking place globally where we see a stranglehold of multinational corporations who want to advance the capacity for greater profitable gains at the expense of environmental degradation and a loss of standards for people who work in an industry. This bill is very much a part of that kind of agenda. Another reason we should say no to it.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2008 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Vancouver East and the member of Parliament for Western Arctic for doing such an exceptional job in talking about nuclear liability and why it is that we feel so strongly about needing to oppose this bill.

As she so eloquently pointed out, the $650 million cap is an international minimum and is completely inadequate for protecting the interests of Canadians. I think she covered that area extremely well and frankly passionately on behalf of Canadians who want us here in the House to protect public interests.

I know the member could have talked about this for hours. I wonder if I could take her into that other area of the bill which deals directly with nuclear safety. We are in the dying days of the session and suddenly we are in this rush to get through a number of pieces of legislation, this is not the only one, that in a very real way undermine the safety of hard-working Canadian families.

The other example is Bill C-7, where we are talking about safety in the airline industry. The government is very eager to throw caution to the wind in favour of protecting its friends in the industry. I think we are doing the same thing here when it comes to the nuclear industry.

Let me remind folks who are watching today what the bill is about. The bill will shortchange ordinary Canadians who would become sick and/or die from a nuclear accident, or who would lose all they owned because of contamination, or who would lose a family member who would die from cancer or radiation sickness. These are the people we need to protect and we have that opportunity by opening up this legislation.

Our critic from the Western Arctic put amendments in place that would have protected Canadians' safety. I wonder, with whatever little time the member for Vancouver East has remaining in this debate, if she could focus on the safety aspect of this legislation.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2008 / noon
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NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to speak to Bill C-5 regarding nuclear liability.

What is the cost of cleaning up a nuclear accident? We had a nuclear accident in the 1940s in New Mexico and a series of nuclear accidents in the 1950s in Russia, in Chalk River, Ontario and in Illinois. If I have time later, I will go through some of the examples.

However, the nuclear accidents that captured the public's attention the most were Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Windscale.

I pay a lot of attention to Chernobyl because we have seen a huge increase in the rate of thyroid cancer in children and families in Chernobyl. I know a lot about thyroid cancer because I have thyroid cancer and after studying the disease I noticed that one of the causes was exposure to nuclear reactors, nuclear waste or nuclear radiation.

Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the world, aside from skin cancer, although both have a growth rate of about 5% per year.

What is the cost of helping survivors of this disease? Once the thyroid has been removed, people will need to take certain types of drugs for the rest of their life. The cost of the drugs, in a country where there may not be adequate health care or pharmacare, could be enormous. Therefore, it is absurd that the bill would limit the liability of a nuclear accident to only $650 million. It costs so much more, not only for each individual, but also to repair all the damage that is inflicted by a nuclear accident.

The liability for a nuclear accident in U.S. is $10 billion. The Canadian amount of $650 million is at the bottom of the heap according to the international standard. Yes, Canada is well known to be at the bottom of the heap with regard to the international standard, not only on nuclear liability but also with regard to nuclear waste. Nuclear waste lasts for thousands and thousands of years. It is a good comparison to look at something that lasts for that length of time versus something that is so much about our future, our children.

The children of Canada are our first concern because they are our future. Canada is not only at the bottom of the heap in terms of nuclear liability and the $650 million limit if this bill passes, but we are in fact putting our children, in terms of our investment in a national child care program, also at the bottom of the OECD heap.

In terms of liability, in Germany there is no limit. Not only Germany but a lot of European countries are moving more toward unlimited liability limits. As the world is going in one direction, Canada is going backwards as usual by saying that we are going to cap the liability at $650 million. Also, no private insurance would be made available.

That actually says to a lot of the cities and areas around nuclear plants that they are only worth $650 million. If there is a nuclear accident, it would cost billions of dollars in damage, personal injury and death, so who would pay? Let me answer that question in a minute, because this is the critical situation. If it is not the corporation that is paying, who is paying?

That is why the New Democrats, at the committee and at report stage, moved 35 amendments. We took the Liberal Party at its word. In the House of Commons in October of last year, the Liberal critic said:

--this is a very important bill and I will be recommending to my caucus and my leader that we support it and send it to committee. In committee we will be doing our job as official opposition listening to stakeholders and experts, and we will review the bill in detail.

However, as usual, the Liberals are missing in action. They try to say that they really are worried about the nuclear industry, but they are not sure whether they are saying yes to nuclear industry expansion. They were saying that maybe the liability was too low, maybe they would amend this, and maybe they would study it.

After all of that discussion, what did they do? They did not bring in any amendments whatsoever. We are not surprised, are we? The Bloc did bring in a few amendments, which were nothing that would fundamentally alter the bill, but it did not matter, because the amendments from the Bloc and the New Democratic Party were defeated. Why? Because the Liberals did not support any of them, even though they said publicly that they were extremely concerned about nuclear safety.

As members may recall, when there was a shutdown at AECL, the Liberals were saying that safety is really important. They said that we must invest in safety. As for the history of AECL, for example, there was hardly any investment in the last 15 years. What the Conservative Party is doing right now, after firing Ms. Keen because she said that perhaps it was not very safe, is to sell AECL and privatize it.

I notice that the Conservatives have not met an issue that they do not want to privatize. They are privatizing the airline industry safety measures in Bill C-7, which we are debating. It is about privatizing airline safety so that the airlines would police themselves. The Conservatives are saying not to worry, to let them do their own thing.

On immigration, it is the same thing. They are saying to privatize it, to give the contracts to the visa office and let those private companies deal with it.

It is the same thing here in Bill C-5. If there is a problem, the government is saying, we will let the taxpayers pay for it. But $650 million is not enough. It will take many billions of dollars. Who is going to carry the costs of cleanups?

Who is going to carry the cost of cleaning up of the Great Lakes if Pickering has some trouble? Who is going to clean up the environment? Who is going to deal with the people who develop ill health? It will be the taxpayers, not the industry. The government does not worry about taxpayers. It will let the industry do its own thing. In fact, this legislation is a big yes to the nuclear industry.

I note that the Conservatives want to sign on to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and turn Canada into a nuclear waste dump for those who do not have space for nuclear waste. Canada is a big country. Maybe they can put some of it here, because after all, if there are any problems, the liability would be capped at only $650 million. Do not worry about it, that is the attitude, and do come to Canada, even though we know there is no long term nuclear waste storage solution in the world.

For example, let us look at cleanups. There are huge and expensive cleanups. Port Hope is stuck with a huge number of problems that it has to clean up. The Northwest Territories is another example.

Nuclear waste remains deadly even after thousands and thousands of years. The bill in front of us is saying that the government will not have to worry about this waste, that taxpayers can handle it. That is extremely unfortunate. Why? Because many of the municipalities in southern Ontario are saying no to this kind of reckless behaviour.

Let me give the House an example. Twenty years ago, Guelph had a record of being one of the best cities in terms of dealing with waste management. Now, with the new mayor, the entire city is focusing on how to have zero waste. Guelph wants a big reduction in the amount of waste.

Last weekend, a conference was held in Niagara Falls. It was put together by the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition. The coalition is looking at a situation in which companies that have waste take on the responsibility for that waste. For example, Interface is a big carpet company. If someone buys a new carpet from Interface, it takes the old one back.

We are seeing a trend toward this, which is that people and companies must take care of their products, whether it is the waste or the packaging. That is the direction the world is taking. We should do the same thing with nuclear waste.

If there is a nuclear installation, we want make sure that its waste is taken care of and that if there is an accident, the liability limit is unlimited, or at least to a standard that is extremely high, in the billions of dollars, for example, not this measly $650 million in Bill C-5.

That is why I am astounded that the Liberals and the Bloc will not do everything they can to block this bill. This bill really limits the civil liability and compensation for damage in the case of a nuclear accident. We know there has been a series of accidents in the past. I have a long list of them. How can it be possible that on the last day of this sitting of the House of Commons we get no debate but only complete silence from both the official opposition and the Bloc?

Are they not worried about their residents, their voters, discovering that in the last few sitting days of the House of Commons before the summer break we allowed a bill of this nature to pass? How can we possibly do that?

Do we think that people in southern Ontario, where there are big nuclear plants, are not worried that if there are even more nuclear reactors being built the company liability would be only $650 million? What is the worth of a city? Let us look at Guelph. What is the worth of the Great Lakes? What is the worth of Aurora, right beside Guelph? I went to the University of Guelph for a short period of time. There is the city and the zoo and a great number of places. In Pickering, it is the same thing.

How can we say that if there is an accident it would cost $650 million and we could repair everything that is damaged? Just for the lake itself, cleaning up the water would cost $650 million, never mind the health damages and contamination of all the buildings in the area.

Let me tell members about some of the nuclear leaks. I will start with recent ones. In Tennessee in March 2006, 35 litres of a highly enriched uranium solution leaked during a transfer into a lab at the Nuclear Fuel Services plant in Erwin. What happened? The incident caused a seven month shutdown and required a public hearing on the licensing of the plant.

A company wanting to build a new plant and seeing a liability of only $650 million perhaps might think that it could skip a few safety standards. Maybe it would not do everything that it should to ensure that it has the safest nuclear facility because, after all, the liability is only $650 million.

Further, by the way, the bill also says that a person would have to take action within three years of becoming aware of damage, with an absolute limitation of 10 years after an incident. In the case of bodily injury, the limit is 30 years.

However, we know, and I know personally, that cancers and genetic mutations, et cetera, will not appear for at least 20 years following exposure. That is why in Chernobyl for the first 10 to 15 years it was not very obvious. It was only 20 to 30 years later that we began to see the huge rates of thyroid cancer, other cancers and genetic mutations in the future generations, with the children suffering.

By that time, according to this bill, it would be too late. No one could sue or do anything because of the time limit.

The bill also restricts liability to Canadian incidents except when there is an agreement in place with another country and the operators are Canadian. What happens if the operators are not Canadian? They could be German, Chinese or American. Does it mean that the operators would not be liable? That is outrageous. How can we possibly allow this bill to pass?

I have at least 14 pages of nuclear accidents since 1945. There are hundreds of them, and each of them has had serious implications. Let me list another one. In 2005, in Illinois--

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Winnipeg Centre because the example that I can give, given that he has asked me this question, is the issue of transportation safety and bills before this House, such as Bill C-7.

The bill is a very clear example of where libel chill or a SLAPP suit could essentially impinge on members of Parliament. There are, for example, the NDP members in this House, who have been fighting Bill C-7. This is a bill that essentially provides for self-serve safety, delegation of safety to the companies themselves. There are company CEOs, some of which will do a good job and some of whom will not do a good job.

We have been comparing what has actually happened in SMS, first with rail safety and, subsequently, the imposition of SMS in business aircraft. In both cases, we saw an increase in the number of fatalities and an increase in the number of derailments.

If we were speaking out on those issues, it is quite likely, as the member for Winnipeg Centre references in his question, that we could have a spurious lawsuit because we were using facts and responsibility. That is what we are raising. Essentially, we could have a SLAPP suit brought in if we kept on before today's Speaker's ruling and before this motion was brought before the House. Such a libel chill or SLAPP suit would, essentially, circumscribe us from being able to comment on those issues.

We could not comment on the fact that it did not work for railway safety, that it made things worse. We could not say that SMS did not work for business aircraft safety, that it made things worse. Surely, particularly with the cutbacks that we have seen in flight inspectors, a couple of hundred positions that have basically been gutted and are unfilled through attrition, that essentially this means the same sort of dangers inherent in bringing SMS into commercial aircraft.

If I were to raise that in the House, we could have a libel chill. The member for Winnipeg Centre is doing Canadians a favour by raising this issue. It is something that could happen if we do not adopt this motion and the amendment that I have offered as well, and if we do not move forward to ensure that this decision of the Speaker is enshrined in the House of Commons.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is just using bafflegab and filling up his time with words. He is not dealing with the relevance of the motion. He is trying to refer to Bill C-7 and he is jumping all over the place, but he is not tying anything in to the debate about referring the Speaker's ruling to the procedure and House affairs committee and making sure that the privileges of members of the House are protected.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you rule that he stays focused. That may be very difficult for him, but I would ask that he keep his comments on par with what we are discussing.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg Centre says it was meanspirited, and I think it was.

Because members of the Conservative government are nervous when we start talking about the real impact of Bill C-7, they jump up to try to shut down any mention of Bill C-7. It is very similar to the libel chill SLAPP suit that we are talking about in the motion itself, which is essentially that libel chill they exhibit here in the House. When we start talking about the impacts, boy, they just jump up and try to shut us down. It is very unfortunate, but we are certainly seeing their reaction in the House. I cannot understand this, but I will come back to it later. Now--

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The point of order made by the hon. Minister of Natural Resources is well taken, especially since Bill C-7 is the next debate up.

Meanwhile, I wish to rule on the amendment presented by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre. It is not receivable. It was not presented during his debate period but during questions and comments.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster. He will want to get back to the subject at hand right now, which is the motion moved by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to bring to the attention of the Speaker the fact that the member is going on about Bill C-7. In fact, we should be debating the amendment to the question of privilege, not Bill C-7. I would call relevance on this debate.

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, libel chill and SLAPP suits: that is how the Conservative government has been governing and that is the kind of impact we are seeing in this House of Commons.

It is very appropriate that today the member for Scarborough—Rouge River has moved this important motion, which we will be debating in what I think will be some interesting discussions around the extent to which, given the Speaker's ruling, we can simply manifest our ability as parliamentarians to speak responsibly but to speak fully on any issue that the House is seized with. This is a fundamentally important principle, as members well know, and I will come back to it in a moment.

However, very fortunately, I am following the member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, who both have spoken very eloquently on what the Conservative government has been attempting to do with members of Parliament and on what this Speaker's ruling that we heard perhaps just 90 minutes ago is doing to re-establish that principle of parliamentary privilege, of parliamentarians speaking out on issues that matter to their constituents and also on issues that matter to the nation.

Earlier, the Conservative government wanted to bring forward Bill C-7. Bill C-7 is also known as the unsafe skies act. Essentially what it would do is diminish safety and security in our airline industry and bring what we call self-serve safety into the realm of transportation.

We know that SMS did not work in the railway industry. Derailments skyrocketed and fatalities increased. We saw there that SMS did not work and the NDP has been speaking out very diligently and very responsibly, of course, but very loudly, about the perils that are contained within the bill.

If the Conservatives had their way with this libel chill attempt, any company that wanted to try to shut us up could simply slap down a lawsuit and say that we could not talk about the increasing number of derailments in British Columbia or about the environmental devastation.

Would it be a spurious lawsuit? Of course it would, but this principle that the Conservatives have been trying to bring in is essentially that one could bring in that libel chill or that SLAPP suit whether the facts were provided responsibly or not. Then the parliamentarian would essentially be muzzled for the period of that lawsuit.

Let us think about that. Let us think about the impact on discussions around Bill C-7 if the public is unable to find out what self-serve safety, the safety management systems that the Conservatives are trying to bring in for commercial airlines, has done to the railway industry. No one in the House disputes the fact that we have seen a skyrocketing increase in derailments over the last few years, that we have seen increasing fatalities, or that SMS in railways has been a complete and utter schmozzle, but the SLAPP suit essentially makes that fundamental ability to speak out on these--

Reference to Standing Committee on Procedure and House AffairsPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I had my way, I would get the question called on this particular motion and let the House get back to debating legislation. I think the government wants to get on with Bill C-7.

With reference to our committees, colleagues have to recognize that Parliament, with the House of Commons as a political instrument, is at this point filled with four parties, not one of which has a majority. We are dealing with a minority House and things happen in the context of minority governments and minority houses that would not happen normally in a routine majority government scenario.

The fact that we have a couple of committees, and we have more than a couple now, which are not properly working is a function of the stalemate that exists to some degree in and around this House now.

The government is trying to get its agenda through. Opposition parties each have their own agendas. There is a lot of competition on those competing agendas and sometimes the clash and the pressure creates the gridlock.

The procedure and House affairs committee, the justice committee, and maybe one or two others are feeling the strain. I wish that were not the case and there may only be one solution, which is to go back to the people in an election. But because the committees themselves are not the fundamental components of our House of Commons, the House itself is, we are still able to meet here today.

We are still getting some business done and, as I say, the government would really like to get back to dealing with some legislation. We just have a few days left this week before the summer recess. I will stay here for the debate, hoping it will not go on forever and ever.

As a member of Parliament, I was placed in the position today by the Speaker's ruling of having to move a motion. I suppose I might not have moved any motion, but he did invite the movement of a motion. I crafted it and I hope--

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise on Bill C-7, the unsafe skies act, because I think it is important that Canadians are aware of what is actually in this bill that is being proposed by the Conservatives and that was proposed by the previous Liberal government as well.

Essentially, this bill would do for the airline industry what we saw done for the railway industry and for business aircraft. I will come back to that in a moment. What it does is hand over, through self-serve safety, SMS, the safety management systems of airlines, to the airlines themselves, to the corporate CEOs.

Why would this be proposed by the government? People who came before the transport committee, the chief bureaucrats at Transport Canada, were very clear that over the past few years we have seen a substantial increase in the number of flights in Canada. There is no doubt about that. There has been a steady and substantial increase from one year to the next in the number of flights in Canada.

What have Conservative and Liberal governments done? While they were handing out tens of billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts, they decided that they could cut back on the number of safety inspectors.

According to testimony at the transport committee just a couple of weeks ago, it turns out now that through attrition we have lost a couple of hundred flight inspectors. We are not even at the full strength we were at 10 years ago. We are now down to less than 750 flight inspectors for the entire country.

Let us picture this. We have an escalating number of flights over Canadian skies and a smaller number of people to protect the public interest. What is the brilliant plan? Let us hand over safety management systems to the airlines themselves.

As the member for Halifax said, with some airlines I do not think any of us would have any concerns at all. We have some very well run airlines in Canada. However, not all of them are well run.

And here is the problem with the unsafe skies act. Essentially what it would do is hand over safety management. Whether the airline is an Air Canada or a Jetsgo, it would simply take care of safety itself.

That is simply not acceptable to the vast majority of Canadians, who want to make sure when they put their loved ones on an aircraft that the aircraft is certified as safe and is overseen by registered flight inspectors through the Government of Canada with the tax dollars that Canadians pay to ensure the safety of the travelling public.

We have seen this story before. We saw the same kind of thing happen with railway safety. The government said that we did really did not need to have all those railway inspectors. It said that we should just hand over inspection to the railway companies themselves. What happened? There was an escalating derailment rate, with deaths across the country. Unfortunately, British Columbia in particular is a victim of that wrong-headed and irresponsible policy of self-serve safety in the railway industry.

We are dealing with that legacy today as we see more and more derailments. There are higher rates now than there were before this handover.

We saw the first implementation of SMS with business aircraft. With business aircraft, we had a perfect record. For over more than a decade under the previous system, with flight inspectors in place, business aircraft in Canada were perfectly safe. When I say “perfectly safe”, it essentially means that with business aircraft there were no accidents. There were no fatalities.

We turned over business aircraft to SMS and we have seen the first fatalities. Thus, through this wrong-headed--and let us call it what it is--budget-cutting measure, we have turned a perfect system into a situation where people now are dying, where people are victims.

It did not work for railways. It has not worked for business aircraft. Why would any member of Parliament in his or her right mind vote for a bill that is not going to help or enhance the safety of the travelling public but would essentially do the opposite?

I think it is fair to say that in this corner of the House the NDP has been saying since this bill first came forward that there were problems with it. We tried to fix it in committee. We got a number of amendments through.

Then the government and the Liberals worked together and basically steamrolled the bill through, badly flawed, as the member for Halifax said, with huge gaps that will have a result and an impact on the travelling public.

We do not have to look far. If it did not work for railways, has not worked for business aircraft, then we would think, rather than going for the three strikes and playing some sort of strange dice game with the lives of the Canadian travelling public, that the Conservatives would say that there is a problem here.

The government should say that it is going to have to withdraw this bill and actually look at it and see what the impacts are of cutting back on flight inspectors, handing over safety management to airlines, good or bad, and perhaps most particularly, ensuring both increased secrecy around safety problems that occur in the airline industry and also a get out of jail free card for corporate CEOs. They could violate the law, but they have a confidential reporting system that basically gets them around what essentially should be a safety system that protects Canadians.

These are the fundamental problems with the bill. It has not worked in the two sectors it has been implemented in. This is a big problem.

The Auditor General's report did not analyze the actual impact on safety. All she did was analyze how the paperwork was being handled by Transport Canada. The report that came out a few weeks ago was very harsh in condemning Transport Canada for not getting the paperwork right.

I am not concerned about the paperwork. When the Auditor General says that there are fundamental problems and flaws with the bill, I think the government should sit up and take notice. Members of Parliament should sit up and take notice.

But when the Auditor General says the paperwork has not even been done right, then we have to wonder about the impact with the implementation of this bill. If the government cannot get the paperwork right, we can be darn sure that it is not going to get the safety systems right.

The NDP initially was the spokesperson for the Canadian travelling public. I know now that there are members of the Bloc and the Liberal Party who are now questioning this whole issue and are concerned about it as more and more voices speak up against it, Judge Moshansky being one of them. There are the flight inspectors across this country who are concerned about the impact on safety. I could mention many more.

Fortunately, the fact that the NDP has been speaking up has led to other voices being brought forward. That is why we are opposing this bill.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax referenced Jetsgo. I want to read into the record the problems of Jetsgo:

Three months after the launch of the discount airline, sloppy maintenance forced an emergency landing in Toronto. Pilots noticed they were losing the hydraulic fluid that helps run aircraft systems...Mechanics had installed a temporary hydraulic line with the wrong pressure rating, and it failed within two flights.

