House of Commons Hansard #227 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope I do not get the Conservatives too fired up this time.

The hon. member, speaking for the government, wants our support. I direct her attention to a table on page 287, which is the increase in the national debt during the government's administration. In this table alone, we go from $582 billion up to the better end of $634 billion before it is apparently going to magically start to decline. If we went back to when the Conservatives became government, it has gone from about $450 billion up to close to $634 billion. It has gone from less than 30% of GDP to now in the order of 34% of GDP. The take on the revenues out of the economy has gone up to 14.5%.

How in heaven's name can she reasonably expect opposition parties to support a government that is paying for its mismanagement by simply running away with debt?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was elected to Parliament in 2008 and remember facing extraordinary challenges in terms of the global recession at that time. As we moved forward with what was a very important economic action plan that provided much-needed stimulus, I remember hearing the Liberals and NDP saying, “Spend more, spend more, spend more”. In actual fact, had we listened to them, that debt would be much higher than it is.

The results speak for themselves. If we look at Canada's results with the lowest net debt to GDP ratio and job creation, we see very clearly that we have a plan that is working. Our plan is to get back to a balance budget by 2015. It is not doing what the Liberals did, which was to cut health care transfers to the provinces. We are going to do it by creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of initiatives in this economic action plan for infrastructure, for more social and economic inclusion for people with disabilities, and the list goes on.

I would like to ask the member about the super credit for those who are first-time donors to charitable organizations. Could I get her take on how that would help charitable organizations that serve the community to grow and extend their help to those less fortunate?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I first want to recognize the member for Kitchener Centre. His motion in the House moved us toward a study at finance committee into encouraging charitable donations.

This particular initiative of a super credit for a first-time donor was amazingly well received. I hope it will really spur on lifelong donors to our charitable sector, which provides such important work for Canadians.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to budget 2013. I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

I know the government wants us to vote with it and wants everyone in the House of Commons to agree with it. That is the kind of Conservative government we have right now. It believes it is right about everything, and everyone else is wrong and their ideas are all bad.

Before I begin my speech, I would like to talk about something that worries me. The government wants to offer tax cuts to people who make charitable donations for the first time. It wants to transfer all the work, all the responsibilities of the government, onto people who will do it on a volunteer basis, people who make donations. It is no longer the government that will provide assistance, but rather Canadians, and this will come from a tax cut.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives refuse to recognize that the Fonds de solidarité FTQ, for instance—an $8.8 billion fund that, since its creation 30 years ago, has injected $10 billion into Quebec's economy—has created and safeguarded 500,000 jobs since 1990.

With this fund, governments get their money back in three years. Sixty per cent of the capital is invested in businesses in Quebec and the rest of Canada. There are 2,239 partner businesses. Approximately 200,000 Quebeckers invested in an RRSP for the first time by investing in the fund. We have to consider that.

The 12-month return is 4.7% and the average 10-year return is 10%. The goal of this fund is to assist workers. We should not forget that one of its objectives is to help workers save money for their retirement while creating and saving jobs. It is the best plan Canada has ever had, and the Conservatives are getting rid of it. That is unbelievable.

I wonder what workers or the unions have done to this government for it to hate them so much. There are just two questions, and that is where the problem lies.

I would like to come back to what is happening in my area. Earlier, the member spoke about the Conservatives' tour of the regions. Could she tell me who on the Conservative team went to northeastern New Brunswick to see what is happening to seasonal workers? The fishing industry has collapsed and in the forestry industry, pulp and paper plants in Miramichi, Bathurst and Dalhousie have closed. The Brunswick mine will be closing at the end of the month, with the loss of 800 good jobs.

The government is supposed to be helping people across the country. Instead of helping Canadian workers and those in my region, the Conservatives are eliminating the worker training program. I believe that the parliamentary secretary, or one of the members opposite, let something slip this morning. She said that they had to train people out west. That is why the Conservatives took that money. I am not supposed to use the word “steal”, but the truth is that they took money from the 2013 budget to provide training out west. That is what they want to do.

Who will use that program? One can only imagine. The government will invest up to $5,000 for every worker and the province will have to match $5,000 for that same worker. The employer will also have to put in $5,000. I do not see how small businesses back home will be able to contribute $5,000 an employee. They did not have to do so before, because New Brunswick—much like Quebec and other Canadian provinces—was responsible for training workers in the province.

The government is now saying that it wants to have this money to train workers and send them out west. We can see how open the government is towards Canadian workers.

I will read a job posting from the Service Canada site.

Title: Scaffold erector

Terms of Employment: Temporary, Full Time, Shift, Overtime, Weekend, Day, Night, Evening

Salary: $41.20

That is good money.

Anticipated Start Date: As soon as possible

Location: Fort McKay, Alberta (100 vacancies)

Skill Requirements: Education: Not required

Credentials (certificates, licences, memberships, courses, etc.): Not required

Experience: 5 years or more

Languages: Speak English

Further down the job posting:

Other Languages: Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish

No French.

Other Information:This job does not require to speak English. Remote Camp Location--2 hours North of Ft. McMurray.

