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37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

Standing Committee on Transport


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Thursday, March 25, 2004




Á 1110
V         The Chair (Mr. Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.))
V         Hon. Tony Valeri (Minister of Transport)

Á 1115

Á 1120
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, CPC)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. James Moore
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. James Moore
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. James Moore
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. James Moore

Á 1125
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Louis Ranger (Deputy Minister, Department of Transport)
V         Mr. James Moore
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. James Moore
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. James Moore
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. James Moore
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ)

Á 1130
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Hon. Tony Valeri

Á 1135
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP)
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         Hon. Tony Valeri

Á 1140
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Ovid Jackson (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Lib.)

Á 1145
V         Hon. Tony Valeri

Á 1150
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, CPC)
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Ms. Kristine Burr (Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy Group, Department of Transport)
V         Mr. Jim Gouk

Á 1155
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Susan Whelan (Essex, Lib.)

 1200
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Ms. Kristine Burr
V         Hon. Susan Whelan

 1205
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Louis Ranger
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

 1210
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard
V         Hon. Tony Valeri

 1215
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais

 1220
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.)
V         Hon. Tony Valeri

 1225
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ)
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Susan Whelan
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard

 1230
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Christian Jobin
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Tony Valeri

 1235
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         Mr. Louis Ranger
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Tony Valeri
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau (President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority)

 1250
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau

 1255
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais

· 1300
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mr. Barry Corbett (Director, Screening Operations, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority)
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Susan Whelan
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Hon. Susan Whelan
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau

· 1305
V         Hon. Susan Whelan
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Susan Whelan
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jim Gouk

· 1310
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough—Agincourt, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Hon. Jim Karygiannis
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.)
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mr. John Cannis

· 1315
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         Mr. Ian MacKay (Vice-President, Law, Policy and Corporate Secretary, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority)
V         Mr. John Cannis
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Jacques Duchesneau
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Transport


NUMBER 007 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Thursday, March 25, 2004

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Á  +(1110)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Mr. Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.)): Good morning, everyone, and welcome.

    Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), main estimates 2004-05, votes 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 under Transport, referred to the committee on Tuesday, February 24, 2004, we're gathered here today with the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Tony Valeri.

    Good morning and welcome.

    He is accompanied by the deputy minister, Monsieur Louis Ranger, and other officials. You may call them to the table as you need them.

    We're starting 10 minutes late. Therefore the meeting will end at 1:10. That's unusual for this transport committee, but we're following others.

    Mr. Minister, I understand you have an introduction to make to the committee. I invite you to make that. I suspect it's around 10 minutes. Then we'll do rounds of questions. We will only have about an hour and 15 minutes at the end of the presentation, so we'll have to ask specific and direct questions.

    Mr. Minister.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri (Minister of Transport): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We'll endeavour to be on time.

[Translation]

    Mr. Chairman, it's a pleasure for me to appear before this committee for the first time as Minister of Transport.

[English]

    I regret that I was unable to be here on the ninth, but I'd like to thank you for your patience and for inviting me again.

    I certainly hope this will be the beginning of a fruitful, open, and transparent partnership in which we can work together to meet the challenges facing the transportation system in Canada.

    I'd like to begin by saying a few words about how I view the transportation sector in the context of the government's broader agenda. I'd like to outline some of the challenges facing the industry, as well as the main priorities I hope to move forward over the next while, with the assistance of the committee.

    As you know, the Speech from the Throne identified three core areas that the government is focusing on: strengthening our social foundations, building the 21st century economy, and ensuring Canada's independent role abroad. I think transportation is key to all three priorities. Transportation brings people together and helps bind the fabric of the nation. It's essential to trade and the creation of a strong and vibrant economy. It helps link Canadians to the rest of the world and gives us a presence on the world stage.

    I look at the transportation sector as one industry rather than several competing modes. I will encourage intermodal cooperation wherever possible.

    I look at the transportation sector as part of a single continental economy. I think Canada should strive to be a gateway for international trade with North America. I see transportation as a key enabler that makes our economy work. I think we have the opportunity to use transportation policy as a powerful lever in the government's overall economic agenda--and we should.

    There are challenges to be faced, and certainly some opportunities to be captured. There are challenges presented by increased globalization and North American integration. There are challenges presented by security requirements post-September 11. But there are two drivers behind this. They are the need to protect people and property and the need to ensure that the security questions do not impede Canada's ability to compete and grow through trade.

    There are certainly challenges presented by urbanization and urban sprawl, and by the environmental impacts of transportation. All of us around this table know that transportation accounts for one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions and a major share of the pollutants that impair air quality in our urban areas. The government is committed to addressing these challenges through climate change and clean air initiatives.

    Finally, there are challenges presented by the infrastructure deficit, regional remote access, and the need to promote innovation and skills development. We are certainly committed to accelerating investments under existing infrastructure programs, and transportation has been a key priority for our infrastructure agenda. More than $2.7 billion in federal funding has been announced for strategic highway, border, and transit projects across the country. Through these investments we're building a safer, more efficient, more sustainable transportation system.

    At the same time, as the transportation sector becomes increasingly knowledge-based, there will be more and more demand for individuals with diverse and complex skills. The industry will require an increasingly adaptable workforce with the ability and opportunity to learn continuously.

    We're certainly committed to working with public, private, and academic partners to ensure that the transportation sector remains vibrant. We're committed to acting as a catalyst to promote skills development, education, and training in the transportation fields.

    As we address the challenges, we need to bear in mind that smooth trade flows are of paramount importance to our economic well-being. This will certainly be one of my top priorities. We need to keep working with the United States to strengthen security at our airports, our seaports, and our land and border crossings, while continuing to enhance the smooth flow of trade.

    We need to have the most secure and efficient international border in the world. When there are security alerts--and there will always be security alerts--we need to be able to minimize their impact on the flow of our trade. An integrated and efficient transportation system across North America has to become our vision for the 21st century.

    We will continue to make specific investments to improve our border crossings with the U.S. The government, along with its partners, the provinces and bridge authorities, has to date announced joint investments of more than $1 billion to improve the efficiency and security at key border crossings.

    Canada's integration into the North American and global economies will continue to create pressure for further investment in our transportation infrastructure. In this context, I think a systems approach to transportation will be key.

Á  +-(1115)  

    A more integrated system means we'll have to think beyond the needs of individual modes and individual jurisdictions. That means working as part of a system and not as individual players in search of a share of public investment. It will be difficult and challenging, but it will call upon all stakeholders to work together and collaboratively.

    We'll be challenged by the need to find ways to make more effective use of all modes of transport and have them work better together. Intermodal transportation requires the connections, both physical and electronic, between modes to be fully integrated so that the most efficient mode or combination of modes is used and total travel times and costs are reduced. Transport Canada is currently engaged in a couple of studies to better understand intermodal networks and identify barriers to greater use of intermodalism.

    The market for railway intermodal services has been bullish in recent years, and we certainly think that is encouraging, but intermodal also takes other forms. One option that I'd like to see explored more fully is the concept of short sea shipping. As you know, this involves the use of ferry-like services for short-distance cargo shipments on inland waterways, as well as along our coasts. It has the potential to ease some of the congestion on our highways.

    Effective policy-making must be responsive to the dynamic environment in which our transportation system functions and needs to recognize the important contribution the transportation system makes to the overall economic well-being of Canada.

    Security is a big part of that dynamic environment, and I would like to say a few words on that. In particular, I'd like to mention marine security. It's a high priority for Canada. Our goal is to have a national marine security regime that is consistent with the international requirements and provides for efficient trade with the United States, while ensuring that our ports remain competitive.

    Transport Canada is responsible for the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code, which comprises security-related amendments to the International Maritime Organization's International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. The amendments, as we know, will come into effect on July 1, 2004. Canada will be ready by July 2004.

    I'm sure many of you have already heard from stakeholders, notably Canadian port authorities, that the new marine security measures may undermine their competitiveness vis-à-vis their U.S. counterparts. I agree that we need to address the changes being introduced to marine security at our ports if we are to remain competitive.

    This week's budget did make reference to marine security as part of the government's commitment over the next number of years to address security priorities. Transport Canada is also working very closely with U.S. authorities, particularly the coast guard, to coordinate the approach being used to implement the ISPS Code in shared waterways and on marine trade routes between ports in the two countries. It's an enormous task, but an essential one, and it's one that we will meet.

    The new security environment following the terrorist attacks of September 11 has also, of course, had a major impact on the aviation sector. We've also seen the effects of the economic downturn of 2001 and the recent SARS outbreak, and so the sector has had more than its share of turbulence.

    On July 16, the government announced measures designed to bring short-term relief to airports in the national airport system through rent deferral. For the long term, the rent policy review, which is looking at the impact of rents collected for leased airports on the airports, airlines, passengers, and the taxpayer, is proceeding and will be completed this spring.

    We've also taken a long-term view on security in aviation. As you know, on February 16 we announced a new program to screen non-passengers entering restricted areas at Canada's major airports.

    As I mentioned earlier, we must take all the precautions that we can. Those precautions need to be balanced with the need to maintain the commercial viability of the industry. The sector has achieved significant productivity gains as the transportation system has grown and matured, but we now need new strategies to ensure that transportation continues to support and enhance our competitiveness, to unleash our economic potential, and to provide Canadians with more transportation choices.

Á  +-(1120)  

    I would be interested in receiving the views of the committee and how in fact we should or could realize this vision. For instance, if we agree that we are to be a gateway for trade in North America, will this require policy or regulatory changes to achieve a more competitive environment for our transportation industry? If so, what would those changes look like? Do we need new and sustainable forms of funding for infrastructure? How would this be achieved? These are the types of questions on which I would certainly appreciate the views of this committee.

    Let me just close by returning to the Speech from the Throne and the emphasis it has put on the need to forge a stronger relationship among federal, provincial, and territorial governments, a relationship focused on the interests of Canadians and on adopting new ways of working together. This will certainly guide my actions as minister. I believe policy development that is aimed at achieving overall integration of the Canadian transportation system, both between modes and as part of a North American system, will allow us to maintain and foster a dynamic and competitive economy that would benefit all Canadians.