There are a lot of articles on Jetsgo. Could the member for Halifax comment on the well-documented safety problems of Jetsgo and what it could mean for Bill C-7 and the safety of the travelling public if the airlines are responsible for their own safety?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 6 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I very much enjoyed the speech of the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I have the opportunity to work with him on the natural resources committee and the agriculture committee. I know how effectively he performs on those two committees and how he keeps uppermost in his mind the concerns of his constituents.

He mentions, very eloquently, the ability of the House of Commons to work together. He took us very thoughtfully through the workings of the committee as it went through Bill C-7. He mentions that the overwhelming majority of groups, which are involved in this industry on a hour to hour basis, clearly are in favour of Bill C-7.

What are the member's constituents saying about the bill? How do they feel it will advance the issue of air safety, which is a concern to every Canadian?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 16th, 2008 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I had been led to believe that there would be an introductory speaker from the government side. Nonetheless, I am ready.

I believe that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, should proceed.

When I first arrived in the House four years ago, I undertook an exercise that took several months and that was to read Marleau and Montpetit. Many of us here have read it and found it to be absolutely riveting in terms of jurisprudence and parliamentary procedure. I know the hon. member opposite found it exhilarating when I asked him what his comments were in the book review.

Let me just paraphrase what Marleau and Montpetit talk about when they talk about hoist amendments, which originated in British practice and appeared in the 18th century. A hoist amendment enabled the House of Commons to postpone resumption of consideration of a bill. An analysis of hoist amendments moved in the House of Commons since Confederation shows that the cases in which this procedure has been used fall into two specific periods: the first was from 1867 to about 1920 and the second from 1920 to the present day.

The first hoist amendment was moved on November 28, 1867. Prior to 1920, it was the government not the opposition that used hoist amendments most often. Because the House only had a little time for government business during the short sessions of that era, the government sometimes felt obliged to dispose of a great number of private members' bills by using the hoist procedure, so it would have more time to devote to its own legislation. Since 1920, the period set aside for government business has grown to take up the largest share of the time in the House. Hoist amendments have gradually come to be used almost exclusively by the opposition.

From an examination of the precedents, it is clear that hoist amendments were moved to motions for second and third reading during periods when there was considerable tension between the parties. Those amendments rarely passed. Of the scores of cases recorded in Journals, only four succeeded. In each of those four cases, the hoist amendment was moved by the government with the intent of defeating a private member's bill.

Thus, in order to stop the work of the other parties, and not just the three parties but by this very Parliament itself, the NDP has put forward this ancient parliamentary tactic, I believe, just to be obstructionist.

Bill C-7 deals with integrated safety management systems, or as we say in the vernacular SMS. It authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certified persons undertaking certain aeronautical activities. Other powers would be 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 military aircraft or an aeronautical facility. This enactment is thus a proactive measure to assist in preventing airplane accidents from occurring in the future.

The opposition's approach at the committee table was clear from day one. Public safety was and is our number one concern not partisan politics as we have seen permeate so much of the government's manoeuvring in the 38th and now the 39th Parliament.

Regrettably, and I must introduce this little negative, the bill did not get through the House in June 2007 as it should have. I think most of us, if not all, were expecting that it would, especially when all members of the committee were working together.

Members of the NDP, who were also working diligently on this in the House, ended up fighting every improvement and then voted to accept them all, coming into the House with a change of mind. That is fine. Such is the way of politics. However, each party seemed to contribute to improve the bill. Government members also demonstrated that they were ready to accept the very good position that all parties had worked diligently to bring forward.

Now, we have a bill that says we have taken into consideration all of those issues and have put into 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, systems and requirements, that ensure that the public is being served, and that this is always put forward with security and safety first and foremost. If nothing else, that level of cooperation merits supporting this bill.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has already heard from many key witnesses and stakeholders, such as the Air Line Pilots Association, Transport 2000 Canada, the Union of Canadian Transport Employees, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, the Air Canada Pilots Association, the Canadian Federal Pilots Association, and the Helicopter Association. It heard from unions such as Teamsters Canada, business organizations such as the Canadian Business Aviation Association, transportation associations such as the Air Transport Association of Canada, and airport representatives such as the CAC, the Canadian Airports Council, and the International Civil Aviation Organization. In addition to other organizations, it heard from CUPE, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and departmental officials from the Department of National Defence and Transport Canada.

As a party, we listened to witnesses' concerns on the possible reduction of aviation inspectors with the implementation of this system. If Transport Canada were to essentially diminish the role of the inspectorate or eliminate it altogether, Liberals would not support the bill. However, all the witnesses had the same point of view or enjoyed concurrence in one way or another.

The committee dealt with the issues that appeared to focus particularly on safety. Of the concerns that were raised, the committee realized that these were responsible amendments and, thus, responsible amendments were put forward to strengthen the bill.

The committee actually devoted six months to the hearings and that was a very large amplitude and cross-section of stakeholders and witnesses. Some, indeed, were opposed but most were in favour. Many had concerns but that is why we have an amending process.

Most of the amendments made by the three opposition parties were passed and now form part of the legislation before the House. This is an example of a committee doing its work and expecting a forward movement with the bill. Hopefully, a vote will occur and members can actually indicate it in a democratic fashion.

To summarize some of the key amendments, we have provided definitions to explain safety management systems and have updated the International Civil Aviation Organization's standards. There have been several amendments made to the Aeronautics Act over the years but none of these amendments seem to have actually addressed the matter of bringing Transport Canada's standards and regulations up to ICAO standards. The amendment was put forward by the opposition parties.

Another amendment had the minister take responsibility for the development and regulation of aeronautics and the supervision of all matters relating to aeronautics, thus ensuring, hopefully, the highest safety and security standards.

Ensuring that regulatory oversight is not replaced by safety management systems so that safety management systems have to be implemented by each company that operates in the aeronautics industry, whether it be the carriers, the maintenance companies or the suppliers, would have an additional layer of safety available to Canadians who are justifiably concerned when they use airplanes. I note that the hon. member for Charlottetown, in supporting some of these key amendments, was keen to ensure that there is a definition to explain safety management systems.

Those types of hearings, meaning that people are responsive to them, represent what Parliament can do in a minority government that actually listens, acts and agrees on amendments that make the minister responsible for the development of regulations on these matters of supervision. Canadians want to know that we as a nation have taken a leadership role, and that when they get on board an airplane they know it meets our expectations as Canadians to meet the highest possible standards, and rightly so. Do we know of anyone who would want to take a chance on getting on an aircraft? I do not think so.

Further, I note that the hon. member for Charlottetown made mention that the committee devoted six months to hearings. He stated that there was a whole host of stakeholders and witnesses and that some were opposed but most were in favour, that some had concerns, but that is why we had many amendments.

I believe that the hon. member for Charlottetown, in the spirit of compromise and in trying to make the committee system work, really was on the right track. I know he has spoken at length on this matter several times. We hear now in the last days perhaps of this parliamentary session that we should try to pass as much legislation as possible. If we were almost a year late on this bill already, then at the very least we should be moving forward and trying to clear some of this legislation so that people in the public service can actually get to it and start doing their job, which they are eager to do, to tighten this up and to make our skies more secure.

I see that during the previous debates there were more compliments than there were acrimonious accusations. In this House it is always a pleasure to see people getting compliments. I notice that all parties were recognized for their contributions. It is interesting that in coming together on something like this we can recognize that safety is paramount. We cannot say it enough times that safety is first.

Taking into consideration all of these issues, I believe the committee members deserve credit for their six months' worth of work, which is enough in itself, but the introspective scrutiny and lack of partisanship is a compliment of which we can all be proud.

The hon. member for North Vancouver was also active in this matter. Including aspects of the Canadian Forces to assist in the investigation of aviation accidents that involve both civilians and the military is something that can be done in Canada. It would enhance our inspection services and the reliability of a system that has a built-in backup and follow-through for these things.

I was trying to calculate the total number of witnesses and stakeholders. Among them are CUPE, the teamsters, the airline pilots associations, the Canadian airport associations and the Canadian Business Aviation Association. That is just a precis of the organizations that appeared. When we add up all of that input, we are talking well into hundreds of thousands of people converging on one point in everyone's self-interest. Fortunately the public is the main beneficiary of those hundreds of thousands of people represented by those dozens of organizations all aiming for the same thing which is to make sure that those planes that everyone takes land safely.

The concern about the possible reduction of inspectors has been addressed. We have assurances that this will not happen. Judge Moshansky was the commissioner of inquiry into the Air Ontario crash at Dryden. To my continuing sorrow, and I will never forget the day when I heard the news, I lost two of my very best friends in that crash. It was a very emotional day. I can remember it vividly. In having a chance to speak to this now, it is almost impossible to think of this in that context, when one loses one's best friends. At the best of times one wants to make sure that there is some legacy to actually ensure that no one else will have to endure that kind of sorrow.

In summary I will talk about key amendments. First I want to mention the many major organizations that spoke in favour of the bill: the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, Teamsters Canada, Transport 2000, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, the Canadian Airports Council, the Air Transport Association of Canada, the Canadian Business Aviation Association, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

These amendments include additional regulation making powers for things such as aircraft emissions and fatigue counter-measures, as well as safety management systems for holders of Canadian aviation documents. Agreed? I hope so. There are new powers comparable to those of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board for the Canadian Forces Airworthiness Investigative Authority to investigate aviation incidents and accidents involving both military and civilian contractors. Agreed? I sure hope so. There are provisions to encourage employees of Canadian aviation document holders to report safety concerns voluntarily without fear of legal or disciplinary action. Supported? I believe that should be so. There are provisions to allow for more self-regulation in low risk areas of the aeronautics industry. Hopefully this would receive unanimous consent. There are additional tools for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to ensure compliance and increased penalties for contravention.

I hope that this bill is passed with its amendments and that everyone supports it when it comes to a vote.

The House resumed from June 2 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.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start off by saying that the Bloc Québécois, like the official opposition, and like—I believe—the NDP, will opposed the motion by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to extend the sitting hours, for a number of reasons.

First, it is important to remember—and this was mentioned by the House leader of the official opposition—that the government and the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have been completely unwilling to negotiate and cooperate. Usually, when Parliament is running smoothly, the leaders meet and agree on some priorities, some items and some ways of getting them done. But since the start of this session, or at least since September, House leaders' meetings on Tuesday afternoons have simply been meetings where we hear about a legislative agenda, which, within hours after we leave the meeting, is completely changed.

That is not how we move forward. Now the government can see that its way of doing things does not produce results. In fact, I think that this is what the government wanted in recent weeks, to prevent Parliament, the House of Commons and the various committees from working efficiently and effectively.

As I was saying, usually such motions are born out of cooperation, and are negotiated in good faith between the government and the opposition parties. But we were simply told that today a motion would be moved to extend the sitting hours, but with no information forthcoming about what the government's priorities would be through the end of this session, until June 20.

This was a very cavalier way to treat the opposition parties. And today, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Conservative government are reaping the consequences of their haughty attitude. As the saying goes, he who sows the wind, reaps the whirlwind. That is exactly what has happened to the Conservatives after many weeks of acting in bad faith and failing to cooperate with the opposition parties.

In this case, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons—and earlier I mentioned his arrogance, which, to me, has reached its peak today with the way the motion was moved—gave us no indication as to his government's priorities from now until the end of the session, despite the fact that he was pointedly questioned about that matter. What we did receive was a grocery list with no order, no priorities. As the leader of the official opposition said earlier, when everything is a priority, it means that nothing is.

That is the current situation: they gave us a list of bills which, in fact, included almost all of the bills on the order paper. Not only were things not prioritized, but in addition, as I mentioned before, it showed a disregard for the opposition parties. There is a price to pay for that today—we do not see why the government needs to extend the sitting hours.

Not only was the grocery list not realistic, but also it showed that the government has absolutely no priorities set. The list includes almost all of the bills, but week after week, despite what was said during the leaders' meetings, the order of business changed. If the order of business changes at the drop of a hat, with no rhyme or reason, it means that the government does not really have priorities.

I am thinking about Bill C-50, a bill to implement the budget, which we waited on for a long time. The government is surprised that we are coming up to the end of the session and that it will be adopted in the coming hours. However, we have to remember that between the budget speech and the introduction of Bill C-50, many weeks passed that could have been spent working on the bill.

As I mentioned, the list presented to us is unrealistic. It shows the arrogance of this government, and furthermore, the order of the bills on the list is constantly changing. We feel this is a clear demonstration of this government's lack of priority.

In light of that, we can reach only one conclusion: if the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform cannot present us with his government's legislative priorities as we near the end of this session, in effect, it means that his government has no legislative priorities. It has no long-term vision. Its management is short sighted, very short sighted indeed. I would even say it is managing from one day to the next. From my perspective, this can mean only one thing: it has no legislative agenda. When we have before us bills dealing with only minor issues, this is what that means.

Proof of this lack of legislative agenda is easy to see, considering the current state of this government's agenda. An abnormally small number of bills for this time of year are currently before the House at the report stage and at third reading. Usually, if the government had planned, if it had been working in good faith and had cooperated with the opposition parties, in these last two weeks remaining before the summer recess, we should have been completing the work on any number of bills.

Overall, as we speak there are just five government bills that are ready to be debated at these stages, in other words, report stage or third reading stage. Among those, we note that Bill C-7, which is now at third reading stage, reached report stage during the first session of the 39th Parliament, in other words in June 2007. It has been brought back to us a year later. And that is a priority? What happened between June 2007 and June 2008 to prevent Bill C-7 from getting through third reading stage? In my opinion, we should indeed finish the work on Bill C-7, but this truly illustrates the government's lack of planning and organization.

As far as Bill C-5 is concerned, it was reported on by the Standing Committee on Natural Resources on December 12, 2007, and voted on at report stage on May 6, 2008. Again, a great deal of time, nearly six months, went by between the tabling of the report and the vote at this stage, which was held on May 6, 2008, while the report was tabled on December 12, 2007.

Finally, Bills C-29 and C-16 were both reported on by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs roughly six months ago.

All these delays of six months to a year force us to conclude that these bills are not legislative priorities to this government.

It would be great to finish the work on these four or five bills, but let us admit that we could have finished it much sooner.

This lack of legislative priority was even more apparent before question period when the House was debating second reading of Bill C-51 on food and drugs. Next on the agenda is second reading of Bill C-53 on auto theft.

If these five bills were a priority, we would finish the work. But no, what we are being presented with are bills that are only at second reading stage. This only delays further the report stage or third reading of the bills I have already mentioned. If we were serious about this, we would finish the work on bills at third reading and then move on to bills that are at second reading.

Furthermore, if its legislative agenda has moved forward at a snail's pace, the government is responsible for that and has only itself to blame, since it paralyzed the work of important committees, including the justice committee and the procedure and House affairs committee, to which several bills had been referred. And then they dare make some sort of bogus Conservative moral claim, saying that we are refusing to extend sitting hours because we do not want to work. For months and months now, opposition members, especially the Bloc Québécois, have been trying to work in committee, but the government, for partisan reasons, in order to avoid talking about the Conservative Party's problems, has been obstructing committee work.

Earlier, the NDP whip spoke about take note debates.

Once again, it is not the opposition that is refusing to work on issues that are important to Canadians and Quebeckers. Rather, it is the government that refuses to allow take note debates, because of partisan obstinacy. In that regard, we clearly see that the argument presented by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform is mere tautology or a false argument. In fact, it was the Conservative Party, the Conservative government, that slowed down the work of the House and obstructed the work of several committees.

Not only is the government incapable of planning, vision, cooperation and good faith, but furthermore, its legislative agenda is very meagre and does not in any way warrant extending the sitting hours. In addition, the Bloc Québécois sees many of the bills that are now at the bottom of the list as problematic, but if we extend the sitting hours, we will end up having to examine them.

Take Bill C-14, for example, which would permit the privatization of certain Canada Post activities. Do they really think that sitting hours will be extended to hasten debate on a bill that threatens jobs and the quality of a public service as essential as that provided by the Canada Post Corporation? That demonstrates just how detrimental the Conservatives' right-wing ideology is, not just to public services but to the economy. Everyone knows very well—there are a large number of very convincing examples globally—that privatizing postal services leads to significant price increases for consumers and a deterioration in service, particularly in rural areas.

I will give another example, that of Bill C-24, which would abolish the long gun registry even though police forces want to keep it. Once again, we have an utter contradiction. Although the government boasts of an agenda that will increase security, they are dismantling a preventtive tool welcomed by all stakeholders. They are indirectly contributing to an increase in the crime rate.

These are two examples of matters that are not in step with the government's message. It is quite clear that we are not interested in extending sitting hours to move more quickly to a debate on Bill C-24.

I must also mention bills concerning democratic reform—or pseudo-reform. In my opinion, they are the best example of the hypocrisy of this government, which introduces bills and then, in the end, makes proposals that run counter to the interests of Quebec in particular.

Take Bill C-20, for example, on the consultation of voters with respect to the pool of candidates from which the Prime Minister should choose senators. Almost all the constitutional experts who appeared before the committee currently studying Bill C-20 said that the bill would do indirectly what cannot be done directly. We know that the basic characteristics of the Senate cannot be changed without the agreement of the provinces or, at the very least, without following the rule of the majority for constitutional amendments, which requires approval by seven provinces representing 50% of the population.

Since the government knows very well that it cannot move forward with its Senate reforms, it introduced a bill that would change the essential characteristics of the Senate, something prohibited by the Constitution, on the basis of some technicalities.

It is interesting to note that even a constitutional expert who told the committee that he did not think the way the government had manipulated the bill was unconstitutional admitted that the bill would indirectly allow the government to do what it could not do directly.

They are playing with the most important democratic institutions.

A country's Constitution—and we want Quebec to have its own Constitution soon—is the fundamental text. We currently have a government, a Prime Minister and a Leader of the Government in the House of Commons who are manipulating this fundamental text— the Canadian Constitution—in favour of reforms that would satisfy their supporters in western Canada.

We do not want to rush this bill through the House by extending the sitting hours. It is the same thing for Bill C-19, which, I remind members, limits a Senator's tenure to eight years.

These two bills, Bill C-19 and Bill C-20, in their previous form, meaning before the session was prorogued in the summer of 2007, were unanimously denounced by the Quebec National Assembly, which asked that they be withdrawn. It is rather ironic that the federal government recognized the Quebec nation and then decided to introduce two bills that were denounced by the Quebec National Assembly.

I must say that the two opposition parties are opposed to Bill C-20, albeit for different reasons. Thus, I do not think it would be in the best interests of the House to rush these bills through, since we are far from reaching a consensus on them.

I have one last example, that is, Bill C-22, which aims to change the make-up of the House of Commons. If passed, it would increase the number of members in Ontario and in western Canada, which would reduce the political weight of the 75 members from Quebec, since their representation in this House would drop from 24.4% to 22.7%. It is not that we are against changing the distribution of seats based on the changing demographics of the various regions of Canada. We would like to ensure, however, that the Quebec nation, which was recognized by the House of Commons, has a voice that is strong enough to be heard.

The way things are going today, it is clear that in 10, 15 or 20 years, Quebec will no longer be able to make its voice heard in this House. We therefore believe we must guarantee the Quebec nation a percentage of the members in this House. We propose that it be 25%. If people want more members in Ontario and in the west, that is not a problem. We will simply have to increase the number of members from Quebec to maintain a proportion of 25%. There are a number of possible solutions to this.

Once again, I would like to point out that we introduced a whole series of bills to formalize the recognition of the Quebec nation, including Bill C-482, sponsored by my colleague from Drummond. That bill sought to apply the Charter of the French Language to federally regulated organizations working in Quebec. That was for organizations working in Quebec, of course. At no time did we seek to control what happens elsewhere in Canada. The bill would have given employees of federally regulated organizations the same rights as all employees in Quebec, that is, the right to work in French.

Unfortunately, the bill was defeated, but we will try again. Once again, the fact that Bill C-482 was defeated does not mean we are about to throw in the towel and let Bills C-22, C-19, and C-20 pass just like that. As I said earlier, we will certainly not make things easy for the government by rushing debate on these bills here.

And now to my fourth point. I started out talking about the government's lack of cooperation, vision and planning, not to mention its bad faith. Next, I talked about its poor excuse for a legislative agenda. Then I talked about the fact that we find certain bills extremely problematic. We will certainly not be giving the government carte blanche to bring those bills back here in a big hurry before the end of the session on June 20. Our fourth reason is the government's hypocrisy, in a general sense.

This has been apparent in many ways, such as the government's attitude to certain bills. I would like to mention some of them, such as Bill C-20. I cannot help but mention Bills C-50 and C-10 as well.

Bill C-50, the budget implementation bill, makes changes to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration's powers, but that is not what the debate is about. Bill C-10, which introduces elements that allow the Conservative government—

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to move the standard motion that can be made only today. I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), commencing on Monday, June 9, 2008, and concluding on Thursday, June 19, 2008, the House shall continue to sit until 11:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated last week in answer to the Thursday statement, this is we have work to do week. To kick off the week, we are introducing the customary motion to extend the daily sitting hours of the House for the final two weeks of the spring session. This is a motion which is so significant there is actually a specific Standing Order contemplating it, because it is the normal practice of this House, come this point in the parliamentary cycle, that we work additional hours and sit late to conduct business.

In fact, since 1982, when the House adopted a fixed calendar, such a motion has never been defeated. I underline that since a fixed calendar was adopted, such a motion has never been defeated. As a consequence, we know that today when we deal with this motion, we will discover whether the opposition parties are interested in doing the work that they have been sent here to do, or whether they are simply here to collect paycheques, take it easy and head off on a three month vacation.

On 11 of those occasions, sitting hours were extended using this motion. On six other occasions, the House used a different motion to extend the sitting hours in June. This includes the last three years of minority government.