They say they want to allocate money to train Canadians who will go work in Fort McMurray, but they are not even able to include francophones in the job postings on the Service Canada site.

I remember asking a member, who is here in the House but who I will not name, why francophones who do not speak English are not hired in Fort McMurray.

I remember what he said, “If you want to come to work at Fort McMurray, you better learn how to speak English”.

The member is sitting here today.

If we want to create jobs, we need to invest in infrastructure, for example. Shutting down the VIA Rail line between Moncton and Bathurst will not help create jobs. We need to invest in a much needed airport in northern New Brunswick. That is what the Conservatives should be investing in. They need to provide training.

If we want to do something good for the workers and tradespeople, then agreements need to be established between the provinces. That way, a tradesperson who has completed a course in one province but has not managed to find a job in that province could work in another province, and the class hours could be recognized as hours of work, which is currently not the case.

This type of agreement needs to be negotiated and established between the provinces. Then, when jobs are created in our regions, our people will be trained and can come back home.

Let us come back to the job posting. I can understand why it says that education is not required and that the only requirement is five years of experience. Since people from my region who go there to work as scaffolders are not being offered training, that means that no one is being trained. Even if they did have the training, they would not have five years of experience. So what is the result? Temporary foreign workers are hired to come and work here. That is the excuse Canadian businesses are using to bring foreign workers here and pay them 15% less than Canadian workers. It is cheap labour. That is what that means.

The Conservatives have crucified people in my region by making cuts to employment insurance, seasonal work, the fisheries and the forestry industry. They have not done anything to help New Brunswick's economy. This budget is cutting $4.6 billion in infrastructure over the next four years. Yet the Conservatives are boasting that they are investing in infrastructure. There is a reason why Maurice Martin, a man from the southeastern part of the province, has been on a hunger strike against this government for 17 days.

It is shameful. They never even phoned him. They will never do anything to try to help the people in my region, despite everything that is happening there. I will never vote in favour of their budget, unless they change their way of drafting budget bills. They have nothing to brag about.

The Conservatives are even going to tax people who park in hospital parking lots and students who park at universities. Yet they say that they will not tax people. What planet are they are living on? It is certainly not the same one as the rest of us.

I can guarantee that the Conservatives will never get our vote, because they have caused nothing but misery for the people in my region. There can be a better vision for our country, our workers, and our companies and businesses.

I thank my colleagues for their attention.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the passion with which the member expresses himself in the House. He obviously feels passionate on a number of different issues.

With regard to this budget, something that still comes up a great deal in my own constituency is that people were hoping to see a decision to reverse the increase of the retirement age from 65 to 67. Throughout the year I have had the opportunity to introduce petitions on that issue from residents of Winnipeg North. We have had postcards and all sorts of things coming back on this issue.

I wonder if the member would comment on the importance of our senior pension program and why it is that the government would have been best advised to listen to Canadians. It is not just the residents of Winnipeg North but Canadians from coast to coast to coast who want to see the pension age remain the same, with people being able to retire at the age of 65 as opposed to 67.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if we look at the workers for example, the government is transferring the costs of retirement to the provinces because people will end up on welfare. Those workers in big industries who have pension plans will probably take their retirement at the age of 60. However, not everyone has those pension plans. We get calls in our office from workers across the country saying that it just does not make any sense. I hate to say it but some of them even say that they cannot wait until age 65 to stop working because they are burning out. The men and women who work so hard in the bush and the women working in the fish plants will never have a pension plan in their lives. With all respect, I just do not see them working in the fish plants until the age of 67. They are burning out because they work 14 to 16 hours a day.

That is the respect the government has for the workers because it hates the workers. I have said many times in the House and outside of the House that the government hates the workers across the country, the men and women who get up in the morning and work so hard—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

Questions and comments. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member opposite should get up and apologize. Those are disgusting comments to be making in the House. If he does not like the budget, that is one thing.

The New Democrats have consistently gone around the world speaking against the interests of resource areas, which he represents. They were glad to go down to Washington and tell the U.S. government that it should be opposing resource development in this country. The member should not get up and lecture us about whether he likes workers better than we like workers.

We are willing to stand up for Canadian workers across this country. We have resource development that provides 20% of the GDP in the country and pays billions of dollars in taxes each year so that he can talk about the programs that he likes so much.

I would like to know if the member will stand up and apologize to Canadians and workers for the way he has spoken here. He should apologize to the government as well. We are doing a lot of good things for Canadian workers across the country, developing the economy and keeping it stable in a tough time internationally. The Minister of Finance has done an excellent job of doing that.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, one judges a government by its actions. The government's actions are to take away the training program in New Brunswick and to cut employment insurance so that we have people calling and crying on the phone because it is taking away something that is paid for by the workers and the businesses of the country, not the Conservative Party. The government is now taking that away and does not care. It is taking away the training program that allowed people to get jobs in their own province. That is what it is doing.

I do not have to apologize to the people of this country because I did not insult them, and I will not apologize to the Conservative Party.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his passion and all of the work he does on behalf of his region.

I have a question for him. We were looking for many things in this budget, not cuts to health care and centralized training. There is not a word in the budget about public transit even though we know that all of our infrastructure is in a deplorable state.