    I think these are some of our biggest challenges. We certainly have a lot more to do in the short term and in the long term.

[Translation]

    And now I would welcome your questions.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Merci beaucoup, Minister. You were 11 minutes, and I can't ask for better than that.

    I've quickly calculated, colleagues, that we should be able to have one seven-minute round and one five-minute round. I have four names from the government side, which takes care of all four, and then maybe a one-minute question each, to be answered with closing remarks, if we have time to do that.

    Mr. Moore, you have seven minutes.

+-

    Mr. James Moore (Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, CPC): Thank you.

+-

    The Chair: Oh, excuse me, Mr. Moore.

    By seven minutes, my colleagues, I mean both the question and the answer. So if colleagues' questions are too long, the minister is the one who will be cut off.

    Mr. Moore.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: Thank you, Mr. Minister, for being here today.

    I guess I'll begin where you ended, actually, when you asked, “Do we need new and sustainable forms of funding for infrastructure? How would this be achieved?” But I want to ask you about something that I think a lot of Canadians are curious about, and that is that the idea of dedicating fuel taxes to roads wasn't in the budget at all.

    Every single Liberal member of Parliament--save two, Sheila Copps and Charles Caccia--voted in favour of an official opposition motion in October of last year that asked the government to initiate immediate discussions with the provinces to immediately transfer a portion of the gas tax to provinces and municipalities for roads and infrastructure. That was October of last year, and every single Liberal, save two, voted in favour of it.

    On behalf of taxpayers, how are the discussions going?

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: Through you, Mr. Chairman, in the context of the budget, I think you could interpret what was done in the budget as a down payment in terms of the new deal for cities. There's certainly a commitment on behalf of the government to look at ways of flowing sustainable revenues to municipalities, and certainly the gas tax is a mechanism to do that.

    The Prime Minister has made this a priority and is engaged. The provincial premiers and certainly the mayors from right across this country and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities all understand that this is a commitment on behalf of the Prime Minister. It's something we will proceed on in terms of ultimately finding a sustainable revenue flow for provinces, and for municipalities in particular, to deal with their infrastructure challenges.

    I guess what you're debating is the timing. You want it to happen right now. I guess what I'm saying is that it will happen, but those negotiations are ongoing with respect to the provinces and municipalities.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: I appreciate that, but it's not just me--

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: And taxpayers, I agree.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: Well, I thought you wanted it right now when you voted in favour of the motion for there to be an immediate transfer of gas taxes.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: What I want are those discussions and negotiations to ultimately lead to a program that facilitates the transfer of revenue to municipalities in order to meet their infrastructure challenges. I am certainly willing to allow that negotiation to happen as we have this consultation. Obviously, we understand there is a constitutional requirement, given that municipalities are a creature of provinces, so we want to ensure that we have this dialogue. Ultimately, though, I do want to see that goal achieved.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: Okay. That obviously will be an ongoing debate.

    I have some specific questions about the estimates. I noticed that the operating expenses for the department are up by just over 10%. I'm wondering if there are particular reasons why. Are there big-budget items that require it to be up 10%, or maybe it's an election year...?

Á  +-(1125)  

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: Some of that is as a result of some of the workforce contractual obligations.

    Perhaps the deputy minister could speak to some of the specifics.

+-

    Mr. Louis Ranger (Deputy Minister, Department of Transport): The 10% is made up of several pluses and minuses. For example, we're dealing with the main estimates now, and a very significant amount is related to the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, and a recent decision was made to have this responsibility now under Minister Volpe. So in future adjustments to the budget, that amount will be transferred accordingly.

    So there's a number of large and small items that we could review with you if you wish. There are certainly additional amounts related to our security responsibilities. As you would expect, our budget has been increased as a result of that.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: You talked in your statement, Mr. Minister, about the national airport system, the ongoing review of the rents, and this desire by the government to help specifically medium- and smaller-sized airports. I also noticed in the estimates that you've cut the ACAP, the airports capital assistance program, by just over 3% at the same time as the government is going ahead with it's CARs 308 mandate of response time for airports.

    This is essentially an unfunded mandate to small airports that are having a very hard time meeting the standard that's being imposed. Frankly, given the accident that happened in Fredericton, it's a superficial timeframe that the government is imposing on small airports. And you're imposing an unfunded liability on airports. They're having a very hard time without putting in place some new airport improvement fees that make it obviously more difficult for Air Canada and smaller carries beyond Air Canada to service small communities.

    So if you're cutting ACAP by 3% and on the other side you're still going to mandate CARs 308, how are you expecting airports and small communities in this country to stay competitive?

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: Well, I think the point is well taken. I'm hearing from communities and, in particular, members of Parliament...and certainly Liberal members of Parliament have been making the case that these smaller airports are facing some real challenges in sustaining themselves. When I met with my counterparts at the provincial level, it was certainly also an issue that we talked about.

    The review that is ongoing and expected this spring will really be a review that will lead us to resolve some of the challenges that we're hearing with respect to the smaller communities and the airports, challenges that are being articulated to me. So their view has been ongoing and the department has been doing the work to do that.

    And I would ask that once the review comes out, we would perhaps engage the committee on how we might deal with some of the challenges that come out of that review. We'll certainly be hearing from the provincial ministers as well as members of Parliament.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: Are you still going to go ahead with the same timeframe for the imposition of CARs 308?

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: At the present time, yes.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: So there's no adjustment?

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: Right.

+-

    Mr. James Moore: I noticed also in the estimates that CATSA is going to get an additional $7 million this year. Given that the huge costs of establishing CATSA were in the capital costs and that was principally a year and a half ago now, not now, I would assume, why is CATSA getting another $7 million? Can you give this committee a snapshot in terms of the revenue that the air tax is generating and what your forecasts are for that ballpark number?

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: The $6.8 million for CATSA is actually not new money; it's just managed on a cash management basis. That was due to the re-profiling of its explosive detection system deployment schedule. So we're not adding to CATSA's budget in that particular case.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Monsieur Laframboise.

[Translation]

+-

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

    I'm going to ask my questions in the order in which you made your presentation. You began by mentioning the need to protect people and property, but also the importance of ensuring that security questions not impede Canada's ability to compete.

    Some of my questions are about NAV CANADA, an organization that is independent from government—that's a political choice that you made—and that is threatening to cut services. When questioned, your officials said that there was new GPS technology coming that would make up for the cuts NAV CAN wanted to make. However, in the industry, at best, at Air Canada Jazz, for example, only 25 per cent of airplanes have GPS. That means that all or most companies will have to make an investment, and I've seen nothing in the budget to help those companies do that.

    Where are we heading with NAV CANADA? When are those people going to be brought back into line and told to watch their step, because the fact is, security is a good deal more important than financial problems?

Á  +-(1130)  

[English]

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: In terms of the question specifically on Nav Canada, when it first came to my attention on my becoming Minister of Transport, I asked Nav Canada specifically to consult with all members of Parliament, as they consider the change in terms of their level of service.

    I'd have to also say that any proposal for a reduction or a termination of air navigation services by Nav Canada has to first clearly demonstrate to Transport Canada that aviation safety itself is not in any way going to be compromised.

    The discussion that's going on now is a discussion that Nav Canada is engaged in, but there would be no changes to the services that Nav Canada would be able to implement without first having Transport Canada agree that there would be no diminution of safety in that change. I feel comfortable that Nav Canada is engaged in these discussions and is doing so with members of Parliament.

    I believe, at our request, Nav Canada has sent letters out to members of Parliament advising them of the changes that they were contemplating. It was as a result of our request that members of Parliament were in fact engaged in the process.

    I welcome the interventions from members of Parliament on the issue, because that will certainly assist not only on the technical side, which Transport Canada will deal with in terms of the safety side of it, but it will also provide me with feedback on the perspective of the members of Parliament on the potential changes.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Minister, before a decision is made, I hope that you will let the Standing Committee on Transport examine this whole issue.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise, the minister doesn't have to give us permission. The committee is going to do whatever it decides to do.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Okay, but that's not a recommendation, Mr. Chairman.

    I'd like to come back to the issue of security. A second case has been put before us, and it has to do with flight attendants. Apparently, regulations regarding flight attendants are being drafted. Once again, there seems to be some conflict between security and Canada's ability to compete. According to reports from your department dated 2001, increasing the number of passengers per flight attendant from 40 to 50 is not recommended. Yet we are informed that under pressure from the Air Transport Association of Canada, you have apparently revised your position.

    How can you guarantee that safety won't be compromised, in view of the fact that by allowing fewer flight attendants, priority is being given to the economic development of businesses that want to reduce their expenses? And yet, according to reports from your department, the position in 2001 was that the government shouldn't recommend this course of action.

[English]

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: I want to be clear. I don't know if, in your question, you suggested that there was a change in position. There has been no change in position. The ratio is 1:40.

    I'll also say that certainly I have not made any final decision on this issue itself. I think it's fair to say we're only at the beginning of what is a pretty intensive regulatory process.

    I think it's also important to understand, Mr. Chairman, that no one would even be considering any change to regulations unless there was in fact some scientific data that would suggest that the change could be done without affecting safety. The issue here is safety.

    While there could be proposals put forward, and a request to amend regulations like the flight attendant ratio, the request will go through a regulatory process and a consultative process. The technical committee of CARAC will provide unions, management, and airline representatives with an ability to comment on that.

    There is no change, from my perspective. Until this process is completed and we hear from all of the stakeholders, and in fact it's demonstrated that there is no decline in the level of safety, I don't see this proceeding.

Á  +-(1135)  

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Okay. I'm going to change the subject because I don't have much time left.

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    The Chair: In fact, you've used it all up.

    Ms. Desjarlais, seven minutes.

[English]

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): Thank you. I won't change the topic very much. I`m just going along with my colleague's question with regard to the suggestion that the ratios are going to change.

    I think we've heard testimony in past meetings that there is a process being put in place to change the ratio of flight attendants to passengers. Unless I've missed the letters that were requested.... I would suggest that, not even in the last while but in the last number of years, there were some requests put in to the department as to whether or not they had ever received information that suggests that increasing the ratio actually is a safety problem. I think in all fairness the committee should be made aware if that information is out there.

