House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nav.


The House resumed from May 15, 1996, consideration of Bill C-20, an act respecting the commercialization of civil air navigation services, as reported (with amendments) from the committee; and of Group No 2.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Dear colleagues, I believe the hon. member for Laval Centre has the floor.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to say that you are right. Besides, what could be more fantastic than to be the first one to speak in this House on a beautiful Friday morning, before an eight-day recess, not a holiday, but a change of pace?

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-20, an act respecting the commercialization of civil air navigation services. As you know, the Bloc Quebecois supported the principle of this bill. However, you will agree with us that this bill is far from being perfect, as demonstrated by the several amendments proposed by the official opposition. As it is now, we are sure the commercialization will not be done only in the best interests of users. I will deal more precisely with the Bloc's motions in Group No 2, before us this morning.

First, I would like to comment on the bill in general. As I mentioned, the Bloc Quebecois is not against the bill as such. We are not against the privatization of air navigation services, but the one thing that concerns us the most and that we must not forget, is the issue of safety.

Privatization must never be done at the expense of the safety standards inherent to navigation services. Too often, privatization of public services entails a deregulation leading to a certain lack of rigour concerning safety standards for example.

Last week's tragedy in Florida involving a ValuJet aircraft may be an indication of that. We have every reason to wonder if, as an effect of deregulation, some carriers more interested in profits than in passenger safety are not ignoring minimum safety rules.

The motions in Group No. 2 we are debating today are about the distribution of Nav Canada's notices concerning its decisions on airport facility closures. Bill C-20 states that these notices should be sent to local newspapers and band councils by mail or electronically. It is true that this is the age of the information highway, but is it reasonable to choose one way or the other? We believe not.

The motions presented by the Bloc Quebecois, only 18 motions concerning six clauses or three motions per clause on average, are mainly intended to change this so that notices are sent both by regular mail and the more modern medium, e-mail. As members know perfectly well, not everyone has access to e-mail and it is of capital importance that all those concerned, all the groups that could be affected by a Nav Canada decision to reduce or close airport facilities, receive an advance notice early enough to be able to take action.

That is simple respect for users. The fact that air service is privatized does not mean that this service should be less accessible. Services must be maintained, particularly in remote regions where news information is sometimes harder to get and less timely. God knows there are many remote regions in this huge territory that is Canada. The people who live there are entitled to a quality service.

My colleague from Abitibi gave a very good description of the concerns of remote regions as regards air service, which is very often an essential service in cases of medical emergencies or other such problems. Privatization does not mean the government can forget its obligations in matters of aviation safety and air services that must be provided to Canadians.

The government cannot do what it did so blithely with ADM, saying it had no say in the closing of Mirabel because it was a private sector issue. It can try to hide behind a private corporation, but Quebecers and Canadians will not admit that. On the contrary, when the government adopts such an attitude, Canada and Quebec reject it.

If privatization is necessary to reduce costs, very well, but it must not be done at the expense of services to users. They must not do it for the sole purpose of reducing the deficit and, at the same time, transfer costs to the taxpayers. It seems this government has developed that habit, but you can be sure the official opposition will be there to remind members of the government that we find it totally unacceptable.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate, at second reading, on Bill C-20, an act respecting the commercialization of civil air navigation services.

As my colleague, the member for Louis-Hébert, said in this House on Wednesday May 15, when the former Minister of Transport, now Minister of Human Resources Development, first announced the policy on commercializing airports and air navigation, in July 1994, the Bloc Quebecois agreed with the principle.

Since then, we have been thinking long and hard about how the principle is to be applied. The creation of Nav Canada, a non-profit organization providing a public service, is aimed necessarily at being cost-effective. This corporation bears a striking resemblance to ADM, Aéroports de Montréal, the corporation managing Montreal airports, airports being plural, of course. It is not for profit and has no capital stock.

On August 1, 1992, ADM signed a lease with Transport Canada giving it the mandate to manage, run and develop Dorval and Mirabel airports. ADM is headed by a board of seven directors representing businesses in metropolitan Montreal, and by a CEO appointed by seven agencies making up SOPRAM, the body responsible for promoting Montreal airports.

Even though I am not a member of the Standing Committee on Transport, I have a particular interest in Bill C-20 as the Lachute municipal airport and Mirabel airport are located in my riding of Argenteuil-Papineau. Both airports, together with about 600 airports across Canada, are affected by Bill C-20.

Before I continue, I would like to give a brief history of Lachute airport. It was built in 1950 by Ayers Limited and acquired by the City of Lachute in 1973. Considering the enthusiasm of the local population and private companies for the municipal airport of Lachute, it was decided to proceed with a study on development of the airport with a view to attracting companies in the aviation sector, without taking anything away from the recreational aspects of the airport.