Can my colleague comment further on these issues?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, where I come from, public transit means VIA Rail, which used to stop in Bathurst six times a week. Now that is down to three times a week.

CN is planning to remove the track between Moncton and Bathurst. Where is the federal government assistance for that? Northeastern New Brunswick does not even have buses anymore. Why has the government not done anything about that?

The government is supposed to be working for all Canadians, not just for one part of Canada. That is the problem with the Conservative government: it has its ideological vision, and it could really not care less about Canada. Its agenda is clear: help some, not others.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I give the floor to the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, I should let him know that I will be interrupting him at 1:30 p.m. because today's period for the consideration of government orders will be over.

The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Acadie—Bathurst is always a hard act to follow no matter the topic. I thank him for his passion and inspiration. I would also like to thank the other members of all parties who have taken part in this debate so far.

The Prime Minister likes to refer to his Minister of Finance as the best finance minister in the world, but in fairness, he also likes to call Peter Penashue the best MP that Labrador has ever had. Maybe he has a different definition of the word “best” than the rest of us because the facts do not seem to support his claim about his finance minister. Members should remember that he missed his economic growth target for 2012 by 35%. A lot of people have mentioned that and I think it is important to repeat it.

This budget contains some good measures, such as those to combat tax evasion, but it also contains problems too numerous to ignore.

Of the initiatives that the Minister of Finance has brought forward, there is one in particular that jumped out at me. It is stunning in its insensitivity. In the budget, the Conservatives introduced a new measure aimed at first nation youth.

All members in the House know about the substandard education that exists among first nation communities. Statistics show special needs identification and placement rates in first nation elementary and secondary schools. Approximately 47% of first nations currently need a new school. Approximately 74% of first nation schools currently require major repairs. Only 46% of first nation schools have a fully equipped gym and so on. On top of that, 32% of schools have an issue with access to clean drinking water. With all that, between 2004 and 2009, the graduation rate on first nations was approximately 36%, compared to the rate of 72% in the general population.

During the Prime Minister's meeting with first nation leaders in January, he promised again to renew the government's approach to issues such as these. However, in this budget, there is no new money for first nation schools. They still face a 30% shortfall for another year. Children fighting for an education in communities such as Lac-Simon or Lac de l'Orange will receive considerably less than other students in provincial schools.

On the other hand, the government decided to introduce training funds for aboriginal youth, but with one major caveat. To qualify, first nation communities have to agree that recipients of income assistance programs undergo specific job training.

The budget states:

—to effectively support and ensure compliance among on-reserve Income Assistance recipients. Funding will be accessible only to those reserve communities that choose to implement mandatory participation in training for young Income Assistance recipients.

This means that in order to get access to these funds, communities must agree that youth between the ages of 18 to 24 cannot collect welfare without taking job training. That is unfair.

I know my time is up, but I hope I can come back to these issues next time.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou will have six and a half minutes remaining for his comments when the House next resumes debate on the motion.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-459, An Act respecting the rights of air passengers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

March 22nd, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.


Joe Daniel Conservative Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the House of Commons on private member's Bill C-459, an act respecting the rights of air passengers, which was introduced in this chamber in November of last year. Our government strongly supports consumer protection measures, however, the bill is fundamentally flawed and would likely have impacts contrary to what it seeks to achieve. Furthermore, it is redundant given the passenger protection approach that already exists in Canada and this government's effort to strengthen it in recent years.

Let me start by noting that the bill calls for all-in advertising. I am pleased to remind the House that our Conservative government has already put in place these measures by way of regulations that were brought into force in December 2012, following extensive consultation with industry, consumers and other stakeholders.

Beyond that, Bill C-459 proposes a prescriptive regime that would increase the regulatory burden on air carriers and on travellers. It would introduce additional costs into our air transport system and it would not improve the passenger protection approach that already exists in this country. In Canada today, airline passengers are protected through provisions in the Canada Transportation Act. All carriers operating in Canada, or arriving or departing from Canada, are required to develop terms and conditions of carriage that they must respect. They must make those terms and conditions readily accessible to passengers.

The Air Transportation Regulations under the act specify the items that must be included in the terms and conditions of carriage, such as the carrier's policies regarding cancelled or delayed flights, lost or damaged luggage, and denied boarding due to overbooking. This establishes a clear basis on which passengers can raise concerns if they feel they have not been treated appropriately.

The Canadian Transportation Agency is mandated to resolve travellers' complaints by examining whether the carriers are acting in compliance with their terms and conditions of carriage and by assessing the reasonableness of the terms and conditions. The act also includes significant provisions to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities.

If a traveller is not able to resolve his or her issues directly with the carrier and submits a formal complaint to the agency, the agency would begin by seeking a mutually satisfactory solution to the problem by way of alternative dispute resolution. If this is not successful, arbitration is an option. We know that in fact most complaints are resolved by way of mediation. In some instances, the agency has found that a carrier's terms and conditions of carriage are not reasonable, resulting in significant changes to the benefit of passengers. Recent such decisions have addressed questions such as lost baggage and denied boarding.