    I also have to admit that when you mention the scientific evidence as to whether or not the ratios would be unsafe, I can't help but imagine myself on the airplane being the flight attendant and looking after 50 passengers. It's bad enough at the best of times, when everything is running smoothly, but trying to find a scientific response to the situation with the passengers if there's a problem on the plane.... You have four exits—two at the front, two at the back. Check for smoke. If you see anything, wait for our directions as to what you're going to do. You have one flight attendant going through that process while you have passengers of varying degrees of ages, abilities, disabilities, etc.

    I wonder where the scientific evidence comes into play. In this instance I would suggest that if you're looking for scientific evidence that this is safe, where's the scientific evidence that it is not safe as well?

+-

    The Chair: Before you respond, I'll just clarify about a letter that we should have received. This committee made no request for a letter, and if we should deal with that issue, then the committee can decide with a motion to request a letter. The issue is not on the table today, but as you know, I allow any subject to be asked of the minister. We're here for estimates. I just want to clarify that if we want a letter, put a motion through the chair, and we'll request a letter.

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Mr. Chair, can I just make a point. With all due respect, if I'm recalling correctly, at a meeting I attended, one of our first meetings, there was some discussion--and actually Mr. Ranger was there.

+-

    The Chair: There was a question from a member, and Mr. Ranger said that if they could provide it, they would provide it. That was a consultation meeting with the department. There was no formal request from the committee. But anyway--

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: My apologies. I was of the impression when that happened that information was going to be given, because Mr. Ranger said--

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    The Chair: No, as a committee, we are not studying that subject yet. Anyway, now to the response. I will give you back the time that I used.

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Fair enough.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: To follow up on that, the deputy minister is intending to respond to that request you made in committee for that letter.

    But just in terms of the question, the scientific evidence to go to 1:40 rather than 1:50, I think the argument is really one that says scientific evidence got us the 1:40, but why isn't it 1:20? Why isn't it 1:10? Why isn't it 1:30? At some point, evidence...and a risk management system assesses the possible risk in how danger is dealt with, and 1:40 has been agreed to as a result of the evidence provided and the science provided. Most industrialized nations, including the United States, are at 1:50.

    So there is a need to look at evidence and to look at best practices, and the best information that one has, in order to come to a decision. So I would argue that you certainly need to have some science, although I do respect what you're saying. When people are in that situation, it's hard to just point to some science when you're dealing with exits and smoke, and disabled people, and that sort of thing. I do accept that, but the premise of coming up with these ratios is really based on evidence and science.

    We are at the front end of this process to assess whether moving to 1:50 is going to have any impact on safety. That for me is going to be the overriding criterion that needs to be met. While I take the comments made earlier, and the comments that I made in the statement, on trying to balance the economic and the competitive natures of the industry, and I certainly think we need to do that, the overriding criterion for me is safety. I'm not going to sit here and suggest to you that I'm driven solely by economic considerations and competitiveness issues. We do have to balance that.

    I would encourage members to look at this as an opportunity for dialogue and discussion, but I also want to caution that we're at the front end of the process. We're not anywhere near a decision, nor are we anywhere near actually seeing what the evidence might be to suggest whether we stay at 1:40.

Á  +-(1140)  

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: I appreciate being able to go off the topic of estimates. Following up on the science, then, is it possible--and actually I would request this if the committee agrees--that we as a committee may have that information, that it be sent to us? I'm speaking about the previous science that was used to come up with the 1:40, as well as any of the information that is being used, pro or con, against the 1:50. I would suggest that we have the information that was used when the 1:40 was decided, as well as what's being used for the 1:50.

    Is that a reasonable request, through you, Mr. Chair?

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    The Chair: Right now, Mrs. Desjarlais, you have eight minutes with the minister. If you want to use up the discussion to see if we should undertake that study, we'll be an hour on that issue. If you wish to bring it up--

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: With all due respect, Mr. Chair, I'm not asking about the study, I'm asking about getting information so we can be proactive on a situation that may result as a possible--

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    The Chair: The quickest way for you not to burn up all your time is to ask for it, and if they want to give it to all the committee, fine. But if you want us to get the committee to request it, it's by motion.

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: So I have the okay to ask for the information. You've heard the information I have requested. Am I able to get that information through the committee?

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: Actually, I'm under the impression that the committee has received the risk assessment, in both official languages, to go from 1:40 to 1:50.

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: They're saying the committee has received this, Mr. Chair, and you're saying no. So I don't care if I'm using up my time; there seems to be a real discrepancy here.

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    The Chair: On my agenda, I'm not treating the 40/50, or that issue even. I'm allowing you to speak off subject, so it's your eight minutes. Use it up.

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: Then, Mr. Chairman, if I can clarify this, it's my impression that you have this information. If you do not have this information, I will provide this information to you.

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Thank you very much.

    In order to avoid the problem, please feel free to send it through the committee, but I would appreciate it coming to my office to ensure that I do have it, so I don't have to use up my eight minutes going around in a circle trying to get it.

    Thanks very much.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: We will provide it through the committee.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Jackson.

+-

    Mr. Ovid Jackson (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    Minister, the economic viability of all our communities really depends on extremely good transportation systems in all modes. I know in my community of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound we are going to be talking about divesting the harbour. We're going to be looking for somebody for dredging, because the sea mode has always been used by my community and there's a resurgence there. The manufacturing sector and farming community could probably use that particular mode of transportation.

    I'd like to know where in the estimates, because I haven't really seen.... In the United States they seem to have a lot of smart highways, and I know that the federal role is one whereby they want to integrate all the interprovincial highways, highways that take us across the border as well, as I said, by all modes, by boat, air, and across the oceans. So I would like to know from you and your staff, what new initiatives are in there that will ramp us up?

    We're really having problems competing with the United States. They are way ahead of us. Their highways are smart and there are a lot of computerized systems. We don't seem to be coming up with a highway system that integrates our own system and moves stuff fast. I have my farming community, for instance, who run into hiccups at the border.

    A second question is with regard to their ability to get documentation to cross rapidly.

    So I'd like you to answer those two questions: what is happening in Ontario in particular--I don't want to ask about the whole country, because I'm sure that would probably take all day--and what are you doing that's going to help us move our traffic and improve all our communities? We have the automotive sector, for instance, and most of us have various manufacturing plants. For instance, I have Monroe Auto Equipment, which makes shock absorbers, in my riding, and I have PPG Glass, which makes the windshields and so on. So I think that all over Ontario, we're all hoping that our highway systems and the border problem will be looked after.

Á  +-(1145)  

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: You're absolutely right, Mr. Jackson, in suggesting that smart and intelligent transportation systems are the way in which we need to move forward in terms of being able to compete.

    There are a couple of points I would make in terms of possible places to look for this information itself. One is the annual report, which would detail all of the investments in Canada that are made in terms of this type of investment. Certainly, Ontario would be a big part of that.

    In terms of smart and intelligent transportation systems, I also think we need to look at the intermodal opportunities that exist and can exist. It wouldn't be your traditional intermodal system. We often think of rail and truck, but I also think of smart systems in terms of intermodalism in urban areas as well, where you have buses and trains.

    We're building facilities where you have a seamless transfer of passengers from one mode to the other mode, in terms of combining, for instance, transportation as an economic enabler. Some finance policies have been changed in recent years, when we look at the export distribution centres, for instance, that will allow us to add value to product that would be coming in, let's say, from Europe with transshipment into the United States. We can build, and should be building, our transportation systems around the concept of that type of transshipment into the United States.

    We look at the Vancouver Gateway and the way they've organized themselves in terms of intelligent transportation systems with the port, the airport, some of the rail, and some of the surface.

    In my remarks, one of the questions, I guess, that I'm putting to the committee is because I'm struggling with this myself. If we agree that we're a trading nation, if we agree that Canada geographically is best positioned to be taking in goods and being a gateway for North America, what types of things do we need to do on the transportation side?

    It's more than investment. I think, to answer your question, it crosses a number of different departments. I think when you start talking about changes that might be required in the tax system, changes that might be required in terms of investments from HRD enabling us to provide the kind of skill upgrading to deal with the kind of transportation systems that we knew—investments that we should be making from the standpoint of Transport Canada, working with academic institutions to devise and do the research and development in terms of transportation systems that are going to position Canada in a way that benefits us from an economic standpoint—it's not only about economics and the economy. It's also about how that translates into quality of life, whether you're in a rural part of the country or whether you're in an urban part of the country.

    It's a broad question. I don't have a specific one-line answer for you. Again, to echo the chairman's comments, the committee is a master of its own destiny. I do think that if the committee sees fit to answer that type of question, it does play to the automotive sector, specifically in Ontario.

    With the strength of the automotive sector, how are we facilitating or hindering the further development and strength of the automotive sector, as a result of our inefficiencies in the transportation system, if they are there, in terms of our border crossings? How do we deal with that? Is it best to do it by road? Is it better if we are able to use more rail? How do we use rail? How do the security concerns integrate with meeting those objectives?

    I think they're very important questions to answer. If you go to Atlantic Canada and look at Halifax, how does that work with the flow of trade into the United States and other parts of Canada, through to New Brunswick and other ports?

Á  +-(1150)  

    I'm really at a point where I want to look at the transportation system in a holistic way. To me, it's not only about moving goods and people; it's about the economy. In the economy, it's about how that ripples into the quality of life that people might have. If it's the movement of goods, it's about the manufacturing side and the economy in terms of the GDP. But it's also about tourism in terms of attracting people to Canada and how best to move them around this country so that they can see what this country is all about.

    So when I think of transportation, trade and tourism are the two areas I think of. Is the transportation system we have in this country an enabler for trade and tourism or a barrier? If it's a barrier, then I really want to look at what the obstacles are in the way of efficient trade flows, an effective tourism policy, and quality of life. What are they? I think that if we do that in a holistic way, we'll see that it crosses a number of departments. As a transportation minister, I'm certainly looking to champion that type of debate and assist members in achieving their objectives.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Jackson.

    Mr. Gouk, on the second round, five minutes.