Improvement work was started in the Fall of 1992, with the help of a federal contribution from the Financial Assistance Program for Local and Commercials Airports at Transport Canada. Today, Lachute airport, with 200 acres of industrial and commercial land, close to Dorval and Mirabel airports, is a major drawing card for the region. The amendments that the Bloc Quebecois proposed would protect taxpayers and air carriers.

The first motion of the Bloc Quebecois is very important. It would add to the preamble of Bill C-20 that the safety of passengers, personnel, air carriers and the public take precedence over all other considerations in the business decisions taken by Nav Canada. It is essential that safety and the interests of the public come before the commercial interests of Nav Canada.

Motion no 2, also presented by the Bloc Quebecois, is equally important since there are some similarities with ADM, and since the board of directors is constituted the same way. Only large carriers are represented on the board of Nav Canada. In the case of ADM, we now realize that the public has really no voice to choose representatives to protect its interests.

For these two companies, only business interests counts. And what about these political appointments that certainly do not necessarily ensure the interests of taxpayers and air carriers, especially small carriers?

The federal government is transferring to local authorities responsability for the management and operation of airports. There must therefore be close and increased monitoring to prevent abuse. Bill C-20 must not be passed without including the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, amendments that will ensure a minimum of protection for the public and air carriers.

With my colleagues from the Lower Laurentians, the hon. members for Blainville-Deux-Montagnes and Laurentides, the mayor of Mirabel and many other stakeholders, I personally intervened in the issue involving the transfer of flights from Mirabel airport to Dorval. I can assure you that ADM had no scruples making decisions without public consultation.

Indeed, a public hearing request was made repeatedly by local representatives and others, a request that was supported by Quebec's transportation minister, Jacques Brassard. The answer was shocking: ADM gave a one-month deadline, without going over the decision taken a long time before.

This brings me directly to motions No. 25 and 26, which would delete clause 96.1 and add Nav Canada to the list of institutions in the act. The Bloc Quebecois categorically opposes Motion No. 25, which attacks the very foundation of transparency. The federal government would be well advised to exempt Nav Canada from the Privacy Act. As in the case of ADM, the public would be unable to be informed of major information regarding them.

I myself recently asked for the reports on which ADM based its decisions regarding the transfer of flights from Mirabel to Dorval. ADM told me flat out that, as a protected corporation, it was under

no obligation to provide me with the studies or reports, just as Nav Canada will be protected by the government's proposed amendment.

Taxpayers' representatives then commissioned an economic study on Dorval and Mirabel airports. This study, which was done by Professor Yvon Bigras, from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières; Professor Robert Gagné, from the École des hautes études commerciales; and Professor Jacques Roy, from the Université du Québec à Montréal, was in complete contradiction with ADM's arguments for consolidating flights at Dorval. The public could read this report, but not some of the studies allegedly done by ADM.

This report scientifically outlines the myriad disadvantages of consolidating flights at Dorval. All the measures to be implemented were estimated at $643 million by ADM in 1993. Moreover, compensating Mirabel's current franchisees would cost some $80 million. The transfer of flights to Dorval raises the problem of noise with the resulting operational restrictions.

This report shows that the advantage of concentrating flights at Mirabel lies in the airport's quasi-unlimited ultimate capacity and few noise restrictions. ADM even admitted that, in any case, flights will have to be consolidated at Mirabel within 10 to 15 years because of Dorval's limited capacity.

What will be the fate of regional airports, which will have to pay charges without having a say in this?

This brings me to Motion No. 15 put forward by the Bloc Quebecois, whose purpose is to ensure that aircraft belonging to DND or to a national government are not exempted from paying charges. In the opinion of the Bloc Quebecois, if clause 32(2) is not amended, it will, once again, hide DND's spending. The Bloc Quebecois has always been in favour of reducing defence spending. The bill would force taxpayers and carriers to pay DND's charges.

In conclusion, I urge the government to join us in protecting taxpayers and carriers.

Message From The SenateGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill C-275, an act establishing the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians, with amendments.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-20, an act respecting the commercialization of civil air navigation services.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Roger Pomerleau Bloc Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in this House at report stage to speak on Bill C-20 respecting, as mentioned previously, the commercialization of civil air navigation services.

The purpose of this bill is to privatize air navigation services across the country through the establishment of Nav Canada, also called NAVCAN. This is a name worth repeating a few times so that the public will get used to it, because it may well become infamous for the problems it will create.

This corporation will be responsible for supervising air navigation services throughout Canada. As someone already pointed out, this kind of organization is being established as part of an overall Transport Canada strategy to modernize transportation services across the country.

Under this strategy, the government has already privatized CN, recently commercialized some services provided by the Canadian Coast Guard and is currently contemplating the possibility of commercializing the operation of the St. Lawrence seaway.

Canada is selling off its ports, airports, railway lines, railway cars and even bridges. This is like some kind of huge liquidation sale. The sale of bridges, and the Quebec bridge in particular, will obviously give rise to untold difficulties, since whoever buys the bridge in Quebec City will not have to take on the obligations the government had regarding the bridge. In fact, the government has gone into business.

