Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to rise and address the House on Bill C-4, the international interest in mobile equipment (aircraft equipment) act.
The bill would permit the implementation of the provisions of the convention on international interests in mobile equipment and the protocol to the convention on international interests in mobile equipment on matters specific to aircraft equipment that are within federal jurisdiction. It incorporates most of the provisions of the convention and protocol by reference and other provisions through amendments to existing legislation.
The convention and protocol will establish an international harmonized framework for the financing of aircraft equipment. Within this framework the value of the aircraft would be used as a security for payment as in the case of a mortgage or a financing lease.
The adoption of the legislation and the eventual ratification of the convention and protocol will help the Canadian airline and aerospace industries compete more effectively in the global economy by providing greater security for creditors.
The proposed amendments to the federal legislation will reduce the financial risk to creditors, allowing them to make greater levels of financing available for aircraft purchasing at more competitive rates. This will translate into lower costs for airlines purchasing or leasing aircraft which in turn will enhance their competitiveness and strengthen the airline and aerospace sectors. The expected result is a direct positive impact on earnings, investment and overall profitability for the Canadian aviation sector.
Canada played a leadership role in the negotiation of a convention and protocol because various groups, including provinces, territories, airlines, industry associations and aircraft manufacturers, supported the objectives of the instruments.
The convention and protocol were negotiated over the period of 1996 to 2000, with the support and participation of various groups. The negotiation process came to fruition in 2001 with the adoption of the instruments at a diplomatic conference in Cape Town, South Africa.
For the record, I want to read some notes about what happened.
In 1988 a Canadian delegate to the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, UNIDROIT, was the first to propose the establishment of an international registry for security interests in aircraft. Since then, the governments and industry worldwide have cooperated in developing the convention and aircraft protocol.
Canada's active involvement in the negotiations, leading up to the adoption of the convention and aircraft protocol, highlighted its commitment to seeking global solutions to global problems, in cooperation with the rest of the international community.
It is evident, with recent events such as September 11, the global economic downturn, high fuel prices, SARS, which was an epidemic in my riding, that the aviation sector is particularly vulnerable to economic shocks and other geopolitical events. The industry needs to harmonize the international legal regime to reduce risk and increase certainty for the aviation creditors and this protocol will do that.
On March 31 Canada became the 28th state to sign the convention and protocol. Other countries with significant airline and aerospace industries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, have also since then signed.
Along with the adoption of the convention and protocol, Bill C-4 provides for targeted amendments to various piece of insolvency legislation and to the Bank Act. There are currently various periods within which creditors are subject to a stay under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Winding-up and Restructuring Act. There are no existing rules that apply specifically to aircraft and aircraft equipment. This is something that is hamstringing the industry. The industry is asking for a unified solution. The industry is asking that we come forth with specific regulations to the industry, and this is what we are trying to do here today.
Bill C-4 and the convention and protocol that it seeks to bring into force provide for a special remedy for creditors in the case of insolvency. It would impose a maximum stay period of 60 days on creditors with security on aircraft or aircraft equipment. This would give creditors, the financiers and the companies 60 days in which to come to some sort of an agreement or to hash things out. The adoption of this stay period will allow creditors to reclaim aircraft or aircraft equipment after 60 days if the debtor does not incur defaults under the security agreement. This will increase certainty for creditors by reducing their financial risks, resulting in lower financing costs.
Let us go over a couple of other facts. Consumers will benefit too through increased airline services and/or lower fares. Another benefit of facilitating the acquisition of more modern aircraft is that air transportation can become safer and environmentally cleaner.
The adoption of a fixed 60-day period will level the playing field between Canada and the United States, since the United States already benefits from a similar provision under the U.S. bankruptcy code. Stakeholders were consulted and supported the proposed approach.
The adoption of significant amendments to Canada's insolvency laws is expected to have benefits for Canadian aircraft manufacturers, financiers and airlines on the international level.
The convention and protocol would also establish an international registry in which interests in aircraft equipment would be registered.
Currently, in Canada each province and territory maintains its own registry and the federal government maintains a separate registry, as mandated by the Bank Act. We have one central registry for Canada and throughout the provinces other registries, which certainly hamstrings the industry and it presents obstacles for the industry. Bill C-4 would try to smooth things by having one international registry. The establishment of a single worldwide registry would replace the federal and provincial registries and would greatly simplify aircraft registration. We are talking about one registry, world wide.
If people want to see what is happening with the planes, or who owns them or who has liens on certain planes, they can go to the proposed registry 24/7 and see how they can reclaim equipment. The creation of the international registry is viewed by stakeholders, including the legal community, manufacturers and financiers, as providing a considerable advantage in terms of time, cost savings and improved certainty.
The Bank Act special security regime also allows banks in Canada to register security interests on a national basis for certain products listed in the act. The type of products that can be registered under the Bank Act are technically broad enough to include aircraft equipment covered by the new protocol. However, it appears that the Bank Act special security regime is rarely, if ever, used to register aircraft.
By bringing Bill C-4 forward, we would have an international registry. We could register aircraft and people could act upon it. Nonetheless, amendments to the Bank Act would be required to avoid potential overlap with a proposed international registry. The most effective means of doing this would be to remove aircraft equipment from the scope of the Bank Act, as set out in the bill.
Normally, matters relating to security interests fall within provincial jurisdiction. The provinces, through the Department of Justice Advisory Group on Private International Law, identified this initiative as one that we should pursue. As a result, Canada participated in the development and negotiation of the convention and protocol.
Once again I would like to state the work that was done by individuals throughout the whole process. A Canadian came out with it about 16 years ago. He said that we had to have this. A delegate to the International Institute of Unification of Private Law, UNIDROIT, was the first to propose the establishment of an international registry for security in aircraft. This is something of which we, as Canadians, can be proud. This is something that puts Canadians ahead and is an example for the rest of the world to follow.
Provinces were regularly consulted and showed support throughout the process leading to the adoption of the instruments. As an side, I hope we have such cooperation with the provinces in all the work that we do in the House. Provinces to date continue to be consulted through the Department of Justice Advisory Group on Private International Law and the Uniform Law Conference of Canada and consistently demonstrate interest and support for the convention and protocol.
Some provincial implementation legislation will be required before the convention and protocol can take effect in respect of Canada. With this in mind, the provinces developed a uniform implementing act at the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. Since then, Ontario and Nova Scotia have passed implementing legislation that will enter into force when the instruments take effect in Canada. We are working with other provinces and territories to ensure that what Ontario and Nova Scotia have piloted and brought to table will be followed. Adoption of the bill will encourage the remaining provinces, especially those with significant aviation interests, to pass their own implementing legislation.
I reach out to members across the way, as well as members on this side of the House, members who represent those provinces which have a significant aviation industry, to talk to their provincial colleagues and say to them that it is time we do this, that we should get on with it to ensure that Bill C-4 is a unified bill in Canada and that Canada is one of the first which is unanimously there.
This is an important step toward eventual ratification of the convention and protocol which would confer significant benefits to Canada's airline and aerospace industries and to the Canadian economy more broadly. I look forward to the passage of Bill C-4 and encourage all my colleagues to support it.