In short, our current system works. Furthermore, it does so because of the proactive stance that our Conservative government has taken on passenger rights.

In 2007, we took action to strengthen the consumer protection regime for air travellers by introducing measures as part of Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. These amendments improved the transparency of carriers' terms and conditions of carriage and made the complaint process under the Canadian Transportation Agency permanent.

In 2008, we introduced Flight Rights Canada, an initiative to inform Canadians of their rights under the act. This also resulted in the creation of a plain language voluntary code of practice, which our major carriers adopted into their terms and conditions of carriage. I have already mentioned the airfare advertising regulations brought into force last year.

The prescriptive regulatory regime proposed in C-459 is not consistent with Canada's approach to consumer protection in transport. As written, the bill raises a number of questions and creates systems that would ultimately increase the burden on all parties.

To begin with, the proposed bill would only empower the agency to enforce provisions relating to duty to disclose pricing, announcements at airports and obligations to inform passengers of their rights at check-in. With respect to other matters such as cancellations, delays and denied boarding, consumers would seemingly have to seek redress through the courts if they are not satisfied with a carrier's response. This would be costly, time-consuming and a burden on the passengers as well as on the Canadian court system.

Bill C-459 seeks to address concerns that were identified with previous private members' bills on this subject, which made air carriers responsible for problems that are the fault of other parties, such as airports or navigation providers.

However, the current bill would introduce a new regulatory burden, namely that carriers would need to make a submission to the Canadian Transportation Agency proving the third party's responsibility. This would result in more red tape for the carriers and more work for the agency. The additional costs, obviously, would likely be borne by travellers and taxpayers.

Furthermore, the bill would recognize that carriers would not be made responsible for cancellations arising as a result of force majeure, particularly weather. The carriers would remain responsible for the situation resulting from force majeure, such as airport or tarmac delays, and we all know that weather is a major factor in this country.

The bill would create confusion between its provisions and the current provisions of the Canada Transportation Act. There is also potential conflict between Bill C-459 and the Carriage by Air Act, which brings into force passengers' rights provisions enshrined in the Montreal convention, an international treaty to which Canada is a party.

In conclusion, we are committed to promoting passengers' rights by way of an approach that minimizes costs and regulatory burden on all travellers in the air industry.

Bill C-459 would add nothing to this, but it does have the potential to significantly increase the regulatory burden and cost to Canada's air transportation sector and to create confusion within the regulatory regime without further addressing passenger needs.

For this reason, we cannot support Bill C-459.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-459.

From our party's perspective, we support the bill going to committee. I do not think members should be surprised by that, because a number of years ago, a similar motion was brought to the House, which was supported by all political parties.

For many years we have seen a great deal of consumer frustration with airlines. Once one gets to the airport, there are problems getting onto the aircraft and with departures, arrivals and luggage. There have been a litany of horror stories, and they continue today. There are significant issues that need to be addressed.

If we are able to get Bill C-459 to committee stage and to possibly make some amendments, it would actually give it some teeth. In that sense, consumers across Canada would benefit immensely. The Liberal Party would like to see the bill go to committee.

First, just to illustrate our concerns, a colleague of mine introduced a motion in 2008. It was M-465. It is a very short motion, which I will read into the record:

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 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.

This motion was brought forward by the Liberal party by one of my colleagues back in April 2008. What is most interesting is that at the time, it passed the House unanimously. All political parties were supportive of the motion, and justifiably so. If we were to canvass our constituents, we would find wide support for motions, bills or legislation of this nature. We were encouraged that it actually garnered the support of all parties in the House.

Not that much later, the government attempted to bring in legislation that they referred to as “flight rights Canada”. It was a government initiative and was an attempt to deal with the issue. However, there was a serious flaw. There really were no regulations that followed that provided some teeth.

As a result, we see the types of issues raised five, six or seven years ago being raised today. In part, it is because the government has decided that it is not an important enough issue for Canadians.

That is why I was interested in the previous speaker saying that the Conservatives did not believe there was a need to support this bill. I would disagree. The Conservatives have very little to lose by at least allowing the bill to go to committee where we could possibly amend it.

The reason I read the motion to remind members was to reinforce the fact that there was a time in which MPs of all political parties supported the importance of consumer rights within our airline industry. It would appear that the Conservative Party is starting to back away in terms of recognizing those consumer rights. Therefore, I encourage the government to give more reflection and consider the benefits to consumers by at the very least allowing the bill to go to committee.

Bill C-459 had been introduced in another form, by the former member for Elmwood—Transcona, someone I knew reasonably well from the House and from serving together in the Manitoba legislature. From what Mr. Maloway talked about when he introduced his bill, it is fair to say that Canadians responded well to it. For that the reason, I reinforce the fact that not only would people from Winnipeg benefit, as I represent Winnipeg residents, and Mr. Maloway used to as a member of Parliament, but it would benefit people far beyond Winnipeg or Manitoba.

Our busiest airports, whether Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal or Halifax, coast to coast, all have significant increase in traffic. Looking to the future, as airline tickets continue to be reasonably affordable on a larger scale as more consumers find themselves in a position where they can afford to fly, the demand for this type of legislation, if crafted correctly, would be of great value and benefit. That is the reason we need to look at how we can bring in legislation that would protect the interests of the consumers.

