Skip to main content Start of content

TRAN Committee Meeting

Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the accessibility of this publication, please contact us at accessible@parl.gc.ca.

Previous day publication Next day publication

37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION

Standing Committee on Transport


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Tuesday, March 30, 2004




Á 1105
V         The Chair (Mr. Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.))
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ)

Á 1110

Á 1115
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes (Gander—Grand Falls, CPC)
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP)
V         The Chair

Á 1120
V         Mr. Gérard Binet (Frontenac—Mégantic, Lib.)
V         Mr. Charles Hubbard (Miramichi, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC)

Á 1125
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.)

Á 1130
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais

Á 1135
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich
V         The Chair
V         Mr. John Christopher (Analyst, Library of Parliament)
V         Mrs. Lynne Yelich
V         Mr. John Christopher
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise

Á 1140
V         The Chair

Á 1145
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Rex Barnes
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair

Á 1150
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Mario Laframboise
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Bev Desjarlais
V         The Chair










CANADA

Standing Committee on Transport


NUMBER 008 
l
3rd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Á  +(1105)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Mr. Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.)): I call the meeting to order. Good morning, everyone.

    We are gathered to deal with a notice of motion from Monsieur Laframboise, and also to deal with the report from Minister Saada in regard to appointments.

    Before we go on, I have explained to each one of you that I am seeking unanimous consent to change a motion that was passed at the first meeting we had, which read: “That one (1) transcript of all In camera meetings be produced and kept in the Committee Clerk’s office for consultation and that all those transcripts be destroyed at the end of the session”.

    The motion has to show that they be maintained or kept at the end of the session. So I'm asking for your unanimous consent to allow that change.

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

[Translation]

    We will now deal with Mr. Laframboise's notice of motion.

    Mr. Laframboise, go ahead.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ): I will take the time to read the motion and make comments. The motion reads as follows:

Given that the committee has heard credible testimony that the proposed reduction of flight attendants required on commercial aircraft larger than 50 seats threatens passenger safety and has been developed in a secretive process, and,

Given that the committee has heard credible testimony that the proposals have been developed in a less than transparent process that has not been consistent with Treasury Board guidelines,

    I would like to take some time to make comments about these two paragraphs beginning with "given that", Mr. Chairman. Until we have evidence that this change does not pose any safety risk, we are entitled to say that it constitutes a threat to safety, given that the current standard recommends that there be one flight attendant for every 40 seats in the aircraft.

    We heard testimony from all the stakeholders and we, the members of the committee, supported them. The flight attendants asked us for four documents, and we have just about fully complied with their request, Mr. Chairman.

    There are two important dates: 2001 and 2003. In 2001, an analysis was done and it was recommended that no change be made. In 2003, a different analysis was done and, this time, the recommendation was favourable. We were of course given the 2003 analysis, but the recommendations made by the department and the e-mails were not made public.

    The minutes of the March 26, 2001 meeting held by the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council, the CARAC, were made public. We were given the minutes of the March 2001 meeting, but the recommendations made by the department in the right-hand column were omitted. The government is telling us that this is confidential, that these were recommendations made to the minister by the administration and that the government did not want to make such recommendations public. Witnesses will come before the committee studying the new standard, which calls for the number of seats per flight attendant to increase to 50. How will those individuals be able to defend themselves if they are not aware of the content of the discussions or the recommendations made by the department in 2001?

    In the interest of transparency, I would have thought that the government would provide us with the documents and Ms. Wokes' e-mail, which was further to the March 2001 meeting, in which she makes recommendations and states that she is not in agreement. But the government does not want to make these available. We were told that we would have to proceed through the Access to Information Act; however, Mr. Chairman, public servants made that recommendation. Ms. Wokes is a public servant who has made recommendations to her superiors.

    In the right-hand column of the minutes for the March 2001 meeting, there were recommendations made by officials in response to the request they had received in 2001. Obviously, the conclusion was negative: in 2001, they did not recommend that the number of seats per flight attendant should be changed, but in 2003, such a recommendation was made.

