House of Commons Hansard #41 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.


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5 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Durham made reference to celebrating the Avro Arrow. The cancellation of the Arrow by Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker represented a substantial and significant hit—

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5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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5 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Well, he mentioned it, Mr. Speaker.

It was a hit to Canada's aerospace industry and took away our leadership position in the military aerospace sector. It would be hard to argue that we ever recovered from that missile hit, in a manner of speaking, as recent discussions over new fighter jets clearly demonstrate.

Could the member please tell us why we should take his party's advice on questions of leadership in aerospace with such a disastrous legacy and with the significant long-term consequences that resulted from the prior attempts at Conservative leadership in aerospace, or am I off the Bomarc?

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5 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member is asking a question that admittedly is a little off the topic that is in front of us today. Nonetheless, as he pointed out, the hon. member for Durham did raise the point in his remarks, so we will certainly allow the question.

The hon. member for Durham.

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5 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, he certainly was off the Bomarc. I did get his reference, so kudos to him.

Mr. Diefenbaker was almost burned in effigy at this dinner that I had. I had a hard time staying in form pretending to be George Hees, one of his ministers at the time. I would like to thank the Clarington Museums for such an amazing event.

However, I do not think there has been any government that has consistently supported this industry better than Conservative governments. The industrial regional benefits program, from our procurement programs, is what keeps these supply chains alive.

That is why this Minister of National Defence is asking the Prime Minister to reverse his position from the election. As I said in my speech, the Liberals like to take two positions on one issue. In the election they were going to cancel the F-35s, and now maybe not.

I would remind that member—and I would thank him for teeing up this response—that as a former Sea King aviator, I certainly do know the hundreds of millions of dollars lost and the job cuts and losses to the aerospace industry, as a result of the move by Prime Minister Right Hon. Chrétien. In fact, his first move as prime minister in 1993 was to devastate the aerospace industry and set the air force back.

I would like to thank that member for taking us back on a bit of a history lesson.

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5:05 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-10, an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act and to provide for certain other measures.

Speaking in technical terms, this legislation will remove the articles of the act that stipulate that Air Canada undertakes operational and overhaul maintenance in Mississauga, Montreal, and Winnipeg.

In plain English, the proposed amendments to the 1988 Air Canada Public Participation Act mean that the jobs of 3,000 Canadians who provide aircraft maintenance will be affected. Under the amendment, Air Canada would still be required to do some maintenance work in each of these provinces, but would be allowed to change the type, volume, or scope of any or all of those activities in each of those provinces. As well, the level of employment in any or all these areas could be changed, depending on the scope. Air Canada would be free to dictate how many people would be employed by these centres and what work they will do.

Let me be clear with regard to one particular aspect of this. The Conservative Party believes it is time that Air Canada becomes a private sector company that is not supported by taxpayers. We agree that Air Canada, and all of our carriers, should have the ability to be more competitive, a level playing field, and this does not have to be at the expense of high-quality, well-paying jobs of Canadians. Having spent almost 20 years in aviation, I am aware first-hand of the challenges that Canadian aviation industries face in remaining competitive in an ever-changing global industry.

However, before getting into the weeds of the bill, let me speak about the history of Air Canada in this country for a moment.

Air Canada inherited a fleet of 109 aircraft upon being privatized in 1988. All of Canada's major airports where Air Canada first flew were built with the financial support of the Government of Canada at the time. Air Canada is the largest airline in this country, and an important international player in the aviation sector. However, that is because of, not despite, the support from the Government of Canada and Canadian taxpayers over the years.

Today Air Canada is the largest tenant in nearly every major airport in this country, with the exception of Calgary and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. This gives Air Canada significant influence over each airport's operations, and access to the best landing slots in all of our major airports. One might be tempted to say it is a bit of a competitive advantage over other carriers, including our other national carriers.

As I said before, we welcomed the original intent of the Air Canada Public Participation Act when it was introduced in 1988. The act put in place clear conditions to ensure that all of the support that Air Canada had received from the government to turn it into a profitable crown corporation was not lost. The government could be seen as perhaps protecting its investment.

The conditions were that Air Canada would be subjected to the Official Languages Act, would maintain its headquarters in Montreal, that 75% of its voting shares had to be held by Canadians and, finally, it had to “maintain operational and overhaul centres in the city of Winnipeg, Montreal urban community, and the city of Mississauga”. Given all this, it is surprising that the government would only make such a narrow change to the act. While it is unclear what level of benefits this legislative change will give Air Canada, it is clear that the intended change will make it possible for the carrier to move thousands of jobs from Canada to other jurisdictions.

If we are talking about giving further competitive advantage to one of our national carriers, perhaps it would be appropriate to look at the industry as a whole. If afforded all of the advantages previously and Air Canada is still having difficulties remaining competitive, it might be a sign that our national aviation industry might need some retooling.

Let me talk about some of the challenges facing the aviation industry as a whole, because to understand the issues, one must first understand the product. Air transport is a critical, economic, and social infrastructure. It provides access to trade and investment; connects people to jobs, friends, and family; and delivers vital goods and services in remote areas, such as air medevac.

Geography, population size, and environmental conditions increase the operating costs of air transport in Canada compared to other jurisdictions. The Canadian passenger travel market is relatively mature, and it has enjoyed small to medium growth over the years. The total Canadian passenger market is estimated at between 122 to 125 million enplaned and deplaned passengers. However, this pales in comparison to the emerging and developing markets around the world.

In some measure, this is due to some of the very same policies developed for the industrial and economic environment in the 1990s. Simply put, the very same policies that were designed to protect our industry are now the ones hindering it.

Most of Canada's domestic air services are provided by Air Canada and WestJet. A small number of regional and local air carriers across the country service some small communities from coast to coast. This allows for better customer service and connectivity.

In the 1990s, Canada saw the Southwest Airline low-cost airline model introduced by WestJet. This came at a time when consumers and communities were held hostage by predatory pricing by Canada's two major airlines of the time, Canadian and Air Canada.

Canada's main charter carriers are Transat and Sunwing. They are focused primarily on seasonal vacation destinations. WestJet's entrance into the Canadian market created excitement by offering low-cost travel. It allowed many Canadians to experience air travel for the very first time. It was an exciting time and it was an exciting project of which to be part.

There was a time that air travel was only for the elite and was considered glamourous and accessible to only those who could afford it. With the entrance of low-cost carriers and competition, air travel is now easily afforded and this has stimulated market growth.

Both Air Canada and WestJet have now introduced lower cost, lower fare vacation or charter subsidiaries, Rouge and Encore. Respectively, this has stimulated some vacation or destination growth in a number of markets and, as we speak, there are a number of start-up low-cost carriers at various stages of financing that are expected to enter the market in the short term.

