Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning to Bill C-34, an act to establish the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
Allow me first to pay tribute to the member for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel, the Bloc Quebecois's transportation critic, who does excellent work here in the House and in committee.
As the Minister of Transport mentioned earlier, the member for Argenteuil--Papineau--Mirabel had the opportunity to question officials, to make comments and to have certain clauses of Bill C-34 explained to him.
As a result, I can assure the minister that the Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-34. The bill has the advantage of bringing together under one tribunal various transportation related statutes. I think that we could not ask for more than a bill that consolidates all such legislation under a single one.
The purpose of the bill is to reduce processing times, to almost nothing in some cases. Red tape and various contexts and interpretations of laws often have the effect of increasing delays. The bill would reduce them in some cases.
The tribunal would be established to provide an improved and less cumbersome system for appeals by citizens or companies following a suspension or a fine in the transportation sector. The tribunal would hear requests for review under the following acts: the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Railway Safety Act.
The tribunal would also hear requests and appeals on administrative monetary penalties set out in sections 177 to 181 of the Canada Shipping Act. In addition, it would hear appeals from determinations made on review.
The tribunal would be based on the model of the Civil Aviation Tribunal which was established in 1986 and which has proven itself.
There are a number of reasons to support the bill, the main one being that it would improve resource management. When all the resources are grouped together under one roof, staff efficiencies can only be improved.
Also, shortening the time involved would eliminate hours and often months of waiting, which means that waiting periods would be shorter. Allowing plaintiffs to represent themselves means that they will not have to hire lawyers, which is often very costly, yet still allow them to still go ahead with civil proceedings. The fact that there is an alternative within the Department of Transport does not mean that people will not be allowed to opt for civil proceedings.
There is also the issue of avoiding one's responsibilities. We know that in the area of transportation it often happens--as it did on several occasions in the marine and aviation industries--that people want to file a complaint but do not know where to send it.
For example, when people want to file a complaint regarding transportation do they send it to the Department of Transport, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the ports and wharves branch, Parks Canada, the coast guard or to the Department of the Environment?
We can see the complexity of the process. People may be victim of an illegal action but do not know which department or service to turn to. Even if they want to file a complaint with the Government of Canada, with the departments involved in the marine industry, they may have to deal with various levels and, again, experience some problems.
Those same people could also have problems with the aviation industry. In such instances they would naturally turn to Transport Canada, which might then say that is was the airline's fault or carrier's fault that the people should file complaints or their claims with the competition bureau with Nav Canada or the airport managers, or go back to the travel agency or even the carrier which can file a complaint itself.
If one single tribunal can be created, with qualified and competent staff, one that is less unwieldy and is set up to handle cases promptly, then Bill C-34 could be beneficial to all those needing to make use of it.
It would not in any way replace court proceedings but instead would offer an alternative.
The tribunal would also make it possible to handle at one single point appeals relating to transportation in general. The tribunal, it must be pointed out, would not handle complicated cases requiring hearings with lawyers present.
Certain clarifications by the Minister of Transport are required. When it is stated that the tribunal will not handle complicated cases requiring the presence of lawyers, I think it will be necessary to specify the criteria for determining the complexity of cases. This will be important.
A mention has been made of shortening the time for someone to get to appear before the tribunal. However, once the file has been examined it might be determined that it is too complex and requires a lawyer. I believe that those administering this act will have to set criteria in advance for determination of whether a case is complicated and complex.
The bill also mentions that members shall be appointed to hold office during good behaviour for a term not exceeding seven years and that they are eligible to be reappointed. It is important to clarify whether what is meant is that seven years is the maximum term or that members are eligible for reappointment every seven years. It is important that the bill be clear on this point.
Regarding the right to appeal, if a complainant's case is thrown out by the tribunal but the complainant wishes to try again, may the case be heard by other members? Do people who have lost their case the first time around but who wish to exercise their right of appeal need to be heard by the same members? If they did the odds that the tribunal would rule differently would be slim.
I think there should be a provision that would allow people who represent themselves before the Department of Transport's tribunal to be heard by other members.
In conclusion, as I mentioned at the start of my speech, the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting Bill C-34. We are in favour of the bill because it has the advantage of bringing together under one tribunal various statutes for which the Department of Transport is responsible.
The purpose of the bill is to reduce processing times to almost nothing in some cases. This does not seem to be too cumbersome and is a simple and effective way of proceeding. The bill has the advantage of trying to make recourse easier for the public.
The Bloc Quebecois has always supported any efforts by the House of Commons to improve the operation of government. We cannot criticize a bill when we see that it will be more efficient, more cost effective and less cumbersome. The Bloc Quebecois will be voting in favour of Bill C-34.