Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-64. I expect to speak at length on this bill because there is a great deal to be said. However, I realize that, under the Standing Orders, I will only have 20 minutes.
First, I would like to explain the process that has led us, this Wednesday evening before the summer recess, to a discussion of this bill. Then, I will touch on our concerns, in this part of the House, with regard to this government's policies in the area of transportation. What it is doing is not in the interests of Canadians. I will come back to that. Finally, I will speak about the pilotage system and the impact of what the government is introducing today.
I will take my time in talking about these three aspects. I know that we will come back to this bill at second reading and that we will have an opportunity in the fall to discuss it in more detail.
I would like to start by speaking about the process around Bill C-64, which raises red flags right off the bat, particularly when we saw what happened with Bill C-6 which the NDP was basically able to stop the House from adopting today, thankfully. That bill would have pushed Canadian airlines right over the cliff in terms of safety and security for Canadians and their loved ones who are travelling on Canadian flights.
Thankfully, we in the NDP dug in our heels. We said it was inappropriate legislation and it should not pass. Now Canadians from coast to coast to coast will have the chance this summer to write to their members of Parliament and say it is unacceptable that the Conservative government diminishes flight safety.
It is unacceptable that the government created a get out of jail free card for company CEOs no matter what they do, as long as they record it in their internal systems. Transport Canada is handing over safety preoccupations to the companies themselves. Essentially that information cannot be used against the company CEOs to prosecute them, so they get a get out of jail free card.
The secrecy that we have talked about in terms of Bill C-6 is absolutely appalling, and I will come back to that in a moment. There is also the fact that there is no whistleblower protection.
Thankfully, tonight the NDP stopped the government and the Liberal Party in their tracks from taking the airline industry over a cliff.
Now we see the same sort of process developing for Bill C-64. This bill was brought forward for first reading yesterday. It was just thrown into the House rapidly and the government is insisting that it go to second reading today, very quickly.
What is it about the government orientation and initiative that it cannot intervene when it comes to the housing crisis, to support more access to post-secondary education, to deal with the health care crisis or to deal with the myriad difficulties that Canadians are living through? There have been a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs lost in the last few years. We have seen the softwood crisis ignite because of the softwood sellout. In each case the Conservative Party will not react.
The Conservatives act like deer caught in the headlights. They cannot do a thing to fix some of these crises that Canadians are experiencing but they find lobbyists who say we should amend the Pilotage Act and within 24 hours that legislation is pushed into the House, and the government wants to take it to second reading and pass it. The Conservatives cannot deal with any real problems. They avoid dealing with any of the real crises and problems that ordinary working families are experiencing but when a lobbyist pushes something, that bill comes right into the House. That is absolutely unacceptable.
The parliamentary secretary was talking a few minutes ago about consultations. He said he consulted stakeholders and despite the fact that colleagues from three corners of the House all asked him to reveal the names of anybody beyond company CEOs that he actually consulted, he did not come up with any names. We pressed him to reveal who these stakeholders were, these anonymous stakeholders who somehow believe this is great legislation. He was not able to reveal any of those names, which puts in doubt the entire background information that was provided in the news release that the minister pushed forward when he announced that he wanted to ram this bill through Parliament.
When the Conservatives talked about stakeholder consultation they mentioned a couple of towns. They met with somebody at some point I guess, yet they cannot reveal any of the actual employee groups, the people who do the work in marine transportation in Canada. It certainly raises red flags about what exactly the government is doing.
The Conservatives race to bring this bill to the House rather than address any of the real issues that Canadians are facing. They say that they have done some sort of consultation but they cannot reveal any names.
Then, to top it all off, we have seen how the Conservative government has derided and disrespected the marine employees themselves, the folks who do the work on shipping from coast to coast. The folks who actually do the work, the marine transport workers, the unions, the employee groups that are actually out there doing the work do not appear to have been consulted at all.
We have seen the government move in a direction where there is no more national marine advisory council. The national marine advisory council has been gutted. It used to exist to actually provide very important input from ordinary working men and women who work in the marine industry. They were cut right out and now this little elite group of CEOs was put together.