Ultimately, this will lead to a price competition with existing carriers. For a time, our national carriers will react with even greater seat sales and maybe even new routes, but as past experience suggests, only the new entrants with deep pockets will be able to survive.

Unable to compete or go head to head with the big boys because the deck is stacked against them, airline start-ups and failures are frequent. The ones that suffer the most are the communities and, ultimately, the consumer.

All of this is to say that maybe it is time to reconsider policies that may have served us well when the Canadian aviation industry needed protection to flourish, but now impairs our competitiveness. Of course, such protectionism comes at a cost that is largely borne by consumers, who pay relatively high airfares, and the Canadian travel and tourism sector that also, due to higher costs, has been losing market share for over a decade. Simply put, Canada is sliding backward in its competitiveness.

The Conference Board of Canada estimates that Canadian airports in 2012 accounted for $4.3 billion in real GDP, but had a total economic footprint of $12 billion, generating almost 63,000 jobs, and contributing over $3 billion in federal and regional taxes. Canadian airports are vital to the success of the Canadian economy, key gateways for inbound and outbound tourism, business, and personal travel. Domestic commerce and international trade are dependent on our key gateways, our airports.

Canada is blessed with strategic geographical location. We are at the crossroads of the great circle routes among Asia, Europe, and the Americas, and we have this competitive advantage, but yet our nation has never taken full advantage of it. Competition has successfully negated this competitive advantage with integrated policies and programs aimed at stimulating inbound tourism and facilitating connecting traffic through their global hubs, essentially overstepping or, to use an aviation term, doing a flyby of Canada.

Canada's airports face increasingly aggressive competition from countries that have recognized the importance of air transportation as a driver of economic growth. Our neighbouring U.S. counterpart markets directly to and easily accesses a large portion of Canada's U.S. transborder and international travel market. Finally, Canadian airports also compete with each other for the allocation of limited carrier capacity.

Our regional airports and communities are oftentimes pitted against one another in competition for airline service. As mentioned during the Billy Bishop debate, Canadian airports also face challenging times with changing aircraft capacity and the continued focus on environmental issues such as noise due to residential encroachment.

In the 1990s, with the introduction of the national airports policy, a new framework was defined with relation to the federal government's role in aviation. NAS airports, comprised of the 26 airports across Canada that were deemed as critical links for our country, were deemed essential to Canada's air transport system. They served 94% of the air traffic in Canada. These airports were transferred under lease to airport authorities, and in some cases, municipalities.

The infrastructure in many of these airports was antiquated. Some, if not all, of them were in need of attention. Through the transfer negotiations, reinvestment monies were given, but the expectation for these airports was that they were to do everything in their power to be self-sufficient.

Airports have very few revenue generation streams. With the transfer of airports and the newfound independence also came the realization that user-pay systems were needed. Airport improvement fees have now become the norm, and today we have airports that are incredible examples of the NAS airport of the 1990s. We have also seen airports that continue to struggle to be competitive and to be innovative.

The user-pay approach to financing air infrastructure and services is effective and sustainable, but it further increases costs for the sector and for users. It costs more for airlines to fly into our airports because it costs more for our airports to operate.

Canada is unique among its competitors in charging onerous rents and taxes that undermine competitiveness. Airport rents, for example, can represent up to 30% of airport operating budgets, far more than what would be expected in dividends and income tax from a private for-profit airport, such as what we see in Europe.

The federal government takes in about $300 million annually in rent, but it only invests $50 million back into our airports. Canada cannot become a world leader in terms of cost competitiveness of air transport without heavy public subsidization of the sector, not only to match the subsidies offered by some of our competitors, but also to overcome the naturally high-cost operating conditions and lack of economies of scale.

If Canada wants to remain competitive, we need to fully integrate parts of our local transportation system and recognize essential partners, such as the government, airlines, tourism and business interests, using an overall team Canada approach to align policy and promotion. We need to stimulate air travel to, from, and within Canada. This alone would have a broader, far reaching, positive industry impact than continually giving a single private sector company competitive advantages over others.

Arguably the most important challenge facing Canadian industry today is our air policy. The key to enhancing Canadian connectivity, global competitiveness, and economic prosperity is to realign Canada's air policy. The government can improve Canada's competitiveness and help create opportunity in trade and tourism, which in turn would create more demand for air services, strengthening our national carriers, all of our carriers and not just one, by using their time not to pick off the low-hanging fruit, the easy wins, and looking after friends.

Let us look at our air policy. Let us apply our blue sky policy more progressively and in a manner that is strategically aligned with Canada's international trade and tourism objectives. Let us pursue more aggressive open skies agreements with Canada's free trade partners. Let us pursue progressive and more open agreements with Canada's tourism markets. Open up more markets for tourism and trade: wow, what a novel idea.

Tourism is a large and high growth industry. It has a significant impact on the global economy. In 2013 alone, the tourism industry saw more than one billion international tourists worldwide, generating more than $1.3 trillion in receipts. Canada's tourism industry contributes $84 billion to the economy and employs more than 600,000 people.

Competition for tourism is heating up more and more as more countries are investing in tourism marketing, aligning their aviation and visa policies to attract a greater share of this market. Canada is lagging further and further behind. Aligning our tourism objectives with our aviation policy would only serve to build a stronger Canadian aviation industry and stronger carriers.

I have a quote from Air Canada's president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu:

It is indeed time that the Air Canada Public Participation Act, dating from the company's privatization nearly 30 years ago, be modernized to recognize the reality that Air Canada is a private sector company, owned by private sector interests, which operates in a highly competitive global industry that has undergone dramatic transformation over the past three decades.

I agree, but there needs to be a level playing field, and protecting Canadian jobs should be the number one priority.

The announcement made by Air Canada to undertake and overhaul maintenance comes only after the airline announced that it would be purchasing Bombardier's C Series jets.

Air Canada until very recently had been subject to lawsuits from Quebec and Manitoba as a result of the service centre closures in those provinces.

In the Quebec case, it failed to reopen a factory that went bankrupt in 2012, putting 2,000 skilled workers out of work. The Quebec government filed a lawsuit that accused Air Canada of breaching its legal obligations when it transferred some heavy maintenance work outside the country. The Quebec Court of Appeal sided in a ruling last November. However, Quebec dropped the case when Air Canada agreed to purchase 75 Bombardier C Series jets and service them in the province. Was that convenient timing? I think not.

The Manitoba government also ended legal proceedings after the airline signed a new maintenance agreement that is expected to create at least 150 jobs in the province.

Air Canada already outsources its maintenance work to two suppliers in Quebec, in addition to providers in the U.S., Singapore, Ireland, and Israel.

