Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate on Motion No. 465.
I want to read the text of the motion so the folks who are watching will have some understanding of what we are actually considering tonight. The motion reads:
That the House call upon the government to bring forward an airline passenger bill of rights similar in scope and effect to legal instruments being either proposed or enacted by jurisdictions within Europe and the United States for the purpose of protecting passenger interests in a consistent and rules-based way and to provide a means of ensuring adequate compensation being offered by the airline industry to airline passengers who experience inconveniences such as flight interruptions, delays, cancellations, issues with checked baggage and other inconveniences incurred while travelling on commercial passenger airline services originating from anywhere in Canada.
I appreciate that we have the opportunity to discuss this this evening and have had another occasion to do so. At that time, the NDP transport critic, the member for Windsor West, indicated that this motion had his support, and it is something that has my support as well. It is an important initiative.
Over the years, consumer protection has been an area where we have fallen short in Canada. There was a time in Canada when we actually had a minister of consumer affairs and that was an integral part of our government. It was seen as an important post in government, someone who had the specific responsibility to look out for Canadian consumers in all manner of ways to protect consumers. That was specifically on the agenda.
Unfortunately, over the years that capacity of government has kind of dwindled down and is not what it once was. It might be a desk in a department someplace now rather than a full-fledged department in its own right. There has been something significant lost with those changes over the years.
Recently, in many ways we have seen concerns around consumer protection come to the fore again, whether that be with regard to food products, with regard to toys imported from overseas or with regard to the concerns with pet foods that were very much on the minds of many Canadian pet owners in recent months. There have been many places where we seem to have fallen short of offering appropriate protection to Canadian consumers and where our government has been slow to take initiatives to offer that kind of protection.
That is an appropriate role for government. It certainly seems to me that Canadians, as we come together collectively, as our government, would want us to take that kind of responsibility to ensure that our fellow citizens are safe and secure, and that they get value for the products that they consume and the services that they purchase. It seems to me that is an entirely appropriate role for our federal government, especially so in the area of transportation, which is clearly something that is a direct responsibility of the federal Government of Canada.
This is an important initiative to be discussing. There is a lot of room for improvement in how we ensure that consumers of airline services are protected in Canada. It is very important that we have clear, accessible information about what the protections available to passengers are,. The clearer, more accessible and better organized that information is the better off we will all be.
I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport say that Canada would be taking measures to publicize the protections that are available now to Canadians. That is a good initiative but I wish it had happened sooner. I wish we could have seen some tangible result of that commitment by now, but perhaps organizing that in some way that makes sense to consumers, with information that they can use easily and readily, will be an important step to take.
However, that commitment should not deter us from pursuing the motion that is before us today. It seems to me that we have not had that commitment, that we have not seen the government move in that direction.
Since we do not have that kind of information readily available, the House should put pressure on the government to organize an airline passenger bill of rights and organize it in that kind of format so people will know what the airlines' responsibilities are and what their rights as passengers are.
We know there have been very serious issues related to airline passengers. We had the 10-hour incident where people were kept on a plane on the tarmac and were denied access to appropriate hygiene and food. It took a 911 call to get the kind of help those folks needed. I am sure we all believe that it should never happen again and that it should never have happened in the first place.
We also have seen situations arise, especially at times of mergers or bankruptcies of airlines, where many passengers are inconvenienced or right out of luck when it comes to their travel plans. I think all of us would agree that it is not an appropriate time either.
We have seen weather delays but we know we cannot always control that. However, we do want to ensure that the response to those kinds of delays is done appropriately and with the consumer and passenger in mind.
There is also the issue of pricing of airline tickets and the advertising of those airline tickets. We have seen a significant concern around the hidden costs in airline advertising about ticket prices. This is something that we thought we had taken some initiative on in the House. There were proposals in Bill C-11, which was passed almost a year ago, that would have had some effect on that had the government taken the necessary action to implement it. We are still waiting on that and I think it is very important.
The member for Windsor West has asked in the House, as recently as April, when we would be seeing the implementation of that policy that was passed in the House.
We need to ensure the airlines are not hiding fees and not misleading consumers about the actual cost of flying in Canada. We want to ensure that what is called all-in pricing is the standard for airline advertising here in Canada. The mechanism to do it is in the legislation but, unfortunately, the government has not acted to actually put that into practice yet in Canada. It needs to do that without delay because that would be a significant improvement in consumer protection for Canadians.
There are a number of proposals already. We have heard that the European Union has such a consumer airline passenger bill of rights in place. We have seen attempts to do it in the United States and we know there are ongoing discussions in the United States.
The Canadian Association of Airline Passengers and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre have a proposal around an airline passenger bill of rights that includes things like public participation to ensure the public is consulted and is part of the process of developing such a code and developing awareness around issues of safety, pricing and service quality; that safety principles are important; that the importance of public safety and decision making is emphasized; that normal and emergency levels of service are clearly elucidated; that there is a culture of safety in the airline industry; that additional risks arising from mergers and restructuring that would affect passengers are addressed; that there is access to public safety information for passengers; and that in the event of accidents that passengers are entitled to rescue and firefighting services that are equal to or better than international standards.
Those are all some of the things that would be part of that kind of passenger bill of rights. There is also the whole category of service quality, that there needs to be full passenger information disclosure, that there are certain standards of onboard quality and that there are general service standards available to the public, just basic common courtesy needs to be one of those. The whole area of fair pricing rules is one that is very important.
The regulation of the airline industry is another key area that is part of this proposal from the Canadian Association of Airline Passengers for an airline passenger bill of rights. I think this motion gets us going in the right direction and I am happy to have been able to speak in favour of it this evening.