Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Before I get into my formal statement, I would like to extend our sincere condolences to those affected by yesterday's crash in British Columbia.
I would also like to introduce Mr. Martin Eley more completely, in his first appearance at this committee. I'm sure it won't be his last either. He has been our new director general of civil aviation since May 4, 2009. Mr. Eley has held positions of increasing responsibility in the civil aviation organization since 1982. Prior to his appointment as director general, he was director of the national aircraft certification branch, and as such, he was a member of the management team of civil aviation for the last eight years. Mr. Eley is a professional engineer and an associate fellow of the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute.
My remarks today will describe the current civil aviation safety program, our role as regulator and industry's role. I will also provide information about areas of the program that have been reviewed by other parties, such as the Auditor General and other international civil aviation authorities.
I hope that this information will help to focus your study. Although we have a solid aviation safety record, there is always room to improve the already high level of aviation safety in Canada. As the second largest national aviation system in the world, Canada is considered a world leader in the international aviation community. That's an important point because virtually all technical, operational and licensing standards in the world are in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization's Standards and Recommended Practices.
This environment has been created to ensure, as much as possible, the seamless international flow of aviation activity.
Let me explain ICAO's role. It is a standards setting organization. It has never been a prescriptive body or an enforcement organization. The standards and guidance material developed by ICAO allow for flexibility so that individual members can have measures in place that reflect their operational reality. Member states, including Canada, use these standards and guidance as an adaptable tool kit to improve civil aviation at the domestic level. International requirements define what we do in Canada when setting strategic policy direction and developing regulations and standards where they are required. Transport Canada uses a consultative approach, where everyone has the opportunity to provide input on regulatory changes as they are being developed. Public comments to regulatory proposals as part of the pre-publication process in part 1 of the Canada Gazette are also an important aspect of our consultation.
Once the regulations make it through the consultative process, the Canadian aviation regulations and associated standards provide the legal framework within which the aviation safety program operates.
Transport Canada delivers Canada's civil aviation safety program. Using risk management techniques, we develop regulations, standards, guidelines, and education to promote a safe and harmonized aviation system for Canadians, for air travellers in Canada, and for Canada's aviation industry as a whole.
Aviation safety oversight is risk-based and supports the aviation industry's compliance with our regulations. Transport Canada provides services to the aviation industry based on the Canadian aviation regulatory framework in areas such as issuing personal licences, medical assessments required for the certification of licensed aviation personnel, issuing operating certificates to organizations, and certification of aeronautical products.
While the end product is the delivery of a certificate, a license, or some other document to an aviation stakeholder, the underlying purpose is for Transport Canada to be reasonably assured that individuals, organizations and aeronautical products can operate safely and in compliance with applicable requirements.
Transport Canada conducts ongoing surveillance of these aviation stakeholders to monitor compliance with the regulatory framework. This is done primarily through assessments and inspections, audits when more information is required, and enforcement action, when necessary.
At Transport Canada we take our oversight role very seriously. Make no mistake, if an air operator is not following the rules, that operator is not allowed to continue working. For this we hold the aviation industry accountable. They must operate safely, complying with the regulations, or face enforcement action. When there are regulatory infractions, they are subject to a firm but fair approach to enforcement.
Regulations require companies to use a systems approach to manage the safety of their organizations. This means implementing safety management systems. The guiding principle of SMS is that the companies must implement procedures that allow them to operate in a safe manner and identify potential issues in order to correct them and prevent accidents or incidents.
The first phase of implementation of these regulations for the commercial aviation sector of the industry, which carries 95% of the travelling public, was in 2005, with large airports and the air navigation system providers coming on in 2007.
We have recently made adjustments to the schedule for the introduction of these regulations to allow more time for smaller operators to prepare for implementation. Specifically, that means the regulations have been delayed until January 2011 at the earliest. This time will also allow us to improve the tools that our inspectors use to conduct oversight and to provide more training to inspectors.
It is worth noting that ICAO is currently developing a standard and recommended practices for a state safety program. Canada already has the main elements in place—regulations, standards, guidelines, and education—to promote a safe and harmonized aviation system. We anticipate that when it comes into effect, Canada will be well placed to meet this ICAO standard.
In addition to the international recognition of our leadership on a systems approach to safety, there have been a number of independent conclusions that we are on the right track. In her May 2008 audit report of Transport Canada's transition to safety management systems--more specifically, our implementation strategy--the Auditor General recognized Transport Canada's leadership role in implementing SMS and the international recognition it has received. More recently, the European Aviation Safety Agency determined that our system is equivalent to theirs. They have described this to us as a confidence-building exercise.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended, in two accident investigation reports, the adoption of SMS. It also recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration mandate the use of SMS for commercial operators. In recent reports, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has also recognized the benefits of a systems approach to safety.