While the Minister of Transport's proposed legislation should have nothing to do with Bombardier, this bill unfortunately has everything to do with Bombardier. While the government has yet to announce whether it will provide Bombardier with yet another billion-dollar bailout as requested on December 11, 2015, it seems it is finding ways to skirt the public with backroom deals.

In his short justification for introducing Bill C-10, the minister hailed Air Canada's decision to purchase the C Series aircraft combined with the Government of Quebec's and the Government of Manitoba's intention to discontinue litigation against the carrier as the main cause. That is so nice of them. The minister also noted that this would allow Air Canada to be more competitive in an evolving and ever-increasing globalized industry. I think that line alone speaks for itself.

The taxpayers of Canada have done a lot for Air Canada and the company is rewarding them by taking away high-quality, well-paying jobs. The Conservative Party does not support any bill that seeks to eliminate jobs, especially when there are viable alternatives to do so that will not affect the company's bottom line.

The government has an opportunity to look at all of our industry and make some real change. If the government really wanted to take a measure that would stimulate the entire Canadian aerospace sector, and as I said, create real change, including Air Canada, it could choose to tackle any of the issues I have mentioned previously. I would note that all of these measures have near universal support in the aviation sector and would not lead to a single loss of jobs in Canada.

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5:20 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a few tautologies from the government. We have heard that a deal is a deal. The government has invoked that in order to refuse to stand up to Saudi Arabia with respect to its record on human rights and proceed with a contract that would deliver arms to that country. We have also heard that the law is the law is the law. This is a deal in law. It is a deal that was made when Air Canada was privatized. It is a deal that was made with Canadian workers and aerospace workers. We have a deal that is in the law. We know that the law is the law is the law, and that a deal is a deal. Why is it that that is good enough for the government to go ahead and protect the interests of the Saudi government, but it is not good enough to stand up for the sanctity of a deal when it comes to protecting Canadian workers?

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5:25 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure if there was a question in the member's remarks.

The Air Canada Public Participation Act was done in 1988 and as we have talked about, times change and things change. We have to be able to compete in an ever-changing global environment.

Fundamentally, that act was put in place to protect Canadian jobs and to protect the government's investment. As we move forward, it would be wise for the government to take a step back, and not rush to pass this legislation. If the government were really serious about creating jobs and creating a great environment for trade and tourism, it might consider some of the thoughts and suggestions that members on this side have put forth in the debate today.

If we are to remain competitive, we need to not just look at one carrier, but we need to look at the industry as a whole in order to make Canada a sound trading partner and competitive on the global stage.

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5:25 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I understand that the member's background is in aviation. He talked about the downloading of costs to the airlines and to the public. It reminds me of security at most of our airports. The security costs are downloaded directly to the airlines and to the public that are travelling.

Does the member think that the whole regulation system needs to be looked at and changed? I feel that the global security at our airports should be a national requirement by government and the costs should not be put onto the general public or the airlines that are using those airports.

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5:25 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, on a point of clarification, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is in charge of Canada's security system at our airports from coast to coast to coast. However, the costs always come down to the user pays. The end user has to pay for that. We live in an ever-changing global environment that places challenges on all of our security systems and our transportation systems. We want to make sure that the safe travel of goods and people is always paramount. Our Canadian airports are second to none in this.

Again, if we are to be competitive, if we want to stop carriers overflying Canada, if we want to remain competitive on the global stage, if we want to take advantage of our strategic geographic position, we need to look at the aviation transportation sector as a whole. We need to align that with our trade, our tourism, and our air policy environment. If we do that, our carriers, our airports, our trade, and our tourism will be healthy.

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5:25 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, this is an interesting rolling out of history. Just a few years ago the Liberals of the day, when they were the third party, were extremely critical of the Conservative government for not upholding the legislation which was a term of privatization of taxpayer assets, a commitment to protect Canadian jobs in place as a trade, as a term for that privatization. Just a few years ago, the third party was very critical of the Conservative government for not taking stronger action.

We now have legislation before the House that looks like a very clear reversal of that position. We are seeing a very strong protection of the corporate interests and not seeing the proposed legislation standing up for local good-paying jobs that are guaranteed to stay in Canada.

I am curious about what my Conservative colleague feels about this story now that the narrative has turned around.

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5:30 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, I would have to say that the timing of this legislation is awfully suspect. Only after Air Canada has announced that it will indeed purchase the C Series aircraft from Bombardier, a commitment of maybe up to 75, we have seen some lawsuits dropped with Quebec and Manitoba.

There seems to be a rush to get this legislation in place and perhaps a loss of memory of the Liberals' previous stance. Again, we have seen a loss of memory in recent months after October 19 and after the Liberals' campaign when they made a lot of promises. As one of our colleagues said, there were promises of rainbows and unicorns. We now see the loss of memory of their stance in the previous Parliament, and so they are changing it. It is a rush to judgment and I think it is a matter of merely looking after friends.

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5:30 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona earlier referred to Liberal tautologies, such as “a deal is a deal” and “the law is the law”. I thought maybe he should have added “a proof is a proof is a proof”, because we clearly have proof here that there were clear rules in place and that those rules were not followed, and now the government is trying to change the law to allow for not following the law and not respecting taxpayers in this context.

We talked about the interests of corporations and the interests of workers, but there is a more fundamental issue here, and that is basic fairness.

What message does this decision by the government send about fairness in the marketplace, about actually honouring the law and honouring our commitments?

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5:30 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I think it speaks volumes about the government's ability to have blinders on when it comes to friends and things it needs to get passed and wants to rush through.

The government's role is create the environment so that companies, whether private or other corporations, can succeed. That means creating a healthy tax environment, a healthy and competitive environment, so that industry can flourish, so that trade can flourish, so that we can move people and products to market easily.

Governments should not be interfering in issues that will give one private sector company a competitive advantage over another. Simply put, I think the government should stick to its knitting. If it wants to have real change, maybe it should take a look at the industry as a whole and not a singular part of that industry or a singular competitor in that industry, and if it really wants to do some good, let us take a look at the whole industry and have some real impact.

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5:30 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to now give a speech on this debate, having participated throughout the day in questions and comments.

I want to share that the reason I have been involved in the debate, the reason I am giving this speech, is that this was actually an issue that a constituent brought to me in my office a number of months ago. This gentleman had been an Aveos employee and had lost his job as a result of, in my view, Air Canada's ongoing efforts to shirk its clear obligations under the Air Canada Public Participation Act.

It was a pleasure for me to chat with this gentleman. I always appreciate it when constituents come to my office to educate me about issues I may not know about, and, when I have the opportunity, I can then reflect their concerns in the House. In this case, these are certainly concerns that I share. This is the context I bring to this debate.