    I simply want to suspend the process until those who appear before the committee, including the flight attendants' representatives, have access to the content of all of the documents, including the 2001 report which contains the recommendation made by the government. We have to be able to get our hands on the recommendations that the department made in 2001 in order to be able to compare it to the recommendation made in 2003. Why did the government say no in 2001 and then say yes in 2003?

    The documents provided to us exclude the government's comments, the e-mails and certain correspondence that the representatives had asked for. I do not see how these people are going to be able to appear before the committee without the benefit of a full analysis of the pros and cons. We were given the 2003 report, which advocates the change, but the recommendations made by the department in 2001 were omitted. This is why I talk about a lack of transparency in my motion.

    Naturally, you will have understood that I conclude my motion by saying that the committee recommends to the minister that:

Proposed changes to the Canadian Aviation Regulations that would reduce the number of flight attendants required on large commercial aircraft be set aside until such time as this committee is satisfied that passenger safety will not be unacceptably put at risk.

Á  +-(1110)  

    First of all, we do not know whether the documents will be made public under the Access to Information Act. I feel that we need to at least wait to see whether that request is successful. I am wondering how it is that we, as members of the Transport Committee, are unable to get our hands on the four documents that had been requested, including the one from the March 2001 meeting, where the entire column containing the government's recommendations has been omitted.

    Mr. Chairman, perhaps you can explain to me why the members of the transport committee are not allowed to see the recommendations made in 2001 by the officials who are the experts in the department. I would have expected better, at least where the members of this committee are concerned. At that time, the conclusion was that this change should not be brought in. But the recommendations that the officials made in 2003, which have now been made public, call for a change in the number of flight attendants. The government is hiding behind the Access to Information Act in order to refuse to reveal what happened in 2001.

    So I maintain that our committee should recommend that the minister suspend the amendments, if only out of regard for all those who will appear before the committee to be created in April. After all, the process that will get underway in April, as the deputy minister and minister mentioned, will result in changes to the regulations. We are talking here about a very formal process for the implementation of a whole mechanism for changing the regulations. It is true that in certain cases the regulations have not been changed. In the majority of cases, however, this process does lead to regulatory amendments.

    All that I am looking for, and I hope that my colleagues on the committee would understand this, is that those in favour of the status quo have access to all the documents they need in order to be able to discuss this issue with those who want changes. Of course, by doing this, we would be sending a clear message to the minister. As we know, the minister can always decide not to act on a motion or a recommendation, but it would be a recommendation from our committee.

    I personally intend to go ahead and I would ask my colleagues to join me, in the interest of transparency. From the testimony that we have heard, it is not clear how people will appear before the committee responsible for reviewing the regulations. I do not believe that those defending the status quo are prepared to answer questions on this, given that they do not have access to all the information from the 2001 documents. So I would urge my colleagues to vote in favour of this motion, which is a message intended for the Department of Transport.

    Thank you.

Á  +-(1115)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise.

    You are saying that in 2001 the recommendation was not to bring in any changes, whereas the current recommendation is that there should in fact be changes. Can you tell me where that information comes from? I did not have the impression that there was a recommendation—

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, you are right. It is not a recommendation but rather an analysis that seems more favourable, whereas the 2001 analysis was less so.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Barnes.

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes (Gander—Grand Falls, CPC): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

    We will be supporting this because we firmly believe that it is a safety issue. This committee has done a lot of safety issues over the last couple of years. Being the newest one two years ago...we've always felt that if safety wasn't first and foremost within our airline industry, we would be heading down the wrong path, and of course, as a result of it, we're back talking about safety issues again. For some reason or other, Transport Canada may be just moving forward and not listening to the people again. As a result of it, they're just trying to jam it down everyone's path, and basically wait and talk about it afterwards.

    We firmly believe we should stop this now. Let's talk about it, get all of the players in, and move forward to make sure that when the decision is made, it's made for the right reason, and not the wrong reason. As a result of it, we believe that we should continue on to make sure that everything is very transparent, that it's open and there is open discussion on all of this issue. Of course, according to the updates I've been given, there are things that we cannot access, as people have refused to give us documents that may have a big impact on this issue.

