Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I want to start by thanking all the members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for convening a week early, before Parliament was scheduled to resume, to allow for intensive study of Bill , the transportation modernization act.
I would also like to thank all the witnesses who appeared before committee, along with the many other stakeholders who have shared their views. This includes the feedback provided by Canadians, industry stakeholders, provinces and territories, and indigenous groups, as part of the government's extensive consultation process undertaken last year leading up of the announcement of transportation 2030, our strategic plan for the future of transportation in Canada.
While there were some differences of opinion during the committee's proceedings, we also heard on a number of occasions how important this bill, as a whole, is for Canadians, the transportation system, and the economic prosperity of our country.
It is important for this bill to strike the right balance, which is why the committee adopted some important amendments in response to concerns that were raised during its in-depth study of the bill. This balance is a reflection of the collaboration that was achieved during the committee’s study.
The minister, and I also, was happy with the progress and the review of this bill and the extent of collaboration, which demonstrates the importance accorded by committee members to this bill.
Bill promotes transparency, system efficiency, and fairness. It is an important legislative step towards delivering on concrete measures in support of transportation 2030, our government's vision for the long-term future of Canada's transportation system.
Canada is a vast country with a very complex transportation network. It is therefore critical to ensure that our laws and regulations position our country to thrive as a high-performing economy that can respond to changing conditions and to Canadians' expectations when they travel.
This proposed legislation aims to provide a better experience for travellers and a transparent, fair, efficient, and safer freight rail system to facilitate trade and economic growth. In particular, the bill would strengthen air passenger rights; liberalize international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers to provide travellers with more choice and encourage greater competition; develop a transparent and predictable process for authorization of joint ventures between air carriers; improve access, transparency, efficiency, and sustainable long-term investment in the freight rail sector; and enhance the safety of transportation in Canada by requiring railways to install voice and video recorders in locomotives.
Together, these proposed initiatives advance a strategic and integrated plan for the future of our country’s transportation system.
Our government's focus on inclusive growth for the middle-class and greater safety and security for Canadians led to the introduction of some key amendments to the Canada Transportation Act in Bill specific to the air traveller.
What does this mean for Canadians?
Bill would mandate the Canadian Transportation Agency to develop, in collaboration with Transport Canada, a set of clear regulations to strengthen air passenger rights that would apply consistently to all carriers. The regulatory process would allow broad consultation with Canadians and industry stakeholders to develop world-leading regulations, which is what Canadians expect and deserve.
Canadians and passengers travelling to, within, or from Canada would be provided with rights that address current irritants faced by air passengers. These rights would be easy to understand and uniform across all airlines and all flights, domestic and international.
Canadians understand that in certain circumstances airlines do not have full control over events, such as weather, emergency, and security incidents, or even medical emergencies, but even then Canadians have a right to a certain level of protection when they travel. In other circumstances, when the carrier makes commercial decisions that may have an impact on the passenger, Canadians expect fair compensation for any inconvenience they experience.
Should Bill receive royal assent, the minister has received assurances from the agency that they are committed to establishing the regulations on air passenger rights as soon as possible.
Bill specifies that the regulations would include provisions addressing passengers' most frequently experienced irritants: providing passengers with plain language information about carriers' obligations and how to seek compensation or file complaints; setting standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of denied boarding due to overbooking, delays, and cancellations, including compensation; standardizing compensation levels for lost or damaged baggage; establishing standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of tarmac delays over a certain period of time; seating children close to a parent or guardian at no extra charge; and requiring air carriers to develop standards for transporting musical instruments.
The minister has been clear that the regulations would include provisions ensuring that no Canadian is involuntarily removed from an aircraft due to overbooking after they have boarded the aircraft. He has also been clear that airlines will be expected to fulfill their obligations to the passenger and, in cases where a passenger cannot fly as a result of overbooking, the air carrier would be obligated to fulfill its contract with that passenger.
We intend to monitor the air passenger experience. This bill proposes requiring data from all parties in the air sector. This data would not only allow for monitoring of compliance with the proposed air passengers' bill of rights framework, but also inform any future policy or regulatory actions to ensure that the air travel experience to, within, and out of Canada is efficient and effective.
Bill also proposes to increase the foreign investment limit from 25% to 49% in Canadian air carriers, with associated safeguards. No single international investor would be able to hold more than 25% of the voting shares of a Canadian air carrier, and no combination of international air carriers could own more than 25% of a Canadian carrier. The ownership restrictions at 25% would remain for specialty air services, such as heli-logging, aerial photography, or firefighting.
Liberalizing the international ownership restrictions would allow Canadian air carriers, including all passenger and cargo providers, access to more investment capital, which they could use for innovation. We expect this to bring more competition into the Canadian air sector, providing more choice for Canadians, and generating benefits for airports and suppliers, including new jobs.
By allowing higher levels of foreign investment, Canadians would have access to better connectivity, and more frequent access to air travel.
Another improvement proposed in the bill is that it would allow the Minister of Transport, in consultation with the commissioner of competition, to consider applications for joint ventures between two or more air carriers. As it now stands, joint ventures are only subject to review as collaborations between competitors under the Competition Act.
Joint ventures are an increasingly common practice in the global air transportation sector. They enable air carriers to coordinate functions, including scheduling, pricing, revenue management, marketing, and sales. This would benefit Canadian passengers, giving them access to more destinations without needing to book separate tickets with different carriers.
This bill would open a process in Canada to both competitive and public interest considerations. This transparent and predictable assessment process would take into account the characteristics of the air transportation sector, as well as the wider public interest and competitive factors. It is expected that this approach would lead to better connectivity, less process, and a better overall passenger experience.
In Canada and around the world, airports are investing large sums of money and resources to simplify and improve the air travel experience for their passengers. Municipalities and businesses are also seeking new or additional passenger screening services as part of their economic development plans.
The proposed amendments to the act of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, CATSA, would create a more flexible framework whereby industry stakeholders could enter into agreements with CATSA on a cost-recovery basis. This flexibility would allow airports to increase screening services at their facilities, strengthen their competitiveness, and attract new commercial routes, which would enhance the traveller's experience without compromising aviation security.
Bill also proposes significant measures to strengthen the safety of Canada's rail sector. Proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act mandating the installation of voice and video recorders in locomotives across Canada's railway industry would provide a clear safety benefit and improve rail safety overall. Locomotive voice and video recorders would provide essential information to better understand the causes and contributing factors leading up to an incident or an accident relating to human factors, which are often impossible to obtain by other means. The proposed regime does raise complex issues regarding the rights of employees to privacy. This is why the proposed framework carefully balances the safety benefits derived from locomotive voice and video recorders with the privacy rights of employees. This approach builds on 10 years of careful studies of the technical and privacy-related implications, and would address the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's recommendation in this regard.
Bill advances historic measures to promote transparency, fair access, efficiency and investment in the rail sector.
First, major new data requirements on the railways' service and performance would come into force more quickly. Railways would begin reporting specific service and performance metrics 180 days after royal assent, rather than one year. As well, the amendments would require that this data be reported more quickly. Railways would be required to report their service and performance metrics five days after each reporting period, rather than the 14 days originally recommended.
Finally, the Canadian Transportation Agency would have to publicly post that data within two days of receiving it, rather than the original seven days. Together, these measures would ensure that shippers have access to more timely data. Bill already provides the agency with the power to require even more data if needed, underscoring our commitment to a more transparent rail system.
Second, captive shippers in British Columbia, Northern Alberta, and Northern Quebec, in sectors such as forestry and mining, would have better access to the proposed new long-haul interswitching remedy. These changes reflect the spirit and intent of this new remedy.
The committee’s amendments would still maintain a critical balance by minimizing congestion in the Quebec-Windsor and Vancouver-Kamloops corridors. Extensive congestion could ultimately slow down the rail system to everyone’s detriment.
Third, another amendment at committee reinforces the point that a railway's removal of an interchange for interswitching would not affect its service obligation toward a shipper. Railways would also be required to notify the agency of their intent to remove an interchange and provide more advance notice to shippers, namely 120 days rather than 60 days. These amendments speak to a concern we heard that interchanges could be closed without any recourse for shippers.
Finally a technical amendment made by the committee would allow the new majority shareholder ownership limit for Canadian National Railway to become effective upon royal assent. This amendment would simplify the process for Canadian National and help ensure investment in a network that is critical to Canada's economic performance.
