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.


Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have no problem understanding the dynamics or the bill. The comments made by my hon. colleague raise new thoughts and questions. Because the government was going ahead anyway, he suggested that this bill should be passed even if it was not in the public interest. I will come back to all these issues about inspections.

The hon. member knows as well as I do that, in recent years, the government has continuously been cutting positions. It started under the previous Liberal government and it is continuing under the Conservative government. Positions exist, but are not being filled and are therefore vacant. That is nonsense. As a result, dozens of inspectors are no longer available to carry out inspections to make sure that planes can safely take off.

Do these cuts the government is making while positions remain vacant worry him? Should a different approach not be taken to ensure that there is an air safety management system in place in the interest of the general public in Quebec and Canada?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I shared the hon. member's concerns before. However, he must realize one thing. The numbers that were given to us by Transport Canada, and those that were submitted by, among others, labour unions, were very different. We were provided with an explanation regarding the discrepancy of 400 inspectors, namely that some had been transferred to NAV CANADA. We had the opportunity to put questions again to Transport Canada officials, and my impression is—but the hon. member is certainly entitled to his own opinion—that, over the past two or three years, the number of inspectors has not gone down, under the Conservatives. We have to give them credit for that, because that number had diminished somewhat under the Liberals.

It is true that some positions are not being filled and that there are retirements, but what the government and the bill guarantee is that inspection services will be maintained. In order to do that, the government will have to fill these vacant positions. It is our job as MPs to ensure that this whole system is maintained. However, I cannot say that there are 400 fewer inspectors than in the past, because some of them have been transferred to other organizations, including NAV CANADA.

I am sincerely convinced that, with this bill, the inspection service that was in place at Transport Canada will be maintained. However, we are all entitled to our own opinion on the explanations that were provided to us. We always have that opportunity in committee. The hon. member has the right to believe what he thought. I asked many questions because, until the last minute, I was having a lot of problems with the numbers provided by Transport Canada. That department provided documents to us on three occasions. I am now comfortable enough with what Transport Canada presented us.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am saddened to rise in the debate on Bill C-7, which essentially is former Bill C-6, which the NDP stopped from being pushed through this House in June for the simple reason that this is clearly not in the public interest. I suppose that is why the government is pushing this forward on the eve of Halloween. This is just another way to scare Canadians, the unsafe skies act. The government is pushing forward legislation which inevitably, even though it may save some costs to government, is going to make our skies less safe.

The genesis of this goes back to the former Liberal government that was trying to do the same thing. The Liberals wanted to do the same thing to airlines that they did to the railways, and I will come back to that in a moment.

When the bill was introduced in the spring, Bloc members and NDP members voted against the bill at second reading. The bill went to committee. There was a whole range of amendments, pages and pages of amendments to fix this bad bill. As my colleague from Eglinton—Lawrence mentioned earlier, some amendments were adopted. There was some progress on the bill. We managed to fix about half of it. We managed to shore up two of the walls in this crumbling edifice that is air safety under the Conservative government, but the other two walls are there and are ready to fall at any minute.

For any member of this House to come forward and say that we have shored up two of the four crumbling walls, so we should fast track this bill through Parliament, I say that would be irresponsible. There are two walls ready to collapse at any time. The Conservatives refuse to fix the many bad aspects of this bad bill.

Regrettably, despite the fact that the NDP put forward the road map to actually get this bill to where the Conservatives purported to want to take it, half of those amendments that were proffered by the NDP, sometimes in conjunction with Bloc members or Liberal members, were rejected.

What we come to now is a bill that has some improvements, but under no circumstances should it be passed or fast tracked, because it has the major problems that the former bill had at second reading. The Bloc members voted against it at second reading, as did the NDP. To say that somehow this bill has been fixed I think would be trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Canadian public.

Let us go through some of the problems with the unsafe skies act of 2007, Bill C-7. Despite the fact that the NDP brought forward very clear objections in this House, the Conservatives have decided to push the bill through. The Conservatives seemingly have the cooperation of the Liberals again. I do not know if the Liberals are going to vote or not. This time they may actually vote. They did not vote on the throne speech. Regardless, to vote for this bill would be irresponsible. Let us look at the major concerns.

I should mention that at the committee stage, major concerns and worries were brought forward by people who know the business better than anyone else. Justice Virgil Moshansky, who ran the Dryden crash inquiry, brought forward major concerns with this bill.

We had the inspectors themselves, the Canadian Federal Pilots Association. Who knows safety better than the inspectors themselves? They talked about the attrition and the downgrading of the key inspector roles in Canadian aviation, and I will come back to that in a moment in regard to Jetsgo of which many Canadians are aware. The fact that the Canadian Federal Pilots Association would come forward should be a red flag for any member of this House.