It is certainly telling that my constituent wanted us to be talking about this issue, yet it is very clear from the way this debate has progressed back and forth that it is not an issue that the government wants to talk about. The Liberals wanted to bring this legislation forward, and to be sure, they want it to pass. However, while other parties are participating actively in this debate, it is clearly not something that the government is keen to talk about, and it is not surprising why.

Here is the deal.

The government came up with an arrangement that I think it feels satisfies everyone of importance. However, the legislation ignores the one too often overlooked stakeholder group: the people, the ordinary working women and men in this country, taxpayers, people who cannot afford to hire lobbyists, people who cannot afford to go to $500-a-plate fundraisers with ministers, people who go about their ordinary business and just hope and expect, perhaps against the odds, that the government will treat them fairly and honestly.

The government has come up with a solution in this context. The Liberals believe, it seems—which reminds of the title of a recent book I read—that the bill satisfies everyone but the people. As obscure as the Air Canada Public Participation Act may be to some Canadians who have not interacted with it directly, I think the legislation before us is something that everyone should pay some degree of attention to, because it tells us a great deal about the way the government does business. To paraphrase Michael Corleone, if you want to do business with this government, then it will do business with you.

I would like to start the substance of my remarks by reviewing the story of how we got to this sordid piece of legislation, and of who has already paid the price for the policy of the government and will continue to pay the price as we go forward.

In 1988-1989, through two separate offerings, Air Canada was privatized under, notably, a previous Conservative government, which I think had the wisdom and foresight to see the value of proceeding in that direction. I think most of us will accept now, in principle, the value of government stepping out of being directly involved in that kind of business activity, but certainly in the lead-up to that privatization, the people of Canada had already been very involved in terms of putting money into the development and ongoing maintenance of what had then been a crown corporation.

The mechanism of privatization is important here. The privatization of Air Canada was achieved through a share issue privatization, or SIP for short, and this is exactly what it sounds like. The government issued and sold shares in what had previously been a publicly owned company. Particularly in this case, and in some other cases in those years when the government initiated SIPs, certain provisos or restrictions were placed on the company being privatized. In this case, Air Canada was subject to four conditions: it would be subject to the Official Languages Act; it would maintain its corporate headquarters in Montreal; 75% of its voting shares had to be held by Canadians; and it had to maintain operational and overhaul centres in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Mississauga. This was the law, and they were also the conditions of the privatization.

The latter point of maintaining operational and overhaul centres in those three Canadian cities is what the legislation before us seeks to remove. It would no longer require that these jobs be kept in Canada.

Therefore, we can be very clear that the proposed legislation is not about creating jobs in Canada but about sending jobs out of Canada. There is no denying that. Certainly the government may point to other jobs being created in the aerospace sector, but it is very clear that the effect of the legislation before us is to allow, to facilitate, this company in sending jobs out of Canada.

As everyone knows, when conditions are put on a sale of anything, whatever that thing is, that is likely to have some impact on the price. A 2012 University of Calgary paper from the School of Public Policy stated this on privatization: “Whether [these] provisions were in the interests of Canadians or not, they probably reduced the initial share offering prices and governments’ sale proceeds.”

Because of these conditions, shareholders got the shares for less than they would have otherwise, and taxpayers got less money. To summarize, the Government of Canada sold Air Canada shares subject to certain conditions, which reduced the value of those shares but which the government felt at the time were worth the cost.

Recognizing that was how the privatization happened in 1988-89, it would seem obvious that as a matter of basic fairness to the Canadian taxpayers, we would expect that any subsequent removal of those conditions should not come for free, the removal in particular of the conditions around the requirement that Air Canada keep certain jobs in Canada. The removal of these conditions has, on the one hand, an economic cost for workers and taxpayers but, on the other hand, has an economic benefit for Air Canada. Effectively, the government will legislate windfall gains for Air Canada at the expense of workers and taxpayers, at the expense of ordinary people.

Why is the government doing this? Why would it pass a law that would absolve Air Canada of clearly stated commercial obligations that are long standing and allowed shareholders to acquire Air Canada at lower prices? Why would it do such a thing? It does not make sense, until we realize the other interests that are in place, in fact other interests that have been alluded to directly by government members. Again, these are not the interests of workers and taxpayers but the interests of another private company.

Air Canada has been sued by the governments of Quebec and Manitoba for its failure to live up to its obligations under the Air Canada Public Participation Act, which is the act that lays out the requirements that operational and overhaul centres be maintained in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Mississauga, as we have discussed. However, these governments have now both suspended their litigation because of some notionally unrelated but in fact very much related events. This appears to be an elaborate scheme aimed at bailing out a different group of shareholders, that is, Bombardier shareholders.

Bombardier is a company that all of us want to see survive and do well. However, certainly on this side of the House, we are more interested in protecting workers and taxpayers and not providing further windfall gains to company owners. The connection between windfall gains for Air Canada and windfall gains for Bombardier has already been well laid out by my colleague from Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek. It has been alluded to, but not clarified, by members of the government. In any event, it is worth going over one more time.

On February 17 of this year, Air Canada announced that it had started negotiations with Bombardier to purchase C Series aircraft, which are aircraft that Air Canada had not previously expressed an interest in. Then, on March 8, the minister put this bill on notice. The governments of Quebec and Manitoba suspended their litigation. It is hard to imagine them successfully resuming it if this legislation passes, the law under which they were suing having at that point been significantly altered.

Air Canada would receive the free removal of conditions of its privatization at the same time as it is exploring previously unplanned purchases from Bombardier. The government knows that a direct bailout of Bombardier is unlikely to be acceptable to the public at a time when Bombardier, like Air Canada, is out-sourcing jobs. Therefore, there may exist what we might call some form of an indirect bailout. The benefit of the removal of conditions flows from the government to Air Canada, and the benefit of a previously unplanned large purchase flows from Air Canada to Bombardier.

This seems to be the crux of the matter. We are not clear as to why or how, but we know that the benefit of the removal of conditions flows from the government to Air Canada, and the benefit of a previously unplanned large purchase flows from Air Canada to Bombardier.

Something in this connection was made explicit by the Quebec government when it discontinued its litigation against Air Canada. Here is what it said in a press release:

Subject to concluding final arrangements, the Government of Quebec has agreed to discontinue the litigation related to Air Canada's obligations regarding the maintenance of an overhaul and operational centre following Air Canada's agreement to collaborate with the Province to establish a Centre of Excellence for C Series....

Note the careful language here: “ establish a Centre of Excellence for C Series”.

The government, again, will not acknowledge this connection. I asked one of the members, explicitly, what the connection is and why it is talking about these new investments in C Series in a debate about the Air Canada Public Participation Act. There was a bit of wink-wink, nudge-nudge as they talked about these things together, but they will not acknowledge the connection.