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    Mr. Jim Gouk (Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, CPC): I have four questions I'd like to get in. I'll make them very brief. I hope the minister will answer them the same way.

    The first one is with regard to VIA Rail, vote 25. It shows a 28% reduction. That's under operational funding. The amount it reduces to is still more than I understood their operational subsidy was to begin with. Is that all operational that it's being reduced by or is that a reduction in capital funding?

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: Operational is actually stable. It's the capital side that's down 25%.

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: Is that money that was committed and now is being reduced? They had a pocket of money that was given to them by the previous minister. Is that money simply running out and you're not renewing it?

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: My understanding is that it's part of the $400 million .

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: So the $400 million is being reduced or the $400 million has simply been paid up and you're not giving them more?

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: It's just the last year of the five years.

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: So we haven't really reduced anything. We're just not giving them more new money.

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: Right.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: The Wheat Board is being given $17 million to buy grain cars in western Canada. At a time when so many farmers are looking at the possibility of opting out of the Wheat Board, why is the government using the taxpayers' money to fund the Wheat Board to buy rail cars to further capture those who might like to look at the possibility of opting out of the Wheat Board?

+-

    Ms. Kristine Burr (Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy Group, Department of Transport): Mr. Chair, the amount is a long-standing lease payment that has been in place for the last 20 years. It covers lease payments for cars that are actually leased by the Canadian Wheat Board and are made available for the transportation of grain.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: With regard to CATSA, I have a lot of concerns, which I will be bringing up. CATSA will appear before us later on, and I urge the minister to make sure he has a staff member here to hear what some of these problems are and to see if he might wish to act on them.

    What is the oversight of Transport on CATSA? How much autonomy does it have? You provide regulations, but in terms of how it carries out those regulations, is there oversight and continuous monitoring or does it operate semi-autonomously?

Á  +-(1155)  

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: With regard to CATSA, we issue the regulations and provide the oversight. For example, you might have an incident in the system; then Transport Canada would put in place all of the oversight and ensure that the system is remedied so that the incident does not occur again. So CATSA really is operating as a crown corporation, and we're providing the regulations and oversight in a manner that speaks to any potential deficiencies we may see.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: I urge the minister to make sure he has a staff member here to hear some of the concerns that are going to be brought forward in the meeting with CATSA.

    With regard to flight attendants, I don't support the 1:40, 1:50, 1:30, or 1:60, as you put it. I support safety, as I believe all members here do. Would you be prepared to commit that no change will be implemented until the information that justifies any change is brought before this committee, so that this committee has an opportunity to view that and to satisfy itself that what is being done is appropriate?

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: I don't have any difficulty coming to the committee and providing a draft regulation and sharing information and having the committee look at this and be comfortable--

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: Prior to implementation.

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: Absolutely.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: How much time do I have left?

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    The Chair: Two and half minutes.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: Okay.

    With regard to a dedicated fuel tax, which was brought up earlier, in fact the Prime Minister, then finance minister, came before the transport committee back, I believe, in about 1995. I brought up the question of dedicated fuel tax revenues then. His answer at that time was that when he was in opposition he supported it and thought it was a great idea--and these are his words--“but some warping of the mind occurs when you go over to government”.

    Well, then he ran as a leadership candidate and started talking about it again. I guess his mind got rewarped when he got sworn in as the Prime Minister, because that too has disappeared from the agenda.

    What exactly is the state of negotiating a return of some portion of the fuel tax revenues, $7 billion a year, to the provinces or municipalities or whichever we bring it back to, in support of infrastructure development, specifically road transportation, or transportation generally?

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: Just to echo my earlier remarks, I think if you speak to mayors across this country, you will find their expectation was that this budget would provide the immediate relief through the GST rebate going to 100%, and that the commitment to provide further amounts of money on a sustainable and predictable fashion would ensue. That's where we're at.

    I don't want anyone around the table to believe and certainly I don't want Canadians to believe in any way that there is a backing away from this commitment to provide sustainable and predictable revenue to municipalities to decide what their priorities might be and in terms of how they deal with that revenue, in consultation and working with the federal and provincial governments.

    That negotiation will occur. I would expect that this would not be a negotiation that takes a number of years to conclude, but one that would conclude at an appropriate time. I also think that it's not a surprise to anyone, whether it's the premiers across this country or the mayors, that there is this need to provide the sustainable, predictable amount of revenue, and that this negotiation will happen. It's not like we're starting at a point where premiers are not quite aware of what the discussion might be like. The discussion has been quite public.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Gouk.

    Ms. Whelan, five minutes.

+-

    Hon. Susan Whelan (Essex, Lib.): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    Two weeks ago, Mr. Minister, I asked your officials several very specific questions, and I anticipate I'll get answers soon, so I won't go over those again, but I have two specific questions for you today.

    The first question centres around the border. Recognizing that there are two processes underway in Essex County, in Windsor, and that the County of Essex has taken a position on what I call the “now process”, or the more immediate process, I want to speak particularly to a long-term process, which is known as the binational study, which is also underway.

    I want to be very clear and I want to be on the record that I want you to understand and to know that I'm very opposed to routes or proposed routes that would divide residential communities and neighbourhoods, particularly within the town of LaSalle and within the town of Amherstburg. I'd like to know today how you, as the minister, could assure both me and the residents of LaSalle and the residents of Amherstburg and the other surrounding communities that they'll be protected and that their concerns will be heard as this process continues.

  +-(1200)  

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: Well, I can certainly, Ms. Whelan, provide the committee and you assurances that concerns will be heard. The project itself, as you know, is certainly a project that involves the municipalities, provinces, and the federal government. If you are concerned that issues are not being aired by individuals who might have a differing view, then I guess my undertaking to you today would be that I would make sure those individuals have an opportunity for that type of dialogue.

    In terms of, ultimately, protection of neighbourhoods, as you've described, it would seem we need to be very sensitive to that. We'll certainly want to be advancing and echoing those comments. However, as I said, it's not just me who can be providing you that assurance. I can certainly provide that assurance on behalf of myself, but I am not able to do so on behalf of others who are involved in this project.

    Kristine, I don't know whether you have something to add with respect to recent meetings and what in fact might have been heard there.

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    Ms. Kristine Burr: I understand there are a number of public hearings underway right now on the whole binational process; that there was one in LaSalle last night; that there is another meeting scheduled for Saturday; and that efforts are being made, in particular after the concerns that were expressed by Ms. Whelan at one of the earlier meetings, to ensure that we add extra public meetings to hear what people have to say.

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    Hon. Susan Whelan: I just want to be clear. With regard to the public meetings that are taking place this week—and there's actually one in LaSalle and one in Amherstburg and I believe three in Windsor. Again, I reflect, three of the routes are in the county, and yet three of the meetings are in the city and two of the meetings are in the county. We seem to have a bit of a discrepancy again on when the public meetings are and what routes are affected. I'm a bit concerned that it took eight months to get meetings in the town of LaSalle. Yet a route is proposed through the town of LaSalle. It's a wide kind of swatch that's being proposed.

    I could take you back, Mr. Minister, to meetings I had seven years ago with officials from the department, who may or may not still be with the department, where a map was shown to me that showed the township of Sandwich West. The township of Sandwich West hadn't existed for over five years. It had been the town of LaSalle, which was the fastest growing municipality four out of five years in the province of Ontario. It had gone from 10,000 to over 20,000, and now is close to 27,000 residents.

    So a lot of the mapping in the areas that we were proposing routes through back then, and still are today...is now a very well populated area. There are a lot of concerns being raised by the residents, and I'd like to bring that to your attention. I appreciate your assurance that you'll take that into consideration as we move forward.

    But I'm very concerned that the process that is underway did not begin with proper and detailed information to have public meetings. When I read the planning and feasibility study report—I refer to what is proposed as the south crossing—I see that it talks about a portion of the river and the corridor as being designated as an international wildlife refuge, and that the Canadian shoreline includes several designated environmentally significant marsh areas. It's actually the third most significant area in Ontario that this corridor is proposing to go through. To me, it just doesn't seem reasonable to even consider this one proposal. Then when we talk about the central crossing, which is the one being proposed through the town of LaSalle, again it doesn't refer to the fact that it's a very built-up area.

    I just want to bring this to your attention. I understand that you're not as familiar with the routes as I may be, but I would encourage the department to actively watch this process. I understand that a consultant has been hired and that a lot of this is being done by a consulting agency, but there are a lot of concerns being raised and it has taken a lot to get people's attention that the town of LaSalle, the town of Amherstburg, the county of Essex have a voice, need to have a voice, are very much a part of this process, and their concerns need to be listened to.

  +-(1205)  

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    The Chair: Thank you Ms. Whelan.

    Monsieur Laframboise, cinq minutes.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I'm going to continue in the area of sea shipping.

    You said that you were contemplating short sea shipping. Do you intend to put an end to the port divestiture policy, to retain and renovate federally owned ports, and to set up your short sea shipping system?

[English]

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: I'm sorry, I missed the last part of your question. Am I going to be replacing...?

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Do you intend to put an end to the seaports divestiture policy that was pursued by your department and thus retain the ports and refurbish them, so as to be able to implement your short sea shipping policy?

[English]

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: No. When I suggest that I'd like to explore the opportunities on short sea shipping, I'm suggesting that from a policy standpoint. I think that the individual port authorities will look at whether it's an economic opportunity that works for them. It may not be something that works in every port across the country.

    But what I want to encourage is for various ports to be able to explore opportunities to enhance the traffic that might flow through their port, through other opportunities, and short sea shipping would be one of them.

    At this point there is no intention of ceasing the divestiture program that exists.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: With respect to the St. Lawrence Seaway, your deputy minister told us that the Government of Canada had not contributed financially to the study entitled Reconnaissance Report: Great Lakes Navigation System Review .

    Is it true, Minister, that the Government of Canada did not participate financially in this study undertaken by the US Army Corps of Engineers?

[English]

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: It's a very good question, and it's an opportunity to clarify that there are actually two studies going on at the moment. The joint Canada-U.S. study is looking at the ongoing maintenance and long-term capital requirements to sustain the existing seaway infrastructure; it's not looking at expanding the seaway. That is the study that Canada and the U.S. are looking at jointly.

