Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to carry on with this important debate. This morning, we tried to neutralize the destructive aspect of Bill and put it on ice in order to continue to guarantee good jobs for the people back home.
However, since we must resume this debate, I will hammer away at some critical points. Today, I talked about the legal aspect of these actions and how the Aveos workers assigned to an Air Canada subsidiary had every right to keep doing what they excel at.
These very skilled people in the Montreal metropolitan area, Winnipeg, and Mississauga did an excellent job maintaining large aircraft such as Boeings and Airbuses. That allowed them to support their families and contribute to the economic development of the cities named in the 1988 Air Canada Public Participation Act.
Naturally, these workers, whose right to be protected by federal law was violated, took action and decided to sue. When they won in the Superior Court, Air Canada appealed, and the workers won in the Court of Appeal as well. Now, Air Canada wants to push these employees all the way to the Supreme Court, where they are likely to win again, which would force Air Canada to recognize the law and its obligations and to keep its heavy maintenance operations in the cities set out in the act.
Now, the Liberal government is reneging on its own promises and is retroactively legalizing an activity or decision that had been deemed illegal by two courts of law.
I have to wonder, and this is an essential question under the rule of law. Since when can a government retroactively make something legal? This is quite worrisome. Where will it end? Is this how a country makes laws? Is this how we show people how to respect legislators' decisions? I do not think so. This sets quite a dangerous precedent. I do not want it to become the norm to change the rules of the game, not just during the game, but after the game is done. The NDP is very worried about this.
The 40 Liberal members from Quebec, those from Manitoba, and those from Mississauga should stand up to protect jobs in Quebec, Winnipeg, and Mississauga. Aside from one MP from Manitoba who stood up a few weeks ago to vote against Bill at second reading, not a single other Liberal member had the courage to stand up for the Air Canada employees who have been left high and dry by this government.
Earlier today, that same Liberal MP from Manitoba changed his version of the facts and refused to let Bill die at report stage as the opposition members proposed this morning.
The Liberal MP from Manitoba is trying to pull the wool over our eyes when he says that it is a matter not of conscience but of procedure. He said that he might oppose the bill at third reading even though his vote today ended up extending the debate when we could have just pitched this bill in the trash and saved 2,600 jobs across the country, including hundreds in the Winnipeg area.
I invite all of my Liberal colleagues from Manitoba and Quebec to step up and honour their own word as well as what the Liberal Party leader said in 2012 here on Parliament Hill in defence of the good jobs held by Aveos workers. What happened to those good intentions? Why give Air Canada this gift? Why are they abandoning our economic development in such a high-tech sector? Canada has very few sectors that are thriving quite as much as aerospace and aeronautics. The Liberal government just dealt the industry a very harsh blow. Governments everywhere else in the world support this sector.
They talk vaguely about Air Canada's future investments in future centres of excellence, which may come with future jobs to maintain future planes that have not yet been purchased so are not yet operational and therefore not in need of maintenance. None of this guarantees a thing. It is all hot air. At best, it is a house of cards.
The Liberals are trying to cling to Air Canada's slim promise that it will establish a centre of excellence in Trois-Rivières. However, they know full well that the runway at the regional airport is not even long enough to accommodate the jumbo jets that provided most of the work for Aveos employees in Montreal. We already know that this is not a viable option, that it is a flight of fancy, pun intended.
The Liberal Party fought tooth and nail for the good jobs in Quebec. However, now the Liberals have changed their tune and are passing a bill that will waive any requirement for Air Canada to have its aircraft maintained and repaired here in Canada. We do not understand. Does the Liberal Party think that legalizing the massive export of our good jobs is a job creation plan?
The New Democrats think that people deserve better. In our opinion, Canadians deserve a government that keeps its promises and stays true to its word.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to debate Bill , proposing amendments to the Air Canada Public Participation Act.
I would like to take a few minutes to explain why the Government of Canada believes this is an appropriate moment to modify the almost 30-year-old act. This is about promoting Canadian industry at home and giving Canadian companies the best chance to compete in global markets.
By amending the provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act dealing with Air Canada's aircraft maintenance activities, this bill seeks to ensure that the air carrier can compete in keeping with the evolution of the global transport sector.
The amendments to paragraph 6(1)(d) modernize the legislation by increasing the flexibility of Air Canada to make business decisions in response to market forces and competition. The amendments will remove reference to specific cities, recognizing that this work may take place in wider regions. As has already been noted, the Montreal urban community, which is currently referenced in the act, only included Montreal Island and did not even embrace Mirabel.
The bill also clarifies that the act is not prescriptive in terms of particular types or volumes of such maintenance in each location. Through this bill, a new subsection would be added to the Air Canada Public Participation Act. It would be clarified further that Air Canada may change the volume or type of aircraft maintenance that it will carry out or cause to be carried out in each of the aforementioned provinces, or the level of employment in those activities.
Let us first recall that the Air Canada Public Participation Act's primary purpose was to convert a crown corporation into a thriving and competitive private corporation, in an industry that is characterized by aggressive competition, strong cyclical business patterns, minimal profit margins, and sensitivity to external shocks.
The Air Canada Public Participation Act was brought into force in 1989 to provide the federal government with the legal framework to privatize Air Canada. It also requires the airline to have provisions regarding where it will carry out maintenance, the use of official languages, and where its headquarters will be located.
Other airlines, Air Canada's competitors from Canada and abroad, are not subject to such conditions. This dated legislation now runs the risk of inhibiting Air Canada's ability to be competitive, both domestically and internationally.
Other carriers, Air Canada's competitors, are not subject to the same rules, which means that foreign carriers and other Canadian carriers are able to conduct their aircraft maintenance activities in ways that drive efficiencies and enhance their cost competitiveness.
On May 2, 2016, witnesses at the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities said that costs are one main component that any airline has that must be addressed. Indeed, costs are very much tied up in maintenance. Maintenance costs are around 10% to 15% of any airline's cost structure.
