Protecting Air Service Act

An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Lisa Raitt  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment provides for the continuation and resumption of air service operations and imposes a final arbitration selection process to resolve matters remaining in dispute between the parties.

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.

Votes

March 13, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
March 13, 2012 Passed That Bill C-33, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
March 13, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Committee of the Whole.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, we are treating this matter with great urgency. The facts are very simple. The economic impact of a work stoppage at Air Canada would be grave on the national economy and, indeed, it is grave on the travelling public and on the businesses.

As I mentioned in my remarks, 26,000 employees, 250,000 other employees associated with the airline would also see themselves not having a job. This is why we need to act quickly to ensure that a work stoppage does not happen.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, it is interesting to hear the opposition parties say that a work stoppage right now would have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the economy. Time and time again we have heard the opposition members express that.

I want to talk about air cargo. Could the minister elaborate a bit on the impact that a work stoppage would have on the movement of air cargo around the country and what impact that might have on the Canadian economy?

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, that is an excellent point from the member.

With respect to air cargo, air transportation is a key component of global supply chains, especially for perishables and pharmaceutical products. It is important to note that Air Canada transports about $466 million worth of goods each and every year. It is actually 22% of domestic capacity and 49% of international capacity.

These things are extremely important for global logistics chains as well as our domestic ones. That is why it is important for us to act quickly. I ask the opposition to join us in moving the bill through the House.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, I am going to go back to my previous life. Before I was a member of Parliament, I worked for 11 years with the Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club. In my capacity during the last four years of that time, my role was of national accounts manager. My job was to sell advertising, a very significant part of my workload with the Oilers and a very significant part of the revenue the Oilers brought in.

In that capacity, many of the clients I dealt with were based in Toronto and I lived in Edmonton. A big part of my job was to fly to Toronto to talk with my clients, to give presentations and show them the things we were doing and why it was important for them to spend money with the Edmonton Oilers to advertise their products. Those things were absolutely critical to bring in revenue.

Could the minister speak to the importance of business travel in maintaining the strength of the Canadian economy?

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to remind the House how important the comprehensive air services are that Air Canada provides. The services go to 59 Canadian large and small communities, 59 American and 60 international destinations, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America.

When we include ACE, Air Canada Express, which would also be affected in the work stoppage, that is over 80 destinations in Canada and the United States, as well as larger centres at off-peak times. On a daily basis, it is approximately 800 flights and combined with Air Canada it is over 1,100 flights a day, which are incredibly important to the travelling public and businesses in Canada.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, there are six bargaining units at Air Canada that we have been dealing with since I became minister in January 2010. Indeed, in all of them there was a very large amount of effort put in by the officials at Labour Canada, be it through either mediation or conciliation services, and in two of the cases we took extraordinary measures of appointing outside conciliators in order to help the process along. There is much expense, time and effort put into it because, quite frankly, at the end of the day avoiding an impasse and having to utilize valuable time in the House in order to pass legislation of such an extraordinary measure is one that we would like to avoid.

In fact, putting the work in at the beginning is the way we should be doing it. I am very proud of all the efforts we have put into this. Unfortunately, with all the labour that we have put into these files, it has not yielded results in these two cases and that is why we are moving to act today.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, we have asked the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to take a look at the issue of whether operations need to continue in a work stoppage. Simply put, the parties at the table did not do the analysis as to what the health and safety ramifications would be on the public interest.

As we have said throughout, we are here to act in the best interests of the public. That includes not only the economic and travelling portions of the public interest, but also health and safety. Quite frankly, there are communities that would not have service. There are 15 communities that definitely would not have service should Air Canada have a work stoppage. Those are communities that would need to have some kind of alternative air service that is not available to them, especially when it came to transporting passengers, cargo, pharmaceuticals or perishables to their home communities.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, tourism is also an important part of the Canadian economy. We are heading into March break when Canadian families are going to be travelling across the country to see other family members or maybe to visit some of the Canada's great tourist destinations at this beautiful time of the year.

Could the hon. minister comment on the impact of a work stoppage on tourism in Canada?