When a flight has been cancelled or delayed, there are circumstances beyond an airline's control. An example of that would be a number of weeks when we get whiteouts, or snowstorms or things that are beyond the ability of airlines to control. It is understandable that we would see airlines being cancelled or delayed.

Then again, there are other issues that cause passengers a great deal of concern in why a flight has been delayed yet another hour or two hours. It might relate to maintenance and to what degree proper diligence was done by the airline, or the amount of time which one had to spend due to misplaced luggage. My son's mother-in-law came for a visit from the States and had her luggage all torn up, and it had to be wrapped in plastic. The luggage was replaced.

Very real issues are happening in that whole industry. It is an industry that will be growing into the future. It would be wonderful to have legislation and regulations to protect consumers. Not only would Winnipeg North residents want to see something of that nature, I argue all Canadians would welcome consumer-friendly airline industry legislation and regulations.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the member for Laval for his bill, which is designed to protect the rights of Canadian families, small businesses and business travellers by creating an air passenger bill of rights. It is an important initiative that would strengthen consumer protection by establishing clear compensation rules and by penalizing companies at fault.

To begin, I should point out that a number of airlines already have good business practices. We acknowledge that and congratulate those companies, but, unfortunately, the same cannot be said of all the airlines, and that is why this bill is so important and so necessary. It is important because it targets carriers that have developed bad practices in order to gouge customers. I am thinking, in particular, about airlines that overbook or deliberately cancel flights.

Basically, this bill is designed to protect consumers by discouraging bad practices and by forcing greater standardization within the airline market. These worthwhile objectives would have a positive impact on both consumers and airlines that already have exemplary practices.

More specifically, the airline passenger bill of rights proposed by this bill would protect passengers in certain situations.

First, when a flight is cancelled, passengers would be entitled to reimbursement or a seat on the next available flight. They would also be entitled to a meal depending on the delay, as well as to compensation, if necessary. Should the airline not meet its obligations, it would have to pay each passenger $500. In addition, companies that voluntarily cancel a flight would be required to compensate all passengers between $250 and $600, an amount that would be determined based on the distance of the flight canceled by the company, not to exceed the total amount paid by the passenger for the flight.

Second, passengers would be entitled to compensation when an airline refuses to let them board because of overbooking. This happens when an airline sells more tickets than it has seats on a flight. This tactic is used by some companies that count on the fact that certain passengers will not show up for the flight. Therefore, they sell more tickets than they have seats available. This dubious practice does not cause problems when certain passengers do not show up, but when enough passengers do, the company must refuse to allow certain passengers to board, passengers who had reserved and paid for their airline ticket. Under this bill, companies that refuse to allow a passenger to board because the flight is overbooked would have to pay $250 to $600 in compensation. Once again, that amount would be determined based on the distance of the flight the passenger was prevented from boarding.

Third, when a flight is delayed, passengers would be entitled to meals, refreshments and accommodation, based on the length of the delay.

Fourth, passengers would be entitled to compensation in the amount of $500 if their baggage is misplaced by the airline.

This bill obviously goes into much more detail than what I just mentioned. It gives air passengers clear rules about compensation and reimbursement. It prevents Canadian families' vacations from being disrupted as a result of the poor practices of certain airlines. It ensures that entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized business owners who regularly use air transport will be compensated when airlines do not respect their commitments. It standardizes practices in the air industry.

All of these measures work. For almost 10 years now, several countries in Europe have had such measures in place and have proven that they are effective.

How can anyone be against measures that protect consumer rights and that work well?

Some of my colleagues from the other side of the House seem to think that the system we have in place is sufficient to ensure that passengers and families are treated fairly by air carriers. They seem to believe that since it is in the best interest of the companies to treat their customers fairly that they will do so to prevent customers from switching air carriers for their next travel arrangements.

That might be true in some cases, but what happens when things do not work out that way? What happens when an air carrier decides not to compensate passengers adequately for a situation in which the company is responsible? What happens when passengers and families are stuck at the airport for hours without any help or services from the air carrier?

The answer is quite simple. The passengers have to pay for the services they need, including food and housing, and if they do not have the means to do so they have to wait and sleep at the airport terminal, which is not nearly as entertaining as Tom Hanks would lead us to believe. Let us not forget that many Canadians, such as a family who has maxed out their credit card for their vacation and are travelling on a limited budget, do not have the financial means to pay for such unexpected expenses, especially in these times where Canadian families are overburdened with debt.

The fact is that passengers who feel they were treated unfairly may receive some compensation through informal facilitation or some form of adjudication by the Canadian Transportation Agency, but that does not solve the problem. It does not provide those passengers and families with the service they need at the time they need it. It is more red tape for a Canadian family to go through to be reimbursed for the trouble they have suffered.

It is easy to say that all they have to do is pay for the food and hotel room since they might receive some compensation many months later. However, as I said, not everyone has the financial means to pay for such unexpected expenses, especially when they know they might not get their money back in the end.