This is not surprising. Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard to advance their priorities. They would not look kindly on any party that was too lazy to work a few extra hours to get as much done as possible before the three month summer break. There is a lot to get done.

In the October 2007 Speech from the Throne, we laid out our legislative agenda. It set out an agenda of clear goals focusing on five priorities to: rigorously defend Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; strengthen the federation and modernize our democratic institutions; provide effective, competitive economic leadership to maintain a competitive economy; tackle crime and strengthen the security of Canadians; and improve the environment and the health of Canadians. In the subsequent months, we made substantial progress on these priorities.

We passed the Speech from the Throne which laid out our legislative agenda including our environmental policy. Parliament passed Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, to make our streets and communities safer by tackling violent crime. Parliament passed Bill C-28, which implemented the 2007 economic statement. That bill reduced taxes for all Canadians, including reductions in personal income and business taxes, and the reduction of the GST to 5%.

I would like to point out that since coming into office, this government has reduced the overall tax burden for Canadians and businesses by about $190 billion, bringing taxes to their lowest level in 50 years.

We have moved forward on our food and consumer safety action plan by introducing a new Canada consumer product safety act and amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.

We have taken important steps to improve the living conditions of first nations. For example, first nations will hopefully soon have long overdue protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Bill C-30 has been passed by the House to accelerate the resolution of specific land claims.

Parliament also passed the 2008 budget. This was a balanced, focused and prudent budget to strengthen Canada amid global economic uncertainty. Budget 2008 continues to reduce debt, focuses government spending and provides additional support for sectors of the economy that are struggling in this period of uncertainty.

As well, the House adopted a motion to endorse the extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, with a renewed focus on reconstruction and development to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country.

These are significant achievements and they illustrate a record of real results. All parliamentarians should be proud of the work we have accomplished so far in this session. However, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.

As I have stated in previous weekly statements, our top priority is to secure passage of Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation bill.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much-needed changes to the immigration system.

These measures will help keep our economy competitive.

Through the budget implementation bill, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians.

These priorities include: $500 million to help improve public transit, $400 million to help recruit front line police officers, nearly $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, and $100 million for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.

These investments, however, could be threatened if the bill does not pass before the summer. That is why I am hopeful that the bill will be passed by the House later today.

The budget bill is not our only priority. Today the House completed debate at report stage on Bill C-29, which would create a modern, transparent, accountable process for the reporting of political loans. We will vote on this bill tomorrow and debate at third reading will begin shortly thereafter.

We also wish to pass Bill C-55, which implements our free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

Given that the international trade committee endorsed the agreement earlier this year, I am optimistic that the House will be able to pass this bill before we adjourn.

On Friday we introduced Bill C-60, which responds to recent decisions relating to courts martial. That is an important bill that must be passed on a time line. Quick passage is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of our military justice system.

Last week the aboriginal affairs committee reported Bill C-34, which implements the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. This bill has all-party support in the House. Passage of the bill this week would complement our other achievements for first nations, including the apology on Wednesday to the survivors of residential schools.

These are important bills that we think should be given an opportunity to pass. That is why we need to continue to work hard, as our rules contemplate.

The government would also like to take advantage of extended hours to advance important crime and security measures. Important justice measures are still before the House, such as: Bill S-3, the anti-terrorism act; Bill C-53, the auto theft bill; Bill C-45 to modernize the military justice system; and Bill C-60, which responds to recent court martial decisions.

There are a number of other bills that we would like to see advanced in order to improve the management of the economy. There are other economic bills we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector, Bill C-5, dealing with nuclear liability, Bill C-43, to modernize our customs rules, Bill C-39, to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers, Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain, Bill C-57, to modernize the election process for the Canadian Wheat Board, Bill C-14, to allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers, and Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector.

If time permits, there are numerous other bills that we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-51, to ensure that food and products available in Canada are safe for consumers, Bill C-54, to ensure safety and security with respect to pathogens and toxins, Bill C-56, to ensure public protection with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods, Bill C-19, to limit the terms of senators to 8 years from a current maximum of 45, and Bill C-22, to provide fairness in representation in the House of Commons.

It is clear a lot of work remains before the House. Unfortunately, a number of bills have been delayed by the opposition through hoist amendments. Given these delays, it is only fair that the House extend its sitting hours to complete the bills on the order paper. As I have indicated, we still have to deal with a lot of bills.

We have seen a pattern in this Parliament where the opposition parties have decided to tie up committees to prevent the work of the people being done. They have done delay and obstruction as they did most dramatically on our crime agenda. They do not bother to come and vote one-third of time in the House of Commons. Their voting records has shown that. All of this is part of a pattern of people who are reluctant to work hard.

The government is prepared to work hard and the rules contemplate that it work hard. In fact, on every occasion, when permission has been sought at this point in the parliamentary calendar to sit extended hours, the House has granted permission, including in minority Parliaments.

If that does not happen, it will be clear to Canadians that the opposition parties do not want to work hard and are not interested in debating the important policy issues facing our country. Is it any wonder that we have had a question period dominated not by public policy questions, but dominated entirely by trivia and issues that do not matter to ordinary Canadians.

The government has been working hard to advance its agenda, to advance the agenda that we talked about with Canadians in the last election, to work on the priorities that matter to ordinary Canadians, and we are seeking the consent of the House to do this.

Before concluding, I point out, once again, that extending the daily sitting hours for the last two weeks of June is a common practice. Marleau and Montpetit, at page 346, state this is:

—a long-standing practice whereby, prior to the prorogation of the Parliament or the start of the summer recess, the House would arrange for longer hours of sitting in order to complete or advance its business.

As I stated earlier, it was first formalized in the Standing Orders in 1982 when the House adopted a fixed calendar. Before then, the House often met on the weekend or continued its sittings into July to complete its work. Since 1982, the House has agreed on 11 occasions to extend the hours of sitting in the last two weeks of June.

Therefore, the motion is a routine motion designed to facilitate the business of the House and I expect it will be supported by all members. We are sent here to engage in very important business for the people of Canada. Frankly, the members in the House are paid very generously to do that work. Canadians expect them to do that work and expect them to put in the time that the rules contemplate.

All member of the House, if they seek that privilege from Canadian voters, should be prepared to do the work the rules contemplate. They should be prepared to come here to vote, to come here to debate the issues, to come here for the hours that the rules contemplate. If they are not prepared to do that work, they should step aside and turnover their obligations to people who are willing to do that work.

There is important work to be done on the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. I am therefore seeking the support of all members to extend our sitting hours, so we can complete work on our priorities before we adjourn for the summer. This will allow members to demonstrate results to Canadians when we return to our constituencies in two weeks.

Not very many Canadians have the privilege of the time that we have at home in our ridings, away from our work. People do not begrudge us those privileges. They think it is important for us to connect with them. However, what they expect in return is for us to work hard. They expect us to put in the hours. They expect us to carry on business in a professional fashion. The motion is all about that. It is about doing what the rules have contemplated, what has always been authorized by the House any time it has been asked, since the rule was instituted in 1982. That is why I would ask the House to support the motion to extend the hours.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 5th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, this week we have focused on the economy by debating and passing at report stage the budget implementation bill as part of our focused on the economy week.

The bill guarantees a balanced budget, controls spending and keeps taxes low without imposing a carbon and heating tax on Canadian families.

It also sets out much-needed changes to the immigration system in order to maintain our competitive economy.

It will also include the new tax-free savings account, TFSA, an innovative device for individuals and families to save money. That bill is now at third reading and we hope to wrap up debate tomorrow on the important budget implementation bill to maintain the health and competitiveness of our economy.

Next week will be we have work to do week. Since the Speech from the Throne we have introduced 59 bills in Parliament.

These bills focus on fighting crime, sustaining our prosperous and dynamic economy, improving Canadians' environment and their health, strengthening the federation, and securing Canada's place in the world.

To date, 20 of these bills have received royal assent, which leaves a lot of work to do on the 39 that have yet to receive royal assent. I know the Liberal House leader suggests perhaps we should work on only three, but we believe in working a bit harder than that.

To ensure that we have the time necessary to move forward on our remaining legislative priorities, I will seek the consent of the House on Monday to extend the sitting hours for the remaining two weeks of the spring sitting, as the rules contemplate. I am sure all members will welcome the opportunity to get to work to advance the priorities of Canadians and get things done.

I will seek in the future the consent of the opposition to have next Wednesday be a special sitting of the House of Commons. This is to accommodate the special event about which the Liberal House leader was speaking. The day would start at 3 p.m. with an apology from the Prime Minister regarding the residential schools experience. I will also be asking the House and its committees to adjourn that day until 5:30 p.m. to allow for solemn observance of the events surrounding the residential schools apology. Residential school survivors and the chief of the Assembly of First Nations will be offered a place of prominence in our gallery to observe these very important formal ceremonies in the House of Commons.

Tomorrow and continuing next week, we will get started on the other important work remaining by debating the budget implementation bill. After we finish the budget bill, we will debate Bill C-29, to modernize the Canada Elections Act with respect to loans made to political parties, associations and candidates to ensure that wealthy individuals are not able to exert undue influence in the political process, as we have seen even in the recent past.

We will also discuss Bill C-51, to ensure that food and products available in Canada are safe for consumers; Bill C-53, to get tough on criminals who steal cars and traffic in stolen property; Bill S-3, to combat terrorism; Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector; Bill C-5, dealing with nuclear liability; Bill C-54, to ensure safety and security with respect to pathogens and toxins; Bill C-56, to ensure public protection with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods; Bill C-19, to limit the terms of senators to eight years from the current maximum of 45; Bill C-43, to modernize our customs rules; Bill C-14, to allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers; Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector; Bill C-45, regarding our military justice system; Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain; Bill C-39, to modernize the grain act for farmers; Bill C-57, to modernize the election process of the Canadian Wheat Board; and Bill C-22, to provide fairness in representation in the House of Commons.

I know all Canadians think these are important bills. We in the government think they are important and we hope and expect that all members of the House of Commons will roll up their sleeves to work hard in the next two weeks to see that these bills pass.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

June 2nd, 2008 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 6:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motions at report stage of Bill C-50.

When we return to the study of Bill C-7, there will be five minutes left for questions and comments for the hon. member for Charlottetown.

Call in the members.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite neglected to mention something that I think is pretty important for the folks who are actually following the file on Bill C-7.

He mentioned Justice Virgil Moshansky. He mentioned the Canada Safety Council, Teamsters Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. What he did not mention is that these people are opposing the bill. They are trying to stop the bill in its tracks because they believe it fundamentally endangers the Canadian public. Both groups that represent flight inspectors raised concerns about the bill. The Canadian Federal Pilots Association, people who determine safety in our skies, is adamantly opposed to the bill. That would have been an important point to mention.

For the past year and a half the Liberals have been propping up the Conservatives by voting for anything that the Conservatives put forward. This is not a confidence vote. I would implore my Liberal colleagues to actually think of the public interest this time.

I would ask them to also think about the fact that the SMS has already been implemented in another sector, business aircraft, and there has been an escalating accident rate. There have been two high profile crashes that caused death through A. D. Williams.

According to this legislation a safety audit is supposed to be undertaken. We just found out through access to information that Transport Canada has no record of any safety audit being done with the company that has now had two high profile crashes causing death. While this hoist motion has been in place, we have learned that the SMS system not only has contributed to a higher accident rate but is not being effectively monitored.

Does that, hopefully, change the member's mind from this effort by the Liberal Party to drive over a cliff with the Canadian travelling public in the backseat of its car?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2008 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.

During the 38th Parliament, I think the committee spent most of its time on this legislation, and I congratulate the members for that.

We have a situation now, as everyone in this assembly knows, wherein a lot of the committees are breaking now. They are not working at all. A certain matter comes before the committee, it is moved, a majority of the members of the committee vote in favour of it and then the Conservative Party filibusters it or, in one case, the chair walked out. We had the Cadman affair and the in and out election scandal.

I assume by the end of this week we are going to have, if the situation involving the previous minister of foreign affairs comes before a committee and if the other situation involving the leak on the NAFTA issue during the democratic primaries in the United States comes before the committee, two additional committees in the House dysfunctional.

However, going back to the legislation, this is a complex change in the whole system of aeronautic oversight, bringing us in line with emerging international standards, standards, which are mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization. It states that each member country must establish a safety management system. I believe those systems have to be in place by the year 2009. Under that general oversight system, each company must implement a safety management system that is acceptable to the regulatory body in that country.

Work has been ongoing. This is not starting now. I believe the Department of Transport started it at least five years ago. Initial work went on. Some pilot projects with certain companies in certain regions were implemented. It is an ongoing process.

The Office of the Auditor General did an extensive performance audit on this work. It was released in the March 2008 report of the Auditor General. I believe five recommendations were made to the Department of Transport. I would not consider that a bad report. I would not consider it a good report. However, it did make some good recommendations as to this ongoing work, which is basically a change in the safety methodology as to how the Department of Transport undergoes it.

However, as I pointed out previously, the bill has been with this assembly for three years now, in various forms. The committee listened to the stakeholders and it deliberated and debated every aspect of the bill over what I consider to be a very extended period of time. Prior to prorogation, when the bill, at that time was known as Bill C-6, the committee began hearings on February 12, 2007, and concluded in June of that year, after devoting 17 meetings to the legislation.

In the 38th Parliament, it was the single piece of legislation to which the committee devoted the largest amount of time, which is apparently a rush job. Again, I want congratulate the committee for the excellent work it did on the legislation.

The committee during its hearings heard from the International Civil Aviation Organization, Transport Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Air Transport Association of Canada, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, the Air Canada Pilots Association, the Canadian Business Aviation Association, airline companies both big and small, Teamsters Canada, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, Justice Virgil Moshansky from the Dryden air crash review, and the list goes on.

After these presentations, amendments were made to Bill C-7 by all members and a majority of these amendments were passed in committee, based on the testimony that came forward from the many stakeholders and other witnesses, who presented before the committee.

Some of the key amendments to the bill made by the committee were: providing a definition to explain safety management system and updating the International Civil Aviation Organization's standards. There have been several amendments made to the Aeronautics Act over the years, but none of these amendments actually seemed to address the matter of bringing Transport Canada's standards and regulations up to the ICAO standards. The amendment was put forward by the Bloc, NDP and Liberal members of the committee.

Another amendment was having the minister be responsible for the development and regulation of aeronautics and the supervision of all matters related to aeronautics. Therefore, making aeronautical activities meet the highest safety and security standards.

Finally, ensuring that regulatory oversight is not replaced by safety management systems, so that safety management systems that have to be implemented by each company that operates in the aeronautics industry in Canada, whether it be the carriers, the maintenance companies or the supplies would have an additional layer of safety available to Canadians who use the airplanes.

The facts speak very clearly, the number of people using airplanes in Canada is increasing dramatically. I believe the last figure we have is for the year 2006. In that year there were 99 million passenger flights taken in Canada, which was a 6% increase over the previous year, 2005. Industry estimates indicate that that will increase by about 40% between now and 2015. There is a tremendous challenge out there for our regulatory authorities.

Back to Bill C-7. I submit that this bill was under extreme scrutiny from all members of Parliament on this particular committee. Safety was the fundamental question addressed by members on the committee when examining this bill.

The new safety management system addressed in Bill C-7 focused on ongoing improvements to safety measurements in the aeronautics industry. Safety management systems would allow companies to have an internal way of operating which will enable employees to report safety violations confidentially within the company.

I should point out that was a point of contention within the committee debates, whether it should be confidential or it should be open. Finally, it came down that it should be confidential because of course we knew that employees would fear losing their jobs or being reprimanded by management for reporting safety violations. That ties in with the recent whistleblower legislation that was introduced. These matters can be dealt with confidentially.

We do not want people to be allowed to abuse the system. If they were involved in any way with the violations of any safety code, we certainly would not want them being allowed to report that violation in a confidential manner.

With Bill C-7, Liberal members on the committee felt it was necessary to have an environment that would encourage people to come forward voluntarily in reporting safety errors, which would therefore create an effective preventive system against any future aviation accidents.

In addition, Liberal members wanted to ensure federal representation would always be present to guarantee the regulatory process would still be in place. A safety management system is not deregulation in Bill C-7. Members on the committee made certain when examining the bill that Transport Canada would have regulatory oversight of that particular industry.

That is why, in my humble assertion, this bill really ought to have received royal assent last June. That is why I am surprised to see the bill still here in this House. The NDP has now decided it is not willing to support Bill C-7, despite hearing a number of witnesses and stakeholders in committee and despite the desire of members to have this bill go forward in the House.

Committee members have done a good job. The motion we are debating today is with respect to Bill C-7. It is, in my view, just another attempt by the NDP to filibuster in the House to delay the bill, to see it not come to a vote. I hope it comes to a vote soon. I do hope that the House can move forward on Bill C-7 and allow all members to vote on the bill as soon as possible.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

June 2nd, 2008 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

The bill is very similar in most respects to its predecessor, Bill C-62, which was introduced in the House in September 2005 by the previous Liberal government. Therefore, the bill and its predecessors have been kicking around for approximately three years now. For those who doubt the Conservative government's approach to environmental issues, and that list is growing every day, I would remind them of the government's unusual commitment to recycling, that is to recycle legislation from the previous Liberal government. This is a situation which reminds me of an old saying “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

Unfortunately, the previous Bill C-62 died on the order paper with the dissolution of Parliament, without having gone beyond first reading. Bill C-6, which was the predecessor to Bill C-7, was introduced before prorogation by the minister of transport in April 2006 and came up for a vote at second reading. Members of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party did not vote in favour, yet Bill C-6, which is now Bill C-7, still passed 195 to 71. Then it was sent to the House transport committee for further study and deliberation.

In preparing for these brief remarks, I reviewed certain segments of Hansard. I talked to some members of the transport committee and I was encouraged by the work that the committee did. I was very encouraged by the actions of the Bloc Québécois, which originally voted against the bill. After hearing from many witnesses, that party proposed amendments in committee, which addressed its concerns. When the bill came back to this assembly, the Bloc at that time voted for it. That is the manner in which the House ought to operate and that is the manner in which our committee system ought to function.

Members of the New Democratic Party, on the other hand, were unable to convince committee members of the merit of its concerns or arguments and amendments and it voted against it, instead of respecting the work done at committee. The NDP members moved a hoist amendment. Essentially they have taken their ball and gone home. If they cannot have their own way, no one can. In effect the work done by the parties that represent in excess of 80% of Canadians, as per the results of the last federal election in January 2006, is being stalled by the New Democratic Party.

Marleau and Montpetit teaches us:

The hoist amendment originated in British practice, where it appeared in the eighteenth century. It enabled the House of Commons to postpone the resumption of the consideration of a bill.

An analysis of hoist amendments moved in the House of Commons since Confederation shows that the cases in which this procedure has been used fall into two specific periods. The first was from 1867 to about 1920, and the second from 1920 to the present day.

The first hoist amendment was moved on November 28, 1867. Prior to 1920, it was the government, not the opposition, that used hoist amendments most often. Because the House had only a little time for government business during the short sessions of that era, the government sometimes felt obliged to dispose of a great number of private Members’ bills by using the hoist procedure so that it would have more time to devote to its own legislation.

Since 1920, the period set aside for government business has grown to take up the largest share of the time in the House, and hoist amendments have gradually come to be used almost exclusively by the opposition.

From an examination of the precedents, it is clear that hoist amendments were moved to motions for second and third reading during periods when there was considerable tension between the parties. Those amendments rarely passed: of the scores of cases recorded in the Journals, only four succeeded. In each of those four cases, the hoist amendment was moved by the government with the intent of defeating a private Member’s bill.

As members can see, in order to block the work done by the other parties, and not only the other parties but by Parliament itself, the New Democratic Party had to invoke an obscure parliamentary tactic, which is a rarity in the House and these times.

Again, dealing with the bill itself, it was dealt extensively and at length by the transport committee. I congratulate all members of that committee. The committee did its job. It took the appropriate time to consider, to deliberate on the bill, amendments were moved, debated, some were passed, some were not passed. That is the way the committee system should work.

There is a lot of noise in the House. I can hardly hear myself. Is there anyway you can restore order, Mr. Speaker?

The House resumed from November 2, 2007 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.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 29th, 2008 / 3 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, Parliament has been having a very successful week. We started with a successful address to Parliament by the President of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko. The president gave an eloquent speech that was well received by all parliamentarians and Canadians.

This week the House of Commons has been proceeding on the theme of sound economic management without a carbon tax. We passed Bill C-21 to give aboriginals living on reserves the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act. We passed our biofuels bill, BillC-33, at third reading and it is now in the Senate. This bill requires that by 2010, 5% of gasoline and by 2012, 2% of diesel and home heating oil be comprised of renewable fuels.

Our bill to implement the Free Trade Agreement with the countries of the European Free Trade Association—the first free trade agreement signed in six years—passed at second reading and was sent to committee.

Bill C-5, which deals with nuclear liability issues, also appears poised to pass at third reading and be sent to the Senate today.

Last night, the Minister of Finance appeared for over four hours to answer questions by parliamentarians on the main estimates of his department.

Yesterday, the finance committee reported the budget bill back to the House. This bill would ensure a balanced budget, control spending and keep taxes down while avoiding a carbon tax and a heating tax on Canadian families. As well, it would make much needed changes to the immigration system, which will help keep our economy competitive. We will begin debate on that important bill, the budget implementation bill, at report stage tomorrow.

Next week we will be on the same theme, focused on the economy week. Through the budget implementation bill, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians. which include $500 million to help improve public transit, $400 million to help recruit front line police officers, nearly $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, and $110 million to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.

Those investments, however, could be threatened if the bill does not pass this session due to opposition obstruction and delay. Today we again saw evidence of such procedural delay tactics from the opposition in the form of a concurrence motion. All opposition parties joined together again to ensure that important legislation to strengthen key Canadian economic sectors could not be debated in the House earlier today.

