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House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-7.

Topics

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's passionate pleas for the Conservative government. I wish Liberals would do that for Canadians as opposed to the Conservatives. That is what should happen in the House, not excuse after excuse for the government's inaction for consumers. They should be defending the interests of Canadians, not their Conservative cousins.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Before I resume debate, I want to respond to the point of order made with respect to the motion that Bill C-7 be read a third time six months hence, which I accepted in order at the time. There was no point of order immediately raised, but there was one very soon thereafter, raised by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

I want to report to the House that the Chair has considered the matter. Even though the motion is not exactly worded as we find in the example laid out for such motions, the motion's intent is clear, the wording is clear, and I find the motion still to be in order.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am troubled. I think you said that you would give us an opportunity to respond before you made a ruling on that. However, I would first suggest that in fact the challenge was made in due time. However, if you would refresh your eyes, on page 637, it does not give a “may”; it gives a “must”. It requires that it must be in the proper order. With respect, Mr. Speaker, it is not in the proper order. As such I would suggest it is out of order and should be ruled thus by the Chair.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I have heard the hon. member's point of order and I will take it under advisement. However, as far as the Chair is concerned the motion continues to be in order.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Vancouver North.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a member of the transport, infrastructure and communities committee to speak in support of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

This was formerly known as Bill C-6 and Bill C-62 before that. It was previously worked on by the transport, infrastructure and communities committee. I am pleased it was brought back to the House and that our extensive efforts at committee were not wasted.

The bill deals with integrated safety management systems, SMS for short. It also authorizes the designation of industry bodies to certified persons undertaking certain aeronautical activities. Other powers are enhanced or added to improve the proper administration of the act, in particular powers granted to certain members of the Canadian Forces to investigate aviation accidents involving both civilians and a military aircraft or aeronautical facility. This enactment is a proactive measure to assist in preventing airplane accidents from occurring.

Bill C-7 is yet another example of Liberal legislation from previous parliaments being brought forward by the Conservatives, albeit with a new name and minor cosmetic changes. Under the previous Liberal government, Bill C-62 began the dialogue on the issues that eventually became Bill C-6 and now Bill C-7.

The transport committee worked well on this bill. I commend our committee chair, the member for Brandon—Souris , for his excellent work as a chair who facilitated an open and generally positive exchange of ideas in the committee. I suspect the member for Brandon—Souris was not one of the Conservative committee chairs given the secret committee guide book on obstructing and controlling committee proceedings, as our committee was an example of how a minority Parliament should work, and that is what Canadians expect of their elected representatives.

The opposition's approach at the committee table was clear from day one. Public safety was and is our number one concern, not partisan politics as we have seen permeate so much of the government's manoeuvring in the 38th and now the 39th Parliament.

In Canada today there are numerous safety issues that require examination in all modes of transportation in Canada, namely the aeronautics safety measures such as those in Bill C-7, rail safety, port security and safety and marine shipping to name a few.

An issue that gets little attention is the manner in which the Conservative government reorganized the committees after forming a minority government last year. Under previous Liberal governments, the House of Commons had a single committee devoted to transport issues, the Standing Committee on Transport, providing a clear and manageable focus for the committee. Following the 2005-06 election and for reasons that have yet to be explained, the government decided to lump several key areas together in one committee, namely what we have now, the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Clearly there are numerous transport issues today in Canada that should be reviewed by parliamentarians. However, the government decided that transport issues should receive only one-third of the attention of the committee as they ever have before.

Coming from a municipal background, I can also speak to the importance of infrastructure needs in our cities and communities. To suggest that urgent issues such as the looming municipal infrastructure crisis deserves only one-third of parliamentary committee time shows that the government is seriously out of touch with the needs of our cities.

One only needs to look at the comments of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on this week's economic statement to see the manner in which the Prime Minister has left municipalities and cities in the lurch.

Gordon Steeves, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities stated in a press release dated October 30:

The government has so far failed to tackle this [municipal infrastructure] deficit, one of the most critical issues facing Canada's cities and communities, with a long-term plan and commitment.