We had the Canada Safety Council and some smaller air operators that raised legitimate concerns about having to compete with other air operators that have lower safety standards. They talked about what that would mean both to their ability to deliver safety and compete in a marketplace where safety should be the first and foremost function of air operators.

The committee heard from Ken Rubin, the access to information expert. The committee also heard from the Canadian Union of Public Employees which represents flight attendants.

There was a vast array of objections to this bill. There was a vast array of concerns raised, and despite the fact that some of the amendments were adopted, we are still at this place where half of the edifice is crumbling.

We need to be very careful about pushing this legislation through. We need to know what the implications will be for airline safety in the next year or in the next two or three years. The decision we make at third reading of Bill C-7 will have implications for Canadians and we need to be very careful about voting for it. Each member needs to weigh what the consequences could be for Canadian families before they rush to vote through the legislation.

The first area of concern that has not been addressed is the whole question of safety management systems. This is an area of huge concern because we have seen what happened to Canada's railways when safety management was turned over to them, Canadian National being the best example with its CEO Hunter Harrison. He has simply put into place a system that, according to many observers, is fast-tracking profits at the expense of safety.

In British Columbia, we know this perhaps better than Canadians in any other part of the country. We have seen an escalation of derailments, some involving deaths, many involving property damage and environmental devastation, and that has happened since safety management was turned over to the railways. The minister simply does not have the tools to ensure that our railway system functions in a safe way.

What has been the fallout from that? In the Fraser Canyon of British Columbia, Cheakamus River and Wabamun Lake in Alberta, we have seen environmental devastation and deaths.

Bill C-7 essentially turns over safety management systems to the airlines themselves. For some airlines that may be no problem at all. There are many responsible airline operators in this country and they will ensure that the highest possible standards are maintained, but that will not be the case for all air operators.

I would like to read into the record one of the articles that came out last year in the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator and the Kitchener-Waterloo Record about one particular air carrier. The headline reads:

Jetsgo problems ignored; Probe into death of the discount airline last year reveals major shortcomings of Transport Canada

National regulator was slow to take action as safety problems continue to climb, investigation shows

Transport Canada stood by while thousands of Canadians boarded Jetsgo planes amid a growing list of safety problems at the discount airline.

More than a year after the death of Jetsgo, Transport Canada insists it did the right thing in keeping the doomed airline flying and has not changed its procedures in light of the Jetsgo experience.

Jetsgo, which offered tickets as low as $1, had repeated mechanical breakdowns, shoddy maintenance practices, inexperienced pilots and midair mishaps.

Transport Canada, which is mandated to keep Canada's skies safe, knew of the problems, but for 2 1/2 years dismissed the troubles as the growing pains of a start-up operator.

Only after a near-crash in Calgary in January 2005 did it take tough action, but even after a special inspection the next month revealed serious trouble, the regulator continued to publicly tout the airline as “safe”.

Interviews with former employees, incident reports filed with Transport Canada and the Transportation Safety Board, and internal government documents paint a picture of an airline so badly run that some considered a major accident inevitable.

The Jetsgo experience underscores some of the major findings that are part of an ongoing investigation into aviation safety by The Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator and The Record of Waterloo Region. The probe has found a system struggling to keep up with the demands of higher passenger traffic and a disturbing number of mechanical problems.

It goes on to talk about the problems of Jetsgo itself. It reads:

Problems emerged early. Three months after the launch of the discount airline, sloppy maintenance forced an emergency landing in Toronto. The pilots noticed they were losing the hydraulic fluid that helps run aircraft systems.... Mechanics had installed a temporary hydraulic line with the wrong pressure rating, and it failed within two flights.

The article goes on about other incidents: leaking hydraulic fluid; engine failures; and a clogged engine oil filter that forced an emergency landing in Winnipeg.

The engine had been left in storage and didn't get a proper check when it was installed, according to a Transportation Safety Board report.

The article talks about flames coming out of an engine on a Jetsgo plane that had just left Toronto for Mexico. It goes on to talk about emergency landings and about organizational problems within the airline.

This one article alone should be a cause for alarm. Why are we turning over safety management systems to the airlines themselves when right now the system is not functioning properly and another Jetsgo could arise?

What we are doing with Bill C-7, if the Liberals and Conservatives get their way, is turning over safety management, as with Jetsgo, to the airline itself. What is wrong with this picture? How many Canadians would vote to have an airline like Jetsgo, with all those problems, repeated safety violations, have responsibility for its own safety management system?

In other words, let us keep cutting back on federal flight inspectors and let us keep the attrition rate high so we will gradually empty those positions out and we will not have the same safety oversight when the airline takes care of itself. What is wrong with this picture? How many Canadians would vote for this? Virtually none of them because they certainly would not want to see a system where their loved ones are in increased danger.

Instead of going for lower safety standards, we should be looking for higher safety standards. Absolutely nothing in Bill C-7 guarantees a higher level of safety, not one line.