Well, what is going on seems fairly clear, given the timeline, given the benefits that are flowing to Air Canada from the government and then on from Air Canada to Bombardier.

It seems, therefore, that Bombardier is getting help from the government after all. Now, all of a sudden, it is claiming it does not need the help anymore. Here is a Financial Post story from March 23. It quoted a representative of Bombardier. This story came out, by the way, the day before this act was proposed, but certainly after it had been put on notice. Here is what a representative of Bombardier said:

Really, the federal funding would just be an extra endorsement for the program.… That’s really just an extra bonus that would be helpful but is very clearly not required.

Now, we are talking about a $1 billion bailout. That is an extra bonus that I am sure many of us could use, as well. However, this is quite a different tone from what we heard from the same company a few months ago.

I wonder if it is really that Bombardier did not need the money all along, or is it simply that by March 23 it was clear that the same benefit would be received, just perhaps by a different means, notably without the pesky conditions that might require real and substantial reform, without those trappings that might be associated with a more direct package of financial support?

I actually worked for the Department of Industry during the tenure of the last government. At the time, we were involved in bailing out a number of major auto companies. I got to know some of the members who are still in this place during those years. I know that, for those of us who are Conservative-minded, who believe in free markets, it was a very difficult decision for the government to be involved in bailing out car companies. Many Conservative-minded people may still not agree with that decision, but it is clear that there were some very particular conditions and circumstances operating at the time.

At the time, in 2009, the government undertook a very carefully constructed bailout approach. It did a few important things, though. It required reforms that ensured viability. It involved the best possible effort of the government to ensure that there would be some kind of meaningful return on the investments that were made. Part of the deal was a loan; part of the deal involved the acquisition of shares.

For those who believed that the bailout was necessary at that time, it was at least transparent. It was done in the least bad way, because it involved reform and it was set up in a way to try to ensure that there would not be a need for bailout in the future, that these companies would go on to be successful and continue to create jobs in Canada. Not to undermine the challenge of the decision at the time, but it is clear that to some extent it worked and those companies have continued to exist.

However, the novel approach we see here is what appears to be some form of an indirect bailout, benefits flowing to Bombardier via Air Canada, in a way that is not transparent, not accountable, and involves no reform, to a company that I should underline has received something approaching $4 billion, by some estimates, in various forms of government assistance since 1961.

I would just say that, if the government wants to be involved in supporting a private company, it should, at minimum, try to ensure that it is the last time it has to do it, and that there are reforms in place that ensure it is not going to be providing bailouts on and on.

The problem here is that there is this murkiness, this allusion to things that may be happening, but we do not know how they happen or why they happen.

I want to comment directly on some of the comments made by other members and offer some refutation.

We have heard a lot of interesting language by the other members who spoke, although not many members of the government have spoken to this issue.

They talk about modernizing the act. I believe one member told us that it is 2016, as if stating the current date is an argument for so many different things, not just the policy of gender parity in cabinet but also for this, and that all we have to do is state the current year to say that we are modernizing and moving forward. I do not think that selling out Canadian workers and taxpayers is modernization at all; rather, it takes us backward.

They have said that they are updating the act. Updating is not what this is. This is a substantive policy choice the government has made that betrays taxpayers and betrays workers.

In certain speeches, the government has made the point that there are costs associated with these conditions that Air Canada has to bear but that other private companies do not. The reality is that those conditions were associated with those shares being sold at a lower price, as I have already mentioned, but let us not forget that Air Canada has benefits as well that other companies do not have. Canada regulates its airline industry significantly, in a way that I think has very clearly been designed to protect the economic interests of Canadian carriers. We can debate the value of those various individual policies back and forth, but there is no doubt that those policies exist and that Air Canada has received certain advantages from government regulation as well. That is something we need to recognize and take into consideration.

In any event, this is simply a matter of fairness. Those were conditions that were imposed on Air Canada as a condition of its sale, and those who bought those shares knew exactly what was happening.

We have heard this argument of the importance of Air Canada's viability. There is no disputing that all of us want to see Air Canada, as well as Bombardier, be strong, create jobs in Canada, provide good service to Canadians, and provide choice in the marketplace as well, but there are many different things that could be done to improve Air Canada's viability. Some of my colleagues have mentioned examples of these already. Increasing the foreign ownership limit of Canadian-based airlines to 49% would be one option. Allowing more money to come into Canada instead of jobs going out of Canada would be a better way to improve competitiveness. Continuing to streamline immigration and customs processes and establishing a set of principles to guide airports when determining fees are another. Those are the kinds of reforms that would help Air Canada's competitiveness, and they would help the competitiveness of Canadian airlines in general.

I did not want to say just this on the point about these being costs that other airlines do not have. That is true of the Official Languages Act as well, yet we do not see any movement by the current government to remove the application of that act, so there will still be conditions on Air Canada that do not exist on other airlines, and I think they would understand why.

To summarize, conditions are being lifted, at a cost to and with no benefit to the taxpayer. Bombardier is getting business from Air Canada, and because there are no conditions, both companies are able to continue sending jobs out of this country. Air Canada gets something for nothing, Bombardier gets something for nothing, and the government thinks it is filing away a potential political headache.

However, the real question is this: who gets left behind?

It is the workers and the taxpayers. It is the ordinary folks. Those are the people who are getting left behind because the Liberals are sacrificing the principles of real economics and real free market economics for their own particular brand of crony capitalism.

Those of us on this side of the House believe deeply in the market mechanism, but the necessary condition is fairness, and this bill is not fair. It is not fair to workers who will lose their jobs. It is not fair to the taxpayers who could have received more for Air Canada's privatization. It is good for the elite, but it is not fair for the people, and that is why we are opposed to it.

Air Canada Public Participation ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, while my friend down the way and I have some common ground in disliking this bill, we come at it from different angles. I am not sure that increasing foreign ownership and control of the airline industry in Canada is actually the silver bullet that maybe some Conservatives hoped for, because if what we are hoping for is to have a strong aviation sector in this country, perhaps we need an actual strategy to build up the jobs and the workforce in this country, as radical as that notion sounds.

One of the concerns I have with these centres of excellence that are being dangled out by the government is that one wonders what we are training these workers for if, at the same time, the same government is moving those same jobs overseas. I do not know if they are teaching Spanish at these schools, but it might be a thought for the government.

The sequence of events is this, and this is my question for my friend. New Democrats had many criticisms, and were joined by Liberals in the criticisms at the time, of the Conservative government not enforcing the act, not enforcing the law under which Air Canada must operate. I can remember the member for Papineau standing in front of the House of Commons and in Montreal and in Mississauga and in Winnipeg, saying that if people voted Liberal, Liberals would uphold the law. There was a little asterisk on that. He did not mention that, in the meantime, when forming government, they would change the law so there would be nothing to uphold.