The market conditions in which Air Canada operates are now greatly different from that of 1989. The 1980s were characterized by deregulation, and since that time the world has seen a proliferation of new air carriers as well as new airline business models. In June 1980, the then president of the International Air Transport Association reported that its membership was composed of 100 airlines from 85 nations. Today, its membership is composed of 260 airlines.
In short, the air carrier marketplace is now much more competitive. This is a good thing. It benefits travellers, and it pushes the airlines to be as efficient as possible. However, we must ensure that our carriers are able to compete themselves, or we risk limiting Canadians' connectivity and threatening the economic viability of these carriers.
The Canadian marketplace has also evolved. By the end of the 1990s, Canadian Airlines International ceased operations, reducing the extent of competition. Other carriers, like Canada 3000, also came and went. However, since then, there has been a flourishing of growth among Canadian companies. WestJet, Porter, Transat, Sunwing, and others provide travel options for Canadians. I should also note the important role by foreign carriers in offering travel options to and from Canada.
New carriers have emerged that are changing the global competitive landscape. In key competition markets, such as the United States and the European Union, carriers have restructured or merged.
We heard in committee from key industry experts. As mentioned in committee by one witness:
|| We no longer see government-owned airlines in any meaningful way as we did 30 years ago, and this is especially important in the maintenance industry. This industry today is very unlike the maintenance industry of 30 years ago. This industry has evolved into huge economies of scale and specialization
Air Canada continues to provide vital connectivity both within our vast country and to the outside world. It is also an important source of employment and opportunities. In 2015, Air Canada, with its Air Canada Express partners, exceeded 40 million passengers and offered direct passenger service to more than 200 destinations on six continents. Air Canada alone employs around 28,000 people, and that number rises to 33,000 when its partner air carriers are included.
Our air sector has also weathered some difficult times, including the tragic events of 9/11, global pandemics, and the recent economic crisis, yet it continues to robustly offer service options to Canadians. In short, we have come a long way since the 1980s when the government of the day created this law and we left behind a highly regulated sector.
The Air Canada Public Participation Act has achieved its primary objective of successfully privatizing Air Canada. Now, given that times have changed and the air transport sector has evolved, it is also important to ensure that this statute remains up to date. In particular, the provisions of the act that deal with aircraft maintenance risk hampering Air Canada's competitiveness by limiting its ability to organize its activities in a way that responds to the evolution of the sector. Furthermore, given Air Canada's role in providing Canadians' connectivity, this could also impact on the overall competitiveness and cost of air transport throughout the country.
It has been suggested that by way of Bill , the government is not supporting workers in Canada's maintenance, repair, and overhaul sector. It has also been suggested that this legislation would allow Air Canada to eliminate its aircraft maintenance work in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Of course, we expressed great concern about the impact on workers and their families as a result of the bankruptcy of Aveos Fleet Performance in 2012. Furthermore, at that time, we pressed Air Canada and the Conservative government to act in the best interests of workers.
By placing limits on Air Canada's ability to drive efficiencies in its operations, we are increasing its costs. This in turn will be felt by Canadian travellers and shippers. This could also cause Air Canada to lose market share, resulting in reduced employment in Canada. We have heard in testimony that maintenance accounts for about 15% of Air Canada's costs. Therefore, if our legislation pushes up those costs, it could have important implications for the company's competitiveness.
We have also heard that heavy maintenance is increasingly concentrated in locations specializing in particular aircraft. I note that Air Canada is the only Canadian carrier with a significantly varied fleet, involving large numbers of wide and narrow-body aircraft. It is also the only Canadian carrier with a complex global network, covering multiple continents, and thus in competition with the world's major carriers.
In 2015, Air Canada, with its Air Canada Express partners, exceeded 40 million passengers, and offered direct passenger service to more than 200 destinations on six continents. Air Canada alone employs nearly 25,000 people.
This leads me to the second point, which is about economic opportunities for Canada's aerospace sector. Air Canada and Quebec have indicated their intention to end their litigation regarding the carrier's compliance with the Air Canada Public Participation Act. This announcement came on the heels of Air Canada's declared intention to purchase up to 75 Bombardier C Series aircraft and to ensure that these planes will be maintained in Canada for at least 20 years, as well as to collaborate in the establishment of a world-class centre of excellence in Quebec.
This announcement was followed by another significant piece of news. Quebec and Air Canada decided to seek an end to their litigation, which had been based on the Air Canada Public Participation Act. As part of the agreement between Quebec and Air Canada, the carrier committed to supporting the creation of a centre of excellence for aircraft maintenance in Montreal, as well as committing to maintain its fleet of newly acquired Bombardier CS300 aircraft in Quebec for 20 years following delivery. This is an important development for Canada's aerospace sector. It further underscores Montreal's position as an international aerospace cluster with big industry players located there, such as Pratt & Whitney, CAE, Bombardier, and of course, Air Canada itself. This is an excellent opportunity for Air Canada to assist in ensuring that Canada is the global centre specializing in the maintenance of this aircraft.
The Air Canada-Quebec agreement will allow the carrier to benefit from cutting-edge aircraft technology produced here in Canada. It will also result in significant benefits from the aerospace industry, including aircraft maintenance right across the country. This is the sort of investment that the aerospace sector needs. Quebec and Manitoba indicated that these conditions create a context in which they would be willing to discontinue their litigation against Air Canada. These developments provide us with an opportunity to rethink our approach and look for opportunities for improvement.
Beyond business, let us not forget that the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization is headquartered in Montreal, along with the International Air Transport Association and Airports Council International, among others. Federal officials identified specific concerns around the maintenance provisions of the Air Canada Public Participation Act because they create challenges for Air Canada's ability to be competitive. Specifically, they prevent Air Canada from doing what other carriers do, which is to organize its supply chain to optimize efficiency.