The history of aviation has been one of continuous change. In order for change to be successful, it is important to have support from all levels of the organization. The delay in the implementation schedule we've imposed will allow more time to refine oversight tools for our staff based on the experience gained during the assessments of the larger operators and to enhance training.
Let me conclude by saying that we've listened to the concerns that have been voiced, that we will continue to listen, and that we are making adjustments to keep moving the program forward. The department welcomes this public discussion on aviation safety. Public confidence is a key measure of our commitment to aviation safety.
Thank you for your time. We look forward to answering your questions.
I regret to inform you that TC aviation inspectors now spend more time pushing paper than inspecting airplanes. With the introduction of aviation SMS, Transport Canada has systematically dismantled the key components of its prudent surveillance program in contravention of ICAO requirements to evaluate and inspect an operator's procedures and practices at least once a year, augmented by periodic random inspections. Transport Canada cancelled enforcement action in 2006. There has not been a single enforcement action against a large commercial air carrier in two years, despite Transport Canada's being aware of serious violations of safety regulations. You can find those at tab 3.
The national audit program was cancelled in March 2006, and Transport Canada quit conducting pilot proficiency checks in 2007. As a result, there are now unqualified pilots and pilots with expired licences operating aircraft in Canada. I'll refer you to correspondence at tab 6 for one example, and there are more. In addition, TC has delegated licensing and oversight of entire segments of the aviation industry to lobby groups like the Canadian Business Aviation Association, and that is in direct defiance of our international aviation safety obligations.
Most recently, the requirement for operational inspections on a mandatory frequency was cancelled in January of this year. Instead of regular and comprehensive inspections, Transport Canada inspectors simply conduct paper reviews of company safety management systems and follow up with superficial on-site validation of the paperwork. With SMS, we are simply not watching.
Because of the shortness of time, I will relate only three examples of airlines that have broken safety rules while we were not watching. These examples point to systematic problems with SMS. Under normal circumstances, a reliance on assessing and evaluating management systems, rather than actual aviation operations, means that Transport Canada aviation inspectors do not see these incidents. Each of these examples documents incidents that would put lives at risk.
The first example relates to an application for a flight permit. I refer you to tab 8 of the “Book of Documents”. This is an application to modify a passenger-carrying airplane. In this case they had fuel capacity in order to travel distances far exceeding its normal maximum range. This was to include a temporary installation of a high-frequency radio. The operators applied to TC, promising that the installation met all requirements and regulations. Under SMS, an inspector's job is to review this application and sign off that the paperwork is in order, nothing else. As you can see on the next slide, the installation fell far short of the paper promises. The electrical installation is held together with masking tape. Under SMS, this clearly dangerous installation slips under Transport Canada's radar because we're not watching. Slide 5 shows that the power feed had been improperly hot-wired through the instrument panel, and that's a potential for an electric short. Slide 6 is an example of the use of illegal parts.
Under the SMS, TC inspectors no longer conduct pilot proficiency checks. Companies check their own pilots. For inspectors this has closed an important window on flight operations, especially since TC's policy is to replace audits and inspections with paper reviews. This image was taken by an inspector who stumbled upon this plane. Through a combination of extraordinary circumstances this inspector conducted a pilot check ride. When he saw the condition of the airplane, he refused to fly in it. As you can see, the bolts used to attach the wing to the fuselage are clearly not intended for this purpose and could potentially fail as a result of the stress they are not designed to withstand. The inspector also found parts anyone can buy at Canadian Tire improperly installed in this airplane's electrical system. This airplane is not safe to fly, yet it has carried passengers in this condition, all because its state of disrepair was not visible through an assessment of this company's SMS.
Shouldn't TC's oversight be adequate enough to ensure planes in this condition are not allowed to fly?
