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37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

Standing Committee on Transport


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Thursday, April 29, 2004




Á 1105
V         The Chair (Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.))
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau (President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association)

Á 1110

Á 1115
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ)
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East)
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau

Á 1120
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough—Agincourt, Lib.)
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard

Á 1125
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.)
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau

Á 1130
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Michael Roschlau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         Hon. Jim Karygiannis
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Libby Davies
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Jim Karygiannis
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard

Á 1135
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC)
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Transport


NUMBER 010 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, April 29, 2004

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Á  +(1105)  

[Translation]

+

    The Chair (Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.)): Good day, everyone.

[English]

    Good morning, everyone.

    Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we're having a briefing session on matters related to urban transit.

    We welcome, from the Canadian Urban Transit Association, Mr. Michael Roschlau, president and chief executive officer.

    We have a half an hour together. We invite a short presentation. If it extends beyond that, we won't interrupt, but there won't be much time for questions. When we go to questions, if I say five minutes, it's the question and the answer. So if my colleagues ask a five-minute question, that's your time they use.

    Please proceed.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau (President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Urban Transit Association): Thank you very much.

    It's indeed a pleasure to have some time to talk to you this morning.

    As the chair said, I'm president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit Association, otherwise known as CUTA. By way of introduction, CUTA is the association that represents the providers of public transit services, suppliers, and related organizations across Canada and it represents the entire public transit community. In fact, CUTA is celebrating its centennial this year, originally founded in Montreal in 1904. And it's interesting looking back at the minutes of the inaugural meeting 100 years ago, where, among other things, one of the subjects was congestion--not automobile congestion, but streetcar congestion in downtown Montreal and Toronto.

    But as the federal government makes strides towards addressing what I see as the increasingly critical urban agenda, we appreciate the opportunity to brief you today on the role of public transit and the issues we face. Perhaps the best way of framing that is in the context of an exhaustive survey of transit systems across Canada that compiled capital infrastructure needs over the five-year period from 2004 to 2008.

    But before getting into details, it's important to recognize that there are two distinct infrastructure priorities. The first is what we call renewal or dealing with the so-called infrastructure gap, which for transit means replacing old buses--and the average age of our bus fleets right now is about 12 years--with new ones that are more accessible, more environmentally friendly, and more reliable, as well as refurbishing rail cars and our subway systems in the bigger cities. It's really playing catch-up with the under-investment of the last 10 years and maintaining what we call a state of good repair into the future. It also means keeping the customers that transit already has.

    Once that's assured, we can look at expansion, which means new vehicles with more frequent and faster service. It means new bus rapid transit systems, light rail, and subway extensions. It means enhanced commuter rail with more parking and better integration. It means a more competitive alternative to the automobile, to actually move more people and goods more efficiently. In dollar terms, the renewal portion to keep transit systems operating in a state of good repair amounts to about $7 billion, while expansion to keep up with ridership demand and population growth faces a projected investment of $14 billion in the next five years. That amounts to a total of $21 billion, which is for all Canadian transit systems over the coming five-year period.

    Now, in many cities, as I'm sure some of you are aware, transit systems are now running at capacity and really risk turning away riders if they aren't able to invest significantly in expansion and growth--something that's not possible under the current funding structure.

[Translation]

    Allow me to give you a bit of background information.

    Today in Canada, the provinces fund approximately 5 per cent of public transit's operating costs and about 15 per cent of its capital costs. Compare these figures to those in the United States where governments fund 24 per cent of the operating costs and 67 per cent of capital costs. In G-7 countries, governments fund between 15 per cent and 30 per cent and between 30 and 100 per cent of these costs respectively.

    This means that in Canada, over 90 per cent of all government transit funding is derived from local property taxes, clearly a non-viable option.

    Because Canadian public transit systems rely less heavily of government funding than systems in other countries, they have one of the highest revenue-cost ratios. In Canada, passenger fares directly cover 63 per cent of transit operating costs. We take pride in this level of efficiency, but these results also have a down side. Limited funding is an impediment to expansion designed to boost capacity and to keep public transit a competitive alternative to the automobile.