    I think we should stand pat as a committee and vote on this motion, and agree with the motion. Let's stop this until we get the true facts about what's happening, so that we make the right decision for all Canadians. After all, it is a major safety issue.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP): As well, we'll be supporting the motion, Mr. Chair.

    It's been rather disappointing to see the attitude of secrecy that seems to be within Transport Canada to not give information to this committee when they want to seriously look at an issue and give a serious representation of the issue and look at all sides. More and more, the attitude has become that “it's none of your business” to the transport committee when we're trying to look at an issue. I was quite surprised that the information that had been requested wouldn't be made available.

    As well, as I went through what information I did have, I was greatly concerned that all that was being regarded by Transport Canada was purely the commercial business-for-profit side of the transport industry rather than the safety side of it, which Transport Canada should be dealing with. That should be their main focus. If Transport Canada has lost sight of that main focus, maybe they shouldn't be the ones reviewing what's intended for transportation safety; maybe it should be the Transportation Safety Board. The way they look at it, they've lost their.... I can't think of the right word here, but there's a bias now that's coming out within Transport Canada, and it's really not good.

    I don't think our airline industry in Canada can suffer any more setbacks. It starts to take on a public presentation, that once more safety in the air is going to be at risk, because there are fewer flight attendants, if there's an accident. We have a constant bombardment of issues related to terrorism and people getting on flights and this building of fear, of risk, when you're up in the air. Meanwhile, on one hand you're putting all these security people at the baggage counters at the airport and all of this stuff on terrorism, and you're cutting the people on the aircraft who are supposed to be there keeping an eye on what's happening with passengers, not only from the safety side but also, I believe, from the security side.

    So it's extremely disappointing to see this approach. I would agree with Mr. Laframboise's recommendation.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Desjarlais.

    Before I go to Monsieur Binet, I want to note, as chair of this committee, that we've asked for one document and we have it. So when we say that this committee cannot access.... We have not made the request as a committee for documents. In all fairness, I want to make that point. We've asked for the flight attendant ratio risk assessment final report, dated July 3, 2003, and we have all received that.

    Monsieur Binet.

Á  +-(1120)  

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Gérard Binet (Frontenac—Mégantic, Lib.): I did not ask to speak.

[English]

+-

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

    I'm rather a little bit confused with all of this. We've had indications that there were changes happening and that Air Canada might be asking for a change of ratio. With that, I had some difficulty in trying to assess why they would want it. I did find out a short time ago the reason why.

    For most of us travelling across Canada or in various regions of Canada, we're usually dealing with either Dash 8s or some of the bigger jets, and the ratio didn't seem to be very significant. More recently, I've had an opportunity to travel with what they call the “new regional jets”. Air Canada has purchased a number of new aircraft from Bombardier, which is one of the major suppliers in this country. They are beautiful new planes that do have the 50 seats that this particular concern is being expressed about. With it, I can see where the industry, the group at Air Canada, are considering this particular aspect of the regulations.

    Now, we're talking in terms of safety, but there have been major changes in terms of what our flight attendants do. At one time when we travelled, you got on the plane, and practically before you sat down they'd be around with the juice, they'd be around with some beverage to drink. Later on, they'd serve you a meal. There was a great amount of service. Today you're lucky to get some little container with some kind of a drink in it, and they may pass you a bag of peanuts or a little package of chips. So there isn't this great need for looking after passengers the way there was in the past.

    I also want to put on the record that the present statements on this state one flight attendant for 40 passengers. We looked at this other concept where other countries have one for so many seats. So I think we have to look at passenger seats. What changes would be made to reflect...? If there are eight passengers on a 50-seat plane, do you need two attendants? I'm not sure. But this has to be something that should be considered.

    Air Canada is our national carrier. Along with WestJet and other lesser ones, it certainly is a very important part of the transportation passenger side in this country. So we have to make sure that we provide them the opportunity to have balances in terms of their moneys each year and that they continue to be significant parts of our system.

    I was quite satisfied with what the minister said here when he appeared before committee. As you mentioned, Mr. Chair, we did get a first report. I won't make any changes, he said, until it comes back to the committee for consideration. So it certainly was a reassurance that we had.

