Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join the debate at report stage and third reading of Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
I want to begin by recognizing and paying tribute to my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster and the transport critic for the New Democratic Party, for being a stalwart champion of the interests of the consumer during this lengthy debate, the study of Bill C-6. It is generally agreed he has been a leader among the opposition parties to ensure that the voice and interests of Canadians are put front and centre as we go through this whole interesting debate about air transportation safety.
We are very concerned that both the tone and the content of Bill C-6 are really geared toward the financial bottom lines of these air transportation carriers and we could put at risk, or at least put back in the order of priority, the best interests of Canadians.
I should note that my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, worked in collaboration with stakeholders such as the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents a great many airline personnel and workers, and IAMAW, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Both these unions have advocated on behalf of the best interests of their own members, but also the best interests of the public at large when it comes to any changes that we make to the air transportation system.
A number of amendments were made at the committee stage, put forward by my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. That is perhaps why so many of us are taken aback today. We made amendments at committee that we believed were progress, with the cooperation of the various stakeholders such as the unions. However, then today, we find the federal Minister of Transport making a bid to sweep aside the changes to the airline bill, which were intended to ensure safety in the skies.
We find it very troubling that the government has tabled a motion to gut the very critical amendments to Bill C-6, which my colleague, Burnaby—New Westminster, and other members of the transport committee so diligently put in place. We cannot understand how a minister of transport, in all good conscience, could undermine the work of the committee. Its earnest interest was simply to do what was right for Canadians. It certainly has my colleague, the NDP transport critic, scratching his head and wondering what possible motivation there could be. What possibly could be driving the government to, if anything, back away from safety as priority number one. It is a grave concern to us.
We are very critical of Bill C-6 in its current form. There are a number of issues, in fact too many issues for me to deal with in any depth in the 10 minutes that have been allotted to me. I will point out some of the concerns in which I have a particular interest. One is Bill C-6, as contemplated by the government, will actually undermine and reduce the freedom of information, the freedom of Canadians to know what the safety situation is of airlines, in that it withdraws seven sections of the act from the Access to Information Act.
I sit on the committee that is responsible for privacy, ethics and access to information. It troubles me greatly to see government in any of its activities pull back from freedom of information. On those grounds alone, I would criticize the bill. The public has a right to know what the government is up to and surely the public has a right to know the safety and maintenance information about airlines. Airlines and carriers of the general public are not just the average private business.
Canadians have a right to be more involved in airline safety and they certainly need more thorough information. I am critical that Bill C-6 would remove sections from the scrutiny of the Canadian public through freedom of information laws.
I am also critical that the systems maintenance regime would now be put under the scrutiny of the airlines. We believe this is a stepping back again of government scrutiny and government supervision of airline safety management and essentially the airline industry would be permitted to increasingly define its own safety level of its operations.
One would think that the airline would make this a priority and that safety interests would be the airlines' top key concern and priority, but in our experience it is a legitimate role of government to take responsibility for those things.
I am also very concerned that another element of this bill would become very weak or in fact non-existent, and that is the whistleblower protection. While a form of whistleblower protection for employees has been introduced, there is no effective redress mechanism for employees who might suffer reprisals as a result of blowing the whistle.
I would remind members that this is one industry sector about which, for heaven's sake, the public has a right to know. The public has an interest in knowing if there are any shortcomings in the maintenance regime, and whistleblowers should be rewarded, not criticized and certainly not suffer any form of reprisals. Those three things, piled together, give more than ample reason to be critical of Bill C-6.
The bill has a rather rocky history in that it was introduced in the last Parliament by a senator in fact. It came to the House first known as Bill S-33, introduced by the other place. We are always suspect, frankly, when bills come to us through that back door mechanism. After a great deal of debate there, it was later reintroduced as Bill C-62 under the Liberal regime in September 2005, but it died on the order paper and did not go past first reading.
When we came to it in this particular Parliament, I note that a great deal of time has been spent on this already. It was introduced on April 3, 2006 as Bill C-6. After a brief staff meeting, the NDP was disappointed that the Conservatives and the Liberals initially struck a deal to pass Bill C-6 without any further amendments. This is why I began my remarks by complimenting my colleague, the member for Burnaby—Douglas, for the yeoman's job he did, virtually alone at the committee, to overturn that alliance that was put together by the ruling party and the official opposition that they would somehow ram Bill C-6 through in its flawed state.
There was clearly a lack of consultation with the stakeholders or these many amendments would not have been developed. I cannot imagine any government going forward with legislation like this without doing a comprehensive consultation with groups like CUPE and the IAM. When we received it back today and realized that this was not only not in its original form but that the amendments made at committee would be stripped back and undermined by the minister and that the Tory amendments intend to gut air safety, we could not help but stand up and be critical.
People will notice that a number of speakers from the NDP are speaking back to back on this bill because the public has a right to know and the public deserves to know. The public should know what is going on in our air transportation safety system and I do not believe, if it were left to the devices of the ruling party and its partners in crime, the official opposition, which has been absent, AWOL as it were, in terms of doing its job as official opposition and bringing the government to task for the glaring problems and oversights with this--