I'm calling the meeting to order. This is the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities of the 42nd Parliament, meeting 123. That shows that we've had a lot of meetings in our session.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are doing a study assessing the impact of aircraft noise in the vicinity of major Canadian airports.
As a witness today, we have, in person, Antonio Natalizio. Welcome.
From the Direction de santé publique de Montréal, we have David Kaiser, Medical Efficer, urban environment service and healthy lifestyle.
From Les Pollués de Montréal-Trudeau, by video conference, we have Pierre Lachapelle, President.
We will open by asking Mr. Natalizio to give us his comments. Please keep them to five minutes. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madame Chair and committee members. I speak to you as a resident of Etobicoke Centre of 44 years, where planes fly over as low as 700 feet and their numbers increase yearly. I acknowledge the benefits of airports to our city and region, but there are negative impacts. The two need to be balanced. To achieve a balance, I urge you to consider three things: the health impacts of noise, the need for noise regulation and the need for a long-term plan.
Regarding health, there is now sufficient evidence linking environmental noise exposure to cardiovascular problems, mental health problems and cognitive learning difficulties in children. As parents and grandparents, we need to be concerned about these impacts on infants and adolescents, because they are vulnerable. Other countries, such as Australia, Germany and the U.K., have eliminated or curtailed night flights. I hope you will conclude that it's time for Canada to join them.
Regarding regulations, only three of the many civil aviation regulations pertain to noise. They are ineffective and insufficient to regulate the night sky. This deficiency has allowed Toronto Pearson to remove the old night curfew and reduce the restricted night period from eight hours to six hours. lt has also allowed it to double night flights in the past 20 years, and if nothing is done, they will double again in the next 20 years.
The night sky needs to be regulated. The old night curfew needs to be re-established so we can have uninterrupted sleep. It's a basic human right. We espouse human rights on the world stage but fail to look in our own backyard. Children are our most precious resource, but airports have ignored their right to sleep. Many airports have implemented night curfews and have continued to thrive. Contrary to industry predictions, the sky didn't fall. Airport night hours must be realigned to the body's need for eight hours of sleep, as we had prior to 1985. Six hours are inadequate, and the consequences are significant. Insufficient sleep costs Canadian businesses over $20 billion a year in lost productivity, and it costs society more than $30 billion in health costs.
The U.K. has regulated the night sky, and Heathrow is now a shining example. Although bigger than Pearson, it has an annual night flight limit of only 5,800, compared to Pearson's 19,000 and growing. The GTAA wants to make Pearson the biggest international airport on the continent, and to do that, it will keep increasing night flights. Airports such as Heathrow, Sydney, Zurich, Munich and Frankfurt are leaders in aviation noise management because of government regulation, not because it's in their corporate DNA. New regulations are a must.
Pearson communities are exposed to more than 460,000 flights per year, and this level of traffic generates many concerns. From January to July of this year, the GTAA received 81,000 noise complaints. The equivalent number for last year was 50,000, and it was 33,000 for 2016. How do they compare with other major Canadian airports? They are not even in the same ballpark.
Our growing concerns are not being addressed by the GTAA. Therefore, I urge you to recommend the creation of an independent watchdog. Countries that are concerned about community health impacts have an aviation noise ombudsman. Australia was one of the first, and the U.K. is the most recent. With your help, Canada can have one too.
Regarding the long term, we cannot rely on the aviation industry to find an equitable solution for the region. This is clearly a government responsibility. ln 1989, the government established an environmental assessment panel to address Pearson's expansion plans and the need for new airports to serve the long-term needs of the region.
When the panel recommended against Pearson's expansion, the government dissolved it and the long-term question was never addressed. Three decades later, our communities are paying the price for that decision. We now have an urgent need for a long-term solution.
I urge you to address the region's need for another airport and, in the interim, to recommend greater utilization and expansion of neighbouring ones.
In summary, Madam Chair, we need to address health impacts, because they are real and costly; regulate the night sky, because sleep is a basic human right; and study the long-term issue, because a solution is urgently needed.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you for inviting me. I think I'll speak in English, because I understand that that's the majority, but I'm happy to answer questions in English or French.
I'm a public health physician. I'm at the Montreal public health unit. I was invited here because we've done work on the health impacts of environmental noise, and more specifically airplane noise. I want to go through, from a public health perspective, how we see noise from aircraft as being an important issue and where we think there's work to be done in order to improve public health.
At Public Health, we've been working on this for about 10 years. It starts, actually, from community noise complaints. It comes from people who called us to say they think there's something going on here and they would like us to investigate. Building from that, we've been able to develop a lot of knowledge in Montreal about the real impacts.