    I am concerned, though, Mr. Chair, that we don't want to see people losing their jobs in this country. These are probably some of the lower-paid jobs in the industry. As members of Parliament, we don't want to be seen as trying to take jobs away from some of the people who are probably earning only a satisfactory level of earnings.

    I would hope, Mr. Chair, from our side, that we'd say let's wait until the minister comes back. If we want more information, I'm sure he has it. But for us to try to take something and freeze it when it is a matter being discussed before various organizations and coming back to our committee.... I think we should be satisfied.

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you.

    Before I start the second round, I'll say that if this motion passes, it means putting a stop to the department doing some research. That's the only place they're at now. According to the witnesses, they have not started the consultation; they're considering doing a consultation. So if this motion passes, I would think it would say to the department, don't do your job, because we've been assured that it would come back here, even though regulations don't usually come to committee.

    I'm not on one side or another on this. I'll just keep us on track with what the witnesses said.

    For the second round, do you agree that we'll do a round of five minutes? That means all four will get a chance and then we'll go to the vote. Fair enough?

    Ms. Yelich.

+-

    Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC): I would disagree that it's all about service. I really view this as a safety issue. I think there are so many things happening nowadays, and it's all because of 9/11 that we're trying to get tough safety measures in on the ground, before we board that plane. But it's in the plane that I think we need to make sure we are well equipped with people who can handle situations that come up in the air, whether it be air rage, situations like the shoe bomber, or people who have severe health problems. There are so many things that come up. I don't view it as a service; I view it as making sure we're safe. We're 35,000 feet above the ground. It's not as if we're on a bus and we can stop if somebody has some problems or if something serious comes about.

    I think we should be looking at it strictly as a safety issue, much as at a swimming pool, when there are so many children in the pool they make sure they have a second lifeguard on. I'd feel better knowing there are more people there to handle all sorts of unexpected situations, and this is where it's going to happen--in the air. When 9/11 happened, it was probably the flight attendants who played the biggest role in some of the things that happened that day. So I would like it to be considered a safety issue.

    Thank you.

Á  +-(1125)  

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Yelich.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Christian Jobin (Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, I would simply like to say that we are sensitive to the comments made by the witnesses on safety. We know that the department is currently holding consultations on that matter. Any intervention on our part would put an end to this consultative process.

    When the minister, or his representative, came here, we obtained a commitment that the documents that the people wanted to consult would be provided to them. With the exception of these documents, I do not think it is necessary to pass this resolution which would in fact put an end to the consultative process. I would therefore suggest that we let the work go on and intervene later if we are not satisfied with the safety aspect.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: Merci, Monsieur Jobin.

    Mr. Barnes.

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes: Mr. Chair, I don't see that by passing this motion we would be stopping the process. I think it's very important we send a message that we do not have all the information required. I think we should send a message to the minister that we're very concerned about any changes, and most importantly, we're very concerned that it could cause a safety issue, that right now we feel it is a safety issue.

    Unless we have people from all sides get together and come to speak to the committee, talk to us about it, and get the research going, we won't know any differently. I don't agree, as I said before, that if we passed this motion we would basically shut it all down. I think what is very important is that the message gets sent to the minister and the airline industry that we're very concerned that any movement to put fewer airline people in the air will cause a major problem. We want to get down to the root of it all to find out where it's coming from, why they want to do it, and talk about the safety issues that we feel will happen if it does come to us.

    I firmly believe we should ask everyone here today to really consider that, not to shut down debate but to pass the motion, send a message, and continue the debate, continue with people coming to our committee to talk about it, so we can move forward and make sure we are making the right decision for the airline industry.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Barnes.

    Mr. Tonks.

+-

    Mr. Alan Tonks (York South—Weston, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.

    I've just received a copy of the motion. My first comments are on the matter of procedure. My comments would be directed toward Mr. Laframboise, in terms of his motion.

    I'm uncomfortable with the implications on the givens: given that the committee has heard credible testimony with respect to safety, given the committee has heard testimony with respect to the proposals being less transparent. Mr. Chairman, those are value judgments that you can agree or disagree with.