I want to state clearly that this government is absolutely committed to ensuring the passage of the budget implementation bill this session.

In addition to debating it tomorrow at report stage, we will debate the bill next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, if necessary.

We will also debate: Bill C-7 to modernize our aeronautics sector, Bill C-43 to modernize our customs rules, Bill C-39 to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers, Bill C-46 to give farmers more choice in marketing grain, Bill C-14 which allows enterprises choice for communicating with customers, and Bill C-32 to modernize our fisheries sector.

With regard to the question of the remaining opposition day, as the House knows, we have had all but one of those opposition days already during this portion of the supply cycle. The last opposition day will be scheduled sometime between now and the end of this supply cycle. We do know that we are scheduled to rise on June 20.

With regard to the very helpful suggestions of my friend with regard to the apology to our first nations communities for the residential schools issue, plans are underway for that. I am happy to ask the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to take the very helpful suggestions into account and, if necessary, we would be happy to take up the matter at our usual House leader's meeting.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 15th, 2008 / 3 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with our theme for this week, which is strengthening democracy and human rights, today we will continue to debate Bill C-47, which is a bill to provide basic rights to on reserve individuals to protect them and their children in the event of a relationship breakdown, which are rights that Canadians off reserve enjoy every day.

We will debate our bill to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement, Bill C-34, and Bill C-21, which would extend the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act to aboriginals living on reserve.

We will also debate Bill C-29, which is our bill to close the loophole that was used most recently by Liberal leadership candidates to bypass the personal contribution limit provisions of the election financing laws with large personal loans from wealthy, powerful individuals, and Bill C-19, which is our bill to limit the terms of senators to eight years from the current maximum of 45.

Next week will be honouring our monarch week. Members of Parliament will return to their ridings to join constituents in celebrating Queen Victoria, our sovereign with whom Sir John A. Macdonald worked in establishing Confederation, and honouring our contemporary head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The week the House returns will be sound economic management without a carbon tax week. The highlight of the week will be the return of the budget bill to this House on May 28.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much needed changes to the immigration system. These measures will help us ensure the competitiveness of our economy. I would like to assure this House that we are determined to see this bill pass before the House rises for the summer.

We will start the week by debating, at third reading, Bill C-33, our biofuels bill to require that by 2010 5% of gasoline and by 2012 2% of diesel and home heating oil will be comprised of renewable fuels, with our hope that there will be no carbon tax on them.

We will debate Bill C-55, our bill to implement the free trade agreement with the states of the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

We will also debate Bill C-5 dealing with nuclear liability issues for our energy sector; Bill C-7 to modernize our aeronautics sector; Bill C-43 to modernize our customs rules; Bill C-39 to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers; Bill C-46 to give farmers more choice in marketing grain; Bill C-14, which allows enterprises choice for communicating with their customers through the mail; and Bill C-32 to modernize our fisheries sector.

The opposition House leader raises the question of two evenings being set aside for committee of the whole. He is quite right. Those two evenings will have to be set aside sometime between now and May 31.

With regard to the notes that were quoted from by the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, they were their notes and referred of course to announcements that clearly have been made about the need and the imperative of restoring our military's equipment and needs in the way in which the Canadian government is doing so.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 8th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the government took a major step forward this week to maintain a competitive economy, our theme for this week, and I am happy to advise the House that yesterday the Standing Committee on Finance agreed to report the budget implementation bill back to the House by May 28.

This is excellent news. The budget bill ensures a balanced budget, controls spending, and invests in priority areas.

This week also saw the passage of Bill C-23, which amends the Canada Marine Act, and Bill C-5 on nuclear liability at report stage.

Today, we are debating a confidence motion on the government’s handling of the economy. We fully expect, notwithstanding the minority status of our government, that this House of Commons will, once again, express its support for the government’s sound management of Canada’s finances and the economy.

Tomorrow, will we continue with maintaining a competitive economy week by debating our bill to implement our free trade agreement with the countries of the European Free Trade Association. It is the first free trade agreement signed in six years and represents our commitment to finding new markets for the goods and services Canadians produce.

If there is time, we will also debate Bill C-14, which would allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers; Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector; Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector; Bill C-43, to modernize our custom rules; Bill C-39, to modernize the Grain Act for farmers; and Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain.

The government believes strongly in the principle of democracy and the fundamental importance of human rights. Next week we will show our support for that with strengthening democracy and human rights week. The week will start with debate on Bill C-30, our specific land claims bill. The bill would create an independent tribunal made up of superior court judges to help resolve the specific claims of first nations and will, hopefully, speed up the resolution about standing claims.

We will debate Bill C-34, which is our bill to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. We will debate our bill to provide basic rights to on reserve individuals, Bill C-47, to protect them and their children in the event of a relationship breakdown, rights that off reserve Canadians enjoy every day.

As I said, we are committed to strengthening democracy in Canada. Yesterday, I had an excellent discussion on Senate reform with members of the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee. That discussion will continue in this House next week when we debate our bill to limit the terms of senators to eight years from the current maximum of 45, as foreseen in Bill C-19.

We will also debate our bill to close the loophole used by leadership candidates to bypass the personal contribution limit provisions of the election financing laws with large, personal loans from wealthy powerful individuals and ensure we eliminate the influence of big money in the political process.

With regard to the question about estimates, there are, as the opposition House leader knows, two evenings that must be scheduled for committee of the whole in the House to deal with those estimates. Those days will be scheduled over the next two weeks that we sit so they may be completed before May 31, as contemplated in the Standing Orders.

There have been consultations, Mr. Speaker, and I believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, on Friday, May 9, starting at noon and ending at the normal hour of daily adjournment, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

May 8th, 2008 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Thank you, Minister.

With respect to the full implementation of SMS on the air side, Bill C-7 talked about a system of non-punitive reporting. Can we expect something similar with respect to the rail industry? Is there some involvement or work by Transport Canada in that direction?

Obviously, the goal of fully implementing SMS is to capture the most information possible, so that we can become predictive about where the challenges are for rail safety. Key to that, as we've acknowledged in our legislative amendments for the air sector, was something along the lines of non-punitive reporting. Can we expect something similar for the rail industry?

May 8th, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

I have one last question, and that's getting back to the level of inspectors we have right now.

Are any of you individuals who are appearing here as witnesses aware of anything within Bill C-7 that would address the level of inspectors? Is there anything within Bill C-7 that would prevent the number of inspections being reduced?

May 8th, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Thank you.

We're all aware that the government has pulled Bill C-7 from the order paper. That is its decision to do so. It has not been the decision of the New Democratic Party. The government has put Bill C-7 on the order paper and taken it off. That has been the reality.

May 8th, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

All right, I will get back to the original question. Are the delays in getting Bill C-7 passed in the House hampering your efforts to do a better job of implementing SMS?

May 8th, 2008 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Thank you. I just wanted to clarify that, because some out there are still suggesting that SMS is not a good system and is not going to enhance aviation safety in Canada, and that is simply not true.

Mr. Minister, I'd like to ask you a question about Bill C-7, which is essentially the bill presently before the House that would actually implement and regulate the implementation of SMS in Canada.

We had consultations from the aviation sector. They came from across Canada. They represented different stakeholders within the aviation industry. I believe we had some 19 committee meetings; we had.... How many days of debate did we have? We had nine days of debate in the House of Commons. Yet the NDP, for some reason I just don't understand, delayed the legislation. In fact, they hoisted the legislation--delayed it for an additional six months. Who knows what they're going to do right now?

Mr. Minister, has the delay in implementing this bill, in getting it passed in the House, hindered your efforts to actually improve the implementation of SMS in our aviation industry?

May 7th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

This is exactly what happened on the transport committee, two bills ago. I can't even remember; I think it was Bill C-7. This is why it had to go back to the Senate and then took an additional three weeks to go back and forth, because we rushed through a piece of legislation. We got some conflicting legislation.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

May 1st, 2008 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, our week devoted to action on the environment and health of Canadians is proving to be a success. We just passed Bill C-33 at report stage with the support of two of the other three parties. This is our bill requiring that by 2010 5% of gasoline and by 2012 2% of diesel fuel and home heating oil be comprised of renewable fuels. It represents an important part of our plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. Debate of this bill at third reading will now be able to commence tomorrow.

We have also started to debate two bills to improve the safety of food, consumer products and medical products in Canada.

On Monday we debated Bill C-52, to create the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and yesterday we debated Bill C-51, to modernize the Food and Drugs Act.

We also introduced Bill C-54, to promote safety and security with respect to human pathogens and toxins. We will continue to debate these bills today and tomorrow.

During these uncertain economic times to the south, our government has led the way on the economy by taking decisive and early action over the past six months to pay down debt, reduce taxes to stimulate the economy and create jobs, and provide targeted support to key industries. In keeping with our strong leadership on the economy, next week will be maintaining a competitive economy week.

We plan to debate the following bills intended to enhance the competitiveness of certain sectors of the Canadian economy: our Bill C-23, at third reading stage, to amend the Canada Marine Act; our Bill C-5, at report stage, on liability in case of a nuclear incident; and our Bill C-14, at second reading stage, to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act.

We will also debate at second reading Bill C-32, which modernizes the Fisheries Act, Bill C-43, which amends the Customs Act, and Bill C-39, which amends the Canada Grain Act. We will also begin to debate Bill C-46. This is our bill to free western barley producers from the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly by giving them the freedom to market their own products. We will debate at third reading our bill to amend the Aeronautics Act, Bill C-7.

My friend, the member for Wascana, the Liberal House leader, said that government business and the doing of business in the House of Commons appeared to end on Tuesday. That is because next Wednesday and Thursday will be opposition days, and I would like to allot them as such at this time.

In terms of the question he raised with regard to Bill C-293, which is a private member's bill, I understand it is scheduled to come before the House in early May. At that time the House will have an opportunity to deal with the matter.

In terms of estimates and witnesses appearing before committee of the whole, the government does have to designate those to occur before May 31. Late last night I finally received notice of which two departments were identified and we will soon be advising the House of the dates that will be scheduled for consideration of those matters in committee of the whole.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

April 11th, 2008 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate today from a Liberal Party perspective on Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence. This bill is mainly comprised of technical changes and amendments.

Normally, when the House receives bills of this technical nature, members of Parliament will often rely on the bureaucrats to highlight deficiencies in the present act or acts. In this case it is my understanding that the transport committee has made changes based on consultation with all stakeholders and this bill has everyone's support.

It is common knowledge that transportation in Canada is essential. And when I talk about transportation, I am talking about all types of transportation, including water, road, air transportation and so on.

Transportation has always been an essential part of building this country from the beginning, when our forefathers came here by boat and continued to use seaways as a primary mode of transportation until the invention of airplanes.

Furthermore, let us not forget that water was one of the few efficient ways of travel in Canada's formative years. And then, how can we forget, the building of Canada's railway from east to west which was the cornerstone of unifying and keeping this country together.

Things have evolved and our way of doing things has changed, but the transportation sector is still essential to this country's economy. The Liberal Party has always been a part of the transportation sector's evolution.

There is no denying that the Liberal Party, whether in government or in opposition, has always been a part of laying the groundwork to ensure that we have a network of infrastructure and transportation to allow this wonderful country to reach its fullest economic potential.

Our Canadian ports are fundamental to the development of trade. They enhance the opportunities for every Canadian to access our abundant natural resources across the country, so that they can be sold to foreign markets that can utilize the product for value added or for direct consumption.

Trade is a key factor in the Canadian economy and without the necessary infrastructure and means of transportation, Canada would be unable to reach its maximum potential to benefit all Canadians.

With that being said, as parliamentarians we cannot afford to miss opportunities to promote our Canadian ports. These kinds of initiatives would compel us to utilize portions of our infrastructure funds, in addition stimulate our rail network and a pan-Canadian road network to encourage growth, and to develop an economy that goes beyond a micro-economy and expand it to a regional and national one.

In 1998, under 13 years of successful Liberal government, the Canada Marine Act received royal assent. The Canada Marine Act was the first comprehensive piece of legislation to govern several aspects of Canada's transport legislation.

The Canada Marine Act was a component in the commercialization of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the framework for a strategic gateway and trade corridors, and included provisions for the further commercialization of federal ferry services.

In 2003, a review of the legislation was compiled to ensure that the government continued to make all the ports in Canada economically competitive, specifically ports in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

May I remind the Conservative government that the bill before us comes from a Liberal bill, formerly C-61. I am pleased that the Conservatives have the ability to recognize good fundamental pieces of legislation that are beneficial to the Canadian economy and place partisanship aside.

If it were not for the NDP and the Bloc forcing an election, good pieces of legislation such as Bill C-23, Bill C-7, Bill C-3, Bill C-11 and Bill C-8, all based on Liberal transport bills which died on the order paper, could have been passed much sooner.

The Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities heard from port authorities, other stakeholders and read written submissions to the committee on Bill C-23. An overwhelming consensus between stakeholders seems to exist, indicating that the committee should move forward and adopt Bill C-23 which is why we are debating this in the House today.

Some of the benefits of Bill C-23 include access to contribution funding. The fact that access to contribution funding will now be permitted, the Canada Port Authority can apply for contribution funding for infrastructure and security for environmentally sustainable projects.

The bill also addresses governance. With the changes in the governance policy in the Canada Marine Act, the port authorities would now be more in control of their destiny as they would have the ability to promote a more stable, long term management framework.

Bill C-23 would also allow for borrowing limits. With this act, the port authorities would now have the ability to borrow and, thus, would directly allow the Vancouver Port Authority, the Montreal Port Authority and the Halifax Port Authority to move to a commercially based borrowing system.

Bill C-23 would also allow for amalgamation. In the act, the Fraser River port, the North Fraser Port, would be allowed to amalgamate with the Vancouver Port, which would allow for a centralized body and would, in turn, be beneficial to all British Columbian ports in terms of efficiency, whether it be financial resources, human resources or other benefits that would arise from centralization.

The bill also addresses enforcement. Bill C-23 would also give the port authorities the ability to enforce minor violations by having the ability to impose monetary penalties, making it easier to enforce and manage minor violations.

Again, it is my understanding from members of the transport committee, and I cannot stress this enough, that all the stakeholders appearing before the committee spoke positively toward the bill. Members in the House should not confuse the positive aspects which came out of the committee that considered, deliberated and debated Bill C-23.

I urge all members to support the legislation for the good of the Canadian economy.

April 8th, 2008 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

It is a little bit unfortunate, because I believe SMS has been required for some seven years. The implementation obviously hasn't gone the way it should have, and we've now seen within the airline industry, under Bill C-7, that we've become much more prescriptive in what's required to implement SMS. It's unfortunate, because the railway industry is now going to attract similar legislative and regulatory changes to make sure that implementation happens properly.

I get a general consensus here that you want some kind of non-punitive reporting system, whether it's immunity or whistle-blower, something along those lines, a close-call program, something that all of you would support. It's unfortunately something for which CN didn't really come out with strong support. I asked that question, and they sort of hummed and hawed, and they said it might be nice, but there are problems with it. Is it something you would support?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

April 3rd, 2008 / 3 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, I would like to start by thanking the opposition House leader for performing his basic parliamentary duty by asking the Thursday question. We have missed it once or twice. I believe it is important that this government have the opportunity to inform the House of its legislative agenda for the coming week.

Today we have started to debate the budget implementation bill. It incorporates the measures that were announced in budget 2008 and adopted by this House on two different occasions.

These are prudent, focused, responsible measures, including the tax-free savings account, $350 million for the Canada student grant program, and more money for police officers, the environment, health, and infrastructure for our cities.

We will continue to debate the bill tomorrow as well as throughout next week. The government has read reports that the opposition is going to delay and obstruct the passage of the bill. I hope that does not happen.

Next week will be improving the health and safety of Canadians week. A number of measures will be announced to accomplish this goal.

I cannot provide any details on these exact measures, but I am sure hon. members will agree that these are excellent initiatives that will improve the health and safety of Canadians.

Next week we will also debate changes to the Judges Act, Bill C-31; the Senate amendments to Bill C-13, our legislation to amend the Criminal Code in relation to criminal procedure, language of the accused, sentencing and other matters; and Bill C-23, which amends the Canada Marine Act.

The government will also debate—and pass, we hope—important bills to enhance the economy and accountability. There will be Bill C-33 to regulate a renewable content of 5% in gasoline by 2010, and a 2% requirement for renewable content in diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012.

We will also debate Bill C-5, which deals with responsibility in the event of a nuclear incident, Bill C-7, which amends the Aeronautics Act, and Bill C-29, to create a standard process for dealing with loans made to political parties, candidates and associations.

I would like to indicate that next Tuesday will be an allotted day.

In terms of the question on creating a committee of the House regarding Afghanistan, I thank the member for his question. We did receive a letter from him asking about that yesterday. We appreciate the support of this House of Commons for the motion, which has allowed the Prime Minister to travel to Bucharest and obtain the commitments that have been obtained from our NATO allies and allow that mission to continue.

We do believe it is important for that committee to be formed so it can operate shortly, and we will be proceeding with that soon.

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.
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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.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the work done by my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster on this file. His work and advocacy in opposing this bill is something that needs to be considered because of the people who have come to him and have approached our NDP caucus to tell us their stories about why it is important to make sure that the airline industry is safe, that the workers are kept safe, and that the travelling public can travel with certainty about their safety.

I want to tell a story this morning about my riding of Vancouver Island North where we do not have the ability to get from one town to another without the use of airplanes or water taxis. We have remote areas, a lot of places where our first nations live, up and down the coast, that are only accessible by air or water. There are no roads into these communities, so we rely heavily on small airlines to transport us.

I have had the opportunity on many occasions to travel in the riding. Even before I was an elected member I would travel on small airlines. My family lived in one of those remote communities for a time and I appreciated very much the fact that the pilots got us there safely. But sometimes it was not a fun experience. There has been nasty weather and one has to travel in the winter. As I have tried to let people know in the past, it is not all glorious out there.

Just this past year, in the spring, I was travelling to one of our small communities in one of our small airlines and the plane had to stop at many little places and pick up passengers coming in and out of the small logging camps. We had our earphones on so we could hear each other talk and I heard the pilot say: “Can you guys keep your eyes open, there's heli-logging in this area and if one of those helicopters comes out of the clouds with a log, we need to get out of the way quick”, because we were flying fairly low.

It was a little disconcerting to think that we had to be the eyes and ears for the pilot in his small plane while he was wiping his window off with a cloth because the air system was not working properly and we could see little cracks through the doors on the plane because they did not close properly. There are little things that make us concerned for our safety, but we get in those planes and we travel, and we trust those pilots. They do a great job for us. I really want to acknowledge that they are the ones responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their aircraft because most of them are owner/operators.

It is disconcerting that this bill would take away government oversight and put the responsibility into the hands of a corporation where profit is the bottom line, and where shareholders expect to see a return on their investment by the corporation. So quite often we see these companies cut corners to make ends meet or to make sure that they get a return on their investment. That does not help the travelling public. It makes us a little more uncomfortable when we have to get into these airplanes.

I hope that the story I am going to tell about an incident that happened in my riding a few years ago will help people understand the importance of safety for the travelling public.

Before I get to that, I also want to acknowledge that at least half, maybe more, of the members of the House do not even live in Ontario where they are able to drive to Ottawa. Instead, we have to take airplanes weekly or sometimes daily in the cases of some members who have to travel back and forth, such as ministers who are always travelling. We want to make sure we are safe. We also want to make sure that the workers, whose jobs are to make sure we are safe, are safe as well. It is for them that we are speaking about this issue and raising concerns as well.

As my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, also mentioned, we have seen what has happened with rail safety in this country. We have seen more derailments and the industry is basically inspecting and regulating itself, and it has not done our environment any good. We have seen spills of huge proportions.

The devastation of the Cheakamus River in British Columbia on the coast will have repercussions for years to come on the ability to fish in that river. First nations are very concerned about their ability to harvest any of the fish that they would have had from that river. The communities that are along that river have to worry about their water supply. So many things have happened because of a train wreck and yet the industry seems to get away with it, basically. The trains are still travelling. It is still happening and nothing has been done.

To go back to my riding, the story that I want to tell is about Kirsten Stevens who is a young woman from Campbell River. Her husband worked in the forest industry. That is another reason that we use these small planes as I mentioned earlier. Loggers and people who work in the bush take these planes to get out to their camps.

The plane filled up with the workers one morning, took off and crashed into the ocean just off one of our small islands. It took a couple of years for Ms. Stevens to have the plane recovered from the ocean. She has been working diligently trying to get answers as to why this plane went down. There were questions of pilot error or malfunction of the engine. The authorities could not do an inspection because they did not have the wreckage. It took a long time for the wreckage to be brought up and it was only brought up because of the families of the people who were killed in that terrible accident. The accident left a woman without her husband and children without their father. I also knew one family fairly well who lost their son. It was a devastating accident and it touched a lot of families, and a lot of lives.

However, there was stalling and finger pointing from all sides of the government and from the Transportation Safety Board. It took several years for them to bring up that wreckage to carry out an investigation into what really happened. I find that quite sad because those families needed some closure into the death of their loved ones and also because they had to work so hard. Here they were in the grieving process and they were out there trying to get answers and nothing was forthcoming.

It just points to, I hate to say, a lack of caring but that is how these people felt when they were ignored or they were let down. There was a lot of back and forth. It was just sad. I really have to commend Ms. Stevens for her diligence and for not letting this go when she was under so much stress. So, in a lot of ways, it is for her that we also want to make sure this bill is opposed.

