Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-34, an act to establish the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada. It is a very technical bill that replaces the Civil Aviation Tribunal, which is part IV of the Aeronautics Act, and creates a transportation appeal tribunal with jurisdiction over air, rail and marine transportation.
Until now pilots who had their licences suspended, an airline that had its operating certificate revoked, an air courier company facing a fine, or an airline forced to obey certain restrictions as a result of a violation of safety related provisions of the Aeronautics Act, were able to appeal the conviction to the Civil Aviation Tribunal.
That tribunal got cases out of the courts and the commissioners were “persons who had knowledge and experience in aeronautics”, with the result that decisions might be more reflective of the real world than a procedure dominated by lawyers who had never been in a cockpit.
The Civil Aviation Tribunal had power to review administrative enforcement actions including the suspension and cancellation of licences, certificates and other documents of entitlement, and the imposition of monitory penalties taken under various federal transportation acts. The tribunal also heard appeals from determinations made on review.
Bill C-34 renames that tribunal and gives it jurisdiction over rail and maritime matters as well. The bill is only nine pages long and 10 of its 32 provisions deal with the transition from the Civil Aviation Tribunal to the new transportation appeal tribunal of Canada. It would continue to have the powers of the former tribunal, continue legal proceedings currently before that tribunal and would transfer staff to the new transportation appeal tribunal of Canada.
The majority of the remaining provisions of the bill are a renumbering and house cleaning of section 29 to section 37 of the Aeronautics Act which established the Civil Aviation Tribunal. To get the tribunal out of the Aeronautics Act and under its own act the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada would be created. All assets, cases, employees and responsibilities of the Civil Aviation Tribunal would be transferred to the new tribunal rather than simply renaming the Civil Aviation Tribunal.
The new provisions in Bill C-34 recognize that the new tribunal's jurisdiction extends beyond aviation. For example, subclause 3(1) while closely mirroring subsection 29(2) of the Aeronautics Act, which required tribunal members to be persons “who have knowledge and experience in aeronautics”, now requires persons to “have expertise in the transportation sectors in respect of which the federal government has jurisdiction”.
Nonetheless there are some genuinely new concepts in Bill C-34 that slightly improve upon the former Civil Aviation Tribunal in several ways.
First, subclause 6(3) would allow a former member of the tribunal to clean up unfinished business for eight weeks after his or her term expires. This is definitely more efficient than having to rehear a matter because the term of a member of the tribunal has expired.
Second, clause 12 would provide that reviews concerning medical matters such as someone not being medically fit to perform his or her duties must be heard by a doctor.
Third, subclause 15(5) would mandate a balance of probabilities as the standard of proof in all proceedings before the tribunal. This is already a convention and it is a good idea to have it enshrined in law.
Fourth, clause 19 would give the tribunal the ability to award costs. This is a 180 degree change from subsection 37(7) of the Aeronautics Act which precluded the awarding of costs. That subsection was drafted in 1985 or earlier. It is a good idea to give the tribunal the ability to award costs against people who bring frivolous or vexatious matters before it.
Subclause 19(4) would allow a tribunal judgment to be registered in the federal court, giving it the same force and effect as if it were a federal court judgment. This is a good idea in the sense that it puts teeth into tribunal decisions, especially when fines are imposed. The same provisions of administrative law such as judicial review would apply to this tribunal as well as to other tribunals.
The majority of the paperwork that accompanies Bill C-34 contains the consequential amendments made to the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Railway Safety Act in order to establish the jurisdiction and decision making authorities of the tribunal under those acts. The bill appears to be a good idea and after much deliberation the official opposition has decided to support it.
However we question the timing of the legislation and the government's priorities. I am glad the minister indicated today that he would be bringing forth legislation to deal with other matters, particularly the impact on the airline sector after the events of September 11.
The reality we have to face today is that consumer confidence is down and bookings for air travel are down. There are still many safety concerns about the possibility of weapons and other things getting through security. There is a call from the official opposition for air marshals, for stronger cockpit doors and for a government takeover of security measures within airports. We also have to consider the financial impact on the airline sector.
This is an international phenomenon. Airlines from around the world reported losses and laid off staff. Air Canada and Air Transat laid off staff. Air Canada asked for substantial support and other airlines are expected to ask for it as well. Canada 3000 is also in a tough situation. The U.S. congress approved $15 billion for the industry and in Switzerland, Swissair faced bankruptcy.
We suggest that the priorities of the transport minister should be the following: first, to reassure the flying public; second, to address the safety concerns; third, to help or assist the industry through this turmoil; and, fourth and most important, to ensure long term competition in the industry.
If we compare what happened in Canada with what happened in the United States, we must compliment President Bush on his speech in Chicago. He encouraged Americans to fly again and asserted to them that the skies were indeed safe. He called up the national guard and placed guardsmen at inspection stations in airports. He stated :
We will work with the governors to provide security measures--visible security measures--so the travelling public will know that we are serious about airline safety in America.
American airlines dramatically increased the number of federal air marshals on airplanes. President Bush stated further:
When Americans fly, there needs to be more highly skilled and fully equipped officers of law flying alongside them.
An additional action demonstrated by our southern neighbour was $500 million in new funding for aircraft security and grants to airlines for enhanced cockpit protection. American airlines have worked with their pilots to fortify doors and provide stronger locks so pilots would always be in command of the airplanes
Unfortunately the Canadian response has not been as strong. As a result of the events of September 11 the minister addressed the situation on September 26 and Air Canada announced that it would lay off 5,000 people.
The official opposition calls on the Minister of Transport to take four concrete actions: first, to reconvene the transport committee immediately to address the security and financial issues that the air industry is facing; second, to ask Robert Milton of Air Canada and the heads of all Canada's national and regional air carriers to appear before the transport committee immediately to hear arguments for and against possible financial support; third, to institute air marshals today to boost consumer confidence in the airline industry and to offer another layer of air travel security; and fourth, to ask all Canadian air carriers to submit a full list of the direct out of pocket expenses incurred during the days Canada's airports were shut down so that consideration could be given to compensation for those direct costs.
We support Bill C-34 but we want the transport minister and the transport committee to go beyond this. Canadians want their airports, airplanes, highways, rail and seaway navigation made safe. They want security measures put in place.
We want the transport minister to encourage competition so that services can be provided to communities at affordable prices. Canadians are desperately asking for airline competition between healthy airlines. They want safe skies, better airport security, stronger doors, air marshals, and the same standards now being applied in the United States. This is the real job of the transport minister and the transport committee.
To sum up, we will be supporting the bill before us today but I strongly encourage the minister and all members of the House, particularly members of the transport committee, to get involved and address the real concerns raised by the unfortunate terrorist attacks of September 11.