Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank you for the invitation. We're here today to talk about the Air Canada Public Participation Act, or ACPPA, as it's commonly known.
I will not discuss in detail the history of Air Canada's privatization or the creation of Aveos as a private company. I think you already know the facts about that.
However, I want to highlight a number of points.
It's worth recalling the context for the legislation that governed the privatization of Air Canada. The late 1980s and early 1990s were a period of major change in the aviation field, as elements that had previously been part of government were privatized or their operations devolved to the private sector. This was a phenomenon that was seen elsewhere in the world and not just in Canada, but it's helpful to view ACPPA in that context.
From a policy standpoint, devolution was intended to put these companies into the private commercial sector and allow them to operate and make decisions based on market considerations, with a view to growth and financial independence. The parameters of the ACPPA legislation that were put in place at that time, and which remain in place today, flow from this philosophy and this approach.
However, certain obligations were maintained in the bill that governed Air Canada's privatization.
Air Canada was required to maintain official language obligations and it was required to include in its articles of continuance provisions requiring the corporation to maintain operational and overhaul centres in Mississauga, Montreal, and Winnipeg, and its head office in Montreal. I'll come back to the specifics of some of these obligations shortly.
For now, I would like to note that the government of the day and Parliament would seem to have sought a delicate balance between the continuing obligations imposed on Air Canada and the desire to create a private company functioning in a commercial marketplace.
The second point I want to bring to your attention was also raised by Minister Lebel when he appeared on Tuesday. Air Canada and Aveos are private companies that make their own decisions. The separation of Air Canada and Aveos took seven years, which is quite a remarkable period of time in itself, before finally becoming official in 2011.
Third, I wanted to share with you the context in which these industries operate today. Aviation is a global business, as we heard during the previous presentation. Whether we're talking about carriers or maintenance, repair, and overhaul companies, the environment in which they operate is global. Looking worldwide, we see a consistent focus on competitiveness within this industry while maintaining high standards of safety and security.
The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, recently downgraded the profit outlook for the global air carrier industry in 2012, predicting a profit margin of only 0.5%. We must assume the situation is worse for some carriers than for others.
Furthermore, passengers expect low ticket prices. The committee may be aware of the meeting just last week organized by the Canadian Airports Council on the leakage of passengers from Canada to airports in the United States.
As you are well aware, your colleagues in the Senate are currently undertaking a study on emerging issues related to the Canadian airline industry, and they have received numerous submissions from stakeholders indicating that cost-competitiveness of our aviation industry is an important concern.
In light of this context, I will now talk briefly about the question at issue, which is whether Air Canada is complying with the Air Canada Public Participation Act.
Section 6 of the ACPPA requires Air Canada to include certain provisions in its articles of continuance. Specifically, paragraph 6(1)(d) provides the articles of continuance to maintain operational and overhaul centres in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Mississauga.
In addition, section 7 of the ACPPA prohibits Air Canada from making any articles or bylaws that are inconsistent with its articles of continuance, and therefore paragraph 6(1)(d).
Articles of incorporation or continuance are documents filed with a provincial or territorial government, or the federal government, that set out a number of corporate governance rules applicable to the corporation. These articles usually set out the company's activities: its ownership structure, usually referred as classes of shares; how the board of directors is established; and its powers.
In simple terms, articles of continuance set the rules within which the companies must operate.
Since Aveos's announcement that it would cease operations, much attention has been directed to the question of whether Air Canada is in compliance with the ACPPA.
Air Canada's articles of continuance on file with Corporations Canada include a clause stating that it will maintain operational and overhaul centres for its aircraft or their components in the cities of Montreal, Mississauga, and Winnipeg. There is no indication that Air Canada's articles do not comply with the requirements set out under the ACPPA.
There is no indication that Air Canada's articles of continuance do not comply with the requirements set out in the Air Canada Public Participation Act.
Quite apart from the question of whether Air Canada is complying with ACPPA, there is a question as to whether the company is in compliance with its own articles. Prior to the current unfortunate situation at Aveos, Transport Canada had consistently been of the view that Air Canada was in compliance with its articles.
We have re-examined this very question in light of the recent changes in circumstance. At the minister's request, we have sought legal advice to assist us, and this legal advice has now been shared with you today.
I would like to emphasize that compliance with articles of continuance is not driven by ACPPA. It is a requirement that applies to all corporations. For federally incorporated companies such as Air Canada, the Canada Business Corporations Act, or CBCA, is the relevant legislation.
Although questions of corporate governance and compliance with articles are normally better suited for shareholders or directors of particular companies, other parties can seek court remedies. This is what the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the IAMAW, did in 2011, when they filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court.
As we've heard today, the Ontario Superior Court decision addressed the very question of whether Air Canada, quite apart from the work carried out by Aveos at these three locations, continues through its own maintenance and overhaul activities to comply with the provision of its articles. In that case, the judge gave strong indication that quite apart from the work done by Aveos, Air Canada would likely continue to be in compliance with its articles by maintaining certain overhaul functions through its line maintenance operations in Montreal, Mississauga, and Winnipeg.
In the absence of Aveos, it will be incumbent on Air Canada to ensure it continues to satisfy the requirements of its articles of continuance going forward, as well as its other obligations under the ACPPA and of course core safety and security requirements that apply to the industry at large.
Despite recent events, we have no reason to believe that Air Canada does not meet its obligations.
I will summarize with our conclusions.
In our view, Air Canada is in compliance with the provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act by virtue of the fact that it includes in its articles of continuance provisions to maintain operational and overhaul centres in Winnipeg, Mississauga, and Montreal.
Based on the opinion we received, it would appear to us that Air Canada continues to comply with its own articles of continuance despite the fact that Aveos is no longer providing the services to Air Canada. As indicated earlier, this is not a question of compliance with ACPPA but a question of conformity with the CBCA.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today. We would be very pleased to answer any questions you may have with regard to this matter.
I'll just note that in addition to the witnesses before you, we have invited our colleague, the director general of civil aviation, to be here, and if there are questions on safety, we would ask that he be asked to address the members, Mr. Chair.