She has written to me on several occasions and one of the things that she has stated with regard to getting some answers is:

The standards, regulations and oversight are very different between these classifications, [meaning air taxi and airline], and when you add to that the lack of union, professional association, lobby group or any form of real OH&S protection for the air taxi worker, then the situation is quite frightening.

When she says it is frightening, I know exactly what she means. At least once a year small planes go down in the various areas of my riding. Quite often, those planes are recovered and the people may be injured but not seriously hurt and can go back to work, but every once in a while we have the devastation that happened with Ms. Stevens' husband and the others in that crash.

My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster and others who have spoken on Bill C-7 are quite right to be concerned and to raise those concerns. We went through this back in the spring and here we are again in November raising the same concerns, so I hope the government is listening and will do the right thing and make sure the industry is kept safe.

The travelling public needs to know that and we all need to know that as we use airplanes more and more. Smaller airlines are popping up all over the place. We need to make sure that those airlines are strictly regulated, that there is oversight and that there are investigations when there are any signs of something going wrong. We do not want to see another Jetsgo fiasco in this country, with an airline that had a multitude of problems over several years and yet was deemed to be safe. We all know what happened with that.

We want to make sure the travelling public is safe and can travel with the certainty that they do not have to worry every time they get on an airplane. We also do not want to have another instance of what Ms. Stevens had to endure.

I thank my colleague again for raising these concerns so that we have an opportunity to speak to this legislation. I could go on for another half an hour and talk about the small airplanes and the commuters in my riding, but suffice it to say that the workers who travel on them and the communities that rely on them need to know that they are reliable and safe for the future.

The House resumed from October 31 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.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 1st, 2007 / 3:40 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, because the official opposition was in disarray or whatever, it was unprepared to stand in the House and ask the Thursday question last week. As a result, I was unable to inform the House that this week's theme is “Effective Economic Leadership”.

I am proud to say that to date, we have been very successful.

Yesterday, the House approved the government's budgetary and economic plan to provide tax relief to Canadians by reducing the GST to 5% and cutting personal and business income taxes.

Tomorrow, we will continue to provide effective economic leadership by debating Bill C-7, which would amend the Aeronautics Act; Bill C-15, which would assist in developing natural resources, in Nova Scotia in particular; Bill C-4, which would amend the Pilotage Act; and C-14, which would amend the Canada Post Act.

If time permits, we will also continue with our plan to tackle crime and strengthen security by debating Bill C-3, which would improve the security certificate process.

Next week will be “Honouring our Veterans Week”, allowing members to be in their ridings during this important time.

Today, I would like to recognize the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound who worked hard to make it a reality.

When the House resumes, we will carry on with our very full legislative agenda for democratic reform.

Therefore, I am proud to inform the House that the theme for that week will be “Strengthening our Federation through Democratic Reform Week”.

On Wednesday, November 14, the government will discuss Bill C-6 concerning the visual identification of voters.

We will also be debating legislation that we put on notice last night to address the issue of verification of residence for rural voters.

We hope that the opposition parties will work with the government to pass these two bills quickly before a general election or byelections take place.

We will continue to work toward increasing voter turnout by debating our expanded voting opportunities bill in committee, which would increase the number of advance polling days.

We will also move forward with other parts of our agenda to modernize Canadian democracy.

By debating and passing these legislative initiatives, we will strengthen Canada's political institutions and enhance public confidence in the integrity and accountability of those institutions.

Finally, Tuesday, November 13, will be a supply day, and today we will resume debate on the opposition motion.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.
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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 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 for the hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for his tireless work on behalf of the safety of Canadians who use our air services and certainly the workers in the industry as well.

Too many times in this House we have seen legislation pass that we later had regrets about or legislation that had unintended consequences. Similar to Bill C-7, there is another piece of legislation that had some drastic unintended consequences and no government to date, either Conservative or Liberal, has seen fit to bring forward the changes that are required. I am talking specifically about Bill C-31 in 1985, a bill that attempted to recognize discrimination against first nations women in this country who married non-first nations men and lost their status and reinstate their status. That bill, in effect, has a second generation cutoff. This means that many first nations children, male and female, will lose their status. In fact, we are seeing grave inequities in families where some grandchildren have status and some do not.

There is a reserve in Canada where the last status first nation person has been born. That is a bill with unintended consequences. I cannot believe that in 1985 the legislators of the day actually developed a bill that ensured that first nations would lose their status after a couple of generations.

That is why it is extremely important for the House to consider all of the ramifications of Bill C-7. We are talking about a piece of legislation that will have far-reaching consequences. My understanding is that it will set the future of safety practices in this country, until another government sees fit to change the legislation.

Part of this bill specifically deals with the fact that we are, in effect, going to hand over safety oversight to the industry itself. That is similar to putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

It is extremely important that the federal government maintain its responsibility to Canadians so that Canadians have confidence in the safety of this industry. The federal government has a responsibility in terms of federal oversight.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster mentioned that a number of expert witnesses have raised this issue. I want to refer to some of the very good words that he stated earlier this week in the House.

He said that despite the fact that the NDP brought forward very clear objections in this House, the Conservatives decided to push the bill through. He went on to talk about the fact that at the committee stage, major concerns and worries were brought forward by people who know the business better than anyone else.

Justice Virgil Moshansky, who ran the Dryden crash inquiry, brought forward major concerns with this bill. The inspectors from the Canadian Federal Pilots Association attended. Who knows safety better than the inspectors themselves? They talked about the attrition and downgrading of the key inspectors' roles in Canadian aviation.

One thing we know that can affect an outcome, even though one may not be forthcoming about that outcome, is to starve the system. When one does not invest in the human resources component of a government department and one does not have recruitment, training and retention strategies, one ensures there is a shortage. One of the arguments has been that because there is attrition among the inspectors, we need to offload inspection to the industry itself. That is a very shortsighted policy.

We have seen policy with unintended consequences in other government departments and in other areas where the government has a responsibility. A number of years ago, in the early 1990s I believe, there was a report that talked about the number of physicians who were graduating from universities. Half of that report was implemented, which has had some link to the serious shortage of physicians in today's world in health care, but the other half of the report, which talked about some of the other practices that were in place, was not implemented.

With respect to the aviation industry, the government has been starving the department in terms of investing in its human resources. We see this in fisheries as well. In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan, this year we have had historically the lowest return of chinook salmon ever, some 600 chinook, in the Cowichan River. Part of this is because of lack of investment in on the ground resources, in scientific and technical resources. It is an example of another department where the government is shirking its responsibility around federal oversight. We are seeing very direct effects in our community.

Aviation safety is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a life and death situation. Surely with any legislation that came forward that could impact on the safety of Canadians who are flying or on the workers, we would want to ensure that the appropriate resources were put in place so that the federal government could perform its responsibility in terms of federal oversight.

We are talking about transportation and the rail industry is another example of the consequences where the federal government is not involved in the way it should be. In British Columbia we have seen a number of derailments. There was a derailment about two kilometres from Golden in Kicking Horse Canyon where five cars went off the rail and spilled hydrochloric acid. My understanding is that one of the others cars contained sodium hydroxide. It was such a serious situation that one of the nearby schools had to be closed as a precautionary measure.

That is just one example in a long line of problems with railway safety in Canada. Part of that problem is directly related to the bill before us, in that the railway system has been self-managed. So we have an example in the transportation sector where we have abandoned our federal responsibility to a large extent and we are seeing the impact of self-management.

There has been a cutback in the very important role the public sector plays in watching over the transportation sector, a role which Canadians expect their government to play. When they fly or when they travel on the railway or live in a community where a rail line passes through, they expect that they and their community will be safe.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster said in a speech:

In 2005 we saw the highest number of railway accidents in nearly a decade, much higher than the 10 year rolling average that existed before.

We have seen an increase in railway accidents. We have seen, tragically, deaths in the Fraser Canyon this summer. We have seen environmental damage such as the Cheakamus Lake in the Squamish Estuary and Lake Wabamun in Alberta. We have seen consistently a greater number of railway accidents over the last few years. This is a matter of some concern.

The New Democratic Party pushed hard for the release of the CN safety audit. It is important that Canadians have access to those kinds of audits so that there is transparency and accountability, particularly when oversight has been offloaded to the industry.

Canadians value their railway system and their aviation system and they want to make sure that those systems are safe. They do not want to see the kinds of situations we have seen in British Columbia. There have been spills that have killed the fish in the rivers in British Columbia. Certainly from coast to coast we value the health of our rivers. I just talked about fish and those kinds of spills impact on a valuable natural resource.

Another thing we talked about was shipbuilding, where we are again seeing the erosion of another piece of the transportation sector in this country.

We just saw a mini-budget update that threw around tax cuts. When we talk about small and medium sized businesses, those tax cuts are valuable, but when we are talking about investment in infrastructure and about the health, safety and viability of our transportation sector, we are not seeing the kinds of investments that would ensure those transportation sectors remain safe and viable and continue to move toward meeting the needs of the 21st century and our economy.

On Vancouver Island, we have a very good example of a railway that the federal government is ignoring. We have tried, on a number of occasions, to get the transport minister to take a look at the E&N Railway and at how it can impact on our community, but to date we have had very little success. Once again, we in British Columbia, on Vancouver Island in particular, feel that we do not seem to count in this federation.

I again applaud the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for raising these important issues in the House. He has suggested an amendment that would ensure that the aviation management system will meet the needs of all Canadians. He has made some suggestions around amendments. He has done a tremendous amount of work in bringing amendments forward to the committee. I would suggest that if we do not want to have those unintended consequences, we should go forward with those amendments as suggested.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there was a question there except the defence of the Liberals' actions today and this historical development of the second whipped abstention in the history of our country.

The member suggested that the Liberals had some positive feelings and some negative feelings about the government's mini budget, but they chose to sit on the fence. They chose to sit on their hands, and by that silence, they gave their approval to the Conservative budget, which in fact reduces the GST by another percentage point, which the member says they are so concerned about.

The cut to the GST will cost us about $6 billion, money which could have been used to help deal with airline safety, which is part of Bill C-7, money that could have been used to put in place a child care program, money that could have been used to help housing conditions on reserves, money that could have been used to do all the things the Liberals like to talk about, but never do anything about.

With respect to Bill C-7, I suggest that perhaps today would be a good day for Liberals to break this pattern of acquiescence and start to stand up for some principles and agree with us that the bill ought to be sent back for another six months of study.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Today we are debating Bill C-7, the Aeronautics Act, and the amendment to it by the NDP today. All I am hearing is throne speech type discourse in here. We need to get everybody back on track and debate the Aeronautics Act and the motion before us. We do not need to be going off on little tangents.

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that you do your job, as you always do so well, and hold everybody on topic.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the comments made by the member for Winnipeg North with respect to Bill C-7 and the fiscal update today, all members in the House were elected to serve Canadians and to make government work, and in the case of Bill C-7, not delay improvements that will, in the opinion of the joint transportation committee, improve air safety. We Liberals clearly understand our role as the official opposition.

With respect to the fiscal update today, many of the financial update items were previously suggested by Liberals, such as corporate and personal income tax reductions. The fiscal update again reversed egregious previous increases to income tax at the lowest levels from 15% to 15.5%. The Conservatives are now taking it back to where it was previously. We are supportive of that.

Liberal members chose not to vote in support the update because of the GST reduction, which virtually all economists in the country says is wrong and is not the way to transfer the benefits that come from the surpluses back to Canadians. We do not want tax cuts and reversals to the original lower income tax rate of 15% to be lost.

I remind the NDP that it voted with the then opposition Conservatives, which ultimately resulted in the present Conservative government and the loss of many innovative and progressive Liberal government initiatives that contained important and positive social, environmental and economic legislation.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I certainly am speaking to Bill C-7, reflecting on the phenomenon in this place where the Liberals and the Conservatives are in such close cahoots, appearing to be almost a quasi-coalition government. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to Bill C-7, a bill that is supposed to be about protecting passengers when they fly across this land or around the world.

One cannot help but comment on the repeated occurrence of this phenomenon and question what we are here for and what the Liberals are doing if they are prepared to abdicate their responsibilities and not stand up for their principles. Maybe it is about political survival for the Liberals. Maybe it is about cowardice. In words that may sound familiar to members, the question that really needs to be asked is, is it cowardice or is it ideological symmetry?

With Bill C-7 we have evidence and proof that in fact those two parties are very close in their ideological perspectives, very similar in terms of how they address fundamental public issues of the day, because we are talking about an issue of fundamental importance in terms of public policy in the public interest.

Our job here is to ensure the safety of Canadians wherever they fly in this country, yet we have identified with this bill some serious flaws, some very serious problems that need to be addressed.

My colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has been working on this legislation constantly for many months. He knows this bill inside and out and is prepared to recommend to this House that we send it back for further study and amendment.

That does not demean the work that has been done on the bill to date. That does not suggest that the whole committee was wrong in its approach, but it does indicate that just because Liberals and Conservatives voted together on this bill, does it make it right? Does it make it good public policy? No.

I can think of all kinds of examples where the Liberals and the Conservatives have colluded. I can think of the finance committee last session when in fact we tried to get the government to address the question of banks gouging consumers through ATM fees. We tried to pass a simple motion to have the banks at least come clean with their records and account to Canadians how they charged fees, on what basis they charged fees, and how much profit they were making.

A motion was put before the finance committee demanding that the banks simply provide that information, nothing more. That was after we had tried to get the government to take some firm action with respect to bank fees, but the government refused. The Minister of Finance did his big song and dance and ended up wimping out after a discussion with the big banks.

What did the Liberals do when we asked for information, when we put forward a motion simply asking that the banks give us the information? They voted against that motion. They sided with the Conservatives. We could not tell the difference between the two parties. They were standing up for big banks. They were not standing up for ordinary consumers. They did nothing for all the students, seniors and low income people of this land who are being gouged daily by the fees that are set by banks. They did nothing.

That is an abdication of responsibility and we witnessed that again today. On black Wednesday, if you will, on October 31, 2007, the Liberals sat in their places and allowed the Conservatives' mini-budget to go through, which in fact eliminates the possibility of narrowing the prosperity gap in this country, of providing some supports to working families, and helping ordinary Canadians deal with the growing economic pressures in their lives.

That is the issue we are dealing with today. Bill C-7 is the perfect example of that kind of abdication of responsibility and collusion between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

The bill is still flawed. If the members across the way do not accept that, then maybe Canadians need to be reminded just who is speaking out on their behalf. The New Democrats are not about to sit down and let a bill go through that could be potentially dangerous to Canadians. We cannot not live with that kind of scenario and we will do everything we can to slow down the bill.

The Conservatives had a chance. When they prorogued the House, all bills died. They had a chance this time around to think twice, to reflect on what they had done and to decide not to bring back this old bill with a new number without any changes. They could have addressed the concerns of many organizations, and I want to just reference a few of them.

Let me start with the Canadian Federal Pilots Association. I would think that pilots, of any group in our society, should be taken seriously when we talk about airline safety. In fact, the Canadian Federal Pilots Association still is very concerned about the bill. Should we not take that seriously? Surely pilots know safety better than the inspectors themselves.

Should we not look at the fact that there has been a downgrading of the role of independent inspection? Should we not look at the self-regulating aspects of the legislation? Is that not enough to cause worry? If in fact we delegate authority that belongs in this place and with the Government of Canada to the industry itself, are we not asking for trouble? Are we not creating the potential for danger and harm to our citizens?

Surely it is incumbent upon us to practise the do no harm principle in every way we can. Every piece of legislation that deals with human safety and with the public interest should have that principle at its core. Whether we talk about food and regulation of safety of the food from an independent source, or about drugs and medications that people need, or about toys and other products, should our government of the day not stand up and say there must be an independent inspection force because we want to ensure that every product on the market and every public transportation means available to Canadians must be safe beyond a reasonable doubt?

However, the bill continues to move in the direction of a safety management system, or SMS as has been used repeatedly through this debate, where we have delegated responsibility away from government and to the industry itself. That on its own should be enough reason to send the bill back for further study and some changes.

It is not only the pilots association that has expressed concern about the bill. I want to reference, as my Liberal colleagues have, the labour movement.

The labour movement has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the bill. I think specifically of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents many of the workers on our airlines who know the issues first-hand. We know in fact that CUPE has continued to raise concerns about the bill. It is raising those concerns as we speak.

My colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has informed us of meetings that took place as recent as a week ago between CUPE and a senator around this issue and this bill.

Therefore, the concerns are alive and well. They are not a figment of our imagination. This is not a distortion for political purposes. This is a group of MPs in the House of Commons trying to get the best legislation possible. When it is as flawed as we believe it is, and that is verified by numerous sources and objective analysts from all walks of life in our society, then we have to do something about it.

There is not only concern about the whole question of regulation. Let us put this in the context of the last decade or so where we have seen, first Liberals and then Conservatives do everything possible to deregulate, privatize, outsource, offload and cutback every possible area in terms of the public interest, all in the interest of making profits more lucrative for the private sector.

This is precisely what is being questioned here today. Are we putting people's safety at risk in order to ensure greater profits for a private airline industry? If we cannot answer that and say there is no way people's lives will be put at risk in the name of bigger profit, then we cannot support the bill. No one in this place should support a bill if they cannot answer that question and know for certain that no one's life, health and safety will be put at risk.

There have been too many incidents in the last while around airline safety to not ask that question. Look at Jetsgo. My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster has raised this issue on numerous occasions. Look at the recent issue of planes almost colliding at Heathrow Airport recently.

This is an issue of paramount importance. Airline travel happens on such a regular basis in our country and around the world. We must ensure every possible means of safety are at hand when it comes to regulation in this whole field.

We are asking Parliament, and everyone in the House does not have to agree that the bill is bad, to agree with us that there are enough concerns that we ought to send the bill back for one more look and possible further amendments. This is all we are asking today.

Surely a six month delay is worth it. Surely we have that much time to ensure we have taken every measure against some future disastrous happening, some awful aviation disaster. Surely we owe that much to the citizens of this land. After all, is that not the purpose of us being here? Is it not our role to apply the do no harm principle at every step of the way, to not allow products on to the market or airline regulations to be put in place that forsake that principle? This is truly an abdication of responsibility and a dereliction of duty.

On this fateful day, we seem to have lost the minority government that Canadians elected. Gone is the Conservative minority government because of the Liberals, who decided to sit on their hands and allow the Conservative government to put through a ways and means motion, which in effect takes billions of dollars out of the future of this land and puts it into the pockets of big corporations and big business interests in this country.

We had a golden opportunity today with respect to the budget and with respect to Bill C-7, the bill on airline safety, to put the interests of Canadians first, and Parliament blew it. The Liberals sided with the Conservatives and allowed this to happen. They allowed $190 billion in fiscal capacity to be lost, money that could have been spent to ensure proper airline safety, money that could have been spent to ensure a quality child care program, money that could have been spent to address environmental concerns, money that could have dealt with the absolutely embarrassing conditions in first nations communities, money that could have been used to help ensure proper housing for the homeless and those people who live in despicable living quarters, money that could have been used to address $100 billion infrastructure deficit and money that could have been used to build a future for our country.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am on topic because, in fact, we are talking about another scary proposition, a bill going through that puts at risk the safety of airline passengers. This is another example of just how much those two parties have in common. It is interesting. We are discussing a bill that had its origins with the Liberals when they were in power in 2005, a bill that has been reintroduced by the Conservatives with a few changes.

I want to acknowledge for the members opposite, especially the Liberals who have risen in their places in such a defensive manner, to say yes, some amendments were made to this bill that were important, but those were not enough. The bill is still flawed. We still have serious reservations with this bill. That is why the New Democrats introduced the hoist motion today.

For those who are just tuning in to this moment in the history of this place, let us be clear about what has happened. My colleagues, the member for Windsor West and the critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, have moved a hoist motion. If that motion passes, and I hope the Liberals are thinking about this carefully, we can delay this bill for six months. This which would give us an opportunity to address the bill's weaknesses, to hear from the organizations that are still very concerned about this bill, to take a moment to pause and reflect on our role in this place to ensure that the public interest is protected above all else. Otherwise, what are we doing here?

We have an opportunity to ensure that the House of Commons reflects the concerns of Canadians and does its job, where we all do our jobs, where we stand in our places and try to come up with the best legislation possible.

It just so happens, by many objective accounts, that this bill is flawed. Bill C-7 is flawed. In fact, it can truthfully be described as the unsafe skies act. There is no question that there are problems with this legislation. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to do our jobs in this place. We must not sit on our hands and let something happen because we do not have the courage of our convictions.

My goodness, what did the Liberals really do today? They say they believe in defending the environment and putting money into programs to stop greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. What did they do? They sat in their places today and allowed a budget to go through that does not offer a single penny to deal with the problems that are facing our planet.

There is a party that likes to talk about standing up for the children of this land and for parents who need good quality child care, but there was not a penny in the mini-budget for child care. What did the Liberals do? They sat in their places and allowed the Conservative government's ways and means motion to go through. It actually wastes billions of dollars of fiscal capacity in tax breaks for corporations and does nothing--

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity just to question the member and make a comment. I appreciate actually that the former member who spoke pointed out that there is only one member from the NDP on the committee, and in fact on any committee.

I think it shows really what a remarkable job one member from the NDP does, stacked up against all the others, in bringing forward the real public interest on a bill such as this, Bill C-7.

I thank the member for pointing that out because I must say that our member on that committee at the time, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has really done an incredible job of going through the bill with a fine-tooth comb and highlighting the significant concerns.

It is very interesting to me to hear the Liberal members say that they think that the public interest has been met around safety concerns and that all of these arguments have been taken into account. When we read the bill with its amendments, we see what is still lacking in terms of, for example, immunity from prosecution for airlines that violate safety rules under certain conditions, and one has to be very alarmed.