    Transport Canada did not participate in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reconnaissance study, which is actually looking at the widening and deepening of the seaway. We're not participating in that study. As a result of not participating, we're not looking at widening and deepening the seaway. We're looking at how to sustain the existing seaway. We're looking at the ongoing maintenance and long-term capital requirements. That is the study in which Canada is participating.

    There might be some confusion there, Mr. Chairman, when there's a belief that the Government of Canada is looking at widening and deepening. We're not participating in that study.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: But you are participating in a study on ongoing maintenance requirements. Is it true that this study on ongoing maintenance requirements is looking into the possibility of deepening the St. Lawrence Seaway, not necessarily widening it, but deepening it?

[English]

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: That study is not covering the widening or the deepening of the seaway. We are looking at the existing seaway in terms of its composition, how we might mitigate the deterioration, and what would be the maintenance costs associated with ensuring the existing seaway functions effectively.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Louis Ranger: I want to be absolutely clear. What the minister said is right. There's a specific section of the St. Clair River where the study is considering dredging requirements for ongoing operations. That's the only exception over the entire network where the cost of ongoing dredging is being considered.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: In terms of the roadways, you said that there were investments in infrastructure. Which Quebec highway is earmarked for strategic infrastructure investment in your 2004-2005 budget?

  +-(1210)  

+-

    The Chair: I'm going to ask you to try to find the answer and to include it when we come to closing remarks, please.

[English]

    Mr. Hubbard, five minutes.

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    First, I have just a comment. I was very disappointed that the budget has withdrawn the money that might have gone toward passenger rail. Last year a very significant allocation of money was promised to VIA Rail and to passenger rail. I'm not sure, Mr. Minister, if this is merely holding back on that commitment for a year or if it's a long-term policy that passenger rail will not be promoted by Transport Canada.

    I'd also like to ask a question. I guess it came from some of the concerns on the opposite table.

    When 9/11 occurred, Mr. Chair, Canada reacted by spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars addressing terrorism and addressing terrorism in terms of air as a method of travel. I was reading Peter Mansbridge last night in Maclean's magazine about the tremendous inconvenience that people have getting on airplanes these days and the security that is out there. But only a few weeks ago we had a very serious act of terrorism with passenger travel in terms of rail service, whether it be commuter services or passenger rail.

    Has the department looked at security in terms of what was done with terrorism in Spain, and is it going to affect rail and commuter services?

    I'm rather taken aback a bit, Mr. Chair, that as a nation we probably have not paid much attention to this new form of terrorism, which has moved away from attacking places with airplanes now to the bombing of four or five cars, bombed by people with knapsacks or duffle bags who put tremendous explosives on those rail services and caused the loss of nearly 200 lives, as was noted yesterday in the special services that were held in Spain.

    Has there been a consideration by the department to look at terrorism as it may affect a second mode of transportation?

+-

    The Chair: Before you go, I'd like to share with members that the food is in. We won't be breaking for lunch; we'll be eating through it. Members, as you can, please go first, and in five minutes anyone else can go.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: Does that include me?

    Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Minister, you have enough staff here. I hope somebody will bring you a sandwich.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: In terms of the question, I think it's a very valid question, because it would certainly come to the minds of most people as they look at how we reacted to 9/11, what does this now mean to another mode of--

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard: Before that, though, Mr. Minister, I asked about the commitment for passenger service in rail, if that's been held off for one year or is it off the table for future commitments toward passenger travel.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: No, I would describe it as a request to VIA Rail to come back with a capital plan for consideration. The $692.5 million was always under consideration with respect to the reallocation, the expenditure review committee of cabinet, so I would not take the removal of that as an indication that we would not be promoting rail in this country. I said in my opening remarks that I don't want to look at one mode over another, and I really do think we need to look at a transportation system, rather than transportation modes in isolation. So I would not say to you that my preference would be to focus solely on air or solely on surface, and not on rail--the entire system.

    With respect to passenger rail, and VIA in particular, I would say that they will come back with a plan, and we will certainly look at that plan from a capital expenditure perspective to deal with passenger rail. I wouldn't take the announcement the other day as an indication that we would not be looking at passenger rail in the country.

    With respect to the security issues, there is legislative authority under the Railway Safety Act to regulate security in a manner quite similar to procedures in place in aviation security. What happened after the incident in Spain was that Transport Canada was in contact with the railways through the Railway Association of Canada and requested that passenger rail services be extra vigilant and commuter rail services provide us with indications of perceived threat.

    We're also as a department constantly reviewing the security system railways have to evaluate threatened risk. I think it's fair to say that if in our assessment we believed further security initiatives were required, we would take those steps to address any of the challenges that might be presented.

    I think security really needs to be looked at in the broad sense, whether it's border, rail, or air. You are quite correct in identifying aviation as one we really reacted to, but there are other security risks in other areas that we're constantly monitoring.

  +-(1215)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hubbard.

    Ms. Desjarlais, five minutes.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Thank you.

    Just noting CATSA's additional $7 million, the budget actually decreased the cost of air transportation security fees. Is this additional $7 million to CATSA to offset the cuts to security fees? Why is there an additional $7 million?

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: There actually isn't an additional $7 million. We haven't increased CATSA's budget. This has gone from capital to operating, in terms of their budget, so it's gone from one side of the ledger to the other, but it's the same envelope. There's not been an increase.

    In terms of the security charge itself, there was always a commitment by the government to review the security charge on an ongoing basis to ensure that expenditures match revenues coming in. We saw a 40% decrease in the last budget, and we've seen a 15% decrease in this budget, so it's really a matching of revenues and expenditures that's driven the reduction in the charge.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Okay.

    Seeing that the Auditor General has been very clear about committees delving a little deeper into costs rather than ending up in situations where we're backtracking, and knowing that when CATSA is before us they tend to tell us they can't give us any information because it's going to breach security, that we'll have to go through the minister, while you're here, is it possible to get the following: the cost of equipment for CATSA; the cost of training the airport baggage handlers, both the checkers, the ones going through, as well as baggage handlers for cargo; the cost of the administration; the cost of travel for the executive director who has gone around the world checking out different security agencies; the income from the security fees; as well as the costing of the CATSA logo badges, uniforms, and CATSA everywhere you look in the airport?

+-

    The Chair: I will note, Mr. Minister, that this is a request from one member, not a request from the committee.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    What I would say is that there are obviously some security concerns to releasing the individual line items that are allocated to what you outlined, and that's why you traditionally see a grouping in the revenue associated with those individual items. The concern that is being expressed is one about exposing exactly what amount of money is being allocated to one particular line item. We could certainly provide you with the grouping of revenues that is going in. I don't want to prejudge your line of questioning; I'm just wondering if you're looking at it from your perspective and suggesting that perhaps they're not spending more in one area versus another.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Well, it's just that this is a new agency being set up. There was concern as to other agencies when they're operating and expenditures happening and taking place, and I think it would be prudent as a committee....

    I actually did this in such a way that I wasn't asking how much money is being spent for bomb checking of baggage. It was about equipment in general, the cost of training, and those kinds of things. When I looked at it, I actually couldn't see that there would be a security aspect to it. If somehow there is, I would really like to know the reasoning behind how it becomes a security aspect.

    I wouldn't for one moment suggest we risk the security of the travellers, but I think we need to be prudent. It's a new agency that's starting up, and we should keep--

  +-(1220)  

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: I think that's a fair request, and we'll take that back.

    It's also prudent to mention that the Auditor General is the auditor for CATSA, so she would actually be looking at all of that information on the individual lines.

    But I will take that under consideration and see if we can provide that.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Desjarlais.

[Translation]

    Mr. Jobin, you have five minutes.

+-

    Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.): Minister, welcome to this committee.

    You know that sea shipping is the safest and most environmentally friendly form of transportation per kilometre travelled. You know that the Government of Canada has signed the Kyoto Protocol and, with businesses embracing the just-in-time principle, there are more and more trucks on our highways. Highway transportation is over-used.

    The St. Lawrence Seaway is the gateway to the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence axis is thus a very important waterway. If this river could be relocated to Europe, there might well be traffic lights on the waterway to control boat traffic, but we in Canada make users of the St. Lawrence Seaway pay for ice breaking and dredging. We shut down shipyards that build ships.

    In the U.S., the Jones Act stipulates that any item transported in American waters must be carried by American boats that are American owned and built and piloted by Americans. In the port of New York, major upgrades are being made. We run the risk of seeing shipping traffic go through the port of New York instead of through the St. Lawrence Seaway.

    We have no real cabotage legislation in Canada. We have no intermodal transportation such that goods shipped by boat can be transferred to rail and from rail to truck to avoid over using our infrastructure.

    When you look at the current state of our highways, you can see that they are truly over used. I think that Canada is really going to have to do a reality check, minister, and it had better be today, because we are lagging well behind. What worries me now is what's happening in the United States as compared to what's happening in Canada.

    I'd like to hear from you on that, please.

[English]

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: I think you're quite correct when you point to the seaway as being an area we certainly need to look at in terms of advancing opportunities to move traffic. I go back to my opening remarks, when I said I really wanted to look at the transportation sector as a transportation system. I really want to look at areas where there might be barriers to advancing trade flows through Canadian ports, ultimately enhancing surface transportation or other types of intermodal opportunities.

    What are those barriers when we compare ourselves to the United States? We know the United States invests a lot of money in ports and in other modes of transportation. I think Canada needs to look at ports, airports, roads, and the system itself in ways so we can in fact contribute to the competitiveness of the country and attract the trade flows. Geographically we're better positioned with respect to trade from Europe and from Asia with the port of Vancouver and the airports, so how do we leverage our geographical advantage in trade and transportation and in being the gateway to North America?

    I'm really looking for the committee to help in identifying where some of those barriers might be for Canada. Where might be areas for investment we need to make? Where might there be changes in policy?

    I point to the meeting we had months ago with the provincial transportation ministers. We talked about how we looked at the system across the country and identified certain areas. On the surface travel side, for instance, you as a trucker might be travelling from Ontario to Manitoba and would see a new set of regulations you needed to comply with. How do we streamline that across the country so you don't have all of these regulations and impediments to effective trade across the country?