The intention of Air Canada, Quebec, and Manitoba to discontinue their litigation creates an appropriate context to modernize the act, and indicates that the parties are working together toward a similar objective: the growth of Canadian prosperity. However, let me be clear. We continue to believe that Air Canada should commit to undertaking aircraft maintenance in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. As well, we intend for this to be stipulated in the law.
However, we need to provide Air Canada with the flexibility to meet these requirements to compete in an evolving global marketplace. We cannot predict how the airline industry will evolve in the future. Whatever happens, our carriers will need to adjust to meet the challenges and remain competitive. Air Canada needs the flexibility to enable it to adapt to changing market conditions. Bill would allow us to target the right balance between such flexibility and the continued expectation that the carrier will undertake aircraft maintenance in Canada.
I believe it is important that Air Canada continue to bring high value-added aircraft maintenance work to Canadian communities. The recent announcements regarding additional work in Montreal and Winnipeg show that the carrier is willing to do that; and Bill would further reinforce this expectation. The time is now to modernize the Air Canada Public Participation Act to reflect the reality that, to be able to compete effectively, Air Canada must have the flexibility to take decisions for its business in response to evolving global markets. This is good for the carrier, and it is good for Canadians.
The opposition members would have us believe that Bill would legalize the offshoring of aircraft maintenance and that the alternative to this bill would be that the former Aveos employees would be re-employed. Let me be clear. The alternative to Bill C-10 is not the reinstatement of jobs lost as a result of the failure of Aveos.
Also, Bill would not legalize the offshoring of aircraft maintenance. It was the choice of Air Canada and Quebec to announce that they were willing to seek an end to their litigation with respect to Air Canada's compliance with the Air Canada Public Participation Act. However, it is important to underscore that the litigation did not hold out any guarantee that the carrier would recreate the level of employment that existed prior to 2012 or hire back the same workers who lost their jobs.
I repeat, the time is now to update the Air Canada Public Participation Act and to achieve this balance. I encourage all members to vote in favour of this bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and address at third reading this very important subject of the government's proposed changes to the Air Canada Public Participation Act. I am sure for many people watching this at home their first reaction when they hear the Air Canada Public Participation Act is to ask what is that.
The reality is that the bill is important. The changes the government is making are important, in part because of the substantive effect of those changes on the workers and others who will be impacted, but also because of what it tells us about the government's broader economic philosophy and the direction in which it is going perhaps on a wider variety of files. There are some things we should say about the bill right off the bat.
First of all, there is a strong multi-party consensus, at least outside of the government, opposing this legislation. Conservatives, New Democrats, and the leader of the Green Party have all spoken very forcefully against the changes the government is making, and for different reasons coming from different economic philosophies, but it is very clear we all have concerns about it. We on this side are collaborating in our opposition.
On the government side we hear an abuse of language and that is consistent with many of its arguments. The Liberals talk about modernizing, moving forward, that it is the 21st century. This is the all-purpose argument with the government. Stating the current century, stating the current year and talking about modernization is the all-purpose argument which can be used to justify anything, it seems. It is not an argument at all, but we hear this coming from government members and we hear them talking about collaboration on this file.
However, as I mentioned in questions and comments and alluded to already, there is actually a strong consensus in this House of opposition to the bill among a wide range of different parties and philosophies. Within civil society there is an opposition to it from a variety of different quarters. The previous Manitoba government had concerns about this as well. The Quebec government said that we should not be rushing into this right away. As well, the union representing the workers who are affected has concerns about it. There is broad concern about the government's agenda for reasons that I will get into later on.
What we saw at second reading is pretty clearly a government which did not want to talk about the bill. This is strange because it is actually the first new substantive legislative idea we have seen from the government. Yes, the government has proposed bills to implement court decisions. The Liberals brought in a budget. They proposed repeals of measures which the previous government brought in. However, in terms of something substantive and new, this is the government's one big idea so far. It would be strange that the government which has put this degree of importance on the bill actually does not want to talk about it. This is the first bill that the Liberals moved time allocation on. Even before they moved time allocation, they were not keen to put up speakers and the debate was sustained back and forth by Conservatives and New Democrats speaking about concerns about this legislation.
This is a strange situation we have. We have a piece of legislation that is presumably important to the government, and certainly it is important to the people whom it affects, and yet the government is not very keen to talk about it. The Liberals are abusing language around it and there is a growing consensus of opposition to the bill. That is important to underline as we move forward.
In fact, we had a vote today on the bill and it almost was defeated. We had a member of Parliament from Manitoba who voted against the bill at second reading, but who voted for it at report stage, which is disappointing because that member had an opportunity to actually stop this bad legislation from going forward at a time and in a way that would have mattered much more than at the second reading vote, but he chose to follow the government whip instead of to line up behind his constituents.
What is happening with the bill? What is the substance of the bill and why is it important? Let us go over the background one more time.
In 1988-89, Air Canada was privatized and the mechanism of privatization was through a share issue privatization. This means that the government previously had owned Air Canada. It issued shares, and sold those shares. At the time, those shares were subject to certain conditions. There were four main conditions proposed on Air Canada at the time of this share issue privatization: Air Canada had to be subject to the Official Languages Act; it had to maintain its corporate headquarters in Montreal; 75% of its voting shares had to be held by Canadians; and it had to maintain operational and overhaul centres in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Mississauga. There were four different conditions that were placed on Air Canada.
Of course, when we put conditions on the sale of something, it is going to have some impact on the share price. That is fairly obvious. To use a simple analogy, if I sold my house but said to the new owners that I had to have access to the backyard even after I sold the house, the new owners might agree to that, but they might say that they would pay less for the house if it was subject to that kind of condition, because that condition would be inconvenient for them and any subsequent owner.
This is essentially what happened when the government privatized Air Canada. These were not arbitrary conditions that the legislature came up with at a later point and chose to impose on a private company. These were conditions of sale. They were built into the deal. They informed the share price at the very outset of that deal. That is fundamental to understanding what is fair and what is right going forward in terms of these conditions.
