Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak today on this motion, because I have been asked on many occasions to comment on it in question period. In fact, a couple of weeks ago when I was asked about it and while I was answering the question from my hon. colleague, I overheard the hon. member for Beauce say quite clearly that nobody wants to buy the C Series.
What I am suggesting today is that perhaps this motion from the opposition does not necessarily have a consensus in that party. I would be interested in knowing why the member for Beauce, who, after hearing my colleague quote me in saying that this is the finest airplane in its class in the world—and I agree with that comment—does not agree with that assessment and is not wholeheartedly supporting sales of the CS100. I would be interested in that answer.
Today I will speak to the opposition motion on Bombardier and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Canada is the second-largest country in the world. We depend on our strong transportation and communication networks to connect us to each other and to the rest of the world.
I would like to begin by stating that the Government of Canada fully recognizes Bombardier's contribution to Canadian industry and the international market.
Our aerospace sector has given Canada a strong reputation internationally. Its contributions to aeronautics and satellite technology benefit our country as a whole as well as the international community.
The sector has been and will continue to be one of the strongest drivers of investment and international trade. It is also a key player in Canada's social, green, and economic infrastructure. It connects people to jobs and helps deliver essential goods and services.
Canada's air sector is a global leader, and Transport Canada is recognized around the world as a certifier and regulator. I would like to highlight that the recently tabled review of the Canada Transportation Act reported that “Canadian-certified aircraft, equipment, and skilled personnel are in high demand around the world.”
Aerospace is an important element of Canada's manufacturing sector, and Bombardier is a strong player in the field. Last year the aerospace sector generated more than 180,000 jobs and added $29 billion to our country's economy. It is a significant contributor to economic growth. Aerospace companies such as Bombardier export some 80% of the products that they make.
Consequently, the Government of Canada was pleased by Air Canada's announcement on February 17, 2016, of its intention to purchase Bombardier C Series aircraft. This is clearly good news for the Canadian aerospace industry. It will result in well-paying jobs for highly skilled workers in this sector. I am encouraged by the benefits that will result from this important transaction between these two iconic Canadian companies. The C Series aircraft is a major advancement in aviation, and I am sure that this addition to Air Canada's fleet will be a major benefit both to that company and to Canada's aerospace sector.
The Government of Canada has confidence in Bombardier and in its C Series aircraft, which are becoming more advanced. As I have said in the past, the C Series aircraft is the best in its class in the world.
Despite what the member for Beauce said last month, there is demand for the C Series aircraft. The first C Series plane will be delivered to Swiss International Air Lines in the spring. Once this Swiss C Series aircraft enters into commercial use, Bombardier will have the opportunity to show the world, especially potential buyers, what this aircraft is capable of and what it has to offer airlines.
Our government is confident that the C Series aircraft will prove to be the outstanding aircraft that early reports predict it will be.
Last December I took part in the certification of Bombardier's C Series aircraft, which was a historic occasion for the Canadian aerospace industry, and I am proud that Transport Canada was part of the process.
Type certification of any aircraft involves a careful examination of the design to verify that it complies with our airworthiness standards and environmental regulations. This design certification is required before the aircraft can enter into commercial use.
This initial approval is a significant step toward Bombardier obtaining full certification in Canada as well as in Europe, the United States, and abroad. It is a significant step toward delivering aircraft to customers worldwide. This approval also allows Bombardier to build investor and customer confidence.
I thank my colleague across the way for her motion and her interest in this file.
With reference to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, it would be misleading to suggest that the only issue to be considered when examining the proposal to amend the tripartite agreement and allow the expansion of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to permit the use of commercial jet aircraft and to extend the runway is whether or not Bombardier could sell more aircraft.
Our nation's economy relies on connecting to the world, and the greater Toronto area and southern Ontario as a whole are being well served by a network of airports working together to form an international gateway. This gateway helps Canada stay competitive and attracts air travellers and traffic from around the world.
Toronto Pearson is by far Canada's busiest airport, and I was there myself in December, celebrating the 40 millionth passenger for 2015. It has more international passengers than any North American airport after New York's John F. Kennedy International, and Billy Bishop airport helps to connect Toronto's business heart to other major centres in Canada and the United States.
In addition, many airports look to expand their business footprint. We can see specialty niches form, such as the courier activities at the Hamilton airport. Together, southern Ontario's airports provide economic stimulus to the region by offering services to general and commercial aviation, passengers, shippers, and businesses. These airports bring passengers from around the world, all contributing to the local and national economies.
All of this movement of people and goods attracts business and drives trade and foreign investment in our great country.