Today, it is civil air navigation services that are being commercialized. The federal government tells us that we must agree in principle with improved efficiency and lower prices. The federal government's real motivation in creating Nav Canada is quite obvious. Its main concern is really to make air navigation services cost-effective-or so it says-at the expense of safety and regional development.

The former Minister of Transport himself has admitted that the government can no longer afford the cost of maintaining adequate air navigation services. We must therefore ask ourselves if the new corporation will be able to do any better. Several of the stakeholders who spoke on this issue expressed their concern about the possible costs of the new system and their impact on charges paid by users of air navigation services.

Only large carriers will have a representative on the board of directors of the new corporation known as Nav Canada. Regional air transportation associations and companies will not be represented.

We know that, for a long time, in Quebec as well as in other provinces, the government has been asked to decentralize its operations so that local residents, who are familiar with local conditions, can have a say in something affecting their community. Again, in this bill we see an excessive centralization that will result in large carriers being the only ones to be heard.

Thus, regional air transportation associations and companies will not be represented. Large carriers are being given an advantage over small ones, especially as far as passenger fees are concerned. This aspect must be followed very closely, and we will do so as this bill progresses.

My colleagues and I are worried about the impacts of Bill C-20 in this regard. That is why we are proposing to add to the preamble a note indicating that Nav Canada must agree to maintain equal opportunities for small and large carriers in setting all charges.

This way, we will ensure small carriers a certain degree of fairness in this regard, and we know how important this is. Usually, large companies always end up deciding on everything, and everybody abides by their decisions. Nav Canada is meant to be a non-profit corporation with a mandate to manage public interests, and as my hon. colleague was saying a moment ago, we can draw a comparison with Montreal, where private companies will determine the future of Montreal airports without involving anybody else, without holding any public hearings, without making any studies available. The government is about to do something similar with this bill and the establishment of Nav Canada.

This creates a risk for users and the general public, since Nav Canada will hold a monopoly over air navigation services in Canada. The corporation will impose user fees and will have absolute control over the tariff structure. We want to make sure that Nav Canada's financial interests do not take precedence over the public interest. This is why the Bloc Quebecois motion seeks to include, in the preamble of the bill, a recognition that the safety of passengers, personnel, air carriers and the public has priority over all other considerations in the decisions taken by Nav Canada.

The first motion in the first group aims to have the government and Nav Canada recognize that public safety and interest take precedence over Nav Canada's financial interests. We have to ensure that someone is still accountable for safety standards, which must always remain the top priority. The government would be ill-advised to oppose the motion, since the minister sponsoring the bill said, in a speech, that Transport Canada's top priority is to maintain and, whenever possible, to improve the safety and security of Canadians.

The government can really not vote against a motion confirming such priority in the bill, since the minister himself alluded to it. I do hope government members will support the statements made by one of their ministers, even though what we saw and heard in recent weeks might lead us to think otherwise. Indeed, as recently as yesterday, the government did not even support a declaration made not too long ago by its Prime Minister, in some kind of autobiography, not posthumous of course.

The third motion in the first group seeks to add to the preamble a mention that Nav Canada recognizes that "Canada is a country where air services to northern and remote regions is essential". The purpose of this motion is to establish a basis for interpretation. Again, I do not see how government members could oppose the motion. We want to make sure that regional services will effectively be provided, particularly in remote regions.

This parameter will serve as a basis for interpretation by stressing that one of Nav Canada's fundamental objectives is to provide services to the regions. The idea is to make sure that large carriers do not impose their rules on smaller ones, without regard for regional markets and needs. Co-operation and understanding are essential between all carriers, large and small.

As you can see, the first group of motions includes three motions that would fit into the preamble in order to recognize the legitimate rights and responsibilities that Nav Canada should always respect.

What these motions propose is, roughly, that the government and the new corporation recognize that the safety of passengers is one of the most important concerns and must take have paramountcy over all other considerations, including the financial interests of large carriers and the new corporation. I would like to mention, not as a vision of doom nor as something that could happen-because I hope it will never happen-the plane crash that happened recently in the United States, in the Florida Everglades.

The possibility was clearly raised on television, at least according to some comments I heard, that the accident could be related to the financial problems suffered by the airline, which would appear to have great difficulty in performing the technical checks needed to ensure the full safety of its passengers. This is currently under investigation in the United States.

I mention this case to ensure that we do everything to prevent such an occurrence here. As we know, this country's two largest air carriers have financial problems. And we do not want them to take advantage of the establishment of this new corporation to bail themselves out by increasing rates, for example, which would immediately impact negatively on small regional carriers. We do not want to find ourselves once again in the situation where the

little guy is made to pay for the big guy. This seems to have become the rule nowadays.

