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STANDING COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORT
LE COMITÉ PERMANENT DES TRANSPORTS
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, April 11, 2000
The Chair (Mr. Stan Keyes (Hamilton West, Lib.)): Good afternoon, colleagues. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are examining the Canadian airport system. We start meeting number 46.
Colleagues, before us this afternoon we have a large group that's come together. From the Montreal Airports Development Support Group we have Pierre Laferrière, chairperson of the Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; and Françoy Roberge, director of public affairs and communications at the chamber of commerce. These gentlemen will give us an eight-minute presentation.
Then we have three individuals who will give us three minutes each, and they are Jacques Girard, who is president and CEO of Montreal International; Charles Lapointe, who is president and CEO of Tourisme Montréal—by the way, colleagues, Charles is a former member of Parliament for Charlevoix from 1980 to 1984 and former Minister of Public Works, so we give him a special welcome back—and Mr. Pierre-Yves Melançon.
Gentlemen, thank you very much for appearing before our committee. The reason we want to keep the presentations a little tighter is we want questions from the members.
We'll begin with Mr. Laferrière for eight minutes, and then we'll go to each of the other gentlemen for three.
When you're comfortable, sir, please begin.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière (President, Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Montreal Airports Development Support Group): Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, thank you for having agreed to let us appear before this committee, which is meeting in order to shed additional light on the debate that interests all citizens of the Montreal metropolitan area and of Quebec.
Let us say at the outset that it seems to us very clear that the true motive of the instigators of this debate is not the quality of the management of Montreal airports, but the desire of certain individuals to transfer airport activities from Montreal to Mirabel.
We are here to tell you that we firmly support ADM's decision to allow airlines full freedom to choose the airport where they prefer to operate their regularly scheduled commercial flights out of Montreal. We certainly support the ensuing decisions, notably the decision to invest $498 million in Dorval by 2004 to make it a world class airport hub of continental calibre.
The Montreal Airports Development Support Group is made up of approximately 15 organizations from the Montreal region. Amongst others, it includes all the major economic promotion organizations, the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce, the eastern and western Montreal Island chambers of commerce, the chambers of commerce of the South Shore and of Laval, the Conseil régional de développement de l'île de Montréal, Montreal International and Tourism Montreal, as well as several municipalities and representatives of employees of civil aviation, pilots, maintenance employees and navigation employees.
In fact, I would ask my colleagues, the President of Montreal International, Mr. Jacques Girard, and the President of Tourism Montreal, Mr. Charles Lapointe, to testify about their vision of airport activity in Montreal in a few moments, as well as Mr. Pierre-Yves Melançon, who is Vice-President of the Executive Council of the Conseil régional de développement de l'île de Montréal.
Together, the members of the organizations associated with the Montreal Airports Development Support Group represent 80 to 85% of the jobs, that is almost 750,000 jobs, and 90% of the private economic activity of the Montreal region. That being the case, we wish to speak here on behalf of the economic interests, jobs and social well-being of greater Montreal.
Thirty years ago, Mirabel airport was planned on the basis of the contribution of economists that came mainly from the same backgrounds as those who have testified here today and who made major forecasting errors in terms of demography, regulation and technology. Mirabel's problems started there. In 1970, they spoke of 60 million passengers per year in Montreal; there are only 9 million, whereas there are 27 million in Toronto. They talked about supersonic aircraft that were going to dominate the market, but there are no supersonics in the Montreal region. Today, Mirabel provides us with 25 years of concrete experience; these are no longer theoretical projections but 25 years of concrete experience. We can therefore conduct an analysis based on facts and not hypotheses.
The questions we must ask ourselves are essentially the following. If you will pardon the pun, how come Mirabel airport never took off, 25 years after its inauguration? Why is it that the government of Canada, or its Department of Transport, never shut down Dorval when it opened Mirabel? Why was a rapid rail link never built between Montreal and Mirabel? Why were direct highway infrastructures never completed between Mirabel and Montreal? Why did Bombardier decide to build its plants in Saint-Laurent and Dorval, and even between Dorval runways? Why did CAE, Canadian Aviation Electronics, the largest manufacturer of flight simulators in the world, which has a 70% world market share, decide to locate in Dorval? Why is Rolls-Royce located in Dorval? Why has Air Canada recently invested $60 million in its maintenance hangars in Dorval, which employ over 3,000 people? Why are there now 73,000 jobs around Dorval which depend on the airport? Why is it that the significant portion of the activity that makes Montreal the third most important city in the world for civil aviation is concentrated here? Why are all these activities concentrated around Dorval and downtown Montreal? Why is it that when they had the right to do so, all major airlines except Aeroflot decided to develop their operations in Dorval? Why did Royal Airlines go so far as to sue ADM to have the right to choose Dorval? The answer is that for the past 25 years, virtually all stakeholders, corporations, carriers, travellers and both levels of government have chosen Dorval over Mirabel when making concrete and practical decisions about investment.
How much time do I have left, Mr. Chairman?
The Chair: Three minutes.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: Thank you. Ever since the decision was made to allow airlines to choose the airport they preferred to operate their commercial flights in greater Montreal, we have finally observed a growth in airport activity after 25 years of stagnation or decline. New carriers have chosen to serve Montreal, others have returned to Montreal, and we have observed an increase in the level of business activity of several other airlines. In less than two years, we have seen the addition of new direct flights, such as Denver, Tel-Aviv, Brussels, Dallas and San Francisco as well as many other Canadian and American destinations. The number of connecting passengers has increased significantly, from less than 9% to over 16%. Some airlines have recorded increases of over 20% of connecting passengers and now have fuller flights. In 1999, the increase in the number of passengers in transit through Montreal airports was over 5%, the highest rate of all major airports in Canada.
Liberalization has been very favourable to airline activity in the Montreal region. It is fully and directly consistent with the experience of the past 25 years and fully justifies a business decision to accelerate the renovation of Dorval airport.
Through our presence here today, we are asking the government of Canada to accept this reality and do everything in its power to promote investment projects put forward by the management of ADM, and to support this project by negotiating a new lease with this corporation to enable it to reinvest the funds produced from sound operation of this precious public facility in the improvement of airport activity for the benefit of the entire community.
Dorval airport can easily meet a large part of the airport requirements of the region for many decades to come. Let us protect the dynamic nature and value of this facility which is essential for the flourishing of our metropolitan region.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laferrière.
Mr. Girard, please.
Mr. Jacques Girard (President and CEO, Montréal International, Montreal Airports Development Support Group): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ladies and gentlemen members of the committee, I am very pleased to be here before you today in order to support the decision made by Aéroports de Montréal as well as, of course, the development of Dorval, but also—and I will come back to this later—the development of Mirabel.
It may be appropriate for me to summarize what Montreal International is exactly. It is a private organization that brings together over 130 large corporations from the Montreal region that provide the area with a significant financial contribution, as well as the federal government, the government of Quebec, the municipal governments of most of the cities in greater Montreal, which includes the northern fringe, the Island of Laval, the Island of Montreal and the South Shore of Montreal.
Montréal International has a dual mandate: to attract as much foreign investment and as many foreign investors as possible to greater Montreal and to attract the largest possible number of international organizations to our region. There are already 76 such organizations and I deal with their representatives regularly, just as I deal with American, French, German, British, European Community or Asian investors who come here to invest in greater Montreal.
The first question they ask us before making a decision is how many direct flights are there between Montreal and major American, European or other world cities. Our answer is a determining factor in the choice they will make of a city, which is why it is important for us to ensure absolutely that the growth of Montreal as an international airport and of Dorval as an international airport continues over the coming years and that the number of cross-border flights with major U.S. cities increases and that the number of flights toward other large cities of the world also increases.
That's exactly what happened in the past few years, since ADM made a decision to have regularly scheduled international and transborder flights depart from Dorval. We should not stop while we're on the right track, but rather continue and ensure that Montreal become a main hub for all of eastern Canada.
