Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, who did an excellent job for us.
People need to understand how large this omnibus bill is. What is an omnibus bill? “They don't build those in Canada anymore”, is one of the things that comes to mind. However, the reality is that there are several pieces of legislation crammed into this one piece of legislation. What usually ends up happening as a result is that we do a lot of things, usually rather poorly. That is where we are headed today with regard to the very serious measures in this transportation act. These include rail safety issues, on which there are lessons that we should have learned from Lac-Mégantic and other places where derailments are still taking place. Rail safety issues continue to come up daily in Canada. We recently had another derailment.
We also have other things that could become quite problematic with respect to consumer rights. An airline passenger bill of rights is included in the legislation by name, and name only. It is a good example of what the government is proposing, namely, doing things by regulation, with no enforcement, no real law and, at the end of the day, nothing for consumers.
I will follow up a little on the people that consumers should contact about those types of situations in the future. If consumers have a problem with their airline and any type of compensation or problem related to it, they should contact the Liberals. The Liberals will own all of these problems directly, because they are willfully passing this on to the regulator. They will be the voice in the future to address any particular problems to that consumers face.
It is clever, because they are avoiding the responsibility of a real passenger bill of rights, which should have been done in a separate piece of legislation, with a rules-based system that is very clear and legislated. By doing it this way they are thinking they can say it is just a matter for the regulators and that they have nothing to do with it. However, the public could become quite educated about this process when they have a problem with the regulation in force. They would just need to see their Liberal member or to call another Liberal member somewhere else to get that direct input, because the Liberals are going to pass this piece of legislation with that knowledge. That will be the only real route to have input on anything, ranging from being delayed to not having one's rights observed, to being stuck on the tarmac for unlimited time, and so forth. All of those things, in terms of regulation, will basically be set through the minister. That is going to be a curse that the Liberals brought upon themselves once members of the public become a little more educated about how to actually respond to their particular situations.
With regard to report stage, the bill went back to committee and several pieces of legislation were dealt with in separate sections, which are important for Canadians to understand. One of them was the arrangements between airlines that would be allowed. We had amendments on that to challenge what would take place, because we will see less accountability in regard to airline mergers and ownership, and there will be no oversight to ensure that passengers and/or competition thrive. In fact, this bill would be a disincentive to competition, because it would take away that accountability and review by the tribunal.
The bill would strip away powers from an independent body that ensures competition in the airline industry, a body that would at least examine those issues and bring them to the minister, who would basically have the final say. That is problematic because when we look at the fact that the government has to deal with issues related to competition in the industry, not only domestically but internationally, with this bill we would be taking away an opportunity for increased competition in Canada. Indeed, we would potentially see some greater mergers take place, with less competition, and probably less routing. We have seen some development in medium-sized markets. There would be a disincentive to doing that now. It is important to note that we would be taking away what is currently being done, that lens of review for consumers. We are abandoning it.
The Railway Safety Act would also be affected by this legislation by adding video and voice recorders, but there is very little description on how that will take place, how they will be used, and what they are for. I think they are going to be used to reduce these positions while potentially increasing the hours for conductors and engineers as we have seen in this industry in the past.
We know from past independent reports that employees face a culture of fear and intimidation. These are the independent tribunal commission's own words as they relate to the safety management system.
With respect to the safety management system, people are expected to report problems in the workplace without any repercussions. Imagine doing something important at work for customers and realize there is a safety issue that could affect workers or customers, and that safety issue is brought to the attention of the person in charge. There is no accountability with respect to what happens to that information. We have seen the same thing federally. Whistleblowers have been fired and maligned in the public, because they have brought forth a number of cases relating to consumers. Imagine the intimidation.
We can even look more recently at some of the stuff that is happening with TD Bank. They are not necessarily life and death matters, but rather matters of privacy violations. A whistleblower spoke of privacy violations taking place in the bank, and that whistleblower is concerned about it.
The safety management systems that are in our rail systems right now are not conducive to good environments. It has been proven by an independent panel that workers are often blamed for bringing forward their safety concerns, and they face repercussions for doing so. That is the reality we are faced with today.
The Canada Marine Act would also be changed by this proposed legislation. It is important to note that ports are going to receive more autonomy, and have access to funds in the infrastructure bank, funds put there by taxpayers. Ports are fiefdoms onto themselves. They can often override municipal acts, or not follow them at all, in terms of environmental, and other planning practises that are necessary to ensure there is cohesiveness between the port, the municipality, and the areas around it.
They have the luxury of this type of environment that really creates quite a bit of conflict or animosity, because of the fact that individuals who sit on boards of various ports are political appointments. Ports are patronage bastions left from the dark ages of democracy. We only need go to the website, locate a person's name, and we will find the amount of the donation. We can see which riding association he or she belongs to, provincial or federal. It is quite interesting. I hope some thesis student is listening to this who would like to do a project on political appointments. This is low-hanging fruit which is easily accessible. In my experience, I have found some good rewards.
The Coasting Trade Act is also challenged in Bill C-49. Foreign registered ships would be allowed to have more freedom in Canadian waters. These are unaccounted ships. There is a problem with that. International ships are allowed to change flags for convenience to avoid human rights and worker rights issues on their ships and vessels, but also the way they can get oversight done with flags of convenience in particular. We had a case with former finance minister Paul Martin, who liked the Bahamas and Bermuda for flagging Canada Steamship Lines to gain tax advantages. This is no different than the current finance minister's use of those offshore avenues as well. This is very concerning because environmental issues and worker issues are at the forefront of that.
I will conclude by saying this is a missed opportunity. It is a dog's breakfast of legislation on so many serious issues. It is unfortunate, because it is an economic loss for us in terms of the operating systems we could put in place that would make us more competitive as a country.