He said further:

Today's actions by the government leave this [municipal infrastructure] deficit untouched and continuing to grow, and the longer we fail to tackle it, the greater the cost when we finally do.

Despite the cooperative spirit and hard work done by all members of the committee, it was unfortunate that the bill died on the order paper following the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue and hence delay resuming Parliament in order to ultimately force confidence votes on the opposition apparently in the hope of forcing another federal election, which Canadians do not want.

It is a shame that we are double billing Canadian taxpayers for work already completed. Instead, we should be moving on to other new issues, such as the renewal and strengthening of Canada's Railway Safety Act, merely an example.

The transport, infrastructure and communities committee performed due diligence on the bill. We heard from many key witnesses, as stakeholders, such as the Air Line Pilots Association, Transport 2000 Canada, Union of Canadian Transport Employees, Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Air Canada Pilots Association, Canadian Federal Pilots Association, Helicopter Association of Canada, Teamsters Canada, Canadian Business Aviation Association, Air Transport Association of Canada, Canadian Airports Council, International Civil Aviation Organization, DaxAir Inc., Air Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees, National Defence officials and Transport Canada officials.

The common theme with all of the witnesses who appeared before the committee—

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I was listening diligently and attentively to the long list of people who were apparently shut out of the committee hearings. However, I just learned that they were actually in committees and they had participation in the shaping of the bill.

Is appropriate for the member to make this list available to our—

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

I do not think that qualifies as a point of order, but more like a bootlegged intervention.

The hon. member for North Vancouver.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the common theme with all the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee was the concern that the safety management systems, the SMS, would be replacing regulatory oversight. Liberal members on the committee shared the concerns of the witnesses on the SMS and worked with members of the committee to ensure that management systems would not replace regulatory oversight and that the management systems would be just an extra layer of protection.

In addition, the Liberals listened to the witnesses' concerns on the possible reduction of aviation inspectors with the implementation of this management system. If Transport Canada was going to essentially diminish the role of the inspectorate or eliminate it altogether, Liberals would not support the bill.

Judge Virgil Moshansky, commissioner of the inquiry into the Air Ontario jetliner crash at Dryden, stressed the importance of the role of the inspectorate and the consequences that could occur if regulatory oversight is replaced.

Presently, it is my understanding from department officials and going through the bill clause by clause and adding amendments that the management systems, the SMS, will not replace the role of the inspectorate or eliminate it altogether.

Clearly, the committee had a sufficient airing of issues surrounding what was in Bill C-6, now Bill C-7. We did our work.

As the official opposition transport critic, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, offered yesterday in the House, we would be pleased to see a motion from the government requesting unanimous consent to have Bill C-7 passed at third reading today and such a motion would have my support.

As the opposition critic for the Pacific Gateway, which incidentally was also a Liberal idea that has been rebranded in blue by the current government, it has even used the same minister, I can speak to the urgency with which we as legislators must act when we commit to making such sweeping regulatory changes to any part of Canada's vast transportation modes and network, be they rail, port systems, or aeronautics, as found in Bill C-7.

While the benefits of robust measures to ensure public safety in all modes of transportation are obvious, the economic benefits that can be reaped by a streamlined and effective transportation system, with public safety as an absolutely essential component, cannot be ignored.

In the case of the Pacific Gateway, our competitors in the U.S. and Mexico are not waiting for Canada to get our house in order on transportation safety and infrastructure issues before expanding operations.

Embracing the unprecedented economic opportunities for Canada and the Asia-Pacific are not served by a prorogation of Parliament, which effectively slams the brakes on important transportation initiatives such as Bill C-7.

To repeat a point I made earlier, Bill C-7 sought to establish safety management systems that, generally speaking, establish voluntary reporting measures for employees and front line workers to report safety concerns to superiors in upper management.

Following the hearings, those witnesses expressed concerns that a system such as SMS should not completely replace ministerial oversight but instead serve as an additional layer of accountability, and amendments to this effect were accepted and became part of what is today Bill C-7.