At an international level, it's very clear. The World Health Organization just put out, actually, their new noise guidelines about a month ago. In the lead-up to that, they did a lot of scientific work over the last year, looking at the health impacts of various environmental noise sources. I want to focus specifically on what they found in terms of scientific evidence for aircraft noise.
There's high-quality evidence, which means many studies that go in the same direction, that indicates a link between noise from aircraft and what is called “annoyance”. Annoyance can maybe sound like something that isn't specifically a public health concern, but if you live in a place that is noisy and have lived there for a while, you know that annoyance over time is something that really does affect quality of life and is related to other health impacts.
Second is sleep disturbance. On this, there's what the WHO calls moderate-quality evidence. That means there are fewer studies, but they do go in the direction of a link between aircraft noise and disturbed sleep.
What's even more concerning is that, in the long term, there is now moderate-quality evidence that aircraft noise specifically has impacts on cardiovascular health. That includes hypertension, or high blood pressure. It includes stroke. It includes heart disease. Some of that is really being annoyed for 30 years by noise in the environment. It generates stress. It generates high blood pressure. It can lead to heart disease but also disturbed sleep. We know that disturbed sleep dysregulates the body and can result in hypertension and heart disease. Also, important in the current context is that it can lead to obesity. There's starting to be better evidence about the links between chronic noise exposure and obesity.
There's less good evidence about cognitive impacts—that includes in children but also in adults—as well as mental health and quality of life.
Just to put some numbers to it, we know that about 60% of the residents on the Island of Montreal are exposed to noise levels that may have impacts on their health. For aircraft noise, more specifically, we have almost 5,000 units with about 10,000 to 12,000 people who live inside what is called the NEF 25, or noise exposure forecast of 25. They're in a zone close to the airport, where we know there are likely to be impacts. About 6% of the people on the Island of Montreal, or one person in 15, say they are highly annoyed by noise, and about 2%, or one person in 50, report that they have their sleep disturbed by airplane noise. This is specifically for airplane noise.
Those numbers can seem small, until you think about how few people actually live close to the airport out of the 2 million people on the Island of Montreal. If you look at distance to the airport, about 40% of the people who live in that NEF 25 report being highly annoyed by noise, and 20% of the people live within two kilometres of the airport. So you're getting people who live pretty far from the airport reporting that they're highly annoyed.
From a public health perspective, that brings us to recommendations that we've put out for several years now. We put out a brief in 2014, and four years, as you know, is not that long for policy to change. A lot of those recommendations are still, I think, very relevant. I just want to highlight two that I think are most pertinent at your level.
The first is not a complicated recommendation; it is not based on extensive science. In order to better understand what's going on and to inform people of potential impacts to their health, we need to have access to data. At the present time, we don't have access to information about where planes are in the air, how many there are, and what types they are. We don't have access to the noise measurements. Access to data is recommendation one.
Madam Chair, members of Parliament, thank you for your invitation to present to this committee.
Before I begin, I wanted to mention that I sent the committee clerk a dozen documents. I sincerely hope that these documents will be brought to the attention of the members of the committee. With regard to the data collected by our measuring stations, you already have in hand an example of the noise peaks. Very often, Aéroports de Montréal and public health authorities talk about average data, but it's important to look at the peaks that the public are subject to. I will now move on to my testimony.
I am honoured to present on behalf of the citizens group, Les Pollués de Montréal-Trudeau, concerning the noise pollution around Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau Airport. The noise is deplorable, and impacts thousands of citizens living on the Island of Montreal. This situation is in part the result of the strange decision made in 1996 by the airport authorities to close a modern airport, Mirabel, which resulted in a concentration of passenger traffic over the Island of Montreal.
I want to emphasize that, since the 1990s, citizens have been alerting Parliament to the problem. They have not been heard. Les Pollués de Montréal-Trudeau began their work informally in 2011, and the committee was officially formed in 2013. The objective of this presentation today, honourable members, is to convince you of the need to act, not only to improve the public health of thousands of Montrealers, but also to rebuild the confidence of citizens in the good faith of Parliament. In fact, Parliament has not maintained control over the management of international airports in Canada, nor has it sufficiently controlled the noise pollution caused by airplanes.
I will now go straight to the heart of the matter—namely, the requests made by hundreds of citizens since 2013 concerning the noise and air pollution at Montréal-Trudeau airport.
First, we ask for a complete ban on nighttime flights from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. Being able to sleep at night without interruption from airplane noise is a fundamental need.
Second, last April 30, Aéroports de Montréal announced a $4.5-billion terminal project, a new terminal at Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport. We ask for the immediate freeze and end to this project and the preparatory work that has started.