The next example I will describe is chilling in its similarity to the crash of the Air Ontario jet that killed 24 people 20 years ago at Dryden, Ontario, a seminal event in Canadian aviation that led to a full inquiry and the rewriting of Canadian aviation regulations. On October 9, 2009, Air Canada flight 271, with passengers and crew, diverted to Grand Forks, North Dakota, due to the closure of the Winnipeg airport. This led to a series of life-threatening decisions that could easily have resulted in tragedy. The first breach of the regulations occurred when the aircraft was refueled with engines running while the passengers were still on board. Why would the captain allow such a dangerous procedure that contravenes the CARs? It turns out the airplane was dispatched without having the equipment necessary to restart the engines in working order. These were the same circumstances that caused the captain of the ill-fated Air Ontario airplane to take off from Dryden airport without de-icing. Second, even after being advised by a passenger, who was also an airline captain, that the jet's wings were contaminated by ice, the Air Canada pilot decided to take off anyway. In effect, he was acting as a test pilot, with crew and passengers on board.
We know about this nearly disastrous incident because of the passenger report that came to me personally. In the words of the pilot passenger, “Is this how Canadian operators are allowed to operate? Where's the regulatory enforcement required to keep the travelling public safe? Why were my fellow passengers and I subject to such illegal and unnecessary risk?”
Transport Canada's response was to let Air Canada's SMS handle it. This was in spite of the fact that the corrective action Air Canada put in place two years ago following a de-icing incident obviously failed. We have steadily lost track of aviation safety as a result of TC's SMS. These examples show an industry that is taking decisions and adopting practices that are endangering the public while we're not watching. Isn't it time someone stepped in to safeguard the public? Wouldn't it be better to have the next full-scale inquiry into the state of aviation safety before a major accident, not afterwards?
Some members of this committee regularly travel to Winnipeg, so this is personal. We travel the same skies. I want to assure you that I personally brought details of these examples to the attention of the senior management of Transport Canada. The decision to freeze the rollout of the safety management system for 703 and 704 operators is good news, but it highlights concerns about the safety of all air carriers for which SMS is a requirement. The problem this decision acknowledges undermines the safety of the big airlines, which carry the vast majority of travellers. We no longer are confident that the major carriers are compliant with safety regulations. To address the current situation, we recommend a number of critical measures that I would be pleased to address. They are in the document I handed out.
The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, UCTE, is the national union for most government transportation employees. We represent transportation workers at Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Transportation Safety Board, Canadian Transportation Agency, airport workers, Nav Canada, and others.
At Transport Canada, UCTE represents the majority of unionized workers: 3,116 of 4,698. We represent approximately 1,000 inspectors in the aviation, rail, marine, and road safety divisions. In aviation safety, UCTE represents 50% of the inspectorate. Our members are the technical inspectors and aircraft mechanical engineers responsible for maintenance and engineering inspection.
Our members are classified as technical inspectors, TIs, a broad classification in multiple government departments and agencies. When applied to most transport inspection functions, this broad classification is inappropriate and completely out of date. This outdated and irrelevant classification results in situations in which inspectors who are doing the same job are paid vastly different wages, as well as situations in which our members are supervising people who make a lot more money than our technical inspector supervisors.
Today there are approximately 115 vacancies in the aviation inspectorate at Transport Canada—and that figure comes from senior management attending a civil aviation meeting just 10 days ago. One of the reasons we have such significant shortages is that Transport Canada has been preying on its aviation safety management systems to reduce safety budgets. In fact, over the past few years and in estimates going forward, Transport Canada has been capturing most of its 5% program review cutbacks from aviation safety budgets. We will send this committee part III of the Transport Canada estimates following this meeting. Another reason we have significant shortages is that most inspectors are recruited from the aviation industry, and the wages paid by government are up to 25% less than those in the private sector.
We urge you to consider Transport Canada's SMS in the context of the listeriosis crisis. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency introduced a similar self-regulation model into the meat industry prior to the crisis. It's also important to recognize that Transport Canada's aviation safety management system is unique in the world. Canada's implementation of SMS is far ahead of any other nation's, and some of the processes and systems in place in Canada are not being replicated elsewhere, nor are they recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO.
UCTE and our members do not oppose SMS. However, we believe there are aspects of Transport Canada's SMS that are wrong and need to be changed. UCTE is not suggesting reform in a vacuum. In fact, we are working with Transport Canada at the most senior levels to promote our perspective and to communicate openly with Transport Canada on these matters of deep interest to all travelling Canadians.
Our discussion paper, “Implementation of the Transport Canada Aviation Safety Management System: What's Not Right and Why Change is Necessary”, has been distributed widely at Transport Canada and to many other stakeholders, including members of Parliament.
UCTE's recommendations for change originate from the inspectors themselves. The people in the field doing the inspections, working for Transport Canada, are the people who are driving our campaign for change.