I would like to share with hon. members some important information from the Canada Transportation Act review that I had the pleasure of tabling in the House on February 25, 2016:
In 2012, air transportation directly employed 141,000 Canadians and contributed $34.9 billion in GDP and more than $7 billion in taxes to federal and provincial treasuries. In 2014, the industry served nearly 125 million passengers, up 45 percent over the decade since 2004, and transported $116 billion in international cargo.
The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is a very good example of this thriving network. It is located just a few minutes away from downtown Toronto, on Toronto Island, and ranks ninth in Canada in terms of traffic, welcoming more than 2.4 million business or leisure travellers every year. The Billy Bishop Airport now offers services to 24 Canadian and American cities, with connections to more than 80 cities around the world. This airport is a major economic driver of Toronto's economy. It is also a base for air ambulance services with nearly 4,600 such flights in 2014, and is home to a sizable personal aviation community that includes a flight school.
Billy Bishop is also a historic airport. Members may not know that it was opened in 1939. When the Second World War began, it served as a training base for the Royal Norwegian Air Force, as part of what would earn Canada the title of “aerodrome of democracy” from U.S. president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This history was enhanced even more a few years ago when it was renamed in honour of legendary Canadian aviator and war hero, Billy Bishop.
The fact is that the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is already providing a valuable service without expansion. Last month, it was named one of the top airports in North America in the Airports Council International's airport service quality awards. It tied for third in the best airport North America region category, one of only two Canadian airports to make the list, along with Ottawa international airport.
Such accolades demonstrate that the investment that has been made in the airport, from developing its infrastructure to its working with stakeholders to provide better amenities and improved access to the airport, is providing passengers with an exceptional travel experience.
The government recognizes that the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is a major economic driver for the greater Toronto area and that it supports business and leisure travel.
On November 12, 2015, I announced that the Government of Canada would not reopen the tripartite agreement between the this government, the city of Toronto, and PortsToronto that would allow Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to pursue an expansion. The government stands by this decision and feels that the current tripartite agreement strikes the right balance between commercial interests and the interests of local communities, and the environmental and cultural challenges, including the evolution of the waterfront. Also, with other jet capable airports very close by, the government believed there was no compelling case to change the current approach.
The government is not alone in this position. Several citizens groups in the GTA have opposed any proposed expansion of Billy Bishop airport. Accordingly, they support our position against reopening the agreement.
As I mentioned earlier, this is about more than just the airport. It is about Torontonians wanting a greater say in the development of their waterfront, which will be significantly affected by the expansion of the airport.
When the proposal to amend the tripartite agreement between the federal government, the City of Toronto, and Ports Toronto was examined, as indicated in the member's motion, a number of issues had to be considered, not just whether jets should be allowed or whether the runway should be expanded.
Every situation is unique and complex. The Government of Canada examines each situation carefully in order to provide Canadians with safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible air travel and cargo services.
The government continually assesses the air services policy framework to ensure that Canada's air transportation system can respond to this evolving environment and is properly equipped to facilitate future growth.
I would like to assure members that the decision was made in the best interests of Torontonians and Canadians. The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has been a model of effective management for many years. It is up to Ports Toronto and the airlines that operate out of the airport to continue to make their business model work.
In April 2014, Toronto city council debated the issue and actively sought the views of the then-federal government. The city asked that the federal government of the day take a public position on proposed changes to the tripartite agreement that would permit the expansion of the airport and to allow jet aircraft, such as the Bombardier C Series to operate from the airport. That was three years ago. All of this could be seen on the city's website, as well as in media reports. It was very public.
From April 2013 to the fall of 2015, about two and a half years, there were multiple public meetings, conferences, and other events at which the proposed expansion of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport was discussed. There were web forums, opportunities for public comment, and many other open venues where anybody could express their opinions and views on the issue.
The proponents and opponents of the proposed expansion of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport were very active and very engaged. The possibilities, concerns, and opinions related to the proposal were discussed and debated, and the potential economic benefits of the proposal, those for the region and the for the country were certainly well aired.
The member opposite should not suggest that the expansion of the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport will determine the success of Bombardier's C Series. It is simplistic and it ignores a much larger picture. Bombardier products have always, and will always, succeed based on their quality and competitiveness in global markets. One cannot imply that the success of Bombardier only depends on the expansion of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
I would like to reiterate that the Government of Canada feels that the current tripartite agreement strikes the right balance between commercial interests and the interests of local communities, which are important, as well as between the environmental and cultural challenges, including the evolution of the waterfront. The Government of Canada made the right decision when it refused to authorize the expansion of the airport in November 2015, and it stands by that decision, as it has mentioned a number of times.
The government will therefore not support this motion. Canada's airline sector is robust, competitive, safe, secure and efficient. Our government will continue to maintain Canada's reputation as a global leader and strengthen the sector's competitiveness.