    I really hope the committee will look at what the barriers are to effective trade and transportation in this country. It includes the seaway, rail, trucks, and air. I don't have all of the answers to that particular challenge, but I do hope the committee might take that on as an issue where they can provide input, because on the broader basis, in the short term that's going to form the basis of some policy thrusts I want to engage in.

  +-(1225)  

+-

    The Chair: Now we will go to one-minute questions, and all members can have their one minute, followed by, hopefully, answers to all of the questions mixed with your closing remarks. I will tell you before you start how much time you have; I may be a bit generous with you.

    Mr. Gouk, one minute.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you.

    The airline industry is in serious trouble. We've seen how the last minister came up with a rent deferment that provided no benefit whatsoever because it couldn't be passed on because it was still owed. Airport rents are crippling the industy, and as well the airline industry continues to pay aviation fuel tax when they pay for all of their own services; there is no infrastructure provided to them. They pay for the whole thing through their landing fees and the fees that are charged by the airport authorities.

    What kind of initiative are you going to undertake that is going to provide some genuine relief to a very hard hit airline industry in this country? NavCanada basically operates on cost recovery, so there's not much we can do in that area. CATSA is something where I think we can do something, and again, I urge you to have one of your staff available following this meeting to hear some of the things that are dealt with concerning CATSA.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Gouk.

[Translation]

    Mr. Labramboise, you have one minute.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Bill C-27 was to establish some regulations on railway yard noise pollution. I'm thinking of the Joffre yard in Charny, in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, and other problems.

    Does the government intend to table a new bill to solve this problem that is truly unbearable for communities along the railways, including those near railway yards? We know that railway yards located on federal lands are not subject to municipal and provincial regulations. Do you intend to legislate to that affect?

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise.

    Mr. Bigras.

+-

    Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Tuesday, in response to a question from Mr. Jobin on the widening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, you said that you were opposed to the extension of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which is quite a different matter. On page 32 of the reconnaissance report, there are at least three options that contemplate deepening to 35 feet, which is suitable for panamax, and widening the St. Lawrence Seaway.

    Before agreeing to the study and $500,000 in funding, did you write to our American counterparts to say that you were willing to commit to another study on condition that the Government of Canada reject the idea of widening and deepening the St. Lawrence? Did you put that in writing?

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Merci, Monsieur Bigras.

    Ms. Whelan, one minute.

+-

    Hon. Susan Whelan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. Minister, I'll leave my question about the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act until another day, and ask if you could just reiterate and address my concerns on the binational study and the process that's underway to assure me that the concerns of residents of the town of LaSalle, the town of Amherstburg, and surrounding communities will be taken into consideration.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Whelan.

    Mr. Hubbard.

+-

    Mr. Charles Hubbard: Thanks, Mr. Chair.

    Mr. Minister, I will ask a question that I asked the other day in committee again. I hope that in our country, in our great nation, the process of getting out of transportation is not part of your department's overall vision. Right now I think a lot of it's simply in terms of regulation and safety, and I think that in terms of transportation we have to invest in it. I'm not sure that we're doing the type of investment and the management and the overall vision that our country needs.

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

  +-(1230)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Hubbard.

    Monsieur Jobin, one minute.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Christian Jobin: I'd like to come back to what Mr. Laframboise said. He referred to the Joffre railway yard, which is in my riding. When CN was privatized in 1998, it was forced to become more profitable. So railway yard operations were centralized in a few stations, including the one in Charny, and residents of the area are experiencing noise pollution problems. From May to September, they can't open their windows, can't sleep, can't have peace and quiet, and all because of an existing flaw in the Canada Transportation Act with respect to noise caused by railway companies. Furthermore, you can't turn to the Transportation Agency for help.

    I know that Bill C-26 contained a series of provisions. The part of the bill that dealt with the problem of noise pollution caused by railway companies could be taken out and enacted separately to solve this problem as quickly as possible, because the residents of Charny and of other communities in Canada are really inconvenienced by the railway companies. Meetings with railway company representatives and attempts at mediation have proved fruitless. The companies are behaving like irresponsible corporate citizens, sir.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Merci, Monsieur Jobin.

    Mr. Minister, we have ten minutes to respond to all these questions and also to include your closing remarks.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. Gouk, in terms of your comments on the air sector, in the short term my focus would be on the rent side of the equation on the airport side. I understand rent relief is taking place, but I think we need to certainly pursue the issue of rents, and we look forward to doing so, once the review and the study are complete, which I expect quite soon.

    With respect to noise pollution, I do recognize, Monsieur Laframboise, that there is a gap, and we are going to bring in legislation to deal with the issue of noise pollution.

    With respect to the St. Lawrence Seaway and the reconnaissance report, earlier on I responded that the Government of Canada and the Department of Transport are not participating in the reconnaissance report, which is the report that is looking at the widening and deepening of the seaway. We are not looking at the widening and deepening of the seaway. We are looking at the existing seaway and how we might be able to maintain that existing seaway.

    In terms of the binational study, Ms. Whelan, I do undertake to ensure that your constituents will have a voice ultimately in the routes that are decided upon. I will certainly ask my department. Perhaps I can speak with you personally after these meetings and then perhaps next week we can sit down and compare the feedback that you would have experienced and that the department might be reporting on.

    Mr. Hubbard, in terms of getting out of the transportation business, which I guess is what I take from your comment, my position would be that I'm at the other end of that spectrum. This is the way I would describe it. I really see the opportunity for us to build a transportation system across this country because I really think it's the underpinning of an effective and efficient economy. I don't want to look at transportation from a silo perspective. I want to look at it from a holistic perspective, and that means that we have a lot of work to do, I think, on the policy side.

    I agree that there is a need for dollar investment, and one might argue that the need might be on the surface side or some might say it has to go to rail or that we need to do some things in the air sector. I accept that there are needs of the different modes of transportation, but to build the effective and efficient transportation system means that we first have to have a sense of how it is that the transportation system impacts our economy. Understanding that and knowing where we want our country and our economy to be positioned then gives us, I think, the road map to decide what those investments are.

    I go back to my experience with the provincial ministers recently and the enormous cooperation that I thought the provincial ministers were providing in understanding as well that it isn't always just about money, it's also about what the barriers are. And sometimes policy and regulations are barriers for modes that are unable to take advantage of the opportunities that might allow them to contribute to our economy in a more effective way.

    So I want to look at it not only from the monetary side of it--do we need investment dollars to do things?, absolutely--but I also think we need to look at policy--do we have the right policy? And I think in having the right policy and having the amount of investment that we need, I want to build the transportation system. I do not want to dismantle the transportation system in Canada.

    In terms of Monsieur Jobin and the noise pollution issue, I would reiterate that we are going to introduce legislation that speaks specifically to the noise issue. I do understand there is a gap there at the moment and that members that are affected by this are depending on companies and their relationship with companies. I do recognize there's a gap, and I do endeavour to bring legislation in to deal with this specifically.

  +-(1235)  

+-

    The Chair: Before we go on, on Monsieur Laframboise's question,

[Translation]

regarding strategic infrastructure in Quebec, can you give us a brief status report on the negotiations?

[English]

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    Hon. Tony Valeri: He has a response to that.

[Translation]

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    Mr. Louis Ranger: The question was: when you seek funding, is it funding from the department or from Infrastructure Canada? I can answer for both, but from the department's funds specifically, there's $108 million earmarked for Quebec, among other things, for highways 40, 20 and 185.

    An hon. member: [Editor's note: inaudible]

    Mr. Louis Ranger: For highway 175 and highway 30.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Merci.

    Mr. Minister, we have about five minutes.

+-

    Hon. Tony Valeri: I welcome the opportunity to come before the committee to talk about a variety of issues. I'm at the point where I'm strategically looking at the transportation system and how it impacts on trade and tourism.

    I welcome input from the committee, if it chooses to do so. As Mr. Hubbard commented, how we build an effective transportation system in this country is at the very core. We have an opportunity to look at modes as a system, and that's the perspective I really want to take. I'm not favouring one mode over another, nor do I think that's a desirable way to look at a transportation system and transportation sector.

    In closing, I want to signal that by appearing here today I'm reaching out and cooperating with the committee. I'm really looking for guidance and good policy advice from committee members. I think we have an opportunity to do that, and if we can operate in a collaborative fashion, it will be good for everybody.

    Ultimately, there are individual challenges people may have, whether it's the St. Lawrence Seaway on the one hand, or rail on the other. I accept all of those and am prepared to deal with them. But I really appeal to the committee to look at some real policy initiatives in a holistic sense, as to how we can build a transportation system to enhance the economy of the country and ultimately the quality of life for Canadians.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

    I can tell you that this committee is eager to get to work on studies, but we have the problem that the media keeps telling us a ridiculous story about the possibility of an election. There are very important issues that need to be studied, but they're not things we could do in a week or two or three. As soon as we know that we have more time, I'm sure they will be very anxious to get going.

    This was your initiation at the committee. You did really well, but I will say that my colleagues were very kind. This is a warning that if you send us controversial legislation, the next time they will not be so kind.

    Thank you very much.

    We will suspend for a few minutes.

  +-(1239)  


  +-(1247)  

+-

    The Chair: Welcome back, everyone.

    We will resume and call on the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the president and chief executive officer, Jacques Duchesneau. We also have the vice-president and chief financial officer, Michael McLaughlin; vice-president of law policy and corporate secretary, Ian MacKay; and director of screening operations, Barry Corbett. Welcome all.

    We invite you to make a short presentation, followed by questions. I'll try to be as fair as I can with our time. We have only 30 minutes together.

    Monsieur Duchesneau.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau (President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

    I'm pleased to have been invited and to be able to answer members' questions about our organization's activities.

    If you would allow me to do a very quick summary of the activities that come under the responsibility of CATSA, I would say that we do everything that makes up pre-board screening of passengers, as well as searching their baggage, both carry-on and checked.

    We also manage two programs involving policing, the airport policing program and the onboard policing program.

