Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here in the House today with a minor amendment to support the motion before us, which I will move before the expiry of my time.
I will be supporting the motion because it aligns with the guiding principle of the government's economic action plan to protect Canadians and support jobs and economic growth across the country. The motion is also consistent with our government's risk-based approach whereby security funding is targeted to areas of highest risk.
I am glad to be given the opportunity to talk about the work that has been accomplished on this file over the last year and what we intend to do in the future. However, at the outset, I would like to reiterate that creating jobs and securing economic growth is and will remain our government's top priority.
The aviation industry is a fundamental pillar of our success as a nation. It is a key contributor to our standard of living, economy, connectivity to the world and prosperity. Further, a vibrant aviation sector also supports the prosperity of other industries, such as commerce and tourism.
There are roughly 100 million passengers who travel through or within Canada annually, with nearly 2,500 international flights each and every day. The vastness of Canada's geography and the dispersed nature of our population have directly contributed to the development of one of the largest and most sophisticated civil aviation systems in the world. Transport Canada's national civil aviation security program is among the best in its class, and our government continues to be committed to the promotion of safe and secure air travel.
Canada has over 200 airports that operate commercial flights. Fewer than half of them are regulated to require mandatory passenger and baggage screening. This represents about 99% of all air passengers in Canada.
The mandatory presence of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, CATSA, at all airports would not make sense either from a security or a financial perspective. However, CATSA is and should remain the sole screening authority in Canada. The original version of the motion before us could be construed as opening the door to the establishment of new screening authorities in Canada. For this reason, we will be asking that the proposed motion be amended so as to make it clear that CATSA is and remains the only authorized screening authority in Canada.
This is an important element, because our government believes there is real value in consolidating aviation security under a single authority. Having a national centralized organization perform screening enables greater consistency across the country and more effective responsiveness to security issues. It also ensures that Canada meets international standards and retains the trust of its partners.
The list of airports for regulated mandatory screening was developed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks, and it captures those airports where screening was already taking place before the creation of CATSA. The screening services received at these airports are financed by air travellers through the air travellers security charge.
Over the last several years, a number of airports not regulated for mandatory passenger screening have expressed an interest in obtaining screening services to improve their economic and development opportunities. Many of them indicated that the absence of these screening services constituted the only barrier to the establishment of new commercial routes at their airports.
While security is always the key consideration when allocating government resources to the prevention and mitigation of threats to the transportation system, our aviation security system must also support rather than hinder economic opportunities. We must strive to strike the right balance between supporting the competitiveness of the air sector while minimizing the impact of this support for Canadian taxpayers. This is why our government is proposing a risk-based approach for any changes to the current list of airports receiving security screening funded by the government.
So far, none of the airports interested in receiving screening services currently meet the risk threshold that would warrant mandatory screening. Nevertheless, I believe it is important that we provide these smaller airports with the necessary tools to foster the economic growth that would come from the establishment of new commercial routes.
In June 2014, the Minister of Transport sent a letter to all the airports that had expressed an interest in procuring screening services to inform them that departmental officials were in the process of exploring and assessing various mechanisms that would allow them to obtain services on a cost-recovery basis. Transport Canada officials will soon be contacting the interested airports in order to gather additional information about their operations. This will help determine the level of service and equipment that the implementation of passenger screening services would require.
Transport Canada will also be working with CATSA and airports to assess the costs of implementing screening services at smaller airports depending on the number of flights they expect to attract, as well as other factors such as the frequency and destination of flights. Our government will work closely with airports to ensure that the potential benefits of implementing these screening services outweigh their costs.
While we are pleased with the progress that has been made on this initiative, there are various legal and financial challenges that still need to be addressed. The government is currently reviewing the legislative and regulatory changes that would best support this initiative. Beyond this, we also need to ensure that any solution takes a long-term approach with respect to the operations of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority in order to enable it to continue to respond to industry needs.
In closing, I would like to point out that industry has increasingly been linking passenger screening services to economic development. Many airports have expressed a willingness to invest resources into such services. Transport Canada will be working closely with our industry partners to make all the necessary tools available to provide a safe, secure, and efficient transportation system for all Canadians. In order to align the intent of this motion with the approach that the government is pursuing and based on discussions with the mover of the motion, I would like to propose the following amendment.
That the motion be amended by (a) deleting “2004”; and (b) replacing the words “CATSA-recognized” with the word “CATSA”.