This is one of the reasons that this bill is important for consumer rights. It would make sure that passengers have access to reasonable and free services when they are forced to stay at the airport for an extended period of time. When a flight is cancelled, if the air carrier does not provide those services free of charge, it would have to compensate the passengers with a fixed amount of $500.

This bill of rights for passengers would prevent those air carriers who have developed bad practices from benefiting from them. They would probably abandon practices such as overbooking and voluntary cancellations of flights. As for those carriers who do not use such money-making tactics, they would not be penalized with this new bill.

If an air carrier is not responsible for a flight delay or a flight cancellation, in other words, if the cancellation or delay of a flight is the result of a measure or decision taken by an airport authority, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, Nav Canada, or the Canada Border Services Agency, the air carrier may submit the matter to the Canadian Transportation Agency. If the air carrier was indeed not responsible for the situation, it would be compensated.

In short, this bill would make sure that passengers, families and small business owners are treated fairly by every air carrier. By creating such consistency across the industry, it would also benefit those air carriers that have good practices and do not try to make more money from their customers by overbooking or cancelling flights. In the end, the bill would benefit everyone but those companies who would try to shortchange consumers.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the wonderful bill put forward by my friend the member for Laval to try to put some structure around how Canadians are treated by airlines in our country.

The Conservative government believes that the aviation system has to be protected to the point of legislating private companies back to work even before there is a labour dispute. We can only wonder why the government is not supportive of something that would protect the rights of consumers when it is so eager to protect its corporate fans.

The consumers involved here are people who take flights throughout Canada. Canada being the large and disparate country that it is, the use of airlines is necessary for some travel within Canada and is often the only way to get quickly from point A to point B. This is because we do not have the infrastructure for a high-speed rail system, as some countries do.

Airlines know that there is an oligopoly in the country, with only two major carriers. As a result, they really have Canadians at their mercy when it comes to how they treat them in the event of cancellations, overbooking or lost luggage. There is no formal regulatory system to insist that airlines do the right thing by their passengers. Some do, and we are not here to criticize those airlines, but we are opposed to airlines that treat their passengers shoddily.

We believe that the time has come to create, as already exists in Europe, a passenger bill of rights, such that when an airline treats passengers badly or when an airline chooses to cancel or overbook a flight, it is on the hook for some compensation for those people.

The airline certainly will not put back the missed meeting, the missed birthday, the missed wedding or any of the other things that Canadians rely on airlines to get them to on time. One of the reasons we use planes is that we want to get to a place on time; the airline will not replace those things, but it will offer some measure of compensation. The same is true for businesspeople, who cannot replace a missed meeting or make up for not meeting face to face with the client they had hoped to woo into investing in their company. These things will not be replaced, but they may get a few dollars out of it at least, to help them feel a little bit better about it.

The best way to speak on this matter is to offer some examples of what happens to real passengers when airlines treat them shabbily.

My family was booked on an Air Canada flight, but it turned out that an American airline was providing a portion of the travel. The American airline, which I will not name in order to avoid finger pointing, decided to cancel the flight. I was travelling with a one-year-old, and we ended up in a very stark and dismal airport for the better part of 14 hours while we waited for the replacement flight they had promised us. We were there from 9 in the morning until almost 11 o'clock at night waiting for the replacement.

All through the day, we were trying to find another way to get to where we were going. When I investigated, the airline said they had had to cancel the plane because of weather problems in the other city. Canadians will accept that weather is a big part of what we have here and that it may in fact cause problems, so I accepted this reason at face value at that point in time. However, I checked later on, and there was no weather in that city. It was a beautiful, dry, sunny, calm day in the city that they claimed had weather problems.

What was going on was what airlines sometimes do. The airline realized that it had a very light load on the plane. When a plane has maybe only 30 passengers but could seat 50 and the next plane to the same city has a similar situation, the airline will combine the two flights. This happens all the time, and the airlines do not tell us they are doing it.

If one looks at the board and sees the planes that go between, say, Toronto and Ottawa, for example, and one of them says “cancelled”, chances are that one of the reasons it is cancelled is that it has a light load and the airline wants to combine flights to save money. That is all well and good, but by bumping people off their scheduled flights, they miss their connections and they miss the meetings, the birthdays, the weddings or the funerals. How does that repay people? It does not. The airlines at the moment do not have any obligation whatsoever when they do this kind of thing. That is one example.

I have another example. When my son in Alberta was coming for a surprise visit last November, his flight from Edmonton to Toronto was going through Calgary. When he got to the airport in Edmonton, there was a big snowstorm in Calgary. Did they say anything to him in Edmonton, before he got on that plane, about the fact that the Calgary portion of his flight had been cancelled? No. They knew it, but they did not want to give him the opportunity to say that he wanted his money back and that he would not go with Air Canada but would go with WestJet. Instead, they assured him that his plane would go. He actually asked, because he knew there was a snowstorm in Calgary, and he was told that it was going and not to worry. Of course, he got to Calgary at 10 o'clock in the morning and was told there would be no flights until the next day, at which point the trip was completely wasted. There was no point in coming.

