In fact, Mr. Speaker, in the fall of 2016, the Minister of Transport exempted from the 25% ownership restrictions two companies that wanted to enter the Canadian market supported by increased foreign investment. This decision is now permitting Enerjet and Jetlines to pursue their intention to create low-cost carrier service to Canadians. With liberalized foreign investment provisions, Canadians would have more frequent access to air travel within and from Canada to transborder and international locations.
Like most countries, Canada limits international ownership and control of domestic air carriers. As I mentioned, under the Canada Transportation Act, non-Canadians currently cannot possess more than 25% of the voting shares of a Canadian carrier. Additionally, Canadian air carriers must also be controlled by Canadians, which means they may not be subject to controlling influence by international investors.
Limits on foreign ownership and control of air carriers are the norm around the world. For example, in the United States, the limit is 25%, while the European Union, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand allow up to 49%, and Japan allows 33.3%. Limits vary depending on the circumstance of each region. However, Canada's current ownership limits may be acting as a barrier to new services and enhanced competition.
Earlier I mentioned that the two prospective ultra-low-cost carriers, Canada Jetlines and Enerjet, have already applied for and received exemptions to the current limits on international ownership from the Minister of Transport. This was granted because both companies successfully argued that, under the current 25% limit, there is insufficient risk capital in the Canadian market to support the launch of new services.
Reflecting on this reality and the Canada Transportation Act review recommendations, the government is proposing changes that would allow international investors to own up to 49% of the voting shares of Canadian air carriers, by introducing legislation that would amend the act and other relevant acts. As I mentioned earlier, countries have different approaches to international ownership of air carriers, and our government wants to make sure that Canadian air carriers compete on a level playing field.
To protect the competitiveness of our air sector and support connectivity, no single international investor or any combination of international air carriers would be allowed to own more than 25%, but how would this benefit Canadian travellers? The direct impact of higher levels of international investment is that Canadian air carriers would have access to a wider pool of risk capital. This would allow air carriers to be better funded and could allow new carriers, which are otherwise not able to find sufficient risk capital, to enter the Canadian market.
New carriers, including ultra-low-cost carriers offering extremely competitive prices, are expected to bring more competition into the entire Canadian air travel sector. This could, in turn, reduce the cost of air transportation and open new markets to Canadian consumers and shippers. Small markets currently underserved by existing carriers could also benefit from services by new carriers. For example, airports in smaller cities that currently offer services to a very limited number of destinations could benefit from the addition of new services since we know that ultra-low-cost carriers use these smaller airports as their hubs. All of this could lead to more choice when purchasing airline tickets, more travel destinations for all travellers, including those from smaller cities, and lower prices for Canadian travellers. Additionally, there could also be benefits for airports and suppliers and the entire country, as more jobs are added to the Canadian economy.
Another improvement to the air travel sector in this bill is that it proposes a new transparent and predictable process for the authorization of joint ventures between air carriers, taking into account competition and wider public interest considerations. Joint ventures are a common practice in the global air transport sector. They enable two or more air carriers to coordinate functions on specific routes, including scheduling, pricing, revenue management, and marketing and sales. In Canada, air carrier joint ventures are currently examined from the perspective of possible harm to competition by the Competition Bureau under the Competition Act.
Unlike many other countries, notably the United States, Canada's current approach does not allow for the consideration of the wider public interest benefits other than competition and economic impacts. Furthermore, the bureau's review is not subject to specific timelines. This raises concerns that the current approach to assessing joint ventures may make Canadian carriers less attractive to global counterparts as joint venture partners and may limit the ability of Canadian carriers to engage in this industry trend.
The bill before us in the House proposes amendments that would allow the minister to consider and approve air carrier joint ventures, taking into account competition considerations. On this latter concern, the current transport minister would work in close consultation with the commissioner of competition to ensure that he or she was properly informed regarding any concerns he or she may have with regard to competition. Air carriers that chose to have their proposed joint ventures assessed through the new process would be given clear timelines for an expected decision.
Providing Canada's air carriers with such a tool would also benefit the air traveller. By joining up networks, air carriers could allow seamless travel to a wide range of destinations and could reduce the duplication of functions. For Canadians, this could mean more seamless access to key global markets, easier inbound travel in support of tourism and business, and increased transiting traffic through our airports, thus increasing flight options.
Globally, airports are making unprecedented investments in passenger screening to facilitate passenger travel and to gain global economic advantages. Canada's largest airports have expressed interest in making significant investments in passenger screening, either through an additional workforce or technology innovation. Smaller airports have also shown interest in obtaining access to screening services to promote local economic development. In the last two years alone, 10 small airports across Canada have requested screening services.
The proposed amendments to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act are important, as they would create a more flexible framework to allow CATSA to provide these services on a cost-recovery basis, which would in turn allow Canada to maintain an aviation system that is both secure and cost-effective. It would also strengthen Canadian communities' competitiveness as they attracted new commercial routes.
That is not all the transportation modernization act would do. Bill C-49 proposes to mandate the Canadian Transportation Agency to develop, in partnership with Transport Canada, new regulations to enhance Canada's air passenger rights. These new rules would ensure that air passenger rights were clear, consistent, and fair for both travellers and air carriers. When passengers purchase an airline ticket they expect and deserve that the airline will fulfill its part of the transaction. When that agreement is not fulfilled, passengers deserve clear, transparent, and enforceable standards of treatment and compensation for such situations.
Under the proposed legislation, Canadians would benefit from a uniform, predictable, and reasonable approach. The details of the new approach would be elaborated through the regulatory process, which would include consultations with Canadians and the air stakeholders. My objective is to ensure that Canadians have a clear understanding of their rights as air travellers without negatively impacting access to air services and the cost of air travel for Canadians.
Bill C-49 specifies that the regulations would include provisions regarding the following most frequently experienced irritants: providing passengers with plain language information about carriers' obligations and how to seek compensation or file complaints; setting standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of overbooking, delays, and cancellations, including compensation; standardizing compensation levels for lost or damaged baggage; establishing standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of tarmac delays over a certain period of time; seating children close to a parent or guardian at no extra charge; and requiring air carriers to develop standards for transporting musical instruments.
The minister has been clear that he intends that the regulations include provisions ensuring that no Canadian is involuntarily removed from an aircraft due to overbooking after having boarded. The minister has issued a challenge to Canada's air carriers on this matter, on seating arrangements for minors, and on moving to strengthen air practices even before new passenger rights are finalized.
The bill also proposes that data could be required from all parties in the air sector to monitor the air traveller experience, including compliance with the proposed passenger rights approach. This data would also inform any future policy or regulatory actions taken by the Minister of Transport to ensure that the air traveller experience to, within, and out of Canada was efficient and effective.
To finish, I will underscore that the experience of Canadian air travellers is a priority for the Government of Canada. We know that it is also a priority for Canadians. This is why we have proposed to increase international ownership restrictions for Canadian carriers. It is why we are proposing new rules on joint ventures that would help create greater efficiencies and more choices for Canadian travellers. It is why we are proposing some modest changes to the provisions of CATSA screening services that should help air passengers transit through airports more quickly. Finally, it is why we are creating a legislative framework so that Canadians can finally benefit from an air travellers' bill of rights.
Once these new measures were in place, they could help lower prices, support increased competition among air carriers, provide more choice to Canadians when it comes to purchasing tickets, and improve service and connectivity for all Canadians and Canadian travellers.