Mr. Speaker, on behalf of our transportation critic from Cumberland—Colchester I will take a few moments to speak to Bill S-23, which we will be supporting. Like the member who just spoke, I would like to see discussion on some other things, such as a Canadian bill of rights for passengers.
The region of Canada I come from is Newfoundland and Labrador. I would love to get a chance to discuss in the House the cost of airfare in this country, in particular the cost of regional airfare. The cost of airfare in Newfoundland is a significant prohibiter to travel. There are significant problems for the tourism industry. For many individuals who have to travel on crisis calls, the regional costs of airfare are absolutely shameful. Someday we may get a chance to discuss these issues in the House.
Today I will read a few notes on behalf of our critic which address Bill S-23. It is a bill regarding air transport that ratifies amendments to the Warsaw convention on international carriage by air. More specifically, Bill S-23 takes the form of amendments to the Carriage by Air Act by implementing Montreal Protocol No. 4 and the Guadalajara supplementary convention.
The Warsaw convention was signed in 1929. It assigns liability to the air carrier and provides for maximum liability in the event of death or injury of a passenger and loss of baggage or freight. In addition, the convention authorizes the passenger or shipper to enter into a contract in order to improve the terms of that liability.
Canada gave effect to the Warsaw convention in June 1947 by passing the Carriage by Air Act. This act has been amended from time to time to reflect new international agreements relating to the conduct of the international airline industry. The Montreal Protocol and the Guadalajara convention are the most recent of these new international agreements and parliament has been asked to ratify them through this piece of legislation which is now before the House of Commons.
Bill S-23 makes some housekeeping amendments to the Carriage by Air Act. Clarity is provided through definitions at the beginning of the act. The text, in keeping with modern legislative practice, has been rendered gender neutral, and a formula is provided for the establishment of international currency conversions. The Montreal Protocol and the Guadalajara convention are dealt with in schedules IV and V and are referred to accordingly in this act.
Montreal Protocol No. 4 amends the liability regime for cargo with stricter carrier liability and with maximum limits. It provides that a carrier is liable for damages to cargo to the limits of the liability but only after those damages have been established. As a result, the carrier cannot escape liability by taking all necessary precautions and cannot be assessed damages beyond the maximum limit even in the event of gross negligence.
This protocol, signed in 1975, only came into effect in 1998 when the requisite number of 30 states had deposited their instruments of ratification. This protocol came into effect in the United States in March of this year and thus puts U.S. carriers at a competitive advantage over Canadian carriers. It is therefore imperative that Canada ratify this protocol as soon as possible so that our air carriers can remain competitive in what is an increasingly competitive industry.
The Guadalajara convention in schedule V was first signed in 1961. It clarifies the relationship between passengers and shippers on the one hand and air carriers on the other. It is already widely in force and it clarifies the application of the Warsaw convention to situations where the contract of carriage was made by a carrier that did not actually perform some or all of the carriage by air. In short, it distinguishes between the contracting company and the carrier actually performing the carriage and sets out varying liabilities for each. This fills a gap that results from modern practice where one airline issues the ticket and another airline does all or part of the actual flight in question.
The Warsaw convention is thus made to apply to the contracting carrier throughout the journey and to the actual carrier during those parts of the journey that it actually carries. A claimant may sue either, but the aggregate of damages is limited to the amounts established by the Warsaw convention.
Bill S-23 enjoys the support of the Air Transport Association of Canada, a body representing all of the major airlines and many of the cargo operators, regional carriers and small airlines as well. The industry regards this legislation as long overdue and essential for the modernization and commercial viability of Canadian commercial aviation.
In conclusion, the PC Party supports the bill and urges its quick passage.