Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.
During the 38th Parliament, I think the committee spent most of its time on this legislation, and I congratulate the members for that.
We have a situation now, as everyone in this assembly knows, wherein a lot of the committees are breaking now. They are not working at all. A certain matter comes before the committee, it is moved, a majority of the members of the committee vote in favour of it and then the Conservative Party filibusters it or, in one case, the chair walked out. We had the Cadman affair and the in and out election scandal.
I assume by the end of this week we are going to have, if the situation involving the previous minister of foreign affairs comes before a committee and if the other situation involving the leak on the NAFTA issue during the democratic primaries in the United States comes before the committee, two additional committees in the House dysfunctional.
However, going back to the legislation, this is a complex change in the whole system of aeronautic oversight, bringing us in line with emerging international standards, standards, which are mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization. It states that each member country must establish a safety management system. I believe those systems have to be in place by the year 2009. Under that general oversight system, each company must implement a safety management system that is acceptable to the regulatory body in that country.
Work has been ongoing. This is not starting now. I believe the Department of Transport started it at least five years ago. Initial work went on. Some pilot projects with certain companies in certain regions were implemented. It is an ongoing process.
The Office of the Auditor General did an extensive performance audit on this work. It was released in the March 2008 report of the Auditor General. I believe five recommendations were made to the Department of Transport. I would not consider that a bad report. I would not consider it a good report. However, it did make some good recommendations as to this ongoing work, which is basically a change in the safety methodology as to how the Department of Transport undergoes it.
However, as I pointed out previously, the bill has been with this assembly for three years now, in various forms. The committee listened to the stakeholders and it deliberated and debated every aspect of the bill over what I consider to be a very extended period of time. Prior to prorogation, when the bill, at that time was known as Bill C-6, the committee began hearings on February 12, 2007, and concluded in June of that year, after devoting 17 meetings to the legislation.
In the 38th Parliament, it was the single piece of legislation to which the committee devoted the largest amount of time, which is apparently a rush job. Again, I want congratulate the committee for the excellent work it did on the legislation.
The committee during its hearings heard from the International Civil Aviation Organization, Transport Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, the Air Transport Association of Canada, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, the Air Canada Pilots Association, the Canadian Business Aviation Association, airline companies both big and small, Teamsters Canada, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, Justice Virgil Moshansky from the Dryden air crash review, and the list goes on.
After these presentations, amendments were made to Bill C-7 by all members and a majority of these amendments were passed in committee, based on the testimony that came forward from the many stakeholders and other witnesses, who presented before the committee.
Some of the key amendments to the bill made by the committee were: providing a definition to explain safety management system and updating the International Civil Aviation Organization's standards. There have been several amendments made to the Aeronautics Act over the years, but none of these amendments actually seemed to address the matter of bringing Transport Canada's standards and regulations up to the ICAO standards. The amendment was put forward by the Bloc, NDP and Liberal members of the committee.
Another amendment was having the minister be responsible for the development and regulation of aeronautics and the supervision of all matters related to aeronautics. Therefore, making aeronautical activities meet the highest safety and security standards.
Finally, ensuring that regulatory oversight is not replaced by safety management systems, so that safety management systems that have to be implemented by each company that operates in the aeronautics industry in Canada, whether it be the carriers, the maintenance companies or the supplies would have an additional layer of safety available to Canadians who use the airplanes.
The facts speak very clearly, the number of people using airplanes in Canada is increasing dramatically. I believe the last figure we have is for the year 2006. In that year there were 99 million passenger flights taken in Canada, which was a 6% increase over the previous year, 2005. Industry estimates indicate that that will increase by about 40% between now and 2015. There is a tremendous challenge out there for our regulatory authorities.
Back to Bill C-7. I submit that this bill was under extreme scrutiny from all members of Parliament on this particular committee. Safety was the fundamental question addressed by members on the committee when examining this bill.
The new safety management system addressed in Bill C-7 focused on ongoing improvements to safety measurements in the aeronautics industry. Safety management systems would allow companies to have an internal way of operating which will enable employees to report safety violations confidentially within the company.
I should point out that was a point of contention within the committee debates, whether it should be confidential or it should be open. Finally, it came down that it should be confidential because of course we knew that employees would fear losing their jobs or being reprimanded by management for reporting safety violations. That ties in with the recent whistleblower legislation that was introduced. These matters can be dealt with confidentially.
We do not want people to be allowed to abuse the system. If they were involved in any way with the violations of any safety code, we certainly would not want them being allowed to report that violation in a confidential manner.
With Bill C-7, Liberal members on the committee felt it was necessary to have an environment that would encourage people to come forward voluntarily in reporting safety errors, which would therefore create an effective preventive system against any future aviation accidents.
In addition, Liberal members wanted to ensure federal representation would always be present to guarantee the regulatory process would still be in place. A safety management system is not deregulation in Bill C-7. Members on the committee made certain when examining the bill that Transport Canada would have regulatory oversight of that particular industry.
That is why, in my humble assertion, this bill really ought to have received royal assent last June. That is why I am surprised to see the bill still here in this House. The NDP has now decided it is not willing to support Bill C-7, despite hearing a number of witnesses and stakeholders in committee and despite the desire of members to have this bill go forward in the House.
Committee members have done a good job. The motion we are debating today is with respect to Bill C-7. It is, in my view, just another attempt by the NDP to filibuster in the House to delay the bill, to see it not come to a vote. I hope it comes to a vote soon. I do hope that the House can move forward on Bill C-7 and allow all members to vote on the bill as soon as possible.