Frankly, I am very surprised that members of the Liberal Party would now be supporting the bill. We know that they were the ones who actually brought it forward in the first place when they were the government. I think there is a huge concern about how we are chipping away at public safety. This is part of a political environment adopted by the Liberals and now by the Conservative government of deregulation, of privatization, and this has been very evident in the airline industry.

I have to ask the member, why does he believe that there is a rationalization and acceptability that there would be immunity from prosecution from airlines and that there would be greater power conferred on the minister? This clearly is not in the public interest, so how does he explain his position on this?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for North Vancouver for giving us a balanced view of what happened in this committee because the integrity of committee members was assailed by members of the NDP. They had one member present who went along with every single issue and amendment. We brought in witnesses, experts, union representatives, and employer and employee groups. The member for North Vancouver was there to listen to all of this and to formulate his own views about what happened.

Is it his opinion that all of the amendments that are now incorporated in Bill C-7 are part and parcel of the public input in a bill that is supposed to and does reflect the public interest? If his answer to that is positive, is he not shocked that members of the NDP, none of whom were actually present at this hearing, would characterize this as something completely different and alien from what transpired? Does he not think that that is an insult and contemptuous of the House of Commons and the members who worked diligently to achieve such legislation?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I used to work for CN 30-some years ago and I have seen quite a change in what I would consider the level of rail safety that has been deemed acceptable, and I am not quite as excited about those changes.

In fact, just removing the cabooses for the electronic light that was put on the back has taken people out of that particular venue of safety of watching what are known as hot boxes, and I am sure the member understands what that is.

However, coming back to Bill C-7, SMS is something like the fox watching the chickens because the hon. member is saying that the industry will be able to monitor itself and decide what risk is acceptable. I spoke on Bill C-6 in this House and every time members of this place get on board a plane they had better start thinking twice because this is a significant degradation of the safety of our airlines.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the common theme with all the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee was the concern that the safety management systems, the SMS, would be replacing regulatory oversight. Liberal members on the committee shared the concerns of the witnesses on the SMS and worked with members of the committee to ensure that management systems would not replace regulatory oversight and that the management systems would be just an extra layer of protection.

In addition, the Liberals listened to the witnesses' concerns on the possible reduction of aviation inspectors with the implementation of this management system. If Transport Canada was going to essentially diminish the role of the inspectorate or eliminate it altogether, Liberals would not support the bill.

Judge Virgil Moshansky, commissioner of the inquiry into the Air Ontario jetliner crash at Dryden, stressed the importance of the role of the inspectorate and the consequences that could occur if regulatory oversight is replaced.

Presently, it is my understanding from department officials and going through the bill clause by clause and adding amendments that the management systems, the SMS, will not replace the role of the inspectorate or eliminate it altogether.

Clearly, the committee had a sufficient airing of issues surrounding what was in Bill C-6, now Bill C-7. We did our work.

As the official opposition transport critic, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, offered yesterday in the House, we would be pleased to see a motion from the government requesting unanimous consent to have Bill C-7 passed at third reading today and such a motion would have my support.

As the opposition critic for the Pacific Gateway, which incidentally was also a Liberal idea that has been rebranded in blue by the current government, it has even used the same minister, I can speak to the urgency with which we as legislators must act when we commit to making such sweeping regulatory changes to any part of Canada's vast transportation modes and network, be they rail, port systems, or aeronautics, as found in Bill C-7.

While the benefits of robust measures to ensure public safety in all modes of transportation are obvious, the economic benefits that can be reaped by a streamlined and effective transportation system, with public safety as an absolutely essential component, cannot be ignored.

In the case of the Pacific Gateway, our competitors in the U.S. and Mexico are not waiting for Canada to get our house in order on transportation safety and infrastructure issues before expanding operations.

Embracing the unprecedented economic opportunities for Canada and the Asia-Pacific are not served by a prorogation of Parliament, which effectively slams the brakes on important transportation initiatives such as Bill C-7.

To repeat a point I made earlier, Bill C-7 sought to establish safety management systems that, generally speaking, establish voluntary reporting measures for employees and front line workers to report safety concerns to superiors in upper management.

Following the hearings, those witnesses expressed concerns that a system such as SMS should not completely replace ministerial oversight but instead serve as an additional layer of accountability, and amendments to this effect were accepted and became part of what is today Bill C-7.

This is an example of why I was insistent on such changes because they relate similarly to an issue that I have embraced, rail safety in Canada. The issues and concerns that have arisen in my home province in recent years following the sale of B.C. Rail to CN have brought to light many rail safety concerns.

Following a motion that I tabled at committee that was coincidentally passed exactly one year ago today, our committee began an extensive study on rail safety in Canada. It led to the minister announcing a special panel review of the Railway Safety Act. I testified before that panel in Vancouver. Unfortunately, prorogation of Parliament has delayed, but hopefully not stopped, our committee's report on rail safety.

In regard to rail safety, the Conservatives have not been open and accountable to Canadians. The Conservative Minister of Transport sat on results from a Transport Canada audit of CN for over a year. Previous Liberal transport minister Jean Lapierre, who had ordered the audits, had promised to make the findings public once the audits were completed. Under the Conservative government it was not until access to information requests and pressure from the committee compelled the government to quietly release the audit findings on its website with no fanfare, media advisory, or press releases.

Amending Bill C-7, the Aeronautics Act, relates to the rail safety issue. As in the case of rail, there is clear evidence of the need for an additional layer of safety reporting that ministerial oversight provides. In the case of rail safety, some examples of needed ministerial oversight include safety audits at CN which were ordered by the minister and conducted by Transport Canada, which brought to light many important concerns and section 31 ministerial orders that compel operators to comply.

In the case of rail, a system of SMS relying solely on employee reporting would prove problematic, as in the case of CN, because Transport Canada's audits as was revealed, there is a reluctance among employees to speak out on some safety issues for a variety of reasons.

Bill C-7, as reported back to the House last spring by our committee as Bill C-6, represents a balanced compromise, one that took into account a wide array of opinions from key stakeholders and cast partisanship aside in the name of public safety and ensuring a robust and successful aeronautics industry in Canada.

I encourage members to do the work Canadians sent us here to do in this minority Parliament and finally finish the work on this bill, so we can move on to other important issues that require our attention as parliamentarians.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a member of the transport, infrastructure and communities committee to speak in support of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This was formerly known as Bill C-6 and Bill C-62 before that. It was previously worked on by the transport, infrastructure and communities committee. I am pleased it was brought back to the House and that our extensive efforts at committee were not wasted.

The bill deals with integrated safety management systems, SMS for short. It also authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certified 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. This enactment is a proactive measure to assist in preventing airplane accidents from occurring.

Bill C-7 is yet another example of Liberal legislation from previous parliaments being brought forward by the Conservatives, albeit with a new name and minor cosmetic changes. Under the previous Liberal government, Bill C-62 began the dialogue on the issues that eventually became Bill C-6 and now Bill C-7.

The transport committee worked well on this bill. I commend our committee chair, the member for Brandon—Souris , for his excellent work as a chair who facilitated an open and generally positive exchange of ideas in the committee. I suspect the member for Brandon—Souris was not one of the Conservative committee chairs given the secret committee guide book on obstructing and controlling committee proceedings, as our committee was an example of how a minority Parliament should work, and that is what Canadians expect of their elected representatives.

The opposition's approach at the committee table was clear from day one. Public safety was and is our number one concern, not partisan politics as we have seen permeate so much of the government's manoeuvring in the 38th and now the 39th Parliament.

In Canada today there are numerous safety issues that require examination in all modes of transportation in Canada, namely the aeronautics safety measures such as those in Bill C-7, rail safety, port security and safety and marine shipping to name a few.

An issue that gets little attention is the manner in which the Conservative government reorganized the committees after forming a minority government last year. Under previous Liberal governments, the House of Commons had a single committee devoted to transport issues, the Standing Committee on Transport, providing a clear and manageable focus for the committee. Following the 2005-06 election and for reasons that have yet to be explained, the government decided to lump several key areas together in one committee, namely what we have now, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Clearly there are numerous transport issues today in Canada that should be reviewed by parliamentarians. However, the government decided that transport issues should receive only one-third of the attention of the committee as they ever have before.

Coming from a municipal background, I can also speak to the importance of infrastructure needs in our cities and communities. To suggest that urgent issues such as the looming municipal infrastructure crisis deserves only one-third of parliamentary committee time shows that the government is seriously out of touch with the needs of our cities.

One only needs to look at the comments of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on this week's economic statement to see the manner in which the Prime Minister has left municipalities and cities in the lurch.

Gordon Steeves, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated in a press release dated October 30:

The government has so far failed to tackle this [municipal infrastructure] deficit, one of the most critical issues facing Canada's cities and communities, with a long-term plan and commitment.

He said further:

Today's actions by the government leave this [municipal infrastructure] deficit untouched and continuing to grow, and the longer we fail to tackle it, the greater the cost when we finally do.

Despite the cooperative spirit and hard work done by all members of the committee, it was unfortunate that the bill died on the order paper following the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue and hence delay resuming Parliament in order to ultimately force confidence votes on the opposition apparently in the hope of forcing another federal election, which Canadians do not want.

It is a shame that we are double billing Canadian taxpayers for work already completed. Instead, we should be moving on to other new issues, such as the renewal and strengthening of Canada's Railway Safety Act, merely an example.

The transport, infrastructure and communities committee performed due diligence on the bill. We heard from many key witnesses, as stakeholders, such as the Air Line Pilots Association, Transport 2000 Canada, Union of Canadian Transport Employees, Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Air Canada Pilots Association, Canadian Federal Pilots Association, Helicopter Association of Canada, Teamsters Canada, Canadian Business Aviation Association, Air Transport Association of Canada, Canadian Airports Council, International Civil Aviation Organization, DaxAir Inc., Air Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, National Defence officials and Transport Canada officials.

The common theme with all of the witnesses who appeared before the committee—

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Before I resume debate, I want to respond to the point of order made with respect to the motion that Bill C-7 be read a third time six months hence, which I accepted in order at the time. There was no point of order immediately raised, but there was one very soon thereafter, raised by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

I want to report to the House that the Chair has considered the matter. Even though the motion is not exactly worded as we find in the example laid out for such motions, the motion's intent is clear, the wording is clear, and I find the motion still to be in order.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, much has been said today about the indecent relationship between the Liberals and Conservatives. It has led to a number of illegitimate births. We are seeing another one of those examples right here with Bill C-7, which basically provides for more secrecy, less safety and a get out of jail free card for corporate CEOs.

There is absolutely no way Canadians would support this and that is probably why the Conservatives are trying to fast track and push it through the House, because they expect, now that the Liberals have rolled over, that they can basically bring anything into the House. Fortunately, the NDP in this corner of the House is standing up for Canadians and for Canadians' air safety because it is so fundamental for a country as vast as ours.

I listened with great interest to the speech by the member for Windsor West. It is one of the best I have heard in the House on this issue of the unsafe skies act, the Conservative government's attempt to increase secrecy and diminish air safety. I want to ask him what he thinks is the motivation of the Liberals. Why would they support bad legislation that leads to unsafe skies, more risk for loved ones who are travelling in Canadian skies, more secrecy, and a get out of jail free card for corporate CEOs?

The Conservatives are pushing this forward as part of their wrong-headed agenda, but why are the Liberals supporting it? I would like to ask the member for Windsor West that question.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do have a question for my colleague from Windsor West. I was interested in the information that he brought to the House today, in the context of the debate on Bill C-7, about what is happening in the United States.

This very day, as I understand him, NASA is making a presentation to Congress, I believe, with the findings of its report on a survey done of all commercial pilots in the United States. Some very worrisome and problematic information was revealed. I would ask the member if he could expand on that a bit more, because I think we should all take note of this not only national but international concern with the state of our air transportation safety.

Second, I would like him to comment on a worrisome detail in Bill C-7 as it pertains to the critic area that I represent for the NDP: access to information. It is my understanding that Bill C-7 would actually take us backwards in terms of freedom of information and access to information. I am wondering how we could support a bill that actually promotes a shroud of secrecy over something as critically vital and important as air transportation safety.

If there is anything that the public has the right to know, surely it is that the air carriers that are carrying us and our loved ones are operating at the highest possible safety standard. We have a right to know that.

I do not think Canadians value their right to know, or perhaps they do not understand what a privilege having the right to know is and what a cornerstone of western democracy freedom of information and access to information represent. We have a saying that freedom of information is the oxygen democracy breathes. Anybody who takes steps to stifle freedom of information and access to information is taking us in a retrograde way away from true and open democracy.

I would ask my colleague if he would share with us, first, more details on the NASA issue going on in the United States and, second, how he feels about the culture of secrecy that allows corruption to flourish and encourages corruption, and not only in the previous Liberal government, which made it its trademark. If there was one single motif that ran through the 13 years of the Liberal governance of this country, it is that culture of secrecy that allowed corruption to flourish. Plus, it was a motif that was as simple as wallpaper.

I saw this Conservative government first promising to bring in access to information reform in the Federal Accountability Act and now breaking that very simple promise and hiding under the shroud of secrecy within the air transportation bill that it put before us today. I am disappointed, to say the least.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to again speak to Bill C-7. As the debate resumes in the House, I want to wish Canadians a safe and happy Halloween. I also would like to take this moment to wish my son, Wade, and daughter, Alexandria, fun tonight. I will not be with them but a lot of Canadians will be out having fun tonight.

With regard to Bill C-7, it is important and ironic that we have been able to carry over the debate to today because there have been significant movement with regard to this situation, in the last few hours in fact.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who has termed the bill the “unsafe skies act”, has been defending the interests of consumers and safety in this country by himself and is not getting any support in the last repertoire of debate between the Liberals and the Bloc.

It is important to note that today NASA actually had to come forward to the U.S. Congress with information showing there are far more safety issues out there than were ever recognized before. This bill would protect the interests of the industry, would remove accountability and it would not provide the security that is necessary.

The survey, which will be released by NASA, regarding pilots, which I will get into a little later, shows the amount of concern in the United States that this issue has in terms of airline safety.

I need to back up a little with regard to Bill C-7 so that those who are watching this debate understand the importance of why the airline industry needs the respect and the investment through Transport Canada and also the independence to be able to provide the type of supports and evaluation of safety and management risks that are so desperately needed.

We need to talk about a couple of facts. Canada actually has the second largest population of licensed pilots. We also have the second largest fleet of aircraft vehicles in the world. Right now there are more than 1,000 air operators carrying passengers across our skies. It is important to note that this is part of the national infrastructure. Our airline industry and how it supports passengers and cargo are very important to the future of economic prosperity.

The safety management system that the government is trying to introduce and which is being supported, although I cannot understand why, by the other parties, is something that loses the accountability aspect and will also threaten the viability of the industry if we actually have an erosion over safety and an erosion over the type of accountability that is necessary to ensure, first, that passengers feel confident in their airline services, and second, it does not address some of the issues that the airline industry faces that are challenges.

I did not get a chance to note the other day the fact that we in the industry committee have been studying a number of different intellectual property and theft issues. In my riding, the tool and die mould making industry, for example, we have seen parts from that industry replicated, ripped off and fraudulently put in automotive and aerospace products. That is important because what has ended up happening is some of those materials that are used are not validated or safe products.

In the industry committee we tabled a report on counterfeiting and we had evidence in front of us. It is not just the dollar store knock-off things happening out there. Hospitals in Canada is a good example where it was shown that one hospital actually had a circuit breaker that was supposedly CSA approved but it was a knock-off of a Canadian product.

In the past, we have seen aeronautic parts being used as part of the scam and scandals coming from overseas. These were not proper parts going into our vehicles. That was some of the evidence that we heard.

It is important to note that groups have said that the safety management system in Bill C-7, formerly Bill C-6, is problematic. We had a number of different witnesses before committee, but it is not just the witnesses who came forward who identified the problems in this industry and that there would be further problems, the department itself also said that.

There was an interesting report in the National Post entitled:

Report decries reduction of airline safety audits; Transport Canada reducing aviation regulations.

The government's own department actually identified that the assessment and risk in the industry would be increased. It disagreed with regard to the fact that a safety management system would be the best way to go. It identified that there would be further problems.

That is important because that validation is everything that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been saying. It also comes at a time when we see airline companies, like Air Canada for example, outsourcing some of their maintenance contracts.

What we are witnessing is a lack of accountability. When some of the maintenance contracts are outsourced, they are actually being moved overseas. What ends up happening is that we do not have the greater inspection, the accountability and the maintenance capacity. All those things become off jurisdiction and then Canadian passengers are very much put at risk.

I do want to move to the evaluation done by the NASA aviation system. This was big news in the United States. NASA actually did an independent survey of pilots across the United States related to everything from close calls to problems with the industry. When it completed the survey it would not release the results. In fact, under the freedom of information act, the Associated Press was able to get a hold of it but it took 14 months to get out. NASA at one time did not want to release the information because in its talking points on this, in terms of all the media, such as CNN and USA Today, it identified that it did not want to disclose the data and the information because it thought people would be scared.

What does that tell us? It tells us that even in the United States there are serious problems with the potential mishaps that can happen in the airline industry. Why would we want to abandon the whole operations, the controls and the accountability, and give the corporations basically a blank cheque in that department, whereas they will be the ones that will bring forth the problems and we will not even see all of them? That is unacceptable.

In this corner of the House, we have talked in the past about the fact that Canadian consumers want more information about everything from fees that are charged to the issues related to safety, and all those things. They did not want to have less of that.

The NASA report is actually in congress today. NASA spent $11.3 million on the research. The study was done on over a thousand pilots and it identified a series of problems that were happening.

I would say that study is another reason we need to back up at this point in time. We need to ensure we are doing the right thing. We know the Aeronautics Act has not been significantly changed in 20 years and we are supportive of some measures to change it but we do not want to lessen the accountability.

However, that has been the exact opposite of what we have actually had to do on major industries recently. I would point to the fact that the New Democrats were able to fight to get the Westray Mine bill passed through the House of Commons which actually created greater accountability.

Why are we backing up on this issue right now for the airline industry? I know, let us say for example in Ontario, we have witnessed deregulation through Transport Canada and a lessening of inspections on the railway systems and that has caused significant problems. That has been, I think, a loss. I think there is a greater accountability necessary, which is why I believe Transport Canada should play a better role.

We have had derailments in Ontario and in British Columbia. Those are things I think Canadians are concerned about. They do not want to have just an independent kind of incestuous examination of their own practices in-house by corporations.

What they do want is public accountability so that when they are travelling with their loved ones they know they will be safe. Also, for economic prosperity, we need to ensure that those companies that are investing in Canada, that have operations here, will get their goods and services appropriately on time to their destinations but without derailments and other types of problems.

We know that has happened in the rail sector, but now we are moving to the whole transport sector. We understand that the path to the future will be multimodal. It will be rail, air and cargo through trucks and transport and air will be a significant part of that new modern movement.

Why would we then start to abandon a system that, quite frankly, is one of the best in the world? We have some of the best air safety in the world. That is an asset for this country's economy, I would argue, and I would say it is worth making sure that we continue to have our own independent watchdog to complete the task that is necessary.

This industry has its ups and downs and a lot of turbulence and I quite frankly just cannot believe that the government is going to have the industry come forward and speak publicly about its problems. That could create concerns for its customer and it will not be the industry's first priority. Once again, that is another reason why we need to continue to have independence. When we have these types of changes, there certainly is a consequence for consumers. That is why we in the NDP do not accept this.

In wrapping up, I want to note that I appreciate the work the member for Burnaby—New Westminster has done on this issue.

Given the situation with NASA in the United States, in which NASA is currently before Congress, I think this is an opportunity for us to take a step back and improve the bill. Pilots in the United States were independently surveyed and have noted double the problems of ours in airline safety, with everything from near misses to other types of problems on the aircraft. This is an opportunity for us to take a step back and improve the bill, an opportunity to get the proper amendments in place so that we will have accountability and confidence in the system, not the erosion that we have now.

It is amazing to think that NASA, an agency in the United States, was more concerned about the profits of the airline industry as opposed to the interests of American citizens. NASA has been caught out there on this and is getting a lot of criticism for this. This type of scenario is not mythological scaremongering. This is happening today. Once again, it is time to take a step back, improve the bill and then move forward.

Therefore, I move:

That Bill C-7 be read a third time six months hence.

The House resumed from October 30 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.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act . I am pleased to support our party's opposition to this bill. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster did excellent work at the committee level and in making sure that this issue was raised throughout debate today.

I would like to cover some points that have not been addressed. They relate to the safety management system. A couple of things identify the importance of this bill.

We are not opposed to amending this bill and making a new aeronautics act, but at the same time, we want an improvement. Where we really have a difference of opinion is on the safety management system issue that is being advanced through this element. Nobody will disagree that we are literally turning the whole system over to the operators. We are giving them a blank cheque in terms of accountability. That is why we believe this bill needs to be defeated.

It is important to note that Canada has one of the safest aviation records. It is also key for our economic development. Thousands of passengers are shuttled about the country daily. At the same time, we see it as an opportunity for economic development in the future. Why would we put all that risk in that CEOs would not be accountable? Also, there is more secrecy in the industry. Consumers are put at the butt end of this bill.

That is why we believe there should be changes to this bill before it moves forward. That is very important. It is true that the legislation needs reformation. It has been through several machinations over the last number of years and there really have not been any consequential changes in 20 years to the legislation. We agree with that. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been trying to advance the issue so that at least we would be able to participate in supporting the bill, but we cannot do so because of its lack of accountability.

Also I think it would eventually undermine a real competitive advantage that we have in our industry. When it comes to safety and openness, that is what consumers want more of these days, not less. They want to know more about fees and charges and safety issues. They do not want to know less about them, nor do they want more obstructions. That is what this bill would do.