Bill would establish the right conditions for our rail network for years to come. The amendments the committee proposed would help advance our goal of a transparent, efficient, and safe Canadian freight rail system that meets the long-term needs of users and facilitates trade and economic growth.
Bill also addresses marine-related infrastructure. The legislation proposes amendments to the Canada Marine Act that would allow Canada port authorities and their wholly-owned subsidiaries access to loans and loan guarantees from the newly created Canada infrastructure bank.
The bank will invest $5 billion for trade and transportation related priorities. Allowing port authorities to access the bank would support investments in Canada's trade corridors and the infrastructure needed for our long-term economic growth and the creation of good, well-paying jobs for the middle class.
Bill would change the Coasting Trade Act by allowing all shipowners to reposition their owned or leased containers between locations in Canada without a coasting trade licence. Removing the licensing requirement for foreign vessels to reposition empty containers is expected to help improve the competitiveness of Canada's supply chain in support of Canada's exports, and enhance the attractiveness of Canadian ports as gateways to the North American market.
A strong and modern transportation system is fundamental to Canada's continued economic prosperity. All Canadians benefit from a competitive, reliable, and efficient transportation system.
The committee has proposed important amendments to ensure the bill achieves a fair balance. Collaboration helped in finding solutions that will contribute to modernizing our laws and regulations in order to increase investment in Canada and promote the long-term growth of our transportation system.
The proposals included in Bill are designed to achieve tangible improvements to our national transportation system that will serve and benefit Canadians for decades to come.
I would like to again thank the members of the committee for working together to ensure that Bill C-49 achieves a fair and balanced approach in fostering a more efficient and safer transportation system.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate at the last stage of the bill, affording my last opportunity to mention a few things.
I did not get a chance to stand once more to make another comment for the parliamentary secretary. She used the word “historic” in her speech. It would be incumbent upon me to point out that today is a historic day. It is 500 years since the great reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses in the Wittenberg Cathedral. That is a true historic day.
The bill is interesting, and it is an omnibus bill. However, before I go into the nature of omnibus bills, I want to mention a unique part of my riding of Calgary Shepard, and I am very honoured to represent the residents there.
The community of Ogden is on the north side of my riding. It is where my constituency office is located. The head office of one of Canada's major railways is also located there. It is called the Ogden stockyards for a reason. CP moved its headquarters to Ogden, a community that was historically set up and named after CP's vice president at the time, Mr. I.G. Ogden. There is a deep relationship between the railroad, Calgary Shepard, and the area in which the riding finds itself. It hosts a spectacular Legion Remembrance Day celebration, commemorating all those who were employees of the railroad and their family members who served in Word War I and World War II. It serves a lunch to the community afterwards. It is a fantastic thing. It started after it moved to the area, with which it historically has a relationship. CP used to have its headquarters in downtown Calgary at the Gulf Towers, but moved it in 2012.
Another interesting part is that because CP cares so much about its history and has such a deep relationship with the community, early in June it moved the 91-tonne Locomotive 29 from downtown. If people have been to the Calgary Stampede, they would see this locomotive on TV, as the parade route passes by it. It is a 130-year-old locomotive, and was moved to commemorate CP's history.
The bill, because it deals with railroads, airlines, and transportation, is omnibus legislation. The minister said yesterday that 90% of the bill dealt with one facet. However, it would go on to amend so many other pieces of legislation, some of which really do not deal so much with safety as with competition and the relationship between a consumer and producer of a good or service provider. Therefore, when the minister says this, then it is an omnibus bill. It is kind of like introducing an infrastructure bank in a budget implementation bill. That makes the budget implementation bill an omnibus bill. Therefore, the Liberals cannot deny that this is another broken Liberal promise.
Yesterday I called it a trick or treat bill. It is offering something that supposedly will resolve an issue or problem in the marketplace, a user-experience problem, but it is not so much the treat but the trick. It would not resolve the issues the Liberals believe it would.
The general opinion I have heard on the bill, from editorialists and critics on passenger rights and the service provided by different railroads, is that the proposed legislation will not meet the goals set out by the government. It might be a step in the right direction sometimes, but it is one step forward and two steps back.
As I had mentioned in my commentary for the parliamentary secretary, all the reasonable amendments put forward by Conservative members were voted down. The three that were not were subamended by Liberal members. I had put forward very similar ideas. The Liberals had heard a very similar concept from witnesses. They are actually changing it from seven to two days and one year to 180 days. These are highly technical date and number amendments done at committee. It is not the type of work I have seen with other pieces of legislation, such as the Senate private member's bill that dealt with the Magnitsky Act. There was far more back and forth and substantive amendments were made.
I know many members expect this, so I have a Yiddish proverb. “To every answer you can find a new question.” I will lead off the rest of my intervention on this proverb.
The more I hear answers from the government and various members on all sides, the more questions I have about the goals of the bill and where it will go. With every answer, I have even more questions. Therefore, I have some rhetorical questions that I will share with the House.
I read a May Globe and Mail editorial called the bill “a strange beast”. Yesterday, I called it the “demogorgon” from Stranger Things, a show I highly recommend for all members of the House, although not for young children.
The bill works at cross-purposes. Editorialists mentioned that the costs might be reduced on one end but would go up on the other end. Hopefully, competition will increase, which is a goal of this legislation. I do not think it will achieve that. The government hopes more people will be enticed to use airline services and choose to fly instead of drive.
Security fees will go up, which is a disincentive for air passengers. However, cost is only one issue for passengers. There is also the user's experience and accessibility. Access, in general, is a point we should always remember.
The bill talks about a higher max amount for foreign ownership being changed for Canadian airlines. Although it is a step in the right direction, it is only one step.
Higher equity stakes by themselves do not lead to more competition, and that is important to remember. Allowing international investors to own a bigger portion of current companies will not lead necessarily to more competition. It is a goal. What we need is a level playing field to allow an opportunity for new airlines and joint ventures.
I have much more to say about joint ventures because the bill gets that balance wrong. It puts the onus on the wrong person. More government involvement in the private sector in business is not the correct way to structure the economy in general.
As well, new entrants will look at taxation and a solid, stable business environment. That is something the fall economic statement does not envision for the future of Canada. GDP is going down every year. There is a gap between the first budget the Liberals tabled in the House and the following budgets, such that GDP growth goes up one year and the next year it goes down drastically. Today is Halloween, so I find these GDP growth numbers spooky.
A few provisions in the bill directly affect how joint ventures will be agreed to. It gives the minister of transport a role in approving applications for airline joint ventures, where two independent companies arrive at a negotiated agreement to provide a service to customers in Canada. Injecting the Minister of Transport into such a process is the wrong way to go. We already have the Competition Bureau to ensure there will be an increase in competition. We should not be involving more ministers of the crown in business decisions. There should be less government involvement in the business sector and the private economy.
The Government of Canada's answer has been that this will be good for business. This brings back the Yiddish proverb that it begs more questions. If the solution is that more government involvement will create more competition and thus be good for customers, then why politicize the process by putting a minister of the crown in the position where he or she has to decide whether a joint venture goes forward? Why inject the minister into a business decision?
The exact reverse is being done in the energy infrastructure approval process where everything is being delegated down to the National Energy Board. We can see the results of this. There is a complete paralysis in companies going ahead with the approval and construction of new projects. A lot of companies are concerned about going forward with new projects being considered in their shops and offices. They have not yet gone to the regulator to propose them. They are concerned that they will be unable to meet the new rules the NEB keeps creating, or that the costs of meeting them will be high.
This does not improve the business environment. Rather, it is worsen it. It would be much better to level the field, reduce political involvement, and ensure business certainty is provided. I do not think injecting the minister into joint venture provisions and allowing him or her to have a say over whether a joint venture can go ahead is the right way.
Most of the amendments were put forward after the committee had heard from witnesses, but I really want to dispel the notion that this bill, as it stands, is a product of bipartisanship or collaboration between the parties. Although I am sure there is collaboration at committee in terms of the discussions back and forth and that everything is cordial and collegial, there still have to be substantive differences between the opposition and the government, and there were on this issue. The opposition parties provided substantive amendments that could have been considered more seriously by the government caucus members for approval. Then we could say the bill was truly due to a collegial bipartisan effort and that the product is good.
What do passengers care about? That is the goal of the bill. Members were asking themselves what passengers and producers care about when dealing with railroads, but especially asked this question with respect to air passengers, because more and more Canadians are travelling by air. Cost, access, and user experience I think are the three most important things. Cost comes down to the dollar amount. There is opportunity to shop on different websites and I think everyone considers how many points they will get. We know that Canadians love their points, whether from Mastercard, Visa, Aeroplan, or Air Miles. Whatever they are, people in this country like to collect points, and it goes into the total cost.