[English]

    Your invitation, ladies and gentlemen, to appear before you today couldn't be more timely. We have a situation that we've never had before, where a federal government has been committed to addressing the emerging urban agenda. Never before have we had a situation where as many provincial governments are in tune to these issues. Never before have we had a situation where as many big city mayors are thinking out of the box in terms of ways to approach them.

    Talk of a new deal for cities has to include not only talk of public transit, but also action and commitment for transit. These are unique times, and I think the coming months are going to present some very interesting and unique opportunities.

    Recognizing that over 80% of Canadians live in cities and that, if anything, travelling around those cities is getting worse, not better, the quality of our air is getting worse, not better, the cost of operating a car is going up, not down, Canadians need an affordable and reliable alternative.

    Public transit currently carries over 1.5 billion passengers per year across Canada, a figure that has increased by 15% since 1996. Government investment, by contrast, has actually dropped over the same period as the proportion of transit operating cost borne by the customer through fares has risen by an equivalent percentage--about 15%.

Á  +-(1110)  

[Translation]

    Increasingly, the provinces are moving to allocate a portion of gas tax revenues to fund public transit. In Alberta, the cities of Calgary and Edmonton receive an amount equivalent to 5 cents per litre; in British Columbia, the TransLink system in Vancouver currently gets 11.5 cents per litre, while in Quebec, the ACT receives 1.5 cents per litre.

    Ontario's new provincial government has given us its assurances that it plans to allocate 2 cents per litre.

    Municipalities in the US enjoy considerably more latitude when it comes to establishing their own revenue sources at the local level and many derive some benefits from fuel taxes, the sales tax or other measures that promote public transit use.

[English]

    Perhaps the real question is, if the transit needs are not met in the next five years, what is the cost of that, and why should you care? In Canada's biggest cities, gridlock will certainly get worse. You can't ignore what it's costing us now in terms of lost productivity and lost opportunities. The result is that our cities won't attract the investment and the jobs they need to remain healthy, as we lose our cherished quality of life to cities in other countries.

    But the cost of not investing in transit goes beyond money. Smog days are commonplace and increasing every year. The average number of people per car in rush hour currently sits at about 1.2, and I'm told that arithmetic says it can't go below 1.

    Canadians are demanding cities with a high quality of life, and rightfully so. I think it's something we hold very near and dear in this country. They want cities where people and goods move freely, with affordable housing, clean water and air, and reliable community services, including public transportation. In many cities transportation has now become the number one public issue.

    What does the public think? In a recent poll of Canadian adults, 94% agreed that public transit makes a community a better place to live, with 77% feeling they saw a personal benefit from transit even though they may not be using it themselves. It's not surprising then that the Canadian public has made transit a priority when it comes to investing in urban transportation. Survey respondents favoured transit expansion over road expansion by a factor of 2.5 to 1. What's more, 90% agreed that senior levels of government should invest in public transit. Well over eight in ten, 85% to be precise, thought the federal government should be investing directly in public transit, further confirming the belief that the public does not expect municipalities to continue shouldering the large burden of transit funding alone.

    To review, what is the cost involved in building competitive urban transit systems? It's $21 billion for the next five years, which translates into just over $4 billion per year. If it were to be shared equally among the three levels of government, that would imply a federal share of close to $1.5 billion per year. Does that sound like a lot? Let me frame it this way. For starters, it's less than 10% of the amount the U.S. federal government invests in transit. Second, it amounts to pennies per person per day. Third, in gasoline terms, it equates to about 3¢ per litre of gas sold in Canada today. That's less than the amount the price fluctuates on a weekly basis.

    What are we doing about it? In the last few years the federal government has begun to do things in a few key areas. The infrastructure Canada program was a good first step. It showed that cooperative tripartite funding of municipal infrastructure improvements can be a win-win-win scenario, achieved without constitutional difficulties. The strategic infrastructure fund and the municipal rural infrastructure fund are further important steps in the right direction.