It is interesting that it is not just the New Democrats who are talking about this system having particular problems. Basically it is offloading Transport Canada by not investing in the infrastructure for public service when it comes to the safety management system. That is what it is really about, not putting the proper resources into our public service. It is not just the New Democrats who are talking about it; a report was commissioned by the department. CanWest News Service obtained a copy under the access to information act. The report showed that the department itself had concerns about this system going forward.

It is not just the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but the department itself has flagged this system as a potential problem. We have not seen the consequential changes necessary to alleviate our concerns, and I would argue, probably the department's concerns as well. There has been discussion about that.

I want to read a section of a National Post article which encapsulates some of the concerns:

Specifically, it states that cutting the audit program could increase the chances that certain problems won't be detected, that airlines “will not comply with regulatory requirements,” as well as cause the public to lose confidence in Canada's air safety systems.

Confidence in that business is very important. That is why we have seen a number of different issues. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster talked about the case of Jetsgo, where all these factors came forward later on despite the fact that a number of people could have reported these grievances.

We have seen it in the rail system. The Bloc has said that there are not enough inspectors in the rail system. We would agree with that. We have turned it over to the rail companies. We have seen continued problems and accidents across this country, in particular in British Columbia, but there have been others in Ontario. We have not seen the inspection levels that are really necessary to protect the public and also to maintain confidence in those transportation systems.

The solution is not to deregulate in this manner. The solution is to invest in better public services to ensure confidence in a thriving industry so that once again it will be competitive and reliable.

It is very important because so many other parts of our economy depend upon a viable air carrier service. It is not only the Jetsgo situation that raises concerns about air traffic safety and consumer confidence. For example, I know that the Danish authorities now have grounded the Bombardier planes that are used by Porter Airlines. This is not to suggest that those airplanes that Porter is using are deficient or that there are problems, but the fact of the matter is that the Danes using the same model have taken action.

What we on our side of the House believe should be happening is that the proper systems should be in place. Different from those of the corporate CEOs who have their interests, we should have them out there to protect the public interest. The public interest is served by the impartial regulatory system that is in place today. We would argue that if this capacity is increased it certainly would be better than deregulating to the actual corporate sector the entirety of our safety systems.

This is important because there is a bias and an interest from different employees and different management levels. We have seen this decision making across Canada at different times. Workers and people have been put at risk. Their values have been diminished because of the profits or the interests of those companies.

Jetsgo is a great example in terms of that. How much risk did there have to be or how many more accidents did it take before someone acted? We have seen the airline industry rise and fall in many respects and have a lot of challenges. If the airline industry is vulnerable to different issues, such as profitability and reporting to their shareholders, is it going to come forward and admit to the public some of its safety issues and problems when it could mean loss of profits for the industry and for their people's own personal wallets?

We would argue that this bill needs to go back. It needs more work. It needs to be improved, because it is important for our economy, for consumers and for the Canadian public at large.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by congratulating my colleague from Alfred-Pellan on an excellent presentation. In committee, he always improves on what is brought in, and that is important.

I have a question for him. In the end, the entire inspection service at Transport Canada should be maintained. The analysis with respect to the inspectors responsible for the supervision of civilian aviation has remained unchanged since 1996, plus or minus a few dozens, and efforts have been made to ensure that this inspection system would be maintained in the legislation.

The difference with the rail system is that a safety management system has been put in place, but there are hardly any inspectors left at Transport Canada to make sure that the tracks are in good condition. I hope I am not mistaken, but I understand that there are fewer than 50 across Canada. This is why it was important to us that the 400 plus inspectors in the inspection system at Transport Canada be maintained.

Does my hon. colleague feel that this inspection service provided by Transport Canada will be maintained under Bill C-7?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Bloc Québécois member for his comments.

I listened very carefully to the member who just indicated that he and his colleagues will be supporting Bill C-7. I also listened with rapt attention to the concerns that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster expressed.

Chills went up and down my spine, and probably the spines of many others as well, as I thought about the parallel between the possible safety hazards for airline and rail passengers and what happened in my province of Nova Scotia with the Westray mine. Basically, the company was put in charge of safety. There were inadequate regulations in place. It was an accident waiting to happen. Of course, it is well known that 26 lives were lost. It was absolutely predictable that this would happen.

I am particularly puzzled by the Bloc's support for this bill, because the province of Quebec, over time and across political lines, has always had a better understanding of the importance of strong regulations, an understanding of the structural requirements to ensure, in this case, health and safety, but in other cases other kinds of progressive measures and initiatives.

I want to understand the response from the member. Did he listen to the many interventions of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster when he raised the concern about how ill-advised it is to basically put, and I do not know if it works in French or not, the fox in charge of the henhouse?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-7, reintroducing Bill C-6 which we were debating before the House of Commons was prorogued by the present Conservative government.

After first reading and debate on second reading, the Bloc Québécois opposed Bill C-6—that is a fact. In fact, we had a number of misgivings about the safety management systems that would cover all aspects of safety and that did not provide us with guarantees that the scrupulous inspections done by the federal check pilots could continue. At the same time, we had a lot of indications to suggest that the number of check pilots would be reduced in the future.

I and my colleague from d'Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel made a serious and careful study of the bill. In committee, we held 11 meetings to hear witnesses from all the parties: pilots, federal officials and lobby groups. We also held six special meetings for the clause by clause study. After examining all of the clauses, we produced a report that has recently been tabled in the House, proposing 20 amendments to the bill.

Our concerns in the Bloc related specifically to the safety management system, and also the designated organizations, because we had no way of knowing precisely what their responsibilities would be in this system as a whole.

We heard the various parties, and even Mr. Justice Moshansky, an aviation expert, who conducted the probe into a major air crash. He told us that the clause dealing with designated organizations should be preserved, but narrowed. That is what we then did, taking into account all of the good comments received, and seeing clearly that this safety management system could produce good results.

It is important to note that opinion on many sides is that air safety in Canada is in very good shape, although it could still be improved. That is why, at second reading of Bill C-6, on November 7, 2006, the Bloc Québécois opposed the bill in principle in its original form. Not only did it not provide for improving safety, it ran the risk of having the reverse effect, based on the content of the bill at that time.

I would like to list a few of the main amendments to the Aeronautics Act proposed by Bill C-7. First, we are asking for additional regulation-making powers in relation to, for example, measures to reduce aircraft emissions and mitigate the impact of crew fatigue, and safety management systems for Canadian aviation document holders.

Another amendment relates to new powers, comparable to the powers of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, to be assigned to the Canadian Forces Airworthiness Investigative Authority, so that authority can investigate air accidents and incidents involving military personnel and civilian business operators.

A third amendment would add provisions to encourage aviation document holders to voluntarily report their safety concerns without fear of legal or disciplinary action.

We would then like to include provisions for greater self-regulation in low-risk segments of the airline industry.

And last, we are asking that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities be given more resources for enforcing the law and imposing more severe penalties on offenders.

The provisions of this new bill are identical, with a few exceptions, to those of Bill C-62. The majority of changes were proposed to improve and increase regulatory powers with the objective of facilitating the implementation of safety management systems.

According to the department, these systems constitute a new approach to safety. Rather than depending on surprise inspections, this new approach places the emphasis on monitoring the safety practices established by the airline companies themselves. For example, a company will implement its own training procedures for its staff. Transport Canada will ensure that these procedures achieve the objectives and are actually followed.

In addition, a voluntary reporting system provides a mechanism for employees to evaluate themselves, enabling them to improve and to set an example for their colleagues. Individuals will not be identified when the self-evaluation forms are made public, in order to allow staff to use this mechanism without fear of consequences.

According to the department, this new approach has had good results in Australia and Great Britain. The purpose is to correct mistakes or failings of which Transport Canada may never have heard. The department believes that this initiative will provide the assurance of additional safety because the company will police itself, even before Transport Canada gets involved. The department hopes to concentrate its resources on the most sensitive areas.

At second reading, on November 7, 2006, our main criticism of the bill was the establishment of safety management systems, or rather the fact that they were being formalized.

It is true that at first glance this mechanism seems promising because it enables all stakeholders to make a contribution toward the improvement of safety. To do that, it provides a certain immunity and confidentiality without compromising information currently available. However, those management systems could very well be a pretext for the department to abandon its obligation for monitoring and inspection so that, in the end, it would have the reverse effect of contributing to an increase in the risks associated with air transport.

Safety management systems effectively remove the burden of safety management from the shoulders of the government and place it on the airline companies that are told to regulate themselves. In the opinion of the Bloc Québécois, that does not make sense. In an industry as competitive as air transport, cost cutting is a necessity. Safety then becomes another expense that has to be reduced as much as possible. Without the standards and frequent inspections by qualified personnel, it is probable that the most negligent carrier will set the standard because its costs will be the lowest. From time to time, an accident will serve as punishment to those who go too far, just as one or more serious accidents will serve to remind parliamentarians that their role is not just to vote for legislation but also to ensure it is applied.

Since that scenario is not the one that we support, the Bloc Québécois has proposed amendments to maintain and improve the monitoring and inspection role of the department. Safety management systems will not replace the department's inspections and will be better defined and regulated. The testimony of Captain Daniel Maurino of the International Civil Aviation Organization before the committee on March 21 speaks for itself.

My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel told him at that time that what he said during his appearance before the committee was important, and that his words needed to be properly understood. Captain Maurino agreed that ICAO advocated that all safety management systems must be subject to regulatory supervision. In other words, ICAO believes that an SMS is another way of ensuring safety, but we still need to maintain a system of regulatory supervision. When asked that question by my Bloc Québécois colleague, Captain Maurino responded in the affirmative.

The Aeronautics Act will contain a clear definition of a safety management system. It will make the minister responsible because “The Minister shall maintain a program for the oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety established by the Minister.” The legislation will specify the minimum content of regulation of the safety management system.

Concretely, the Minister of Transport could designate one or several organizations under certain conditions.

In particular, the organization would be subject to an aeronautical safety study, and the results of the study must show that its activities represent a low level of risk in relation to aviation safety and security.

Once a year, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will table a list of all designated organizations in both houses of Parliament. Finally, the provisions dealing with designated organizations will only come into force three years after royal sanction of the legislation.

In the view of the Bloc Québécois, this amendment was necessary because, at present, Transport Canada is having some problems in establishing safety management systems. It would thus be premature to give the green light to designated organizations to implement SMS when the department was still testing them.

Captain Maurino from the ICAO summed up the situation following another question when my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel — who can be rather voluble —indicated to him that Transport Canada’s approach caused a problem for us.

I will quote the exchange between my colleague and Captain Maurino.

Mr. Mario Laframboise: You audited Transport Canada's operations in 2005. In March of 2006, after safety management systems were put in place, Transport Canada terminated the National Audit Program which targeted the eight largest air carriers in the country. This means that the eight largest air carriers are no longer subject to an annual audit.

I won't ask you a question about that, because perhaps you're embarrassed by Transport Canada's actions, but I don't feel that Transport Canada is being reasonable by terminating an audit program simply because safety management systems were put in place.

Would you agree with me?

Capt Daniel Maurino: Yes, sir. In any change there is a transition period. What is the safety picture going to be in 20 or 25 or 30 years' time? Nobody really knows. If SMS evolves to the potential that we hope it will achieve, there may be a scenario in which audits are no longer going to be necessary.

But we're at the beginning. I want to reinforce a notion that I have expressed already. We're talking about SMS as if SMS were a done deal. It is not. We're at the beginning. We haven't even landed. We haven't even started this campaign. I believe that what's going on here is the fate that trailblazers suffer, which is growing pains.

In many aspects, we're learning as we move, and we become wiser as we get additional feedback. What I'm trying to say is that this early in the game, taking any radical measures, whatever they might be, would be unwise. I think the elimination of an inspectorate force, audits, or other conventional mechanisms that have ensured safety in aviation for over sixty years would not be applicable until we are absolutely certain that what we're removing is being replaced by a better system.

I want to remind hon. members that Captain Daniel Maurino is the coordinator of Flight Safety and Human Factors for the International Civil Aviation Organization.

One of the Bloc Québécois' concerns involved the possible contradictions between Bill C-6 and certain parts of the Canada Labour Code. In court, the latter must apply. A number of amendments on this passed thanks to the Bloc Québécois. The provisions of the Canada Labour Code will prevail over the incompatible provisions of the Aeronautics Act.

With respect to protection for whistleblowers, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment to protect employees who provide safety information to Transport Canada inspectors in good faith. The amendment would prohibit holders of Canadian aviation documents from retaliating against such employees.

Amendments were also proposed to ensure that information used in SMSs, such as Transport Canada's audit and inspection reports, could be obtained through the Access to Information Act. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. As my colleague said earlier, you can't win 'em all. Once we see how well the law works, it will be clear what improvements are needed.

Even though senior Transport Canada officials said that these reports could be obtained, in practice, the legislation contains a list of exceptions that allow the department to withhold some information from the public. The Bloc Québécois would certainly have liked to change that with its amendments.

I want to emphasize that in the end, most of the Bloc Québécois' amendments to Bill C-7 were accepted, including the main ones concerning the maintenance of Transport Canada's monitoring and inspection measures and the monitoring of designated organizations.

These amendments make it possible for us to support this bill at third reading as amended by the Standing Committee on Transport.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I support the word wrong. I think Bill C-7 is simply wrong.

The witnesses who came before committee, not the ones who were trying to promote the theory of SMS, consistently said that with respect to the actual practicality of its application, this was the wrong bill. The parliamentary secretary is trying to pretend that is not the case. It happened. Witness after witness said this was the wrong bill.

Two classes of witnesses appeared before committee: those who supported the theory of SMS but did not in any way discuss the practicality of what was in Bill C-6 and what would be amended in Bill C-6; and those who said the practicality of how this would be implemented would be wrong for Canada and wrong for air safety. That was clearly a contradiction from the very beginning.

Conservatives continued to say that people spoke to SMS in theory so that must have meant they supported the bill. Very clearly, under questioning from the NDP and from other colleagues in the House, witness after witness said that the practical implementation of Bill C-6 was wrong for air safety. That was the conclusion, and that is why we are voting no.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened to rise in the debate on Bill C-7, which essentially is former Bill C-6, which the NDP stopped from being pushed through this House in June for the simple reason that this is clearly not in the public interest. I suppose that is why the government is pushing this forward on the eve of Halloween. This is just another way to scare Canadians, the unsafe skies act. The government is pushing forward legislation which inevitably, even though it may save some costs to government, is going to make our skies less safe.

The genesis of this goes back to the former Liberal government that was trying to do the same thing. The Liberals wanted to do the same thing to airlines that they did to the railways, and I will come back to that in a moment.

When the bill was introduced in the spring, Bloc members and NDP members voted against the bill at second reading. The bill went to committee. There was a whole range of amendments, pages and pages of amendments to fix this bad bill. As my colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence mentioned earlier, some amendments were adopted. There was some progress on the bill. We managed to fix about half of it. We managed to shore up two of the walls in this crumbling edifice that is air safety under the Conservative government, but the other two walls are there and are ready to fall at any minute.

For any member of this House to come forward and say that we have shored up two of the four crumbling walls, so we should fast track this bill through Parliament, I say that would be irresponsible. There are two walls ready to collapse at any time. The Conservatives refuse to fix the many bad aspects of this bad bill.

Regrettably, despite the fact that the NDP put forward the road map to actually get this bill to where the Conservatives purported to want to take it, half of those amendments that were proffered by the NDP, sometimes in conjunction with Bloc members or Liberal members, were rejected.

What we come to now is a bill that has some improvements, but under no circumstances should it be passed or fast tracked, because it has the major problems that the former bill had at second reading. The Bloc members voted against it at second reading, as did the NDP. To say that somehow this bill has been fixed I think would be trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Canadian public.

Let us go through some of the problems with the unsafe skies act of 2007, Bill C-7. Despite the fact that the NDP brought forward very clear objections in this House, the Conservatives have decided to push the bill through. The Conservatives seemingly have the cooperation of the Liberals again. I do not know if the Liberals are going to vote or not. This time they may actually vote. They did not vote on the throne speech. Regardless, to vote for this bill would be irresponsible. Let us look at the major concerns.

I should mention that at the committee stage, major concerns and worries were brought forward by people who know the business better than anyone else. Justice Virgil Moshansky, who ran the Dryden crash inquiry, brought forward major concerns with this bill.

We had the inspectors themselves, the Canadian Federal Pilots Association. Who knows safety better than the inspectors themselves? They talked about the attrition and the downgrading of the key inspector roles in Canadian aviation, and I will come back to that in a moment in regard to Jetsgo of which many Canadians are aware. The fact that the Canadian Federal Pilots Association would come forward should be a red flag for any member of this House.

We had the Canada Safety Council and some smaller air operators that raised legitimate concerns about having to compete with other air operators that have lower safety standards. They talked about what that would mean both to their ability to deliver safety and compete in a marketplace where safety should be the first and foremost function of air operators.

The committee heard from Ken Rubin, the access to information expert. The committee also heard from the Canadian Union of Public Employees which represents flight attendants.

There was a vast array of objections to this bill. There was a vast array of concerns raised, and despite the fact that some of the amendments were adopted, we are still at this place where half of the edifice is crumbling.

We need to be very careful about pushing this legislation through. We need to know what the implications will be for airline safety in the next year or in the next two or three years. The decision we make at third reading of Bill C-7 will have implications for Canadians and we need to be very careful about voting for it. Each member needs to weigh what the consequences could be for Canadian families before they rush to vote through the legislation.

The first area of concern that has not been addressed is the whole question of safety management systems. This is an area of huge concern because we have seen what happened to Canada's railways when safety management was turned over to them, Canadian National being the best example with its CEO Hunter Harrison. He has simply put into place a system that, according to many observers, is fast-tracking profits at the expense of safety.

In British Columbia, we know this perhaps better than Canadians in any other part of the country. We have seen an escalation of derailments, some involving deaths, many involving property damage and environmental devastation, and that has happened since safety management was turned over to the railways. The minister simply does not have the tools to ensure that our railway system functions in a safe way.

What has been the fallout from that? In the Fraser Canyon of British Columbia, Cheakamus River and Wabamun Lake in Alberta, we have seen environmental devastation and deaths.

Bill C-7 essentially turns over safety management systems to the airlines themselves. For some airlines that may be no problem at all. There are many responsible airline operators in this country and they will ensure that the highest possible standards are maintained, but that will not be the case for all air operators.

I would like to read into the record one of the articles that came out last year in the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator and the Kitchener-Waterloo Record about one particular air carrier. The headline reads:

Jetsgo problems ignored; Probe into death of the discount airline last year reveals major shortcomings of Transport Canada

National regulator was slow to take action as safety problems continue to climb, investigation shows

Transport Canada stood by while thousands of Canadians boarded Jetsgo planes amid a growing list of safety problems at the discount airline.

More than a year after the death of Jetsgo, Transport Canada insists it did the right thing in keeping the doomed airline flying and has not changed its procedures in light of the Jetsgo experience.

Jetsgo, which offered tickets as low as $1, had repeated mechanical breakdowns, shoddy maintenance practices, inexperienced pilots and midair mishaps.

Transport Canada, which is mandated to keep Canada's skies safe, knew of the problems, but for 2 1/2 years dismissed the troubles as the growing pains of a start-up operator.

Only after a near-crash in Calgary in January 2005 did it take tough action, but even after a special inspection the next month revealed serious trouble, the regulator continued to publicly tout the airline as “safe”.

Interviews with former employees, incident reports filed with Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board, and internal government documents paint a picture of an airline so badly run that some considered a major accident inevitable.

The Jetsgo experience underscores some of the major findings that are part of an ongoing investigation into aviation safety by The Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator and The Record of Waterloo Region. The probe has found a system struggling to keep up with the demands of higher passenger traffic and a disturbing number of mechanical problems.

It goes on to talk about the problems of Jetsgo itself. It reads:

Problems emerged early. Three months after the launch of the discount airline, sloppy maintenance forced an emergency landing in Toronto. The pilots noticed they were losing the hydraulic fluid that helps run aircraft systems.... Mechanics had installed a temporary hydraulic line with the wrong pressure rating, and it failed within two flights.

The article goes on about other incidents: leaking hydraulic fluid; engine failures; and a clogged engine oil filter that forced an emergency landing in Winnipeg.

The engine had been left in storage and didn't get a proper check when it was installed, according to a Transportation Safety Board report.

The article talks about flames coming out of an engine on a Jetsgo plane that had just left Toronto for Mexico. It goes on to talk about emergency landings and about organizational problems within the airline.

This one article alone should be a cause for alarm. Why are we turning over safety management systems to the airlines themselves when right now the system is not functioning properly and another Jetsgo could arise?

What we are doing with Bill C-7, if the Liberals and Conservatives get their way, is turning over safety management, as with Jetsgo, to the airline itself. What is wrong with this picture? How many Canadians would vote to have an airline like Jetsgo, with all those problems, repeated safety violations, have responsibility for its own safety management system?

In other words, let us keep cutting back on federal flight inspectors and let us keep the attrition rate high so we will gradually empty those positions out and we will not have the same safety oversight when the airline takes care of itself. What is wrong with this picture? How many Canadians would vote for this? Virtually none of them because they certainly would not want to see a system where their loved ones are in increased danger.

Instead of going for lower safety standards, we should be looking for higher safety standards. Absolutely nothing in Bill C-7 guarantees a higher level of safety, not one line.

Some amendments take some of the most egregious aspects of the former Liberal legislation and current Conservative legislation out, but there is nothing that indicates a higher level of safety when we have SMS, when we have airlines like Jetsgo that are essentially given a blank cheque to run their own safety management.