This is an example of why I was insistent on such changes because they relate similarly to an issue that I have embraced, rail safety in Canada. The issues and concerns that have arisen in my home province in recent years following the sale of B.C. Rail to CN have brought to light many rail safety concerns.

Following a motion that I tabled at committee that was coincidentally passed exactly one year ago today, our committee began an extensive study on rail safety in Canada. It led to the minister announcing a special panel review of the Railway Safety Act. I testified before that panel in Vancouver. Unfortunately, prorogation of Parliament has delayed, but hopefully not stopped, our committee's report on rail safety.

In regard to rail safety, the Conservatives have not been open and accountable to Canadians. The Conservative Minister of Transport sat on results from a Transport Canada audit of CN for over a year. Previous Liberal transport minister Jean Lapierre, who had ordered the audits, had promised to make the findings public once the audits were completed. Under the Conservative government it was not until access to information requests and pressure from the committee compelled the government to quietly release the audit findings on its website with no fanfare, media advisory, or press releases.

Amending Bill C-7, the Aeronautics Act, relates to the rail safety issue. As in the case of rail, there is clear evidence of the need for an additional layer of safety reporting that ministerial oversight provides. In the case of rail safety, some examples of needed ministerial oversight include safety audits at CN which were ordered by the minister and conducted by Transport Canada, which brought to light many important concerns and section 31 ministerial orders that compel operators to comply.

In the case of rail, a system of SMS relying solely on employee reporting would prove problematic, as in the case of CN, because Transport Canada's audits as was revealed, there is a reluctance among employees to speak out on some safety issues for a variety of reasons.

Bill C-7, as reported back to the House last spring by our committee as Bill C-6, represents a balanced compromise, one that took into account a wide array of opinions from key stakeholders and cast partisanship aside in the name of public safety and ensuring a robust and successful aeronautics industry in Canada.

I encourage members to do the work Canadians sent us here to do in this minority Parliament and finally finish the work on this bill, so we can move on to other important issues that require our attention as parliamentarians.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I used to work for CN 30-some years ago and I have seen quite a change in what I would consider the level of rail safety that has been deemed acceptable, and I am not quite as excited about those changes.

In fact, just removing the cabooses for the electronic light that was put on the back has taken people out of that particular venue of safety of watching what are known as hot boxes, and I am sure the member understands what that is.

However, coming back to Bill C-7, SMS is something like the fox watching the chickens because the hon. member is saying that the industry will be able to monitor itself and decide what risk is acceptable. I spoke on Bill C-6 in this House and every time members of this place get on board a plane they had better start thinking twice because this is a significant degradation of the safety of our airlines.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

October 31st, 2007 / 4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my comments, the intention was to ensure that the safety management systems did not weaken, but rather strengthen as an additional layer on top of the ministerial oversight which we felt had to remain. We concur that safety of the public, safety of air travellers, as in the case of rail, has to be the number one concern of this government.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for North Vancouver for giving us a balanced view of what happened in this committee because the integrity of committee members was assailed by members of the NDP. They had one member present who went along with every single issue and amendment. We brought in witnesses, experts, union representatives, and employer and employee groups. The member for North Vancouver was there to listen to all of this and to formulate his own views about what happened.

Is it his opinion that all of the amendments that are now incorporated in Bill C-7 are part and parcel of the public input in a bill that is supposed to and does reflect the public interest? If his answer to that is positive, is he not shocked that members of the NDP, none of whom were actually present at this hearing, would characterize this as something completely different and alien from what transpired? Does he not think that that is an insult and contemptuous of the House of Commons and the members who worked diligently to achieve such legislation?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to that question there are two aspects. First of all, we heard from a wide range of witnesses as I have indicated, and I listed some of them because I wanted the House to know that there was extensive consultation. We received briefs. We received personal presentations and we heard a variety of points of view.

I would not try to lead the House to believe that all the presenters, all the speakers, all the witnesses had the same point of view or concurred in the same way. What we arrived at was dealing with the issues that appeared to focus particularly on safety, on the concerns that were raised, and we felt that these were responsible amendments. Responsible amendments were put forward to the bill to strengthen it.