With regard to Mirabel, Montréal International is among those who believe in its development, and we're working toward that. As you know, the government of Quebec has established a duty-free zone around Mirabel airport, and we will be working closely with these new institutions to attract the largest possible number of corporations from the courier or transportation industries.
Moreover, we are currently working on a important project to make Montreal the main entry point for goods to and from Europe for the northeastern North American continent. Studies conducted for us by consultants both in Montreal and abroad show that Montreal has a competitive advantage in terms of costs, which in certain cases, can be as high as 50%.
These are concrete factors. They are interesting leads that we've identified and on which we are working and will continue to work to ensure that Mirabel can have a road worthy of its name and reach its full potential for economic development.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Monsieur Girard.
Mr. Charles Lapointe (President and CEO, Tourisme Montréal, Montreal Airports Development Support Group): Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen members of Parliament, I would like to join my colleagues in thanking you for having us here today. I will briefly describe Tourisme Montréal, the organization which I head. This is a private organization made up of 700 Montreal-area corporations that work mainly in the tourist industry.
Tourism is a rather simple thing. The point is to have people come here, and the more direct flights we have to Canadian, American and overseas cities, the more visitors we will get. In the field of American, international or national conventions, it's absolutely crucial that we have the largest possible number of flights to Montreal and the largest possible number of links to other destinations within the same airport. This is why Tourisme Montréal has always enthusiastically supported ADM's decision to allow airlines to select the airport of their choice for their operations. This practice means that the majority of commercial flights are concentrated in Dorval and we feel that is a good thing.
Allow me to tell you a brief anecdote. Mr. Chairman, you kindly pointed out that I had the honour of sitting in the House of Commons for 10 years. I can tell you that for 10 years, from 1974 to 1984, on three occasions, we questioned yet again the future of Mirabel and Dorval. Every time, because these are decisions that are extremely difficult to make from any politicians, we maintained both airports while praying to heaven and all the saints that everything would go well. But our prayers were not answered, Mr. Chairman. I think that the decision that was made in 1996 is the right one. For heaven's sake, let us not change it at the eleventh hour.
For a year now, Tourisme Montréal and ADM have been working very closely to promote the metropolitan region and attract more chartered flights to Mirabel. We've worked more specifically on the British and Italian markets, as well as the Middle-Eastern market. These are operations that take some time, but we have high hopes, both at ADM and at Tourisme Montréal, that we will succeed with time in increasing the volume of chartered flights to our destination.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I would like to quote a paragraph or two from a letter we received this morning from Ms. Lise Fournel, Vice-President, Business Affairs at Air Canada regarding our appearance today and I quote:
It is inconceivable to believe that at the eleventh hour, just when
the improvements and the expansion required for some time are about
to begin, we are reconsidering the decision made in 1996 and
launching a new debate on transferring flights to Mirabel.
And she continues:
Meanwhile, we feel that sufficient time has been wasted. The economic
backlash for the community has already been quite serious and the
debate has gone on for too long. The time has come for Montreal to
become the centre for commercial aviation, as it should be.
And that is what we have said, Mr. Chairman, to you as well as to our parliamentary colleagues. We have to move forward as quickly as possible and implement the decisions that have been announced by the ADM.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
And our last three-minute presentation is from Mr. Melançon.
Mr. Pierre-Yves Melançon (Vice-President, Executive Committee, Montreal Regional Development Council): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would also like to thank you for hearing us. First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I am a municipal councillor with the City of Montreal, as well as the Vice-President of the Executive Committee of the Montreal Regional Development Council and I chair the Committee on Infrastructures in Transport. I have also had the pleasure, since 1994, to represent the City of Montreal on SOPRAM and I'll get back to that later.
The Montreal Regional Development Council is an organization which wants to mobilize and bring together opinion for the economic development of the Island of Montreal in different areas, be it culture, transportation or even fashion. We represent people who come from the world of business, from the labour movement, more specifically from the Quebec Federation of Labour, as well as from the Central Council of the CNTU. We have representatives on the Montreal Regional Development Council and outlying municipalities as well as individuals from the education and health fields and from the community and cultural areas.
I am not going to repeat here what has already been said by others, with whom I agree. I would just like to remind you of our basic feelings.
First of all, the Regional Council supports the decision to concentrate regular flights at Dorval and to develop air freight and charter flights at Mirabel.
Secondly, we have maintained our support regarding the decision to invest some $500 million during the next four years at Dorval airport.
Thirdly, we also maintain our support of the decision to make the international trade zone of Mirabel very successful. And I'll come back to that.
I'd like to remind the members of this committee, Mr. Chairman, that it was in all transparency, within the framework of the SOPRAM, that we participated in 1995 in a debate dealing with airport duality. That was done before people from the northern fringe, people from the southern fringe, the City of Montreal and Chambers of commerce. The decision was made by ADM following various analyses, taking into account the economic situation, Canada's new airline policies as well as the open skies policy.
This support to ADM was granted by the Société de promotion des aéroports de Montréal with just about total unanimity of the seven blocks involved. One block voted against; obviously that of the northern area. The six other blocks within SOPRAM said yes. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, since the decision has been made, we must move forward.
There is a current proposal, we are told, of a moratorium on investment. The answer of the Island of Montreal Regional Development Council is: no, no moratorium. The Metropolitan Region of Toronto is now investing some $4 billion to ensure that its airport maintain its international vocation. Toronto is in competition with the other major airport cities in North America. And some would say no to Montreal? I think that a moratorium would run counter to the economic development of greater Montreal. Those who are in favour of such a moratorium, in my opinion, are putting Montreal at a disadvantage.
Could we once and for all get on with it and work together towards developing the Greater Region of Montreal, in making our airports successful, obviously Dorval airport, but also Mirabel airport with its freight transport?
Need I remind you that the Prime Minister tabled, this morning, what we call the traffic management plan for the Greater Region of Montreal. In this document, the investment plans of the government of Quebec for the next five years confirm that they favour Dorval. They will be investing in the traffic circle at Dorval. There will also be a very close examination of the possibility of train service towards Dorval. And I will leave you to see if there is anything elsewhere.
Mr. Chairman, if we were able to work shoulder-to-shoulder in the region to create new jobs and to increase the economic benefits for all citizens of the Greater Region of Montreal, for all of the unemployed in the region, should we not do so?
Mr. Chairman, this is a major project for all of the economic development of the greater Montreal area as well as for its competitiveness in an era of globalization. We can no longer wait. I apologize, but those who want to delay the train should stay at the boarding gate.
The Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your presentations. It's quite clear you're very much Montreal boosters.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Charles Lapointe: From the greater region, sir.
The Chair: Colleagues, with your indulgence, I just want to ask one question before we begin.
I have a concern. Mr. Laferrière, you made it abundantly clear, and I heard from your colleagues, that you have great confidence in ADM, and that if an airline wants to fly into Dorval, by golly, let her come, because you could use the business, and it's just great for the Montreal region. But my concern is what we heard from the chairman, Nycol Pageau-Goyette, who, when asked the question, responded that when an airline flies into their airport, they must consider the types of passengers using the airport and where they come from regionally, how far out. As well, consideration must be given to the type of airline it is—a discount airline or an airline that demonstrates strong financial viability.
You know what? Quite frankly, it shouldn't be any of her concern, from my point of view. She is the administrator of an airport. Her job is to get as many customers into that airport as she can. As long as they can pay and as long as they can show up on time and do everything proper at ADM, it should be “Come on in”.
I realize she also has the responsibility of looking after Mirabel, but she told us the priority was the client. If the client wants a slot in a gate at Dorval, and they're willing to pay for it—especially if they're willing to pay for it—they should be welcomed with open arms.
I hesitate, when I hear your confidence in ADM, and in particular the chair, when I hear things like this from the chair.... She's concerned about things that, really, in my humble opinion, shouldn't be any of her concern at all.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: Your concern is that the way they manage the airport doesn't favour competition? Is that your question?