Access comprises the ease of the travel, the convenience, and the airport services. Who can travel and how are other considerations. I choose an airline based on my ability to sit with my kids. I have three young kids and I want to make sure that I do not have to rush to the airport early to get them assigned seats. I want to make sure that they will all be sitting with me, so other passengers and I have an easier time travelling. I actually pick an airline based on the one that will give me the easiest time dealing with my three kids to make sure they can get through their experience.
As for the total user experience, Bill focuses only on user experience. This is not just my point. Massimo Bergamini, president of the National Airlines Council of Canada, says that the bill focuses too much on air carriers and fails to recognize that the air traveller experience, as I mentioned, does not just start at the check-in phase and then end at baggage pickup. It is the total experience one has. That is far more difficult to get right in one piece of legislation and the bill before the House does not quite achieve that point, because it does not consider the end costs or the access component of it.
We should not sacrifice customer expectations. That point was raised by others, and I agree with it. We are always purchasing difference services and products, and critics of the bill have said that the passenger bill of rights is a band-aid solution. To the point of the Yiddish proverb, the government caucus says this will resolve customer expectation and service-delivery issues, but it begs the question of why we are doing this if critics are saying this is only a band-aid solution. What then is the best remedy? The best remedy is always more competition in the free market, which leads to more consumer choice. The solution is not more government, yet this bill would create more government. By setting out expectations, the government would be able to deliver on more fairness and would be able to police the airlines more effectively. On the railway side, the government would also be more involved in setting prices and telling the railroads how to deal with their customers.
The passenger bill of rights has a section called “Ministerial Directions”, and says, “The Minister may issue directions to the Agency to make a regulation under paragraph (1)(g) respecting any of the carrier’s other obligations towards passengers.” This is after listing a whole series of obligations. In the bill, “obligations” is a very general term. It says, “The Agency shall comply with these directions.” If, in the future, the minister decides that airlines have a new obligation they need to meet, whatever it could be, whether providing a certain type of meal, a certain type of seat, or a certain type of service beyond those enumerated, then the minister can give that direction.
Again, in a free market, we can shop around. That would be the best way to go forward. We have already seen this is in the tech sector. There are apps on our iPads and phones and when an app does not deliver what we expect, we delete it. We get rid of it and move on. Whatever costs we have sunk into it, we ignore them. Hopefully, it was free, though it is not always free, and then we move on.
The same thing applies to smart phones. There is broad competition phones between all of the different smart phone providers and software types offered. People pick and choose which ones they want based on the services offered, the functionality, cost, and ease of use of the phones, and sometimes the ease of transferring to another device when it comes time for an upgrade.
The same concept should apply to airlines and the services they provide, particularly if people are not satisfied with them. It is not necessarily just a matter of choosing between airlines, but also about choosing other modes of transportation. Depending which part of the country someone lives in, people will have different modes of transportation to choose from. If someone lives in the Windsor, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa corridor, they will have more choices. I have taken advantage of that and taken Via Rail in the past. As a westerner, it is quite an experience because we do not have those types of service levels. The distances are far greater. I could have flown but chose not to. I wanted to experience Canada, as well as the travel time it would take using passenger rail.
I have travelled throughout Europe using passenger rail as well. It is very convenient. Again, their governments are sometimes involved in setting prices, but mostly in dealing with disputes. There is far more competition in Europe. Encouraging competition and new entrants is more than just about the equity stakes allowed. It is a matter of the regulatory environment, fees, and taxes that new entrants will face. At the end of the day, it is about the ease of doing business.
I remember my time working at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, where people would not come to us complaining about taxes or to verify a specific regulation, although that would happen, but more about the total package. For example, there was the issue of how complicated it was for them as business owners to comply with regulations. That applies to the owners of small-, medium-, and large-sized businesses. If the large businesses are publicly traded companies, the owners will be looking at the quarterly bottom line, and their executive team will be looking at how easy it is to comply with different rules and whether they have the people to do it. Can they meet the expectations of both their customers and the government, and can they deal with their competitors?
I know that the equity stake issue has been used. Vancouver's Jetlines have said they want a higher equity amount in their specific case to capitalize their company. This is because airlines face cash flow crunches and need large volumes of passengers to make ends meet, and profitable routes are quite limited. To have a new entrant come in, companies need to be well capitalized to be able to compete. Therefore, in their particular case, it would be beneficial to them.
As I mentioned before, I think about this Yiddish proverb, and every answer we hear from the government caucus and members leads to more questions. More generally, why do we continue to worry about foreign ownership in airlines? I want to draw a parallel. We are not as worried about the devices we use that are not manufactured in Canada, with operating systems not made in Canada, or that sometimes have data that is not even stored in Canada. I do not hear vast amounts of complaining about that, because people generally like the services they receive from their smart phone providers and the different software they use on the phones, whether it be operating or business software, or other recreational features they use. We are not as concerned about where those components come from, where they are ultimately made, but at the end of the day we care about the user experience and the cost. Foreign ownership in that respect is not as important.
However, with airlines, we could achieve far more if we provided much looser foreign ownership rules. In the legislation itself, the government goes into a lot of detail trying to change it. It has been said that airlines are not at the commanding heights of the economy. I know the government changed some of the definitions of what being Canadian means.
I have been signalled to wrap it up, so I have one last point. The problem thus far is that the answers I get from government caucus members lead me to have more and more questions. The bill is incomplete. Its goals for air passengers will not be met. Amendments offered by my colleagues at committee would have vastly improved this proposed piece of legislation.
I will continue to oppose this bill. I hope that every answer I give during questions and comments leads to even more questions, just as I used the Yiddish proverb to illustrate.
Madam Speaker, I would really like to say that I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill , but that is not the case. In fact, I rise because I have an interest in this bill and because it is my privilege to do so. As my party's transport critic, I have the privilege of rising first today, which will not be the case for my colleagues who are directly affected by this bill but who will not have the chance to rise in the House because the bill is under time allocation. This is the first serious mistake.
The told us that this is not an omnibus bill since it only affects transport legislation. However, we could be talking about an omnibus, mammoth, or even a Trojan horse bill, since it contains a number of intentional gaps.
For young people who do not yet have the right to vote, a good metaphor would be a chocolate Easter bunny. Everyone remembers biting into their first Easter bunny only to find it hollow, sadly. What a disappointment. Bill is kind of like that, especially when it comes to the passengers' bill of rights, which I will come back to.
In speeches from the government side, we hear a lot about Bill C-49 striking a balance, but nothing could be further from the truth. Hearing everybody's point of view is a good thing, but it does not mean that the middle ground the Liberals are proposing strikes that balance. I would suggest it is just the opposite.
It is no secret that I am fond of my fellow Conservative members of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, but we rarely see eye to eye. It would be a shock if one of my Conservative colleagues were to run as a New Democrat in the next election or vice versa. Having heard the same witnesses and the same evidence, they and I have managed to get ourselves on the same page with respect to quite a few amendments. If the right and the left have found a way to agree, how is it that the Liberals, who have positioned themselves as the extreme centre, are not listening to reason? We have to ask ourselves some serious questions about why that might be.
The chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was particularly skilled at getting us to work together in a spirit of co-operation. However, unfortunately, the end results do that reflect that. I cannot believe that none of the amendments proposed by the opposition parties were good enough. Obviously, instructions came down from on high that the bill should remain as is, with no changes. That is not what the witnesses we heard from wanted, but that is what the ministers wanted, for their own reasons, which coincidentally are not consistent with the agenda they announced during the election campaign.
To give just one example, during the election campaign, the Liberals promised not to amend the Coasting Trade Act. However, Bill makes three major amendments to coastal trade. As far as I know, Canadian shippers did not storm the 's office to tell him that he absolutely had to make changes to the Coasting Trade Act because it makes no sense.
The government is therefore responding to other lobby groups. We are seeing that more and more often. I have mentioned it in some of the questions I have had the opportunity to ask since debate began this morning. Lobby groups are having a growing influence on this government, and the outcome always seems to be the same: big business profits at the expense of consumers.
This debate is taking place under time allocation, and yet debate in the House is the only means we have left to try to shed some light on a given situation and change it, if possible.
There are probably dozens or even 100 or so members who wanted to speak in this debate but could not, and yet in a few hours, all 338 members will be voting either yes or no to express their support for or opposition to Bill as a whole, which is all over the map. This does not say much about our democratic process.