Some amendments take some of the most egregious aspects of the former Liberal legislation and current Conservative legislation out, but there is nothing that indicates a higher level of safety when we have SMS, when we have airlines like Jetsgo that are essentially given a blank cheque to run their own safety management.

Clearly there are many reputable airline companies in Canada that will maintain a high standard but there are companies that clearly will not, which is why the NDP will not support Bill C-7. We do not believe we should be playing with the safety of Canadians. We do not believe in an unsafe skies act. We do not believe that the federal government should try to cut costs through attrition of simply not replacing federal flight inspectors, but that is okay because companies, like Jetsgo with repeated mechanical problems, can simply run themselves. It is simply not okay. That is only the first of the three egregious aspects.

Let us go on to number two, which is corporate CEOs, for example, of the aforementioned company. They get a get out of jail free card with no consequences for actions that are irresponsible or detrimental to the public interest. Essentially it is a get out of jail free card.

We spoke out very clearly about Bill C-6 in the House at second reading, at third reading and in committee that we do not believe corporate CEOs should be let off the hook when the public is in danger. We cannot provide a get out of jail free card to a corporate CEO. However, that is what Bill C-7 does.

We have talked about the safety aspects and about this get out of jail free card for corporate CEOs. Perhaps the most egregious one is the whole aspect of access to information, the access to information that is in the public interest.

We just talked about some of the problems around Jetsgo. This came out after Jetsgo stopped flying but these were problems that Canadians needed to know about. When Canadians put their loved ones on an air carrier they need to know that air carrier is being run responsibly and it is being run with all due attention to safety. That is of fundamental importance.

We have problems now with access to information in terms of flight safety and knowing which companies are acting responsibly and should be patronized, the airlines we should be putting our loved ones on because we know they are being run properly, responsibly and safely, and we need to know which companies are being run irresponsibly.

We can imagine how deeply felt it would be to lose a loved one and to know that the government knew about those safety issues and safety problems but did nothing about it and simply withheld that information from the public.

In Bill C-7, we now have an extension of more than seven areas on access to information, the flight attendant, the mechanic. The consumers will no longer be able to get that vital information on the safety of the air carrier from which they are purchasing their tickets. Perhaps that is the most egregious aspect of Bill C-7. What we have now is less safety and more secrecy.

When the Conservatives ran for election in 2006, they pretended they would run things differently, that they would somehow be a new government and it would be more responsible. They said that there would be a higher level of safety and less secrecy.

In Bill C-7, we are seeing the same old same old. We are seeing a continuation of the old Liberal agenda that covers up safety problem, that hands over direction for safety issues to company CEOs, and now, perhaps most strikingly unfair, it give those same company CEOs a get out of jail free card if they choose to diminish passenger safety.

Those three fundamental elements are not areas that the Liberals and Conservatives were not in favour of amending and that somehow we have a bill that is almost right. That is simply not true. This bill is fundamentally flawed and wrong. It puts Canadians in more danger. It keeps Canadians from knowing the truth about the airline they are putting their loved ones on and then, at the end of that whole process, it gives the company CEOs for those companies that choose to be irresponsible to increase their profit line, a get out of jail free card.

For those reasons, we simply cannot support Bill C-7. I would ask members in all four corners of the House to really reflect upon the legislation itself, not the political spin but what this would do to our airline industry. This continued agenda to offload costs from the federal government and put them on somebody else's back is not really in Canada's interest. Is it really in the public interest? We say that it is not. We cannot pretend it is in the public interest. We cannot pretend that less safety and more secrecy is in the public interest, no matter how we slice it.

The issue is quite simple now. We have here, in a very real sense, tragically, since the throne speech, a functional majority government. The Liberals have simply given up any opposition to the Conservative agenda. In fact, in most cases, if not all cases, it is a former Liberal agenda that has just been adopted by the Conservatives.

Nothing has changed in Ottawa. We still have the pushing forward with the support of lobbyists for things that are clearly not in the public interest. However, individual MPs still have the power to say no to their leaders. When it is not in the interest of the public, MPs, whether they are Conservatives, Liberals or Bloc members, can say no, that they will not vote for Bill C-7 because it is not in the public interest. They do not need to give in to this functional majority, where we simply allow in any piece of legislation, no matter how badly flawed and no matter how it makes the edifice of important elements, like air safety, crumble, and vote for it.

I would ask, on behalf of the NDP, that members in all four corners of the House vote down this legislation because it is not in the public interest. They should vote it down because it calls for more secrecy and because it is patently unfair. A CEO who breaks the law gets a get out of jail free card. They should vote it down because it essentially gives over the whole question of air safety to the company itself and takes the federal government out of ensuring passenger safety on Canada's airlines. That is wrong and that is why the NDP is voting no.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso, Equalization Payments; the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Elections Canada; the hon. member for Malpeque, Agriculture.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for my hon. colleague in the NDP. I really enjoy discussing things with my hon. colleague, especially this bill, because he worked very hard on it, just as we did. It is true that, like us, he voted against Bill C-6 on second reading. My problem is that things have changed and that is what my question is about.

