Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Motion No. 465 from the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, concerning rights for airline passengers.
The spirit of my colleague's motion is not unique to Canada. Similar regulations already exist in other countries, and could even serve as models for an airline passenger bill of rights.
In 2004, the European Union adopted Regulation No. 261/2004 of the European Parliament and Council of the European Union. This regulation came into force on February 17, 2005, in the 25 member states of the European Union. The United States has a similar regulation established by the Air Transport Association.
In general, these regulations set out the rights of airline passengers and the responsibilities of carriers, for example: to provide compensation for passengers who are denied boarding by the carrier; to reduce any problems and inconveniences to passengers whose flights are cancelled, by encouraging carriers to inform passengers of cancellations and propose an alternative; to see to the needs of passengers with reduced mobility and their attendants; to inform passengers of their rights if they are denied boarding or if their flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, so that the passengers can properly exercise those rights.
The Bloc Québécois is in favour of adopting such a bill of rights, although it recognizes that airlines cannot be held responsible for any mistakes made by other industry players such as NavCanada, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or the Canada Border Services Agency.
It is important to answer two distinct questions regarding the motion we are discussing today. First, what are the responsibilities of all the service providers in the airline industry with respect to this issue? Second, what exactly are airline passengers' rights? The Bloc Québécois recommends that Parliament take decisive measures on a matter that is of vital importance to Canadians: creating guaranteed protection for the rights of airline passengers.
These measures will apply to all industry players involved in serving passengers. The industry as a whole will be responsible for implementing these measures.
I would now like to talk about the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, of which I am a member. In 2007, the committee heard a number of witnesses when it examined Bill C-11 concerning complaints about air travel.
The witnesses included Marie-Hélène Beaulieu and Christiane Théberge of Option consommateurs, a Montreal-based consumer advocacy group, Michael Janigan and Michael Pepper of the Travellers' Protection Initiative, and Fred Gaspar, Vice-President, Air Transport Association of Canada, all of whom appeared before us on October 5, 2006.
I would like to read part of Ms. Théberge's testimony:
The second concern we would like to address is with respect to [much-needed] airfare advertising transparency.
[Travellers' Protection Initiative] does not believe that the airlines will willingly change their advertising practices. We see every indication that they increasingly tend to break up their airfares and announce one way fares when these are not even available. We have seen cases where consumers, upon completing the transaction, had paid 25%, 50% or even 90% more the amount initially advertised by the airline.
In the past, the airline industry has promised to take voluntary measures but they never delivered the goods. We are therefore skeptical of arguments put forward by the airlines, in other words that the airline industry can be self-regulating with respect to consumers' interests. Despite years of discussions with the airline industry and a series of false starts, the airline industry has not moved voluntary on this issue.
We believe that the requirement to full disclosure, with details, should be firmly entrenched in the legislation and apply to all airlines which advertise in Canada. After all, air carriers providing services in United States are already subject to these requirements.
As I said earlier, many of the issues we are discussing today were addressed during the committee's study of Bill C-11. That bill was passed here at third reading, was passed by the Senate, and received royal assent on June 22, 2007.
This legislation provides enhanced consumer protection for air travellers. These enhancements were in addition to existing consumer laws. Under this legislation, airlines are now required to prominently display and post their terms and conditions of carriage at their business offices. This legislation also made permanent the informal and flexible complaints resolution process within the Canadian Transportation Agency. It integrated the role and functions of the Air Travel Complaints Commissioner with the authority and day to day operations of the agency.
In order for these new measures to be officially adopted following royal assent to Bill C-11, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities has to approve them by order in council. Almost a year after the new legislation was passed—it has been just about a year now—these measures still have not been ordered by the minister.
This week, in the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we passed a motion calling on the minister to appear before our committee in order to give us some follow up on his discussions with the industry, which might explain the delay in adopting the order in council regarding the provisions of Bill C-11.
Despite the passage of Bill C-11 nearly a year ago, it is clear that consumers are still not benefiting from the provisions of that legislation. This is why the Bloc Québécois will support the motion being debated here today: in order to do something about the Conservative government's failure to act when it comes to the rights of air travellers.
My colleague has had to move Motion M-465 in order to do something about the unwillingness demonstrated by the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities regarding the bill introduced by his own government.
If the motion were adopted and enforced, consumers would receive a good deal of publicly available, government sanctioned information.
My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I support the motion before us, in order to ensure that air travellers get the real protection they deserve and in order to strongly urge the minister to take action on this issue, which greatly concerns consumers.