Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of this motion to refer Bill C-20 to the Standing Committee on Transport before second reading. Before I proceed, I want to speak to the comments made by the hon. member for Kootenay West-Revelstoke in which he made reference to ramming something through. I understand his frustration but it is with democracy and not with this place.
In any event, the bill carries out the decision taken by the government as announced in the February 25 federal budget to commercialize the air navigation system. It provides for the legal means to transfer Canada's civil air navigation system from
Transport Canada to a private, not for profit corporation called Nav Canada. I would like to take the opportunity to reiterate to the House that safety will not be compromised with that transfer.
Canada's civil air navigation system is a network of air traffic control services, flight information services, aviation weather services and air navigation aids that allow for the safe and efficient movement of aircraft. This system handles more than six million aircraft movements a year. Its annual budget is about $550 million for operations and maintenance and $250 million for capital improvements for a total budget of some $800 million.
Transport Canada has managed this system well for more than 50 years during which time air travel and air navigation have modernized becoming evermore complex and evermore necessary. Times have changed and governments everywhere are finding it increasingly difficult and less necessary to operate transportation systems.
Transport Canada's mission is to provide for a safe, environmentally sound national transportation system that is consistent with a competitive economy and the achievement of Canada's goals. However, the new Transport Canada is moving away from operating the system to focus on setting the standards and regulating for safety and security. The department has been receiving strong messages from many quarters that the air navigation system needs improvement. It is unlikely these improvements can ever be made if the system stays under the government's wing.
The potential of commercialization to improve efficiency and maintain the safety of the air navigation system has long been recognized. In 1992 the Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation recommended commercialization of the system.
Nevertheless, change is always unsettling. Some may feel that as government withdraws from operating the system, safety may be compromised. Nothing could be less true. None of the changes that are being made to Transport Canada and the Canadian transportation system will ever compromise the department's commitment to safety. Safety and security will always come first and Transport Canada will continue to ensure that the high standards of safety and security that Canadians have come to expect will in fact be maintained.
Safety was identified as the highest priority when commercialization was first considered in early 1994. Transport Canada's position was then, and continues to be now, that operations under Nav Canada must be as safe as the current system. This is not just a case of good intentions. When it comes to the air navigation system, safety is an integral part of its management.
Nav Canada will be responsible for providing all the air navigation services currently provided by Transport Canada. Aviation safety and the safety of the public will remain the responsibility of the Minister of Transport. This responsibility will be exercised through the Aeronautics Act and regulations made under that act. To do so the department is establishing safety regulations and standards that will be monitored, audited and enforced in much the same way as the department regulates air carriers, airports, aircraft manufacturers and other commercial aviation enterprises.
The new regulations developed specifically to address the commercialization of the air navigation system will form part VIII of the Canadian aviation regulations. Under these regulations Nav Canada will be required to have an internal safety management program. In addition, the corporation will not be permitted to reduce the services it provides if doing so would jeopardize safety. The Minister of Transport has the authority to direct Nav Canada to provide services in the interests of safety.
Consultation on the new regulations has begun through the Canadian Aviation Regulations Advisory Committee. They have been published in part I of the Canada Gazette and should be enacted into law early this year.
The Aeronautics Act which establishes the regulatory framework to maintain safety in the aviation industry will always take precedence over the Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act. Far from compromising safety, the new arrangement is our guarantee that Canada will continue to have the safe, effective, modern air navigation system it needs.
One of the reasons for commercializing the air navigation system is to ensure that the system has the resources it needs to continue to provide the highest level of safety possible. There is no doubt we must have a modern air navigation system to ensure the safe and efficient movement of aircraft, whether domestic or international, in Canadian managed air space.
Governments cannot respond effectively to the modern needs of air navigation. The downsizing of government services and public sector restraint is incompatible with the dynamic needs of the air industry. Outside of government the system will be able to operate more efficiently. By increasing the system's ability to respond to changing demands and new technologies, we will help to ensure its continued safe operation. That means the system will have the resources it needs to provide the best system possible and, with the federal government overseeing safety and security, that means the safest system possible.
In closing, I ask that all members support the motion to refer Bill C-20 to the Standing Committee on Transport before second reading.