This is a critically important fact that parliamentarians need to keep in mind: inspectors no longer inspect aircraft. We hear this from all inspection regions. All inspectors do now is check off airline reports. Many inspectors do not even leave the Transport Canada office. They spend their time verifying the airline safety management reports. Don't get me wrong: SMS check-off is an important feature of SMS program verification and it needs to be done. However, airline reports may not be sufficient to protect the travelling public. Airline reports may not contain a sufficient amount of oversight, or may not contain the full facts with respect to internal accident corrective actions.
This leads us to a first important recommendation. Inspectors need to return to the practice of direct and sometimes random audits and inspections, without prior notification to the airlines. The intensity and prevalence of these random inspections should relate to risk, including whether or not a carrier is SMS-licensed or not. At the end of the day, the inspector must have the discretion and the authority to inspect randomly and without notification. This is the only way the Minister of Transport can be assured that his statutory obligations are met.
Second, we do need whistle-blower protections. You will hear about some of the serious problems in airline employee reporting and lack of protections from management reprisal, and lack of oversight and oversight definition from Transport Canada. Similar problems arise with the inspectorate. When inspectors have a complaint or a safety concern that they cannot address due to management or systemic constraints, they write up this concern and post it to the civil aviation issues reporting system, CAIRS, which was referred to by the previous group.
I have seen many of these reports and I've seen the Transport Canada responses. Nothing comes of them. It is simply an exercise of “I said, you said”. It is similar to an employee telling their boss they are not doing a good job. Well, you can imagine the response from the boss. And you can imagine the response from Transport Canada management.
The U.S. has not even implemented SMS, but on September 23, 2009, the Obama administration announced that the Federal Aviation Administration was clearly working for the public, not the airlines. The administration created an independent office out of a separate central agency to oversee aviation whistle-blower protections. This office will oversee the FAA Administrator's Hotline, Aviation Safety Hotline, Public Inquiry Hotline, Whistleblower Protection Program Hotline, and the safety reporting system, which is similar to our CAIRS. UCTE believes that Canada needs to follow the U.S. lead and establish an independent aviation safety whistle-blower office, attached to an independent agency such as the Transportation Safety Board or even Treasury Board.
UCTE does not believe Canada should delegate aviation safety to trade associations. There is a clear conflict in doing so. Canada is the only jurisdiction in the world to delegate aviation safety to trade associations. Transport Canada calls these delegations “safety partnerships”, but the name is a misnomer. Canada is delegating oversight and inspection to the very trade associations that depend on the airlines for their existence. Trade associations collect membership dues from commercial operators. The chief executives of the airlines sit on the boards of directors of the trade associations and run and manage the affairs of the association. It is a clear conflict of interest for an association run by the airlines to be responsible to the travelling public for aviation safety.
It is important to differentiate between professional associations and trade associations. Professional associations for pilots and engineers have a legitimate interest and responsibility in ensuring certifications and standards are applied to the professions. There is no conflict of interest when the professions are empowered to ensure the highest level of professional competence. Transport Canada has delegated SMS oversight to the Canadian Business Aircraft Association, known as CBAA. This association represents private commercial aircraft operators. An application from the Helicopter Association of Canada is also being considered. It is only a matter of time before an application from the association for Canada's largest airlines is also considered and accepted.
Last month the Transportation Safety Board published an aviation inspection report for an accident involving a CBAA-certified operator in Fox Harbour, Nova Scotia. The TSB report contained a lengthy discussion of the CBAA program and Transport Canada oversight. It contained the following facts: CBAA directors were concerned about liability and constructed a system whereby independent consultants were exclusively responsible for implementing the SMS oversight program; CBAA operators were free to choose their own consultants and frequently used the same consultants over and over, leading to the strong possibility of regulatory capture; UCTE members report that CBAA operators sometimes retained the same consultant responsible for CBAA oversight to develop the protocols for the operator SMS; Transport Canada audited the CBAA program and recommended significant changes to that program, but Transport did not follow the recommendations of the audit.
Our view is that a system that gives inspectors the authority to inspect will ensure redress of systemic problems such as lack of action in addressing the CBAA audit. Our view is that trade associations are in a conflict of interest when they are responsible to the public for aviation safety while accountable to airline management for their existence.
To summarize, UCT does not oppose SMS. We oppose the way Transport Canada is implementing SMS. We recommend a policy of direct and unscheduled audits and inspections by Transport Canada inspectors. We recommend an independent office for whistle-blower protection. We oppose SMS delegations to trade associations--it's a clear conflict. We welcome the motion of the committee and are interested in any opportunity to privately and publicly share our views on this matter of national importance.