As our third request, we ask for an economic, environmental, social and health evaluation of the current situation and of the impact of the project announced on April 30. The absence of suitable legislation in Canada allows for the creation of this sort of airport terminal project without adequate public evaluation.
Four, we ask that a public evaluation be carried out by an independent and scientifically competent group, which would include public hearings on the airport situation.
Five, since Aéroports de Montréal began to rent the airport, the management of noise and air pollution has been inadequate. We ask that responsibility for the assessment of its environmental impacts be transferred to an independent and transparent organization that makes its findings public.
Six, we ask Parliament to take back control and monitoring of the international airports in Canada, a role that was relinquished in 1992, when this was taken over by private organizations. Hundreds of citizens consider that the increased noise due to airplanes is a result of Parliament relinquishing its oversight. This change created negative impacts on the health and quality of life of thousands of people in Canada and on the Island of Montreal.
Seven, we ask that you take into consideration the analysis of Canada's international airports by Michel Nadeau and Jacques Roy, of the Institute for Governance of Private and Public Organizations. I provided a copy of their work to the committee clerk in both official languages. This study is very revealing of the situation and is accompanied by recommendations that are full of common sense.
These observations and recommendations are the fruit of thousands of hours of work since 2013 provided by volunteers living on the Island of Montreal and coming from all walks of life. These volunteers deplore the noise and air pollution created by the low-flying airplanes over the cities and boroughs of the Island of Montreal.
I will summarize my remaining points because my time is limited.
One of the many actions that led to these requests is a petition of 3,000 names that was tabled in the House of Commons in 2013. The Minister of Transport at the time, the Hon. Lisa Raitt, swept it aside.
We have installed noise measuring stations. This morning, you got an example of the graph they produce. Our stations are public and permanently measure airborne noise at about ten locations in Montreal.
We have tried, together with the citizens of the Papineau riding, to raise awareness of the . Our request for an appointment was refused: it seems that the member for Papineau does not want to meet his constituents.
In May, we wrote to the Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, requesting public hearings on this $4.5 billion project. We have not received any response. I even followed up by phone.
Clearly, annoyance is part of the impact. Annoyance is the most studied impact of environmental noise internationally. It's been studied for many years in Europe and now to some extent in North America. It's most common. For example, the studies we've done in Montreal show that about 20% of people say they're highly annoyed by at least one source of environmental noise.
Annoyance is common; it's present and it does have an impact on the quality of life and health. I think what's important from a public health perspective is to make sure we don't see it as just an annoyance problem. Annoyance is real, and it's problematic, but sleep disturbance is quite separate from annoyance, and I'll explain why.
From a health perspective, the problem with sleep disturbance is not so much annoyance or waking up and realizing an airplane went overhead and it's annoying to wake up; the body's response to noise at night is physiological. We know from many laboratory studies, calibrated studies of sleep disturbance, that you don't need to be waking up to have that impact on long-term cardiovascular health and obesity.
Annoyance is an issue, but sleep disturbance is a separate issue. It's much more tied to the long-term effects of heart health. We need to make sure that we have both of those together. From a regulatory and public health perspective, the strategies for dealing with annoyance are not necessarily the same as those dealing with sleep disturbance, because sleep disturbance is really a nighttime issue for the majority of the population. I think it's important to have both.
In terms of noise standards, there is already a very good starting point, which is the WHO guidelines. They were just renewed, and they are based on the best available evidence. We know what we should be aiming for; we have that information. The recommendation for aircraft noise is 45 decibels of an indicator they call Lden. It's a weighted indicator that penalizes noise in the evening and at night.
The issue of standards is important, but we have a very good idea of what we should be aiming for. After that, should public health organizations have a role in that? Absolutely, but the issue is really how we get there. Who needs to be around the table at every level, from the local/regional level to provincial and federal? It's the agencies responsible for zoning and planning, which means municipalities and ministries of planning and development, and the agencies responsible for transport, which means different types of transport at every level. I also think citizen participation is really important.
Who should be around the table? Health should be at the table, clearly, but it's more to bring the information. We already know what we need to do and where we should be aiming. The people who actually do something are much more in planning and transport, and the people who are impacted need to be there too. I think those are the essential building blocks.
I'll answer in French, if I may.
Until now, I believe that the airport authorities have failed in their responsibilities to be good neighbours, at least with respect to Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.
This is a very broad question you are asking, and it concerns the balance between the economy and public health. Montrealers affected by noise pollution, particularly aircraft noise, are certainly seeing their productivity decline. Indeed, unable to sleep, they enter the workplace tired or call in to inform their boss that they won't be in to work. This has an economic impact.