I can understand some of what he had to say. We saw the amendments that the NDP proposed, including on the entire safety management system. It was no longer interested in the designated organizations. We talked and talked about it. We wanted to allow time for the designated organizations to develop, as I explained in my presentation. All together, the majority decided that they would come into effect in three years to give Transport Canada a chance to develop the safety management systems in the big companies.

When he did not win out on this point, he decided that he did not want to hear anything more about designated organizations. Then we talked about the voluntary reporting system on which the safety management system is based. We tried to work with him. But he decided that the voluntary reporting system should take effect in three years. The problem is that the safety management system is already in effect in Canada.

The hon. member is like a child who did not get what he wanted and so he threw a little tantrum in the corner. He is sulking now and it is over: he has decided not to support the bill.

That is why it is hard to understand. I would just like him to grow a little along with us and reach adolescence. He needs to understand that the ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, recommends that countries have a safety management system. Canada established one in the large companies and what we want is to improve it so that employees are protected. The hon. member fails to understand that what he proposes would not protect employees, would not establish the safety system, and would therefore make civil aviation safety less respected than it is now. I hope the hon. member understands that.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed with the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, because he is starting to make personal remarks. This is unworthy of him, given his past and all the work he has done in committee.

In many respects, we are the only adult party in this House. It is not childish to adhere to basic principles. It is not like the Bloc, which wanted absolutely nothing to do with the softwood lumber agreement and then changed its mind 24 hours later. The same thing happened with the Conservative budget. The Bloc was opposed to the budget, then supported it. The Bloc was opposed to Bill C-7 and now is in favour of it. They have to justify these flip-flops, which are clearly not in the interests of Quebeckers.

We always said we were opposed to the idea of the companies managing safety themselves. We always said we did not want to give in on the whole issue of access to information. We were firm about that. There is also the whole issue of allowing company executives to break the law without suffering the consequences. We always said were opposed to those aspects of the bill.

From the beginning, the NDP was consistent, at second and third reading. What I do not understand is why the Bloc changed its mind when that is not at all in the interests of Quebeckers.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I did not do it before, I compliment the member for Burnaby—New Westminster on his enthusiasm, but I take some umbrage at his reference to the way the bill is structured. It is up to the government to defend its own bill, so I will not do that.

As a result of the member's decision to refer to Judge Moshansky, and the government referred to him in another issue, I want to set the record straight. I was there when Judge Moshansky delivered his introduction, his observations and when he answered questions. He said that the bill, and the amendments that many of us then subsequently proposed, would be a good bill provided that government oversight stayed in place. Therefore, we collectively ensured that would be the case.

I do not understand why the member, who is otherwise honourable in his observations and his analyses, would attribute to Judge Moshansky a negative perception on a bill when we accommodated what he expected committee to do in its work. This was also the observation of various others who the hon. member mentioned and colleagues around the table in committee took great pains to implement this.

If we took into consideration what public interest groups asked us to take into consideration, implemented what they wanted us to implement, why would the member insist on taking a negative perspective and projecting that perspective as the general view one should attribute to the work now before us? I dare not use a more modest word, but does the member not think that is wrong, at the very least?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I support the word wrong. I think Bill C-7 is simply wrong.

The witnesses who came before committee, not the ones who were trying to promote the theory of SMS, consistently said that with respect to the actual practicality of its application, this was the wrong bill. The parliamentary secretary is trying to pretend that is not the case. It happened. Witness after witness said this was the wrong bill.

Two classes of witnesses appeared before committee: those who supported the theory of SMS but did not in any way discuss the practicality of what was in Bill C-6 and what would be amended in Bill C-6; and those who said the practicality of how this would be implemented would be wrong for Canada and wrong for air safety. That was clearly a contradiction from the very beginning.

Conservatives continued to say that people spoke to SMS in theory so that must have meant they supported the bill. Very clearly, under questioning from the NDP and from other colleagues in the House, witness after witness said that the practical implementation of Bill C-6 was wrong for air safety. That was the conclusion, and that is why we are voting no.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster for the work he has put into this issue to alert Canadians on the true nature of this bill. If people watching at home had only heard the speakers from the other parties, I do not think they would have understood at all the very real concerns of the many witnesses who came before committee.

I know we have very little time so I will only ask my colleague to elaborate on one thing. He made the point that under the bill there would be greater secrecy and less transparency than in the past. This is of great concern to me, given the nature of the subject matter with which we are dealing, passenger safety and the airline industry, and given the trend toward greater transparency and accountability, the very basis on which the Conservative government ran in the last federal election.