    So far--and we've been counting--the federal government has announced $1.4 billion in funding for transit projects in the last two years, and for that we're very grateful. But the next step needs to be long-term, dedicated urban transit investment that future generations can be proud of. The government has an opportunity before it to address urban traffic congestion, air quality, social access and mobility, as well as climate change, in one fell swoop. I look forward to working with you in answering this challenge and shaping the public transit dimension of the government's emerging urban agenda.

    Thank you very much. I look forward to a discussion and to addressing any questions you may have.

Á  +-(1115)  

+-

    The Chair: It won't be a long one, in all fairness, because you took 16 minutes out of 30.

    Just for the benefit of everyone here, this session is the result of a request by CUTA to make a presentation to me, as chair. My practice is to open it up to the whole committee whenever this happens. So we're not engaged in this issue. It's an appeal for us to get engaged. It's just a presentation that would normally take place in my office with me.

    Monsieur Laframboise.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    If I understand you correctly, you'd like to see in place a public transit infrastructure program that is operated independently of other programs. Is that what you're proposing?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: That's one option. We'd like to see an infrastructure program where the three levels of government are partners, a program specifically dedicated to public transit.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: A program along the same lines then as the Strategic Infrastructure Program or the Rural Infrastructure Program.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Something that would be acceptable to all partners.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Fine then.

    Because in point of fact, you're dissatisfied with the existing Strategic Infrastructure Program. There's too much competition.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: The problem, first of all, is that this program operates on an ad hoc basis. And secondly, the competition between various priorities at the provincial and municipal levels is quite keen, which makes long-term planning truly difficult.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Therefore, in terms of the gas tax, the federal portion could amount to 3 cents per litre. If we applied the same logic to calculate the provincial portion, that level of government could kick in 3 cents per litre as well.

    Do these figures seem reasonable to you?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: More or less, depending on the province.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I understand, depending on the province. In the example you provided, you mentioned that Quebec currently allocated 1.5 cents per litre.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: For Montreal alone.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Yes, I understand that.

    You say that Ontario's share should be 2 cents per litre.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: That's what they've promised.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: It's already 11.5 cents per litre in Western Canada.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: In Vancouver.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Are municipalities supportive of an infrastructure program? Do you have their full support?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Absolutely.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I see.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Ms. Libby Davies.

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East): Thank you very much for coming today.

    I'm from Vancouver, and we've had huge debates in Vancouver, as you mentioned. TransLink and the whole issue of lack of sustainable funding is the only issue. It's not whether we need public transit, it's not whether the public supports it, and it's not whether it's good for the environment. It's the lack of money.

    I noticed in your comments that you used two words, “long-term” and “dedicated”, neither of which we have. One of the concerns I have is that transit announcements are often linked to sort of megaprojects. In Vancouver, the RAV line is now linked to the Olympics. So on this issue of long-term and dedicated--which is what I think we have to do--what would you like to see happen there?

    You've talked about the $4 billion per year, or $1.5 billion from the federal government. How would you like to see this come about, in terms of a partnership that is a dedicated part of whatever infrastructure agreements there will be in the future?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: I think the TransLink situation in Vancouver is a very good example of a situation where you have an arm's-length authority that can sign a long-term financial investment partnership with all three levels of government, because it's not a government in itself. So the notion of transportation authorities bears some studying, and how that concept might apply elsewhere in Canada.

    There's a good partnership currently between the Province of B.C. and Vancouver. What's missing at the table is the federal government. Yes, there's funding for the RAV line, but that's one project.

Á  +-(1120)  

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies: But it's only because of the Olympics. Basically, the rest of the transit needs are just sitting out there.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: You're absolutely right. I think the weakness of our current programs and agreements is that they're too strongly linked to specific projects and to burning issues like the Olympics that kind of bring them to the fore. What's missing is the ongoing, predictable, long-term commitment that extends beyond the terms of public office.

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies: Do you see some kind of national partnership between the transit authorities we develop that with, the federal government, and the provinces? What would the mechanism be to actually do that to deliver the funds?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: There would need to be an iron-clad agreement between the municipalities, the provinces, and the federal government, or with transit authorities in those instances where they exist. Right now we only have one.

