Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege for me to be in the House today to open debate on Bill C-6, the Aeronautics Act.
This act is all about Canadian safety in the air. It is going to add additional compliance tools and increase the penalties for people who do not follow the rules.
Just 50 years ago, air travel was reserved for a few people in Canada. It is now, however, the standard for most travellers throughout our country for both long and short distances.
Canada's air industry continues to make enormous contributions to the growth and prosperity we enjoy every day. Because of our country's vastness, the industry is an absolutely essential contribution and an instrument that connects Canadians to each other and to the rest of the world. This is our future. In fact, this works toward unifying our great country.
Our country is vast and it is spread out. The air industry provides links to communities throughout the north, east and west, links to remote communities that have no other transportation methods.
For example, in my own riding of Fort McMurray—Athabasca in northern Alberta, 150,000 people went through our airport two years ago, while this year we expect more than 450,000 people to do so, a tremendous increase in people going to work in northern Alberta. Indeed, some 20,000 to 30,000 people who work in northern Alberta have no other way but air travel to get places quickly or to go home to loved ones. These people do travel and they come from all over Canada: Winnipeg, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia. We need to have better transportation, better security and better safety for these people.
Most people would not know this, but on the whole, Canadians travel some 25% more than people in other countries. Over the years, Transport Canada and the Canadian airline industry have been recognized worldwide for the tremendous safety record we have. This government, under this Prime Minister, will continue to make Canada's safety number one. It will continue to keep Canadians safe.
Bill C-6 will provide for a modern and flexible ability to do that, a legislative framework to further enhance aviation safety and, through safety management systems, to have a system in place that will actually allow a continuous method of keeping Canadians safe. Australia and the United Kingdom have had great results from this system. Quality assurance, performance measurements and penalty increases, all of these things are in the act to do one thing: keep Canadians safe.
The proposed changes aim to increase aviation safety while responding to the changes in the operating environment. After this act is in place, with consent from my friends across the floor, we are going to have better air safety standards than the United States. One mistake on a plane while it is in the air is sometimes the last mistake. We need to make sure if those mistakes do happen, they do not happen again.
Things change. Instrumentation has changed dramatically in the airline industry. Plane mechanics have changed dramatically, even in the last 10 years. Traffic control rules and security issues such as 9/11 were not even thought about 10 or 20 years ago, but today they are a reality and we need to make changes for those realities.
We must constantly update our rules to ensure Canadians' safety. We have consulted with industry on this and the members of the industry agree. They want this legislation. Who would know better than the industry as far as safety and consistency and travel for Canadians are concerned?
As I have said, this government has the safety of the Canadian public as priority number one. We will ensure, through our legislative agenda, that we keep Canadians safe.
These further amendments that are proposed today relate mainly to aviation safety and the aviation safety program that we are proposing in these amendments. The scope is broad enough, though, to apply to all matters regulated under the Aeronautics Act. These are simply safety amendments.
I must emphasize, however, that the amendments in this bill only relate to enabling authorities. That means, in essence, that for regulatory requirements more specifics will be necessary to implement, but this will only be done through discussions with stakeholders through the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council.
We are going to have stakeholders' input because we believe they want to keep themselves as safe as we want to make sure they are. These stakeholders include large major organizations and associations within Canada.
For instance, they include: the Air Transport Association of Canada; the Canadian Airports Council; Nav Canada; the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, the people who fly the planes; the Air Line Pilots Association; and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the airline division of CUPE. All of these stakeholders are going to have input into these regulations and are going to provide the very basis and framework that we need to keep Canadians safe.
We listen. This government listens and cooperates. We are going to get those things done.
We even have international cooperation. For instance, academics and leading safety experts from around the world and international bodies such as the International Civil Aviation Organization all advocate that greater attention be paid to managing safety through the organizational level. That is what this approach is doing. As I mentioned, Australia and New Zealand have had great results from this kind of legislation and we want great results for Canada.
An example of our government's cooperation with its stakeholders is that in low risk parts of the aviation industry, for instance, such as business aircraft operations, we intend to actually authorize industry to establish their own operational standards. They are going to be self-governed, but we are going to make sure that we audit those standards and audit the management systems to ensure that in operational standards a minimum is kept and met.
The activities of the industry body, the standards its publishes and its audit activities would all be subject to regulation authority and regulation oversight by Transport Canada. We are going to keep Canadians safe.
A key amendment would be to establish voluntary non-punitive reporting programs. Some people ask, “How can you have voluntary non-punitive reporting programs?” In this case, we have to, and I will go into this in more detail.
This program would actually allow individuals and operators to file a report that would be confidential. It would be done on a voluntary basis in relation to certain regulatory violations. The aviation community wants to work with us to identify these safety risks and they want options for how to address them.
We want results for Canadians. We do not just want rules. We want what is best for Canadians, not just more bureaucracy.
We would use this data provided by operators to make safety improvements. They would provide the information on a non-disclosure basis and we would take that information, disseminate it and implement programs and policies that are going to be good for Canadians. The data, without identifying any specific information from stakeholders, would be used to share with others internationally and nationally to ensure the safety of Canadians.
Do members see a theme in this? As government, we are going to ensure the safety of Canadians.
A new safety data reporting system would be established, including integrated management systems: systems in place that would protect Canadians and set standards. Individuals, operators and industry bodies have expressed very strong support for this implementation and for such systems.
With sufficient information data, Transport Canada will be better off. It will be able to better manage and regulate safety and security issues. It will be better able to apply risk management techniques to ensure minimum risk. It will be better able to create an environment for continuous improvement. We want to continue to learn. This is an industry that continues to evolve. Things continue to happen. That means we have to make changes as time goes on and, most important, we need to make those changes on an informed and justifiable basis for Canadians.