Could the member explain how this manifests itself in the bill? What is the concern?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Winnipeg Centre has been one of the foremost advocates, if not the foremost advocate, of the public's right to public information. He has done his work diligently in the House to ensure Canadians have access to the information that is so vitally important for our democracy and for the functioning of our government.

Now we have another area that is equally important, which is access to safety information. The bill essentially takes seven sections of the Aeronautics Act and adds them to schedule II of the Access to Information Act to ensure there is no public access to that information. This is seven more areas of secrecy, seven more areas that the public has no right to know, and this is critical.

We are talking about areas that Canadians absolutely need to know. When we put our loved ones on an airline, we need to know it is run right, that it is not run like Jetsgo. We need to know we are not going to face a potential tragedy.

This is simply wrong. It is a wrong bill for Canada and a wrong bill for air safety.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-7, reintroducing Bill C-6 which we were debating before the House of Commons was prorogued by the present Conservative government.

After first reading and debate on second reading, the Bloc Québécois opposed Bill C-6—that is a fact. In fact, we had a number of misgivings about the safety management systems that would cover all aspects of safety and that did not provide us with guarantees that the scrupulous inspections done by the federal check pilots could continue. At the same time, we had a lot of indications to suggest that the number of check pilots would be reduced in the future.

I and my colleague from d'Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel made a serious and careful study of the bill. In committee, we held 11 meetings to hear witnesses from all the parties: pilots, federal officials and lobby groups. We also held six special meetings for the clause by clause study. After examining all of the clauses, we produced a report that has recently been tabled in the House, proposing 20 amendments to the bill.

Our concerns in the Bloc related specifically to the safety management system, and also the designated organizations, because we had no way of knowing precisely what their responsibilities would be in this system as a whole.

We heard the various parties, and even Mr. Justice Moshansky, an aviation expert, who conducted the probe into a major air crash. He told us that the clause dealing with designated organizations should be preserved, but narrowed. That is what we then did, taking into account all of the good comments received, and seeing clearly that this safety management system could produce good results.

It is important to note that opinion on many sides is that air safety in Canada is in very good shape, although it could still be improved. That is why, at second reading of Bill C-6, on November 7, 2006, the Bloc Québécois opposed the bill in principle in its original form. Not only did it not provide for improving safety, it ran the risk of having the reverse effect, based on the content of the bill at that time.

I would like to list a few of the main amendments to the Aeronautics Act proposed by Bill C-7. First, we are asking for additional regulation-making powers in relation to, for example, measures to reduce aircraft emissions and mitigate the impact of crew fatigue, and safety management systems for Canadian aviation document holders.

Another amendment relates to new powers, comparable to the powers of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board, to be assigned to the Canadian Forces Airworthiness Investigative Authority, so that authority can investigate air accidents and incidents involving military personnel and civilian business operators.

A third amendment would add provisions to encourage aviation document holders to voluntarily report their safety concerns without fear of legal or disciplinary action.

We would then like to include provisions for greater self-regulation in low-risk segments of the airline industry.

And last, we are asking that the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities be given more resources for enforcing the law and imposing more severe penalties on offenders.

The provisions of this new bill are identical, with a few exceptions, to those of Bill C-62. The majority of changes were proposed to improve and increase regulatory powers with the objective of facilitating the implementation of safety management systems.

According to the department, these systems constitute a new approach to safety. Rather than depending on surprise inspections, this new approach places the emphasis on monitoring the safety practices established by the airline companies themselves. For example, a company will implement its own training procedures for its staff. Transport Canada will ensure that these procedures achieve the objectives and are actually followed.

In addition, a voluntary reporting system provides a mechanism for employees to evaluate themselves, enabling them to improve and to set an example for their colleagues. Individuals will not be identified when the self-evaluation forms are made public, in order to allow staff to use this mechanism without fear of consequences.

According to the department, this new approach has had good results in Australia and Great Britain. The purpose is to correct mistakes or failings of which Transport Canada may never have heard. The department believes that this initiative will provide the assurance of additional safety because the company will police itself, even before Transport Canada gets involved. The department hopes to concentrate its resources on the most sensitive areas.

At second reading, on November 7, 2006, our main criticism of the bill was the establishment of safety management systems, or rather the fact that they were being formalized.

It is true that at first glance this mechanism seems promising because it enables all stakeholders to make a contribution toward the improvement of safety. To do that, it provides a certain immunity and confidentiality without compromising information currently available. However, those management systems could very well be a pretext for the department to abandon its obligation for monitoring and inspection so that, in the end, it would have the reverse effect of contributing to an increase in the risks associated with air transport.

