Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to rise to debate Bill C-10, proposing amendments to the Air Canada Public Participation Act.
I would like to take a few minutes to explain why the Government of Canada believes this is an appropriate moment to modify the almost 30-year-old act.
Let us first recall that the Air Canada Public Participation Act's primary purpose was to convert a crown corporation into a thriving and competitive private corporation in an industry that is characterized by aggressive competition, strong cyclical business patterns, and sensitivity to external shock.
The Air Canada Public Participation Act was brought into force in 1989 to provide the federal government with the legal framework to privatize Air Canada. It also required the airline to have provisions regarding where it carried out its maintenance, the use of official languages, and where its headquarters would be located. Other airlines, Air Canada's competitors from Canada and abroad, are not subject to such conditions. The market conditions in which Air Canada operates are now greatly different from those of 1989.
The 1980s was characterized by deregulation. Since that time, the world has seen a proliferation of new air carriers as well as new airline business models. In June 1980, the then president of the International Air Transport Association reported that its membership was composed of 100 airlines from 85 nations. Today, its membership is composed of 260 airlines.
In short, the air carrier marketplace is now much more competitive. This is a good thing. It benefits travellers and it pushes the airlines to be as efficient as possible. However, we must ensure that our carriers are able to compete themselves, or we risk limiting Canadians connectivity and we threaten the economic viability of these carriers in Canada.
The Canadian marketplace has also evolved. By the end of the 1990s, Canadian Airlines International ceased operations, reducing the extent of competition. Other carriers, like Canada 3000, also came and went. However, since then there has been a flourishing of growth among Canadian companies. WestJet, Porter, Transat, Sunwing, and others provide important travel options for Canadians. I should also note the important role played by foreign carriers in offering other travel options to and from Canada. Choice is good for the consumers.
Air Canada continues to provide vital connectivity, both within our vast country and also to the outside world. It is also an important source of employment and opportunity. Our air sector has weathered some difficult times, including the tragic events of 9/11, global pandemic, and the recent economic crisis, yet it continues to robustly offer service options to Canadians. In short, we have come a long way since the 1980s when the government of the day created this law.
The Air Canada Public Participation Act has clearly achieved its primary objective of successfully privatizing Air Canada. Furthermore, many other aspects of the act remain relevant. However, given that times have changed and the air transport sector has evolved, it is also important to ensure that this statute remains up to date.
In particular, the provisions of the act that deal with aircraft maintenance risk hampering Air Canada's competitiveness by limiting its ability to organize its activities in a way that responds to the evolution in the air sector. Furthermore, given Air Canada's role in providing Canadians with connectivity, this could also impact on the overall competitiveness and cost of air transport throughout the country.
This leads me to my second point, which is about economic opportunity for Canada's aerospace sector. Air Canada and Quebec have indicated their intentions to end their litigation regarding the carrier's compliance with the Air Canada Public Participation Act. This announcement came on the heels of Air Canada's declared intention to purchase up to 75 Bombardier C Series aircraft, to ensure that these planes will be maintained in Canada for at least 20 years, as well as to collaborate in the establishment of a world-class centre of excellence in Montreal.
Furthermore, Air Canada will also be facilitating the creation of a centre of excellence on aircraft maintenance in Manitoba, and we understand that this has led the government of that province to agree to discontinue litigation.
The Air Canada-Quebec agreement will allow the carrier to benefit from cutting-edge aircraft technology produced here in Canada. It will also result in significant benefits for the aerospace industry, including aircraft maintenance right across the country. This is the sort of investment that the aerospace sector needs.
Quebec and Manitoba have accepted that these conditions create a context in which they no longer feel the need to pursue litigation against Air Canada. These developments provide us with an ideal opportunity to rethink our approach and look for opportunities for improvement.
Federal officials have identified specific concerns around the maintenance provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act because they create challenges for Air Canada's ability to be competitive. Specifically, they prevent Air Canada from doing what other carriers do, which is to organize its supply chain to optimize efficiency.
The intention of Air Canada, Quebec, and Manitoba to discontinue the litigation creates an appropriate context to modernize the act and indicates that the parties are working together toward a similar objective: the growth of Canadian prosperity. However, let me be clear, we continue to believe that Air Canada should commit to undertaking aircraft maintenance in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, and we intend for this to be stipulated in the law. However, we need to provide Air Canada with the flexibility to meet the requirements to compete in an evolving global marketplace.
We cannot predict how the airline industry will evolve in the future. Whatever happens, our carriers will need to adjust to meet the challenges and remain competitive. Air Canada needs the flexibility to enable it to adapt to changing market conditions. Bill C-10 allows us to target the right balance between such flexibility and the continued expectation that the carrier will undertake aircraft maintenance in Canada.
The time is now to modernize the Air Canada Public Participation Act and to achieve this balance. With Bill C-10, the government is taking a necessary step to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act to ensure it will continue to be relevant as the sector evolves in the future.
