Mr. Speaker, I admit that I had two reactions when I learned that I had another 10 minutes to speak to Bill C-49.
First, I felt a little bit of panic. I asked myself how I would manage, in 10 minutes, to cover everything that is wrong with this bill. Second, I told myself to calm down, because no matter what I say, I will not be heard, and nothing I suggest will be retained. I will simply have to talk about some aspects of the bill that seem to have major problems, raise the question of relevance, and talk about how we work in the House and in committee.
Members will recall that during the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals said that everything about the previous Conservative government's approach had to be changed. Now, we see that essentially nothing has changed. As soon as a party is in government, it seems to magically become all-knowing, and bills automatically become wonderful and unchallengeable.
I still maintain that enlightenment comes from the clash of ideas. This is also what Quebeckers and Canadians expect from Parliament. They expect all members, regardless of their role in the House or their political stripes, to bring their perspectives and to work together to find the best solution. I must say that this is not the experience I am having right now.
I want to take the few minutes I have left to give an overview of the aspects of this bill that are ill advised. This bill plays well in the media, because Canadian consumers have been waiting for this for years. For a number of weeks the public saw Bill C-49 as a bill on the passengers' bill of rights, and yet, it is much more than that. It is an omnibus bill, so even if it often deals with transportation, it remains an omnibus bill.
One might ask why the government would introduce an omnibus transportation bill instead of addressing each problem and finding the best solution. Was the government hoping to use a wide-ranging bill such as this to discreetly gloss over some issues it does not care as much about? To ask that question is to answer it.
I will say that, as I was preparing my speech, I began to think 10 minutes might be too much. Perhaps I would not need more than 10 seconds to sum up Bill C-49 with the help of an old saying about biting off more than one can chew. That is exactly what is happening with Bill C-49, a bill that tried to tackle some major and necessary changes but falls short in many regards.
I want to comment on the passengers' bill of rights that consumers have been waiting for for years. Canada will once again be the last hold-out in adopting a passengers' bill of rights not unlike the ones that already exist all over the world. Let me emphasize that a great many witnesses told the committee that similar bills of rights already exist and that the European version is probably the gold standard. The European model is actually the one that inspired a New Democratic colleague of ours to introduce a proper passengers' bill of rights during the 41st Parliament. All Bill C-49 does is offer some general guidelines for Transport Canada consultations so that, at some point in 2018, the department can come up with some recommendations that the minister can do with as he pleases. If we are lucky, I get the sense the government will propose a passengers' bill of rights a few weeks or months before the 2019 election to generate some media hype. In the meantime, passengers will still have no rights.
No one needed to reinvent the wheel, here; every single witness testified that the systems that already exist work well, and yet, what we have amounts to an empty gesture. I would like to share one brief example of the difference a bill of rights can make.
Flight cancellations that invoke the European passengers' bill of rights account for 0.4% of all cancelled flights, whereas in Canada, where we still do not have a bill of rights, the rate is four times higher. That shows beyond a doubt that a bill of rights does have a real impact.
This could even be described as a government approach, since all of the rules that will make up this bill of rights will be applied by regulation. They will not be embedded in the act and so the minister will be able to easily change them on the back of a napkin some Friday afternoon as he sees fit. It is much more complicated to amend a law since that requires the involvement of the House. The approach is therefore questionable, as is the fact that the bill of rights is not embedded in Bill C-49,
I also want to say a few words about the voice and video recorders that were mentioned in previous questions. Everyone agrees that we should try to do everything we can to enhance protections and decrease the number of potential incidents. That is why airplanes have black boxes. As soon as there is an incident, the data from the black box can be checked to try to determine what the problem was, come to the best conclusions possible, and amend the approach if necessary.
We proposed an amendment that allayed all of the concerns workers have about the bill of rights and the protection of privacy. Everyone agreed that the Transportation Safety Board of Canada inspectors were the ones who needed that information. That is what those recordings should be used for. The TSB and the TSB alone should have access to those recordings if an incident occurs. That would allay all of the concerns of workers who might think that the employer could use those recordings for disciplinary or other purposes. It also addresses any concerns regarding the violation of privacy. The recordings would be available to TSB inspectors and only TSB inspectors when necessary. That is another amendment that was dismissed out of hand.
I would like to talk a little about the competition commissioner. Those who followed the case will remember the joint venture agreement between United Airlines and Air Canada that the competition commissioner ruled on. He said that a number of routes should be omitted from the agreement because, in the end, it was consumers who would lose out. He had the authority to limit this sort of agreement.
Now, the government is giving the minister that power, and relegating the commissioner to an advisory role. The minister can make his own decisions based on the public interest, a concept that is rather vague and becoming even vaguer. The committee never managed to define this concept. Neither the minister nor any of the witnesses or public servants who appeared managed to define it. That could result in an abuse of power by the minister, who may not necessarily defend the interests of Canadian and Quebec consumers. That is a serious problem.
Finally, I want to talk about regional airports. We all agree on the need to develop regional airports. Many companies want to offer cheap flights from regional airports rather than the larger airports. Some municipalities, such as Trois-Rivières, have explored the option of developing chartered flights, but had to abandon the idea because the cost of security is too prohibitive. No consideration is being given to the possibility of redistributing the cost of security to every passenger and airport. Instead, those who want security services are simply being told they have to pay for it. If a regional airport like the one in Trois-Rivières wanted to offer security services and pay for them itself, it would have to charge an extra $70 or $80 per ticket. We know full well that at that rate, the airport cannot compete and the idea will be dropped.
Those are the four elements I wanted to address. I sense that the Speaker would like me to wrap up so I will leave it there and make myself available to answer questions.