In fact, he was not technically lying. He was not technically lying when he said there would be sunny ways; he just did not mention the storm clouds that were on the horizon. The sun was out for a moment, but when push came to shove and Air Canada wanted something that Air Canada has long wanted, and Bombardier wanted something else, the quid pro quo came up and now it is the so-called seriousness of governing, where the 2,600 families and the jobs that they rely on in Mississauga, in Winnipeg, and in Quebec around Montreal are now to be sacrificed for this grand deal.

My question is this. If the Conservatives were unwilling to enforce the law and the Liberals were willing to simply kill the act, is it not now at least time for this country to face up to reality and, to be truly competitive, actually create a national aviation strategy that workers and Canadians have been so long calling for, rather than these cynical shell games that we see across the way?

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5:55 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, the member made many points, some of which I agree with, some of which I do not.

He is quite correct to point out that, in this and many other areas, we see the government not following through with commitments it made to various groups. We have spoken about the increase in the budget deficit and the increase in taxes for small business. I could go on and on.

There is a bit of a disagreement about the issue of foreign ownership, but I will just say this. If we have to choose between sending jobs out of the country and bringing dollars into the country, I say we are better off bringing dollars into the country than sending jobs out of the country. If we have to choose between one of those two alternatives to try to make Air Canada more competitive, I would rather be bringing business and opportunity and jobs and investment to Canada. That would be our approach on this side of the House.

One of the other differences between the Conservatives and the member's party is that we believe in the value of the market mechanism. We believe in the value of free markets, generally speaking. However, for that to work, there have to be basic conditions of fairness, and this bill does not meet that basic test of fairness, because it would arbitrarily change the rules midstream to legislate windfall gains for Air Canada at the expense of workers and taxpayers. That is the kind of approach we need.

The member talked about an aviation strategy. What is important is the action here. One can package it up and call it whatever one likes, but the policies that Conservatives advocate, which are competitive tax rates for the aerospace sector and all businesses that allow people to invest and create jobs in Canada, are the kinds of approaches that are good for the aerospace sector, but also for all business in Canada.

That is what Conservatives emphasized, and it is unfortunate to see the government moving away from that suite of policies.

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5:55 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, a certain question I have, which underlies the debate and is yet to be made clear by the Liberals themselves, is that they seem to have established this quid pro quo with Bombardier and Air Canada, and we are wondering who actually benefits from this.

For the cost of these 45 planes, which everybody familiar with the file agrees are excellent jets that fit the needs of Air Canada, one has to wonder why the Liberals would so strongly backtrack on a commitment to all those workers, all those maintenance jobs, which as he rightly says and many speakers have pointed out, will be moved overseas. All the bill deals with is just that aspect, getting Air Canada off the hook for the commitments it made in law. The law is being changed to make it fit the reality that the Liberals now want because Air Canada asked for it.

However, the quid pro quo with Bombardier, when perhaps the Quebec government was unsure, is to say that these 45 planes would somehow compensate for this and that there are now these centres of excellence that, if they were thought to be important, would also be enshrined in law. If the Liberals were absolutely committed to these and could name the number of jobs, how long they would last, and what they were for, it would certainly merit a pen being put to paper. Then somewhere in Bill C-10, of which there are many pages, they would find the heart and the gumption to actually commit to Canadians that aspect as well; but instead, those are just promises.

The Liberal member for Winnipeg North long railed against this; and we all know he can talk. He chose many of those moments, when he rose in this place when in opposition, to lay down petitions from his constituents, because he said he was doing the work of an MP, the good work of a member of Parliament; and he was right, because his constituents were worried that well-paying jobs were about to be shipped overseas because the government was not enforcing the law, a Conservative government at the time.

What was the member for Winnipeg North's solution to this now that he is in government? It was to change the law so that government would not have to abide by that nasty little thing called the rule of law, and Air Canada could do as it will.

The question is this. Is this somehow a quid pro quo that works out for anyone, either the taxpayer or the 2,600 workers who are losing their jobs? It is not just those workers. As we well know, in all of our constituencies, well-paying jobs like this do not just affect the people when they lose that job, but also their entire family and the spinoff industries that surround that job.

Is this somehow a good cost benefit for Canada? Is this somehow not just the most cynical form of politics, to which we have become too accustomed from this party?

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6 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, at the beginning the member asked who benefits from this legislation, and I suppose an important connected question is, given who benefits, who the government is listening to, discussions with whom are informing its policy choices.

It is very clear who benefits from this legislation. This legislation would provide windfall gains for Air Canada owners and perhaps, depending on the quid pro quo involved, to Bombardier owners at the expense of workers and at the expense of taxpayers.

I will say I do appreciate questions from the hon. members, but I think I have been pretty tough on the government, so I would appreciate hearing its response to this. What do the Liberals have to say for themselves? Do they have questions about the things we said? I would like to hear from the government on this. Who do the Liberals think benefits, and why are they bringing forward this legislation? Let us hear what they have to say.

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6 p.m.

London West Ontario


Kate Young LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, I want to reiterate that Air Canada would continue to be expected to carry out maintenance activities in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

The amendments of this act recognize that some of Air Canada's aircraft maintenance may take place outside of the limits of those cities, in the surrounding provinces and in other provinces.

Notably, and we have mentioned this before, the Montreal Urban Community only covered part of greater Montreal and no longer exists as a jurisdiction.

Also, Air Canada's maintenance activities expand beyond the strict confines of those cities. For example, the carrier has extensive activity throughout the greater Toronto area beyond Mississauga, so it is obvious that this act would change only the part that is necessary and that we would continue to expect that it carry out maintenance activities in the three provinces.

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6 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, really it is unfortunate bordering on shameful that the member would present this legislation in this way, because frankly the legislation provides no assurance whatsoever that a serious number of jobs would remain in Canada. It uses effective weasel language that gives Air Canada all the flexibility it needs to do exactly what it wants to do.

May I say that, if the government actually respected the principle of fairness, it would not be amending this legislation at all? These were clear obligations at the time of privatization. These were things that Air Canada agreed to, which inform the share price, and that is why the only fair thing to do is to honour workers and taxpayers, not their crony capitalist friends, and defeat this legislation.

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6 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to start debating Bill C-10, or at least have my turn at it.

I come from the riding of Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, all the way out on the west coast on beautiful Vancouver Island, so I do not really have much of a relationship with aircraft maintenance jobs. I guess it was from my time spent as a constituency assistant for seven years that I really developed a keen passion for the plight of working men and working women. For seven years, I did the casework in the office of the former member of Parliament for Nanaimo--Cowichan, Jean Crowder. During the course of that seven years, I had the honour of meeting with many working men and women who were going through tough times, and I guess, coming to this honourable House as a member of Parliament, I have always identified with them. I thought my job was to come here to try to pass good laws, to implement good policy, and to make sure that the government was actually on the side of the people who give value to companies. When we talk about corporations, we often talk about the president, the board of directors, or the CEO, but the people who truly give value to a company are the men and women who go out every single day and do their job. That is what the bill is about. This is what , in a sense, we are talking about.