In terms of the suggestion relating to partisan politics, I must say that generally our committee functions very well with a minimum of partisanship. It exists at times. That is the reality, but the chair has done a good job, as I have indicated, and has done a good job of providing that leadership and balance in the committee. The members of the committee generally respond to the issues without getting into partisanship.

From time to time it is very clear that members representing different parties on that committee do espouse particular philosophies and they are not all aligned. But the majority position from the committee was that the bill, as amended, represented and responded in a responsible way to the information we received from the people who appeared before us.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity just to question the member and make a comment. I appreciate actually that the former member who spoke pointed out that there is only one member from the NDP on the committee, and in fact on any committee.

I think it shows really what a remarkable job one member from the NDP does, stacked up against all the others, in bringing forward the real public interest on a bill such as this, Bill C-7.

I thank the member for pointing that out because I must say that our member on that committee at the time, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has really done an incredible job of going through the bill with a fine-tooth comb and highlighting the significant concerns.

It is very interesting to me to hear the Liberal members say that they think that the public interest has been met around safety concerns and that all of these arguments have been taken into account. When we read the bill with its amendments, we see what is still lacking in terms of, for example, immunity from prosecution for airlines that violate safety rules under certain conditions, and one has to be very alarmed.

Frankly, I am very surprised that members of the Liberal Party would now be supporting the bill. We know that they were the ones who actually brought it forward in the first place when they were the government. I think there is a huge concern about how we are chipping away at public safety. This is part of a political environment adopted by the Liberals and now by the Conservative government of deregulation, of privatization, and this has been very evident in the airline industry.

I have to ask the member, why does he believe that there is a rationalization and acceptability that there would be immunity from prosecution from airlines and that there would be greater power conferred on the minister? This clearly is not in the public interest, so how does he explain his position on this?

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to break the question into sections.

First of all, with respect to the number of members who represent the various parties, we are talking about quality and not necessarily quantity, but the two sometime equate and sometimes do not.

I would say that all the members who I served with on that committee produced quality input. They raised different points of view and they represented different political philosophies.

I think the important part for us was maintaining the ministerial oversight and not allowing the potential negatives of a safety management system which stood alone by itself and did not maintain this inspectorate. That was our concern and that has been addressed in the bill.

There was a lot discussion about the question of the legal responsibilities and liabilities of the companies involved and we wanted to ensure the circumstances that those were maintained. There are special circumstances based on legal realities and legal advice in which some of that responsibility to encourage openness from employees, for example, or willingness for a company to in fact make changes of their own volition, is represented in the tone of the bill.

We never have a bill that is perfect by the very nature of the process, but this bill, in our opinion, represented a very major positive step forward and particularly with the amendments that we saw included.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, this issue of immunity for employers and airlines caused me some concern. The concern is that because it is thrown out there by the NDP it suggests that somehow members of Parliament were not looking out for the best interests of the public.

Here is what that provision actually said. First of all, there is no immunity from criminal acts. Nobody but nobody, no employers, no employees are immune from prosecution for criminal activity.

Second, where the immunity provisions entered in was only in those areas of SMS that allowed for an employer or an employee to come forward with something that was wrong or not functioning, for the purposes of correction, so that the SMS could work. It did not absolve any airline, any operator, any owner or any employee from anything that crossed criminal lines.

For the NDP to suggest that there was anything other than that is a total misrepresentation of what transpired. It is an affront to the people who worked hard to not only improve the authority of the minister and the regulatory system but to actually enhance it by bringing in a culture of volunteerism and cooperation. I think that it is important for the public to know.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for clarifying that. That is what I was attempting to say and he said it so much better.

The intent was that there would still be the availability of legal procedures for any criminal activity or negligence. What we were talking about was protecting the opportunity for the companies and the employees to make improvements and make the system safer and better.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague from Windsor West who spoke before me, I too want to wish all of the children of this nation safety when they are out on the streets for Halloween. I want to wish everyone in the House, including you, Mr. Speaker, a happy Halloween.