As one can imagine, there was a lot of chaos at the airport in Calgary as thousands upon thousands of people tried to make other arrangements to get somewhere when weather caused the airport to be messed up. There was only one agent on duty for a very long line of people. To add insult to the injury of not being able to get from point A to point B, people had to stand in line—there were no chairs in the line—for hours to rebook their flights, cancel their flights or go back to where they were coming from. Yes, it is true that it was ultimately caused by weather, but the airline should never have allowed him to get on the plane in Edmonton in the first place.

That is part of what this bill would do. When an airline knows that there is going to be a cancellation, it would be up to the airline to inform the passengers that there will be a cancellation. I can understand why the airline would not want to do that. It wants to keep the money and wants people to travel and use that airline.

The other issue this bill would deal with is lost luggage. I am sure that most of us here have experienced lost luggage at some point in their careers. I know that I have. What is the airline's response when people lose their luggage? People are told to buy more underwear and send the airline the bill. There is no immediate recompense. It does not immediately provide money for people to buy underwear. For kids travelling to university with nothing in their pockets but their student cards, it is a little difficult, faced with no luggage, to keep going to school every day in the same pair of underwear. The airlines do not supply it. They simply say that people have to buy it and send them the receipts. This bill would provide some recompense.

The final part of this bill is the piece dealing with airlines charging extras when they show people the price. The airlines in Canada are very sneaky with this stuff. Air Canada has something called a fuel surcharge. Between here and London, England, it is $206 for people in regular class and $315 for people in business class. If we add up all the people on the plane and all the fuel charges, it is more than for actually filling up the plane's tank. It charges more in the fuel surcharge than the fuel actually costs. The statement on its website is that it is to provide for fluctuations in operating costs caused by varying fuel prices. That is not the case.

It also charges a NAV CANADA surcharge, which is to reflect the fact that it is an airline and has to fly. NAV CANADA does not charge per passenger. It charges per plane. It is $5,000 or so per plane. It does not break it down per passenger. The airline does. It tries to make it sound as if these are government charges. I am sorry, but we are not in charge of this. The government is not in charge of whether there is an insurance fee to be paid or a NAV CANADA fee to be paid by the airline. That is a private matter between the airline and NAV CANADA.

This is a good bill. This is a bill that would give Canadian passengers some footing in their debates with airlines and would give them some rights. I am proud to support it.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's bill addresses a significant need in Canada regarding the rights of air passengers.

This issue can affect all Canadians, anyone who uses air travel. Indeed, some problems that can arise during a flight do not happen in other forms of travel. Whether it involves a cancelled or delayed flight, lost baggage, or if boarding is denied, these things can happen to anyone.

Many incidents can arise during air travel. Accordingly, passengers' rights need to be protected any time airlines are treating their passengers unfairly. Compensation rules and requirements for the carriers need to be imposed in order to ensure that travellers are not put at a disadvantage.

The bill places obligations on air carriers to provide compensation and other assistance to passengers in certain cases when a flight has been cancelled or delayed, when boarding has been denied, and when an aircraft has remained on the ground for a period of more than an hour at an airport.

It also requires air carriers to disclose all relevant information to the public regarding the pricing of flights and to keep passengers informed regarding any misplaced baggage and any developments in respect of their flights that could have a significant impact on their travel plans.

These rights apply in certain situations. First of all, when a flight is cancelled, passengers have the right to be reimbursed or re-routed to their final destination. They are entitled to meals based on the length of the delay, and to accommodation, if necessary. They are entitled to compensation in the amount of $250 to $600, unless the flight is cancelled due to extraordinary circumstances or if passengers agree to be re-routed.

Second, when travellers are denied boarding as a result of overbooking on the part of an airline, passengers are entitled to compensation in the amount of $250 to $600, as well as any benefits offered by the airline.

Third, when a flight is delayed, passengers are entitled to meals and refreshments in a reasonable relation to the waiting time, as well as accommodation, if necessary.

Fourth, when baggage is misplaced, passengers are entitled to $500 in compensation.

Fifth, when the advertised price is wrong, airlines must include all costs to be assumed by the airline, as well as all duties, fees and taxes that they collect on behalf of other parties.

This bill takes a page from European legislation that has been in place for several years. It must be said that we are lagging far behind in that respect. European regulations establish compensation for passengers when they have problems with air transportation.

If a flight is overbooked or cancelled, the passenger is entitled to financial compensation. Airlines are always required to provide assistance.

This month, the European Commission announced a number of measures to provide air passengers with new rights and better access to good information and assistance when they are stranded at an airport.

New procedures to handle complaints and new enforcement measures are also included in order for passengers to obtain what they are entitled to. Oversight of airlines by domestic and European authorities will be strengthened.

Even persons with disabilities are better served under the rules established by the European Union. The regulations adopted in 2006 are based on the simple principle that persons with disabilities should have the same opportunity to travel by air.

The regulations on the rights of people with reduced mobility when using air transport prohibits operators from refusing to make a reservation or board passengers because of a disability. However, there are some exceptions due to safety reasons established by law.

The person with reduced mobility must be informed of the refusal, together with the reasons, within five days of making the reservation.