Furthermore, if we look at the 's legislative record, I have to say that after two years, I am not very impressed. There has been talk of a high-frequency train for decades, but nothing is happening on that file. On top of that, during the campaign, the Liberals promised to reverse the terrible amendments the previous government made to the Navigation Protection Act. Instead, we are heading in exactly the same direction as before, and the list of protected waterways in Canada is going to stay exactly as it appears in the schedule of the act, even though many witnesses, if not the majority, wanted the government to abolish that schedule altogether.
However, we are not there yet when it comes to protecting navigation, when it comes to developing rail transportation, or with respect to Bill .
I want to talk about what is not in Bill . After all, it is an omnibus bill that is supposed to cover just about everything that has to do with transportation.
At the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, we had the chance to conduct a study on aviation safety and we had a significant number of studies on rail transportation. One thing that kept coming up in both files was fatigue among both pilots and train conductors. Fatigue is the cause of most accidents or incidents. We never want accidents to happen, or at least we hope to keep them to a minimum.
What does Bill propose to combat fatigue or to take a new approach to air or rail transportation? It seems to me that this also falls under transportation. Guess what? There is not a word. There is nothing in Bill C-49 to address this major issue.
Let us now talk about some of the dubious aspects of this bill. The first one that I want to address has to do with airport safety, especially as it relates to the potential development of regional airports.
Security measures at Canada's major international borders are working well, although there are still questions, mainly about direct costs charged to passengers. Under the former government, a lot of money was charged for security. It is clear that there has been no improvement in this practice under the Liberals, because even more money is being charged for security. According to the most recent data from Statistics Canada, $636 million was collected from passengers and $550 million was actually spent on security measures. That is a difference of $100 million. Where is that money going? It goes into the consolidated revenue fund and apparently is used for other measures. Once again, just like employees' employment insurance contributions that were used for other purposes, passengers are being charged more money for air security than is being invested into the security network.
Furthermore, while millions of dollars are being raked in, regional airports are told that they can certainly expand, but they will have to do so on a cost recovery basis.
What that means, for example for a regional airport such as the Trois-Rivières airport, is that it can obtain CATSA services, but it will have to foot the bill. Oddly enough, Bill makes no mention of a great report that I have here called “Expanding Passengers Security Screenings at Regional Airports”. This report is signed by no less than nine of the largest airport authorities in three Canadian provinces, namely Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta. The report proposes measures other than cost recovery. Even after the document and research findings were presented in June 2016, which is not that long ago, we have heard nothing from Transport Canada. It is still going with a cost recovery model.
I will give an example of what this can mean for an airport like the one in Trois-Rivières. The Trois-Rivières airport was originally a very small airport, mainly intended for what I would call recreational flying. It offered flying lessons and skydiving, but it was really tiny. Then the city of Trois-Rivières decided to massively expand its airport facilities to turn them into a major economic driver. This involved making numerous investments, such as extending the runway so any jumbo jet could land there. The airport also invested in high-intensity approach lighting so planes could land at any time, day or night. The area's economic activity was diversified, creating a major aerospace cluster in Trois-Rivières. The city has welcomed several aerospace companies, such as Premier Aviation, which is now contracted to maintain much of Air Canada's fleet at its facility in Trois-Rivières. As a recent $500-million investment shows, this company is thriving. Trois-Rivières' aerospace market, specifically its airport, has come a long way from its original recreational niche. It is now a centre for economic development and a major regional hub for business people flying to other destinations in Canada or internationally.
Over the last few years, partnerships have also been developed with aviation companies that offer charter flights to southern destinations. Market studies have been done and Trois-Rivières is clearly the heart of Quebec for a reason. We are the metaphorical heart but also the geographic heart of Quebec. If someone wanted to take a charter flight for a trip down south and had the choice between going to Trois-Rivières with traffic jams that easily last five to six minutes, or to the airport in Montréal, the choice would be quite easy. However, that whole study, that whole potential and all of those agreements already negotiated with carriers have fallen through because CATSA security measures are only available for regional airports through cost recovery. That is totally ridiculous. If an airport like Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke or any other regional airport has to cover the cost of security measures alone, that drives up air ticket prices considerably. That means that the company is no longer able to compete on the market and the agreement collapses.
However, other options are considered in the report I referred to earlier. In particular, there is the possibility of all amounts collected for security being allocated to security expenses and not returning to the government’s consolidated coffers. We could also consider the possibility of all transportation costs being distributed among all passengers on the flight.
Flying south, whether from Trois-Rivières, Québec City or Montreal, involves the same business and the same security services. The cost could therefore be divided between all travellers annually, instead of the number of passengers related strictly to one airport or another.
There are many possible solutions that should have been heard, discussed, and questioned, but Bill C-49 sweeps all that under the rug, a fitting image today for Halloween.
I just want to say a word about cabotage. I would remind members that the Liberal government committed during the election campaign to not touch the Coasting Trade Act. However, there are three amendments in that regard. There are not one, not two, but three major amendments regarding coasting trade that directly affect the Canadian marine industry.
What are those three amendments in a few words? There is the repositioning of empty containers, dredging activities, and the transportation of bulk products between Montreal and Halifax.
Those are three important areas of economic activity that systematically fell to Canadian shipowners and that could now be offered to foreign shipowners. Because of the market opening under the terms of the economic agreement that we signed with Europe, they are saying that European companies cannot be prevented from conducting dredging in the waters of the St. Lawrence River. Oddly, however, no one can confirm that the opposite is true and that Canadian shipowners would be able to bid on dredging contracts in Europe.
Beyond what might be seen as relatively unfair competition, it is important to realize that European dredging companies, for example, that operate all year long and are much larger, may be better able to consider crossing the Atlantic and remaining in our waters, where they can be competitive, while the opposite is quite hard to imagine.
Trois-Rivières is also a port city. It is impossible to understand this without having visited an organization like the Foyer des marins in Trois-Rivières, where shipowners come from all around the world, but it only takes a few exchanges, sometimes with the help of hand gestures because my knowledge of foreign languages is limited, to realize that there are fundamental differences between foreign-flagged vessels and their crews and Canadian-flagged vessels and their crews. I mention no country in particular as to not single anyone out, but first, we are talking about very different salaries, working conditions and expenses. These amendments to the Coasting Trade Act will therefore create unfair competition that no one ever asked for, certainly not in Canada.
I would like to read one or two quotes. St. Lawrence Shipoperators said, “The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement entered into with the European Union opened an unprecedented breach in the Coasting Trade Act by giving ships of all flags access to certain parts of the Canadian market. Bill C-49 widens that breach. We are witnessing the erosion of the Coasting Trade Act.”
Maritime Magazine said, “After years of underfunding of port infrastructure, disengagement from dredging, and inaction on renewing the fleet of icebreakers, it is now coasting trade that is being sorely tested. It is important for decision-makers to understand the scope of the economic, social and environmental role of maritime transportation and the importance for the country of having a strong and health maritime industry and domestic fleet.”
Those are just two examples about coasting trade. I could also have talked about the Infrastructure Bank that is once again being quietly included in Bill C-49. I could have talked about the passengers' bill of rights. I could have talked about joint ventures.
I could have talked about so many subjects that it shows once again that we are dealing with an omnibus bill and that it is a total disgrace to ask all parliamentarians to vote yes or no on an omnibus bill. It is one more thing that the Liberals committed to stop doing during the election campaign. They seem to have a short memory.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, in the fall of 2016, the exempted from the 25% ownership restrictions two companies that wanted to enter the Canadian market supported by increased foreign investment. This decision is now permitting Enerjet and Jetlines to pursue their intention to create low-cost carrier service to Canadians. With liberalized foreign investment provisions, Canadians would have more frequent access to air travel within and from Canada to transborder and international locations.
Like most countries, Canada limits international ownership and control of domestic air carriers. As I mentioned, under the Canada Transportation Act, non-Canadians currently cannot possess more than 25% of the voting shares of a Canadian carrier. Additionally, Canadian air carriers must also be controlled by Canadians, which means they may not be subject to controlling influence by international investors.
Limits on foreign ownership and control of air carriers are the norm around the world. For example, in the United States, the limit is 25%, while the European Union, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand allow up to 49%, and Japan allows 33.3%. Limits vary depending on the circumstance of each region. However, Canada's current ownership limits may be acting as a barrier to new services and enhanced competition.