The Chair: That's in part the impression I'm getting, and also that you fellows want great business for Dorval and you have a person running the place who is looking at the books of the airline that wants to come in. Shouldn't be doing that.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: If you want to know my opinion, personally, I come from the telecom industry. We eat competition for breakfast. I was with Teleglobe the day they came to this government and asked the government to abolish its monopoly position. That had never been seen in the world. It's been compared to a turkey asking for more Thanksgiving.
We are quite in favour of competition, and we do believe part of the exercise of creating value in any industry is to boost competition as much as possible, within, of course, some rules that the government might want to set occasionally.
So you don't have to convince me of that, either.
The Chair: Great. Thank you, gentlemen.
Val Meredith, please.
Ms. Val Meredith (South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, Canadian Alliance): Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, gentlemen, for being here.
I appreciate the fact that you're boosters for Montreal, as I am for the Vancouver area. I guess I can't argue with that. I think it's good that you're supporting the city and supporting that which is good for the city.
But I do want to ask—it's been brought up here by a couple of different witnesses—about the fact that the project for Dorval started at $185 million. That same project, or an extension of it, is now $1.3 billion. My question is, why the extension of the project?
The other angle I want to put on it is that we've heard airlines saying that they're concerned because across this country, in all major cities and some smaller ones, airport authorities are going into grandiose expansion schemes, and the cost is going to go back onto the airlines, who pay higher landing fees. I've been told that the airport improvement fee in Dorval is going up to $30.
How can this happen? Is it really good for business and for the travelling public in Montreal?
The latter part of my question is, first, how much of the cost of this airport improvement is going to go onto the tax base, and second, is this another grandiose scheme where the taxpayers are paying for another project, the way they did with Olympic Stadium, for years and years?
Mr. Pierre-Yves Melançon: And I would ask you who told you that we would have to invest 89 or $85 million in this new vision of Dorval. Half of this amount is used for regular investments and in the annual capital budget for ADM.
What has always been proposed within the SOPRAM until now, based on the information provided by ADM, was to build an international pier to the tune of 250 to $300 million. This 85-million-dollar figure, I have no idea where it comes from.
Secondly, as to reviewing all of ADM's programs, we would like to invest, over the next four years, half a billion dollars. Therefore, those who are talking about $1.3 billion are those who are inflating the budget somewhat. That is the projection which can be made over 20 years. But over the next four years, we're dealing with $500 million.
Furthermore, I would allow myself a comment. Within the framework of the devolution of the Dorval and Mirabel airports by the federal government of the day, the agreement dealt with some seven partners: the north fringe, Laval, the Chamber of Commerce, the suburbs of Montreal, the City of Montreal and the South Shore. I would defend the city in certain areas, but when I come to Ottawa, it's generally to defend greater Montreal. Therefore, I am here to defend the development of transport.
And given this, it is quite obvious that we would defend the greater region because if there are more jobs at Mirabel, there will be more repercussions throughout the City of Montreal. The greater the development on the South Shore, the greater the advantage to the city which is at the centre and so on. And that is why we should all band together.
As to investments, I believe that ADM will provide a more specific response, but as far as SOPRAM is concerned, given ADM's transparency with us, I am dealing with the amounts that I have just mentioned.
Would you like me to elaborate?
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: Mr. Jacques Girard would like to add something.
Mr. Jacques Girard: Very briefly, Mr. Chairman, as far as I understand, we are speaking of an investment of $500 million and not more than that. It seems to me to be rather modest if you compare what is being proposed for either Toronto or Vancouver or elsewhere in the world.
I think it is very important to be very clear on the figures that have been mentioned, but as far as we are concerned, what we are discussing right now is an investment that amounts to $500 million, which, again, appears to be quite modest.
Ms. Val Meredith: The $500 million is over what period of time, and how are you going to get the revenue to cover that cost as well as the additional operating costs that will be incurred?
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: It's over a period of four years.
I think your question is really for the board of ADM.
Ms. Val Meredith: Okay.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: I do not have in mind the forecasted cashflow for Dorval for the next five years.
Ms. Val Meredith: But you're supporting this $500 million investment to improve Dorval Airport over the four years.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: As far as we're concerned, we had a number of presentations from ADM on the project and we asked a lot of questions—for instance, do we need these many gates, or do we need that type of installation? We're not in a position to figure out if the cost per square metre is adequate or whatever.
So we were able to have the information to satisfy ourselves that there is something there that is in connection with a reasonable growth projection of the traffic in Dorval. I think the projection they were using is 2.5% a year, which is not exaggerated.
Ms. Val Meredith: So when you're looking at this growth in Dorval, you're looking at growth from competitive airlines or at the growth of Air Canada? Are you encouraging competition to move into Dorval against Air Canada?
Mr. Peter Laferrière: Again, we don't manage Aéroports de Montréal, but we favour competition, certainly.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Claude Drouin, please.
Mr. Claude Drouin (Beauce, Lib.): Thank you for your presentation this afternoon. We do apologize that so little time was granted you. We are a little bit pressed for time since there is a vote this evening, unfortunately.
I said this morning, and the members of the committee will correct me if I misunderstood, that essentially, today we were going to examine the administration of the ADM. In my view, it is not a matter of changing a decision which has been made or, at any rate, of interfering in a decision which was made by ADM regarding Dorval or Mirabel. Please correct me if I've misunderstood.
And it is on this point that I would like to know your opinion. I'm very happy to see that Mr. Melançon is a member of the SOPRAM. We heard ADM this morning, and the Chair recognized that some things did have to be changed. No change has yet been made and some improvements would perhaps be in the offing.
What is your opinion as to how ADM is managed? Given our presence at the federal level, are there things that we should recommend if the lease is to be reviewed? I would like to have your opinion on this, please.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: Is that a question for Mr. Melançon?
Mr. Claude Drouin: It's for anyone.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: I'm also a member of the SOPRAM and I must say that every time I've requested information from ADM, I obtained it. You are asking a very important question here. I think, as to the truly important decisions, such as liberalizing flights for example, as to decisions regarding investments which have already been made at Dorval, as to the quality to be found at Dorval airport, as to the price we currently pay, as to the financial statements of ADM, we can be satisfied. Those are, basically, major decisions.
Does this mean that there is no improvement to be made to the management of ADM? No. There are a certain number of improvements to be made. We are aware of the fact that this type of institution must have public confidence and the confidence of its partners, more specifically the federal government, its private partners, and so on. I believe that this is a very important issue.
We are innovating in Canada in terms of managing public property by companies which I would qualify as hybrids, private companies who manage a public property. We don't have a very long tradition in this type of thing. We still have a great deal to learn. We, who are here before you, are very aware that there is still room for improvement, especially as to the governance of such corporations.
However, in summary, I think that as to the major decisions which have been made, we are satisfied. In the future, we will have to make some improvements in order to optimize the management of this type of corporation.
Mr. Claude Drouin: Mr. Melançon.
Mr. Pierre-Yves Melançon: I was not present when the SOPRAM was created but, from what I know, it is the region which came together, when the federal government signalled what it intended to do with the devolution of airports, and created an association called the SOPRAM composed of the seven sectors that I mentioned: the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Trade, the north fringe, Laval, the suburban municipalities, the City of Montreal and the South Shore. The political agreement came later with, obviously, the establishment of ADM as a federal corporation.
After so many years—if my memory serves, it was around 1987 or 1988—I requested, with the support of people from the Chamber of Commerce, that the SOPRAM hold a review of its mandate. Obviously, since then, there have been reactions in the region regarding ADM files and the SOPRAM, but I believe that the foundation has been laid. I believe that now we have to look at how we can do better.
There are a certain number of difficulties, and I recognize that. But what I would like to stress is that historically, the role of overseeing the daily management of the Montreal airports was developed to the Société de promotion des aéroports de Montréal. It is a contract between Transport Canada and the management of ADM who, to my knowledge, are aware of secrets I may not know. And that is a responsibility. Do we want to move forward, change, correct things? I think that we are willing to do so, but not any old way.
