Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today and speak to Bill C-248, an act to amend the Competition Act.
Obviously one must always be careful when studying amendments to the Competition Act; however, the proposed amendments in this bill are in line with Bloc Quebecois philosophy on this matter.
The Bloc Quebecois will support these amendments since they refer to gains in efficiency that would lead to an increase in competition, unless clients would benefit from lower prices, the result of such an gain in efficiency.
However, it is important to remember and I give as an example the airline industry, that the Liberal government, through the transport minister, has already announced on several occasions that the problems in the airline industry will be solved by amendments to the Competition Act. This is somewhat worrisome.
Recently Air Canada representatives appeared before a number of House committees, including the Standing Committee on Transport, where, in a brilliant presentation, they told us that Quebecers and Canadians would have to prepare themselves because in the future competition would no longer consist of several airlines operating on the same routes. We would have to get used to the idea that competition would mean competition with one single airline.
Clearly, when we hear the government tell us, through the transport minister, that we have to deal with the issue of competition by amending the Competition Act in order to avoid unfair competition, including in the airline industry, it is hard for users to understand whether or not competition is becoming a monopoly.
This is what we need to be careful about when studying or looking at the Competition Act to try to solve all of the problems with competition in every sector throughout Quebec and Canada. We must always guarantee the best service at the best price. Obviously the only way to guarantee the best service at the best price is to promote healthy competition in Quebec and in Canada.
Changes are therefore needed, and recommendations must be made, such as the one proposed in Bill C-248, in order to clarify this gain in efficiency. Obviously everyone hopes that this gain will not favour monopolies, but it is clear that the proposal contained in Bill C-248 still encourages competition.
Returning to the matter of air transportation, once again the Minister of Transport has said clearly, week after week, that the best way of guaranteeing the best air travel prices at all times everywhere in Quebec and in Canada is to amend the Competition Act. Although I may be repeating myself a bit, there must be two carriers in order to guarantee competition and ensure that the market will endeavour to provide the best services at the best price.
This is where attention must be focused in discussing the Competition Act and in trying to use it to solve all the problems of our society, including, as I have said, those in the airline industry.
A solution to the airline problem understandable by all those listening to us in Quebec and in Canada might have been found. After September 11, the decision was made in certain countries, the U.S. and Switzerland among them, to use public funds to guarantee the survival of the airlines in their country.
The Americans, let us keep in mind, have invested $15 billion directly into support for their airline industry. Switzerland has purchased or has promised to purchase, with public funds, 38% of the shares in the new company that will replace Swissair, which is under the protection of bankruptcy legislation. These countries have chosen to come forward and support the airline industry to guarantee at least to some extent a variety of carriers on routes and services in all regions of the country, something that Canada has yet to do.
No investment or support for air carriers leads to defeat. The government has before it already one unfortunate case of defeat, the bankruptcy of Canada 3000.
The government had announced in the House $75 million in loan guarantees for Canada 3000, knowing full well that the company could not survive with the requirements it had imposed on it. The government knew this full well two weeks in advance when management rejected a program of time sharing with employees, which would have cost the company nothing. This refusal was already an indication that the company would not survive the crisis it was facing.
So the government announced loan guarantees for a company it knew would not survive. When we ask the government in the House to offer these guarantees to any new purchaser of some or all of Canada 3000 shares, the answer is no. When we ask the government in the House whether it will offer loan guarantees to regional carriers struggling in a number of regions of Canada, we are told the government will now help the four major companies still operational in this country.The other smaller companies and regional carriers will survive if the big companies do. They will keep the small companies going.
That is not how things work in the regions. Cities in the regions need services. Some are served at the moment by only one carrier, Air Canada, which has cut its services and even cut its meal service. This is the harsh reality. For regional passengers and cities the service is poor.
All of this makes it clear that regional development in Quebec and Canada is at risk if cities in the regions do not get quality service and appropriate schedules for the business people in these cities. The solution proposed by the government, through the Minister of Transport, is to amend the Competition Act.
The Bloc Quebecois agrees with Bill C-248, which clarifies the gains in efficiency that could be achieved in the case of a merger or other measure. However, we want to caution the government. In order to have competition, there has to be a minimum of two businesses providing the service across Quebec and Canada. This is not currently the case in the airline industry.
The Canadian Liberal government must take its responsibilities, considering that the Americans have invested $15 billion to support their airline industry. There are 300 million Americans. Here, with a population of 30 million, the government is currently only offering $160 million. This is proportionally ten times less than what the Americans invested. It is not true that Canada's economy is ten times smaller or weaker than that of the United States. The government is acting in bad faith when it tries to tell us that things will get back to normal in the air transportation industry when our neighbours are investing to support their industry.
I hope that the government will realize today that amending the Competition Act will not solve the problems of the airline and aviation industries. We just suffered a setback with Canada 3000 going bankrupt. There has to be at least two carriers on each route to guarantee the best possible fare to all Quebecers and Canadians who are listening to us.