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House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was property.

Topics

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House today at third reading of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act.

The Aeronautics Act has been in place since 1919 and last underwent a major overhaul in the mid-1980s. Many of the amendments made at that time were aimed at enhancing the compliance and enforcement provisions of the act, including the establishment of the Civil Aviation Tribunal, which was later converted into the multi-model Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

The act was further amended in 1992 to authorize the making of interim orders by the transport minister, the making of agreements with provincial land use authorities for airport zoning, and to further enhance the compliance provisions of the Act. Other amendments were also made to enhance aviation security.

It has now been more than 20 years since the Aeronautics Act has had a substantial review and it is considered important and timely that the act be updated at this time to mostly improve the safety of the travelling public and to reflect the current needs of the aviation industry in our country. That is the goal of the government and that is the goal of the act.

Canada has the sixth largest aerospace manufacturing sector, the second largest population of licensed pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers and the second largest civil aviation aircraft fleet and over six million aircraft movements in Canada every year.

More than 1,000 air operators carry passengers and accommodate the needs of some of the most isolated places in the world. The aviation industry connects dozens of mid- and small-sized cities and towns in the country to the vast grid of worldwide air travel.

The aviation industry is also part of our competitive advantage in this global economy. To remain competitive globally, the industry must continue to improve its safety performance. While Canada is recognized worldwide as having an excellent safety record, in fact one of the best in the world, this enviable safety record does not mean that we can sit back and rest on our laurels and be complacent. In fact, we must move forward aggressively with better safety compliance.

In today's challenging and rapidly expanding world of aviation, the government is always looking for new ways to achieve a higher level of safety by improving the sound regulatory base on which the system currently operates.

The department has a responsibility as well to have the tools and the guidance in place to actively improve on the safety performance of an already very safe industry in Canada in anticipation of further growth and increased activity, while taking advantage of continuously evolving technology.

Allow me to summarize the various legislative steps through which the bill has already passed. The bill was introduced in the House on April 27, 2006, and second reading began shortly thereafter in May. During second reading, members in the House heard that the amendments proposed to update the Aeronautics Act would provide for a modern and flexible legislative framework that would enable a number of aviation safety enhancements over the next several years. It is very important to move forward with safety for Canadians, and the government is taking action on that front.

Members also heard that the bill placed emphasis on managing safety from an organizational perspective and expanded the enabling authority to facilitate the implementation of management systems as well as provided the protection provisions required to obtain safety information.

The bill also proposes increases in penalties that may be imposed under the current act. These penalties have not been increased for a number of years and the increases are intended to deter non-compliance to not allow violators to have business as usual and to pay and to live on a fine system.

A new part 2 of the act was also added to allow Canadian Forces investigators to have legal authority to investigate accidents involving civilian military personnel that were comparable to the authorities exercised by the Transportation Safety Board investigators in civilian accidents.

A number of housekeeping amendments will also clarify some relationships and ministerial authorities between the act and other acts, such as the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act and the Civil Air Navigation Services Commercialization Act.

It is a very complicated issue, and it took our committee much time to deal with it at that time.

Consultations began on the amendments in 2000, first by Transport Canada and then continued when the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. for review in February 2007.

The committee heard from key transportation representatives from the private sector, all of whom share a commitment to aviation safety, as well as private individuals representing the public interest, officials of Transport Canada and, of course, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities who works so hard in the House.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the committee who worked with myself on this particular legislative initiative, especially for taking the time to hear more than 30 witnesses during this session and for conducting such a thorough review of the bill.

I am very pleased to comment on the improvements to Bill C-7 that were made by the committee. Committee members provided valuable input during consideration of the bill resulting in several refinements of the bill itself. Certainly the committee itself was seized with the issue of safety for Canadians as being our utmost concern. We believe the bill now addresses those issues.

Although there was broad support for passage of the bill, many witnesses requested some improvements to be made. The committee has considered these requests and a number of changes were made that will improve the regulatory framework, therefore benefiting all Canadians and, ultimately, the safety of all Canadians.

The enabling authority for safety management systems regulation is valid and authorized under the existing Aeronautics Act. Bill C-7 proposes amendments related to the management system to maximize their effectiveness and to further facilitate the implementation for certificate holders.

The amendments allow, in part, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to require by order certificate orders to enhance their safety management systems or take corrective measures when these systems are considered deficient.