Mr. Claude Drouin: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Merci à vous deux.
Mr. Guimond, please.
Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré— Île-d'Orléans, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Honourable Charles Lapointe, gentlemen, right off the bat, I would like to say.... It is true that you retain the title of honourable to the end of your days. I am very respectful of institutions and of the members of the Privy Council.
I would like to say at the outset that your argument in favour of the development of Montreal as an airport in order to stop the haemorrhage provoked by Toronto received the support of my party and my personal support. I want no ambiguity on this point.
However, with all due respect, Mr. Laferrière, I am not convinced that you have understood your own presentation. Are you aware of the text of the motion that I presented to the committee on March 29? Have you examined it?
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: No.
Mr. Michel Guimond: You are appearing before us without being aware of the terms of our mandate. You are appearing before us without knowing what you should be appearing about. Today, all day, we are hearing witnesses on the motion that I presented and which was unanimously adopted. So we're starting off on the wrong foot.
I am entirely in agreement with your presentation and your argument as to the role of CAE Electronics and I wish it were even three times more. But your evidence, Mr. Laferrière, with all due respect, was completely beside the point. As my colleague Mr. Drouin indicated, we are not looking at change.
Look at the text of my motion. I proposed:
That the committee hold an emergency meeting in order to hear
witnesses who could advise the House as to the current management
of the airports of Montreal, and more specifically Ms. Nycol
Pageau-Goyette, Chairperson and CEO of ADM.
Mr. Lapointe, you were once a member of Parliament. Mr. Melançon, you are an elected representative. At some point, when elected representatives read that Ms. Pageau-Goyette's right hand obtained contracts to the tune of $1.3 million, that the members of SOPRAM aren't happy with Ms. Pageau-Goyette, that there are management problems, including some laziness within management, they feel obliged to intervene. We are the representatives of the citizens who pay taxes, and who are tired of paying taxes. And we have the right to ask questions. I would use an expression that my spiritual advisor used back at the Seminary in Chicoutimi: “You were in the right church, but in the wrong bench”.
The Chair: You're running out of time. You'd better get your question in.
Mr. Michel Guimond: Honourable Mr. Lapointe, the letter from Air Canada that you read to us doesn't appear problematic. I entirely agree with Ms. Fournel, but that should not have been the object of your evidence.
Let me be more specific. Mr. Laferrière, you mentioned governance in response to a question from my colleague Drouin regarding the type of improvement that you proposed. As a member of SOPRAM, provide us with examples of improvements that we could bring to the management of ADM. And then I will ask you a question, Mr. Melançon. Provide us with examples.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: Could you please repeat the end of your question?
Mr. Michel Guimond: Previously, in answer to a question from Mr. Drouin, you said that you were in agreement with the need to make improvements to management. As a member of the SOPRAM, you were a bit more specific in noting that these improvements should be made to governance. Would you give us some more examples, so that by the end of the meeting this evening at 6 o'clock, we will have a grasp of what is taking place. Is there or is there not a management problem with ADM? It is to provide an answer to this question that we ask you to come before this committee.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: It is possible for people who are not members of the ADM board of directors to express some views on the subject. In discussing the management of ADM, the important thing is to ask the members of the board of directors.
To come back to your first point, the fact is that we are not fooled and that the main reason for our present debate—just take a look at those who started the debate—is to bring back....
Mr. Michel Guimond: Such as myself.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: I am not including you among those people. What I am saying is that outside the House of Commons, the main reason for the debate on the quality of the ADM management is to establish a link with investment decisions that were recently taken in order to have them reversed so that we are back to the status quo, in other words to bring back a certain number of regular flights, if not all such flights, to Mirabel. That is something we find worrisome. We are far more disturbed by that than the quality of ADM management because that would be disastrous for Montreal.
We told you that we were satisfied with the quality of ADM management as far as the main decisions are concerned. We do, however, realize that the public is faced with the issue of trust at the present time and we are sensitive to that. We do not deny that there are problems and it is our intention to keep on working to solve them.
Of course, I am not a director of ADM. I am not responsible for assessing the work done by the chief executive officer. That is the responsibility of the ADM board of directors. Here, we can comment on the situation to a certain extent but we are not familiar with the day-to-day administration of ADM.
Mr. Michel Guimond: As a member of SOPRAM, do your views go no farther than that?
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: Unfortunately, that isn't quite how I see the role of SOPRAM. I consider it to be an advisory body. I can of course talk a bit about SOPRAM and make a comparison concerning the lack of transparency since it has been claimed that there is a lack of transparency within SOPRAM.
If a Standing Order of the House of Commons requires the Liberal caucus to be opened to a certain number of members of the Bloc Québécois, would the members of the Liberal caucus have the same kind of free and open discussion and sincere consultation that would be expected in such a forum?
That is the situation SOPRAM finds itself in, and we must keep that in mind. There is a limit to the kind of consultation that can take place with organizations where the debate is already a foregone conclusion. As I tried to explain, the majority of the population of Montreal accepts the ADM decision and thinks that regular flights should be from Dorval, but there is a minority that is ready to challenge this to the bitter end. What do we do in this kind of situation? That is one of the management problems faced by ADM.
The Chair: Thank you, Michel.
Colleagues, we have 14 minutes left and three questioners—Marlene, Bev, and Clifford. Then we have to move on.
Marlene Jennings, please.
Ms. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.): Thank you, gentlemen. At the outset, I'd like to make a few comments about the remarks just made by my colleague. It seems to me that Mr. Gingras, the Mayor of Blainville, Mr. Meilleur, the Mayor of Mirabel, and professors Roy and Gagné who say that they are experts in transportation have not come to grips with the issue.
In his brief, Mr. Gingras said that COPAM recommends:
That the Government of Canada set up a commission of inquiry into
the management of ADM and the process leading to the transfer of
flights from Mirabel to Dorval.
In his brief, Mr. Meilleur recommended that ADM be placed under trusteeship and that there be a public investigation of ADM and its subsidiaries. He provided us with a chronological list of all the commitments that, in his view, ADM had failed to respect.
In their analysis, the three professors recommend:
The imposition of a moratorium on the ADM development project;
A requirement for greater transparency and accountability from
A serious and objective study into the alternative of consolidating
all flights in Mirabel...
If I'm not mistaken, the Bloc Québécois was the one that suggested we hear such witnesses and now they are telling us that the same witnesses avoided the issue. That is the end of my preamble and will now turn to my questions.
Mr. Lapointe and Mr. Girard, you both told us that your mandate and your mission are to ensure the economic development of Mirabel, including of course the Mirabel airport. You also mentioned that the government accepted the recommendation of the Tardif Commission of Inquiry set up by the Quebec government and which called for the designation of an international trade zone. I'd like to know whether your organizations have prepared any action plans for the economic development of the region referred to as the northern fringe?
Secondly, do you think this decision to designate the northern fringe as an international trade zone is a good thing? Is it a sign of forward-looking vision on the part of decision makers? Thirdly, has the Quebec government set up the necessary structures for the implementation of this international trade zone and appointed a director for the development society that will be responsible for it?
Mr. Jacques Girard: Yes, madam. The answer is quite clear, we do have a plan. The purpose of Montreal International is to attract investments both for the northern fringe and the corresponding area of the south shore. We are working for this region in the same way we work for other regions and we intend to keep on doing so.
Second, we think that a free zone is a good decision and will contribute to attracting investors. Montreal International has already offered to do lobbying for this organization since we already have a team and we are intent on working in this area. We also think the main issue we are working on as far as logistics is concerned can be very useful in the development of the northern fringe and particularly the international trade zone designated around the airport.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: Thank you.