Now, albeit significantly later, the government has decided to sort of unilaterally just give up those conditions. To extend the backyard analogy, it is writing off that condition that was previously written in the deal with no kind of compensation, for no obvious reason, not getting anything in return, giving Air Canada shareholders these windfall gains, giving value to Air Canada free from the state that was not there before. Had these conditions not been there in the first place, the government could have received more for those shares. It does not really make sense to say, “Here you go Air Canada, here are some total windfall gains”. It does not make sense to do it on that basis.
I should note that, despite all this talk about competitiveness and a level playing field, the government is removing one of four conditions and maintaining the other three. It does not appear to have any interest in removing conditions around official languages, corporate headquarters, or around the number of voting shares that have to be held by Canadians. This is not some grand latter day conversion to market liberalization by the Liberal government; rather, the Liberals are removing one specific condition, which allows the outsourcing of jobs. They are not undertaking a broader shift to try and enhance competitiveness. As I will get to later on, I think there are a number of other things the government can do, and might be wise to consider doing, which would in fact have a better impact on competitiveness.
We are certainly for strengthening the aerospace sector, and we are certainly for measures that will increase competitiveness, but not at the expense of basic fairness in the marketplace, not at the expense of taxpayers, and not at the expense of jobs.
Given the conditions that were put on Air Canada as a condition of the purchase of those shares, and given where we are now with this process, I think many people listening to this debate will wonder why in the world the government is doing this. Why did the Liberals decide now all of a sudden that they were going to give this nice little gift to Air Canada? It does not make a lot of sense unless one knows that there is something else going on.
The arguments the government gives do not really add up. However, there is one thing we hear consistently from government speakers, and there have not been that many over the course of this debate. However, when government members want to speak to this debate, what we hear them alluding to is Bombardier. They are saying there is this thing happening with Bombardier, that it is going to have these centres of excellence, and Air Canada is making these investments. This is very much something happening that is separate from the Air Canada Public Participation Act.
The Air Canada Public Participation Act does not mention Bombardier. The member for was alluding to negotiations that have taken place, that the government has undertaken negotiations. There is no specificity at all. I have asked repeatedly in questions and comments if the government could establish the link here. What are the Liberals talking about when they say that there is something happening over here with Bombardier and therefore they have to bring in a bill on the Air Canada Public Participation Act? There have been repeated questions about this link. They are hinting at it, but they are not willing to acknowledge it. I think there may well be a link between those events, but we have to understand why the government is not actually willing to talk about it.
Here is the connection between these events and the timeline that goes with it: On February 17 of this year, Air Canada announced that it had started negotiations with Bombardier to purchase C Series aircraft. These were aircraft, incidentally, that it had not previously expressed interest in. That was on February 17. Very shortly after that, on March 8, the minister put this bill on notice. Then the governments of Quebec and Manitoba suspended litigation and there was a variety of commitments made in the context of that by Air Canada.
It is interesting that this litigation has been suspended; it has not been halted. The government, by introducing this legislation, has actually pulled the rug out from under the provinces, should they wish in the future to continue litigation. That is an important point which I will get back to in a few minutes.
We see these events following very closely one after the other. Air Canada expresses interest in a purchase from Bombardier and then right after that, Air Canada receives the benefit of the proposal of this act. What seems to be happening is that Air Canada is receiving the free removal of a condition of its privatization at the same time as it is exploring a previously unplanned purchase from Bombardier.
I can only suspect that is because a direct bailout of Bombardier is unlikely to be acceptable to the public, especially at a time when Bombardier, like Air Canada, is outsourcing jobs, and so it has come up with this scheme of an indirect bailout. That is what appears from these events and certainly that is what is hinted at by the government, even though it will not answer a direct question about the relationship between the Air Canada Public Participation Act and Bombardier.
The benefit of the removal of conditions flows freely from the government to Air Canada and the benefit of a previously unplanned large purchase would then flow from Air Canada to Bombardier. Again, the benefit of the removal of conditions would flow from the government to Air Canada and the benefit of the previously unplanned large purchase there then flows from Air Canada to Bombardier.
This is what appears to be happening. If it is happening, it is something that Canadian taxpayers and workers should be very concerned about, because normally, if one were going to undertake a bailout, not that that is ideal under any circumstances, one would impose conditions on that bailout. Instead, there is only the removal of conditions of a previous privatization and there is no guarantee that there will be economic benefits or jobs here in Canada.
If people are skeptical about this connection, this connection was actually made explicit by the Quebec government when it discontinued its litigation against Air Canada. Here is what it said: “Subject to...final arrangements, the Government of Quebec has agreed to discontinue the litigation related to Air Canada's obligations regarding the maintenance of an overhaul and operational centre following Air Canada's agreement to collaborate with the Province to establish a Centre of Excellence for C Series”. Of course, tellingly, the Quebec government does not want this legislation passed at the breakneck rate that the government seems to be pushing it forward, because it suspended its litigation subject to “final arrangements”.
Air Canada has expressed interest in the purchase from Bombardier, but the deal has not been closed. There has been talk of opportunities by centres of excellence of new investments and jobs in Quebec and Manitoba, but these are all things that Air Canada has dangled as possibilities. Meanwhile, the government has not just dangled this legislation, it is trying to push it through. It is trying to push it through very quickly, with limited discussion, with time allocation, and with, it seems, as few government members speaking to it as possible.
If the government proceeds with this legislation this quickly before these investments have even been made in Manitoba and Quebec, then it will have pulled the rug out from under those provincial governments. Even then, given what the government may be trying to do to produce this kind of indirect bailout effect, it has gone about it in a very ham-fisted way that will likely not have—I should not say “likely”, but may well not have the effect that it wants it to have.