Safety management systems effectively remove the burden of safety management from the shoulders of the government and place it on the airline companies that are told to regulate themselves. In the opinion of the Bloc Québécois, that does not make sense. In an industry as competitive as air transport, cost cutting is a necessity. Safety then becomes another expense that has to be reduced as much as possible. Without the standards and frequent inspections by qualified personnel, it is probable that the most negligent carrier will set the standard because its costs will be the lowest. From time to time, an accident will serve as punishment to those who go too far, just as one or more serious accidents will serve to remind parliamentarians that their role is not just to vote for legislation but also to ensure it is applied.

Since that scenario is not the one that we support, the Bloc Québécois has proposed amendments to maintain and improve the monitoring and inspection role of the department. Safety management systems will not replace the department's inspections and will be better defined and regulated. The testimony of Captain Daniel Maurino of the International Civil Aviation Organization before the committee on March 21 speaks for itself.

My colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel told him at that time that what he said during his appearance before the committee was important, and that his words needed to be properly understood. Captain Maurino agreed that ICAO advocated that all safety management systems must be subject to regulatory supervision. In other words, ICAO believes that an SMS is another way of ensuring safety, but we still need to maintain a system of regulatory supervision. When asked that question by my Bloc Québécois colleague, Captain Maurino responded in the affirmative.

The Aeronautics Act will contain a clear definition of a safety management system. It will make the minister responsible because “The Minister shall maintain a program for the oversight and surveillance of aviation safety in order to achieve the highest level of safety established by the Minister.” The legislation will specify the minimum content of regulation of the safety management system.

Concretely, the Minister of Transport could designate one or several organizations under certain conditions.

In particular, the organization would be subject to an aeronautical safety study, and the results of the study must show that its activities represent a low level of risk in relation to aviation safety and security.

Once a year, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will table a list of all designated organizations in both houses of Parliament. Finally, the provisions dealing with designated organizations will only come into force three years after royal sanction of the legislation.

In the view of the Bloc Québécois, this amendment was necessary because, at present, Transport Canada is having some problems in establishing safety management systems. It would thus be premature to give the green light to designated organizations to implement SMS when the department was still testing them.

Captain Maurino from the ICAO summed up the situation following another question when my colleague for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel — who can be rather voluble —indicated to him that Transport Canada’s approach caused a problem for us.

I will quote the exchange between my colleague and Captain Maurino.

Mr. Mario Laframboise: You audited Transport Canada's operations in 2005. In March of 2006, after safety management systems were put in place, Transport Canada terminated the National Audit Program which targeted the eight largest air carriers in the country. This means that the eight largest air carriers are no longer subject to an annual audit.

I won't ask you a question about that, because perhaps you're embarrassed by Transport Canada's actions, but I don't feel that Transport Canada is being reasonable by terminating an audit program simply because safety management systems were put in place.

Would you agree with me?

Capt Daniel Maurino: Yes, sir. In any change there is a transition period. What is the safety picture going to be in 20 or 25 or 30 years' time? Nobody really knows. If SMS evolves to the potential that we hope it will achieve, there may be a scenario in which audits are no longer going to be necessary.

But we're at the beginning. I want to reinforce a notion that I have expressed already. We're talking about SMS as if SMS were a done deal. It is not. We're at the beginning. We haven't even landed. We haven't even started this campaign. I believe that what's going on here is the fate that trailblazers suffer, which is growing pains.

In many aspects, we're learning as we move, and we become wiser as we get additional feedback. What I'm trying to say is that this early in the game, taking any radical measures, whatever they might be, would be unwise. I think the elimination of an inspectorate force, audits, or other conventional mechanisms that have ensured safety in aviation for over sixty years would not be applicable until we are absolutely certain that what we're removing is being replaced by a better system.

I want to remind hon. members that Captain Daniel Maurino is the coordinator of Flight Safety and Human Factors for the International Civil Aviation Organization.

One of the Bloc Québécois' concerns involved the possible contradictions between Bill C-6 and certain parts of the Canada Labour Code. In court, the latter must apply. A number of amendments on this passed thanks to the Bloc Québécois. The provisions of the Canada Labour Code will prevail over the incompatible provisions of the Aeronautics Act.

With respect to protection for whistleblowers, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment to protect employees who provide safety information to Transport Canada inspectors in good faith. The amendment would prohibit holders of Canadian aviation documents from retaliating against such employees.

Amendments were also proposed to ensure that information used in SMSs, such as Transport Canada's audit and inspection reports, could be obtained through the Access to Information Act. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. As my colleague said earlier, you can't win 'em all. Once we see how well the law works, it will be clear what improvements are needed.

Even though senior Transport Canada officials said that these reports could be obtained, in practice, the legislation contains a list of exceptions that allow the department to withhold some information from the public. The Bloc Québécois would certainly have liked to change that with its amendments.

I want to emphasize that in the end, most of the Bloc Québécois' amendments to Bill C-7 were accepted, including the main ones concerning the maintenance of Transport Canada's monitoring and inspection measures and the monitoring of designated organizations.