Mr. Charles Lapointe: Ms. Jennings, I'd like to add that in the area of concern to me, namely tourism, we are working specifically with the entire marketing team of ADM. As far as Mirabel is concerned, our aim is to increase the number of chartered flights to and from Mirabel, but particularly to Mirabel, because that will bring in more visitors to Montreal. We have thoroughly researched the entire charter companies market in Britain, Italy and the Mid-East, and ADM and Tourism Montreal are now lobbying these companies to convince them to offer services to Montreal.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: Thank you.
Mr. Pierre-Yves Melançon: I'd like to complete Mr. Girard's answer. At the last SOPRAM meeting, we heard a presentation from Montreal International on the potential of logistics and distribution centres that could be set up in the greater Montreal area, more particularly the international trade zone. A figure of some 60 businesses was mentioned. So there is no need to reproach us—and this is meant for those who wrote us a report—with not having determined the zone.
It makes no sense to reproach ADM for not doing work that is outside its mandate. If we are talking about Montreal International, they will be in the field and I think that it can be successful. I hope that it will then be recognized that people in the greater Montreal area, particularly those in the Laurentians, are interested in providing work for their fellow citizens.
The Chair: Thank you.
Bev Desjarlais, please.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Mr. Melançon, you indicated that when the airport authorities were set up, in your view it was never done with the impression that there would be watchdogs over them, guiding everything they were doing. Certainly if that's your view, I would suggest you're probably right.
However, the result has been that we have had numerous complaints from different organizations and people throughout Canada that airport authorities are kind of running rampant with whatever idea they want, without due consideration for the ultimate consequence to their clients or to travellers.
So I would suggest to you that if it was your impression that there wasn't going to be a watchdog, and they wouldn't have anybody holding any authority over them, it appears you were probably right, and it's become a problem with the air industry in Canada. Do you have any comment?
Mr. Pierre-Yves Melançon: Well, I cannot speak for the other airports like Toronto, Vancouver or others, but to my knowledge, whenever we in ADM or SOPRAM have had complaints from an important client, such as Air Canada, whose market amounts to 63% of the airport's traffic, then of course we pay attention. If people from Air Canada somehow convey to us the message that ADM is not being attentive enough, then whenever the occasion arises, we try to get this message across.
When I say that SOPRAM is not a watchdog, I'm referring to the procedures and details of administration. In my view, this is a function provided for in the contract between Transport Canada and ADM. I'm sure that there are good auditors in Transport Canada and that the federal government does have officials to ensure that the proper rent for facilities is paid by ADM and that there is no administrative sleight-of-hand. I also presume that they ensure that the administrative procedures followed are the most efficient and effective in terms of management and so forth. If there are to be any changes made to the role of SOPRAM and ADM, it will be done once the proper discussions have taken place within the organization.
I think that so far ADM has been attentive to its clientele, that is both the travelling public and the large companies. Whenever problems have arisen, I'm thinking for example of the problem of the baseball players, we have attempted to come up with a solution. As a matter of fact the matter was raised in the press and questions were asked. As far as I know, generally speaking, ADM does respect its clients.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: Maybe I can add something to that.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Sure.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: I wouldn't be surprised if you have more complaints from the Montreal area than from other areas in Canada—
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: There's been a lot from elsewhere.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: But I would like you to realize one thing that is very important. Montreal is the only important city in Canada struck with the problems of two major airports. No other airport administration in Canada has to deal with that. Because of that, we need to give some kind of sympathy or support for that. It's a major issue in Montreal, and we have to deal with that.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: So in your view, Montreal should not have to be opened up, allow charters to come in and land in Dorval if they want, or allow other airlines to land there. If they want and are willing to pay, should they be allowed to land or not, or is Air Canada calling the shots?
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: The way I understand the regulations right now, charter flights have to land in Mirabel and regular flights are able to opt for either airport.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Okay. Charters then have no access to Dorval.
Mr. Pierre Laferrière: No.
Mr. Jacques Girard: Those are the rules right now.
I would like to come back to the question you asked before, and you are asking the same question. It is very clear in my mind that we are there to promote competition. We are there to attract as many airlines as possible; there is absolutely no doubt in my mind.
As far as I am concerned, we have to attract foreign businesses and international organizations. To attract a great number of them, we need to have the greatest number of connections and airlines possible. So we're fighting for that.
As a member of le Groupe de soutien au développement des aéroports de Montréal, I always come back to the same situation and the same idea. We have to make sure we have as many flights and as many airline companies coming to Montreal as possible. When we are dealing with regular flights, they do come to Dorval. When they are cargo only or charter flights, according to the rules right now, they have to go to Mirabel.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: Thank you.
The Chair: Our final questioner is Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Mr. Laferrière, I think that you have courageously clarified this issue. Without putting words in anyone's mouth, it must be recognized that this whole business has been given a lot of publicity since the professors' study suddenly appeared out of the blue three days before the beginning of hearings to reopen the debate between Dorval and Mirabel. I am very happy to hear Mr. Girard say that we should attempt to come up with common solutions to keep things as they are and to do something positive and constructive. That is the way I see things.
I am particularly interested in asking a question of Mr. Melançon because we've heard quite contradictory testimony today. We heard the mayor of Blainville tell us that SOPRAM is a closed organization, that it is impossible to obtain information or documents, that ADM is almost a sworn enemy of SOPRAM. Mr. Meilleur told us that he felt like a puppet to the extent that he ended up resigning from SOPRAM. We heard the mayor of Dorval tell us that this is not the case, that documents can be obtained when he wishes, that he does have the Coopers & Lybrand study and all the other documents he wants. Mr. Melançon told us that that is also the case for him. Who is telling the truth here and what is the truth?
We've heard two people make exactly opposite claims from two others. What is the situation in SOPRAM? Is there really all this squabbling taking place? Is there any type of agreement? Is there really some openness to obtain access to ADM documents, etc.? Can you tell us what the truth is?
Mr. Françoy Roberge (Director, Public Affairs and Communications, Montreal Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Montreal Airports Development Support Group): My name is Françoy Roberge and I too am a member of SOPRAM. Before letting Pierre-Yves respond, I would like to tell you that in my view, SOPRAM has all the information it should have. I have been a member of it for three years. A few days ago, the members of SOPRAM were asked to support the decisions of ADM, and, to some extent, also to support the management of ADM. I wrote a paper on that. I consulted with certain other members of SOPRAM. We sent out this document and asked people to sign it to indicate their support. So far, 14 members have lent their support to ADM and its decisions, and have said that they are confident that the board of directors and management of ADM had introduced strict control procedures to ensure that the work would be carried out diligently, and so on. I have only had one really negative response, and it was from Mr. Gingras, the Mayor of Blainville. He said that as a member of SOPRAM, he was in complete disagreement.
However, I would bet that when we have received all the responses to this request for support, there would unfortunately be some people from Mirabel, and perhaps a couple of other people, who will be opposed. However, most of the people from Montreal, from the West Island, from the East Island, from the South Shore and from the business community will say that SOPRAM is working well and that they are satisfied with it.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I have one final question. Given the climate of polarization that exists among the people at Mirabel and the residents of Montreal, including the South Shore and so on, and most of SOPRAM, do you think it is possible to establish the mechanism Mr. Girard was mentioning to show increased sympathy for whatever type of development at Mirabel in order to satisfy the people in the region and to ensure that there is a consensus within SOPRAM? Is that possible, or is it another illusion?
Mr. Pierre-Yves-Melançon: Mr. Meilleur is here at the back, and he could confirm—because we and others saw this—that throughout the entire year during which the process that led to the ADM decision was in place, we had documents about the possible scenarios such as "Open skies", new strategic alliances, the way of managing two airports as opposed to retaining flights and the way people try to find solutions from Mirabel. In this respect, there was an ongoing open approach. People in the northern area were always told that we had to work together. There was the Tardif Commission, and the same thing was said about it. Whatever people may think, we are going to work with Montreal International, and with all of our partners in the greater Montreal region to ensure that Mirabel's objectives are met. That objective is clear.