We only have to think of what the Auditor General of Canada just told us. Large family trusts have no problem because, through nebulous rulings made behind closed doors, and often in matters that could be judicially examined, they can transfer billions of dollars out of Canada without paying taxes. When you are big, there is no problem doing that. We are even setting precedents that will allow all the others to do the same afterwards.

Last week, the Financial Post quoted Revenue Canada documents to the effect that over $60 billion in assets were taken out of Canada in 1991 without any tax being paid. It is obvious that big shots in Canada have no trouble whatsoever making their sweet little deals. Included in those big shots were most Canadian banks who advertise on television and tell us how much they care about the public's interest. What we would not like to see happen with this bill is big companies ending up with an advantage over the small ones.

In conclusion, there is no reason why the government should oppose these motions, especially those in the first group, since they are a mere confirmation of principles the government itself has applied repeatedly. All we want is to see these principles clearly entrenched in the bill and included in the preamble.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased this morning to have the opportunity to take part in debate at second reading stage of Bill C-20, an important piece of legislation to privatize Canadian airports.

As my colleague from Laval Centre mentioned earlier, the Bloc Quebecois is not against any privatization initiative that could improve the efficiency of airport management throughout the country. However, there is privatization and privatization. When privatization leads to security problems, as we saw recently in the United States when a ValuJet airplane crashed, then the Bloc Quebecois cannot give its assent. Also, when basic principles such as fairness and transparency are set aside, then again the Bloc cannot give its assent.

In the bill before us, two basic principles are violated. First, the local communities are not treated fairly. As for respect for the local communities, nothing in this bill leads us to believe that regional and local communities will have their say in the privatization process and the management of the airports in Canada, or will receive the information they need and be treated fairly and respectfully for what they are.

It is not surprising that this bill shows no concern for local communities. The former Minister of Transportation, now Minister of Human Resources Development, reacted the same way when the issue of unemployment insurance reform was addressed recently. He showed that he did not care about some local communities who depend on seasonal work, by overlooking the many concerns expressed by people from his own riding, people who live in these communities, who know them well, who are able to assess the bad decisions made by the government and the real negative impact they have on the local economies.

It does not surprise me that Bill C-20 reflects a lack of concern for local communities and that the government has turned a deaf ear to our numerous requests in this regard.

Such a bill should not only aim to ensure, directly in the mandate of this new organization created by the federal government-Nav Canada-air transportation in remote areas, for example, but also to advise local communities, which are the first concerned and the main clients of the air carriers, of any change in services-rates, frequency, schedules, etc.-and in air transportation equipment or infrastructure.

The bill is rather deficient as far as information to be provided to local people is concerned, since, according to the government, one notice only in a national newspaper like the Globe and Mail or Le Devoir , for example, should do. Thus, this group of motions, that is, motions Nos 4 to 12, aims essentially at ensuring one thing: information.

It is not normal that people living close to the airport in Mont-Joli, for example, should be informed in the Globe and Mail of changes that concern them. The normal and respectable thing to do would be to publish these notices of changes in the Mont-Joli local newspapers. Le Devoir would not be the normal vehicle for such a notice on the North Shore, since this newspaper is not that easy to find in that area.

Local communities should have a guarantee that they will receive notice directly, through their local media, of changes in the frequency of service, in the schedules, etc., or of more substantive chaanges such as the reduction of some services or even the closure of some airports. The same holds true for Native bands. It is not always easy to reach them, even through the local media. The band councils must be informed of the changes regarding local airports.

Today, information is not only a privilege, it is also a basic right, all the more so since the communities that will be the first affected by the changes made by Nav Canada are the local ones. It will not be the communities in major centres, where there is a larger density and frequency of services. This then becomes a necessity.

In this respect, let me praise the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup for being sensitive to these issues, that is to say for insisting on service, respect and fairness for local communities. As you may know, our colleague, the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, is also the official Bloc Quebecois spokesman for a major organization in Quebec called Solidarité rurale, and I think it is much to his credit to have succeeded in making our party, our

caucus and our members more aware of the needs of local communities and of the respect we owe them.

It is more and more obvious that this government wants to carry out all its reforms by betraying the very principles it says it wants to protect. In the red book or the speech from the throne, much is made of respect for people, for rural communities and the people's decisions. But this government's actions give a completely different picture.

I was listening to the Minister of National Revenue who displayed such compassion for Canada's richest families. She said that there should more of them. In other words, she supported her department's decision, which allowed the transfer of $2 billion worth of assets in the United States absolutely tax free, without one cent of tax being paid on capital gains. She displayed a lot compassion for those families.

If her government displayed the same compassion for local communities and the needy, we would be one hundred per cent behind the government, but the fact is that there is an almost insurmountable chasm between what the government says and what it does.

Out of respect for local communities, for the human beings who live in these regions and who are the victims of the government's carelessness or of the cruel and inhuman decisions of the Minister of Human Resources Development concerning unemployment insurance, maybe we should, for once, be taking measures which favour them; in other words, we should give them an inalienable right to information when it comes to an important project such as the privatization of airports.