We look forward to further discussions.
Good afternoon. My name is Carlos DaCosta. I'm an airline coordinator for the IAMAW for Canada. We represent aviation workers, as many as 17,000, in all areas of aviation, of whom 8,000 are mechanics involved in maintenance of various airlines going from Air Canada, Air Transat, Bearskin, and Air Labrador. One-third of the licensed technicians in Canada are represented by the IAM, and they're contained within the 8,000, so it's probably about one-third of that as well.
In my previous career I was a mechanic for Air Canada for 20 years before going on to the union path career. I have worked on the floor on various wide-body aircraft as a mechanic.
As an airline coordinator, I and other people in the IAM have written articles on SMS based on research conducted in the United States and Canada and by personally attending Transport Canada SMS sessions held across the country to inform the public of the details of the SMS process. The IAM believes, based on this research, that the SMS system is flawed, and have recently started collecting data to see if it supports our theories of the flaws that we have discovered in doing the research.
The main problem we have with SMS is that there appears to be a conflict of interest in having a company that has the best interest of operating a company and operating a budget be also responsible for safety. Again, it's a hunch, and unless we have the data to support it, it becomes a theory. That's why we have some data to support the fact that some of these incidents are starting to appear, which is alarming.
We are specifically also concerned about the lack of Transport Canada oversight on what's going on at the SMS-level process, and especially below that process--in other words, on the floor while the aircraft are being repaired.
Transport Canada, in its claims, states that it's another layer on top of regulations, which is basically a quote lifted from the ICAO document. In reality, we are not seeing it as a second layer but an alleged process that is not working. It's an alleged process that does not contemplate checking below this SMS process level.
It was interesting to hear the previous speaker saying that the inspectors are only inspecting the paperwork, but that is what our mechanics are starting to tell us. That is all they see. They don't see anybody on the floor any more doing spot checks. Obviously, by not going below this SMS process level, Transport Canada cannot begin to understand what is actually happening on the floor.
As I stated earlier, we have a few incidents to report. Unfortunately, they've only come from one airline, one of the larger ones in this country, but as our process is put into place over the next several months, we will be collecting data from other companies that we represent.
Clearly, the concerns I'm about to raise support some of our fears. I'm not going to get into names or specific situations, but I'll give you a flavour so that you understand what is happening and why the Transport Canada SMS process is not capturing these.
What we've seen recently at the one airline is the practice of the airline disciplining employees when their names are uncovered as a result of an action through an SMS process. Clearly, this is a violation of the SMS process as put forward by Transport Canada. If it becomes a punitive process, then where is the incentive for someone to come forward in the future and volunteer information that they made a mistake and it should be corrected so that others don't make the same mistake?
We had a situation in Vancouver where a lead licensed mechanic was disciplined. He followed procedures correctly as per the manual. The manual indicated that this is how you do the job and this is how you install the tool. He proceeded to install a tool that was not approved by Transport Canada. He questioned that. He was more or less led down the path where he was told that it was fine and just follow the procedures. He went on to do that.
The next shift comes along and a new group of mechanics take over the job. They follow the procedures in the manual. They don't recognize the tool because it is not labelled and it's not painted differently from the standard tools that are used. As a result of a mistake in the maintenance manual put out by Airbus--and it has been confirmed by Airbus that it was a mistake--they did not remove it because they didn't know that it was a tool that was already installed. When the SMS process and the investigation kicked in to find out what was going on, the employees who did not remove the tool were disciplined.
Where is the incentive for SMS to work? Where is the example to show other mechanics in the future, “You know, I've made an honest mistake, I'd like to come forward and I'd like you to tell me where I've erred, because I think there's something wrong”? It's not there. And that's only one incident.
We had another incident in Winnipeg where a mechanic was trying to repair a seat in the cockpit. Something went wrong in the system. The seat got sidetracked somewhere else. The employee was then asked to grab a seat and improperly fill out a tag so that it could be properly used on that airplane. He was instructed to do so by his manager. He was told that he'd better follow instructions or he would be disciplined. He refused. He was disciplined. An investigation is taking place, as I was advised this morning, and we'll see what comes of that. But this is the atmosphere in which an airline, who is supposed to be a partner in the SMS process, is practising.
We have two incidents in Toronto. One is where workers were asked to do repairs on an aircraft during the midnight shift, in dark weather, with improper lighting, improper tooling, improper equipment, and stands so that they could access it. They asked that the airplane be routed to the hangar for proper repairs, something I have done in my previous career. Sometimes you can be accommodated, sometimes you can't. If it is serious enough, they will postpone their repairs and the aircraft gets delayed, or they switch it with another aircraft.
