Mr. Speaker, on March 19, Aveos shut down all of its operations in Montreal, Mississauga and Winnipeg, while maintaining the operations of its subsidiary, Aeroman, in El Salvador.
This will be devastating for about 3,300 unionized and non-unionized employees, and constitutes a direct threat to maintaining Quebec and Canadian expertise in the maintenance of jumbo jets and in high tech. Montreal has been hit especially hard, with the loss of about 2,400 unionized and non-unionized jobs.
In 1988, as one of the conditions for privatizing Air Canada, the Conservative government insisted that maintenance centres would have to remain in Montreal, Mississauga and Winnipeg. These conditions were included in the Air Canada Public Participation Act. The importance of the aerospace industry is one of the reasons why the Minister of Finance is responsible for enforcing the 1988 legislation, which is why I addressed my question to him today.
Furthermore, on March 20 the Quebec premier threatened to take legal action against Air Canada because it violated the 1988 act, and against the Government of Canada because it failed to enforce the legislation.
The mayors of Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga also highlighted the importance of acting quickly and bringing the parties together in order to preserve the infrastructure and the high tech jobs. The mayors reminded us, correctly, that Air Canada is not an average private company, but rather our national carrier. We therefore need to come up with solutions in the spirit of the 1988 legislation, under which Air Canada must keep its maintenance centres in their municipalities—not in Windsor, but in those municipalities.
In this unstable context, Air Canada pilots have also publicly expressed their concerns about the safety of the planes they are flying. It is all very worrisome.
There is also an urgent need to debate this matter because of the dubious negotiations surrounding this shutdown and the entire issue of the depletion of Air Canada's assets since 2005. On March 19, 2012, Aveos filed for CCAA protection, stating that, “its main client reduced, cancelled and deferred maintenance work...which resulted in about $16 million in lost revenue in less than two months”.
Experts agree that Air Canada had to have known that its service provider was in trouble. But instead of helping Aveos, Air Canada took work away from it. Yet Air Canada has a contract with Aveos to maintain its planes until 2013. Why did Air Canada push Aveos to the brink of bankruptcy? And why did Aveos allow Air Canada to do so and not demand that the company honour its contractual obligations?
Air Canada's parent company is ACE Aviation Holdings, which plans to pay its shareholders a final bonus of nearly $300 million on April 25. According to economic reporter Martin Vallières, by liquidating various parts of Air Canada, including its technical services, ACE Aviation Holdings has managed to pay its shareholders roughly $4 billion over the years, through stock redemption and other procedures.
By failing for years to compel Air Canada to obey the 1988 act—this is not a new situation—the Government of Canada has been a willing accomplice in liquidating the assets of a Canadian company to benefit shareholders who, increasingly, are foreign, including Robert Milton, ACE Aviation Holdings' president, who, as the instigator of this shady financial operation, has paid himself $52 million in salary and bonuses since 2006.
In conclusion, unless this situation is turned around, this government's inaction will leave Air Canada a sick corporation, a pale imitation of its former self, a company that failed to meet its legal obligations to maintain, primarily in Montreal, its top-quality aircraft maintenance expertise.
Mr. Speaker, I therefore request an emergency debate, because what is happening is completely lacking in common sense.