So this is the meaning of the motions moved by the Bloc Quebecois, and it can seem strange for people who live in Ottawa, Toronto, Montréal, Québec, Winnipeg, Calgary, etc., to call for these notices to be given in the local media, but for the people concerned, it makes all the difference between the pride of being who they are and the respect due them by government.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, to give the context of the series of changes proposed by the Bloc Quebecois and included in the second group of amendments, it must be pointed out that the objective of the bill is to commercialize the air navigation services, which is to say to transfer to a not for profit organization a service that had been up to now in the public domain.

As I said in my speech on the first group of amendments, that is something that could be interesting and commendable but only if we can guarantee the population that the security and safety level of the services will be maintained and that it will have its say at the regional level on all decisions having a major impact on the local economy.

For that reason I would like to correct an impression left by the parliamentary secretary on May 15, when he said that our motions contained errors because we were not referring to the right clause. This is not the case because, as we also said in committee, we want to ensure that information is made available not only on the formula for calculating the fees, but also on the services because, in isolated areas, services are as important as fees.

If decisions taken by Nav Canada have the effect of depriving airports of safety equipment and have an impact on the volume of local air traffic, we must ensure that the local population has its say. That is the reasoning behind our amendments. If we want regions to have their say, they must be informed of the decisions.

We want to give people the opportunity to send their comments by traditional or electronic mail and ensure that they will be informed of all planned changes.

We added special consideration for the native band councils because, due to their particular situation, the traditional media are not necessarily the best means to reach them. We must ensure that they are well informed also. I think that, considering the special interest of the government for the natives, it should accept our amendment to guarantee appropriate coverage.

An airport is vital to a remote area, to an isolated area, because if often has a strong impact on the region. Let us take, for example, the Mont-Joli airport, in eastern Quebec. It is obvious that any decisions made with regard to aviation safety at this airport will likely have an impact on the activity at this airport.

We want people from the regional county municipality, people from Mont-Joli, all stakeholders in the tourist industry and other industries to have their say in any decisions that will have an impact on safety at the airport and that could ultimately have an impact on the economic activity around the airport.

That is why we want to ensure that the information is adequate and timely so that people can have time to react and make their opinions known accordingly.

We have a very good example of that in the decision of Aéroports de Montréal to possibly transfer international flights from Mirabel to Montréal. It is not for me to say here whether this decision is good or bad, but I just want to show that this organization created by the federal government to manage both Montreal airports has changed its position drastically in a relatively short period of time. At first, it was saying that both airports could survive, that it would share out responsibilities and transportation opportunities between both airports, and that everything should

work out this way. Now it is saying that it wants to transfer all international flights to Dorval.

This situation is provoking reactions in the Dorval area because people have certain fears in terms of safety. We saw it again today in the newspapers. There is even talk of taking this matter to court. So would it not be preferable for the consultation mechanisms allowing people to voice their opposition and express their views to be provided for in the bill that creates Nav Canada, the organization which will be responsible for air traffic control, instead of ending up with very expensive legal battles in which economic decisions will be challenged?

I take this opportunity to urge the government once again to take its responsibilities in this matter and also to make the comparison with the bill before us today. If we have an example like the one concerning ADM, because there is an unwillingness to let people have their say about the future of their airport, the future of air navigation in their region, is there not a risk that, in the years to come, there will arise two, three, five, ten problems of the same sort as we are seeing in Montreal, with negative reactions from local communities, who are forced to take a very vocal approach or go through the legal system in order to make their views known.

This is the reasoning behind our amendments today in Group No. 2. We want to ensure that people living in the Northwest Territories, in northern Quebec, as well as in large centres, because there are decisions about large airports that affect urban populations, have a say. When an airport has a lot of traffic, take Pearson in Toronto, it is certain that there are decisions that, in the medium term, have an impact on all economic development in a region, and it would be very appropriate if, before decisions about safety equipment in these airports were taken, the people in the surrounding areas were heard from.

That brings me back to the safety aspect. Last week, there was a very unfortunate plane crash in southern Florida in the United States, pointing up just how important the question of air navigation is. No margin of error is acceptable in this sector. It is a sector where guarantees of safety with respect to decisions taken are essential, and if accidents happen, that they be truly unforeseeable and not in any way due to decisions made either by the government or by the new agency known as Nav Canada.

Imagine what we could have in a few years' time, if there were a similar accident here and Nav Canada officials refused to accept any responsibility, saying: "The legislation did not oblige us to have safety take precedence over our economic commitments. In the case of the airport where the accident took place, we did everything we were required to do. We did not necessarily buy the latest equipment it would have taken, or put in place all the required safety measures, but it was not in our mandate".

There would be costs in terms of human lives and of equipment, and no way of ascribing the blame to anyone. It is important that the bill provide some balance.