The transport committee sat on this issue and directed the government to bring all stakeholders together, to bring employee groups in, unions representing ordinary men and women who work in the marine industry, so that there would be real consultations.
So far the government has absolutely refused to have anything other than an elite process with CEOs. That is unacceptable despite the fact the transport committee provided clear direction.
When the parliamentary secretary said the government has had these consultations or it has actually listened to people in the marine industry, I am exceedingly skeptical about what consultations actually took place.
I will come back to this in a moment because then we can talk about what the actual results are of Bill C-64, the bill that the government is trying to ram through in a couple of days apparently.
I raised the issue about the overall orientation of the government on transportation policy and I would like to give two examples of why I am concerned with Bill C-64.
There are two reasons why I have some real concerns about where the government is heading and where the transport minister is heading. First, we had an attempt by the government last year to actually reduce the number of flight attendants on Canadian flights.
Why is that important? Flight attendants play that key safety and security role, particularly when there is evacuation required of an aircraft. We had the Air France disaster a couple of years ago where flight attendants played an extremely key role in ensuring that there was no major loss of life in that accident. The flight attendants were there to evacuate passengers.
If we think about it, the plane crashes and it is on fire and 100 people have to get out. The flight attendants are needed to help those individuals, particularly seniors and people with disabilities, to ensure that everyone gets out alive. There are only seconds to do that.
Ensuring that there are an adequate number of flight attendants on Canadian flights is of utmost importance. Yet, the government moved last year in the month of June to actually diminish the number of flight attendants on Canadian flights. What is wrong with that picture? It would have meant more danger for Canadians travelling on Canadian flights.
The NDP rolled up its sleeves as it is want to do and pushed the government back. The Conservative members in the House know very well that we forced the minister to retreat from that really irresponsible position and he has subsequently said that he will not lower the flight attendant ratio. He will not provide an excuse for airline companies to put a smaller number of flight attendants on Canadian flights. That means that Canadians are more secure. That is one example.
Let me refer to the other example, which is Bill C-6, which the NDP stopped in its tracks today. As a matter of fact all members of Parliament from the NDP were speaking on that bill and we managed to stop the government's agenda, which was to try to push through Bill C-6.
What does Bill C-6 do? It simply contracts out safety from Transport Canada to other companies. Some companies will be responsible, there is no doubt. Some companies will be very responsible. We have seen with the railways that some companies handle the additional responsibility of safety and hold the issue of safety uppermost in their minds, but other companies do not.
We saw with the railway industry when that was done how the CEO of CN decided that cutting corners was quite okay. Corners were cut to increase profits.
What we have seen in British Columbia and in other communities across the country is a lot more environmental devastation and loss of life because the CEO of CN was not as concerned about safety as he was concerned about profits. We essentially saw a gutting of the safety culture within CN. That is not me speaking.
The actual audit done on CN showed there was a dysfunctional relationship between upper management and those who did the work in regard to safety. Many of the workers at CN felt they were getting excessive pressure to try to simply cut corners on safety.
The government is now doing the exact same thing with the airline industry. It is saying that it will contract that out and companies will have to take care of themselves. What is wrong with that? Witnesses at transport committee said very clearly that would lead to a race to the bottom. Even presidents of airline companies, like Kirsten Brazier, who came forward from Dax Air, said that if we put this system into place, it would be a race to the bottom and companies would try to cut corners in order to stay alive.
That is what the Conservative government is doing. It is giving away the transportation responsibility for safety to the airline companies. Even more, the government is saying that a company CEO who makes a huge error will be protected. This is a get out of jail free card. The CEO will not be prosecuted.
There is also an excessive, absolutely paranoiac level of secrecy and confidentiality. The safety information that used to be part of the public domain, safety information that Canadians should have access to know which airline to choose, will now be treated like confidential tax information and locked away for decades.
Imagine how Canadians would feel if they put their loved ones on a Canadian flight, that airplane crashed and they found out 20 years after the fact that Transport Canada was well aware of the safety violations, but chose to do nothing about it. Therefore—