These amendments make it possible for us to support this bill at third reading as amended by the Standing Committee on Transport.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Bloc Québécois member for his comments.

I listened very carefully to the member who just indicated that he and his colleagues will be supporting Bill C-7. I also listened with rapt attention to the concerns that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster expressed.

Chills went up and down my spine, and probably the spines of many others as well, as I thought about the parallel between the possible safety hazards for airline and rail passengers and what happened in my province of Nova Scotia with the Westray mine. Basically, the company was put in charge of safety. There were inadequate regulations in place. It was an accident waiting to happen. Of course, it is well known that 26 lives were lost. It was absolutely predictable that this would happen.

I am particularly puzzled by the Bloc's support for this bill, because the province of Quebec, over time and across political lines, has always had a better understanding of the importance of strong regulations, an understanding of the structural requirements to ensure, in this case, health and safety, but in other cases other kinds of progressive measures and initiatives.

I want to understand the response from the member. Did he listen to the many interventions of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster when he raised the concern about how ill-advised it is to basically put, and I do not know if it works in French or not, the fox in charge of the henhouse?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.

Clearly, this bill focuses on aviation. The safety management systems in question are already in operation in several major airlines. With this bill, safety management systems will be better managed and implemented throughout the entire industry and not only within the large companies that have the means to create their own system with their own staff. Designated agencies will see to the implementation of these systems in all the smaller companies.

Through discussion about these systems, which we did not support in the beginning, certain gains were made in terms of Transport Canada maintaining responsibility regarding the inspection of federal pilots. Thus, we really have a system that complements the inspections conducted by federal pilots.

In that sense, we see this as a plus for safety, having ensured that the basic management systems implemented will be even more effective on a daily basis. One must not forget, however, that federal inspectors will continue to regularly conduct their own verifications, just as they did in the past.

Furthermore, as I said in my speech, if, in 15 or 20 years, it becomes apparent that we no longer need to use federal inspectors to oversee the companies, that will be even better, but only time will tell. We therefore see this as an improvement in terms of safety.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by congratulating my colleague from Alfred-Pellan on an excellent presentation. In committee, he always improves on what is brought in, and that is important.

I have a question for him. In the end, the entire inspection service at Transport Canada should be maintained. The analysis with respect to the inspectors responsible for the supervision of civilian aviation has remained unchanged since 1996, plus or minus a few dozens, and efforts have been made to ensure that this inspection system would be maintained in the legislation.

The difference with the rail system is that a safety management system has been put in place, but there are hardly any inspectors left at Transport Canada to make sure that the tracks are in good condition. I hope I am not mistaken, but I understand that there are fewer than 50 across Canada. This is why it was important to us that the 400 plus inspectors in the inspection system at Transport Canada be maintained.

Does my hon. colleague feel that this inspection service provided by Transport Canada will be maintained under Bill C-7?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. In turn, I would like to congratulate him on the excellent work he has done, because he has even more experience than I do in transportation in general.

It is true that, thanks to this bill, the whole issue of safety will be improved. Clearly, all the work that has been done shows an awareness of how the Bloc Québécois members are working to make this Parliament function properly, by making a positive contribution that is as important to Quebec as it is to Canada.

With regard to the comparison with the rail system, the mention of deficiencies, by the NDP member as well, is bound to have positive repercussions on the whole issue of safety management in the rail system. This is also being studied by the Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. We may be able to draw inspiration from what is done in aviation safety management systems in order to improve railway inspections.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my Bloc Québécois colleague a question. It seems as though the Bloc Québécois caucus has a great deal of confidence in the Conservative government's ability to ensure that airline safety systems are well managed.

I would like to ask my colleague a very simple question. Why does he have such confidence in the Conservatives? We know that the Liberals failed when it came to the management system for the railways. Quebeckers are well aware of this. Quebec, like British Columbia, has had many problems with management of the railway safety system. Why does he have such confidence that this Conservative government will make safety systems work better than under the former Liberal government? That is what I do not understand.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his rather relevant question. In terms of democracy, my first thought is this: it is not a question of trusting the Conservatives more than the Liberals, but rather trusting a democratically elected government, with which we must all try to work. It is very important to draft clear legislation on which we rely in future.

Thus, it is not a question of trusting a Conservative government, but rather trusting legislation that has been carefully drafted by members who care about the well-being of the public. It is in this sense that I contribute to the drafting of bills, whether the government happens to be Conservative, Liberal or whatever. I think it is important that legislation be clearly drafted, as in the case of all the bills we examine.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act . I am pleased to support our party's opposition to this bill. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster did excellent work at the committee level and in making sure that this issue was raised throughout debate today.

I would like to cover some points that have not been addressed. They relate to the safety management system. A couple of things identify the importance of this bill.