I am going to explain one point about non-transparency. People were very angry when ADM invited SOPRAM to a preliminary presentation before the press conference at which were announced the investment of 500 million dollars for the next four years and 1,3 billion dollars for the next five years, as part of the program perspective 2020. People were angry that they did not get the presentation a few days or at least 24 hours earlier including details that may have been missing in some cases. People were angry starting then. SOPRAM had long been discussing the international pier, significant investment at the Dorval airport and the pursuit of investments at Mirabel. I don't think there should be a tempest in a tea pot. There will be no tempest or whirlwind. We have to continue working together on these matters.
To date, 18 of the 21 members of SOPRAM are prepared to continue working together. The other three have some doubts, and I acknowledge that fact.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Gentlemen, I just want to thank you all for your participation with our committee today, for your submissions, and for answering our questions. Thank you very much.
Colleagues, we have a vote that will take place at 5:30, so I'd like to have our next witnesses up right away so that we can have our presentations and questions out of the way.
The Chair: Colleagues, two of our final witnesses today are representing the Canadian Automobile and Aerospace Workers Association. Pierre Lauzon is president and Claudette Miller is vice-president. With the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada, Jean Jallet is president and Marc Pilon is the legal counsel.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Standing Committee on Transport. We look forward to each of you giving a five-minute presentation so that we may get right into questions from the members.
Mr. Lauzon, you were first on the list, so we'll begin with you.
Ms. Claudette Miller (Vice-president, Canadian Automobile and Aerospace Workers Association): Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, on behalf of all the workers I represent, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Transport for giving us this opportunity to state our views here today so as to shed more light on the issue of the current management of the Montreal airport.
I will be blunt. I will state at the outset that we are very concerned about what is happening at Dorval. So far, you have mainly heard about economic concerns and structural [Editor's note: inaudible]..., together with mathematical projections that are rather difficult to verify.
As the result of a sustained advertising campaign, ADM has managed to convince the media, the public, politicians and particularly business people not only that the transfer of international flights from Mirabel to Dorval was urgent, but also that over time, development projects at Mirabel would be very much appreciated by usage of the airport because they would increase its efficiency.
Many factors seem to have been evaluated in choosing Dorval. Factors such as the arrival of the new airline, new flights, the state of the runways, routes and ground transportation or accessibility of airport services were all supposed to contribute significantly to attracting an incredible abundance of passengers, thereby improving our economic well-being.
But is anyone anywhere concerned about our safety and our physical well-being? As representatives of the workers, we thought it was dangerous at the time to evaluate all this information without taking into account the crucial factor of the safety and well-being of the employees and users of this airport.
The decisions made by the ADM administration affect us personally every day, because we spend one third of our lives in this airport. Since the establishment of ADM we have repeatedly tried, but so far have been unable to establish satisfactory communications with these people.
Despite our repeated requests, we have never managed to be informed, much less consulted, about any decision that affected us. And yet our health and our safety are at stake.
The examples of the issues that gave rise to our concerns speak for themselves. Let me mention just a few of them.
In summer, when the throng of passengers is particularly dense, employees use thermometers to determine that the temperature was between 27oC and 30oC, and in some cases it went as high as 32oC. Some of our employees even got certificates from their doctors because of the unbearable heat at the check-in counters for international flights.
During a busy winter, people accompanying passengers were refused access to the terminal because of a shortage of space. At the time, the temperature was hovering around minus 20oC. Inside, employees often wear tuques and scarves when they are standing near access doors. Some of you have come to Dorval airport on a few occasions and have seen for yourselves the endless line-ups for all the carriers. This leaves little or no room for passengers and employees to move about.
During the peak summer season, ADM employees have to have passengers go outside the building with their luggage in order to get from one side of the terminal to the other. This is done so as to reduce the number of passengers within the terminal.
We should also mention the lack of restaurant space for passengers during peak hours. It is almost impossible to find a seat.
For close to three years now, ADM has been collecting $10 from all passengers to cover airport improvement costs. Initially, ADM was supposed to use this money to build a new international terminal. It was only very recently that we saw the mock-ups of this new terminal. We have waited three years already, and apparently, it will take three more years for the terminal to be built. You will understand if I have some doubts about that.
In the last three years, we have seen a gas spill, and many evacuations, one because of a fire. There have been water leaks in the ceilings, very loud noise, moulds, not to mention the fact that we may all be exposed to a slow contamination by PCBs. A number of unthinkable, unbelievable situations are occurring at Dorval, and things are not getting better. Our greatest concern is that we cannot get any information about these incidents, even though we have officially requested it.
Our sources tell us that most private airports in Canada have at least one union representative on the board of directors. That is not the case at ADM. We think this situation is potentially dangerous. Statistics on Air Canada passenger agents show a 500 percent increase in claims for accidents at work since 1997. We therefore think it is urgent that the federal government intervene, since ADM has lost all credibility in the eyes of airport employees.
Airports are public property and their development serves collective interests. They cannot be managed without transparency and without effective ongoing co-operation from the main partners involved.
In conclusion, we think the government can transfer the management of public property to private organizations, but its prime responsibility is to ensure that the health and safety of workers and people generally will be in no way compromised.
On behalf of all the employees at Dorval airport, I would like to thank you once again for giving us this opportunity to tell you about our fears.
The Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation.
Mr. Jean Jallet (President, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada): Good afternoon.
The Chair: Mr. Pilon.
Mr. Marc Pilon (Legal Council, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada): Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Marc Pilon and I am the legal council for local 1751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Mr. Jallet is the President of local 1751 and also the National Vice-president of Transportation district 140 of the IAM.
I would like to mention that we distributed a fairly basic information kit. We actually had very little time to prepare.
I would also ask you to forgive us if, at first glance, we do not exactly answer the question about which you are concerned today: the management of the Montreal airports. We will be talking more about the fears we have for our employees who work at the Dorval and Mirabel airports.
Local 1751 of the International Association of machinists and aerospace workers represents 4,200 airline industry workers in the Montreal region, and transportation district 140 of the IAMAW represents close to 18,500 workers in Canada.
Throughout the day, you have heard from many people who are concerned about the various problems. Intentionally, we will not be discussing the economic and political aspects of the following question: where should Montreal's international airport be located, Dorval or Mirabel? This debate has been underway for several years now, and the matter has still not been settled.
The points we will be making directly concern our members and their jobs. You may think that these individuals represent only a minimal part of the equation. However it is important for us to safeguard these well-paid jobs for our workers in the metropolitan Montreal region.
We would like to point out that Air Canada's maintenance centre for wide-body aircrafts is located in Saint-Laurent, on land adjacent to Dorval. If international flights were to be moved again, from Dorval to Mirabel, it is far from certain that the recent developments at the Saint-Laurent operational and maintenance centre would continue.
These developments coincided with the return of all flights to Dorval. In our view, it is unlikely that Air Canada's operational centre would be moved to Mirabel. Air Canada's acquisition of Canadian Airlines gives Air Canada new spaces for developing its infrastructures in more strategic locations.
Given that Air Canada's current facilities at Toronto's Pearson Airport are located right next to Canadian's hangars, we have legitimate concerns that, should a move take place, this location may be viewed as a strategic development site. Such a solution would be, as you can imagine, catastrophic for Montreal, which currently has an advantage because of the aerospace industry located in the Saint-Lawrence—Dorval axis.
Since international flights were returned to Dorval, a few years ago, Montreal's hub has expanded and the increase in traffic has led to new jobs. The last thing we want to do is lose this growth to Toronto. Indeed, the repatriation of international flights to Dorval has helped Air Canada as a company and it has become a major employer in the region, with a potential to generate even more well-paying jobs.