    I think the thrust of what I'm gleaning from the comments is that some members of the committee are in support of generally looking at the issue of safety as it relates to the reports they've received. The preambles to the motion give the impression that there's been an exhaustive review that would lead you to the conclusion, the conclusion being in the body of the motion. I find those to be somewhat unproven and lacking in continuity, if you will.

    I would be prepared to support the body of the motion, which basically is that until the committee has been satisfied that these issues are related to risk, the minister be advised that no action be taken.

    I don't take from that, Mr. Chairman, that the minister could conclude that no further research should be done, because the committee is saying it wants to be involved in this issue, that it wants it proven beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt that the matter of risk has not been disposed of in an irresponsible manner.

    I would ask Mr. Laframboise to simply move his motion, which is that the committee recommend to the minister proposed changes to the regulations that would reduce the number of attendants on commercial aircraft “be set aside until such time as the committee is satisfied that passenger safety”, etc. That implies that there is going to be a continuing relationship with this committee on this issue of safety and on the matter and issue at hand.

    I would ask Mr. Laframboise, if it is procedurally correct and allowable, Mr. Chairman, that he simply take away the preambles to his motion and then let the process continue. I think the preamble is somewhat...well, let me just say it's part of the debate. I think what we're saying is that the debate, the discussion, and the due diligence have not yet been done, and I would leave it at that.

    Mr. Chairman, I would ask Mr. Laframboise to consider that, if it's procedurally correct, and then the committee can adjudicate on it.

    Thank you.

Á  +-(1130)  

+-

    The Chair: Mr. Tonks, I see where you're going with this. I may suggest another way of doing what you're suggesting.

    As chair, I have a problem with the whole motion. I accepted the motion because I'm a new member of this committee and I figured there might have been information from before that would cause this motion.

    In the first given, we talk of a proposed reduction. In the second given, we talk of a proposal. In the motion itself, we talk about proposed changes. To my knowledge, there's no proposal. They are at the front end of doing some research. That's what the witnesses told us. If there are proposals, and we can't access them, then that's another thing.

    We'll go through the motion of the discussion and everything else, but maybe the committee would consider after this, one way or another, to agree--I think we could get unanimous consent--that no change in regulations occur unless the department appears before this committee. That would ensure what Monsieur Laframboise, I think, wants to obtain.

    Regulations don't come before committees normally, so you can see the dilemma I have. If you vote for it, we'll just live with it, and if you vote against it, we'll live with that too. But that's the problem I have as chair.

[Translation]

    Mr. Laframboise, I will now give the floor to Ms. Desjarlais, given that you will have an opportunity to make the closing remarks.

    Ms. Desjarlais.

[English]

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    I think there are fair comments being made with regard to how the whole thing has transpired. I'll go back and look over my minutes, but I definitely got an impression from Mr. Ranger at one meeting that there was stuff happening in this area. I'll go back over it, because lots happens in the course of our days and I would willingly admit that maybe I misheard, but I seem to recall Mr. Ranger making some comment.

    I think, Mr. Chair, what we want to accomplish is making sure that nothing proceeds without thorough investigation as to the safety aspect. There have been suggestions that information has not been made available to parties that are concerned, stakeholders, in these changes. I'm willing to concede that not everyone is in agreement with the preamble within the motion, and as long as the general context of the motion follows through, I'm willing to agree that maybe the preamble is not necessary.

    You've indicated that as a committee we haven't asked for certain documents. I also would suggest that as a committee we request the particular documents that have been indicated, that have not been made available, and see if the department makes them available to us. I also feel that they weren't very forthcoming in some of the discussions that have taken place. We have a list of some documents--I think everyone has it--and if you're in agreement with that, if the committee is in agreement with that, we can list those particular documents and proceed with the request.

Á  +-(1135)  

+-

    The Chair: I'm quite prepared to accept a notice of motion listing the documents that you wish to request, and put it to the committee. I can't imagine the committee voting against asking for information, but I would accept it only on the basis of a notice of motion.

    Does anyone on this side wish to comment?

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: I'm not sure how this works, so I'd ask you, if we have unanimous consent of the committee for the request of those documents, do we have to go through the normal 48 hours for a notice of motion?

+-

    The Chair: With unanimous consent, you can do anything in this committee.

    Ms. Yelich.