Earlier I mentioned that the two prospective ultra-low-cost carriers, Canada Jetlines and Enerjet, have already applied for and received exemptions to the current limits on international ownership from the . This was granted because both companies successfully argued that, under the current 25% limit, there is insufficient risk capital in the Canadian market to support the launch of new services.
Reflecting on this reality and the Canada Transportation Act review recommendations, the government is proposing changes that would allow international investors to own up to 49% of the voting shares of Canadian air carriers, by introducing legislation that would amend the act and other relevant acts. As I mentioned earlier, countries have different approaches to international ownership of air carriers, and our government wants to make sure that Canadian air carriers compete on a level playing field.
To protect the competitiveness of our air sector and support connectivity, no single international investor or any combination of international air carriers would be allowed to own more than 25%, but how would this benefit Canadian travellers? The direct impact of higher levels of international investment is that Canadian air carriers would have access to a wider pool of risk capital. This would allow air carriers to be better funded and could allow new carriers, which are otherwise not able to find sufficient risk capital, to enter the Canadian market.
New carriers, including ultra-low-cost carriers offering extremely competitive prices, are expected to bring more competition into the entire Canadian air travel sector. This could, in turn, reduce the cost of air transportation and open new markets to Canadian consumers and shippers. Small markets currently underserved by existing carriers could also benefit from services by new carriers. For example, airports in smaller cities that currently offer services to a very limited number of destinations could benefit from the addition of new services since we know that ultra-low-cost carriers use these smaller airports as their hubs. All of this could lead to more choice when purchasing airline tickets, more travel destinations for all travellers, including those from smaller cities, and lower prices for Canadian travellers. Additionally, there could also be benefits for airports and suppliers and the entire country, as more jobs are added to the Canadian economy.
Another improvement to the air travel sector in this bill is that it proposes a new transparent and predictable process for the authorization of joint ventures between air carriers, taking into account competition and wider public interest considerations. Joint ventures are a common practice in the global air transport sector. They enable two or more air carriers to coordinate functions on specific routes, including scheduling, pricing, revenue management, and marketing and sales. In Canada, air carrier joint ventures are currently examined from the perspective of possible harm to competition by the Competition Bureau under the Competition Act.
Unlike many other countries, notably the United States, Canada's current approach does not allow for the consideration of the wider public interest benefits other than competition and economic impacts. Furthermore, the bureau's review is not subject to specific timelines. This raises concerns that the current approach to assessing joint ventures may make Canadian carriers less attractive to global counterparts as joint venture partners and may limit the ability of Canadian carriers to engage in this industry trend.
The bill before us in the House proposes amendments that would allow the minister to consider and approve air carrier joint ventures, taking into account competition considerations. On this latter concern, the current transport minister would work in close consultation with the commissioner of competition to ensure that he or she was properly informed regarding any concerns he or she may have with regard to competition. Air carriers that chose to have their proposed joint ventures assessed through the new process would be given clear timelines for an expected decision.
Providing Canada's air carriers with such a tool would also benefit the air traveller. By joining up networks, air carriers could allow seamless travel to a wide range of destinations and could reduce the duplication of functions. For Canadians, this could mean more seamless access to key global markets, easier inbound travel in support of tourism and business, and increased transiting traffic through our airports, thus increasing flight options.
Globally, airports are making unprecedented investments in passenger screening to facilitate passenger travel and to gain global economic advantages. Canada's largest airports have expressed interest in making significant investments in passenger screening, either through an additional workforce or technology innovation. Smaller airports have also shown interest in obtaining access to screening services to promote local economic development. In the last two years alone, 10 small airports across Canada have requested screening services.
The proposed amendments to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act are important, as they would create a more flexible framework to allow CATSA to provide these services on a cost-recovery basis, which would in turn allow Canada to maintain an aviation system that is both secure and cost-effective. It would also strengthen Canadian communities' competitiveness as they attracted new commercial routes.
That is not all the transportation modernization act would do. Bill proposes to mandate the Canadian Transportation Agency to develop, in partnership with Transport Canada, new regulations to enhance Canada's air passenger rights. These new rules would ensure that air passenger rights were clear, consistent, and fair for both travellers and air carriers. When passengers purchase an airline ticket they expect and deserve that the airline will fulfill its part of the transaction. When that agreement is not fulfilled, passengers deserve clear, transparent, and enforceable standards of treatment and compensation for such situations.
Under the proposed legislation, Canadians would benefit from a uniform, predictable, and reasonable approach. The details of the new approach would be elaborated through the regulatory process, which would include consultations with Canadians and the air stakeholders. My objective is to ensure that Canadians have a clear understanding of their rights as air travellers without negatively impacting access to air services and the cost of air travel for Canadians.
Bill specifies that the regulations would include provisions regarding the following most frequently experienced irritants: providing passengers with plain language information about carriers' obligations and how to seek compensation or file complaints; setting standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of overbooking, delays, and cancellations, including compensation; standardizing compensation levels for lost or damaged baggage; establishing standards for the treatment of passengers in the case of tarmac delays over a certain period of time; seating children close to a parent or guardian at no extra charge; and requiring air carriers to develop standards for transporting musical instruments.
The minister has been clear that he intends that the regulations include provisions ensuring that no Canadian is involuntarily removed from an aircraft due to overbooking after having boarded. The minister has issued a challenge to Canada's air carriers on this matter, on seating arrangements for minors, and on moving to strengthen air practices even before new passenger rights are finalized.
The bill also proposes that data could be required from all parties in the air sector to monitor the air traveller experience, including compliance with the proposed passenger rights approach. This data would also inform any future policy or regulatory actions taken by the to ensure that the air traveller experience to, within, and out of Canada was efficient and effective.
To finish, I will underscore that the experience of Canadian air travellers is a priority for the Government of Canada. We know that it is also a priority for Canadians. This is why we have proposed to increase international ownership restrictions for Canadian carriers. It is why we are proposing new rules on joint ventures that would help create greater efficiencies and more choices for Canadian travellers. It is why we are proposing some modest changes to the provisions of CATSA screening services that should help air passengers transit through airports more quickly. Finally, it is why we are creating a legislative framework so that Canadians can finally benefit from an air travellers' bill of rights.
Once these new measures were in place, they could help lower prices, support increased competition among air carriers, provide more choice to Canadians when it comes to purchasing tickets, and improve service and connectivity for all Canadians and Canadian travellers.
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for , and I look forward to hearing his thoughts on this issue.
I also want to thank our transport critic, the member for , for the excellent work she has done on Bill . I had the pleasure of working with her on this file for a while. I know that she worked very hard on this and that she shares many of the opinions that I am going to express here today. I also want to thank Patrick, my intern from the parliamentary internship program, for his assistance in writing the speech I will be giving today. He witnessed the magnitude of this omnibus bill first-hand.
The scope of this bill is huge; it makes significant changes to 13 different acts. It will substantially affect air, rail, and sea transport. This bill will affect most of the trains, planes, and ships that travel around and across our immense country. It is what is known as an omnibus bill.
I would remind members that, in 2015, the Liberal government promised to change the rules of this place to prohibit omnibus bills. The Liberals made that promise to Canadians over and over again. In its election platform, the Liberal Party said that it would no longer resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny. It added that it would bring an end to this undemocratic practice by changing the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.
It was a very convenient promise to make during an election campaign. Now it is more convenient to ignore it. What is even more interesting is that the minister who sponsored the omnibus bill we are talking about today has repeatedly criticized the use of these political games in Parliament. In a motion the transport minister moved in the House in 2012 when he was the Liberal House leader, he suggested that the intentions of omnibus bills were so varied that a single vote on so many matters would put members in conflict with their own principles.
The sponsor of the omnibus bill we are talking about today said those things in 2012. That is a totally different perspective than the one the minister and his government are taking on Bill .
Why did the Liberals change their minds? Where are their principles now that they are in power? Let us not forget that this is not the only political stunt the Liberal government has pulled in order to circumvent the democratic process here in the House. Omnibus bills are not the only trick up the Liberal government's sleeve. To top it off, yesterday it decided to use time allocation to limit the debate on all these proposals. As a result, even though the government's list of proposed changes remains quite long, the time we will have to debate those changes has been shortened considerably. This is the same government that likes to talk about being open and transparent. It claims to be a government that listens, but after having worked with this government it is clear that it really does not.