Persons with disabilities are also entitled to obtain, from airport authorities, free assistance at airports and aboard aircraft. These services are funded by a levy collected from the airline companies. European Union countries also impose penalties and have independent organizations to deal with complaints.

This is the approach we should take in Canada, given how successful the common rules for the compensation of air passengers instituted by the European Union in 2004 have been.

If Europeans have such rights, then Canadians should have them too. Europeans do not hesitate to exercise their rights when they feel they have a valid complaint against an airline.

Whether passengers have been denied boarding or downgraded, or their flight has been significantly delayed or cancelled, these are forms of abuse, and we must legislate to prevent them from happening again. If people think that they have a legitimate complaint against an airline because they have been denied boarding or downgraded, or their flight has been significantly delayed or cancelled, they must be able to exercise their rights without any hesitation.

It is simply a matter of logic. Travellers should receive a refund or compensation for their trip if it is cancelled. Consequently, travellers must have access to clear rules regarding refunds or compensation in the event that the airline changes their travel itinerary without two weeks' notice. Otherwise, many Canadian families' vacations will end up being disrupted simply because of an airline's bad practices.

If airlines do not honour their commitments, they must compensate travellers. This bill is a good approach in terms of respectful relations between airlines and travellers.

We need to put rules in place to protect the rights of consumers by working with airlines. Quite frankly, some airlines have really good practices. Others, however, quite commonly engage in practices that are harmful to consumers, such as overbooking and cancelling flights.

When such situations occur, it is important to ensure that travellers are compensated by the airline. Reasonable compensation for travellers would be provided depending on the situation and the damage done, without creating false expectations on the part of the traveller.

It is true that some airlines already have good compensation practices in place, but that is not the case for all of them. This bill would penalize only the airlines that take advantage of consumers.

It is common practice among some airlines to offer refunds only to passengers who are refused boarding. When flights are overbooked, which happens often, people are not usually reimbursed. Bill C-459 would also provide compensation to passengers who end up in that situation, based on the distance of the flight in question.

I already hear the Conservatives saying that no one can control the weather, that not all the blame can be put on the airlines and that some of the responsibility lies elsewhere.

That is why this bill allows for exceptions when it is not the airline's fault. For example, passengers will not receive compensation in the case of a cancelled flight caused by extraordinary circumstances that could not have been avoided. In the case of extraordinary circumstances, airlines do not have to provide the compensation set out in Bill C-459.

That is the essence of the bill that would create a fairer relationship between passengers and airlines, something that has existed in Europe for many years. It will be particularly beneficial to middle-class Canadian families and SME owners. Whether we are talking about a family vacation, a business trip or any other kind of travel, passengers will not end up powerless and will have rights.

There is currently a serious legislative gap to be filled, and the bill introduced by my colleague from Laval fills the major gap we have in Canada. We must ultimately ensure that passengers are properly compensated when there is a problem at the airport.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Laval has five minutes for his right of reply.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.


José Nunez-Melo NDP Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, given the remarks of my official opposition and government colleagues, it seems even clearer to me that a bill such as the one I have introduced is essential.

Like me, members on the other side of the House have demonstrated their support for air passengers. My Conservative colleague, the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, who chairs the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, was quite right when he said: “Consumers have the right to expect to be treated fairly by airlines.” That was on February 7 of this year. What he said is a fact, and it points to the problems that led to the drafting of this bill.

Comments by some government members lead us to believe that existing mechanisms already allow for impartial inquiries when individuals feel they have received unsatisfactory treatment from an airline. That is not true. Many airlines do not see why they should be proactive when it comes to passengers' rights.

The current legislation does not encourage being proactive in the least—quite the opposite, actually. Canada's policy on passengers' rights is based on a disconcerting dichotomy of intimidation and insecurity. The intimidation starts with the very first paragraph on the ticket purchase agreement, where it states that the buyer agrees that the airline assumes no responsibility. Insecurity is created in collusion with insurance companies, which try to force consumers to buy protection. Both aspects employ mechanisms that require passengers to file a complaint themselves in order to receive compensation for the airline's negligence. This bill addresses that approach.

The air passengers' bill of rights that we are discussing today will require all airlines doing business in Canada—apart from the clearly indicated exceptions—to comply with standards for respecting passengers' rights. The main objective is to regulate the sector, as is already the case in Europe, so that compensation for a change in travel plans becomes the standard and not the result of long, expensive legal proceedings.

All it takes is talking to a few victims of bad practices to understand just how very long and particularly awkward the compensation process can be. We must recognize that some airlines already offer good compensation. Moreover they are not necessarily the ones that offer very expensive tickets, as some government colleagues claim.

The goal of the bill is to standardize the practices of airlines when it comes to compensation and, at the same time, to ensure that the rights of passengers are protected fairly and reasonably. We are trying to eliminate misunderstandings and the frustration that result from these abnormal situations.

When this bill was introduced, immediately after the first hour of second reading, my offices in Laval and in the Confederation Building were inundated with emails and calls from across Canada. We managed to compile a record of testimonies ranging from simple delays and minor processing errors to really illegal, if not cruel, actions.

I would like my colleagues across the way to understand that Canada needs to do something about this and that it must adopt a bill like this one.

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Air Passengers’ Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members