Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in favour of Motion No. 465, put forward by the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. This motion deals with protecting the travelling public and is something that many people have been waiting for. The story of how this all came about is interesting.
During Christmas 2007 some major storms were experienced in Newfoundland and Labrador and throughout Atlantic Canada. Many flights were cancelled or delayed which created major havoc especially for people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and among them, people in my own riding of Avalon.
Many people in Conception Bay South, a town in my riding and one of the fastest growing communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, have the opportunity to travel back and forth to other parts of Canada.
A movement was started at that time by Woodrow French, the mayor of Conception Bay South. I met with Mayor French on a couple of occasions to discuss this issue and other issues. Mayor French involved many families and people who travelled. He sought and received the support of the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador association. He also sought and received the support of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. With that combination of support, Mayor French found a need and a want for a passenger bill of rights in Canada.
I am certainly delighted that the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte brought his motion forward because it gives us an opportunity to protect the travelling public. We hope we can do that through this process.
A lot of people are not aware that there is protection already in place in Canada. Canada's complaints process has been in place since 2000 and was made permanent by Bill C-11. It is one of the strongest features of Canada's consumer protection regime. However, like many other things, the regime and its strengths are not well understood by Canadians. We have not done enough to inform travellers of the consumer protections that exist and the redress available to them through this process. If passengers do not know their rights, they are unlikely to take steps to protect those rights.
There is no way that we can bring forward in this House, or any government can bring anywhere for that matter, a bill of rights that would dictate what the weather was going to be on a Friday or Saturday night, or whatever the case may be. Therefore, we have to work within the existing system. A bill or a motion will not dictate what the weather will be on any given night.
How passengers are treated when their carefully laid out plans are suddenly disrupted because of the weather or because of some other situation that might arise is what we are trying to deal with through this motion. Common courtesy is not something that we can legislate.
Because of the Christmas panic that ensued in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have a regime in place that we hope can provide some protection. Hopefully, by enhancing that and working with all members in the House we can bring forward something that would at least give people some kind of protection.
I heard many stories from people in my riding who contacted my office. Some had been in Halifax on December 22 and were told that due to flight cancellations, the next flight they could get to go home would be on January 2. Some people were in Toronto on Christmas Eve and were told that the first opportunity for them to get home would be on New Year's Day. Some people had to return to work on January 2 or January 3. That is totally unacceptable to the government and it is totally unacceptable to the travelling public.
I was delighted to hear the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca state earlier that we are not only supporting this motion, but we are going to make a concerted effort to inform Canadians of the rights and protections that are already in place.
I was delighted to hear the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, because if there is any area or town in this country that knows the importance of the travelling public, especially from Newfoundland and Labrador, it is Fort McMurray. A direct flight was brought in sometime in 2007. Every single day there is a direct flight from St. John's, Newfoundland to Fort McMurray, Alberta. There are in excess of 60,000 people travelling back and forth between Fort McMurray and St. John's, people who either live in Fort McMurray permanently and visit family in Newfoundland, or who travel back and forth on turnovers. This is a major concern for all those people. Many times we refer to the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca as the eighth member from Newfoundland and Labrador because there is no doubt that his constituency is made up of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
I was delighted to see the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca on his feet here today announcing that our government is supporting this private member's motion. We are taking the concerns of the travelling public of Canada very seriously. We have a situation here where, as I said earlier, we cannot regulate the weather or how things happen, but we can provide protection. We can provide at least an opportunity for the travelling public to be treated fairly in a situation where people cannot have their concerns addressed in an airport at 2 o'clock in the morning.
I want to congratulate Mayor Woodrow French of Conception Bay South, who on February 13, I believe it was, sent a letter off to the Prime Minister, asking him to look at bringing in a passenger bill of rights similar to ones in other parts of the world. When we did some research on that, we found that the passenger bills of rights in other parts of the world do not exactly fit everything that we have here in Canada.
Hopefully, we can enhance what we already have in place to protect consumers and the travelling public. We want to ensure that the concerns that are being brought forward to members of Parliament are addressed and that we can have something in place so that at least people travelling do not have to worry that they are not being treated fairly.
We have a large geographic region. I mentioned the daily flight between St. John's and Fort McMurray. We travel long distances. Sometimes people arrive in one town but their luggage is in another city. Some people do not find their luggage at all. The attitude sometimes of the airlines is well, too bad. That is not an attitude Canadians should have to put up with. It is absolutely unacceptable that the travelling public of Canada have to put up with anything less than the service they pay for and deserve.
We as a government are here today to make sure that the protections that are in place are enhanced for the travelling public. of Newfoundland and Labrador in our case. I am delighted that a member from Newfoundland and Labrador brought this motion forward. In that way, every one who travels can know that if something goes wrong, if something does not work out, there is protection and that those who are responsible have to step up to the plate and say, “We are responsible for what happened”. They are not responsible for the fog, they are not responsible for the snow, they are not responsible for the wind, but they are responsible for the paying customers who deserve a service that sometimes we find is lacking.
I am delighted that we are here today to support the motion. I look forward to enhancing the protections that are in place now so that members of the travelling public of Canada feel that they are protected in some ways and feel more comfortable when they sit on a plane. After all, it is a major mode of travel now.