I want to give thanks to my colleagues, particularly the member for Elmwood—Transcona and the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. I listened to both their speeches today and I think they both gave very passionate speeches on what is really at stake with the bill.

I have also had the time, both during Friday's debate and during this particularly long Monday session, to listen to a few comments from Liberal members of Parliament. We have heard, notably, from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, who has stated that in today's world, it is common for global air carriers to outsource aircraft maintenance. Those comments tell me that there is not even a pretence anymore from the Liberals for saving jobs. They just admitted, “Sorry, folks. It's a tough world out there. If Air Canada decides it's going to have a cheaper job elsewhere, well, sorry. There it goes.”

I also heard an interesting comment from the member for Parliament for Laurentides—Labelle. He said that the bill is about supporting Canadian jobs, Canadian ownership, Canadian principles, and Canadian competitiveness, that it is a Canadian bill for a Canadian company. Well, we know he is very patriotic in those comments. I do not know if he is actually reading the same bill, because the fine print is not really doing well for Canadian workers, and I would say that is not a very strong Canadian value when we are actually legalizing outsourcing, because that is precisely what the bill would do.

Of course, there is the favourite member of Parliament for members on this side of the House, the hon. member for Winnipeg North. We like to quote him a lot because he has been an amazing standard-bearer for his riding in years past, but not now. Principles seem to change when members occupy that side of the House, and I think his comments really do bring that to light.

When talking about this bill, he said that this would continue to reinforce the government's expectation that Air Canada would undertake aircraft maintenance in Quebec, Manitoba, and Ontario. A government's expectation is different from an actual piece of law that stipulates it has to be done. I could expect Air Canada to give me free tickets for the rest of my life, but it is not going to do it.

It is the same with this particular situation that we have with aircraft maintenance. We would be giving away the legal framework that stipulates aircraft maintenance jobs must be done in Canada. If Air Canada decides at some future point to ship those jobs overseas, we simply would not have any recourse.

I mentioned previously that I had spent seven years working as a constituency assistant. I have always had a great appreciation for law, particularly federal law. The way it is worded, sometimes it can be very direct; sometimes it can leave nothing to the imagination, and other times it is very much open for interpretation. We have a job as legislators to create the law, and the courts interpret it.

I have heard Liberal members of Parliament say that jobs, in a sense, will be protected because we have this deal with Bombardier. By the very fact of extending jobs with the deal with Bombardier, the subtext is that these maintenance jobs do not matter. It is sort of comparing apples with oranges. We are taking away with one hand, but we are giving with another.

For the benefit of all hon. members in the House, it is important to read the main clause. It states:

...the Corporation may, while not eliminating those activities in any of those provinces, change the type or volume of any or all of those activities in each of those provinces, as well as the level of employment in any or all of those activities.

Yes, Air Canada is not allowed to eliminate jobs in those three provinces, but it could maintain one job there and still satisfy the bill. That is basically the wording. That is how I read the bill. I hope the Liberal members of Parliament are reading the same bill. When Air Canada is given the freedom to change the type, volume, or level of employment, it means a person can go from those well-paying aircraft maintenance jobs to someone who is earning only $15 an hour. It would be nice if the government would institute a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour. Unfortunately, we probably are going to be looking at something in the neighbourhood of $12. Those good-paying jobs that pay $60,000 a year are going to be shipped overseas. It is only a matter of time. We have seen this story play out many a time.

There are many examples of the Liberals saying one thing and then doing another. That is an unfortunate statistic that we have had to deal with. The current Prime Minister, when he was just the member of Parliament for the riding Papineau, stood with Avios employees. He said that the law was very clear, that Air Canada had to maintain the maintenance in those cities. The fact the government is not enforcing that law is something to which we have drawn attention.

Now that he is the Prime Minister, the member is singing from a different songbook. He has forgotten the fact that he used to stand in solidarity with workers and proclaimed that the Liberal Party was there for their jobs and it would always stand by them. Now we see he has taken the side of Air Canada. He has forgotten his solemn promise to those workers. I certainly hope people will remember that as we continue on through the years. When we reach the year 2019, I know we in the NDP will certainly be reminding people of that. The progressive paint job the Liberals have applied to themselves is just that. They have become something other than what they promised.

The NDP opposes Bill C-10 because we want Air Canada to maintain jobs here. We oppose it because Air Canada is going to outsource maintenance jobs. The bill legalizes layoffs. Air Canada has been seeking carte blanche from the government. If Bill C-10 receives royal assent, it certainly will have that carte blanche.

We want to keep those good-paying jobs. I mentioned earlier that aviation maintenance engineer jobs start at a salary of around $60,000 salary and can go up to $90,000. That in my books is a very good-paying job. I used to earn less than that as a constituency assistant, and I have helped many people who have raised good families on that. They manage to keep their payments at bay. However, if we get rid of those jobs, there will be thousands of people who will be unable to pay their bills. Conversely, the government is going to lose an important tax base. Once we start losing those jobs, the spinoff effects start compounding. People will require more social assistance and so on.

The other thing I have been most interested in during the course of the debate is the deal we have seen with Bombardier, Air Canada, the federal government, and the Quebec government. We know the deal was announced in February. The subsequent tabling of this legislation and the timing of that is a little strange.

Earlier today the member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill used an interesting phrase. She said that the bill basically would do everything. She complimented the Liberals because the bill would do everything about Bombardier without even mentioning its name. That was a great phrase to use. She said that the bill should be called the “quid pro quo bill”, and it is easy to see why.

I wish the House and all hon. members could have been privy to the conversations that went on among the Minister of Transport, the CEO of Air Canada, the upper echelons of the Quebec government, and Bombardier. We would find an interesting link. On the one hand Air Canada has promised that we will get these Bombardier aircraft and that it will do a 20-year maintenance contract in Canada. On the other hand, the deal that Air Canada gets out of the Liberal government is that it changes the act so Air Canada is free to ship maintenance jobs overseas. It is pretty easy to connect the dots. It is there right in front of us, and that has been identified by many MPs in the House.

I have flown with Air Canada a lot. It is our national air carrier. I have heard a lot of talk from Liberal members of Parliament who have said that in a competitive world, Air Canada needs to be able to compete, that it needs to have all the tools at its disposal that other air carriers have.