In conclusion, we would like to explain the impact that these proposed changes will have on the daily lives of the people working at Dorval. Right now, most of our members live in the Montreal region. They have easy access to their place of work, travelling by car, by public transportation or even by bike, via the bike trails. Mirabel does not provide such easy access. In addition, we doubt that Mirabel will be able to provide, in short order, public services such as hospitals, schools, local community service centres, etc. which our members who currently live in the Dorval vicinity have access to and which comprise an aspect of their quality of life.
Even worse, some families may have to move to other provinces as a result of an organizational change such as the one we mentioned to you earlier. We really hope that you will not make a hasty decision, that you will assess the entire impact that another change to international flights will have on Montreal's air transportation industry and that you will have the political will to find a comprehensive and final solution to the Montreal airports issue.
In summary, we support any initiative to develop and restore Dorval's airports, as we support any initiative to develop Mirabel's airport, but without disrupting the way we operate.
Should you have any more specific questions about the way that any changes to the international flights will affect the workers, and if you would like to have some statistics on the number of jobs, Mr. Jallet will be pleased to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Pilon, for your submission.
Colleagues, the bells ring at 5:15. Please bear that in mind so that our questions can be nice and tight, beginning with Val Meredith.
Ms. Val Meredith: My question is for Claudette Miller. I believe it was you who made some comments about not having a relationship with the ADM and not being able to talk to them or communicate with them. Who do you bargain with? Who is the employer you would be negotiating union contracts with and that sort of thing? Is it not the ADM?
Mr. Pierre Lauzon (President, Canadian Automobile and Aerospace Workers Association): Our main employer, at Dorval airport, is Air Canada. Our occupational safety and health workplace committee must go through the company even to receive copies of reports, incident reports on fires or gas spills, such as the one that took place in Dorval, where one of our IAMAW members was completely doused with gas . This incident was caught on film by another member and perhaps you have this video in your possession now.
Air Canada, stating that ADM at times refused to provide it with such reports, failed to respond to our requests on numerous occasions and therefore we went directly to ADM, which also refused to comply with our request, claiming that there were no such reports or that, quite simply, we didn't have access to these reports.
The purpose of our dealings with Air Canada or ADM was not to demolish anything whatsoever. We were worried about employees' safety, including evacuation measures, and we have always submitted these requests through our occupational and health workplace committee.
Ms. Val Meredith: We heard from witnesses earlier today and they were using the numbers that Air Canada had 63% of the service into Dorval and into the Montreal airports and they were listened to. Now they don't have 63%. Now they have 80% to 90% of the service, the business.
I would suggest to you that your fight or your communication needs to be with your employer, who is Air Canada. We heard earlier today that the airport authorities are going to be jumping at whatever Air Canada says. So I think you maybe have to go back to Air Canada.
The Chair: Thank you, Val.
Claude Drouin, please.
Mr. Claude Drouin: I would like to thank our four witnesses for their presentations and for coming here.
I would like to ask Ms. Miller a question. During your presentation, you talked about the problem of excessive heat in the summer and the opposite problem, very cold temperatures in winter. Do you not think that the ADM development proposals will rectify this situation?
Ms. Claudette Miller: ADM has just spent more than $500 million, or a very significant sum of money, to renovate the Dorval terminal.
Mr. Claude Drouin: They have spent far less than $500 million.
Ms. Claudette Miller: The airport employees have gone through four years of construction. Although the ventilation and heating system has been redone, the facilities are still inadequate for the people who work there on a daily basis.
Mr. Claude Drouin: Has the government of Quebec, through the occupational safety and health committee, determined that these are normal conditions for employees? Has the OHSC intervened?
Mr. Pierre Lauzon: The federal legislation governing health and safety in the work place always bears the continuity factor in mind. In the case of noise, if 94 decibels were determined to be an unacceptable level—I am giving you this number, but it may not be accurate—these 94 decibels would be taking place for a given amount of time, X, namely, the 94 decibels would be distributed over a four-hour period of time, for example. If the noise level reached 88 decibels, the time period may be extended to eight hours. We always exceed the permissible limits stipulated in the federal legislation that governs us. Although it is the OHSC, which reports to the provincial government, that conducts the visit, we come under federal laws which, in our opinion, have set criteria that are not strict enough. We can understand that people are asked to work outside when the temperature reach 94oF or 30oC, but it is difficult to accept having to work in rooms, where we have to wear wool jackets, in cramped corridors where we are rubbing shoulders with employees and passengers. This is why we are asking the commission to intervene.
ADM has made a proposal to invest 1,3 billion dollars in the Dorval airport and this money will be used exclusively for barrier spaces. People must understand what is going on in this airport. It is crucial that the government find out what is going on exactly and asks the right questions. There is a proposal to build new facilities, but we don't see any additional space for passengers and for employees working at the registration counters. What is happening is absolutely unbelievable, and this is why we have come to talk to your committee.
We are here to defend the well-being of our workers, and not the astronomical figures that are circulated left and right. What we want is for employees to be able to work under healthy conditions. We no longer trust ADM. We are constantly reading lies in the newspapers.
Again this morning, a representative from the Group supporting the development of Montreal airports told the press that Iberia had left the airport before the flights were transferred, three years ago, whereas in fact, this occurred only recently, about six months ago. Something is not working right.
We are told that the construction is good. I could show you photos that I brought here. There are water leaks in the new Dorval Airport facilities. We have to cover our computers in plastic so that they don't get ruined. How can you spend public money willy- nilly like that, without the government intervening? We don't understand that. We want to know why people are allowed to spend public money without any thought whatsoever for the people who work there and for the airport users. That is all I wanted to say.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Claude.
Clifford Lincoln, please.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Ms. Miller, how many employees do you represent?
Ms. Claudette Miller: We represent 400 Air Canada employees as well as employees from many other companies, such as First Air, World Wide...
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: How many in all?
Ms. Claudette Miller: In all, we represent from 800 to 900 employees.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: During your presentation, you expressed your concerns with respect to the working conditions of all Dorval Airport employees. Does that include the 4,200 employees represented by Mr. Jallet?
Ms. Claudette Miller: No, I represent only the 800 workers who are members of the TCA/CAW.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Your association does not, therefore, include all airport employees?
Ms. Claudette Miller: All the employees...
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: You do not represent all of the employees, is that not right? That makes quite a difference. You said that you had concerns about all of the employees at Dorval airport.
Mr. Pierre Lauzon: Mr. Lincoln, may I answer this question? The people who testified on behalf of the IAMAW fear that the jobs at the maintenance base are in jeopardy because Air Canada is constantly brandishing the threat of moving the maintenance base should the flights be transferred outside of Dorval. I understand their concerns, but I must point out that they are not here to represent the people who work at the airport itself.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Listen, Mr. Lauzon, I will ask the questions that I want to ask. You represent 900 people, not all of the workers at the Dorval Airport. I am the member of Parliament for this area and I know many Air Canada employees who work at the airport. It is surprising that no one has ever told me before about all of the things that you have just spoken to us about here. Are you trying to tell me that the 900 employees that you represent and who work at the Dorval Airport all agree with your opinion?
Mr. Pierre Lauzon: I would say that 99 percent of them share my opinion.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Ninety-nine percent?
Mr. Pierre Lauzon: Yes, sir.
Ms. Claudette Miller: You must remember that we have described the complaints that workers have filed with us. We are their union representatives and I have come here to talk to you about their complaints.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Could you do me a favour? Could you describe the facts and the actions taken with respect to all of these complaints and show that this represents the fears and concerns of 99 percent of the Dorval employees? I would appreciate your providing me this information in writing. Since I am a member of Parliament, you can send me mail postage free. This will enable me to check out the facts. I must say that I am a bit sceptical.
Mr. Pierre Lauzon: I would be pleased to do so, Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: It would be greatly appreciated. Mr. Jallet: Since you work at the airport, could you tell me how you perceive these incidents that have been drawn to our attention, when some of your employees were doused with gas?