Clearly there are many reputable airline companies in Canada that will maintain a high standard but there are companies that clearly will not, which is why the NDP will not support Bill C-7. We do not believe we should be playing with the safety of Canadians. We do not believe in an unsafe skies act. We do not believe that the federal government should try to cut costs through attrition of simply not replacing federal flight inspectors, but that is okay because companies, like Jetsgo with repeated mechanical problems, can simply run themselves. It is simply not okay. That is only the first of the three egregious aspects.

Let us go on to number two, which is corporate CEOs, for example, of the aforementioned company. They get a get out of jail free card with no consequences for actions that are irresponsible or detrimental to the public interest. Essentially it is a get out of jail free card.

We spoke out very clearly about Bill C-6 in the House at second reading, at third reading and in committee that we do not believe corporate CEOs should be let off the hook when the public is in danger. We cannot provide a get out of jail free card to a corporate CEO. However, that is what Bill C-7 does.

We have talked about the safety aspects and about this get out of jail free card for corporate CEOs. Perhaps the most egregious one is the whole aspect of access to information, the access to information that is in the public interest.

We just talked about some of the problems around Jetsgo. This came out after Jetsgo stopped flying but these were problems that Canadians needed to know about. When Canadians put their loved ones on an air carrier they need to know that air carrier is being run responsibly and it is being run with all due attention to safety. That is of fundamental importance.

We have problems now with access to information in terms of flight safety and knowing which companies are acting responsibly and should be patronized, the airlines we should be putting our loved ones on because we know they are being run properly, responsibly and safely, and we need to know which companies are being run irresponsibly.

We can imagine how deeply felt it would be to lose a loved one and to know that the government knew about those safety issues and safety problems but did nothing about it and simply withheld that information from the public.

In Bill C-7, we now have an extension of more than seven areas on access to information, the flight attendant, the mechanic. The consumers will no longer be able to get that vital information on the safety of the air carrier from which they are purchasing their tickets. Perhaps that is the most egregious aspect of Bill C-7. What we have now is less safety and more secrecy.

When the Conservatives ran for election in 2006, they pretended they would run things differently, that they would somehow be a new government and it would be more responsible. They said that there would be a higher level of safety and less secrecy.

In Bill C-7, we are seeing the same old same old. We are seeing a continuation of the old Liberal agenda that covers up safety problem, that hands over direction for safety issues to company CEOs, and now, perhaps most strikingly unfair, it give those same company CEOs a get out of jail free card if they choose to diminish passenger safety.

Those three fundamental elements are not areas that the Liberals and Conservatives were not in favour of amending and that somehow we have a bill that is almost right. That is simply not true. This bill is fundamentally flawed and wrong. It puts Canadians in more danger. It keeps Canadians from knowing the truth about the airline they are putting their loved ones on and then, at the end of that whole process, it gives the company CEOs for those companies that choose to be irresponsible to increase their profit line, a get out of jail free card.

For those reasons, we simply cannot support Bill C-7. I would ask members in all four corners of the House to really reflect upon the legislation itself, not the political spin but what this would do to our airline industry. This continued agenda to offload costs from the federal government and put them on somebody else's back is not really in Canada's interest. Is it really in the public interest? We say that it is not. We cannot pretend it is in the public interest. We cannot pretend that less safety and more secrecy is in the public interest, no matter how we slice it.

The issue is quite simple now. We have here, in a very real sense, tragically, since the throne speech, a functional majority government. The Liberals have simply given up any opposition to the Conservative agenda. In fact, in most cases, if not all cases, it is a former Liberal agenda that has just been adopted by the Conservatives.

Nothing has changed in Ottawa. We still have the pushing forward with the support of lobbyists for things that are clearly not in the public interest. However, individual MPs still have the power to say no to their leaders. When it is not in the interest of the public, MPs, whether they are Conservatives, Liberals or Bloc members, can say no, that they will not vote for Bill C-7 because it is not in the public interest. They do not need to give in to this functional majority, where we simply allow in any piece of legislation, no matter how badly flawed and no matter how it makes the edifice of important elements, like air safety, crumble, and vote for it.

I would ask, on behalf of the NDP, that members in all four corners of the House vote down this legislation because it is not in the public interest. They should vote it down because it calls for more secrecy and because it is patently unfair. A CEO who breaks the law gets a get out of jail free card. They should vote it down because it essentially gives over the whole question of air safety to the company itself and takes the federal government out of ensuring passenger safety on Canada's airlines. That is wrong and that is why the NDP is voting no.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to allow the hon. Minister of Finance the opportunity to speak. As you know, the Bloc Québécois would have liked to see this budget statement given before this House, but of course, the NDP refused. I therefore had the pleasure of giving the Minister of Finance a few minutes to put on his show.

Once again, I would like to return to the safety management system. It is very important that our citizens clearly understand the changes preferred by the Bloc Québécois regarding this bill, particularly in the interest of their safety. Civil aviation must reassure its clientele, and this was the Bloc Québécois' guiding principle when we voted against Bill C-6 at second reading and as we worked in committee, trying to advance the bill and convince the government that it was off track.

Still we succeeded thanks to the testimony of various stakeholders who did a good job of making the government understand the situation. It finally agreed that civil aviation companies could not be allowed to have a security management system that would replace Transport Canada inspections. The Bloc Québécois wanted to ensure that the entire inspection service was kept, including the inspectors, check pilots, and all the people who can show up occasionally at companies without warning to ensure that they are complying with high security standards. This inspection service had been the great strength of the civil aviation security system in Canada and Quebec.

That was how we did it. Similarly, we were able to make our various partners understand that a vote against this bill on second reading could become a vote in favour of it so long as some important changes were made. I am quite happy with the results. In a minority government, it is the opposition parties that have a majority in committee and we managed together to re-work this bill so that the security management system would be supported and supervised by a good inspection system similar to what we used to have and to what the witnesses told us.

As I said before, the International Civil Aviation Organization representative came to tell us that when a country decides to go to a security management system, it should keep an inspection service to supervise it. That is what this bill does: the minister and Transport Canada are required to inspect the large airlines that have their own security management systems. The management system is just added to the entire security service. It does not replace Transport Canada’s inspection service but is added to the security already provided. This will enable employees to report security problems within the company to their employer without having to fear disciplinary action, thanks to an entire system established under this bill.

We obviously needed to ensure that employees who reveal information about security lapses are protected. We did not want to go so far as an informer system but chose rather a system that would help improve the company and improve its security. This whole system is supervised, and we were obliged, of course, to ensure that the Canada Labour Code took precedence over anything in the legislation. This took time, but the government and my colleagues in the opposition understood very well why we were doing it.

We needed to make sure that if employees had employability problems as a result of making statements within the framework of this system, their employment would be protected. As far as the Canada Labour Code is concerned, it was important to us that it take priority over this bill because this affected the interests of employees in the entire civil aviation system.

Obviously this safety management system starts with those who work on maintenance on the ground or those who take care of any type of maintenance of the plane, including pilots and cabin crew. All these people who work in the civil aviation industry and in a company are now part of this safety management system, which currently applies to the eight major airlines and will also apply to smaller companies.

As far as the smaller companies are concerned, Transport Canada came up with what is called a designated agency, whereby the smaller companies that take adventure tourists by jet or by helicopter to tourist destinations in northern Quebec or other parts of Canada, can be supervised by a designated agency.

Until the larger companies manage to establish a truly effective safety management system, properly inspected by Transport Canada, then it will be rather difficult hand off to designated agencies the companies that are beacons to every part of the industry, the smallest public air carriers, where there are fewer travellers than on the major airlines.

As long as there was no balance in the larger companies, we felt it was too soon to entrust this to other agencies, to create designated agencies to take care of the smaller companies that would have to follow the same safety standards as the larger companies. That is what we wanted to be sure of.

However, before delegating to intermediaries the monitoring of all these activities at smaller public airlines, we wanted to ensure that the system was well in place at major companies. This is why there will be a waiting period before the designated organization is established. Indeed, this organization may become operative three years after the bill receives royal assent. Therefore, designated organizations are maintained. Indeed, such organizations can be established under this legislation.

During those three years, Transport Canada will be able to properly select these organizations, so that we, and of course the public, can be quite familiar with the organizations that will monitor smaller companies. We must be in a position to ensure that they are properly inspected and monitored. It is possible that companies that build aircraft or other things be appointed as designated organizations. This is rather difficult, because these companies have clients.

We want to ensure that these people, because they deal with clients, tighten up safety standards somewhat. We want to ensure that an effective inspection and management system is in place, so that the people, the organizations or the companies that become designated organizations are well aware that they will be monitored by Transport Canada. This is why inspectors will be conducting on-site verifications and inspections at any time, at both larger and smaller carriers, so that everyone who may some day travel on a public airline will be truly protected, and so that their safety will never be compromised.

This is the objective that has always been behind the Bloc's statements in the House. This is why, as I said, we voted against Bill C-6, which is now Bill C-7, at second reading. That bill was incomplete, and it did not guarantee that the inspection system in Canada would be preserved. Instead, it suggested that the safety management system would replace Transport Canada's whole inspection system, which has been in place for the past 30 years.

This bill incorporates the same inspection service. We have been assured that the same number of inspectors will be maintained and perhaps even increased, if necessary. Moreover, the security management system within an operation will allow all employees, regardless of category, whether they work on the ground, in maintenance, in passenger service, as pilots or in other occupations, to file a complaint or disclose a breach of security, which would then enable Transport Canada to investigate any safety management system.

There would be Transport Canada specialists to verify the safety management system and there would also be inspectors to go into a company at any time to examine the quality and condition of aircraft, to determine whether pilots have the required skills, and so forth. All of that, of course, is intended to protect the safety and security of Quebeckers as well as that of Canadians.

On that point, we will never back down.

Apart from the safety management system, we agree with the objectives of this bill as presented: to maintain current monitoring and inspection measures; to qualify designated organizations by establishing a period of three years before they are authorized to exercise their responsibilities. During that period, Transport Canada will take the time to train, coach and supervise those organizations, and later, inspect them. Finally, this legislation will be harmonized with the Canada Labour Code.

If we are moving toward a system where employees have the privilege and the power to point out breaches of security within their operation, it is essential that those employees are protected. To do that, this bill must be harmonized with the Canada Labour Code. We want whistle blowers to be protected. In that way, people who file complaints or disclose breaches of security will be protected and there will be access to an audit and inspection report, through access to information procedures.

On the subject of access to information, the Conservative government still has the bad habit of making such reports as inaccessible as possible. That is not acceptable as part of a bill that provides for 95% of what we are asking for. Obviously, some documents will be made available to the public, but they will protect the great majority of documents from access to information.

Transport Canada and the federal government tell us that it is also necessary to protect the individuals who make those disclosures. Their names and other information must be hidden. We were ready to do that and even to give direction to the information commissioner. We are aware that this could cause problems for national security. Some information must not be disclosed.

However, for the rest, if we know that some employees have made disclosures after an accident, within a company where a safety management system has been established, we would want the entire file to be available to the public. We now understand that will not happen. Only a summary of the disclosure will be available to the public.

We have made some gains but some day there will have to be a real battle over this bill. Time will tell what kind of documents are provided through access to information.

We can understand that it is necessary to protect the names of the people who disclose information. We also understand that those must be voluntary disclosures. Accordingly, companies must encourage their employees to make voluntary disclosures. We can also understand that if the documents are made public, some companies would want to prevent employees from doing so.

We think that once the whole system is up and running, we will have to revisit the access to information issue. If ever an incident or a disaster were to occur, the people of Canada and the whole world would want to know about the company's safety record. That way, we would know whether such accidents happen often and whether companies are doing everything they can to prevent them.

All we are saying is that Transport Canada's report will be made public. The report will summarize briefly—or at length—audits of the company.

That means that we will never see the statements signed by employees. We will just have to accept Transport Canada's periodic audit reports. When Transport Canada audits a company, it has to keep an audit report that details certain criteria, requests and complaints submitted by the companies, but that does not name names. It will be pretty vague. In time, we will see how well this works.

Refusing to make these documents public is the Conservatives' modus operandi, as we have seen over the past few months.

We, the Bloc Québécois, are rather satisfied with the rest of Bill C-7. It differs significantly from what the Liberals introduced in Bill C-62 when they formed a minority government. It even differs significantly from what the Conservatives first introduced.

They copied and pasted what the Liberals did without consulting industry and without ensuring that appropriate safeguards would remain in place. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois was there to help our colleagues understand that once again, safety was about to be eroded. We protected the interests of Quebeckers and those of Canadians, and we are proud of that.

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.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

As several of my colleagues have said already, this is a bill that has evolved over the course of many discussions, including those held in committee. We must remember that before the Conservative government decided to prorogue the House, the Bloc Québécois had voted against this bill—which was then Bill C-6—at second reading. Today, we are supporting Bill C-7 because it has changed considerably. I will try to explain this.

Earlier, I was talking about the history of this bill to my Liberal colleague. In the previous Parliament, when the Liberal Party formed a minority government, it introduced Bill C-62, in November 2005. Like the bill now before the House, that was a bill to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. When the Conservatives, in turn, formed a minority government, they brought back that bill in almost identical form, but for a few words. Those are the facts.

When the Conservatives reinstated Bill C-6, they did not bother to ensure that it met the needs of the industry and the people responsible for safety. I am referring to Transport Canada inspectors, and any other agency with the very specific task of looking after safety. We must not forget that Transport Canada had already allowed the airlines to implement their own safety management system without having any legislation for overseeing that system. Before reintroducing Bill C-6, the Conservatives did not bother to make sure that the safety management system had been accredited, although it was included in Bill C-6.

For those who are listening to us, I will try to summarize what the safety management system is. What it does is allow companies to have an internal way of operating that makes it possible for employees to report safety violations within the company. Without this framework, employees might be deterred from working to develop the security management system because they were afraid of losing their job or being reprimanded by their superiors.

This was the Bloc’s big concern. We did not want the safety management system being proposed again in Bill C-6 to replace the entire inspection system in place at Transport Canada. That system is in fact the source of the excellent safety reputation of the entire civil aviation system in Canada, and obviously in Quebec, for the Quebeckers for whose interests we stand up every day in this House. In our opinion, it was very important that the safety management system not replace the entire Transport Canada inspection system. That is why we voted against Bill C-6 at second reading.

We asked that witnesses, including representatives of the International Civil Aviation Organization, be invited to explain to the committee the entire process of implementing the safety management system. Canada was indeed a leader in implementing the safety management system in civil aviation. However, the ICAO representative gave us to understand that implementing a safety management system inside the airline....

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by pointing out the Liberal member's conciliatory tone, and his desire to help this minority government work, going as far as groveling at times. I hope he will stand up to the Conservatives a little more firmly in the future.

That said, I should point out to him that Bill C-62 introduced under the Liberal majority government was nothing like the one before us today. A Liberal bill was introduced when the Liberals were in the majority. It was a far cry from this bill resulting from accommodations thanks to which we were able to open the government's eyes because, in a minority government situation, the opposition parties are in the majority at committee.

Just the same, I do hope that my hon. Liberal colleague realizes that Bill C-7 is not at all similar in nature to Bill C-62 introduced under the Liberal government.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

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.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.
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Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House today at third reading of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act.

The Aeronautics Act has been in place since 1919 and last underwent a major overhaul in the mid-1980s. Many of the amendments made at that time were aimed at enhancing the compliance and enforcement provisions of the act, including the establishment of the Civil Aviation Tribunal, which was later converted into the multi-model Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

The act was further amended in 1992 to authorize the making of interim orders by the transport minister, the making of agreements with provincial land use authorities for airport zoning, and to further enhance the compliance provisions of the Act. Other amendments were also made to enhance aviation security.

It has now been more than 20 years since the Aeronautics Act has had a substantial review and it is considered important and timely that the act be updated at this time to mostly improve the safety of the travelling public and to reflect the current needs of the aviation industry in our country. That is the goal of the government and that is the goal of the act.

Canada has the sixth largest aerospace manufacturing sector, the second largest population of licensed pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers and the second largest civil aviation aircraft fleet and over six million aircraft movements in Canada every year.

More than 1,000 air operators carry passengers and accommodate the needs of some of the most isolated places in the world. The aviation industry connects dozens of mid- and small-sized cities and towns in the country to the vast grid of worldwide air travel.

The aviation industry is also part of our competitive advantage in this global economy. To remain competitive globally, the industry must continue to improve its safety performance. While Canada is recognized worldwide as having an excellent safety record, in fact one of the best in the world, this enviable safety record does not mean that we can sit back and rest on our laurels and be complacent. In fact, we must move forward aggressively with better safety compliance.

In today's challenging and rapidly expanding world of aviation, the government is always looking for new ways to achieve a higher level of safety by improving the sound regulatory base on which the system currently operates.

The department has a responsibility as well to have the tools and the guidance in place to actively improve on the safety performance of an already very safe industry in Canada in anticipation of further growth and increased activity, while taking advantage of continuously evolving technology.

Allow me to summarize the various legislative steps through which the bill has already passed. The bill was introduced in the House on April 27, 2006, and second reading began shortly thereafter in May. During second reading, members in the House heard that the amendments proposed to update the Aeronautics Act would provide for a modern and flexible legislative framework that would enable a number of aviation safety enhancements over the next several years. It is very important to move forward with safety for Canadians, and the government is taking action on that front.

Members also heard that the bill placed emphasis on managing safety from an organizational perspective and expanded the enabling authority to facilitate the implementation of management systems as well as provided the protection provisions required to obtain safety information.

The bill also proposes increases in penalties that may be imposed under the current act. These penalties have not been increased for a number of years and the increases are intended to deter non-compliance to not allow violators to have business as usual and to pay and to live on a fine system.

A new part 2 of the act was also added to allow Canadian Forces investigators to have legal authority to investigate accidents involving civilian military personnel that were comparable to the authorities exercised by the Transportation Safety Board investigators in civilian accidents.

A number of housekeeping amendments will also clarify some relationships and ministerial authorities between the act and other acts, such as the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act and the Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act.

It is a very complicated issue, and it took our committee much time to deal with it at that time.

Consultations began on the amendments in 2000, first by Transport Canada and then continued when the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. for review in February 2007.

The committee heard from key transportation representatives from the private sector, all of whom share a commitment to aviation safety, as well as private individuals representing the public interest, officials of Transport Canada and, of course, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities who works so hard in the House.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the committee who worked with myself on this particular legislative initiative, especially for taking the time to hear more than 30 witnesses during this session and for conducting such a thorough review of the bill.

I am very pleased to comment on the improvements to Bill C-7 that were made by the committee. Committee members provided valuable input during consideration of the bill resulting in several refinements of the bill itself. Certainly the committee itself was seized with the issue of safety for Canadians as being our utmost concern. We believe the bill now addresses those issues.

Although there was broad support for passage of the bill, many witnesses requested some improvements to be made. The committee has considered these requests and a number of changes were made that will improve the regulatory framework, therefore benefiting all Canadians and, ultimately, the safety of all Canadians.

The enabling authority for safety management systems regulation is valid and authorized under the existing Aeronautics Act. Bill C-7 proposes amendments related to the management system to maximize their effectiveness and to further facilitate the implementation for certificate holders.

The amendments allow, in part, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to require by order certificate orders to enhance their safety management systems or take corrective measures when these systems are considered deficient.

SMS regulations are necessary to increase aviation safety. Safety management systems is not about self-regulation as was brought forward by at least one witness and it is not about deregulation. Rather, it is an additional layer over and above what we currently have in Canada, a layer that is considered to produce more safety for Canadians.

The role of the minister in the oversight of aviation safety was further clarified by an amendment stating that the minister shall carry out inspections of the aeronautic activities of holders of Canadian aviation documents who are required to have a management system.

With respect to the designation of organizations to certify certain segments of the industry, this new authority in the Aeronautics Act will not allow the minister to abdicate his oversight responsibility to an industry body. Indeed, these designated organizations will be allowed to monitor the activity of a specific segment of the industry if it represents a low risk level in relation to aviation safety.

The key is that the committee looked at the safety of Canadians and took it forward as the primary concern that we have.

An amendment was adopted at committee l to clarify under what circumstances organizations, whose activities relate to aeronautics, may be designated by the minister.

With respect to the reporting of safety information, the protection afforded by the proposed amendment will help nurture and sustain a safety culture, which is so important from the mechanics, to the baggage handlers, to the very pilots. This culture must be enhanced and encouraged and we would suggest that the bill goes some way in doing that. Employees can confidentially report safety deficiencies without fear of subsequent punitive action.

Amendments found in Bill C-7 provide for protection of those reporting information through a safety management system.

However, additional protection was introduced at committee after much discussion to clarify that a holder of a Canadian aviation document shall not use information disclosed by an employee under a safety management system process requiring or encouraging disclosure of information to take any disciplinary proceedings or take any reprisal adversely affecting working conditions against that employee who disclosed the information, provided that certain conditions are met.

It should be made clear that safety management systems do not relieve operators from compliance with any of the current Canadian aviation regulations and standards. It also does not eliminate the taking of enforcement action when necessary, including fines and/or suspensions.

On the contrary, the regulations actually add an additional layer of requirements for operators to establish integrated risk management programs aimed at taking proactive action before the issue of safety actually arises in a more serious way and to address safety issues before they develop into a more serious incident or accident.

I am also very pleased that during the report stage debate the House decided on motions following a fulsome discussion on this issue. While most of the motions that were accepted are editorial in nature and do not affect the substance of the bill, they do serve to improve the intent of the amendments.

An updated Aeronautics Act is absolutely essential to continue to advance aviation safety while respecting the continuously evolving operational environment in which operators find themselves.

I would, therefore, at this time encourage all members to vote to pass the bill so that our colleagues in the Senate can start the process of reviewing the bill without delay and we can keep Canadians safe.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Aeronautics ActRoutine proceedings

October 29th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Transport

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the special order made previously, I would like to inform you that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-6 was in the previous session at the time of prorogation.

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