However, I do want to--

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Winnipeg North, but I know she understands that the Chair is obliged before a certain time, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Malpeque, Canadian Wheat Board.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

What I wanted to say, Mr. Speaker, in conjunction with the occasion of Halloween is that this has been a very scary day for many in this land. We in the House of Commons have just witnessed the second whipped abstention in the history of this country. That has caused a ripple of concern right across this country, as members from the Liberal benches sat on their hands and allowed the mini-budget of the Conservatives to be adopted.

All day we have heard the Liberals talk about the anniversary of their favourite issue, the one trick pony that the Liberal Party has, that being the income trust fiasco. The question all of us have in the House today is, if they are so concerned about what the government did with respect to income trusts, then why not defeat the government? Why not vote against the government? Why do the Liberals not put their money where their mouths are? They cannot have it both ways.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Are you on topic? Get on topic.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am on topic because, in fact, we are talking about another scary proposition, a bill going through that puts at risk the safety of airline passengers. This is another example of just how much those two parties have in common. It is interesting. We are discussing a bill that had its origins with the Liberals when they were in power in 2005, a bill that has been reintroduced by the Conservatives with a few changes.

I want to acknowledge for the members opposite, especially the Liberals who have risen in their places in such a defensive manner, to say yes, some amendments were made to this bill that were important, but those were not enough. The bill is still flawed. We still have serious reservations with this bill. That is why the New Democrats introduced the hoist motion today.

For those who are just tuning in to this moment in the history of this place, let us be clear about what has happened. My colleagues, the member for Windsor West and the critic, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, have moved a hoist motion. If that motion passes, and I hope the Liberals are thinking about this carefully, we can delay this bill for six months. This which would give us an opportunity to address the bill's weaknesses, to hear from the organizations that are still very concerned about this bill, to take a moment to pause and reflect on our role in this place to ensure that the public interest is protected above all else. Otherwise, what are we doing here?

We have an opportunity to ensure that the House of Commons reflects the concerns of Canadians and does its job, where we all do our jobs, where we stand in our places and try to come up with the best legislation possible.

It just so happens, by many objective accounts, that this bill is flawed. Bill C-7 is flawed. In fact, it can truthfully be described as the unsafe skies act. There is no question that there are problems with this legislation. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to do our jobs in this place. We must not sit on our hands and let something happen because we do not have the courage of our convictions.

My goodness, what did the Liberals really do today? They say they believe in defending the environment and putting money into programs to stop greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. What did they do? They sat in their places today and allowed a budget to go through that does not offer a single penny to deal with the problems that are facing our planet.

There is a party that likes to talk about standing up for the children of this land and for parents who need good quality child care, but there was not a penny in the mini-budget for child care. What did the Liberals do? They sat in their places and allowed the Conservative government's ways and means motion to go through. It actually wastes billions of dollars of fiscal capacity in tax breaks for corporations and does nothing--

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would ask that the member refer to the bill that is before us. We are not talking about a throne speech here and being able to meander all over the course and bring all sorts of issues up during this debate. We are talking to a specific bill and I would ask that she keep on topic.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Winnipeg North has heard the point of order and I am sure she understands the obligation to keep her comments relevant or return to the original point from time to time.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I certainly am speaking to Bill C-7, reflecting on the phenomenon in this place where the Liberals and the Conservatives are in such close cahoots, appearing to be almost a quasi-coalition government. Nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to Bill C-7, a bill that is supposed to be about protecting passengers when they fly across this land or around the world.

One cannot help but comment on the repeated occurrence of this phenomenon and question what we are here for and what the Liberals are doing if they are prepared to abdicate their responsibilities and not stand up for their principles. Maybe it is about political survival for the Liberals. Maybe it is about cowardice. In words that may sound familiar to members, the question that really needs to be asked is, is it cowardice or is it ideological symmetry?

With Bill C-7 we have evidence and proof that in fact those two parties are very close in their ideological perspectives, very similar in terms of how they address fundamental public issues of the day, because we are talking about an issue of fundamental importance in terms of public policy in the public interest.