The employees were told there was no such ability and they'd better do the job or else. Because they were put in that hostile situation, they refused to perform the job under the Labour Code. Labour Canada came in, and within their capability and their knowledge and training, they deemed the situation was not a dangerous one. The employees were then threatened by being told by the company, “You'd better not do this again. Learn your lesson and tell others that you cannot refuse to work. When we tell you to do something in a certain location, you'd better do it and do what's best for the airline to get the airplane out on time.”
We had another situation in Montreal, where an employee who works in a shop where they overhaul individual parts for an aircraft noticed a trend whereby shortcuts were being taken and the maintenance manuals were not followed. You have to understand that when you work on an aircraft, it's not quite the same as working on a car. You can't simply do what you think is right; you have to basically follow the manual and then apply your knowledge and experience in doing the repairs.
As a result of these shortcuts that were being taken, rightfully or wrongfully, he believed there was something wrong. He filed an SMS report. The SMS report has buried his incident. He has gone to Transport Canada, to no avail. They would not speak to him unless they spoke one on one.
At the end of the day, what we have is an atmosphere.... And I've been talking to employees. What they're saying is, what is the purpose of coming forward and saying there's an incident, that they've found a mistake, that they found an error, or found somebody who did something wrong, though he probably doesn't realize what he did? Where is the advantage in doing so when you know your friend is going to get disciplined? What they will do, in turn, is hide and deal with the issues themselves. As a mechanic, I know they will not take shortcuts on maintenance, I can tell you that much. But if left to your own measures, where does that lead the whole aviation industry in the future?
We're talking about a reputable airline. If you look at what happened with Southwest, they are no less nor more reputable than all the airlines in Canada; neither is American Airlines and neither is Continental. Yet the Americans have a rigorous system whereby they do spot audits and so on. As a result of the whistle-blower protection, employees came forward and some of these airlines were grounded and fined.
What makes you think it won't happen in Canada? We're all human beings. We all have a vested interest in where we work. As a manager, I might be looking at operations and budgets over safety. As a worker, I might be looking at how to get home on time, how to do the job safely, cover my butt, and make sure that when that airplane takes off, it takes off and lands safely, because it could be my cousin up there or it could be my brother.
At the end of the day, the system is definitely flawed. Some of these examples are starting to come forward. Over the next few months, as I get more and more data, I will definitely be directing these at Transport Canada and anybody else who will listen.
And thank you to our witnesses for appearing.
I would note, Mr. Chair, that if I have any time left over, I will be sharing that time with Mr. Jean.
I have to say, I don't know if any of you are avid movie watchers, but it feels a little bit like Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray. Every day he gets up and he goes through the same series of events. Today seems a little reminiscent. I've been at this committee for several years. We had a debate on Bill C-6 to make improvements to the Aeronautics Act, to implement safety management systems and to implement whistle-blower-type protections, among other things. I remember spending literally hours at the amendment stage in this committee, with the support of the Liberal Party and with our members in the Bloc, trying to come up with language that would make this a good system that could work together. And then it got to the House and a hoist motion from the New Democrats, of course, sidetracked what had been a process years in the making. In fact, I believe Bill C-6 started with about five years' worth of consultations in previous incarnations as a bill. So it's not as though this debate has suddenly materialized today.
First of all, let me state for the record, we would have had some protections and other things in place if Bill C-6 had succeeded in getting passed. So I think we have a serious problem here as a result of that hoist motion that was introduced.
Second, let me go a little further. You'll have to forgive me if I'm a little skeptical here, but I recall the testimony that every single union that was here before this committee said they were opposed in principle to SMS, safety management systems. Every single one of them said the same thing, on the record, time and again.
Now it's interesting that today, when the cameras are here...you'll forgive me if I feel some of you got a little bit of SMS religion today. You all accept SMS, I'm hearing, and if I'm looking at the requirements you're proposing, you're essentially prepared to accept SMS if it looks like exactly the same things you were asking for under Bill C-6. So I'm feeling a little skeptical about this.
Mr. DaCosta, I have a question for you. You said you recently began collecting data to test your hypothesis about how SMS systems are working. I think you went on to say you've been doing this for two to three weeks. You've obviously not completed that process, but you have no qualms about creating potential panic with the flying public. You've already come to a conclusion--it sounds like--at this committee on two weeks' worth of data collecting. Is that responsible?