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies: Where is that?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Vancouver.

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies: And it's just on that one line.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: No. The transportation authority covers the whole lower mainland.

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies: Yes.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much.

    Mr. Karygiannis.

+-

    Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough—Agincourt, Lib.): Thank you very much for coming.

    I have one simple question. Have you done any studies on the amount of money we will need to spend on health care if we do not move very quickly on sustainable long-term funding for public transport or alternative fuel-efficient vehicles? If we continue the way we're going, in 10 or 15 years what will be the cost of funding for bronchitis...?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: There's a whole series of dimensions. That's an excellent question. I don't have them here, but we can provide some studies that show what the cost to the health care system is, based on air quality and pollution, as well as accidents and the injuries that are suffered currently.

+-

    The Chair: If you will prepare that for the clerk, we will share that with all members.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: We'll be happy to follow up with you on that.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Hubbard.

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.): Thanks, Mr. Chair.

    It's a very complicated business. Mr. Christopher often says that from his own experience, public transport never operates without some subsidy from some level of government. Ridership will only pay a certain percentage.

    It's rather perplexing, in terms of Canadians, when you study the business of how people travel and their need for that great automobile, which has been a North American concept. How do you live without a car?

    Julian Reed gave us a great dissertation on his travel experiences when he appeared before the environment committee. But when you get to the various cities and look at our country and where we have public transport and where we don't, in some of the smaller places you probably have to project a little bit about what the needs really are and who can carry them. Can ridership pay for 60%, 70%, or 80% of your costs? Maybe technically it should pay for all of them, but it never has and probably never will.

    Then you look at another percentage that somebody somehow has to subsidize. I guess the big question is whether what you're presenting today should have tripartite subsidization. I'm not sure if in the long run you can convince Canadians who don't have public transport to suddenly want to see a large chunk of money--you're talking about a percentage of $21 billion--go into the program you're talking about.

    How would you break this down in ridership costs, the balance, and where you could realistically look for the difference in terms of government intervention in programs?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: First of all, we don't view it as a subsidy; we view it as an investment in mobility, access, and in quality of life--

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard: In any case, let's not debate that. I'm just talking about how much government money you would need outside of ridership to pay for the costs involved.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: The question, if I understand you correctly, is really on how much we expect the user to pay.

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard: No. I don't want to confuse you. Probably at least 40% of Canadians would not be users. I'm just using a hypothetical figure, but all Canadians don't participate in public transport. You probably have the percentage who do, but I don't.

    How much do you expect the governments to put toward the subsidization or the payment of the costs of public transport? Do you have those figures?

Á  +-(1125)  

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: That's a bit of a hypothetical question. Certainly, if you look at the experience in other countries, Canada is at the low end of the scale in the proportion of total transit costs covered by government. In the U.S., it's about double what it is here.

+-

    The Chair: But he's asking you what you think the ratio would be in the partnership. How much would be paid by the users and how much would be paid by all Canadians? Would it be 60:40, 30:70...?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Probably the roundest number I can give you is 50:50.

+-

    The Chair: Okay.

    Is that it?

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard: That's basically it.

    Politically, the problem is what levels of government should pay different shares, and how Canadians would perceive.... If the person in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, for example, sees part of the federal budget going toward public transport in 10 major cities, will he feel good, and will he support that type of venture? It's a matter of convincing all Canadians, and federally you're saying one-third, one-third, and one-third. For example, in Toronto you'd see a greater benefit as it moved along the line. So I'm just bringing that out as an observation.

    Thanks.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Mr. Cannis, you have two minutes.

+-

    Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I have another question to start off with, but I'm intrigued enough to pick up on what you said a minute ago, sir. How much would the user be prepared to pay? If you asked average users out there how much they'd be prepared to pay, they're going to say zero. You and I both know that.

    You compared it to the U.S. and said that we invest 10% less than they do. What is the population of the U.S.?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: I don't know. Is it 240 million, 250 million?

+-

    Mr. John Cannis: I think it's about 300 million, and we're about 10% of that.