We can't go back to the Middle Ages, when people died at age 30. We are in the 21st century, and airport authorities in Canada are behaving as if we were in the Middle Ages. It is up to Parliament to bring these people to their senses. There is an imbalance at the moment, not on the economic side, but on the environmental and public health side. These people affected by aircraft noise and suffering from psychiatric problems will need to be treated. You will therefore have to increase taxes to add beds in hospitals.
That's a very good question.
Of course we want to know more and better document the problem. Let me come back to what I said earlier: noise is harmful to health, and we have already gathered very good evidence on this subject. In Montreal, we are one step ahead of several other major Canadian cities in the collection of city-specific data. That being said, work is currently under way in several cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, to do the same documentation work. It is important to collect data locally if you want to take action that is appropriate for the region. It is of course possible to use data from other associations, but it should be possible to rely on specific data. In Toronto, for example, will the proportion of people who say they are very bothered by noise be 2%, 3%? This remains to be verified.
What is essential, as I said at the end of my presentation, is to have access to the data in order to do follow-up. This is a real need. This is not about research, but rather what is called surveillance in public health. A sufficient understanding of what is happening with respect not only to noise levels generated, but also to air movements is required to ensure that health interventions can be implemented. For example, it is necessary to understand the increase in certain types of trajectories and the movements of arriving and departing airlines, as well as the potential impact of all this, before looking for ways to work on them. Once again, the need for data is paramount.
The next step is to get the right people around the table, who should agree on a noise control policy at both the provincial and federal levels. This does not necessarily require more data, but action. Data must be integrated into work at the political level.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank each of the guests for being with us this morning. You're arriving almost at the end of this study, and there is a very broad consensus in your testimony. I have several questions and would ask you to provide brief answers so I can get as much information as possible. I am now preparing recommendations to table, rather than understanding the issue, since we've already been presented with the real picture.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Natalizio strongly suggested recommending the creation of an ombudsman position, for example. I would like you to tell me quickly if you find this an interesting avenue. If not, would you give more priority to Transport Canada's reappropriating a number of powers that it had before the creation of NAV CANADA, for example, and that it should have?
I would like to hear the answers of Mr. Kaiser, Mr. Lachapelle and Mr. Natalizio, in that order.
That's the burning question.
Instead, I would tell you that we have made a lot of progress in Quebec over the past three to five years. For example, there is ongoing work to adopt a provincial noise policy, which is in part a result of work undertaken in Montreal 10 years ago.
It would really be difficult to draw inspiration from a legislative framework that is very different from ours, such as that of the European Union, and to try to draw conclusions from it. I think we should rely on other parameters instead. We could study the reciprocal influence of environment and health or transport and health, and then use the results of these studies to create our own model. Things are going very differently in Europe.
Quebec has done a lot of work on this issue, and we could learn from it and build on it.
From a scientific perspective, definitely, but we also have to think about what can actually be done.
I think overall exposure to noise and daytime exposure to noise are maybe more in the domain of urban planning, zoning, sound insulation, and making sure that we don't expose more people—for example, that we don't build buildings right next to airports if we can avoid it.
With the nighttime noise, if you could snap your fingers and have no more planes after 11 at night or before seven in the morning, that problem would be gone, even if you have people living next to the airport.
I would definitely separate those out.
There are cars, trucks, motorcycles; there are loud stereos; there are noisy neighbours and a lot of other things. It occurs to me that I've slept in a few hotels at airports, and I can sleep very well because they are built not to let that sound in. So we need to look at home construction standards. Perhaps, as well, there may be an experiment to be had with what you might call active acoustic sound control, like the noise-cancelling headphones you can wear that totally obliterate all outside noise. These are getting more sophisticated and more effective, and there could be a community experiment where we actually allow people to try these and see if their sleep improves, especially.
We have airports, flight paths and runway usage that have to be considered. We have aircraft, the flight techniques and the design. I understand there is one brand of Airbus that could use some retrofits, and Air Canada is going through that process with its fleet right now.
We have regulations with respect to operating hours, and that has to be part of the mix. You mentioned, Dr. Kaiser, that municipal planning, airport location and development along the flight paths have to be much better managed, and as we look at new airports we have to keep the municipalities from growing around them. We should have learned something by now.
Then, finally, when it comes to home construction, there is much more we can do with respect to soundproofing and, again, sort of acting on the personal and active sound control that you can apply in a building and individually.
Again, it's the other sources. This isn't just an airport thing. If the airplanes went away, you'd start to notice a lot of other noises as well.