Let me now turn to the penalty provisions of the act.
Quite frankly, current penalties are insufficient. The last time any amendments were made in relation to the penalties themselves was in 1984. Now in 1984 dollars, in some cases that is not even sufficient given what has happened today. The maximum penalties before this were $5,000 for individuals and actually only $25,000 for corporations. Quite frankly, sometimes corporations would consider the penalties to be a cost of doing business, which of course in turn would infringe upon Canadians' right to privacy in some cases, for noise and other things like that, and also it would not keep Canadians to a minimum standard of safety. As a government, we are going to do that.
Whether the penalty results from an administrative or a summary conviction penalty, Bill C-6 would raise both maximums and would allow a more severe penalty so industry would know that if it violated the act, it would pay price. It would be deterred from doing anything illegal or against the act.
For administrative proceedings, for instance, we will increase the maximum from $5,000 to $50,000 for individuals, 10 times the amount that was in the act under the previous government. For corporations, we will change that to $250,000, 10 times more than what was provided under the previous government.
They could also be applied for contraventions with serious actual or potential impacts for flight safety, and that is the most important issue here. The act looks at fatigue management for controllers and mechanics. We cannot have these people not operating as number one on the basis of safety.
In summary conviction offences and proceedings, for instance, the proposed amendments will take it up to $100,000 for individuals and $1 million for corporations. They are not going to be taking the legislation for granted anymore and they are not going to take it as a cost of doing business. They will stop doing it. This behaviour will change.
The new maximum penalty levels could be assessed for serious, wilful contraventions of the act. We are not trying to penalize those people who have the intention of doing right and accidentally do something that could be a violation of the act. We are going to catch those people, especially for the maximum amount of penalty, who are doing this wilfully and who must be stopped.
The adoption of the bill will update the act to make it more consistent. Let us bring it into this century. Let us recognize that things change in the airline industry and that one mistake in the air could cost a the lives of many people. We must bring it into consistency with other transportation acts.
A new section, part II, would provide the Canadian Forces the airworthiness investigative authority with the legal authority to investigate accidents where both the civilian and military personnel are involved, something they do not have currently. These new powers would be comparable to those of the Transportation Safety Board when it investigates civilian aircraft accidents. This will give military personnel the teeth to find out what happened in those accidents that involve both sectors.
I would now like to focus on a particular aspect of Bill C-6 by providing background information on something so important that people hear about on the news and read about in the newspaper, and that is flight data recorders.
The regulations made under the bill require large aircraft, which transport passengers or large amounts of cargo, to have flight data recorders onboard. Accident investigators regularly use these to determine why an accident took place. In fact, it tells us more than the last few minutes of what happens in a cockpit. It tells us a lot about how to help enhance the safety in the future to prevent accidents from ever taking place again. They monitor a very wide variety of aircraft systems during a flight, from engine start up to landing and even taxiing after they land to drop off cargo or people.
The black box analyzes the data. The fact that we have multiple data from flights, it does not have to be an accident. We can see what went wrong and fix the problems so we keep Canadians safe. That is what the government will do. We want to protect Canadians before the accident happens, not just afterwards. The data can be used to enhance aircraft maintenance schedules so we have preventative maintenance onboard of a more serious nature, and monitor even flight crew performance.
The flight data monitoring programs have been implemented in many countries throughout the world and are widely recognized as very cost effective methods and tools for improving flight safety. In Europe and the United States these are pretty much the standard on flight operational quality assurance. Most carriers have had the program for years.
We are currently working with Canadian air carriers that are interested in establishing voluntary flight data monitoring to do so. We have initiated agreements with four carriers to do so. We will provide funding and support for the exchange of information, so industry can exchange information, which will give us a bigger base to draw from to ensure that accidents do not happen.
Two important elements of this program relate to the confidentiality of the data. We have to ensure the data is confidential, otherwise people will not share it with us. For this program to work, it is most important we keep confidential reports and once they do report, it is on the basis they will not be penalized for the information they provided. Aircraft operators have indicated they are not prepared to provide this information unless those two criteria are met. We listened to stakeholders and we will implement what is best for Canadians. This is best to provide impunity and confidentiality.
We will share those results, analyze the data and protect identity and any punishment that would take place. There are currently evidentiary issues under the Aeronautics Act and we will ensure that we honour those commitments.
The key for our government is not to blame people, not to penalize people, but to keep Canadians safe. However we can do that, we are going to do that. We are going to prevent deaths and accidents.
The proposed amendment will give a legal foundation to the agreements entered into by aircraft operators with Transport Canada, confirming that the collection of the data, the analysis and the use of it and the disclosure of the information derived from the flight data recorders will not be used against their wishes, but will be used in the best interests of Canadians.
The amendments will also provide the necessary confidentiality and enforcement protections to encourage aircraft operators to voluntarily implement flight data monitoring programs. Why would they report, why would they even put the equipment there, if they are going to be penalized? That is why we have to do it this way.
This is only one of the many proposed amendments found in Bill C-6. Other examples include the designation of industry bodies, the reporting programs and, as mentioned earlier, the broader authorities concerning integrated management systems, which is so effective in other countries. Let us face it, we have to learn from other people doing the same things we are doing to ensure it does not happen.
Stakeholders are absolutely enthusiastic. That is what makes me so happy to rise here today. All stakeholders have bought into this amendment to the Aeronautics Act. I look forward to the opportunity to answer my friends' questions from across the floor.
This Prime Minister and this government listens. We will protect Canadians.
I appreciate very much the opportunity to rise today in the House to introduce this act. I look forward to support from my colleagues from all sides of the House on it.