Our job here is to ensure the safety of Canadians wherever they fly in this country, yet we have identified with this bill some serious flaws, some very serious problems that need to be addressed.

My colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has been working on this legislation constantly for many months. He knows this bill inside and out and is prepared to recommend to this House that we send it back for further study and amendment.

That does not demean the work that has been done on the bill to date. That does not suggest that the whole committee was wrong in its approach, but it does indicate that just because Liberals and Conservatives voted together on this bill, does it make it right? Does it make it good public policy? No.

I can think of all kinds of examples where the Liberals and the Conservatives have colluded. I can think of the finance committee last session when in fact we tried to get the government to address the question of banks gouging consumers through ATM fees. We tried to pass a simple motion to have the banks at least come clean with their records and account to Canadians how they charged fees, on what basis they charged fees, and how much profit they were making.

A motion was put before the finance committee demanding that the banks simply provide that information, nothing more. That was after we had tried to get the government to take some firm action with respect to bank fees, but the government refused. The Minister of Finance did his big song and dance and ended up wimping out after a discussion with the big banks.

What did the Liberals do when we asked for information, when we put forward a motion simply asking that the banks give us the information? They voted against that motion. They sided with the Conservatives. We could not tell the difference between the two parties. They were standing up for big banks. They were not standing up for ordinary consumers. They did nothing for all the students, seniors and low income people of this land who are being gouged daily by the fees that are set by banks. They did nothing.

That is an abdication of responsibility and we witnessed that again today. On black Wednesday, if you will, on October 31, 2007, the Liberals sat in their places and allowed the Conservatives' mini-budget to go through, which in fact eliminates the possibility of narrowing the prosperity gap in this country, of providing some supports to working families, and helping ordinary Canadians deal with the growing economic pressures in their lives.

That is the issue we are dealing with today. Bill C-7 is the perfect example of that kind of abdication of responsibility and collusion between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

The bill is still flawed. If the members across the way do not accept that, then maybe Canadians need to be reminded just who is speaking out on their behalf. The New Democrats are not about to sit down and let a bill go through that could be potentially dangerous to Canadians. We cannot not live with that kind of scenario and we will do everything we can to slow down the bill.

The Conservatives had a chance. When they prorogued the House, all bills died. They had a chance this time around to think twice, to reflect on what they had done and to decide not to bring back this old bill with a new number without any changes. They could have addressed the concerns of many organizations, and I want to just reference a few of them.

Let me start with the Canadian Federal Pilots Association. I would think that pilots, of any group in our society, should be taken seriously when we talk about airline safety. In fact, the Canadian Federal Pilots Association still is very concerned about the bill. Should we not take that seriously? Surely pilots know safety better than the inspectors themselves.

Should we not look at the fact that there has been a downgrading of the role of independent inspection? Should we not look at the self-regulating aspects of the legislation? Is that not enough to cause worry? If in fact we delegate authority that belongs in this place and with the Government of Canada to the industry itself, are we not asking for trouble? Are we not creating the potential for danger and harm to our citizens?

Surely it is incumbent upon us to practise the do no harm principle in every way we can. Every piece of legislation that deals with human safety and with the public interest should have that principle at its core. Whether we talk about food and regulation of safety of the food from an independent source, or about drugs and medications that people need, or about toys and other products, should our government of the day not stand up and say there must be an independent inspection force because we want to ensure that every product on the market and every public transportation means available to Canadians must be safe beyond a reasonable doubt?

However, the bill continues to move in the direction of a safety management system, or SMS as has been used repeatedly through this debate, where we have delegated responsibility away from government and to the industry itself. That on its own should be enough reason to send the bill back for further study and some changes.

It is not only the pilots association that has expressed concern about the bill. I want to reference, as my Liberal colleagues have, the labour movement.

The labour movement has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the bill. I think specifically of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents many of the workers on our airlines who know the issues first-hand. We know in fact that CUPE has continued to raise concerns about the bill. It is raising those concerns as we speak.

My colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, has informed us of meetings that took place as recent as a week ago between CUPE and a senator around this issue and this bill.

Therefore, the concerns are alive and well. They are not a figment of our imagination. This is not a distortion for political purposes. This is a group of MPs in the House of Commons trying to get the best legislation possible. When it is as flawed as we believe it is, and that is verified by numerous sources and objective analysts from all walks of life in our society, then we have to do something about it.

There is not only concern about the whole question of regulation. Let us put this in the context of the last decade or so where we have seen, first Liberals and then Conservatives do everything possible to deregulate, privatize, outsource, offload and cutback every possible area in terms of the public interest, all in the interest of making profits more lucrative for the private sector.

This is precisely what is being questioned here today. Are we putting people's safety at risk in order to ensure greater profits for a private airline industry? If we cannot answer that and say there is no way people's lives will be put at risk in the name of bigger profit, then we cannot support the bill. No one in this place should support a bill if they cannot answer that question and know for certain that no one's life, health and safety will be put at risk.

There have been too many incidents in the last while around airline safety to not ask that question. Look at Jetsgo. My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster has raised this issue on numerous occasions. Look at the recent issue of planes almost colliding at Heathrow Airport recently.

This is an issue of paramount importance. Airline travel happens on such a regular basis in our country and around the world. We must ensure every possible means of safety are at hand when it comes to regulation in this whole field.

We are asking Parliament, and everyone in the House does not have to agree that the bill is bad, to agree with us that there are enough concerns that we ought to send the bill back for one more look and possible further amendments. This is all we are asking today.

Surely a six month delay is worth it. Surely we have that much time to ensure we have taken every measure against some future disastrous happening, some awful aviation disaster. Surely we owe that much to the citizens of this land. After all, is that not the purpose of us being here? Is it not our role to apply the do no harm principle at every step of the way, to not allow products on to the market or airline regulations to be put in place that forsake that principle? This is truly an abdication of responsibility and a dereliction of duty.

On this fateful day, we seem to have lost the minority government that Canadians elected. Gone is the Conservative minority government because of the Liberals, who decided to sit on their hands and allow the Conservative government to put through a ways and means motion, which in effect takes billions of dollars out of the future of this land and puts it into the pockets of big corporations and big business interests in this country.

We had a golden opportunity today with respect to the budget and with respect to Bill C-7, the bill on airline safety, to put the interests of Canadians first, and Parliament blew it. The Liberals sided with the Conservatives and allowed this to happen. They allowed $190 billion in fiscal capacity to be lost, money that could have been spent to ensure proper airline safety, money that could have been spent to ensure a quality child care program, money that could have been spent to address environmental concerns, money that could have dealt with the absolutely embarrassing conditions in first nations communities, money that could have been used to help ensure proper housing for the homeless and those people who live in despicable living quarters, money that could have been used to address $100 billion infrastructure deficit and money that could have been used to build a future for our country.

Aeronautics ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Bell Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, in response to the comments made by the member for Winnipeg North with respect to Bill C-7 and the fiscal update today, all members in the House were elected to serve Canadians and to make government work, and in the case of Bill C-7, not delay improvements that will, in the opinion of the joint transportation committee, improve air safety. We Liberals clearly understand our role as the official opposition.

With respect to the fiscal update today, many of the financial update items were previously suggested by Liberals, such as corporate and personal income tax reductions. The fiscal update again reversed egregious previous increases to income tax at the lowest levels from 15% to 15.5%. The Conservatives are now taking it back to where it was previously. We are supportive of that.

Liberal members chose not to vote in support the update because of the GST reduction, which virtually all economists in the country says is wrong and is not the way to transfer the benefits that come from the surpluses back to Canadians. We do not want tax cuts and reversals to the original lower income tax rate of 15% to be lost.

I remind the NDP that it voted with the then opposition Conservatives, which ultimately resulted in the present Conservative government and the loss of many innovative and progressive Liberal government initiatives that contained important and positive social, environmental and economic legislation.