I'll just conclude quickly here by saying that the challenge is for the complete circle of suggestions. This isn't just an airport issue. It's more a quality of life and community issue that needs a complete 360° look.
Okay, that's it. Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to underline a point you made, Dr. Kaiser, when you suggested the best time for a curfew. You said from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. I just wanted to make sure that point was underlined.
Mr. Natalizio, you've lived in Markland Wood for 44 years. Forty-four years ago there were no night flights. Along with your statement, you've provided an excellent brief with a number of different sections to it. I'd like to go to the section entitled “Pearson in perspective”. I believe it's quite informative.
No matter which airport you look at in Canada, the impacts of nighttime airplane noise are real for those who are experiencing it. It's fascinating that Pearson is the source of approximately 460,000 out of 1,200,000 flights in the country, which is about 38%, yet the level of complaints from Pearson.... When you take in all the complaints across the whole country, there were 175,540 complaints, and Pearson generated 168,000 of them, or 96% of all complaints in the country.
I just wanted to bring that perspective, because I'd like you to talk about what kind of neighbour and what kind of corporate citizen the GTAA is. They testified before committee earlier this week, and we've experienced in the past how they provide a very rosy picture, especially to elected officials. You call their night impact study “gratuitous”, and you have a section you call “My Experience at Dialogue with the GTAA”.
Could you perhaps tell us succinctly how they deal with the neighbours?
That's a very important question. I've heard the statements made by the GTAA here two days ago. Basically, they tried to leave the impression that they were making progress. The fact remains that airport complaints have been increasing by 50% each year in the last three years. How can you tell me, as a resident, that the airport is making progress in addressing noise issues?
I have tried to engage with the GTAA over the last couple of years, but it's not meaningful dialogue. In their noise management action plan, which I'm sure the committee has heard about, they say:
With our new Noise Management Action Plan, the culmination of two years of extensive study and consultation, we intend to make Toronto Pearson an international leader in aviation noise management.
That's music to everyone's ears, but it's simply not true. Toronto Pearson is starting from the bottom of the heap, and everyone who's read the Helios best practices report will know that. The action plan talks about more studies and more consultations. There is very little that's concrete, and what little there is may lift Pearson from last place to second-last place, but certainly not to the top.
For example, they talked about the A320 noise fix, which is really a very small thing. Many airlines did it years ago, because it's really a cheap fix. Despite that, we have to wait until 2020, and we're not even sure they will all be done, because Air Canada is not the only one.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm going to try to get in two questions, so I'll ask you to try to be as brief as you can.
I represent a Calgary riding that is a half-hour's drive from the airport. However, they opened a new runway a couple of years ago, and they changed the flight path. All of a sudden, I'm getting all of these complaints about aircraft noise.
I decided to organize a town hall meeting so people would have the opportunity to raise these concerns. We had the heads of the airport authority and Nav Canada in attendance. I couldn't believe the number of people who lived on the same street as the individual complaining about aircraft noise who were telling me, “Why am I wasting everybody's time? Yes, sure, there are a few more aircraft, but the noise is just part of life.” I don't want to downplay the significance of aircraft noise, because I have full confidence in the people who have made the complaints to me.
How do we, as a committee, balance the views of those folks who seem to be a lot more affected by noise than maybe their neighbours are?
I'll throw in my second question at the same time, and then each of you can respond accordingly.
We've heard a number of presentations asking for banning night flights. I think the other thing that this committee has to balance is the noise issue with the changing economic times. We all know that a high percentage of shopping today is done online. People want their product the next day, whether they are in business or whether they are consumers. That's another thing we have to balance, as a committee, in our recommendations.
I would just ask all three of you, briefly, to comment on what I have just stated.
Good morning. Thank you for inviting Ottawa Aviation Services to be part of the committee's study of flight training schools in Canada.
Our school of professional pilot training is specifically designed for our students to succeed in this industry. The quality of our programs has been recognized by Canadian airlines such as Porter, Jazz, Air Georgian and Keewatin Air. They have formed close partnerships with us now as a result of the quality of the training we're providing.
Thanks to our program, successful graduates who meet the required standards and benchmarks of the course can be put into fast-track paths to a job on the right seat of an airliner, from the CRJ aircraft to Q400 and Boeing 737, a fairly large piece of equipment. I am immensely proud of the graduates and the staff who have actually achieved this training for them. Over the past seven years, we're proud to say, we've had 100% of our graduates employed in the sector as pilots.
OAS is dedicated to good Canadian corporate citizenship. We understand the importance of the aviation sector and its tight link with the socio-economic fabric of Canada, particularly in our northern communities, where aviation is at the centre of their economic development.