Originally, the costs of air navigation were extremely high. Steps were taken in conjunction with the industry and most of the stakeholders, although the small carriers were not given enough of a say, with a view to ensuring lower and more acceptable costs.

The bill fails to make safety paramount, and also to ensure that decisions will not have a negative economic impact on the regions. The approach to this matter, as in a number of other current government bills, is to make things uniform across Canada. This is a trend which, in my opinion, ought to be resisted, and I think this is important.

We have proposed a preamble, a sort of interpretive clause, to restrict somewhat the considerable leeway afforded to Nav Canada, and to require that it take the elements referred to into consideration.

Our amendments on the distribution of information prior to a decision and on finding out the regional point of view reflect issues of importance to us, and we feel tney would make for a better bill.

Government acceptance of the proposed amendments would provide the satisfactory balance the bill lacks at this time. We are making a transition from a very costly system to one where the costs will be well controlled. Let us ensure that passenger safety will be guaranteed. This is the purpose of our amendments.

Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to express my thanks to my colleagues who spoke on the motions in Group No. 2, namely: the member for Laval-Centre, the member for Anjou-Rivières-des-Prairies, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot and the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup.

Why? Because those members spoke on a fairly important group of motions. I take this opportunity to say that I am somewhat concerned by the lack of interest hon. members from the other parties seem to have for this very important group of amendments on which I will speak in a moment.

Those amendments do not seem to raise much interest in Reform and Liberal ranks and this concerns me. As I said, I will explain why in a few seconds.

It seems that because these amendment motions were introduced by the official opposition they have no merit and are not interesting. Actually the reason Liberals have no interest in these amendments is that they are not the ones who had the good idea of

introducing them. This is why they oppose them and do not even bother to discuss them.

As my colleagues did this morning, I must emphasize that the Bloc Quebecois is not opposed to the principle of privatizing air navigation services. It does not oppose privatization if that will help these services to become viable to some degree.

What we are troubled by are the precedents. My colleague from Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup referred to the case of ADM, the acronym for Aéroports de Montréal. I do not wish to take sides in the debate on Mirabel or Dorval or on the timeliness of privatizing Mirabel or Dorval or not, but I must say that this government, on the pretence of making the industry aware of its responsibilities, uses privatization as a means to shirk its own responsibilities.

The other day we saw the minister wriggle shamefully out of answering opposition questions by saying: "That is not the responsibility of the Minister of Transport. It does not come under the authority of the federal government, but rather under the authority of the ADM. We no longer have any say in this".

It is totally unacceptable to have the government, under entirely creditable and honourable guise, trying to wriggle out, to take French leave, to avoid making a decision when one needs to be made.

Still on the subject of the ADM, we should note that this sort of privatization suffers from a certain lack of transparency. Decisions can be made without public consultation; decisions can be made without an environmental impact study. When studies are done, as was the case apparently in the ADM decision, the public does not have access to the impact studies, since these corporations are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Finally, here I am at the main point of my remarks-information. Information, according to René Lévesque, means freedom. The purpose of the motions in group No. 2 is to provide better public information.

No one in this House will argue against, at least I hope they would not, the importance of airport facilities for local communities in the regions. In my riding, at Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil, there is a tiny regional airport, which is very important to Saint-Mathieu-de-Beloeil and of course to the neighbouring communities as well. The same is true in the ridings of my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and in other parties: regional airports are very important.

Given the importance of airport facilities to these local communities, it is essential we provide proper information on decisions that have been made, particularly if a decision has been made to close an airport facility. So as my colleague for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot rightly said a few minutes ago, we cannot count on people in the regions being necessarily informed by the dailies-and I am thinking of the people in Mont-Joli-such as the Globe and Mail or the Toronto Star . We have to be able to inform them directly through the local media.

It is not utterly silly to claim that it is important to include in this bill a clause forcing the government to inform the public, through the local and regional media, about the major impact of decisions by Nav Canada.

Obviously, it is also important to inform native bands that would be affected by Nav Canada's decisions to close airport facilities.

I will conclude by saying a few words concerning the use of the information highway to inform interested parties about Nav Canada's decisions to close airport facilities.

As an example, I will tell you about a discussion I had with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It will not take too long. The minister told us that he wanted to consult Canadians through electronic mail. That is good, but not all our fellow citizens have access to these services yet. Therefore, other means, include the good old fashioned postal service, must also be used to consult the public.

MiningStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Marlene Cowling Liberal Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, when we walk into the House of Commons, the foyer depicts much of Canadian history, including the important role that natural resources generally, and minerals and metals specifically, have played in our development. In fact, minerals and metals are essential. Everything in this House involves products from the mining industry.

National mining week, May 13 to 19, helps celebrate not only mining's contribution to the Canadian economy but that this is a high technology sector. Our prospecting experiences, combined with our expertise in mineral technology, remote sensing and creation of geological maps put Canadians at the forefront of technology and environmental development.