By all accounts, a bill that changes our transportation system, that weakens the legislative protections for shippers and farmers, and creates a passengers' bill of rights that does not even have the support of passengers' rights advocates, deserves a more thorough and engaged debate. However, yesterday's decision to use a time allocation motion does not really surprise me or any of the other opposition MPs. It certainly did not surprise Canadians who have been watching for weeks as the Liberal government tries to defend their tax reform and the 's decisions in question period.
What is becoming very clear is that Canadians are losing faith that this government has a moral compass. That is another unintended consequence for the Liberals. What is not clear is the bill we are currently debating. After months in committee, and debates and studies on this bill, there are still very few details and explanations.
Let us talk about Bill . The Liberal government says that the measures it is proposing will establish a new air passenger rights regime; loosen international ownership restrictions for Canadian air carriers; enable Transport Canada to examine and approve joint ventures by two or more airlines; update the Canadian freight system; require railway companies to install voice and video recorders in locomotive cabs; expand the authority of the Governor in Council to require major railway companies to provide information regarding rates; and amend the Canada Marine Act to permit port authorities to access the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
All of that is in the same bill. Whether one is for or against certain of those measures, voting is impossible. One may like some of them, but if one dislikes others, there is no way one can logically vote for this bill.
There is a fundamental lack of respect and clarity in all these measures, including the passengers' bill of rights that the government promised. The Liberals say the measure is a document that will protect travellers, but upon closer examination, one can see that is not necessarily the case. Precious little is known about this bill of rights. Nobody knows what it will look like or what penalties will be imposed on airlines if they break the rules.
Instead of putting forward something very clear, the government decided to let the Canadian Transportation Agency made the decisions. The agency will decide what is in the document and will flesh out the details, details that will affect every air traveller and every airline in Canada.
How can we have an intelligent discussion about a passengers' bill of rights without all the necessary information? How can we avoid other unexpected consequences of the sort that seem to be this government's trademark and that arise, when we are not given details about what it is proposing?
We must not forget the unintended consequences of tax reform on farmers and on small and medium-sized business owners. We must also not forget how this government attacked our most vulnerable citizens by clawing back the disability tax credit. As members of the opposition, what can we do to seek solutions to a bill under the current circumstances? For that matter, we are not the only ones sounding the alarm. We cannot support measures that are unclear. The government is asking us to trust it blindly, but it would be irresponsible of us to do so.
Let us move on to the other proposals in the government's bill. Bill would permit port authorities and their wholly-owned subsidiaries to receive loans and loan guarantees from the Canada infrastructure bank . However, this is somewhat paradoxical because, as members may recall, the infrastructure bank does not exist yet. This measure therefore makes no sense.
This bill would allow port authorities to receive loans from a soon-to-be-created infrastructure bank. In other words, they are getting immediate permission to do business with an entity that does not yet exist. What a great opportunity for the Liberal government to create even more unintended consequences with a new bank that has yet to be approved by Parliament and that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
As we continue to consider the impact of this bill on other industries, we find more examples of its lack of clarity. For shippers who use the railways, this bill proposes new 30-km interswitching rates that, according to the government, would be set every year and take into account railway infrastructure needs for the entire system. However, the lack of information about how the bill will implement these rates is leading shipper organizations and producer groups to be cautious regarding their position on long-distance interswitching. Like us, they are not really sure how this is going to affect them.
Shippers like Greg Cherewyk, Pulse Canada's COO, reminds us that the devil is always in the details. In May, he told the Manitoba Co-operator, and I quote, that “every word does matter, and the order of the words matters”. He pointed out that he was not sure about the exact impacts of the government's new proposals.
Today, we are going to vote on this matter because we have to vote on the omnibus bill as a whole. We cannot study this component more thoroughly because the government decided to make it part of one huge bill. We tried to make this part of the bill less vague, but the Liberals voted against those changes, even the administrative ones. It is clear that they do not understand the consequences of these measures, and that will create even more unintended consequences.
The two major railway companies in Canada have also expressed their concern regarding the impact of the new regulations, especially with respect to investments in the Canadian railway system. The president of CN thinks this is an odd decision, especially since NAFTA is still being negotiated and we do not know what impact the negotiations will have on trade. Why then give American companies even greater access to Canada? These are the questions we are asking.
In conclusion, everyone in Canada knows how important transportation issues are. Bill is an omnibus bill that is forcing us to take a position on measures that might have seemed acceptable but that we cannot support, because there are other, totally unacceptable measures in the bill.
For these reasons, I cannot support Bill C-49. There are too many unintended consequences that we can already foresee.
Once again, I would like to thank my intern Patrick for his assistance writing this speech, and I am ready to answer my colleagues’ questions.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by mentioning the 60 or so seniors in my riding who suffered a tragic loss two days ago. There was a major fire in a retirement home in Beauport Sunday evening. The people on Joncas street, who are older than those living in other retirement homes, had to leave in the middle of the night and get on a bus. Incidentally, I would like to thank the city of Quebec for sending buses as quickly as possible. My thoughts are with these seniors and their families in these difficult times. I hope that most of them have family who can take them in. I have visited the home twice since I was elected.
I would now like to express some of my general concerns about this government, which has shown time after time that it is serving special interests, be they Liberal interests or multinational interests. The small and medium-sized business tax hikes it announced this summer are just one example of that. Another is the current crisis concerning the 's conflict of interest, which involves $20 million worth of shares in his family company, Morneau Shepell, that he was supposed to sell off two years ago.
Yesterday, we found out that five more government ministers apparently used the same technique as the Minister of Finance to avoid selling their shares or putting them in a blind trust. I hope we will all keep asking who those ministers are today. I am beginning to have some serious doubts about the behaviour of this government and the . The latter is responsible for ensuring that his government is complying with the law and is not using all kinds of loopholes to circumvent the spirit of the Conflict of Interest Act. I am very concerned about this.
This government is not working for Canadians; it is working for the multinationals. We saw a good example of this this morning in a Radio-Canada article written by Philippe-Vincent Foisy. It says that the government and the met with representatives of Amazon 99 times in the past 12 months. They met 37 times with representatives of Google and 16 times with representatives of Netflix, including 5 meetings with the a few months before she announced her extremely controversial agreement with Netflix.
In contrast, the minister met only once with representatives of ADISQ, whose gala I attended as a representative of the Conservative Party of Canada on Sunday evening. The minister met only twice with representatives of the Association québécoise de la production médiatique, and did not even meet once with representatives of ACTRA. This really gives the impression that the government is giving priority to the multinationals and that it has no time for organizations and Canadians.
Since we began debating Bill , the government has boasted that it wants to focus on railway, aviation, and maritime safety. I, too, believe that railway safety is important, but 90% of this bill has nothing to do with railway safety.
Here is what I have done about railway safety since I was elected. First, I met with authorities at CN, since there is a railway serving Limoilou, in particular the port facilities in my riding, the port of Quebec and the Quebec railway station. I had a great meeting with a CN police officer. The CN has dozens of police officers that ensure railway safety. The police officer answered all the questions and concerns raised by citizens in my riding. My constituents wanted to know why trains often stayed at the two railway yards for several days, and they were also concerned about the trains' speed. It is very important.
If railway, aviation and maritime safety is so important, why was discussion in committee constantly stifled, and why were the amendments proposed by the official opposition rejected out of hand?
Most of the amendments proposed focused on the improvement of certain aspects of safety and competition.
The omnibus bill includes amendments to 13 different acts affecting the three main modes of transportation in Canada and the rest of the world. As I said, most of the content of this bill has nothing to do with safety, despite the fact that the parliamentary secretary’s speech was all about transportation safety. It is unfortunate.
Last night before I fell asleep, I happened to be reading the Canadian Parliamentary Review, a very interesting review of everything happening in all provincial and federal legislative assemblies across Canada. An academic wrote that he had conducted a study of the past 30 years and that, over the past two decades, there was a pattern of using, more often than not, time allocation for bills, in particular omnibus bills.
His study shows that efficiency and a need to act quickly are often cited as the reason to use omnibus bills. Parliament needs to be more efficient, since Canadians expect the House to act efficiently. In reality, in the past 30 years, the use of omnibus bills has not increased the number of bills passed in the House, regardless of the government in power. The academic goes so far as to say that we should let Parliament follow its natural course and allow members to thoroughly debate each bill. Thus, Bill should have been split into several bills so that we could get a more detailed understanding of every change the government is trying to make, as the hon. member for so eloquently argued.
This being said, there are five aspects of the bill that caught my attention and that I would like to mention. First, with respect to allowing airlines to form international joint ventures, the bill will enhance the role of the . How? Consider Delta Airlines and Air Canada, for example, each of which offers flights between Toronto and Atlanta. For the purposes of productivity, operations or efficiency, these companies could decide to merge the Toronto-Atlanta route in order to provide better service.
