Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois on the subject of Bill C-6, which amends the Aeronautics Act and makes consequential amendments to other acts. It is a pleasure because our party, the Bloc Québécois, opposed the first version of the bill tabled here in the House.
We opposed the bill because of the actual wording in the bill. Statements made by senior Transport Canada officials suggested that the intent of Bill C-6, with respect to safety management systems, was to replace Transport Canada's inspection service. The inspection service consists of a mechanic-inspector, a mechanic-engineer-inspector and check pilots, that is, over 800 people who can, at any time, intervene without giving prior notice to any company, to check the condition of the aircraft and to ensure that the pilots are qualified for that type of aircraft. Thus, it was a genuine inspection system. Thanks to that inspection system, in recent years, Canada has been one of the top countries in aviation safety.
We wanted to ensure that this system was protected. There were statements from Transport Canada, including from Merlin Preuss, the director general of civil aviation. He told his own employees that down the road, Transport Canada's inspection service would be replaced by the safety management system. He also said that the number of inspectors would be cut by half around 2010.
Transport Canada was already planning to replace the inspection system that was so successful and still is. Furthermore, the inspection service was not enhanced even though there are more planes, the industry is doing well and there are more airports accommodating the planes. Nothing was done to increase the number of people working for the inspection service. Obviously, we were concerned about that.
In committee, we heard witnesses and we were finally able to make some changes. We were hearing two different things. Transport Canada told us that this service would be added to the inspection service, but this is not what we were hearing from those in the field. Earlier, I heard a Conservative member ask a question about the pilots. The Canadian Air Line Pilots Association came to tell us in committee that the inspection service should be changed and that the inspectors should probably do something other than monitor the pilots.
I could understand that the pilots did not always like being subject to some sort of inspection of their work, without notice. They were not too happy about it, but it is something they are going to have to live with. When we have a safety system, we are not there to avoid frustrating air line pilots or anyone else. We are there to have a pre-established system. The Bloc Québécois' goal always was to ensure that the inspection system, which has made Canada famous, is maintained.
In the course of the discussions, work and witness appearances, the government decided to take this line. Thus, changes were made to Bill C-6 that will guarantee some things. Personally, before the changes and the amendment put forward by the government, I could say to my colleagues in my party that we can indeed change people's minds because the government did decide to maintain the inspection system and the safety management system, as recommended by ICAO.
The International Civil Aviation Organization representative told us that all over the world, countries are implementing safety management systems that have to be added on to their inspection systems. We were on our way to having a bill that recognized the desire to maintain inspection services when we found out a few days ago that the government wants to get rid of clause 8, which it had agreed to in committee. Clause 8 is the very definition of a safety management system.
We should take the time to read clause 8, because it provides definitions of the safety management system.
(c.1) safety management systems and programs that provide for
(i) the appointment of an executive—
(ii) the implementation, as a result of any risk management analysis, of the remedial action required to maintain the highest level of safety,
(iii) continuous monitoring and regular assessment of the level of safety achieved, and
(iv) the involvement of employees and their bargaining agents in the development, implementation and ongoing operation of the applicable safety management system or program;
All of the parties discussed this and negotiated a definition. They wanted to ensure that all airlines understand what a safety management system is. Furthermore, they wanted to make them understand that they will have to have, among other things,
(iii) continuous monitoring and regular assessment of the level of safety achieved.
Transport Canada's inspection service can ensure that the safety management system functions as an added layer of safety. It must be maintained. Ongoing monitoring will facilitate the inspectors' work. That way, we can guarantee that all airlines will offer improved safety to Quebeckers and Canadians.
Today, the government wants to remove clause 8 and replace it with clause 5.39, which states:
5.39 The Governor in Council may make regulations respecting
(a) the establishment and implementation of management systems by holders of Canadian aviation documents to provide for the safety of aeronautical activities and compliance with this Part
(b) the designation by a holder...of an individual—
Clause 8 named the person responsible and listed all the obligations to be met by the airlines. It will be replaced by a paragraph that says that all the airlines have to do is to name the person responsible. It is difficult to understand.
Today, I have a better understanding of why the government was in a hurry to adopt Bill C-6: it decided to make itself look good in committee and then to return to the House to propose amendments that will change the meaning of what was discussed.
That will change the whole meaning of the discussions and Transport Canada will have won. The pilots who were not happy about having check pilots to oversee their work will have won. The airlines that were not happy about having inspection and monitoring systems will have won.
As I said, the inspection system allows for an inspection to be carried out without warning. The Bloc was concerned because for business reasons, many airlines are established and fail practically in the same year. We are committed to ensuring that our citizens are safe.
When we explained to ICAO what Transport Canada was trying to do, it did not understand. It believes that an inspection system must be kept. Today, all that could be set aside. I understand that the government is in a hurry to finish up with Bill C-6. However, there is a problem.
I feel that this motion sets aside the entire aspect of inspection. Thus, Transport Canada could go ahead with its initial plan, which was to reduce the number of inspectors, check pilots, mechanic-inspectors and engineer-inspectors by replacing them with just a safety management system. That worries me.
The Bloc Québécois will vote against the motion in amendment tabled by the government. There are also the motions tabled by the New Democratic Party. I think that the NDP members must talk to one another. Initially, the Bloc was opposed to the entire safety management system because we believed that it would take the place of an inspection and monitoring system. We want to ensure that the inspection and monitoring system is kept.
If the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc defeat the government amendment, the opposition will have knocked some sense into the Conservatives. We will force Transport Canada to keep the inspection and monitoring system, as recommended by ICAO.
And we will have been the responsible ones. The Conservatives decided not to be responsible. That is their problem and, besides, it is typical of them. The Conservatives are closer to companies that do not want to be monitored and inspected. It costs money to always be on the lookout and ready to receive inspectors at any time. But that is what is needed. That is what our constituents want. Quebeckers want to be assured that, when they get on a plane, the airlines have made every effort to offer better safety.
This will be guaranteed by voting against the government motion, thereby ensuring that the current inspection system is maintained, and forcing businesses to conduct better analyses and to consider everything that is important. Thus, Transport Canada's inspection service will be more effective.
The inspection may not take as long, because businesses will have upgraded everything to ensure that the aircraft are in good condition and that the pilots have received proper training. Furthermore, these inspectors could fly with the pilot to ensure that he or she is properly qualified and that the aircraft is in good shape.
This is what we want to ensure and what we will do. As for the NDP motions, they demonstrate that the NDP is not quite there yet. We are convinced that the safety management system adds yet another layer to the safety net. I can assure this House that the government's amendment, Motion No. 2, which amends the very foundation of the definition of the safety management system, will be defeated in order to ensure that Quebeckers and Canadians can fly safely.