This is underlined by a press release that the Government of Manitoba released on May 9, “Government of Manitoba opposes Bill C-10”. It said:
|| [The deputy premier] presented to the federal Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to reiterate the Manitoba government's opposition....
|| “There are significant implications to moving forward with Bill C-10 without further dialogue and consideration,”.... “The Government of Manitoba is requesting specific commitments from our partners in the federal government to ensure the proposed changes to the Air Canada Public Participation Act will provide a net benefit in terms of investment and job creation for Manitoba’s aerospace industry.”
The press release goes on:
|| In February 2016, the previous government wrote the federal government requesting that amendments to the Air Canada Public Participation Act be limited to expanding the geographical scope of Air Canada’s commitments within Manitoba. The proposed amendments go significantly further than the geographical scope.
It is interesting that in Manitoba, as well as here, there is a unity between the previous NDP government of Manitoba and the new PC government. They are both concerned about the act, just as in the House, Conservatives and New Democrats are both very concerned about the direction this is going.
To come back to this point, it is clear that there is a strong consensus in terms of opposition between different political parties at different levels, and throughout civil society, as well.
However, what are the arguments we hear from the government in favour of this bad and unpopular legislation? We hear talk about the health of the aerospace industry. All of us want to see a stronger aerospace industry. All of us would like to see Air Canada do well.
My colleague from has done a very good job of outlining other things that could be done that would actually be stimulative. What about following through on the government's plan to lower taxes for small business? It made a previous commitment to do that. It is raising taxes on small business, which flies in the face of a commitment that not only it made during the election, but all of the parties in the House made during the election.
Aside from the aerospace industry, just thinking about the economy as a whole, what about follow-through on the commitments they made with regard to business taxation?
Here are some things specifically toward the industry that could improve competitiveness: tying airport improvement fees to specific projects with explicit sunset provisions; overhauling the financing model for security; increasing the number of existing trusted traveller programs; increasing the foreign ownership limit of Canadian-based airlines to 49% for air carriers operating commercial passenger services; reforming Nav Canada to reduce costs imposed on airlines; improving governance in airport authorities; establishing a set of principles to guide all airports in Canada when determining fees; better aligning regulations with U.S. and Europe; and continuing to streamline immigration and customs processes.
These are a number of things that the government would be very wise to do and they would have our support in doing them, in terms of actually seeking to improve competitiveness. However, this is not about competitiveness. If this were about competitiveness, the government would be looking at a broader range of things. It is moving one specific condition, which was a condition of Air Canada's privatization, which allows Air Canada to send jobs overseas, and it is doing it at a time when Air Canada is perhaps suspiciously doing something else that meets with the government's objectives.
If we put this picture together, it clearly is not about competitiveness. We would have seen a much broader strategy if the government was actually interested in the health of the aerospace sector and improving the competitiveness of the aerospace sector. Like so many things, such as its emphasis on modernization, these are just words that the government uses with seeming disconnect from the actual, substantial meaning of those words.
Let me just wrap up by saying that I think this really is crony capitalism at its worst. There are three different parties in the House. Our party generally believes in the value of the market mechanism. Our friends in the NDP are more skeptical about that. However, we at least believe in a rule-based market system, that an effective market system requires adherence to rules. It means that if there are obligations that are part of a condition of sale, they have to follow through on those obligations. They cannot change the rules in the middle of the game for the workers.
The government does not really have a concept of a functioning rule-based market capitalist system. Its idea is that it gets together with the Air Canada executives and they talk about what they are going to do, and then it tries to get a few peoples' interests working in one direction. However, it ignores the interests of the workers, of the taxpayers, of broader society.
That is why we would say this is a crony capitalist bill. There is something to object to, for Conservatives, for New Democrats, or anyone in between.
I hope members stand up and oppose the bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is a bit much, actually somewhat overwhelming, to hear members of the Conservative Party try to pretend that they have an ounce of credibility when it comes to the aerospace industry, whether it is my home province of Manitoba, or Quebec or Ontario.
I have listened to member after member being critical of the government, a government that has done more for the aerospace industry, trying to resolve an outstanding issue that has been there because of Conservative neglect five years ago. They stand in their place today and try to tell us that we are not doing our homework, we are not doing consultation and so forth. It is incredible that they would have the courage to stand in their places and say some of things they are saying.
The previous speaker asked who was interested in this bill. Individuals who are genuinely concerned about the future of Canada's aerospace industry have an interest in the bill.
The Conservatives say that the Manitoba government opposes the bill. We just had an election in Manitoba where there was a change in government, and yes, I am okay with the change in government. I congratulate my daughter who is sitting in the Manitoba legislature for the first time today as a part of that change, and there will be a throne speech from Manitoba today.
We need to recognize that we had two provincial governments taking action many years ago because the Conservative government refused to take action. That is the reason why there was a need for consultation. Had it not been for the provincial governments of Quebec and Manitoba, who knows where we would be today. The Conservative government adamantly refused to get engaged on what I thought was a very important issue.
I will get into that right away, but the said something that I thought was very appropriate. This is about perception. She said, “The opposition members would have us believe that Bill C-10 would legalize the offshoring of aircraft maintenance and that the alternative to this bill would be that the former Aveos employees would be re-employed. Let me be clear. The alternative to Bill C-10 is not the reinstatement of jobs lost as a result of the failure of Aveos.” She went on to say, “Also, Bill C-10 does not legalize the offshoring of aircraft maintenance.”
If we listen to what Conservatives and the New Democrats are talking about in regard to Bill , that is the impression one would get. How could we possibly pass Bill C-10 because thousands of jobs would be permanently lost, that we would see an exodus of jobs leaving Canada because we did not support maintenance being done in Canada, in particular in the provinces of Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario?
As the pointed out so accurately, that is just not the case. When we look at Bill , what I believe we have is part of an equation that would be in the long-term best interests of Canada's aerospace industry. When I say the long-term interest, I am referring to good quality jobs for this industry and ensuring that Canada will continue playing a leading role in the development of an industry that has so much potential worldwide. It is important that the government do what it can to not only save the jobs that are there today, but look at ways in which we can invest in industries.