Normally, when two companies decide for form an international joint venture on a given route, they must obtain the approval of the Competition Bureau. With this bill, the Minister of Transport will have far more influence, because, at the end of the day, he will decide for the commissioner of competition whether the two companies can move forward with the international joint venture. The minister will act in the public interest. So far, neither the Liberal members or the parliamentary secretaries have been able to define the public interest in the context of the minister’s analysis.
The second issue I am interested in are the new security fees. The has often mentioned the problem at Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport, where there are very long lines because there are not enough gates to ensure the safety of passengers as they embark on their flight. He said he wanted to make sure that there were more security checkpoints to make the lines shorter, but he will allow airports to charge additional fees. It is an open secret that the customers will end up paying these additional fees.
This specific clause of the bill shows us right away that Canadian consumers will have to pay more for their plane tickets when this bill comes into force. That is interesting because, every time the Liberals want to solve a problem, in this case wait times at airport security, they solve it by making Canadians pay more. The Liberals wanted to address the problem of climate change, so they created the carbon tax. They wanted to reduce their huge structural deficit by $20 billion, so they cut tax credits for Canadians, including tax credits for public transit, school supplies, sports, and arts.
Third, they want to change the act to give international shipping companies access to coastal trade thereby creating competition for Canadian shipowners between Halifax and Montreal. This will create an enormous amount of unfair competition for our shipowners because Canadian employees receive decent wages while other foreign companies do not pay their workers very well at all. This will create a lot of unfair competition for our shipowners.
This bill should not have been introduced as an omnibus bill. We should be given the opportunity to carefully examine each measure, which is something that we cannot do today. That is shameful.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to this important bill, Bill , the transportation modernization act, on behalf of my constituents in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.
In his mandate letter to the , the stated that his overarching goal is to ensure that Canada's transportation system supports the government's agenda for economic growth and job creation. To carry out that mandate, it is essential to look ahead, and today, I would like to reflect on that by focusing on some of the key amendments in Bill , the transportation modernization act, that would help ensure that our transportation system can continue to help build this country for future generations.
In particular, it is essential that our transportation system be fluid in its operation and responsive in meeting the needs of our society and economy. To meet these goals, we need to lay the groundwork for a transportation system that will be safe and secure, innovative and green, adaptable to changing trade flows, and sensitive to the needs of travellers. Following a comprehensive consultation process with Canadians, industry stakeholders, provinces, territories, and indigenous groups, we have established a foundation to realize these goals through transportation 2030, the government's strategic plan for the future of transportation in Canada.
For this government, the transport portfolio is critical to economic growth. Transportation in Canada must continue to be a single interconnected system that drives the Canadian economy. In February of last year, the tabled the report of the review of the Canada Transportation Act, also known as the CTA review, which was led by the hon. David Emerson. It had been 15 years since the last such review. The review report looked ahead to position our transportation system to continue to support Canada's international competitiveness, trade, and prosperity. As Mr. Emerson noted, our transportation system is the connective tissue that binds us together as a nation, that enables us to participate in the global economy, and that helps us ensure our economic and social well-being.
The review pointed toward many of the goals to which we need to aspire in building the transportation system of the future. We, as a country, must take the long view. We must develop a long-term vision of Canada's transportation system that is focused on the future, on the outcomes of what we want to achieve: better growth, more competition, and better service. When we mention economic potential, we must remember that we can have the best-quality products in the world, but it will not matter if we lack in efficient ways to get those goods to international markets.
Improving our trade corridors is a key requirement in building our future transportation system. That is why Bill focuses on promoting transparency, system efficiency, and fairness. The bill proposes legislative amendments that would better meet the needs and service expectations of Canadian travellers and shippers, while creating a safer and more innovative transportation system that would position Canada to capitalize on global opportunities and thrive on a higher-performing economy.
In particular, Bill recognizes that a reliable freight rail network is critical to Canada's success as a trading nation. Many of our commodities, from minerals to forest products to grain, depend on rail to move to markets, both in Canada and abroad. Canada already enjoys a very efficient rail system with the world's lowest rates. Bill C-49 would sustain this by addressing pressures in the system so that it can continue to meet the needs of users and the economy over the long term.
There is no clearer example of the importance of our freight and rail network than the prairie provinces. Each year, over $280 billion worth of goods move through our freight rail system throughout Canada. It is the backbone of our export trade, allowing goods to move efficiently throughout the country and to our export markets.
Bill builds on our already strong freight rail system by safeguarding its continued reliability and efficiency. Bill C-49 seeks to create a more competitive environment for shippers and producers by introducing long-haul interswitching, a new mechanism that would be available to all captive shippers in Canada across all sectors. Long-haul interswitching would allow shippers access to competing railways at rates and at service terms set by the Canadian Transportation Agency. This measure would allow better service options while improving system efficiency. It would ensure that shippers across industries would be able to bring their products to market.
There has been much discussion of the plan's sunsetting of an extension of the interswitching mechanism created in 2014 with the passing of the Fair Rail For Grain Farmers Act. This system only applied to captive grain shippers within the prairie provinces. In the year prior to the act's implementation, there was a record prairie grain crop, which was immediately followed by a devastating winter. This act was introduced to address this unique situation and the conditions in the grain handling and transportation system at the time. These no longer exist. It is important to emphasize the temporary nature of the previous legislation. Bill would replace this temporary legislation with a stronger and permanent mechanism that would apply across various sectors, including the grain sector in various regions in Canada. It would apply to a much longer distance of 1,200 kilometres or more, far greater than the 160 kilometres in the previous act. It is critical that this new mechanism apply to all commodities over a much longer distance throughout this great country. At committee, changes were adopted to the exclusion zones, opening the interswitching mechanism to captive shippers in northern Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta, which will have a favourable impact on the mining and forestry industries in those regions. By extending the interswitching system, we would strengthen multiple industries while still supporting the grain industry.
It is also important to note the stronger benefits and protections that Bill would provide to prairie grain shippers and farmers. These include the ability of shippers to seek reciprocal financial penalties in their service agreements with railways. These include a better definition of what adequate and suitable rail service means, and improved access to final-offer arbitration. Bill C-49 better defines adequate and suitable rail service. Previously within the Canada Transportation Act, the terms “adequate and suitable” were not defined and had been the subject of various definitions over time. By better defining the term and providing better clarity to both shippers and rail companies, we reduce the potential for service disputes that can be both costly and disruptive to both parties.
It is also important to balance the shipper's service entitlements while taking into consideration the railway's broader obligations across the network. The act strongly affirms that railways must provide shippers with the highest level of service they reasonably can provide within the circumstances. Factors for the Canadian Transportation Agency to use in assessing what is reasonable will also be identified. These would include the service that the shipper requires, the railway's obligations under the Canada Transportation Act, and the operational requirements of both the railway and the shipper, among others.
The act also addresses penalties for delays, which currently are one-sided. While railways currently can impose penalties on shippers for delays, shippers are not able to impose penalties on the railways unless the railway agrees to these as part of a confidential contract. This causes an inequity between the rail lines and the shippers. Reciprocal penalties would ensure that the responsibility for efficient and timely movement of goods would be shared between the shippers and the rail companies.
With Bill , shippers will be able to pursue reciprocal financial penalties through the service level agreement process under the CTA. The process will allow a shipper to obtain an agreement on service through CTA arbitration when negotiations with the rail company fail. The CTA arbitrator will ensure that the penalties both balance the interests of the shipper and the railway and encourage efficient movement of goods. This is of vital importance to grain farmers on the Prairies and was one of the big asks of stakeholders in the period leading to the tabling of the bill.
The bill would also increase transparency by increasing the amount of publicly available information on the performance of the rail transportation supply chain. Of note is that Bill requires railways to provide a report assessing their ability to meet their grain movement obligations prior to the start of a crop year. The state of the year's crop and forecast for the upcoming winter will be reviewed annually. This will ensure that should a similar scenario occur like the one seen in 2013-14, a contingency plan can be put in place by the railways to ensure the movement of grains.
In addition, railways will need to report service, performance, and rate metrics publicly. The bill will require railways to provide service and performance information on a weekly basis to the Canadian Transportation Agency, which in turn will make this information public by publishing it on its website.
Rate data will be required from the railways as well for Transport Canada. The rate data will be used by the agency to help calculate long-haul interswitching rates. It is important that this information be available in a timely manner to ensure the efficiency of the supply chain.