SMS regulations are necessary to increase aviation safety. Safety management systems is not about self-regulation as was brought forward by at least one witness and it is not about deregulation. Rather, it is an additional layer over and above what we currently have in Canada, a layer that is considered to produce more safety for Canadians.

The role of the minister in the oversight of aviation safety was further clarified by an amendment stating that the minister shall carry out inspections of the aeronautic activities of holders of Canadian aviation documents who are required to have a management system.

With respect to the designation of organizations to certify certain segments of the industry, this new authority in the Aeronautics Act will not allow the minister to abdicate his oversight responsibility to an industry body. Indeed, these designated organizations will be allowed to monitor the activity of a specific segment of the industry if it represents a low risk level in relation to aviation safety.

The key is that the committee looked at the safety of Canadians and took it forward as the primary concern that we have.

An amendment was adopted at committee l to clarify under what circumstances organizations, whose activities relate to aeronautics, may be designated by the minister.

With respect to the reporting of safety information, the protection afforded by the proposed amendment will help nurture and sustain a safety culture, which is so important from the mechanics, to the baggage handlers, to the very pilots. This culture must be enhanced and encouraged and we would suggest that the bill goes some way in doing that. Employees can confidentially report safety deficiencies without fear of subsequent punitive action.

Amendments found in Bill C-7 provide for protection of those reporting information through a safety management system.

However, additional protection was introduced at committee after much discussion to clarify that a holder of a Canadian aviation document shall not use information disclosed by an employee under a safety management system process requiring or encouraging disclosure of information to take any disciplinary proceedings or take any reprisal adversely affecting working conditions against that employee who disclosed the information, provided that certain conditions are met.

It should be made clear that safety management systems do not relieve operators from compliance with any of the current Canadian aviation regulations and standards. It also does not eliminate the taking of enforcement action when necessary, including fines and/or suspensions.

On the contrary, the regulations actually add an additional layer of requirements for operators to establish integrated risk management programs aimed at taking proactive action before the issue of safety actually arises in a more serious way and to address safety issues before they develop into a more serious incident or accident.

I am also very pleased that during the report stage debate the House decided on motions following a fulsome discussion on this issue. While most of the motions that were accepted are editorial in nature and do not affect the substance of the bill, they do serve to improve the intent of the amendments.

An updated Aeronautics Act is absolutely essential to continue to advance aviation safety while respecting the continuously evolving operational environment in which operators find themselves.

I would, therefore, at this time encourage all members to vote to pass the bill so that our colleagues in the Senate can start the process of reviewing the bill without delay and we can keep Canadians safe.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard some wisdom in the speech of my colleague, the parliamentary secretary and a committee member.

It is important for airlines and other companies to understand that the safety management system does not replace the obligation of Transport Canada to conduct inspections.

My colleague understood the efforts that the Bloc Québécois and other opposition parties were making to try to improve this bill. There was the ICAO representative who came to tell us that when a safety management system is put in place, it is extremely important not to abandon the inspection system. Safety management systems are just getting started. They are in the process of being integrated into airlines throughout the world, not just in Canada. So it is important to maintain an inspection system.

I would like the parliamentary secretary to tell me whether this bill will maintain an inspection service, supported by Transport Canada, which will be just as good as before.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that inspections will continue. This is an added layer of safety. Academics, leading safety experts and international bodies, such as the one my friend mentioned, the International Civil Aviation Organization, all advocate that greater attention be paid to managing systems at the organizational level.

What we are doing is adding an additional layer. The inspections are important but what is really important is to create a real culture of safety and to continue to keep Canadians safe. The is what the legislation is going to do. That is what the government is going to do.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the parliamentary secretary for bringing back a bill that the committee, as he acknowledged, worked diligently to promote. I am especially delighted because this is another one of those bills in a long list of bills that has been derived from Liberal initiatives in the last Parliament, similar to Liberal initiatives of the last Parliament or depend heavily on those transport bills that were introduced prior to the 2005-06 election.

I had hoped that the parliamentary secretary would have taken a little more of a moment to celebrate the success of bringing forward such legislation, inasmuch as it indicates that this Parliament can actually work. No bill can come out of committee without the cooperation of the majority of the members and that means there is a coming together of ideas on the main points of the legislation.

