Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to speak in support of this motion being referred to the Standing Committee on Transport.
As my colleague opposite mentioned, not necessarily today but also in committee, air navigation technology is changing rapidly. I have just returned from New Zealand and I met some members of Canadian companies on that tour that are involved in the transition of the New Zealand navigation system. It is attempting to privatize but also to upgrade navigation technology.
My report to the hon. member and to this House would be that things are going very well. We have agreed to stay in touch and hopefully we will get some reports on this side of the Pacific on what and how that is all unfolding.
This is a very important bill, putting into place a crucial element of the government's overall strategy to modernize Canada's navigation and transportation system. It comes at a time when governments around the world are getting out of the business of providing services and concentrating instead on setting policy and enforcing safety. That has to be of paramount concern to all of us in this House.
It also comes at a time when governments are recognizing that they can no longer meet all of the needs of modern air navigation. Many user groups, such as the Air Transport Association of Canada, the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association and the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association, have all said that the current government operated air navigation system does not meet the needs of the aviation community and its expanding role.
There is no doubt that the time for a government operated civil air navigation system has passed. Once there was a need for governments to be involved in every aspect of air transportation. The present system had its beginnings in wartime when in 1944 member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, signed the Chicago convention. Article 28 of that convention called on all members to provide airports, radio services,
meteorological services and other air navigation facilities to facilitate international air navigation.
In Canada, the Department of Transport, known today as Transport Canada, assumed responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the principal airports and the non-military air navigation system. For over 50 years the department met the responsibility of developing aviation facilities and, in particular, providing air navigation services to civil aviation.
Starting in the seventies and continuing today, governments in the developed world began to reconsider their involvement in providing services that could be better provided by the private sector. As a consequence, many government began to reduce their involvement in various sectors both as regulators and as owners.
With government downsizing and public sector restraint in full swing both here and in other countries, there is no longer any justification for a government operated air navigation system, just as there is little justification for governments to own railroads or airports. The aviation sector is mature. It no longer needs extensive government involvement to grow and prosper.
Canada has undertaken its review of the role of government in the aviation industry. As a result the federal government has eliminated much of the economic regulation of commercial aviation. It has divested itself of ownership in the airline industry and in the aircraft manufacturing industry and is moving away from operating airports.
The government's review of the air navigation system showed a number of reasons to change: the present system is not flexible enough to respond to changes in demand, and greater efficiency, lower costs and increased accountability are needed.
Safety, once seen as the justification for state control and management of air navigation systems, is now viewed as an integral part of managing the system. This, combined with the increasing fiscal pressures on governments, has led to the conclusion in Canada and around the globe that the system can be run along commercial lines, subject to appropriate government regulation.
Consequently, the government has acted decisively to alter its role in providing air navigation services. The current bill provides the legal means to transfer Canada's civil air navigation system from Transport Canada to Nav Canada, a private non-profit corporation, for $1.5 billion.
Canada, in its leadership role in the aviation industry, is at the forefront of many changes. Many countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Austria, Portugal, Germany and Great Britain have already commercialized their air navigation systems. This bold move has been carefully planned and developed to meet Canada's unique needs in aviation requirements. The separation of government will provide the commercial freedom necessary to meet customer needs and increase system efficiency.
The challenge however is to be able to maintain a functional system in the remote parts of Canada that are lacking in some of the resources required to keep a safety component very reliable.
Nav Canada, as a user oriented corporation, will be able to respond efficiently to the needs of the system with effective government regulation and maintain the high, established level of safety. Transport Canada is sharing the experience gained in this project with other countries, departments and agencies. Its experience will serve as a model both nationally and internationally. The commercialization of the air navigation system is a key element of the government's comprehensive strategy to modernize and prepare for the next century.
The commercialization of the air navigation system will provide many important benefits: first, for taxpayers, by making a $1.5 billion contribution to reducing the federal deficit. This was the amount that the previous speaker mentioned. Second, for the industry, by maintaining safety while increasing the system's ability to respond to changing demands and new technologies; third, for users, by providing more efficient and cost effective operations; fourth, for the system's employees, by offering them the opportunity to continue to contribute to a new and challenging work environment; and fifth, for Nav Canada, by setting the stage for it to operate one of the world's best run and safest air navigation systems.
I ask that all members support the motion to refer the bill to the Standing Committee on Transport before second reading. This initiative has already been the subject of extensive consultation across the country, as well as internationally. It is in the interests of all Canadians that we move forward with due speed.