Bill would encourage the long-term growth of the freight rail system by encouraging investments. It would change the provisions of the maximum revenue entitlement regime by making adjustments to intensify hopper car investments and reform the MRE methodology. These reforms will better reflect individual railway investments and encourage investments by all supply chain partners.
One only has to think of Lac-Mégantic, where people are still recovering from the tragedy that took the lives of 47 residents in 2013. This and other events like the derailment at Gogama remind me that the most crucial thing the can do is to keep the people who use our transportation system safe. Nothing else is as important.
Bill , the transportation modernization act, would further this goal. It would do this by implementing in-cab video and voice recorders, commonly referred to as LVVR, as recommended by the CTA review panel and the Transportation Safety Board. These recorders would further strengthen rail safety by providing objective data about the true actions taken leading up to and during a rail accident. This technology would also provide companies with an additional safety tool for analyzing trends identified through their safety management system.
Finally, the transportation system of the future needs to better meet the needs of travellers who seek greater choice and convenience at a reasonable cost. For example, passenger traffic at Toronto Pearson airport has almost doubled in the past three decades and the airport marked its 40 millionth passenger in 2015. Just cast our minds ahead to 2030 when Toronto Pearson forecasts that it will serve some 66 million passengers per year. That is a lot of people to manage, and our airports need to be up to the task.
Along with connections, we must also consider the air traveller experience and the need for new tools to assist consumers. The traveller needs to know how decisions are made when flights do not go as planned and what recourse they have. That is the very reason that Bill proposes the creation of new regulations to enhance Canada's air passenger rights, ensuring that they are clear, consistent, and fair to both travellers and air carriers.
The Canadian Transportation Agency would be mandated to develop, in consultation with Transport Canada, these new regulations, and would consult Canadians and stakeholders should royal assent be given. The overriding objective of this new approach is to ensure that Canadians and anyone travelling to, from, or within Canada understands their rights as air travellers without having a negative impact on access to air services and the cost of air travel for Canadians.
The simple fact we must address for all travellers is this: Canadians are spending more on transportation in all forms. In the past 30 years, household spending on transportation has more than tripled, up to 16% of expenditures, second only to shelter. Our government's vision for the Canadian traveller experience is one in which we have more integrated and seamless connections between air, rail, and transit to reduce the overwhelming reliance on the automobile.
These are some big issues, and sorting through the implications of what I have just talked about is a tall order that requires many conversations with Canadians.
The CTA review started this engagement. The report is a comprehensive source of independent advice to government. As I said earlier, I see transportation as essential to driving this country's economic growth and future prosperity for all Canadians. We must also design and manage the transportation system so that we continue to protect passengers, communities, and our environment.
I challenge all of us to think about how we can achieve all of these goals so that we can develop a transportation system that is even more safe, efficient, and green, and which supports both our economy and our country.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to speak to Bill . I will be splitting my time with the member for .
We have before us what is very clearly an omnibus bill. It is a transportation bill that deals with many different pieces of legislation. It is more involved, more complex, and deals with more topics than perhaps the 95 theses. If the government wants indulgence today, it will not get it from members of the opposition.
I will continue to pontificate on this for a bit. We are seeing the government's total unwillingness to take its past commitments with respect to omnibus legislation seriously. It criticized the previous government for covering a range of different topics in the same bill. This was allegedly a big part of its push for changes to the Standing Orders. The Liberals said that the Standing Orders had to be changed because of the big problem of governments bringing forward omnibus bills. They said that a solution had to be found for this.
If the Liberals thought it was such a problem, the simple solution would have been for them to simply not propose omnibus bills. In so many different areas, whether it is Bill , a bill that covers a range of different proposals on the issue of impaired driving, or a transportation bill, or budget bills they have brought forward, there is a real abundance of what clearly are omnibus bills even by their own definition.
The Liberals have said that an omnibus bill is a bill that members might want to vote for parts of it, but oppose other parts of it. Again, there is no credibility. Their policies and platform in the spirit of the season really is ghosted. Nothing is left but a ghost of the commitments the government made with respect to omnibus legislation.
I would like to talk specifically about some of the different pieces of the legislation.
Much of the discussion by members of the government has been about an alleged passenger bill of rights. I am sorry to report to members, but this is more trick than treat. The passenger bill of rights is skeletal at best. It is a framework for legislation that others will be asked to eventually develop, but the House is in no position to evaluate its substance. We are expected to theoretically consider a passenger bill of rights that somebody else might develop without any kind of clarity on its structure or how that would be approached or operationalized in practice. Again, it is more trick than treat even if passengers were expecting something more substantive.
As members of Parliament, we often fly. We could probably all share stories of less than ideal experiences we have had with air travel. It behooves the government to be more clear about what it is talking about when it brings these kind of measures before us. This is the Liberals' idea of being able to check a box for something they want to say they done but really is lacking in meat.
Many provisions in the bill come from a lot of different directions.
I also want to address the issue of joint ventures. If airlines want to propose a joint venture for a route, at present, the proposal is reviewed and ruled on by the competition commissioner, and hat is appropriate. The competition commissioner evaluates the impact of proposals on competition. When a joint venture is in place, that can have a negative impact on competition, because companies work together. Therefore, there is less competition that can be beneficial to consumers.
As a party that believes in the importance of functioning free markets, our caucus is very concerned about ensuring there is as much competition as well. We recognize if we want to get good outcomes for consumers there is a place for regulation. The best way to get to that end is that if we have robust competition, we are going to have good outcomes for consumers. Consumers can drive through the market the kinds of treatments and services they want by choosing between the different available options.
Unfortunately, this omnibus bill makes some changes to the framework in place for joint ventures. It gives authority to the minister instead of to the competition commissioner to make those decisions. In that context, it gives him a fairly wide discretion to make these determinations on the basis of public interest criteria. “The public interest” is the sort of concept that everybody is in favour of, but the devil is often in the details. When the minister has a wide discretion to make a determination on the basis of a concept of public interest, that really gives him the ability to do what he wants with respect to these joint ventures, and he may well be subject to influences and questions which are not in the public interest. We have regularly had concerns raised in this House about ministers who find themselves in conflicts of interest. When we have cases of ministers who have been able to circumvent the law with respect to blind trusts, we should legitimately be raising concerns about the minister taking an authority that had previously been exercised through the commissioner.
One other issue that I want to address is with respect to interswitching for rail. The issues that I have addressed in the short space of my speech today again underline the breadth of transportation measures in this bill. That should be concerning to members. In the existing framework, the previous government brought in something that was called “extended” interswitching, which allowed for the use of another company's rail line. That would be done on a cost-plus framework, so the rates would vary depending on the costs that were in place for the company. It was fundamentally a competitive framework, because there was no fixed rate across the board for interswitching, rather there was a cost-plus framework, so it still encouraged some degree of flexibility and competition. However, the long-haul interswitching provisions the government has in place in this bill do not encourage competition. The way in which the rate is structured for that interswitching is based on an average rate, so it is the same rate that would be charged across different companies. It reduces the pressure for competition vis-à-vis different cases of interswitching. Our view is that competition is important, and that facilitating competition in the transportation sector and other sectors is beneficial for consumers. It leads to choice and innovation.
In conclusion, I would like to say that when we asked the minister about this during time allocation earlier, he said that he did not think we should be hearing more opposition speeches because they kept talking about the carbon tax. Since the minister does not want us to talk about the carbon tax, I think we actually have a duty to talk about the carbon tax in this context. Of course, the government does not want to talk about how negatively it is impacting the transportation industry by trying to impose a carbon tax, which is literally a tax on everything. It is trying to compel provinces, in a way that is profoundly disrespectful to provincial jurisdiction, to impose this carbon tax. I had the pleasure of presenting a petition for my constituents on this yesterday. Many of my constituents are very concerned about the negative impacts to the transportation, energy, and other sectors associated with the carbon tax.
To summarize, we have in front of us an omnibus bill. Again, the Liberal government is showing a disregard for its commitments. There are some specific things that I take issue with. The most publicized element, the air passenger bill of rights, is not at all clear. We would be much better off encouraging competition to help consumers have the flexibility to drive improvements in quality and innovation themselves.
The Liberals are in the process of taking choice away from consumers, talking about an air passenger bill of rights that is not clear or defined in any way. Of course, the government is proceeding with other measures that are very harmful for the transportation industry, such as the carbon tax.
On that basis, we oppose this bill.