Two other expert witnesses, Professor Fred Lazar, a well-known and respected economist at York University, and economist Arthur Donner appeared before the legislative committee in 1988. They stated:
The new company’s private shareholders will have no other choice than to take legal action against the government to amend the section referring to the overhaul centres. Maintaining the overhaul centres is public policy, as is the Official Languages Act. These are public policy decisions that I regard as part of the public policy role.
The final experts invited by the legislative committee in 1988 were Air Canada President Pierre Jeaniot and Claude Taylor, Chairman of the Board. Here are a few questions they were asked:
"Could Air Canada consider getting rid of its maintenance centres, even if this does not appear in the Act?"
Mr. Jeaniot replied: "No."
"What would be your definition of an overhaul centre?"
Mr. Jeaniot replied: "You can just about strip an airplane completely and rebuild it. The physical centres that have that kind of capability are referred to as overhaul centres."
When Michel Bissonnette, Senior Director, Engines and Airframe Maintenance, appeared before the Transport Committee, he confirmed Mr. Jeaniot’s position regarding the definition of an overhaul centre. He stated: "The overhaul centres perform what I would call major repairs. They look after long-term maintenance of engines, cells and components."
This lent credibility to the Conservative politicians of the day.
Conservative MP George Minaker stated in response to the unions, including the International Association of Machinists, that the Act protects us and the employees from any attempt by Air Canada to get rid of or to sell its operational and overhaul centres. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Privy Council, Jim Hawkes, added that employees’ workplace, their benefits, their future, all of that is guaranteed.
In hindsight, we must thank the opposition parties for asking many experts to appear and for having questioned the Conservative Party which, in view of the upcoming election, had to be clear on the question of the overhaul centres. If the government of the day had not provided iron-clad protection, thousands of workers at the overhaul centres would be out of work and Air Canada would be operating like low-end companies that award maintenance contracts to countries such as El Salvador and Costa Rica, which do not have the same quality and safety standards.
If the government does not enforce the Act, the concerns raised by Liberal MPs Grondin and MacLellan would be justified. The MPs said:
With privatization, Canadians will be stuck with the bill once again. The services offered as well as passenger safety will decrease since profit will be the company’s only goal. What will happen if the company subcontracts outside Canada?
In enacting legislation that guaranteed the preservation of the operational and overhaul centres, the government of the day guaranteed flawless maintenance service to ensure passenger safety. This safety is due to our conscientious, professional and experienced mechanics, who ensure that Air Canada passengers have a safe trip. If maintenance is no longer performed by Air Canada at its overhaul centres, but by subcontractors such as Aeroman in El Salvador, the safety level will obviously decrease.
If the Act is not enforced and upheld, you could one day have to answer to Canadian taxpayers, the media, the people closest to you and, ultimately, yourself. Why did you play with the safety of your fellow citizens? You can imagine the worst scenario. One day, you could be the victim.