+-

    Mrs. Lynne Yelich: I thought, too, that there were things happening and there was going to be a meeting to consider the amendments. There is a deadline on this 1:50 amendment, so I didn't understand that it was only at a discussion stage. I understand there are going to be some decisions made in the very near future, so I don't know.

+-

    The Chair: Would you like me to defer this to our researcher, who keeps records of...?

    Where are we with this?

+-

    Mr. John Christopher (Analyst, Library of Parliament): I'll have to go back and look at the blues--we haven't got them yet--but I think the deputy said that they were proceeding. They were at the front end of the process, they were doing some consultation. He was a bit unclear on whether they had a draft proposal ready yet, but I think they are starting the process, that's for sure. He did say they were starting the process.

+-

    Mrs. Lynne Yelich: Is it at the Canada Gazette stage?

+-

    Mr. John Christopher: No, they're not at the Canada Gazette stage yet.

+-

    The Chair: The suggestion for unanimous consent to request that the department appear before it goes to the Canada Gazette, or before decisions are made, at least is a protection, but we'll deal with that later.

    On this motion,

[Translation]

Mr. Laframboise, you have the last word.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Mr. Chairman, the objective of my motion is twofold: to obtain the documents that are not complete, and, prior to the adoption of regulations, to have either the Department of Transport or those responsible for the regulations appear before our committee. That is the objective of the motion.

    I have no objection to this motion being amended, to the preambles being removed, but I do have a problem when someone says that we have obtained the requested documents. You will recall that, when the flight attendants appeared before our committee, they referred to four documents that they wanted to receive, and we had said that we agreed with this. The proof is that the department responded. Let us recall the documents. There was the letter from Mr. Mackay of ATAC addressed to Mr. Preuss. There were all the documents from the advisory council dated March 26, 2001. We were provided with these documents, but everything dealing with the governmental recommendations had been deleted. Mr. Ranger, the deputy minister, explained why this had been done. He said that recommendations made by public servants to the minister could not be made public. However, as members of the committee, we are entitled to see them. That is the objective. That is why the motion contains preambles that refer to secrecy and the lack of transparency. As for the requested documents, we were given a response, but there were some omissions. Some documents were not sent to us. There was the e-mail sent by Ms. Frances Wokes, who is the Chief of Cabin Safety Standards. We do not have her e-mail because it is confidential. Once again, it was sent to Mr. Preuss and, since he is a third party, the e-mail cannot be made public.

    All of these documents are part of an analysis that was conducted in 2001, which did not recommend to the minister of the day that any changes be made. We were given the 2003 analysis to which you referred, but we do not have all of the documents for 2001.

    The objective is that we be given all of the documents so that those who will be appearing before the committee be aware of their contents. The regulatory process, or at least the analysis, is already underway. I have no problem with that. I simply want to ensure that those who appear before this committee will have all of the documents and all of the department's positions for 2001 and 2003. We must then ensure that they come back before our committee before adopting the final regulations.

    The chairman is right: they can make regulations without our consent. I would therefore request a suspension. In theory, what will we have done? We will have requested the documents and we will probably have the officials appear once again and so on and so forth. I had even thought that we could ask these people, on Thursday, if they intend to provide us with the documents. If they have the documents with them, I have no objection to letting the process begin. If those individuals appearing before the committee have all the documents in their possession, that would resolve the problem. They would have the positions taken by the government in 2001 and the recommendation or analysis dated 2003. There is also a fourth document, the review of safety standards for the cabin crew dated July 31, 2002, which was carried out as part of a European investigation, which we have not received.

    The employee representatives have requested certain documents and they did not receive them all. I wanted to ensure that they would receive them and that, afterward, the government, prior to making a decision, would appear before our committee once again so that we can be assured that safety is not being compromised.

    I have no objection if you wish to amend this motion in order to achieve these two objectives. However, we must ensure that those people appearing before the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council, which is beginning its procedures... Mr. Ranger clearly told us that an analysis was underway and that there would be discussions. I hope that all those individuals who will be appearing before this council will have all of the tools they need to defend their case or, at the very least, to see why things changed from 2001 to 2003.