I am still looking forward to a piece of legislation that will be uniquely government and not so dependent on the opposition. However, speaking for all Canadians, this actually is a classic bill that deserves to be passed through the House with great speed because members of all parties worked to perfect it. In fact, every member of all three opposition parties worked hard and debated vigorously, sometimes acrimoniously, to ensure there were improvements.

As the parliamentary secretary has indicated, a series of witnesses appeared, and appeared more than once, and they too presented some suggestions for improvement that would have enhanced air traffic and air travel in the aviation industry in Canada. We all assume that everybody is working for the public good.

However, under the scrutiny of questions from members of Parliament of all parties in committee, demonstrating that this democratic process does work and in fact worked productively, we were able to come forward with what is now Bill C-7 and present it to the House.

Regrettably, and I must introduce this little negative moment, the bill did not get through the House in June, as it should have. I think all of us were expecting that it would, especially when all members were working together. One of my colleagues from the NDP, who worked diligently in committee to fight every improvement and then voted to accept them all, came into the House and said that he had changed his mind. Such is the way of politics. However, my compliments still go out to that member for having helped to improve the bill. He was not alone. Government members had to demonstrate that they were ready to accept the very good positions that other members had worked diligently to bring forward.

The parliamentary secretary says that he wants to put everybody's mind at ease, and so he should. He should put everybody's mind at ease because the bill was structured such to establish a new management system, the main focus of which would be the ongoing improvement of safety measures. Safety first. Imagine, with air traffic and air travel constantly on the increase, that we would have, as our very first and most important consideration, the safety of the travelling public. That safety can have absolutely no compromise.

When the debate came forward on the kinds of systems that would be in place, voluntary ones some would say, that would encourage employees, employers, entrepreneurs and all those associated with the aviation industry, whether they are ground crew or air crew, to come forward and make their own suggestions to this system without penalty, that they would do so without fear of retribution.

Imagine, in 2007 we are talking about people who have to be given assurance that to do the right thing should not bring any negative consequences to their jobs. Imagine that. Imagine for a moment that some of those people might not have done the right thing and put in jeopardy a flying public, a travelling public, that increasingly depends on air transportation to move from point A to point B.

I focused on the travelling public, but of course there is also cargo that depends on this modern mode of transportation. It was sufficiently important to give that kind of assurance to establish a psychology of cooperation, to establish a common psyche, that says we all have a commitment to each other and we must all work to ensure that the equipment that we take off the ground and put in the air is safe for all those who use it, whether they are up in the air while it is being used or on the ground when it eventually comes back down again.

Members of Parliament understood that very important feature and said what we need to do is establish that climate, make sure that people voluntarily come forward and put in place a mechanism that says there must always be a ministerial presence, that government will always be there to ensure that the regulatory process guarantees that there will be no transgressions committed against those who come forward to contribute to a climate of mutual cooperation.

There are some pretty heavy and committed interests who came forward and said, “We want you to be absolutely sure”. Members from all sides said these people had a point and in amendment after amendment, debate after debate, all of these issues were put forward.

We see before us now a bill that says we have taken into consideration all of those issues and have put in place a safety management system that does not replace the ministerial regulatory oversight required to ensure that the weight of the law is behind all regulations, all systems, and all requirements to ensure that the public that is being served is always put forward with its security and safety first and foremost. If nothing else, merited support in this bill, that one factor does.

All members of Parliament on that committee deserve credit for this because all of them knew that was something upon which no one could compromise, and no one did. No one did. There was no partisanship associated with that, but there was a lot of very difficult introspective scrutiny applied to each and every sentence. And I dare say, and I know the parliamentary secretary will agree with me, that every word, in some cases punctuation marks, was scrutinized for fear that the bill would be less than what the intention of every member around the table thought it should be.

This was done in English and in French. It was the same for members of the Bloc. They have a completely different political position than we do here, but they too were concerned about the interests and safety of the travelling public. The discussions and debates were the same in both French and English, and equally vigorous.

Everybody wanted to move forward. That is why I needed to introduce that little moment of regret because the bill should have sailed through the House at third reading in June. It should have received royal assent in June. It should have been proclaimed in June.

I know, Mr. Speaker, you are really interested in this because there are a lot of Canadians, not only in your province but in the provinces that all of us represent, who are interested in the consequences of the bill not only immediately but economically as well.