    Finally, the latest mandates that we have been given by the Minister of Transport are the national airport restricted area pass system, as well as non-passenger screening, or the screening of airport employees.

    As of April 1st, that is, starting next week, we are going to be working with airport screening service suppliers, both new and old. Whereas before we had 15 service suppliers, from now on, we will deal with five service suppliers. At the same time, we have raised the bar, if you will, and are demanding more from service suppliers.

    We are also deploying, in year three of our five-year plan, i.e., 2004-2005, explosives detection equipment here and there in the 89 Canadian airports, and our non-passenger screening program just got underway recently at the Toronto Airport.

  +-(1250)  

[English]

    We have prepared a budget for 2004-05. We are facing pressures, and are managing the budget within the parameters that were allowed by Parliament.

    We're also monitoring threats that could affect air transportation across the country. We have worked on our mission and the vision of the organization. If I can summarize, security is our first priority.

    Those are my opening remarks. I'm ready and happy to answer all your questions.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Duchesneau.

    This allows us two rounds, one of four minutes, and one of three minutes.

    Mr. Gouk.

+-

    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    I have three questions. I'm going to put the three out if there's enough time. We can come back to them, or hopefully the gentlemen will follow up with written responses to these questions.

    The first question is with regard to the contract. I want to make clear that I have no preference for one company over another. It's just the way the examples happen to fall. There is a new contract with Securiguard in British Columbia replacing Aeroguard. It's my understanding, and I have lots of evidence to concur with this, that when you go to contract and hire a company like Securiguard, or form a contract with Securiguard, they have no qualified employees to speak of to provide the service. They are assuming that if they win over somebody else, they will take on those employees. However, they are supposed to start on April 1.

    I talked to the head of Securiguard two days ago, and they do not have an agreement with those people as of yet. They have made an offer to them; they have not heard back. So I'd like to know what kind of process we have that we go out and accept a contract from a company that does not have these people. What contingency is in place in the event that they don't get those people in place in time for the start-up date?

    The second question is on new screening measures in small airports. Right now in large airports the passengers go one way, the bags go the other. Those bags go through X-ray somewhere in the bowels of the airport. But in small airports it is now being handled by CATSA right on the check-in line.

    Some of these airports have absolutely abominable conditions set up. This was delayed until the equipment could be in place, and yet it's going ahead. One example is my own airport, Castlegar. Passengers have to go outdoors and line up on a ramp. Once they get in there are no washrooms inside the facility. Once they check in they have to go immediately to security, and they're asked to get there an hour or more before their flight. So there can be more than an hour inside these facilities with no washrooms, no nothing. Why are we proceeding ahead with these things when we have not put proper, reasonable facilities in place?

    The final question I have is with regard to something I've raised before with CATSA, and that's pre-screening passes. It's ridiculous to have airline employees, for one, go through this long process to maybe take away some short little penknife or something when they go on board and then have a four-foot fire axe in their cabin that's a no-go item on their check list. What are you doing towards that?

    Beyond that, there are high-frequency travellers who would be prepared to go through whatever type of pre-screening, not unlike the Americans asking for card passes at borders going into their country at the U.S. border. What process is taking place, and how soon might we expect some action on that?

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Duchesneau, my colleagues know that when I say four minutes, it's the question and the answer. You have five questions to answer in one minute.

+-

    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    First, on Securiguard, I'm pleased to inform the committee this morning that 97% of the screeners who were hired by Aeroguard have signed to work with Securiguard. They're still in the negotiation process. They negotiated until very late last night. I'm very confident that by next week 100% of the employees with training will be joining Securiguard. You have to understand that screening providers are mainly there to manage people who were already trained, and that's exactly why we decided to go with Securiguard.

    On new screening measures, well, it's mainly to manage the money that was given to us by Parliament, Mr. Chairman. If we had gone with all the demands that airports had asked before, we were talking about a budget of over $700 million. We've reduced that to about $450 million, and we had to make decisions: either we go with a back-of-the-house solution where conveyor belts need to bring all luggage to be screened to this one location, or we have options for smaller airports where we could go with side-of-the-house or front-of-the-house solutions, which were much cheaper than having the Cadillac, if you will allow me this expression.

    On trusted travellers, yes, we talked about that the last time I was here. It's a work in progress. I met last week with the director of the new border agency for Canada. They're using NEXUS right now, but the one thing we need to understand is that our needs are completely different. When you come to Canada and you have this NEXUS pass, if you go through a security check without being spotted, if you represent a threat, we have ways to find you in this country. Our problem is that if we fail and people get on board and they were not screened properly, then we can have a major problem.

  +-(1255)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you very much. You did well.

[Translation]

    Mr. Laframboise, you have four minutes.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    You're going from 15 to 5 suppliers, so that means that there's a bit of a shakeup in the service industry. How do you ensure that all of the employees are trained? Do you supervise their training? Explain to us how it works.

+-

    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Mr. Chairman, all employees who work as pre-board screening officers are not only trained to our standards, they are also certified according to our standards. So a person is not only trained, but also has to be certified at each stage of training according to standards set by Transport Canada.

    To give you an example, there are three stages of training: levels 1, 2 and 3. After each period of classroom training, we also do on-the-job training. After that, there's certification, and only when you have finished the first stage can you move on to the second and third levels.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Okay.

    Does all of this training come out of your budget, or is it the suppliers that pay?

+-

    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: No, training comes out of CATSA's budget. One of the problems that we have had to overcome since the inception of CATSA was to ensure consistency of our operations across the country. If someone was searched in Halifax, Montreal or Vancouver, you could say that before CATSA was set up, it was inconsistent, and consistency was one of the important points underscored in public opinion surveys. So we do the training, we pay for the training and we also do certification.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Can you tell us anything about the public opinion surveys that were conducted?

+-

    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: The findings of one survey are slated to be posted soon on our website. I'm presenting the findings to my board of directors next week. I could tell you that the Canadian public's level of satisfaction has gone up significantly. Over 90 per cent of the public is very satisfied with the work of our officers, and I can tell you that I am very proud of that. At the very least, we find that training has been an important part of the equation. We see greater consistency. Over 60 per cent of people feel that operating standards have improved since the events of September 11, 2001, and since the inception of our organization. I'm rather proud of that.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Mrs. Desjarlais, four minutes.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: I'm just trying to get my head around the whole aspect of the contract change between Securiguard and Aeroguard. Following along Mr. Gouk's point, I'm curious how a contract would be signed with a security firm that didn't have trained employees.

    I acknowledge that you're saying you're paying for the training and for the certification, but I'm losing something here, or I'm just not catching on to the fact that if you already have trained people for one security company, how the other security company, without trained people.... What would happen if they didn't have trained people, if all of them hadn't moved over?

    Part of my concern in this area is that one of the issues we dealt with with airport security checkers was situations of very low wages and huge turnovers of staff, and we were dealing with all the issues that related to that.

    So I'm curious. How does a contract get signed with a company when they have no or very few certified employees, not enough to meet the need?

·  +-(1300)  

+-

    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: I'll start the answer first, and Mr. MacKay will complete it.

    I think your question is quite fair, but that's the way it works in the security business, not only with airports but no matter where you go.

    In the security business, organizations use qualified manpower. I remember when I was chief of police in Montreal, we had guards working for us. The company would change on a regular basis, but the employees would remain the same, because they were qualified for a specific job.

    It's the same thing at the airport. You need to be qualified according to our standards, but the rest is management, and that's where I'm saying we're raising the bar.

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: So in essence you're not really signing a new contract for the security checkers; you're signing a new contract for the management.

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: I'd say you'd be correct.

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    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Okay. I just want to make sure it's clear here.

    I know you're saying this is how it happens in the security business--however, in the security business outside the transportation safety and security issue. Bear in mind, we're dealing with the very serious problem of terrorism that has struck the world, and we had to make sure we had all these processes put in place. But this is how things work in the security business, so we'll deal with it in transportation safety the same way we do if someone is securing a building, or whatever, somewhere else.

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Mr. Chairman, that's not what I meant, so I will explain it much further.

    The most important thing when we're talking about screening operations at airports is the people working with the equipment, the people qualified to work with the equipment according to our standards of operation and also training standards. We should be glad we keep 97% of the employees. It costs less and we make sure we keep trained people who have the experience.

    We're managing. Yes, when we change contracts like that, there are reasons. If the quality of management was not what we expected, we wanted to raise the bar. Management is a key issue.

    Security at airports is not only about equipment; it's about people behind the equipment. They are making the calls, so we need to make sure we work with the right people.

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    Mr. Barry Corbett (Director, Screening Operations, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): Mr. Chair, if I could, I'll just add to that.

    This didn't happen by accident or by wish. In this case our new contract with all of our new contractors provides that they must make an offer to the existing screening officer workforce for as many screeners as they feel they need. In the case of British Columbia, every screener in British Columbia was made an offer of employment, and as Mr. Duchesneau has indicated, 97% in Vancouver have accepted and it's 95% for the rest of the province.

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    The Chair: Thank you.

    Ms. Whelan.

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    Hon. Susan Whelan: I just want to follow up on this for a bit to understand it.

    Most of the people who were doing the security are now the ones who are continuing to do security, and they're having additional training. I always get worried when there's a middleman in between and the people who are actually doing the job aren't getting paid fairly and adequately. I know the people at Windsor, for example, were only making minimum wage. Can you tell me that these people's wages are going to go up with the appropriate training?

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: The wages went up when we were created. In certain places around the country they doubled the salary they'd had before; that was part of raising the bar from the very beginning. But people need to qualify. They receive training, but if they're not certified, yes, they lose their job.

    But as I said from the very beginning, security comes first. We also manage money. I know there are questions about budget, and we're trying to get the best bang for our buck without compromising on security.

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    Hon. Susan Whelan: Can you just address another security issue for me? One of the things I'd like to know is, is there is any restriction on the languages that can be spoken by the security guards?

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: They have to speak one of the two official languages, and at certain airports--class one airports, international airports--both official languages. Any person going to a class one airport can have service in either French or English.

·  +-(1305)  

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    Hon. Susan Whelan: I just want to clarify whether there is no rule against or opposition to them speaking languages other than those. I come from a multicultural community with over 130 different languages, and some of the screeners have told me they are not allowed to speak their native language to people coming through because it's seen as a security threat.

