Mr. Speaker, by bringing this bill forward the Minister of Transport has indicated that this is a very important piece of the transportation puzzle. It is not a piecemeal approach, contrary to what was said by the last speaker. As outlined by the minister and the government it is a great vision of what we need to do regarding transportation.
The fact that there is widespread support for the bill underscores the commitment of some of the other parties in the House that this is an important bill well worth consideration and support. At the end of the day that will be precisely what we see.
It is part of the overall plan of our government to proceed with transportation matters in a manner consistent with the values of Canada and, more important, with the needs and requirements of the various regions across Canada. It is the position of the federal government that we need to do the kinds of things necessary to ensure that takes place.
Bill C-34, an act to establish the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada, is a very good bill and one worthy of note. I would like to outline some of the things that would happen as a result of the legislation.
The Civil Aviation Tribunal, CAT, is an independent, quasi-judicial body established in 1986 to review administration enforcement decisions taken under the Aeronautics Act. There is a bit of history here. The Civil Aviation Tribunal performed to the satisfaction of both Transport Canada as well as the aviation community for over 15 years. We applaud the good work the tribunal has done over the years. It is a good example of regulatory best practice. We commend it and look at how it might apply in other areas because it has done such good work over the last number of years.
It has shifted reviews and appeals of enforcement decisions under the Aeronautics Act from the minister, senior department officials and the courts to an administrative body characterized by independence, expertise, expediency, affordability, fairness and transparency. This is a great hallmark for the tribunal. It made the transformation in a manner consistent with the values of Canada and with what Canadians expect from a regulatory body.
In the fall of 1988 consultations were held with the various transportation sectors on a departmental proposal to transform the CAT into a multi-modal tribunal so that the enforcement review processes available to the aviation sector under the Aeronautics Act would be available to other transport sectors as well. Those discussions went well as some very good conclusions were reached as a result of a great deal of dialogue with the various partners and stakeholders in the transport area.
The acts principally implicated are: the Aeronautics Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act and the Railway Safety Act. The new shipping legislation as proposed in Bill C-14 is also implicated as is the Canada Transportation Act. A wide number of acts are affected in this very important area.
The proposed transportation appeal tribunal of Canada bill is modeled after legislation that established the Civil Aviation Tribunal, part IV of the Aeronautics Act. The latter would be repealed by this legislation.
The TATC bill addresses, first, the jurisdictions of the new tribunal in very general terms; second, the appointment of members including the designation of a chairperson and a vice-chairperson; and, third, the qualifications of tribunal members hearing particular cases on review and on appeal. In general terms cases must be presided over by members with expertise in the particular sector, although there are exemptions medical cases or other related issues.
Fourth, it also addresses the nature of tribunal hearings, including that strict rules of evidence do not apply and that the standard of proof in hearings is on the balance of probabilities; fifth, the authority of the tribunal to hold hearings in private in defined circumstances; and, sixth, the authority of the tribunal to award costs and expenses in defined circumstances.
These are important sections to remember and important aspects to note. They underscore the commitment of the government to ensure flexibility and fairness.
The authority of the tribunal to hold its hearings in private is broader than is the comparable authority of the CAT. The bill would provide that hearings could be held in private where they might disclose personal medical information or business information of a highly confidential nature and where the private interests of the individual or company in keeping the information confidential outweigh the general principle that hearings be conducted in public. Prudence and common sense are the orders of the day.
The ability of the tribunal to award costs and/or expenses in defined circumstances is new. The CAT does not have the comparable authority. The tribunal may award costs and the reimbursement of expenses where a matter brought before it is frivolous or vexatious, where a party fails to appear at a hearing without justification, and where the tribunal grants an adjournment at the request of a party on short notice.
This underscores the fact that these folk mean business, and well they should because this is a very important sector of the Canadian economy. They would act in a very expeditious fashion. That is exactly what is outlined here and what would take place.
While the tribunal bill addresses the jurisdiction of the tribunal in a very general sense, the tribunal's specific authorities and decision making powers are set out in various modal transportation acts outlined in other sections.
Similar to the decision making authorities of the CAT, the tribunal would have the final decision making authority in punitive cases where safety is not an issue, for example the assessment by the minister of an administrative monetary penalty against an air carrier for a regulation contravention. That would be an example where the new tribunal would act.
However where safety, competence and qualifications are at issue, for example the suspension of a seaman's certificate because he or she is medically unfit, the tribunal would only be available to confirm the minister's decision or refer it back to the minister for reconsideration
These are very important aspects of the tribunal. They underscore the commitment of the government to act in a manner consistent with the way things should operate in Canada. I believe it is very important in that sense.
There are a number of proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act that would include clarifying the authority of the minister to refuse to issue or amend Canadian aviation documents and establish the jurisdiction of the tribunal in relation to such decisions, for example to confirm the minister's decision or to refer it back to the minister for reconsideration; revising the procedures for the assessment by the minister and review by the tribunal of administrative monetary penalties; authorizing the minister to refuse to issue, amend or renew, or to suspend Canadian aviation documents based on outstanding monetary penalties being owed by the applicant or document holder. These decisions are not reviewable by the tribunal.
There are two additional amendments that are worthy of note: to clarify when certain decisions by the minister related to Canadian aviation documents may come into effect and to repeal of part IV of the act which established the Civil Aviation Tribunal, thereby allowing for seamless transition to the tribunal.
There are also amendments that would affect the Canada Shipping Act. A number of statutes would be affected as a result of this new bill and I will highlight those now. The proposed amendments to the Canada Shipping Act would establish the jurisdiction of the tribunal under section 120, the suspension of a personnel certificate by reason of medical incapacitation; section 125, the suspension or cancellation of a personnel certificate based on a false statement or fraud; section 128, the suspension or cancellation of a foreign certificate; section 133, suspension of a personnel certificate based on convictions for specified offences; and section 504, the suspension or cancellation of a personnel certificate which is based on various grounds.
The procedures for tribunal review are comparable to those proposed in the new shipping legislation, Bill C-14. The role of the adjudicators would be assumed by the tribunal. This is very important because it makes that kind of shift in a way that is consistent with government policy and the very good vision of the Minister of Transport in this all important matter.
There are three things I will highlight. First, 30 days' notice of a proposed suspension or cancellation of a personnel certificate must be given, unless the minister then makes an ex parte application to the tribunal to have the certificate action take effect immediately. Second, in cases involving competency, qualifications and other safety matters, the tribunal is limited to confirming the minister's decision or referring it back to the minister for reconsideration.