Why would we not have done this in June? Why are we waiting until almost November? Good legislation takes a while in its construction, in the infrastructure to put it together, and to get a consensus built. It is time consuming and energy demanding.

Why are we waiting until the beginning of November for a bill that was virtually unanimously agreed upon? I know my colleague from Burnaby will say it was not unanimously agreed upon. He had an opportunity to vote on every single amendment, sometimes he accepted it, sometimes he did not. We agreed with much of the input that he presented for our consideration. When it came time to support the bill, he withdrew his support. That was his decision. He represents a party that has a particular position. God bless those members, they have to address that with their own constituents.

That was not our decision. When I say ours, I mean the constituency of all Canadians who want to ensure that the system that is put in place to guarantee the safety and security of the aeronautics industry is one that should be first and foremost for us all.

We went a little bit further than that. We also took into consideration the role of military DND flights in Canada. We examined the role that it plays in establishing such a system and how it operates in the event that there are incidents or accidents that involve either its personnel or its aircraft.

Some people might ask why that would be significant. It is significant for all of us because it is the one time that one department transcended the interests of all other departments with respect to jurisdiction and what it would do in the unhappy event of an incident or an accident that would engage either DND, its personnel, or any of the private sector players in the field.

We took a look at their considerations. I dare say that members of Parliament began to challenge some of the jurisdictional expertise that was brought to bear and tried as much as they could to bring about a confluence of the interests that are pan-Canadian.

We also looked at the distinctions that surface between the small operators, and there are many of them in Canada given our great geography, our great distances, and the nature of the business itself, as well as the large carriers, those that employ thousands of Canadians in a fashion that many of us do not appreciate fully. But without the kind of rigour and oversight required, and without the commitment of each and every one of those men and women, whether they were working on air side or port side, whether they were working on the technological side or whether they were working in terms of establishing that environment for service, each and every one of them had to make a contribution toward that cooperative, collective sense of mutual benefit, mutual cooperation, and mutual security. Those were other issues that were addressed.

There were moments, I am sure the parliamentary secretary in his statement said there were some difficult moments and some issues that were designed to come forward. Transport officials began with a particular position and ended up with a position that was reflected in the bill that is before us today. They brought forward their technological expertise, their understanding of the issues and, compliments to all members who were on that committee, caused committee members to absorb all that expertise and that experience, and then to work together. It is a unique situation. I am sure that the parliamentary secretary will agree.

In fact, it was the chairman of the committee who probably guided everybody toward this particular position where he essentially said all of this must reflect all of us. There was no “we-they” in a situation that saw the expertise of Transport Canada coming forward through this bill.

I said at the outset in some jest, but actually reflecting the reality of the situation, that I was a member of a government that brought forward the parent of this legislation and a series of others. I am hoping that the Minister of Transport will go through all those bits of legislation that we presented and say that we have to revive these, just as we revived this one.

I must say that there are rare moments in this House when all members come together and say, “This bill should be passed immediately. Let's eliminate the rhetoric associated with delay. Let's eliminate all the issues that are related with partisanship and the perceived advantage that one gets by delaying”.

From our perspective, this is one bill, and I repeat myself, I know, I am not in the habit of doing that as my colleagues on the committee will tell, but we should do it and do it today. In fact, if the parliamentary secretary calls for unanimous consent to have this passed at third reading today, he would get it from me. But I know he would not get it from our good colleague from Burnaby, who has developed sort of I guess it is a cheval de guerre position against the bill.

I know members want to hear what everybody else has to say. Compliments to members of Parliament who have acknowledged the Liberal genesis of this bill. Compliments to those Liberal members on the committee who saw the wisdom of the changes that we put forward and said, “Let's get it done together”. I do not want to be too begrudging of compliments to the others, but there were Bloc members and Conservative members who said, “We see eye to eye on this, so let's get it done”. And we have got it done.

Now we rely on the government and the Bloc to make sure that this passes right away and if they are convincing enough, apparently they can be, they can convince the NDP members to say, “We said all we had to say in June”. I am sure they exhausted their voices. Now all they need to do is recognize what is right and pass this legislation.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed working with my colleague, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence. He has great ideas, he is a hard worker, and he obviously has very persuasive arguments, but I do have one question. I cannot leave it alone.