I would now like to take a minute to review how the air carrier sector has evolved since Air Canada was privatized in 1989.
There have been some fundamental shifts in the last 30 years. For example, there has been an important rise in the market share of new global carriers, like those of the Gulf States, that are now playing a major role in global competition.
In the United States, there has been significant rationalization of air carriers, where most major airlines have been through chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, resulting in a major reduction of their costs.
Europe has also seen a series of major air carrier alliances. The low-cost model has come to be a predominant paradigm for certain types of travel within some markets, like Europe, Southeast Asia, and the U.S.
All of these points speak to a highly competitive environment that creates a need for air carriers to seek constant cost reductions to meet travellers' and shippers' expectations.
Canada is no exception where major shifts in the air sector are concerned. Our air transport sector is now fundamentally different from how it looked in 1989. Following years of financial difficulties, Canadian Airlines International ceased to operate in the 1990s and was ultimately acquired by and merged with Air Canada. WestJet has since become a major player, resulting in robust and sustainable competition between two Canadian carriers. Other newer carriers have also been added to the Canadian market, such as Porter Airlines and Sunwing. Canada's charter market is particularly active with many carriers, such as Air Transat, offering services to Canadians. Air Canada itself underwent a major restructuring in 2003-04, under the provisions of the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act, the CCAA, which allowed the carrier to emerge as a healthy and viable global competitor.
Where aircraft maintenance is concerned, Air Canada's restructuring under the CCAA included making some previously in-house operations independent, including its maintenance operations, repair and overall service provider, which ultimately became Aveos. Air Canada's decision at the time was in keeping with the practices of many global carriers.
The 2012 aerospace review noted the increasing importance of low-cost maintenance, repair and overhaul service provided in developing countries, many of which are closer to the growing markets in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. While Air Canada is not outsourcing its aircraft maintenance to suppliers in developing countries, many of its competitors are.
From these examples, it is clear that for a carrier to be viable in today's industry, it must be able to adapt the elements of its supply chain to manage its costs and remain competitive. For carriers, this covers all aspects of its business, including being able to determine how and where it conducts its aircraft maintenance activities.
Currently, Air Canada is limited in being able to deal with market forces the way other carriers can. I am referring, of course, to the provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act, specifically the obligation in paragraph 6(1)(d) that requires Air Canada to include in its articles of continuance provisions requiring the corporation to maintain operational and overhaul centres in the city of Winnipeg, the Montreal urban community, and the city of Mississauga.
What we need to remember is that the original intent of the Air Canada Public Participation Act was to function as a framework for the privatization of Air Canada almost 30 years ago. It also contained a number of provisions, including the requirement for aircraft maintenance, which we are talking about today. The intent was to turn a crown corporation into a viable and competitive private company while also ensuring that it was committed to undertaking aircraft maintenance activities in those three communities. We believe that the proposed amendments maintain the spirit of this intent by requiring Air Canada to undertake aircraft maintenance in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, while allowing it to choose the nature of this work in each location to remain competitive.
As we know, these provisions have been the subject of ongoing litigation between Air Canada and the Province of Quebec, with intervening support from the Province of Manitoba. However, on February 17 of this year, the Province of Quebec and Air Canada mutually agreed to pursue an end to this litigation. The decision of the Province of Quebec and Air Canada to reach an agreement has opened up an opportunity for our government to finally modernize the act and relieve Air Canada of prescriptive obligations where its operational and overhaul centres are concerned, while maintaining the spirit of the intent behind them.
We are not proposing to repeal paragraph 6(1)(d). Rather, we are proposing amendments that would allow Air Canada to undertake aircraft maintenance in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, and choose the nature of this work in each location to help it remain competitive. These amendments, which I am urging hon. members to support today, are consistent with the government's approach to the air sector as an industry that is deregulated and responsive to market forces. It is these guiding principles that we believe induce companies to continue to innovate their business and seek out better ways to work and be cost competitive in the face of a changing and ultra-competitive market.
The amendments the government has put forward would allow Air Canada the same flexibility that other carriers have to seek out the best aircraft maintenance services it can find and the ability to actively manage its costs. Modernization of the act is the right decision. We know that the Province of Quebec, the Province of Manitoba, and Air Canada have agreed among themselves to collaborate on the establishment of two centres of excellence for aircraft maintenance, one in Montreal and the other in Winnipeg.
In Winnipeg alone, this new western centre of excellence is expected to bring 150 jobs to the area by 2017. In Quebec, Air Canada has committed to maintaining all of its newly acquired CS300 aircraft in the province for at least 20 years and to the establishment of a centre of excellence for aircraft maintenance which will boost Montreal's role as a world-class aeronautical hub.
These developments are a clear indication that there is a willingness among the parties to foster an ongoing relationship, one that I hope will bring economic benefits to Canada and job opportunities for Canadians long into the future.
I urge hon. members to support this bill.