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: This is the first time I've heard about that. More than that, we're going to be opening a communication centre pretty soon in order to make sure that, for anybody who gets to a screening point who doesn't speak French or English, we would have available to us a list of people speaking different languages. It happened before. In Vancouver, for example, for somebody getting to the pre-boarding screening area who speaks Chinese, we could have a way to communicate with the person.

    We go back to the same motto: security first. It can be a security threat, and if a person doesn't understand the instructions they are given, then we will find a way for them to understand the message.

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    The Chair: Excuse me, Ms. Whelan. I'll give you back the time.

    Is it your policy that an employee cannot speak any other language with a passenger?

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: No, that's not our policy.

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    The Chair: I would consider that illegal.

    I'll give you back the time.

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    Hon. Susan Whelan: Thank you very much.

    I'll finish just very quickly. I see many differences between Canada and the United States in the way our airports operate when it comes to security, and I've travelled extensively around the world over the last two years since 9/11. My question is, where is the coordination among security operations in North America? I don't see it. For example, in Windsor I show my boarding pass at security and then I show my identification and boarding pass when I board the plane. In Detroit I go to an e-ticket terminal. I never see an agent. The only time I ever show my identification, my passport, is at security. When I board the plane, I no longer show my identification to go directly to Washington. So where is the coordination in what we consider to be secure in North America?

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: You have to understand that every country does screening operations the way they feel is best for their country. We work closely with TSA, the Transportation Security Administration in the United States, trying to coordinate the way we do business.

    Terrorism is a global problem. We need to perform our job in the best way possible, but the only way we can do that is to speak with other countries. CATSA hosted a summit in February; 14 countries from around the world were there, and Mr. Karygiannis was one of the guest speakers. It's very nice to compare us with other countries. I'm not here to brag about what we're doing, but I'm very satisfied with the way we are doing things.

    Items that are intercepted; I've heard that comment before, Mr. Chairman. Why is it they don't intercept nail clippers in the United States and we do it in Canada? Well, our regulations are made by Transport Canada, and you could ask them why. I think I'd rather have more stringent rules than jeopardize security.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Whelan.

    Mr. Gouk, three minutes.

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    Mr. Jim Gouk: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    The format worked well last time. I have two questions, and I'll give them both to you.

    First of all, with regard to what I said about small airports, I'm not suggesting we should have what we have at the big airports, that we want the Cadillac system as opposed to the Chevy. The system at small airports wasn't implemented until recently. Now it seems CATSA has jumped the gun and has implemented that system used at small airports, that upfront or sideways or whatever you call it, before there are proper equipment and facilities in place.

    At my airport you have to line up outside no matter what the weather is. We had one case--I've been written to about it--where an 85-year-old woman with a cane had to drag her luggage up a ramp into the trailer and be cooped up in that trailer for an hour without washroom facilities. To me, sir, that is absolutely unacceptable. The new process should not have been implemented until such time as CATSA was able to provide adequate facilities for the small airport style of screening.

    The second question is with regard to the employees, the checkers. If you want stability and you want to be able to use these same people, why doesn't CATSA employ these people? If you don't feel you have the expertise to manage them yourselves, then contract for the management within CATSA, but why keep jerking these employees around from outfit to outfit with the risk they won't go over, plus the unsettlement and everything else? Why not just employ them under CATSA's name and then bring somebody in to manage them if that's what you feel is most appropriate?

·  +-(1310)  

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Mr. Chairman, we looked at this possibility, but we are managing this organization very tightly and we just want to make sure we get the best bang for our buck. Having federal employees as managers would obviously cost much more.

    We had a study done by the Law Commission of Canada wherein we analyzed private security versus public security. The new trend is to use private companies, not only in Canada but around the world, so we thought that was the best way to get benefit out of the money we were paying.

    For the Castlegar airport, Mr. Chairman, I would have to get back to Mr. Gouk with details. Having 89 airports, I don't have specific details, but if you'll allow me, I will get back to Mr. Gouk personally.

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    The Chair: I'll leave that between the two of you.

    Mr. Karygiannis, three minutes.

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    Hon. Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough—Agincourt, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    A little while ago my colleague asked the minister a very important question about what we are doing and whether we are looking at all modes of transport and security.

    Mr. Chair, do I have my three minutes or does Mr. Gouk want to take the floor?

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    The Chair: The clock is running.

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    Hon. Jim Karygiannis: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    It only shows the inability of my colleague to pay attention to very important questions.

    Mr. Duchesneau, with regard to the security we have to provide for other modes of transport, have you been asked about it, are you looking at it, and is CATSA thinking out of the box? If you were asked to provide security for other means of transport, would you be able to rise to the challenge? Will you be able to raise the bar? Has your team put something in place so, if you were asked, you could properly address that?

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Mr. Chairman, that's a very good question. Yes, we are monitoring what's happening with security in other modes of transportation.

    March 11, 2004, was a major problem for all of us involved in security. Even though they attacked trains that day, the way they did it could be good information for us in order to prevent such terrible attacks. So yes, we are monitoring maritime rail and whatever can help us to do a better job.

[Translation]

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    The Chair: Mr. Laframboise, you have three minutes.

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    Mr. Mario Laframboise: No, that's okay. Thank you.

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    The Chair: Fine then.

[English]

    Mr. Cannis, three minutes.

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    Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Welcome once again to the committee.

    I had another line of questions, but hearing your conversation and exchange with my colleague Bev Desjarlais, first of all, I do agree that the security we have here in Canada, the excellent security, we are not given full credit for, and I compliment you on the great work that has been done. But I'm concerned with respect to the new assignments.

    You indicated the new contractor and 97% of the people. When somebody goes out to hire somebody, they hire them based on history, expertise, and the ability to deliver.

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Correct.

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    Mr. John Cannis: These people did have staff--am I correct or not?

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: No, that's not correct.

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    Mr. John Cannis: So under what basis did we judge them? I'm not saying the previous one was better, but how did we judge them, that they were a better company to provide a better service?

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: That is a very good question.

    Securiguard existed. As a matter of fact, they were already at Vancouver airport doing all sorts of security measures, implementing all measures related to security but not screening operations. So we looked at their business. They made a proposal, and we had a lot of bidders. We're still convinced that we took not only the cheapest one but the best one. Price was an important issue, but that was not the only issue. We are convinced that this company has good management, has sound information on how security should be done, and we're convinced that they can do a good job with 97% of the existing employees.

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    Mr. John Cannis: Can you guarantee me that this company that has taken over has no affiliation, no relation to the previous companies that ran the service--and I would like to see this on record, Mr. Chairman--no officers, no directors related whatsoever to the current company that has assumed the contract?

·  -(1315)  

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Mr. Chairman, just to make sure that I understand the question pretty well--

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    The Chair: I will make sure that we all understand what we're doing here. You are not under oath, and you are not here as a request of ours. You asked to meet with me individually, and my practice is to open it up. So you don't have to answer.

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    Mr. John Cannis: Mr. Chairman, it's a reasonable question. There is a company here that has undertaken one of the most vital aspects of what we're trying to put out there.

    We discussed this issue a year and a half ago, as you know, and there were some concerns. We didn't want to simply take from this hand to this hand, take the staff from here and portray it out there that we have changed. I want to see that indeed there was real change.

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: Mr. Chairman, just to make sure I understand the question pretty well, the existing company in Vancouver is Aeroguard. Coming April 1, 2004, it will be Securiguard. But Aeroguard will still be one of our providers. They're going to be doing Ontario and the prairies. So we're not getting rid of a company, we're dealing with a new company, and Aeroguard is moving.

    If I understand the question pretty well, it is whether Securiguard, the new provider, is associated with Aeroguard. Is that your question?

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    Mr. John Cannis: That's one, and you prompted me with another one as well: Why is Aeroguard able to provide the service that we are satisfied with in other airports, and not in Vancouver or other airports?

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    Mr. Ian MacKay (Vice-President, Law, Policy and Corporate Secretary, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): When we launched the RFP, we had a competitive process right across Canada and we had a number of bidders, existing providers and new providers. Through the bidding process, which was a function of evaluating both the technical and the financial side of the equation, we were evaluating these particular bids.

    The bids were done on each single airport but within a geographical group, and B.C. is one of those geographical groups. In the evaluation process, when all the various components were combined and added up, Securiguard was the winning bid in the Pacific. Aeroguard, conversely, was the winning bidder in the prairies and Ontario, save and except Toronto. So the biding process determined who the successful bidders were.

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    Mr. John Cannis: With the greatest of respect, so here I am, I've been providing this service through Aeroguard all these years, throughout the country. I know the various regions and the dynamics and the changes in salaries, etc, etc. I have the expertise of all these years. And all of a sudden I can't provide a proper bid for one airport over the other, where my competitors have no staff, have no history, no service to back themselves up. Surely I question the evaluation of somebody new just coming in, with no history, no staff, no depth, nothing, outbidding somebody or outperforming somebody, someone who just comes in all of a sudden and says here I am, I'm going to provide.

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    The Chair: I'll give you 30 seconds.

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    Mr. Jacques Duchesneau: I just want to say, Mr. Chair, there were due diligences made financially. Also we checked to see if the company could give that service. It was very thorough, with due diligence, and we were satisfied with the answers we got.

    It is a good company, we are convinced, and I can assure the committee that we are convinced--and I am convinced--they're going to do a great job.

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    The Chair: That's it. No, there's no point of order, that's it. I gave you an extra minute and a half.

    Just to bring us back in time, I'll tell you the story about the Sudbury airport, when a passenger came through the gate with a firearm on his side. The security was provided by National Defence off duty, and they had him on the floor in a second and a half. It turned out that this passenger was part of the security personnel for Air Canada. He should have known better than to go to an airport with a firearm.

    It's just to show you how things have changed. They were part-time workers then. But as long as we had National Defence, I think we had the best.

    But we have good security now.

    Thank you very much. This was part of our consultation with the new chair of the committee. I opened it up to all members; I hope it was beneficial to all members, and to you.

    Thank you.