We recognize that the aerospace industry is worthy of government attention. That is why we have a collective vested interest with respect to Bombardier to ensure we do what we can to protect those jobs. I know that Cromer in my home province of Manitoba is having some issues. I am concerned about those jobs also. There jobs are of great importance. We want the government to give some attention to where it can and play a leading role.
What I like about the budget is it recognizes the importance of research and development. It recognizes the importance of how we shape industries going forward. This is where the previous Conservative government was lacking.
Before I provide more comment with respect to Bill , it is important to go back a number of years when this whole issue began, so members will have a better understanding with respect to where I am coming from, and ultimately the Liberal Party when it was in opposition.
When the decision was made with respect to the reallocation and shifting over of maintenance jobs, the decision was being implemented at a time when I had just recently been elected in a by-election. Therefore, I very much wanted to get a good understanding of it. I virtually went from the Manitoba legislature directly into opposition in Ottawa. I was very aware of the importance of the aerospace industry to the province of Manitoba.
We had many debates inside the Manitoba legislature with respect to just how important that industry was, just as it is today, to our province and the city of Winnipeg. There was a lot of focus on Air Canada and the Air Canada Public Participation Act, whether with respect to pilots, trainers, or individuals who provided all forms of different services. Therefore, I was already somewhat aware of the importance of the issue.
I saw what Air Canada was doing. Therefore, when I came to Ottawa, I took it upon myself to dive into it. Members of the Liberal caucus at the time were very supportive because collectively we recognized the importance not only to the province of Manitoba, but also to the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, as well as other provinces, in particular the province of British Columbia. Therefore, on several occasions I was afforded the opportunity to express the feelings and thoughts that were coming out of the caucus.
In fact, going back to 2011-12, the previous government made the decision that it would not intervene. One of the first things I did was challenge the then prime minister directly in question period with respect to what he would do to protect our workers and aerospace industry. The record should show that I attempted to bring an emergency debate on the issue of Air Canada. I can recall participating in rallies and in numerous meetings with workers and industry representatives in my home province. We even started a petition through a postcard campaign in which I received hundreds of cards from many different constituencies.
The concern was there and it was very real. We had petitions. We spent a great deal of time trying to get the government of the day to recognize its responsibilities. However, for whatever reasons, it chose not to. I had written the provincial government at the time and encouraged it to take legal actions against Air Canada, believing that this was in fact what the province of Manitoba needed to do. I was glad when the province of Quebec recognized the importance of taking legal action.
I worked with many of the different union workers in particular. I can recall walking up to our new airport where we had a significant rally in support of the workers, in support of getting Air Canada to do the responsible thing. I focused my attention on the Conservatives when they were in government, but I really do not recall that proactive action coming from today's third party, then the official opposition, and it had far more tools than we had. We are very much aware nowadays, because we see some action being taken and that third party being somewhat exercised, proclaiming it is interested in the worker today. However, the best I can recall, at least at the rallies I attended, I did not see any representation from that third party.
When I look at Bill today, I see legislation that has ultimately been brought forward because of the efforts of the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba, and many different workers and their unions, which played a very important role in keeping the issue alive,. Today we have governments and stakeholders recognizing that there is a window of opportunity for a real, tangible settlement. As my colleague, the , has pointed out, that does not mean individuals who were so poorly treated and impacted by what took place years ago will be reinstated. It is most unfortunate, and I feel very passionate about those workers and the manner in which they were treated.
However, where we do see some hope and a silver lining, is that it would appear there could be the opportunity through the different levels of government and the different stakeholders where we will get some guarantees that will help our aerospace industry going forward. I am pleased to see this. For many years when I sat in opposition, I did not see any national leadership or initiative that would have seen our industries protected in any fashion whatsoever. I did not see a proactive Conservative government on the issue.
Here we are, having been in government since October. Months ago we expressed the interest in working with the different stakeholders and listening to what in particular the province of Quebec had indicated with Air Canada, not wanting to continue to seek that legal action because there would appear to be some sort of an agreement in place.
I do not want to say that I know all of the details. I do have a sense of what is taking place. I love the fact that Winnipeg would get a centre of excellence out of this. I love the fact that many jobs would be created in Winnipeg because of this, that there would be a guarantee.
One of the amendments is to recognize that it is being changed to Manitoba, not just Winnipeg. As with the province of Quebec, it is not going to be just Montreal; it is being expanded. We need to be sensitive to our rural communities that are trying to develop their aerospace industry. That is a positive change being seen in the legislation.
At the end of the day, members have a choice. They can say that they support the Conservative approach from the past, which we know did nothing to support the aerospace industry, or they can recognize what the Government of Canada has been able to accomplish. Is it absolutely and totally perfect? I would love to see a much-expanded aerospace industry. Does the bill guarantee it? There is no absolute guarantee that the bill will lead to thousands of jobs. However, it will lead to many jobs.
If we take this legislation, the budget, the party's commitment to research and development, and the idea of trying to get the middle class empowered and working more, we will see a healthier aerospace industry, not only for the short term but for the long term.
We have a government that is taking a more comprehensive approach in terms of dealing with a very important industry to all of Canada, and not just in the three places that have been listed most often during this debate. I recognize that there was a change in government in the province of Manitoba. Greg Selinger, the former premier of Manitoba, was very much in support of what was taking place. The Province of Quebec also sees the opportunity to get some of those job guarantees that are so critically important to the province. We would have a tangible, solid commitment from Air Canada. There would indeed be benefits from the passage of Bill .
If people say they are concerned about the aerospace industry in our country, or they are concerned about the workers and the potential workforce going forward, then they should seriously look at supporting Bill . Members ask who else supports it. There are many direct and indirect opportunities through the aerospace industry that I believe will ultimately materialize in jobs. Given the opportunity to now make a change that is going to allow a stronger sense of security and build on an element of trust going forward, I believe the aerospace industry as a whole will benefit.