One Liberal MP even referred to the act as a set of handcuffs. I really have to shake my head at some of the terminology being used by the government side of the House. That member might have some explaining to do to his constituents when they hear him referring to guaranteeing good paying jobs in Canada as a set of handcuffs. Guaranteeing good jobs in Canada is something we were sent here to do. It is probably one of the most noble and honourable things we can do as members of Parliament.

As I mentioned, Air Canada is a unique company because of the privatization it went through in 1988 and 1989. I am not really going on memory as I was about nine or ten years old at the time. The fact is that Air Canada inherited a sizable chunk of assets from the federal government. Those assets were paid by taxpayers. I do acknowledge that times have changed, but the fact is that Air Canada received its start as a private company with a large number of assets that any other aviation company would have to had built up from scratch. It received a good head start in the game.

The government of the day decided to put this particular clause in the Air Canada Public Participation Act. Time and time again we have seen governments negotiate deals with companies. If a company can promise the government that it will keep jobs in a region of Canada, the government will do something for that company. It will give the company a slight tax break, an incentive to offset capital costs, and so on. However, none of those agreements were enforced by law. They were basically done on a handshake. The government took the company's word that it would honour its commitment.

The government of the day felt it was necessary to put this agreement in law because so many of those agreements had been broken. There is a huge culture of bad faith. Companies would promise one thing only to do the exact opposite a year later.

The fact that this was enshrined in law gave those workers and the government of the day the peace of mind that there would be well-paying jobs in three major centres. People could raise their families on that income. These people would be a good source of revenue for the government. Ultimately a government's finances depend on a healthy tax base. It can be no other way. We need those good paying jobs to keep our economy going, and that is one way a government keeps on going.

I realize that times have changed and that the aviation world is quite different. It is a very competitive world out there and there are a lot of unknown factors, but I think it is quite disingenuous to pin all of the troubles that Air Canada is facing these days on maintenance workers in three centres in Canada. I think that should be a source of strength for the company, not something that we identify as a weakness.

In a sense, all of the Liberal arguments I have heard on the bill amount to a vote of non-confidence in our workers. The Liberals are saying that Air Canada is shackled, that it is handcuffed to these workers, and we have to give it the freedom to take its jobs overseas or the company is going to fold. That is just nonsensical.

Air Canada is not going anywhere. It is our national air carrier. Pretty much everyone I know in the House flies Air Canada. It has many guaranteed landing spots in so many airports, a virtual monopoly on prime landing spots in all the major airports in Canada. It is not going anywhere, so to pin all of its woes on maintenance workers in these three centres does not make sense. I challenge the government to bring forth some arguments that do, but I do not think it will.

The other thing I want to cover is the concept of due process. We know that the union that represents the workers from Aveos is going through a court battle right now under the terms of the act. We know that the Supreme Court is probably going to hear those arguments later this year, probably in June. However, the major trouble the union is going to face is that if the government changes this law and the bill gets royal assent before that court case, then the legal case for the union is going to be gone. The law will have been changed.

Due process is about making sure the state respects all legal rights that are owed to a person. Yes, it is well within this legislature's body to change the law, and I am not disputing that, but it is ultimately an act of incredibly bad faith to reverse the law after the union has been basically fighting a court battle since 2012.

The union has gone through the local courts and the superior court, and now the end is in sight with the Supreme Court. It is like getting a sprained ankle right when the finish line is in sight, except the person who gave the sprained ankle is the government, which is supposed to be on the runner's side. That is what is happening here. I think it is incredibly bad form not to respect the due process of the court system and to change the law before we have a chance to get a ruling.

By the way, all the courts have upheld the union's point of view: the law was broken.

As I wrap up, I would like to take a few examples from my home turf. I am so pleased to be sitting in the House today with my incredible Vancouver Island crew, the hon. members for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, Courtenay—Alberni, and North Island—Powell River. Collectively, as Vancouver Island MPs, we have seen what happens when good jobs leave our communities. Right now we have a lot of fish processing plants that are closed down, and those activities are now taking place overseas in China, in Asia, and so on.

The other big one is the export of raw logs. Every single one of us here from coastal British Columbia is very familiar with the loss of good, well-paying manufacturing jobs. Do members know why those good-paying manufacturing jobs have gone? It is because we have not had a provincial or federal government that was willing to stand up for good manufacturing jobs. Instead, we are allowing raw logs to be shipped out of this country. It is just another pattern that we see time and time again.

I just wish we would see a government come to light that would stand on the side of the workers this time—not just use them as a backdrop for their election, but actually stand and do something concrete in this noble House for them.

I believe I have made my points very clear. We in the NDP absolutely and fundamentally oppose the legislation before us, and I hope that some Liberal members of Parliament will develop a conscience and vote with us against it.

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6:20 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, the member is quite correct that the law was clear, the law was broken, that workers were suing Air Canada in court and had won at a number of levels, and that now the law is being changed.

Of course, as Conservatives, we have some significant philosophical disagreements with the NDP, but as people who believe in the importance of the market mechanism, of the value of free market to generate wealth, growth, and opportunity, we understand that has to be underlined by a basic system of fairness. The New Democrats do not always agree with us about the value of that market mechanism, but the government clearly has no commitment to the principles of fairness that are supposed to underline that system.

I wonder if the member can comment on that. Hopefully we will get some questions from the government again, because the Liberals have been very silent throughout this afternoon of important debate. There is no doubt that they do not want to be talking about this important issue. I wonder if the member can reflect on the total lack of fairness that we are seeing in this bill.

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6:25 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague across the way that the process has not been honoured, and I do not think that some of the major players who have been fighting for those good jobs are being honoured. For the 2,600 people from Aveos, their union is still fighting that battle from 2012. That was four years ago. What the Liberals are saying is that those four years of challenging and trying to get those jobs back is going to mean nothing with this bill.

Where I would disagree with my hon. friend is on the notion of the free market. Markets are not free. They operate under heavily regulated laws put in place. They have an illusion of being free, but there are many different government laws and regulations that a market actually operates by, and the worst thing is that it rewards some people more than others.

In the same manner, in order to counterbalance what goes on with the market, governments do sometimes have to step in and level the playing field. Sometimes governments have to be a champion for well-paying jobs, and that is why we on this corner of the House are standing so proudly for that point.

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6:25 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for that most amazing speech. I also want to recognize that this amendment would legalize lay-offs, which was previously illegal. What it would do is to increase the uncertainty for people who rely on those jobs to take care of their families.

Right now in my riding, the people of the community of Port Alice are waiting to see what is going to happen with their well-paying jobs from the local mill that has been shut down. I am getting a lot of emails and calls from people who are frantic. I am in solidarity with these amazing people who have worked so hard. They are going to be losing their jobs. How does that relate to the people who will be talking to their MPs who are not standing up for them today?