    If I'm not mistaken, they have tolls, charges, on their highways and roads.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: They have them in a few places, not generally.

+-

    Mr. John Cannis: Really. Do you travel to the U.S.?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Only Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts have toll highways.

+-

    Mr. John Cannis: My father once said to me, “Transparency and accountability equals credibility”.

    I remember an effort from the Municipality of Toronto. It was hemming and hawing and badgering the federal government for money, because otherwise rates would have to go up and what have you. The government, trying to cooperate with the provincial government of Ontario, finally went to the table with about $76 million. Then later the provincial government came on and put up about $45 million, $50 million as well. I don't think two months went by before they came back and said, “Mr. Chairman, the rates have to be increased; the city doesn't have enough money”.

    I've found, in the nine years or ten years I've been here, that this pouring money into the system without any accountability is really causing us a lot of harm.

    You're asking us for a national partnership. I see that we have members here from three different parties right now. We have the parties coming here and saying, “Just give us the money. Don't infringe on provincial jurisdiction.” I'm concerned that if we move in this direction, someday down the road they're going to say, “You have no say in this. This is municipal or provincial.”

    What can you tell me about that?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: I couldn't agree with you more, because, ultimately, if the government invests on behalf of the people, it needs to have a return on that investment. I think the key here is setting it up in a way that holds the municipalities accountable for making the transit work and making that investment pay. That brings us to the whole question of how we build our cities. We need to make sure the investment goes into places where the development and the density is going to be put in place, or already exists, that will support the type of lifestyle and the type of built urban form where transit is effective and works in an efficient way.

+-

    The Chair: Your time is up.

    The other option too is for communities to make this their priority, because a new deal for communities could be public transit.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Absolutely.

+-

    The Chair: It doesn't have to be a national program, but it could be the priority of Montreal or Toronto or Vancouver.

    We'll allow you two minutes for closing remarks.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Exactly. I think there's a huge opportunity before the federal government now to develop and plan its approach to such a partnership in a way that will build cities with transportation systems that will work for the next 20, 50, and 100 years, in times when the price of fuel may no longer be 60¢ a litre but $1 or $2 a litre. Our children and our grandchildren may look back and say, “Well, why did they build cities where people are 100% dependent on driving to the nearest mall to buy a quart of milk, using a litre of gasoline in the process?”

    I believe thinking about the environmental, social, and economic implications of the way our society grows and evolves, about what kind of urban environment we want and what kinds of support networks we need for it, with a balance between the options of walking, driving, and using public transportation, is key. The federal government has an enormous responsibility and a tremendous opportunity now to play a catalytic role in this and in our future.

    Thank you very much.

Á  +-(1130)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Roschlau. You asked for half an hour with me and you've had half an hour with all three political parties, so I hope your request is satisfied.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: I'm grateful, Mr. Chairman. I really appreciate your turning it into this opportunity.

+-

    The Chair: It doesn't prevent you from continuing your lobbying individually.

    Thank you very much.

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Absolutely. Feel free to call on us if we can answer any further questions in the future.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Will you provide the information that was asked for to the clerk?

+-

    Mr. Michael Roschlau: Yes. I think a copy has been left and some additional information has been passed around.

+-

    The Chair: Okay, and we'll ask that it be distributed to all members.

    Thank you very much.

    Colleagues, we don't have a quorum for the meeting in camera that we're to have at 11:30. Actually, the regular members know that we've been using up time, because we've been expecting that darn election and didn't want to undertake a large study, or things of that nature.

    If I have consensus around the table, I would adjourn now. I think the majority of the members are agreeable that we do not have a meeting next week, unless somebody gives me a reason to have a meeting. I've been inventing things to talk about for a month now. In all fairness, next week being indecisive, because we don't know if there is going to be an election or not, if you agree, we will not call a meeting.

    But on May 11, if no election is called on the 9th, we will have a meeting at 11 o'clock on future business.

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard: Mr. Chair, I'm a little bit concerned here that if we don't have an election, we might just be losing a lot of time. I'm not sure how many other members—and we don't have a quorum....