We are not opposed to amending this bill and making a new aeronautics act, but at the same time, we want an improvement. Where we really have a difference of opinion is on the safety management system issue that is being advanced through this element. Nobody will disagree that we are literally turning the whole system over to the operators. We are giving them a blank cheque in terms of accountability. That is why we believe this bill needs to be defeated.

It is important to note that Canada has one of the safest aviation records. It is also key for our economic development. Thousands of passengers are shuttled about the country daily. At the same time, we see it as an opportunity for economic development in the future. Why would we put all that risk in that CEOs would not be accountable? Also, there is more secrecy in the industry. Consumers are put at the butt end of this bill.

That is why we believe there should be changes to this bill before it moves forward. That is very important. It is true that the legislation needs reformation. It has been through several machinations over the last number of years and there really have not been any consequential changes in 20 years to the legislation. We agree with that. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been trying to advance the issue so that at least we would be able to participate in supporting the bill, but we cannot do so because of its lack of accountability.

Also I think it would eventually undermine a real competitive advantage that we have in our industry. When it comes to safety and openness, that is what consumers want more of these days, not less. They want to know more about fees and charges and safety issues. They do not want to know less about them, nor do they want more obstructions. That is what this bill would do.

It is interesting that it is not just the New Democrats who are talking about this system having particular problems. Basically it is offloading Transport Canada by not investing in the infrastructure for public service when it comes to the safety management system. That is what it is really about, not putting the proper resources into our public service. It is not just the New Democrats who are talking about it; a report was commissioned by the department. CanWest News Service obtained a copy under the access to information act. The report showed that the department itself had concerns about this system going forward.

It is not just the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but the department itself has flagged this system as a potential problem. We have not seen the consequential changes necessary to alleviate our concerns, and I would argue, probably the department's concerns as well. There has been discussion about that.

I want to read a section of a National Post article which encapsulates some of the concerns:

Specifically, it states that cutting the audit program could increase the chances that certain problems won't be detected, that airlines “will not comply with regulatory requirements,” as well as cause the public to lose confidence in Canada's air safety systems.

Confidence in that business is very important. That is why we have seen a number of different issues. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster talked about the case of Jetsgo, where all these factors came forward later on despite the fact that a number of people could have reported these grievances.

We have seen it in the rail system. The Bloc has said that there are not enough inspectors in the rail system. We would agree with that. We have turned it over to the rail companies. We have seen continued problems and accidents across this country, in particular in British Columbia, but there have been others in Ontario. We have not seen the inspection levels that are really necessary to protect the public and also to maintain confidence in those transportation systems.

The solution is not to deregulate in this manner. The solution is to invest in better public services to ensure confidence in a thriving industry so that once again it will be competitive and reliable.

It is very important because so many other parts of our economy depend upon a viable air carrier service. It is not only the Jetsgo situation that raises concerns about air traffic safety and consumer confidence. For example, I know that the Danish authorities now have grounded the Bombardier planes that are used by Porter Airlines. This is not to suggest that those airplanes that Porter is using are deficient or that there are problems, but the fact of the matter is that the Danes using the same model have taken action.

What we on our side of the House believe should be happening is that the proper systems should be in place. Different from those of the corporate CEOs who have their interests, we should have them out there to protect the public interest. The public interest is served by the impartial regulatory system that is in place today. We would argue that if this capacity is increased it certainly would be better than deregulating to the actual corporate sector the entirety of our safety systems.

This is important because there is a bias and an interest from different employees and different management levels. We have seen this decision making across Canada at different times. Workers and people have been put at risk. Their values have been diminished because of the profits or the interests of those companies.

Jetsgo is a great example in terms of that. How much risk did there have to be or how many more accidents did it take before someone acted? We have seen the airline industry rise and fall in many respects and have a lot of challenges. If the airline industry is vulnerable to different issues, such as profitability and reporting to their shareholders, is it going to come forward and admit to the public some of its safety issues and problems when it could mean loss of profits for the industry and for their people's own personal wallets?

We would argue that this bill needs to go back. It needs more work. It needs to be improved, because it is important for our economy, for consumers and for the Canadian public at large.

The House resumed from October 25 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--The EconomyBusiness of Supply

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Thursday, October 25, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion of the member for Markham—Unionville relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Business of Supply

5:50 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. We will have a little order over here and then we will have a little order over there.

Before I proceed with the vote, I would ask hon. members who still have inappropriate props attached to their suits to take them off. I do not mean the poppies. You know what I am talking about, so take them off.

Order. I have all day. I am trusting that hon. members who had the inappropriate stickers on now have them off. We will proceed to the vote.

The question is the following one. The member for Markham—Unionville moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, while reducing personal taxes and significantly reducing corporate taxes to make the economy more competitive,--

Shall I dispense?

Business of Supply

5:50 p.m.

Some hon. members



Business of Supply

5:50 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

[Chair read text of motion to House]

Business of Supply

6 p.m.


Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish to be recorded as voting yea on this.