I have three sons. My youngest son actually asked me the other day what was the difference between a Liberal and a Conservative, and I had to explain it to him. Because I was in a bit of a rush I said to him, “Son, there are two kinds of people: there are those people who talk about getting things done and there are those people who get things done”, and he understood from that, that obviously the Liberals talk about doing things and the Conservatives get things done.

I am curious. With 13 years to get the job done before, most of it in a majority government, he never got it done. I am wondering what stopped him and his government from getting this done when they just did not get it done and we did.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not want members to think that I was completely non-partisan about this, although I was hoping that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport might have passed on the temptation to shed partisanship into a discussion that was actually emerging from, how dare I call it, the NDP approached partisanship.

I can already see that my colleague from Burnaby is getting himself all excited, but I think he has already had his impact on the parliamentary secretary who missed the opportunity to say, “You know what? This is a gracious moment for all of us.” I give him an opportunity to recant.

Those of us who have presented legislation in the past and have met with obduracy by the Conservatives, when they were in opposition, are magnanimous enough to work on a good idea, even if it was ours.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by pointing out the Liberal member's conciliatory tone, and his desire to help this minority government work, going as far as groveling at times. I hope he will stand up to the Conservatives a little more firmly in the future.

That said, I should point out to him that Bill C-62 introduced under the Liberal majority government was nothing like the one before us today. A Liberal bill was introduced when the Liberals were in the majority. It was a far cry from this bill resulting from accommodations thanks to which we were able to open the government's eyes because, in a minority government situation, the opposition parties are in the majority at committee.

Just the same, I do hope that my hon. Liberal colleague realizes that Bill C-7 is not at all similar in nature to Bill C-62 introduced under the Liberal government.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my hon. colleague. It was very gracious of him to recognize that I am able to remove myself when there are theatrics going on, but that I am one of those who work hard when there is work to be done. What we have before us is the result of such work.

I want to reassure the hon. members that, even if the Bloc Québécois member contends that this bill is not similar to Bill C-62 introduced by the previous Liberal government, as I have said, and I will say again because I like to repeat it, this bill is the result of the work of members who wanted to lay upon the table a bill meaningful to all Canadians, regardless of where they live in Canada.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence talking about just getting this bill through. There is only one problem with that: this is not in the public interest.

Coming from British Columbia where we have self-managed systems, where basically the former Liberal government turned over safety management systems to the railway companies, we have seen the impact. We have seen an escalating derailment rate. We have seen major problems in British Columbia because the railway companies no longer have the oversight.

Now, with this unsafe skies act put forward by the Conservatives, we see that the difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals is like the difference between Coke and Coke: there is no difference. We have unsafe railways and now we have the unsafe skies act.

I have a question for the member for Eglinton—Lawrence. Why should we rush the bill through the House when we know essentially what this does, given the attrition rate with inspectors and the fact that there are dozens of inspector positions that are unfilled and given that the government is trying to get out of inspections and hand over, piecemeal, the safety of our skies to the companies themselves, some of which will handle it well and some of which clearly will not?

Why the rush? Why ram this through, Liberals and Conservatives working together, when this is not in the public interest and when Canadians need to see safer skies, not unsafe skies?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know which bill the hon. member is talking about, because he was on the committee for all those days and hours that I was there. Yes, we took a look at the public interest, and to suggest that this is not in the public interest is to deny all the work that was done.

If this was going to be a position that he was going to hold from the very beginning he would not have put the Bloc, Liberal and Conservative members through the exercise of making a bill undergo the scrutiny that it requires and then emerge from that committee to come back to the House. There were 15 members on the committee. Fourteen of them cannot all be wrong and only one of them right.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Twelve.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

On, no. We added a couple just so we could have greater weight in consideration.

I just wonder what the hon. member is talking about when he says this is not a bill in the public interest. I am sorry. I think that we spent several months of study to ensure that it would reflect the public interest. To come into the House and deny the work of committee members to ensure that the public interest is first and foremost and put in this legislation so that it will be the law of the land is an unfortunate reflection on the good solid work of members of Parliament. I think he should withdraw that statement.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

As several of my colleagues have said already, this is a bill that has evolved over the course of many discussions, including those held in committee. We must remember that before the Conservative government decided to prorogue the House, the Bloc Québécois had voted against this bill—which was then Bill C-6—at second reading. Today, we are supporting Bill C-7 because it has changed considerably. I will try to explain this.

