Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak today to Bill C-34, an act to establish the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada and to make consequential amendments to other acts.
The bill would establish the transportation appeal tribunal of Canada. The New Democrats will be supporting the bill and the principle of independent scrutiny, review and appeal of decisions made by the Department of Transport.
The transportation appeal tribunal would be made up of people with transportation expertise who are able to accurately assess the problems facing employees and employers within the trucking industry and of course the travelling public.
Travellers would be able to have their views aired and resolved. The appeal tribunal would give them a sounding board to have their complaints dealt with. That is something that has been sorely absent.
The bill is relatively straightforward. The transportation appeal tribunal would be an expansion of the Civil Aviation Tribunal which was provided for by part IV of the Aeronautics Act. It makes complete sense to extend to the marine and rail industries what is already available to the aviation sector.
The Civil Aviation Tribunal has been extremely successful. A transportation appeal tribunal would be an independent, quasi-judicial body that could review and appeal transportation decisions. It would replace the internal review process that currently exists.
We support and welcome greater scrutiny of ministerial decisions. It has always been preferable to have a separate and impartial body that can hear appeals.
There is certainly a need to have a separate and impartial body to oversee decisions made by the Department of Transport. This is evident in light of what the department is doing with respect to hours of service regulations for the trucking industry.
The New Democrats have had great concerns about hours of service regulations for motor carriers. The Liberal government is changing the regulations to allow truck and bus drivers to be on the road 84 hours a week. Hon. members should stop and imagine what it would be like to be behind the wheel of a truck 84 hours a week.
I live in a province where truck traffic is already involved in many of the accidents on our highways. I shudder to think that the number of accidents could be drastically increased by having exhausted drivers behind the wheels of trucks.
By endorsing proposals from the Canadian Trucking Alliance that would put truck drivers in the position of having to work an 84 hour week, we would be ushering in by far the most lax regulations for truck driver hours in the western world.
This is not the kind of record we would be proud of. Politicians and bureaucrats are apparently convinced that improving trucking industry profitability would be good for the economy. There appears to be little concern about the likely downside of the change: more death and injury on the road.
I hope this is an example of how there is a need for an impartial ministerial review of such an issue. Truck driver hours is an important issue and the transportation appeal tribunal could deal with it reasonably. An independent appeal and review process would prevent costly action from having to be taken in court. It would be common sense.
The tribunal would in my mind simplify and streamline the whole appeal and review process which in this area as well as many others including human rights and disability claims is cumbersome, time consuming and frustrating for the Canadian public.
I am pleased to be able to say the New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-34. We will be watching to make sure it meets the needs of the Canadian people.