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, in speaking to the importance of the airlines, I have already mentioned the number of flights Air Canada has per day, including its affiliation with Air Canada Express. As well, we can draw from different examples around the world.

In October of this past year there was a grounding of the Qantas fleet in Australia. The Australian government referred the matter to its Fair Work Australia board, which is much like our CIRB. It found in that case, in a geography that is very similar to ours, the size of an airline that is very similar to ours, in a hub system that is very similar to ours, the impact on tourism was such that it was of economic significance. It did order the airline to commence operations again and stop the industrial action that was happening with respect to strikes by pilots and the shutting down of the airline by the airline itself.

It was a very similar situation to what we have here today with a work stoppage being threatened by both a lockout by management and a strike by employees. We take the matter seriously and that is why we are moving on it.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, the argument from the other side is that no one will be affected by this. It is estimated that 70,000 passengers per day will be affected or displaced by a work stoppage at Air Canada. The number of affected passengers will increase for each day the work stoppage continues.

I would like to ask the minister to comment on the opposition comments that nobody will be affected by this and that it will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the Canadian economy.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, Air Canada, when Air Canada Express is included, carries on average about 103,000 passengers per day and that is easily one million passengers. That is a lot of people who are flying either because of travel for leisure or business. Every one of those people would have to make alternate arrangements.

The reality of the matter is that no matter how great an airline WestJet is, no matter how great an airline Porter is, and the great services those airlines provide, Air Canada is 3.7 times bigger than its nearest domestic competitor in the version of WestJet. Other air carriers do not have the capacity to carry the passengers that would be displaced.

A work stoppage would have an immediate effect. Passengers would be stranded. Stories in the press would be about those individuals and families who would be stranded in a place that is not their home. That is why we are acting in the best interests of the Canadian public, and not picking a side at the table as the opposition is doing with respect to the unions.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, I am looking at testimony before the Senate Standing Committee on Transport and Communications on October 26, 2011. At that meeting Air Canada Pilots Association president Captain Paul Strachan appeared. At that committee Senator Merchant asked, “In recent days the travelling public is beginning to ask whether Air Canada is an essential service. You advocate on behalf of the airline industry. What do you say?” Mr. Strachan replied, “I think it is essential for this country. As we sit here today, it is absolutely essential. It is a cornerstone of our entire economy. It is a national asset”.

I would ask the hon. minister for her comments on that statement.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, we agree with the analysis of Captain Strachan when he gave his testimony before the Senate committee. It caught our attention because it was a very clear statement by the Air Canada Pilots Association of what it felt its role was.

That is why we were very concerned and disappointed when we asked them not to take a strike vote because they themselves acknowledged they were essential to the recovery. We offered to give them interest-based mediation arbitration with the company but they turned it down, even though they felt they were essential to the economy, even though they knew what the impact would be. We offered them a process that the company had agreed to, but they opted not to take it. They opted to take a strike vote.

That was an important telling tale for me as to what would be coming in the future. Without being able to have any kind of agreement between the parties, we have to act now. We have to ensure that there is no work stoppage.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Chair, one question that comes up as we are thinking about this is whether there have been other strikes at Air Canada in the past and whether the government has ever intervened and introduced back to work legislation in the airline industry.

There have been other strikes at Air Canada in the past. In June 2011 there was a three day strike by the customer sales and service agents at Air Canada. Members might remember that the government introduced Bill C-5, an act to provide for the resumption and continuation of air service operations, to end their strike action. However, Bill C-5 was not enacted as the parties reached a new collective agreement that will be in effect until February 28, 2015.

My question for the hon. minister is whether there have been other strikes on top of those in the past and whether the government has ever intervened.

Protecting Air Service ActGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2012 / 11:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Chair, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, indeed since 1984 there have been 35 work stoppages in the air transportation industry. Six of them have been with Air Canada.

The one we were speaking about earlier was the situation involving the pilots in 1998, when there was a 13 day strike. That strike cost Air Canada $300 million according to media reports. It cost the Canadian economy $133 million.

I would ask the opposition, exactly what did the pilots get in return for those 13 days in which they held up the country with the inability to travel? Was it worth the $133 million to our economy? I do not think it was.