Earlier, I was talking about the history of this bill to my Liberal colleague. In the previous Parliament, when the Liberal Party formed a minority government, it introduced Bill C-62, in November 2005. Like the bill now before the House, that was a bill to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. When the Conservatives, in turn, formed a minority government, they brought back that bill in almost identical form, but for a few words. Those are the facts.

When the Conservatives reinstated Bill C-6, they did not bother to ensure that it met the needs of the industry and the people responsible for safety. I am referring to Transport Canada inspectors, and any other agency with the very specific task of looking after safety. We must not forget that Transport Canada had already allowed the airlines to implement their own safety management system without having any legislation for overseeing that system. Before reintroducing Bill C-6, the Conservatives did not bother to make sure that the safety management system had been accredited, although it was included in Bill C-6.

For those who are listening to us, I will try to summarize what the safety management system is. What it does is allow companies to have an internal way of operating that makes it possible for employees to report safety violations within the company. Without this framework, employees might be deterred from working to develop the security management system because they were afraid of losing their job or being reprimanded by their superiors.

This was the Bloc’s big concern. We did not want the safety management system being proposed again in Bill C-6 to replace the entire inspection system in place at Transport Canada. That system is in fact the source of the excellent safety reputation of the entire civil aviation system in Canada, and obviously in Quebec, for the Quebeckers for whose interests we stand up every day in this House. In our opinion, it was very important that the safety management system not replace the entire Transport Canada inspection system. That is why we voted against Bill C-6 at second reading.

We asked that witnesses, including representatives of the International Civil Aviation Organization, be invited to explain to the committee the entire process of implementing the safety management system. Canada was indeed a leader in implementing the safety management system in civil aviation. However, the ICAO representative gave us to understand that implementing a safety management system inside the airline....

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

I thank my colleagues for the applause. So if ever...

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I am sorry, but first, the Minister of Finance want to raise a point of order.

Notice of MotionWays and MeansGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for permitting me to interrupt him here.

Pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of ways and means motion to amend the Income Tax Act and to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Excise Act, 2001, and the Air Travellers Security Charge Act.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Economic StatementGovernment Orders

October 30th, 2007 / 4 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I wish to table the government's Economic Statement 2007.

Economic StatementGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Some hon. members

Speech.

Economic StatementGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Yes, we will have a speech.

The hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel will have 15 minutes to conclude his speech.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to allow the hon. Minister of Finance the opportunity to speak. As you know, the Bloc Québécois would have liked to see this budget statement given before this House, but of course, the NDP refused. I therefore had the pleasure of giving the Minister of Finance a few minutes to put on his show.

Once again, I would like to return to the safety management system. It is very important that our citizens clearly understand the changes preferred by the Bloc Québécois regarding this bill, particularly in the interest of their safety. Civil aviation must reassure its clientele, and this was the Bloc Québécois' guiding principle when we voted against Bill C-6 at second reading and as we worked in committee, trying to advance the bill and convince the government that it was off track.

Still we succeeded thanks to the testimony of various stakeholders who did a good job of making the government understand the situation. It finally agreed that civil aviation companies could not be allowed to have a security management system that would replace Transport Canada inspections. The Bloc Québécois wanted to ensure that the entire inspection service was kept, including the inspectors, check pilots, and all the people who can show up occasionally at companies without warning to ensure that they are complying with high security standards. This inspection service had been the great strength of the civil aviation security system in Canada and Quebec.

That was how we did it. Similarly, we were able to make our various partners understand that a vote against this bill on second reading could become a vote in favour of it so long as some important changes were made. I am quite happy with the results. In a minority government, it is the opposition parties that have a majority in committee and we managed together to re-work this bill so that the security management system would be supported and supervised by a good inspection system similar to what we used to have and to what the witnesses told us.

As I said before, the International Civil Aviation Organization representative came to tell us that when a country decides to go to a security management system, it should keep an inspection service to supervise it. That is what this bill does: the minister and Transport Canada are required to inspect the large airlines that have their own security management systems. The management system is just added to the entire security service. It does not replace Transport Canada’s inspection service but is added to the security already provided. This will enable employees to report security problems within the company to their employer without having to fear disciplinary action, thanks to an entire system established under this bill.