    If the government is able to provide all that, I will be satisfied. If we have to wait until the Department of Transport appears before us once again, I am all right with that. However, we do need to ensure that the entire process does not begin until one of the parties has all of the documents available to it, and then we need to ensure that the government will appear before us or make a presentation before the committee prior to making regulations. I am aware that it does not need to ask for our permission. That is not how things are done.

Á  +-(1140)  

It can decide to do this unilaterally. However, given the safety issues, it would perhaps be important that it appear before the regulations are adopted.

    If you would like to amend the motion, take it apart and come up with something new, that doesn't bother me. I simply want to ensure that we meet the two objectives: that the parties have all of the data, the data from 2001 and from 2003, when they appear before the analysis committee, and that, then, after that, the government will reappear before the committee before the final regulations are adopted.

    If you have another way to do this, I have no problem setting this aside. We just have to ensure that these two objectives are met. Do we have to have the Department of Transport re-testify on these two objectives? You will be the one making the decision, Mr. Chairman. If we do not have that, let's vote on the motion and you can defer it, but if you have a suggestion that will enable us to meet this objective, I would be happy with that.

+-

    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Laframboise.

    Your motion poses a problem because it implies that the committee is in the process of studying the situation. The committee invited witnesses for the sole purpose of holding a general consultation. It did not decide to undertake this study. You could always ask that the committee undertake such a study. I do not think that this is what you are asking, but if that resolves the problem...

    If I may, I would like to make a suggestion. If you were to request that the officials responsible for this file appear before the committee on Tuesday, when we come back, I will ask for unanimous consent. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do think that that meets your immediate requirements. I think that this would be more advantageous to you than if this motion were to be defeated. So we could ask that they testify on the Tuesday that we get back. Would you like me to seek committee consent on this matter now? If there were agreement, you could withdraw your motion. Would you agree to that?

Á  +-(1145)  

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Yes.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: The suggestion I made is that I asked for unanimous consent that we invite the bureaucrats affected by this situation on Tuesday upon our return after the two-week break--not all of them, because there may be thousands, but the key bureaucrats at the top--to answer all the questions on that, and after that the committee may decide to undertake the study; and if this is accepted, Mr. Laframboise will ask that we withdraw his notice of motion.

    Do I have unanimous consent?

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes: Mr. Chairman, could I ask a question, please?

+-

    The Chair: Just a minute. Are you asking before this vote?

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes: Yes, before.

+-

    The Chair: I'll withdraw my question, then.

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes: I wanted to ask something, just so that I clearly understand where you're going with this. I think the important thing is that if we get unanimous consent here now on what you propose, the minister will make sure that the ratio of 1:40 versus 1:50 will not go ahead.

+-

    The Chair: Within two weeks? I can almost guarantee that myself, that it won't go ahead within two weeks. The department will continue its work, but I can't imagine that going ahead within two weeks.

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes: What I'm concerned about is that while we can say...I can guarantee it's not going to go ahead in two weeks, too, sir.

+-

    The Chair: But we can't dictate to the department not to do it. We cannot do that.

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes: But can't the minister say to the group that is looking at it...because they are looking at making a major change. They are. Regardless of whether we want to say yes or no, they are.

+-

    The Chair: Correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm going from memory also, but I think one of the airlines asked that this be reconsidered. It's not so much the department considering major changes; it's more, in my view, a response to the request by one airline, which is probably Air Canada.

    So they're not in a position now to make major changes.

+-

    Mr. Rex Barnes: If they go ahead with these changes, I'm concerned that the changes will take place and then this committee will be powerless to look at the real facts behind it all. And then all of a sudden it's done, and once it's done, it's done, and this committee may not change it, even if we find that it's not in the best interest of the travelling public.

    That's my concern. I would like it to basically cease, so that it's not going to happen, and let us do our work and see what happens. I can guarantee it's not going to happen in two weeks, too, but what's going to happen probably in May or June that we're not aware of? That's my concern.

+-

    The Chair: Will it help you if I add to what I'm asking unanimous consent on to the effect that no changes occur and that the committee recommends--because we can only recommend--that no changes occur before that date, which is two weeks from last Tuesday? That's as much as we can do, because we can't dictate that no changes occur. That means the committee will be awfully insulted if they dare to make changes when they know we have that concern.

