Mr. Speaker, I thank everyone who did some research and took some interest in this motion, and I thank all those who spoke to the motion. Government members have explained in detail what the blue sky policy is about, why it is the right policy for Canada, and what benefits have resulted from its implementation.
I am a little alarmed to hear some of the responses from the opposition that seem to suggest that more competition and more choice for consumers would not be a positive thing. Certainly in my experience working with different tourism industry leaders, and even with constituents, having more competition and more choice has always been encouraged. I was also somewhat alarmed to hear one opposition member wonder why I would bring this forward, since I do not have an airport in my riding. I am quite pleased and proud to actually have two airports quite close to my riding. I do not think that is a litmus test for any of us in this House. We do not have to have an airport in our constituencies to speak on issues relevant to air travel.
Just as a quick reminder, the blue sky policy was adopted by our government in 2006 with a view to liberalizing more proactively, but responsibly, our air transport relations with the world.
It has been noted that the blue sky policy is a balanced policy that is consistent with the particular characteristics of our economy, our geography and our air industry. It is not, as has been suggested by others, a one-size-fits-all approach to air transportation negotiations. Each negotiation is primarily driven by the commercial interests of our air industry but also aims to produce long-term and sustainable economic benefits beyond that sector.
Through this approach, we take a long-term view of the competition. It is when more flights are offered that consumer choice and consumer convenience increase. I do not meet many consumers who are not in favour of choice and convenience.
Let me summarize the tangible benefits this policy has produced for consumers and the business and tourism sectors since its inception. This policy has provided Canadian consumers with more choices in terms of both destinations and number of direct flights. As a matter of fact, we have concluded open air transport agreements with most of Canada's top 20 bilateral air travel markets, which together represent about 85% of all of our international passenger traffic.
Over the 2006 to 2011 period, Canadian air carriers increased the number of outbound international flights by 56% and the number of direct destinations by 11%. Concretely, this has led to, for example, new or expanded services to the Asia-Pacific region from Vancouver, a direct service between Calgary and Tokyo, more flights to Latin America from Toronto, and more flights to Europe from Montreal.
The implementation of the blue sky policy has also supported Canada's international trade objectives. As of December 2012, Canada has either concluded, or offered to conclude, an open agreement with countries that collectively represent about 91% of our international two-way merchandise trade.
Canada's tourism industry has also benefited. Under the policy, special efforts have been expanded to promote access from all key, priority inbound markets identified by the Canadian Tourism Commission. That is why Canadian airports and airlines, as well as the tourism sector, under our federal tourism strategy, are regularly consulted on negotiation priorities. Our government's efforts have resulted in open or expanded agreements with France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, China, India, Japan and South Korea. We have invested in these efforts, because we understand the importance of direct flights to make it easier for tourists to come to Canada.
It is important to remember that 72% of our international passenger traffic is now covered by an open agreement. Before the blue sky policy, we had an open agreement with two countries. Today 43 countries are covered by such agreements. Looking to the future, Asia and Latin America will continue to be areas of focus for the implementation of the blue sky policy.
I strongly believe that the blue sky policy is the right policy for Canada. It is balanced. It is responsible. It takes into account the unique nature of our country, our geography, and the interests of Canadian consumers and businesses. It supports our national air industry as well as our international trade, tourism, and economic development objectives.
I am confident that Canada will continue to benefit from the results of the blue sky policy for many years to come. For all those reasons, I call on all members of this House to support Motion No. 387, which calls on our government to continue the implementation of the blue sky policy for the benefit of all Canadians.