We obviously needed to ensure that employees who reveal information about security lapses are protected. We did not want to go so far as an informer system but chose rather a system that would help improve the company and improve its security. This whole system is supervised, and we were obliged, of course, to ensure that the Canada Labour Code took precedence over anything in the legislation. This took time, but the government and my colleagues in the opposition understood very well why we were doing it.

We needed to make sure that if employees had employability problems as a result of making statements within the framework of this system, their employment would be protected. As far as the Canada Labour Code is concerned, it was important to us that it take priority over this bill because this affected the interests of employees in the entire civil aviation system.

Obviously this safety management system starts with those who work on maintenance on the ground or those who take care of any type of maintenance of the plane, including pilots and cabin crew. All these people who work in the civil aviation industry and in a company are now part of this safety management system, which currently applies to the eight major airlines and will also apply to smaller companies.

As far as the smaller companies are concerned, Transport Canada came up with what is called a designated agency, whereby the smaller companies that take adventure tourists by jet or by helicopter to tourist destinations in northern Quebec or other parts of Canada, can be supervised by a designated agency.

Until the larger companies manage to establish a truly effective safety management system, properly inspected by Transport Canada, then it will be rather difficult hand off to designated agencies the companies that are beacons to every part of the industry, the smallest public air carriers, where there are fewer travellers than on the major airlines.

As long as there was no balance in the larger companies, we felt it was too soon to entrust this to other agencies, to create designated agencies to take care of the smaller companies that would have to follow the same safety standards as the larger companies. That is what we wanted to be sure of.

However, before delegating to intermediaries the monitoring of all these activities at smaller public airlines, we wanted to ensure that the system was well in place at major companies. This is why there will be a waiting period before the designated organization is established. Indeed, this organization may become operative three years after the bill receives royal assent. Therefore, designated organizations are maintained. Indeed, such organizations can be established under this legislation.

During those three years, Transport Canada will be able to properly select these organizations, so that we, and of course the public, can be quite familiar with the organizations that will monitor smaller companies. We must be in a position to ensure that they are properly inspected and monitored. It is possible that companies that build aircraft or other things be appointed as designated organizations. This is rather difficult, because these companies have clients.

We want to ensure that these people, because they deal with clients, tighten up safety standards somewhat. We want to ensure that an effective inspection and management system is in place, so that the people, the organizations or the companies that become designated organizations are well aware that they will be monitored by Transport Canada. This is why inspectors will be conducting on-site verifications and inspections at any time, at both larger and smaller carriers, so that everyone who may some day travel on a public airline will be truly protected, and so that their safety will never be compromised.

This is the objective that has always been behind the Bloc's statements in the House. This is why, as I said, we voted against Bill C-6, which is now Bill C-7, at second reading. That bill was incomplete, and it did not guarantee that the inspection system in Canada would be preserved. Instead, it suggested that the safety management system would replace Transport Canada's whole inspection system, which has been in place for the past 30 years.

This bill incorporates the same inspection service. We have been assured that the same number of inspectors will be maintained and perhaps even increased, if necessary. Moreover, the security management system within an operation will allow all employees, regardless of category, whether they work on the ground, in maintenance, in passenger service, as pilots or in other occupations, to file a complaint or disclose a breach of security, which would then enable Transport Canada to investigate any safety management system.

There would be Transport Canada specialists to verify the safety management system and there would also be inspectors to go into a company at any time to examine the quality and condition of aircraft, to determine whether pilots have the required skills, and so forth. All of that, of course, is intended to protect the safety and security of Quebeckers as well as that of Canadians.

On that point, we will never back down.

Apart from the safety management system, we agree with the objectives of this bill as presented: to maintain current monitoring and inspection measures; to qualify designated organizations by establishing a period of three years before they are authorized to exercise their responsibilities. During that period, Transport Canada will take the time to train, coach and supervise those organizations, and later, inspect them. Finally, this legislation will be harmonized with the Canada Labour Code.

If we are moving toward a system where employees have the privilege and the power to point out breaches of security within their operation, it is essential that those employees are protected. To do that, this bill must be harmonized with the Canada Labour Code. We want whistle blowers to be protected. In that way, people who file complaints or disclose breaches of security will be protected and there will be access to an audit and inspection report, through access to information procedures.

On the subject of access to information, the Conservative government still has the bad habit of making such reports as inaccessible as possible. That is not acceptable as part of a bill that provides for 95% of what we are asking for. Obviously, some documents will be made available to the public, but they will protect the great majority of documents from access to information.