I would encourage members to support the bill. This is perhaps a good way for me to conclude. When I reflect on the workers who were shafted four or five years ago by government inaction, my heart and prayers go out to those families who had a great deal of hardship as a direct result. Whether the bill passes or does not pass, there are at least some members who are prepared to fight for the aerospace industry. It is critically important that we have a healthy aerospace industry that includes jobs of maintenance, that appreciates the work that is not only being done within the legislation, but as part of the federal budget. That will make a difference, and more Canadians will be employed in that very important industry.
Mr. Speaker, the people watching might be wondering why the member for is making comments that are categorically untrue.
Having read and published in the field of legislative drafting and interpretation, I would remind the member that the three basic rules are as follows: read the act, read the act, and read the act. That is what I am about to do for him, so that he can understand what it is all about.
Bill is the reflection of the fundamental Liberal belief that, if one is rich and well connected, one can break the law. We saw that in the KPMG file: scofflaws and millionaires hiding their money in tax havens. It is not for no reason at all that we seen the Bronfman family being the Liberals' fundraisers. We remember when the Bronfmans went through their lawyers to Quebec City to try to change the law to allow them to bring back from the tax havens without tax. It was put to rest very quickly when they would not answer one simple question: how much would that cost taxpayers? Now, the new Liberal government here in Ottawa, in the KPMG file, has done everything to suppress the names of the scofflaws who hid millions of dollars in tax havens. They did not even charge them anything in terms of penalties when they brought that money back to Canada. What is the message there? It is to go ahead and break the law, because nothing will happen to them.
What are the Liberals doing with Air Canada? They are using all sorts of arguments and excuses, specious as they may be, to say it is really not fair in terms of competition that Air Canada is required to do its maintenance here. I remind members that the bill is called an act to amend the Air Canada Public Participation Act. Why did we have a bill called the Air Canada Public Participation Act? It was because those brilliant managers, those extraordinary capitalists, those guys who really know that a buck is a buck is a buck came here to Ottawa with their hats held out and said, “Can you fill these with a bunch of taxpayer's dollars?” The government said they would have to do a couple of things in return. They would have to guarantee that they would respect provisions that required them to do their maintenance in Canada, and it specified the cities where that would take place. They are Montreal, Mississauga, and Winnipeg. That is written down in a law.
One of the very foundations of democracy is that the law applies equally to everyone. No one is above the law, no one, that is, unless they are rich, well connected, and a friend of the Liberal government. It is false to claim that this bill is simply an update to modernize the existing legislation. This bill is meant to allow people who broke the law to do so with impunity, both retroactively and retrospectively.
Once again, I want to read something for my colleague from .
These subsections that require the work to be done here in Canada “are deemed never to have come into force”. It would erase, retroactively, the crimes committed by Air Canada. Also, they are repealed retrospectively, making sure that no such offence exists anymore. That is called being connected to the Liberals. That is what entitlement looks like.
We hear the member of Parliament for , the member of Parliament for , and the member of Parliament for come into the House and try to justify the unjustifiable, and I can guarantee each and every one of them that we will never let the people of their ridings forget that they betrayed the aerospace workers in Quebec.
How shameful to listen to the members for , , and .
Everyone knows where the Laurentians are and how much aerospace there is in that region. The member stands up here and tries to justify the loss of 2,600 aerospace jobs in Quebec and Canada. How shameful for a member who calls himself a Quebecker.
I remember that, in Charles M. Schulz' Peanuts comics, every year Lucy would ask Charlie Brown if he would come and kick the football. Every year, Charlie Brown would say that she was going to pull it away and he was going to wind up flat on his back. Every year, he was promised that this time it would not happen.
I really have a feeling that the member of Parliament for probably had a picture of Charlie Brown on the wall of his room when he was a kid, because he emulates Charlie Brown all the time.
He stood up here in the House of Commons today and said—and I wrote it down; it was quite something to hear—that we should not worry about it because we have “a tangible, solid commitment” from Air Canada, the company that has been breaking the law. If it is written in a law, duly enacted by the Parliament of Canada, nah, who cares, but we have “a tangible, solid commitment” that it will not pull the football away this time.
Guess what? We do not have anything from Air Canada. It has not set any of this down in the deal. This malarky about a centre of excellence, it is not going to happen. How can we trust a company that breaks the law to respect a deal that is not even enforceable?
It is interesting to listen to the member of Parliament for , because he pleads against himself every time he stands up in this House. He said that there are people across the aisle who said this is about legalizing the offshoring of jobs. Yes, that is what this is about. It is about legalizing the offshoring of jobs. That is what he is in favour of.
Then he said that, when he was in opposition, he used to stand out there with the workers. In solidarity, he would stand there. I remember the member for Papineau, today the , standing there with his fist in the air. By the way, it is a little bit like the 's promise to restore door-to-door mail delivery.
The funny thing about people who like selfies and things like that is that they should remember that there are actually recordings of this stuff. We have the recording of him promising to bring door-to-door mail delivery, something he has forgotten in the meantime. However, there is also the recording of him standing there, when he thought it would help him get votes with workers, saying that he was going to stand up for them. Here is what he is doing now; he is standing up to vote against them. Shame on him.
My hon. colleague, the member for also should read the part of the act that says that Air Canada is allowed to determine the type and volume of any or all of these activities. He is trying to pin some vague hope that he is not going to get slammed in his home province on the fact that there is this clause that says there should be work in Quebec, Manitoba, and Ontario. The only problem is that, when it is written into law, it can get rid of any and all of that; if Air Canada does one repair on one motor in one year, then it has met what is now in the bill that the Liberals are putting forward.