[Translation]

    Does everyone understand me?

[English]

    Based on that, are we ready for the question? Do I have unanimous consent?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    The Chair: I have it. Thank you.

    Therefore, the department will be invited for Tuesday at 11 o'clock. We will allow two hours for that, and we will have food.

    We have to deal with Monsieur Laframboise's notice of motion now.

[Translation]

    Do you wish to withdraw it?

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Either withdraw it or defer it.

+-

    The Chair: You have to defer it or withdraw it.

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: I would like to defer it.

+-

    The Chair: Until when?

Á  -(1150)  

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: Until after we have heard from these people.

[English]

+-

    The Chair: The motion is to defer the motion until after we have received the witnesses of the department. Can I have unanimous consent on that?

    (Motion agreed to)

+-

    The Chair: So it's deferred until after the meeting of Tuesday, when we come back.

    Monsieur Laframboise.

[Translation]

+-

    Mr. Mario Laframboise: If we had enough time during that meeting, we could also have the flight attendants appear.

+-

    The Chair: No. The committee could do this later on, if it decides to undertake this study.

    Ms. Desjarlais.

[English]

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: As a committee, are we able to request the additional information we didn't receive so we have that available when we meet with the department?

+-

    The Chair: Well, we have asked for that information, and the deputy minister has said that what he can release, he will release, but he has to investigate it first. If we don't get it by that time, it's because they're not releasing it, and you'll be able to ask him personally.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: I just want to clarify this, because at the start I thought you said we had only requested one specific thing. So you are saying that we did specifically ask for--

+-

    The Chair: No, you did, remember? At that meeting I said, it's a request from one member, not from the committee.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: That's what I'm saying to you now. As a committee, can we request that information so everything is very transparent in this whole process, so we don't have that question of there being this degree of secrecy over what departmental individuals are recommending to the minister? I have to tell you, I'm totally baffled that somehow departmental individuals' recommendations to the minister would be a privacy concern. I don't know how we can ever operate, how anybody could operate, under that assumption.

    What I'm asking, then, is that we as a committee request all of the information. You said it just came from me, so I'm asking whether we as a committee have unanimous consent to request all that information. Then when we ask the department officials, we'll get all the information available. I'm not suggesting they make it public to everybody if that's what they are afraid of, but we're members of Parliament. My God, we can walk in here without being checked by security; hopefully we would observe security with regard to this.

+-

    The Chair: Can I offer some assistance? First of all, on your question of not sharing the recommendations of bureaucrats to ministers, I understand why that would happen. They would be the first to be criticized for going into a consultation with a set of recommendations already on the table. I'd be the first one to say, you're trying to influence us. If that's the reason, I can live with that.

    Now, Ms. Desjarlais, if I ask for unanimous consent to ask Georges to request from the deputy minister that he respond to your request and provide those documents before the meeting of that Tuesday, it won't force him to give them to us. He'll have to explain why he's not giving them, and he'll have to give us what he can give.

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: I guess it would carry a lot more weight, as you indicated previously, if the request came from the committee and not just one individual member. Quite frankly, I think we should be requesting this as a committee, so rather than it just being my request, I would hope this committee would all want that information.

+-

    The Chair: That's what we're doing. We're directing the clerk to follow up--

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Then maybe it's just a matter of words here.

+-

    The Chair: The reason I'm doing it that way, Ms. Desjarlais, is that I don't wish to open the meeting up to a full discussion on whether we undertake the study or not. We're not there. Don't forget, we had consultations with people who wanted to meet just with me, and I opened it up to the committee.

    We're not engaged in a study now, but you have asked for information. They have committed themselves to giving it, and now we would direct the clerk to approach the deputy minister to follow up on your request. As a committee, we would do that with unanimous consent to have the information before, and of course, if we don't have it, they'll have to explain why when they're here. Is that okay?

+-

    Mrs. Bev Desjarlais: Yes.

-

    The Chair: I'm just trying to help.

    Do I have unanimous consent for that?

    That's done.

    If there's nothing else, thank you very much.

    The committee is adjourned.