I encourage you to review our written brief. It outlines ways in which the federal government and flight training organizations such as OAS can work together to address the pilot shortage to the benefit of our national aviation sector and the Canadian economy as a whole.
No one in this room needs to be convinced of the realities of the impending global pilot shortage. Last year in Montreal, at the ICAO summit of next-generation aviation professionals, the secretary general noted that in 2036, worldwide, 600,000 pilots will be needed to meet the global demand. Within our borders, we are actually talking about an acute pilot shortage that is already creating some issues in specific regions by cancelling flights, and in certain sectors, with some medevac, cargo, and charter flights being cancelled.
For many industries, economies and people, air travel is a necessity, a must. While 2036 seems like a long time from now or a distant future, the reality is that these pilots need about two to four years to be trained and, once they are trained, another three to five years to become captains. The flight schools are uniquely positioned to help face this challenge head on—we see it every day—as long as we are given the tools and the resources to do so.
The first thing we need to focus on is support for our students. Higher education can be expensive, and students want to know that their investment will pay off with a rewarding career. Given the impending labour shortage in the aviation sector, we believe that the federal government has a role in providing leadership in order to encourage more students to choose flight training. This includes taking steps to allow students access to greater financial support through various means, which the Air Transport Association of Canada, of which OAS is a member, is working on. I believe you will be hearing from them sometime next week.
Currently, as an example, time spent in an aircraft, which is what we call “flight time”, is a requirement for all flight training programs, yet this flight time does not qualify towards instructional time. Therefore, students are not able to qualify for as much financial support as they could. While this is somewhat a provincial issue, by amending the terms of the Canada student loan program, the government will show leadership and encourage the provinces to follow suit.
Experienced flight instructors are the next part of the issue. School like ours across the country are reporting backlogs of students wishing to begin their flight training. Today at OAS, we are approaching 55 students who are waiting for flight training, but we are not able to do that due to the shortage of instructors. The reality is that experienced flight instructors are often scooped up by air carriers after only a few months of instructing. The issue of instructor retention needs to be addressed. It's at an all-time low today. Some of my colleagues in the flight training industry are reporting a turnover of way above 100%.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Members of the committee, good morning.
The last time I was here, you told me that the effort to train pilots would continue given the severe shortage of pilots going forward. Rest assured, we fully appreciate the situation.
What we have an issue with is not pilot training, but rather the sites chosen for that training. We are concerned about the compatibility between flight schools and their locations, which tend to be densely populated areas.
The increase in aircraft movements in flight school areas generates excessive noise, in our view. It's not that we don't want flight schools in our backyard. We simply don't want all of them.
Right now, pilots are being trained for the Asian, African, European and Canadian markets, all in the same place. In 2006-07, the Saint Hubert airport was ranked fourth or fifth busiest airport in the country in terms of flight training. In 2008, when the airport was able to provide international flight training, it climbed to first place, where it stayed for a number of years. Since then, the Toronto-Buttonville airport has been its main rival.
What makes the situation unique is that, when the Saint Hubert airport reaches 199,000 flights, and the Dorval Airport reaches 212,000, the summer season is in full swing. The busiest time for flight school training is usually between April and September. In January, we might have 2,000 or 3,000 local flights versus 10,000 to 15,000 a month in the summer.
That means touch and go landings are happening every 60 seconds, day and night, over our homes. A touch and go landing is when an aircraft lands and then takes off without stopping. An aircraft merely touches the ground briefly before taking off, so the motor continues to run at full force. It's an awful noise that never ends.
It's nice in Quebec in the summertime. We are told that, when the weather is nice for us, it's nice for others, as well, and we have to share those months of good weather. Flight schools run from 8 a.m. to 11 to p.m. What part of the day do residents have to enjoy the good weather? I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that cargo planes, helicopters and wide-body aircraft use the Saint Hubert airport as well.
In the summer, going outdoors to enjoy an activity or a meal is almost unthinkable. Some days, there are 800 aircraft movements, and they take place at a rate of every three minutes. We are talking about a noise level of 70 decibels. That's far from negligible. It was all measured and included in a 2009 report. The health impact is significant.
The government has a public health responsibility. In Canada, we should have the right to live in a healthy environment. We protect our wetlands and our wildlife, but do we care about protecting our citizens from noise pollution? Noise is an invasive factor causing residents distress because they have no control over the aircraft flying over their homes or the noise they generate. Not only does this create anxiety among residents, but it also disrupts their sleep.
The last time I appeared before the committee, I submitted a public health report listing all the repercussions. I believe the World Health Organization took a stance on the issue as well. I'll spare you the details, but more and more, these small aircraft are running on leaded gasoline. For the past decade, then, we've been in a dispute with the Saint Hubert airport.