This experience and expertise will keep Canadians at the vanguard of mineral wealth creation well into the 21st century.

The FamilyStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week Quebec celebrates the family. This year the emphasis is on young families. In order to accomplish the delicate and important task they are faced with daily, they need support.

Quebec society has gone through gradual changes to become the modern society we know now. Today, the family has many faces, but behind each face are the same needs, and the same requirements, since each member of the family unit has to deal with his or her own needs and reality.

I invite all the members of this House to think about how to collectively provide our young families with the support they need to improve the society they live in.

GstStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Margaret Bridgman Reform Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has added several new meanings to the GST letters.

We still have the goods and services tax but we also have a government House agenda GST, a grossly sedate tempo, and the firearms registration GST, gun control silly tactics.

Then there is the east-west coast fishery GST, a gadoid, salmon and turbot fiasco, gadoid being a type of cod fish.

From the budget there are a couple more GSTs: the gasoline sales tax which increased the government's revenues, and the opportunity for the former deputy prime minister to gurgle `slipped tongue' song.

Through all this we watched the rat pack disintegrate to the grovelling sorry twosome, and from there to the grumbling solo tenant.

Two more GSTs the government can add to its list are get sensible today, and Canada's got serious troubles.

QuiltingStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to a talented group of individuals, Canada's quilters.

Recently Canada's quilters proclaimed the month of May as national quilters month. I believe these talented artisans deserve the recognition. For years quilts have been an important part of the fabric of rural life. In a larger sense quilts are a mirror reflection of the lives of all Canadians.

In the same fashion as our country was formed, quilts were built with hard work, perseverance and dedication. While each individual part in its own way is unique, together the individual parts form a cohesive unit, a true piece of art.

I salute these tireless artisans and invite all Canadians to take a moment to recognize these talented Canadians during national quilters month in May.

National Police WeekStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to recognize national police week. It is an occasion for all Canadians to pay tribute to the professionalism, dedication and personal sacrifice exhibited by our police officers as they carry out their duties, often under unpleasant or adverse circumstances.

This year's theme of police in the community promotes the links between Canada's police forces, large and small, with the communities they serve. Community policing projects continue to record tremendous success in the war against crime and community security. An ounce of crime prevention is worth countless pounds of cure.

I would like to particularly acknowledge members of the Niagara Regional Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, all of whom serve with distinction in various capacities in Erie riding.

I encourage all Canadians to shake a police officer's hand this week. Thank you for helping to keep our streets safe, our homes safe and our families safe. Thank you for being there when we need you.

Gaelic Cultural Awareness MonthStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Francis Leblanc Liberal Cape Breton Highlands—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, beginning this year May has been declared Gaelic cultural awareness month in Nova Scotia. This month is being designated to celebrate the important role which the Gaelic language has played in the history of the province.

The descendants of the highland Scottish settlers, the Gaels, have contributed greatly to cultural diversity in Nova Scotia and throughout North America. Their language and culture have influenced countless individuals, communities and institutions. Canada's first two prime ministers spoke fluent Gaelic.

I congratulate the Nova Scotia Gaelic Council on its efforts to promote Gaelic and I invite members of the House to celebrate Canada's cultural diversity and the importance of all minority languages in Canada.

TourismStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 11th gala of the Grands Prix du tourisme québécois was held last weekend in the Montcalm hall, in Quebec City.

I would like to take this opportunity to offer my most sincere congratulations to all the winners of the Grands Prix du tourisme québécois. I would like to pay tribute specifically to Father Fernand Lindsay, Cleric of Saint Viator, founder and artistic director of the Lanaudière international music festival. Father Lindsay received the award of excellence. Every summer, thousands of spectators flock to the Lanaudière amphitheatre to listen to the best musicians in the world.

The exceptional quality of this festival makes the Laurentides-Lanaudière area and the rest of Quebec very proud.

Nine other awards were given in various tourism fields of activity. Over a thousand prominent members of the Quebec tourism industry and business sector were in attendance.

JusticeStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is in the newspaper this morning that recently four boys aged 10, 11, 13 and 15 abducted a 13-year old girl and forced her into an apartment where she was raped by the 11-year old. This horrendous act of abduction and rape was done because the government failed to protect this 13-year old girl by providing her attackers with a shield of immunity.

The untouchable 11-year old who raped this innocent girl had a string of offences against him, including terrorizing and trying to rob a clerk at a gas station. All the police could do was return him to his mother on each of these occasions.

Reform, with the support of police and victims' groups, strongly urges the government to lower the age governed by the YOA from 12 to 10, remove the publicity ban on violent young offenders, and hold parents legally and financially responsible for the crimes of their children if there is proof parental negligence is a contributing factor.

Society needs these amendments to protect the lives and the safety of our children.