Mr. Jean Jallet: I represent nearly 1,200 employees who work at the airport. I am aware of the results of the investigation that was conducted by the union further to this incident when a young man was doused with gas. The purpose of this investigation was to remedy the situation and prevent any further occurrence of this type. Unfortunately, I cannot give you very specific details since our employees all work outside or in the baggage rooms, and not inside the airport. We have not witnessed incidents similar to the one described. We have had a few health and safety problems, but once we took action on the matter with our employer, the situations were remedied. We have given some of our full-time employees the job of examining health and safety problems so that we can correct them, and things have been going much better since then.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I gather, from what I have heard that the baggage rooms are healthier and safer than the rest of the airport. Is that right?
Mr. Jean Jallet: Let's say that I don't receive any complaints from my members.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I understand.
The Chair: Thank you, Clifford.
Mr. Michel Guimond: Ms. Miller, gentlemen, I apologize for missing part of your presentation for reasons that are beyond my control. Journalists who were returning to Montreal wanted to know our opinion.
I would like to know if you support the Bloc Québécois's position that I described last week in responding to questions from journalists who wanted to know whether we supported making changes to the ADM board of directors. I do not know whether you were present the entire day, but the testimony we heard here clearly showed that there were some serious problems.
The position that I have taken, on behalf of my party, is that we would agree to having representatives from the federal government on the ADM board of directors, providing that there were representatives from the government of Quebec as well as representatives from the workers' unions. Do you agree with this position?
Ms. Claudette Miller: Mr. Guimond, we cannot argue with that. We would be quite in favour of having a union seat on the ADM board of directors. I think it is important to get the business people and the directors to give a little bit more thought to the human and safety side of the operation. This is important.
Mr. Michel Guimond: I have a second question. This morning Ms. Pageau-Goyette acknowledged that there was a labour relations problem and that she was on the right track as far as remedying the situation was concerned. I do not remember who asked the question. It could have been my Liberal colleagues or colleagues on this side. At any rate, it's becoming an academic question. I am basing myself on the comment found on page 50 of the Coopers & Lybrand report, where they talk about human resources management. The report reads as follow:
The unionized staff, supervision or middle management have never
been surveyed about employee satisfaction.
There is another comment:
ADM would be wise to improve its personnel development and
evaluation program, including training...
This report was dated January 4, 1999 and it was hard to obtain. We were not able to get our hands on anything more recent than January 4, 1999. Has there been an improvement or a deterioration of the situation since these two comments were made?
Mr. Pierre Lauzon: There hasn't been any improvement or deterioration. Simply put, there is no communication at present and this is not for lack of our trying. Currently there is no communication possible between ADM and the union representatives. For the time being, we are at a stalemate.
Ms. Claudette Miller: As regards airport employees' security, with respect to the last fire, which took place last February or March, if I am not mistaken, as of today, I still have not been able to obtain what is known as the debriefing reports following the fire.
This was a chaotic day and the public was poorly informed. Proper evacuation did not take place and some personnel were stuck in a certain area of the airport without being able to communicate with our employer or with ADM. This could have been a major catastrophe, and they waited until the last minute, when the fire fighters finally arrived, to proceed with a complete evacuation of the airport.
The same thing happened last year, when there was a gas spill during the Grand Prix. It took them more than half an hour to respond and evacuate the airport. If there had been a spark—and Mr. Jallet can tell you this—much of the Dorval Airport would now be gone. In some ways, these people have to be made responsible not only for administration, but also for the people who have to live under their administration.
The Chair: Thanks, Ms. Miller.
Ms. Jennings, please.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: Thank you, Ms. Miller, Mr. Lauzon, Mr. Jallet and Mr. Pilon. I am going to ask you to answer my questions in writing because Air Canada is your employer and some of my questions and subject matters should really be directed to Air Canada.
You have given us some examples concerning the health and safety of employees and passengers inside the ADM buildings in Dorval. You find yourselves unable to obtain documents, whether the reports from the Safety and Health Committee or other documents. Your employer should be providing you with these documents, and of course, your employer is getting these documents from ADM. If you could document some examples, such as those you have just mentioned orally, if you could give us dates at which requests were made and the replies from your employer, we could put these questions to Mr. Milton when he appears before us after the Easter break.
Secondly, Mr. Jallet and Mr. Pilon, you mentioned the membership of your association. You are telling us that you have 4,200 members in the Montreal region and, if I'm not mistaken, this includes Mirabel.
Since ADM has decided to open up the flights, were there any jobs lost among your membership? Has the number of jobs gone up? In other words, were jobs created and as a consequence, did your membership rise? From what you can forecast on the basis of Air Canada's forecasts—since they are your employer—do you believe that you will be gaining new members in the short or longer term?
Madam Miller, I am asking you more or less the same question. After the decision was made, did your membership go up or down? If jobs were created, was there any impact on the bargaining units of your union? I would like to know.
That is all. Thank you.
The Chair: Colleagues, we are wandering a little off the subject here. That has more to do with the airline restructuring bill, which is not what we're dealing with today.
If we can have quick answers from the witnesses—
Ms. Marlene Jennings: No, no, I asked them to give it to me in writing, to give it to the committee in writing—
The Chair: Oh, all right. Would you prefer to do that?
Ms. Marlene Jennings: —so that the committee has it in hand when Mr. Milton comes, because it goes directly to the administration—
The Chair: Great. That's fine.
Ms. Marlene Jennings: —to the quality of administration of ADM.
The Chair: I caught on. Thanks, Marlene.
Bev Desjarlais, our last questioner.
Ms. Bev Desjarlais: I don't think there's any question that a lot of the issues you're bringing up certainly should be dealt with by your employer. I know that in most cases unions can use some not-so-traditional methods to get action when there has been a failure to address health and safety and workplace concerns.
However, some of the things you mentioned I think do fall under the ADM's purview—that is, to ensure that there are proper handling of fire safety measures. All of those things are under the onus of the airport authority and they have to answer to Transport Canada if they don't have the proper practices in place. So there's no question that if it has been a problem it should have been brought to the attention of Transport Canada—from either side, for that matter—and it should be, at this point, brought to the attention of Transport Canada so that it can be dealt with.
I also recognize that when there are problems.... Just because the legislation is there, it doesn't mean it's going to result in things changing. That's why we have situations like 26 miners being killed in Westray: because even though there was legislation, there's a fear about jobs sometimes. People don't want to complain outright; that's why they go through the union. They may not necessarily talk to Mr. Lincoln on the tarmac, or to myself or anyone else; they deal with it through their union for protection of jobs.
I just want to point out that Ms. Pageau-Goyette made the comment earlier today that when they came into Dorval Airport it was a well-managed and well-organized airport. Those were her words: “well-managed” and “well-organized”. But it was recognized that the people were working there under government attitude. I wanted to emphasize that she indicated they were there working under a government mandate and it was well managed and well organized. Then they moved in there and it's not so hunky-dory-smooth any more. So we don't always have the best practices taking place in private operations of airport authorities.
I think we have to address the concerns or we risk the possibility of having a dominant carrier or a monopoly carrier in a situation of numerous labour disputes, with the chance of closing down our airline industry—unless we all want to be in a situation of having another back-to-work order in the near future. I just wanted to get that message out there.
The Chair: A lovely bootleg, Bev.
Anyway, gentlemen and Ms. Miller, thank you very much for your presentations to the committee. We appreciate it. Thank you for answering our questions and highlighting the problems you have encountered.
Colleagues, just before we adjourn, I have a request from Mr. Guimond. He wants to make a quick statement. Then we will adjourn, to reunite again tomorrow on Bill C-26—in a different room.
Mr. Michel Guimond: At the close of this day dedicated mainly to the management at ADM, I would like to advise my colleagues, the members of the committee, that I intend to give notice of a motion on Thursday morning. There will be a debate on that motion when we come back after the Easter break. Therefore, on Thursday morning, I will be tabling a notice of motion concerning the evidence we have heard.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Guimond.
Colleagues, thank you very much. We'll see you tomorrow, in a different room, at 3:30.