Since 2008, when the number of flights increased, 500 complaints have been filed with Transport Canada and a petition containing 2,000 signatures was presented in the House of Commons. It described the problem as well as the effects. A public consultation process was then held. Finally, in 2011, we launched a class action suit, ending in a court settlement in 2015. Now, consider this: the city then decided to spend $300,000 to have mufflers installed on flight school planes. Taxpayers were the ones who paid for that. We paid for mufflers just so we could get a bit of peace and quiet.
The settlement also set out a second requirement: the creation of a soundscape committee. It met once in 2018. It held a few meetings in 2016 and 2017, but just one in 2018. There is no set plan outlining the priorities, the problem, the ways in which it must be managed or the measures to be implemented. Would it be possible to conduct studies?
In 2018, after all that, we had to file a motion for contempt of court, because the time frames and agreements weren't being respected. The city wants to expand the service, and the schools want to fully develop their training capacity.
The airport really wants to be profitable but we just want to be able to enjoy a peaceful environment. We know very well that we will live together, but how? I think it takes transparency.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for being here this morning. I'll start with Cedric.
Cedric, I just want to follow through with what the lady was just speaking about, the noise of the training schools and stuff like that.
I haven't done a lot of flying in eastern Canada, but I've been flying since 1968—so I'm dating myself—mostly in western Canada. But in the major flight schools and major flight areas, such as Vancouver and Edmonton, we have training areas where the schools go to do their flight training, such as manoeuvres, as I think you fully know.
Maybe you can explain it to the committee, but most of these areas are designated and are usually fairly far away from urban centres.
Sure. Obviously, airplanes need to take off from an airport, and they need to come back to an airport. Most of the exercises we perform during in-flight training are actually done in specific areas that are well defined. They're actually on our map charts, and we do perform those manoeuvres to train our pilots in those areas.
There's actually one here in Ottawa, between Constance Lake and Constance Bay, on the other side of the river there. We use those areas. I think it does cost and it does take time to actually transition to those zones from the airports. Sometimes the airports are not in those areas, so we do fly to those areas.
I think what we are hearing here is that at the airport there are issues with flight training, and although there are solutions available for us to address them, in my brief you will see that we need the support of the federal government, not necessarily in terms of money but in terms of capabilities for us to actually insert technological changes in the way we train. We have tools today that are not being used because we don't have the authorization of Transport Canada, for example, to do this.
Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, electric aircraft.... There's a whole list of technology that we could actually use, not to remove the noise problems being discussed here, but at least to attack the problem and come up with, as you said, a more manageable situation.
Taking off from and landing at an airport are going to be required. There's no way we can train a pilot without him knowing how to land and take off. But there are ways in which we can actually do it that reduce the noise. We just need a little more support from Transport Canada and from the government to actually get into a position where we can adapt those technologies into a business that is cash flow-sensitive and very profit-dependent, and therefore—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I was happy to hear from Ms. Domingue about strategies being established. I want to drill down on those strategies.
We talked a lot with the previous witnesses about how environmental protection, when it comes to lifestyle and health, is recognizable, and that trying to strike a balance with the economy is the order of the day.
My questions for both witnesses are about just that: How do we now make the connection? How do we take the human health risk assessment...? I talked to Mr. Kaiser earlier, who is a medical officer with the Montreal health office, and asked him whether, in fact, they had that. He told me they do in Montreal but not nationally.
How do we connect the human health risk assessment with an assessment on economy? Of course, the impact is the same. How do we do that? Are you already doing that? Finally, if you're not, how do we actually facilitate that process to happen? This is for both of you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Aubin.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses.
Ms. Domingue, I find your presence here extremely valuable. I think you are the example that best illustrates the angle of the coexistence of airports, and flying schools in particular, with a densely populated area. I would like to point out that beyond the six short minutes I have to talk to you, I hope that everyone around the table will listen to your point of view. The NDP had proposed an amendment that stated that a bill should include a study on the public health consequences of noise pollution and demonstrate greater transparency in the distribution of data collected on the issue, as you mentioned earlier. Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected.
To this end, I would like to tell people around the table that Ms. Domingue is a marathon runner when it comes to representing the rights of riverside communities.
Honestly, this is the most obvious case in Canada of mismanagement regarding the establishment of flying schools in a densely populated area. Obviously, Ms. Domingue, you have been faced with poor management of the situation. I will soon give you the floor, but first I would like to remind you of something important. Too many people say that the people of Saint-Hubert knew very well that they were moving close to an airport. I always remind them that Saint-Hubert Airport, located in a very small suburb of Montreal, is the sixth busiest airport in Canada, after Toronto Pearson International Airport, Dorval Airport, probably Edmonton International Airport, Vancouver International Airport and another one that I forget. This is no joke.