Central AmericaStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Canadians witnessed a closing chapter in the history of Central America where all but one of the civil conflicts have come to an end.

Yesterday Central American leaders gathered at the Canadian peacekeeping monument to pay tribute to those Canadians who served in UN missions in the region. That the ceremony was organized at the request of the Central American leaders illustrates the close relations among our countries.

What we all celebrated was the seed of hope that these UN missions have helped plant in Central America. It demonstrated the courage and dedication of ordinary Canadians who have willingly offered themselves to support Central America.

Canadians and Central Americans will continue to work together to demonstrate that peace and the protection of human rights are achievable in all regions of the world.

Quebec Director General Of ElectionsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Mark Assad Liberal Gatineau—La Lièvre, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is, to say the least, surprising and deplorable to note in the report he tabled this week that the director of elections in Quebec gives little importance to the rejection of several thousands of referendum ballots, even though it compromises our democratic system.

The director of elections even goes on to say: "In a way, the rally for Canadian unity compromised Quebec democracy in general during the referendum".

Again, it is disturbing and deplorable that Pierre F. Côté did not focus on the systematic rejection of thousands of ballots, knowing full well that the right to vote is the most basic, the most crucial aspect of our democratic system.

In a way, this is a fine example of a double standard.

Gasoline PricesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bernard Deshaies Bloc Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, filling up has become a luxury, especially in Abitibi. In the last three weeks alone, the price of gasoline at the pumps, in my region of Abitibi, has gone up by an average of 9 cents a litre, a 15 per cent jump.

According to the gas price review board, this increase is the highest recorded since the Gulf War crisis, which had made prices rise by 11 cents a litre.

The current situation-and it is difficult to predict how long it will last-is intolerable in regions like mine, where long distances require us to consume a lot of gasoline.

One thing is clear and revolting for the people of Quebec and Canada: they are at the mercy of American oil companies and the government lacks the courage to take the actions needed to protect us.

Sergeant Robert GuthrieStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Dale Johnston Reform Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, at this hour, His Excellency the Governor General of Canada is awarding the Medal of Bravery to my constituent RCMP Sergeant Robert Guthrie of Leduc, Alberta.

While off duty on May 17, 1992, Sergeant Guthrie came upon a serious traffic accident near the town of Millet. With the help of Darrell Paul Robertson, he attempted to save three people trapped in a burning car. As an explosion rocked the vehicle and engulfed it in flames, they managed to bend the window frame and extricate the dazed driver.

Heroism is often depicted in movies and on television by famous actors portraying fictitious characters in unrealistic setting. Real heroes are everyday people like Robert Guthrie who disregard the threat to their own safety and risk life and limb in the face of imminent danger to extend a hand to their fellow man.

I add my personal congratulations to Sergeant Guthrie for his part in this valiant rescue. I know members of the House join me in saying thanks for your courageous act.

Parti QuebecoisStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the only thing on the rise in the PQ's argumentation these days is the level of abuse they have been trying to outdo one another in hurling.

After Bernard Landry, who, the day before yesterday, described our government's behaviour as more authoritarian, intolerant and closed-minded than that of the former totalitarian communist governments, now we have the ever subtle Jacques Brassard.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr. Brassard called the federal government's latest initiatives a campaign of political terrorism. Moreover, he accused our Prime Minister of throwing his weight around in front of Quebecers.

It is a well known fact that using insult as a weapon is a sign of weakness. Judging by the imposing arsenal Quebec's separatists are building up, we are forced to conclude that they do not have much confidence in their cause.

Focus On CanadaStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on March 23, 1996 in the town of Alexandria in my riding residents of Glengarry organized a citizens assembly on the future of Canada. I congratulate the organizers of this event.

Aptly named "Focus on Canada", the assembly was aimed as having its participants voice their concerns over the future of the country, especially in light of the 1995 referendum.

I was present at the conference to hear my constituents' comments. I have recently received a copy of the recommendations of the group, which I intend to present to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The participation of residents of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell in the March 23 assembly as well as in the historic rally held on October 27 can only lead to one conclusion: we all care deeply about the future of Canada, a future which includes Quebec.

Vocational TrainingStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to bring to the attention of the House the outstanding performance of Christian Bellemare, a student at the aerospace trades school in Montreal, who, on May 5, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, earned the gold medal award at the Canadian vocational training olympics.

Mr. Bellemare showed remarkable composure and skill in the machining competition, becoming the first student in his school to win the top prize in the Canadian olympics.

L'École des métiers de l'aérospatiale de Montréal, which is located in my riding, opened two years ago already; it has an enrolment of more than 600 and a teaching staff of 50. Thanks to an exceptional partnership with the industry, the school offers specialized training in the aerospace and aeronautical sector.

It is important to draw attention to Mr. Bellemare's accomplishment, thus underlining the key role played by vocational schools in producing skilled manpower able to meet the needs of an ever-changing economy.