Transport Canada and the federal government tell us that it is also necessary to protect the individuals who make those disclosures. Their names and other information must be hidden. We were ready to do that and even to give direction to the information commissioner. We are aware that this could cause problems for national security. Some information must not be disclosed.

However, for the rest, if we know that some employees have made disclosures after an accident, within a company where a safety management system has been established, we would want the entire file to be available to the public. We now understand that will not happen. Only a summary of the disclosure will be available to the public.

We have made some gains but some day there will have to be a real battle over this bill. Time will tell what kind of documents are provided through access to information.

We can understand that it is necessary to protect the names of the people who disclose information. We also understand that those must be voluntary disclosures. Accordingly, companies must encourage their employees to make voluntary disclosures. We can also understand that if the documents are made public, some companies would want to prevent employees from doing so.

We think that once the whole system is up and running, we will have to revisit the access to information issue. If ever an incident or a disaster were to occur, the people of Canada and the whole world would want to know about the company's safety record. That way, we would know whether such accidents happen often and whether companies are doing everything they can to prevent them.

All we are saying is that Transport Canada's report will be made public. The report will summarize briefly—or at length—audits of the company.

That means that we will never see the statements signed by employees. We will just have to accept Transport Canada's periodic audit reports. When Transport Canada audits a company, it has to keep an audit report that details certain criteria, requests and complaints submitted by the companies, but that does not name names. It will be pretty vague. In time, we will see how well this works.

Refusing to make these documents public is the Conservatives' modus operandi, as we have seen over the past few months.

We, the Bloc Québécois, are rather satisfied with the rest of Bill C-7. It differs significantly from what the Liberals introduced in Bill C-62 when they formed a minority government. It even differs significantly from what the Conservatives first introduced.

They copied and pasted what the Liberals did without consulting industry and without ensuring that appropriate safeguards would remain in place. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois was there to help our colleagues understand that once again, safety was about to be eroded. We protected the interests of Quebeckers and those of Canadians, and we are proud of that.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his presentation.

He spoke about the fact that, at the outset, the bill had many problems. The Bloc and the NDP voted against Bill C-6 at second reading, given all the problems with the legislation.

Because of the many problems with the bill, we were able to correct barely half. This bill still has tremendous problems.

First there is the problem of self management. My colleague knows that allowing airline companies to manage their own safety systems poses a problem. Next, chief executives are not penalized if they violate Canadian laws. In addition, there is the matter of access to information and the fact that we now have seven additional sections. The information to which Quebec consumers have access should be set out in the Access to Information Act.

Given these three major problems that were not corrected in committee, because the Liberals decided to support the Conservatives, I find it difficult to understand how the Bloc could support such a bill. It is true that the Bloc and NDP efforts did make it possible to correct some of the problems with this bill. However, the bill is far from being in the public interest. I do not understand the position of the Bloc Québécois.

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to make my NDP colleague understand the problem he did not see.

Safety management systems already exist in Canada. If we do not do something quickly, this could deteriorate. For the Bloc, it is clear that self-assessment, along with maintaining an inspection service identical to the one we have now—as we succeeded in making the government understand—is no longer self-inspection. The system is in addition to current safety measures and is supported by Transport Canada. This was difficult because Transport Canada wanted to replace its inspection service with this safety management service. The problem is that it is already in force. The eight biggest airlines are already using the safety management system. They must be encouraged.

As for the other part of his problem—making everything public—that worries me. One thing is certain: if we want to encourage the disclosure of information, we must encourage the company to give its employees the requisite means. If everything down to the last comma is made public, there could be a problem when it comes to implementation. We want this to be implemented as soon as possible. This is why I said we would probably change our minds about what is made public through the Access to Information Act. I think that when there are tragedies, there will be questions from the public and the media, who will find that what Transport Canada provides is not enough. I do not want to jeopardize the ICAO's supervision of the existing system. We are not the only people in the world with this system.

The International Civil Aviation Organization would like safety management systems to be implemented in all countries. Canada has implemented such a system, and our great concern is that it will eventually replace the inspection system, which would be a mistake according to ICAO representatives. I think that the problem is that my NDP colleague might have had a little trouble grasping that but, the more he discusses with us in this House, the more he is progressing.