Your testimony perfectly illustrates that, if we don't take this into account in advance when planning the arrival of a flying school, we end up with citizens without resources. You fought, you did everything you could to get corrective action. Is the situation better today or is it clearly not?
We held a public consultation and we had 45 recommendations. All we were asking was to sit down together and look at what could be done.
They just finished installing the silencers. Next summer, we will probably see a difference. They will still have to be evaluated. Silencers are being installed, but what will that do in practice? The solution probably does not lie only in silencers. It is one step in the process to achieve a certain climate.
In fact, the airport has not taken this seriously and has not taken the time to sit down with the public, with NAV CANADA or with Transport Canada. Transport Canada is constantly absent from the meetings of the Soundscape Consultative Committee. It is never represented there, I believe. If it had been, I think we could have found ways to come up with effective action plans.
As citizens, we have managed to solve a small part of the problem, namely with two schools. However, there are other schools and other people who come to do touch and go's. Has the problem been solved in Saint-Hubert, despite the class action suit? No, the problem has not been solved.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I did want to address this noise issue, because I appreciate that there is a sensitivity to noise. I appreciate there's also a hypersensitivity to noise, and there are some things that can be done. Engine technologies on new aircraft are way quieter. There are prop technologies you can adapt to the old aircraft that we typically use for training that can reduce some noise. There's approach pass to airports that you can use with GPS technology that can take the plane out of the way of noise-sensitive areas. There are traffic flow patterns. There are lots of things that can be done.
I was looking at Saint-Hubert on ForeFlight with my colleague. There are more than six other airports within 15 nautical miles where, when you're in the takeoff and landing phase, you could deploy to amortize that noise over a bigger footprint. In reality, the odds are that we're probably not going to build new infrastructure to solve the problem, but there are some things that can be done. I wanted to throw that out there.
With regard to pilot training, Mr. Paillard, how many class 4, 3, 2 and 1 instructors do you have right now?
That's class 4. After that, we basically bury the cost of the upgrade from class 3 to class 1 into the day-to-day training. The one that costs us the most is actually the $10,000.
I'll come back to the carbon tax. One thing that is interesting for me when I see a committee like this—and this is my first time.... It's very interesting to see that we have solutions in our pocket today that we can implement to solve the noise issue, to solve the carbon tax issue and to solve the training issue, but we cannot use them because we are either constrained by the regulatory constraints or constrained financially because of the nature of what we can actually get from our students; $85,000 is pretty much the maximum we will get from our students today.
Just by tweaking things around, we'll actually be able to solve Saint-Hubert's issue, and we'll be able to solve our pilot shortage and use those technologies. By using those aspects, such as the electric aircraft that I mentioned in my brief, which make less noise, the carbon footprint is gone.
If the Canadian government gives us the tools to actually implement that, then that works and we can actually find a solution there. However, if you corner us to a point where we can't move, then that's where we're going to need to ask to be removed from the tax or as an exemption on the tax issue for fuel, because we can't move and we can't train anymore. We have no way to play the financial game that we're playing.
I want to discuss the comment that you made with respect to regulatory and financial restraints. I think Mr. Eglinski was correct. I also made a comment a couple of meetings ago with respect to the archaic transportation infrastructure and possibly regulations and financial restraints that we do have in place today—hence the reason why we're discussing this today.
I have two questions. One goes to the comment made about the pricing on pollution. Of course, with that, when you come out with a recommendation and a direction, you want to ensure that you're not defaulting the problem to somebody else. Pricing on pollution is very simple. If the polluters don't pay it, the property taxpayer does. It's already there. We're just trying to alleviate that.
To your point in terms of the recommendations that you have at the ready, is it a solution, or is it simply passing the buck onto someone else?
Let's say one thing clearly: Female pilots are usually better than male pilots. I flew with a female captain, who taught me more and was a better pilot. I can confirm that.
The issue with female pilots is the same issue you have for getting female electrical engineers. I don't want to differentiate between pilots and engineers. It's the same issue. Everything that has been written is true.
At OAS, we have a group called Women at OAS. I encourage you to meet with the ladies behind me; one or two of our pilots are here. Please talk to them.
It's hard to be a female pilot in an industry where only 6% are female. We're trying, but it's a marketing issue. It's pushing and advertising.
We're doing this with females and first nations, aboriginals, to make sure that...because they're going to stay in their northern communities. Any help we can get from the government on that front will help; that's for sure.
It's what we're calling a marketing issue....