Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the invitation to appear before you as part of this committee's study of Bill C-49.
My name is Daniel-Robert Gooch, and I am the president of the Canadian Airports Council.
The CAC has 51 members, operating more than 100 airports in Canada, including all the private airports in the National Airports System (NAS). Our members handle more than 90% of commercial air traffic in Canada, and an even higher percentage of the international traffic.
The CAC's priorities involve promoting safe, strong local airports, improving the traveller experience, value for money in government services, and growing by air a globally connected Canada. Over the last few days we've been listening to the testimony on this committee's study of the Transportation Modernization Act.
Certainly, air transport is a complex industry involving interaction with several different partners on the airport grounds, including airport authorities, and airlines, of course, but also Nav Canada, service providers, and government entities such as the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and the Canada Border Services Agency.
In terms of the role of airport authorities, they provide the infrastructure needed to facilitate air carrier movement and the processing of passengers. They enforce airport safety regulations, employ airport emergency response services in response to aircraft emergencies, and provide central command to respond to operational safety, infrastructure, and security matters.
Major airports have passenger care response plans in place to support passenger needs during irregular operations. These plans involve the deployment of certain assets as needed, such as airfield buses, water bottles, snacks, and baby supplies. Airports are empowered to activate their passenger care plans when needed, and can call in extra resources to assist in ensuring passengers have the basics they need on a short-term basis. During irregular and regular operations, the goal is always to get passengers to where they need to go in a timely, safe, and secure manner.
Airports strive to improve passenger experience on an ongoing basis. This is becoming increasingly important for airports that have seen tremendous growth in air traffic over the past decade. In the first seven months of this year so far, for example, there has been a 6.3% increase in passenger traffic. This traffic is boosting international visitor numbers, which is contributing to Canada's economy and providing extra tax revenues for government. It's a good news story. But while this is good for business and the Canadian economy, fuller airports can create logistical challenges to delivering the high level of passenger experience that the industry strives for. Canada's airports have made strategic investments in infrastructure when needed to accommodate growth and respond to the needs of passengers. In fact, they have spent $22 billion since 1992 on infrastructure, with improvements to safety, security, comfort, and the flow of passengers.
This growth has put a particular strain on government services at airports, in particular on screening provided by CATSA and on border services provided by CBSA. Travellers are faced with long lineups at security screening checkpoints and at our air borders during peak times. This has a negative impact on passenger experience. In fact, it's the complaint that we hear about most often from travellers.
You may recall that I've spoken about these issues before, at your committee earlier this year as part of your study on aviation safety. I'm pleased to say the file is progressing, but we're not where we need to be yet. Transport Minister Marc Garneau has begun important work in this area.
The launch of Transportation 2030 almost a year ago commits to look at CATSA's governance, making it more accountable to a service standard, and its funding more responsive and sustainable. Bill C-49 provides a framework for CATSA to administer new or additional screening services on a cost-recovery basis. This will provide added flexibility for airports to supplement security screening services for business reasons, such as giving a higher level of service for connecting travellers, or a separate check-in area for premium travellers. However, this should be accompanied by a full allocation of air travellers security charge revenue from passengers to funding screening by next year's budget. Otherwise, airports have a real concern that the cost-recovery mechanisms in Bill C-49 would become the mechanism used to prop up funding for screening. In other words, passengers today paying their travel security charge for service at screening...not all that money going to the airports. If airports are having to also pay up to get an acceptable level of service, then they will have to raise additional revenue that would then have to be recovered from air carriers and passengers. In other words, travellers would have to pay twice, and travellers should not have to pay twice for this service.
Canada's airports are pleased that the government has recently begun additional work on a long-term structural fix for the problem. Our shared goal should not only be to improve screening wait times, but to also deliver a professional, facilitative customer experience while continuing to provide a high degree of security.
Some airports believe the best approach would be to allow airports a greater role in the delivery of screening at airports, as is the case in Europe and many other parts of the globe, but the important message is that, when it comes to a permanent solution, one size does not fit all. It is important that a fulsome exploration of all options occur before a final decision is made by government.
Finding a long-term solution for screening is essential for passengers, who deserve predictability and value for money, but we also can't be complacent in the meantime. CATSA needs to be sufficiently funded next year to support demand. Government should also restart its stalled investments in CATSA Plus lanes, which is a new approach that is improving traveller experience in the limited sites where it has been deployed. But CATSA isn't able to proceed any further until funding is restarted.
Improving air traveller experience also means improving air service in communities through more air links and lower airfares. The proposed amendment to the Canada Transportation Act to increase foreign ownership limits on Canadian air carriers from 25% to 49% is intended to stimulate traffic and domestic competition, and these are worthy goals.
Canada's airports are delighted with the progress made by this government in all these major areas. We hope that the dynamic approach will continue, and that the work that has been started as part of the Transportation 2030 strategic plan, and through the hearings of your committee, will translate into concrete reforms.
Once again, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.