We have lost thousands upon thousands of well-paying manufacturing jobs in this country, including thousands of well-paying aerospace jobs, and there is nothing that the Liberals are willing to do, except vote for a bill to let Air Canada retroactively off the hook. It is unprecedented in the history of the Parliament of Canada.
I do remember, a little while back, when another Liberal member of Parliament from Manitoba, the member of Parliament for —and for the people who do not know where that is, it is another Winnipeg riding—stood in this House and voted against the Liberal Party. That takes a certain amount of courage. He received accolades, well deserved, for his political courage.
I know a little about that, having been through it myself when I refused to sign an order in council that would have transferred land in a provincial park to developers to put in condos in Mont-Orford provincial park in Quebec. I quit cabinet rather than sign that, so I know that it takes courage.
What is astonishing today is to see the same member of Parliament for stand here in the House of Commons and vote against those same workers. Realizing he had created perhaps a bit of a conundrum for himself, he took to Twitter and other social media and started explaining that today's vote, in his view, was not that important because in third reading he could stand again and vote against the bill. The only problem is that, if the member of Parliament for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley had kept his conscience that he claimed to have had just a couple of weeks ago, then he would have managed to defeat the bill that he said was the problem. When he comes back in at third reading and votes against it as he claims he will, nothing is going to happen; the bill is still going to pass.
It is convenient to be a Liberal and to claim to have principles when it does not have any consequence, but when it could mean that a toxic bill from that same Liberal member's government that would be harmful to workers could be defeated, all sorts of rationalizations are found and that individual starts crowing on social media that he had no real intention of doing anything. That sort of hypocrisy deserves to be called out here in the House of Commons.
Let us be clear that the aerospace industry is the backbone of Canada's manufacturing sector. Because of the inertia, incompetence, and mismanagement of the Conservative government, which put all of our eggs in one basket, the oil and gas extraction sector, we lost hundreds of thousands of good jobs in the manufacturing sector.
All we have left is the aerospace sector, and the business geniuses in the front row on the Liberal side are telling us that they are waiting on a business plan from Bombardier. This is unbelievable. People who have never managed so much as the night shift at Burger King are saying they will demand that Bombardier come up with a business plan they agree with. Unbelievable.
I just want to say one thing: if the Liberals cared one iota about protecting and promoting Canada's aerospace industry, they would not be fooling around like they are right now. They would be standing strong and telling Air Canada, loud and clear, that the law was written and duly passed by the Parliament of Canada, that there is no escape clause for anyone, and that Air Canada must obey the law.
We hear the exact same argument from Air Canada in another field.
That is worth reiterating to the hon. member for , the hon. member for , the hon. member for , and the other members from Quebec who end up giving in and selling out Quebec every time. I am talking about systematic non-compliance with the Official Languages Act. We get exactly the same entitlement argument from Air Canada. The company wonders why it should be required to comply with the Official Languages Act because, after all, it is a matter of, you guessed it, being competitive.
What is the hon. member for going to serve up as an excuse to justify this non-compliance with the Official Languages Act? He is going to say this is about modernization. Members only have to look, as I do every day, at the number of answers given in English to questions asked in French to see the truth in the old saying that in Ottawa there are two official languages: English and French translated into English.
Here on the front benches of the Liberal Party of Canada, the government, French no longer has a place. Instead of requiring Air Canada to comply with the Official Languages Act, the Liberals are going to do exactly the same thing. The Commissioner of Official Languages will soon be releasing his report on Air Canada's non-compliance with the Official Languages Act.
Does anyone think that the people who just gave Air Canada a free pass when it comes to keeping jobs in the aircraft repair and maintenance sector here in Canada are not going to do the same thing? Get real.
I am wondering if they believe their own argument that this is simply a matter of modernization when that is clearly not the case. The Liberals are giving a company that is not complying with the law a loophole, and that attitude is not going to change.
I look forward to seeing how the member for will attempt to justify the failure to comply with the Official Languages Act. When people ask an Air Canada flight attendant in French where to catch their connecting flight and the flight attendant responds, “I'm sorry, I don't speak French”, will the member tell the House that it is no big deal, that it is modernization, and that Air Canada should have the right to do what it wants?
That is the free pass that the government has just given Air Canada. That is the precedent the government is creating with regard to Air Canada. It is shameful that a rich and well-connected company is being given the right to break a law of Parliament.
Rather than giving Air Canada a free pass, the government should be honouring its obligation to enforce the law. It should be strictly enforcing the law and imposing sanctions on Air Canada, rather than doing the company favours by saying that it is no big deal and acting as though the law never existed.
Tangible, solid commitment—horse hockey, as they used to say on M*A*S*H.
There is nothing on the table from the scofflaw management at Air Canada that we can count on. They do not even think they have to obey the law. They do not think they had to obey the law that they dealt to get the money from Canadian taxpayers. They do not think they have to back up and respect the Official Languages Act because they have all of these Quebec MPs, every one of them, standing up one after the other doing nothing.
We had one person from one of the provinces affected. He was from Winnipeg. He stood up and got accolades for his courage. What did he do today? He folded his tent, he threw in his lot, and gave them the one vote they needed so that the 2,600 workers who lost their jobs at Aveos because of the non-respect of this legislation by Air Canada are now going to lose all hope. It is because of people like the member of Parliament for that they are losing that hope. There is a large aerospace sector in Manitoba, and it is shameful that the member is letting Air Canada off the hook.
I listened carefully to what the Liberal members had to say. Although there are 40 Liberal members representing Quebec, only one member from Manitoba had the courage to rise and vote against this bill. They should all be ashamed of themselves. Not one Liberal stooge from Quebec had the decency and courage to say, “Enough is enough. The law applies to everyone, including Air Canada.”
The NDP members are going to do the same thing that we did this morning. I am pleased that the official opposition, the Conservative Party, is standing with us on this. I am also pleased that the , who is still here this afternoon, is voting with us. If any of our Bloc colleagues were here, I would commend them too. However—