    But this air industry is almost a day-to-day concern, in terms of our concern about Air Canada and some of the other factors that relate to it. There were questions asked in the House yesterday about Air Canada's future.

    I would hope that if we don't see an election called, that might be an issue that we should at least have a good report to this committee on.

+-

    The Chair: That would be decided on the 11th. It's future business.

+-

    Ms. Libby Davies: Just for the record, I'm not the regular member of this committee—Bev Desjarlais is—but I don't feel that I could agree that there shouldn't be a meeting next week.

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    The Chair: Well, I'll call four meetings. What do you want me to put on the agenda?

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    Ms. Libby Davies: Well, it's just that you're asking us if we agree that you don't call a meeting. I don't. I think you'd have to ask our member.

    But Air Canada would be one—

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    Hon. Jim Karygiannis: Mr. Chair, I think it's also the responsibility of that individual member to be here.

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    The Chair: I want to cooperate with the committee, and I want to have meetings if we're going to be doing work.

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    Ms. Libby Davies: I'm just saying that I'm not giving my agreement to not having a meeting. That's all.

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    Mr. Charles Hubbard: We don't have a quorum.

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    The Chair: We don't have a quorum, so what do you want me to do? Do you want me to call the meeting for next week?

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    Mr. Charles Hubbard: Mr. Chair, what I was trying to say is that if we—

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    The Chair: Yes, but you got the discussion going, so now we're where we are.

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    Hon. Jim Karygiannis: Mr. Chair, going back to your original remarks, I think it was agreed before that we'll hold it off until the 11th, and come back on the 11th, and then we can start discussing Air Canada as well as other things.

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    The Chair: But I want to hear from those who don't agree, because I don't want to be accused of not holding meetings and trying not to do work. I'm not afraid of work.

    The Air Canada question yesterday was on language. I'm sure we're not going to undertake a study of whether or not the Official Languages Act will apply to Air Canada. It may come some day, but I'm certainly not prepared to undertake that now, with a week left.

    So do you want a meeting next week?

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    Mr. Charles Hubbard: Mr. Chair, if I might, for just a second, language was mentioned yesterday, but the bigger issue is whether or not Air Canada has money to continue. The corollary of that is, in terms of a lot of smaller communities, Air Canada has cut back so many flights that I wonder if they are able to exist as a carrier. From my own experience, back in New Brunswick, we are almost ready to shut down another airport as a result of Air Canada's decisions.

    What I was suggesting is that you, as chair, might have the authority, shall we say, on behalf of the committee, to maybe call in some transport committee people to give us a briefing on the situation, if there is a crisis coming on with Air Canada, during that week. That gives you a bit of liberty, but if others don't agree, I guess we—

Á  -(1135)  

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    The Chair: The issue is that there is a crisis, and the date is May 15. That's the deadline the courts gave so far.

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    Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC): So then if you have the minister or you have the transport department come in, there is that week before to update us.

    I think it's a waste of our witnesses' time as well, if we're not going to do anything with their work and their presentations. I think it's quite a waste of time.

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    The Chair: So are you saying we should have a meeting a week before the 15th, or now?

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    Mrs. Lynne Yelich: No, I would wait until after the election is called or not.

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    The Chair: At least after the next weekend, when we expect them to call—

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    Mrs. Lynne Yelich: Obviously, nobody's minds or hearts are here. If the witnesses come here really wanting to give some really good testimony, I think it's very discouraging when people who are regular members aren't here, and the members themselves hardly can make a quorum. Yet those witnesses show up with all sorts of interest and vigour, and they really want to get us excited about their issue—yet who is here to respond?

    But the Air Canada issue is an interesting thought. I never thought of that.

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    The Chair: There's a lot of good work we could do. There's no doubt about that, but they're all things that will take time.

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    Mrs. Lynne Yelich: We'll see if we make it back, or if Air Canada flies me back....

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    The Chair: So is it agreed that the 11th is the next meeting?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Chair: Okay, so be it.

    If something comes up, nothing prevents me from calling it.

    The meeting is adjourned.