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.