Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this afternoon to speak to Bill C-6. This is very much a consequential act, which would make a significant change in the airline industry.
Today we are debating a series of amendments to Bill C-6 that were introduced to make it a better bill, but the government has decided to take out some of those amendments, water down the bill and water down safety requirements for the airline industry in this country, in particular for Air Canada as well as WestJet, which quite frankly did a good job of lobbying to get less accountability to the public into the system.
It is important in the debate to talk about the overall situation in manufacturing and also connect that to why Canadians and Canadian consumers deserve greater accountability. It is perplexing why the government wants to continually take those types of amendments out of legislation.
Most recently it did this with regard to the rail transportation amendments, and once again it has taken out provisions for accountability for the airline industry in regard to providing full information in terms of disclosure about the ticket, the price, the charge, the fees and all those different and often hidden charges that are in the system. The government took those out of the previous bill, which is puzzling.
In the previous bill, the government also took out the opportunity for neighbourhoods to have mediation when there is a dispute with rail properties and their usage. I do not understand why the government would want to take away these civil liberties that consumers really deserve and should have our open market society.
These provisions, which were introduced by the NDP, are important. My colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, deserves a lot of credit for working hard on the bill. He was able to work with other opposition parties to change the bill significantly in favour of the public, but we now are seeing the erosion of those changes, and in particular a safety management system that really will give the industry carte blanche in terms of its operation and the actual application of reporting safety hazards and problems in the airline industry.
Even when there are violations, and I will get into some of the particulars later, the industry actually gets a get out of jail free card. It can make self-correcting measures. At the same time, this will do nothing to punish a race to the bottom, which can happen in this industry.
We have been fortunate. The airline industry rebounded somewhat in this country after 9/11. We have had significant problems and challenges. Extra fees were added for security as well as other types of operations. There have been increased costs for fuel and other types of factors that have really challenged the industry.
The industry has done a good job of working its way back, but at the same time it does not take away from the fact that we do not want to have less accountability, fewer restrictions, and less opportunity for the public to get information about safety issues.
Today, the parliamentary secretary, who was actually the chair of the industry committee, tabled a report from our counterfeiting study that our industry committee just concluded. Part of the testimony we heard was that counterfeit parts are being used by current airlines and other industries. We heard that not only in terms of aerospace, but also, for example, in regard to circuit breakers that were knock-offs and ripoffs and were being used in hospitals, which can affect Canadian patients. If we have less reliable and unaccountable products as part of the system of managing our hospitals, what takes place when there is a problem? There is no accountability.
We heard evidence in the industry committee that we are getting knock-off parts that are being used in the aeronautics industry. Why would we allow this to continue? The recommendation of our committee is to clamp down on some of the counterfeiting that is out there and to make people more accountable, not only those who are procuring the counterfeit products but also those who are the distributors of those products and, lastly, the companies and the countries that are allowing this to be perpetrated.
At the same time, by removing accountability, we are now going to be introducing a system that will allow a company not to have to report to the department to the fullest extent possible when we have airline industry problems. That is an issue. As a young father, I have brought my daughter here to the House of Commons for this last week. We flew here. One thinks about the safety issue. I do not like to fly as it is. I have never enjoyed that part of this job, but at the same time, one gets over it.
However, what one does hope is that we have the highest degree of safety standards. I have confidence in the airline providers that we have had, but at the same time we know that at times there have been providers that have actually taken out safety requirements or have had improper practices that have put people at risk, not only in this country but around the world.
We have had that happen in this country, too, and Jetsgo, for example, is an oft-cited case in which thousands of passengers got on planes that had problems. The reporting and the accountability were not up to snuff in terms of how I would feel about it.
When we get on a plane we want to feel that there will be the best practices possible. Those best practices come from healthy competition but also from the accountability of the consumer being able to make the right choice about how they want to spend their money and also knowing the value of that related to the product they have. Some of it is safety driven. Having that opportunity to select safety as a priority for one's purchasing is something that consumers across the country deserve, not only in aerospace but also in automobiles and other types of manufactured devices.
We can see that things do get through the system. Again, on counterfeiting, right now we see a toothpaste that was in Canadian stores. It was poison, quite frankly. Also, my son was one of those persons who had a Thomas the tank engine train that was painted with lead-based paint from a company in China that was importing it into Canada.
We can see that not only are we getting some of these products into the country—and our laws at the border to regulate and inspect them are deficient—but they are getting into our system. This has penetrated into our aerospace system, as was shown by the evidence presented at the industry, science and technology study on counterfeiting. Why, then, would we change Bill C-6 to take out provisions that would provide for less accountability when we need it most right now?
That is important. Once again, consumers should have the opportunity to evaluate and equate the safety of airlines when they are making a purchase. It should be just like they do it for comfort. I do not believe the bill does us a service in that regard. I am very troubled by the fact that we would do it when we have a situation emerging in Canada that has been identified as a priority.
It is important to note that on the counterfeiting study we have all party unanimous consent on a series of recommendations. That is important, because we know that there is a public priority for those recommendations. That is why I am troubled that the government wants to move away from that accountability.
As for the corporate responsibility, when we look at the history of it in this country, it has had some unique things that are quite puzzling. It was only a few years back that we were able to wrestle down the Liberal government to get it to change the tax deductibility of corporate fines and penalties.
Let us imagine that. If a company polluted or was caught in some type of business practice, went through the court system, was fined, penalized—the whole judicial review—it then wrote off up to 50% of the fine as a business related expense. If in their corporate plans companies used pollution discharge that is illegal or used products or services that were counterfeit or certainly not at the industry standard where they were supposed to be, they would actually be allowed to write off 50% of that.
I will conclude with this. There are other important issues in the bill. They involve everything, even whistleblower protection, which is being usurped; it is conditional in the bill, which makes no sense at all. We fought across the country to get whistleblower protection here in Ottawa and there are still some problems with it, so taking that away from another important bill makes no sense whatsoever.
To conclude, let me say that this is a plea to the government. We do not want to have our transportation systems, which business travel and passenger travel depend on so much, put under a cloud that could create further problems for our productivity.
That is important to note because if there is a significant safety problem as a result of this bill and accountability is brought to bear on those who brought it here, other people will pay, people other than the injured and the people who rely upon the practice or the business itself. Other people will lose out as well. That is why we need to change this bill and make it better, like the way it was.