Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Minister Strahl, in answer to a question that my colleague Mr. McCallum asked you earlier, you said that this involved a private company, and you wondered what could be done. Which private company are you referring to? Is it Air Canada?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
Yes, but, Mr. Minister, the government and the minister of the day put conditions on the privatization, back in 1988. It was the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. When Air Canada was privatized, Don Mazankowski was the Minister of Finance and responsible for the legislation. It would have been too easy to say, 15 or 20 years later, that Air Canada had been sold to a Chilean airline and that its headquarters would be in San Diego from now on. The government at that time put provisions in place to protect jobs. You know, Minister, we are talking about 4,500 jobs in Montreal, Mississauga, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver at an average salary of $60,000, I am sure of it. We are not talking about minimum wage jobs. When that legislation was passed, there was a requirement to keep the headquarters in the Montreal Urban Community, to comply with the Official Languages Act, and to keep the three service and maintenance centres.
I can tell you that the testimony we heard from the Air Canada people was not at all reassuring. Ms. Sénécal, who is the Assistant General Counsel with the Law Branch at Air Canada, told us that things would continue just because she said they would. She was not able to guarantee it until 2098.
Would you be prepared to consider a legislative amendment with some teeth? It would prevent Air Canada from doing indirectly what they cannot do directly. It is funny to see a sovereigntist like myself defending well-paying jobs across Canada. We should pass a legislative amendment to ensure that, even if a unit were sold, the original obligations in the 1988 legislation would remain in effect. Would you be prepared to consider that?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
So I am asking you why your party's predecessor, the Progressive Conservative Party, included provisions like that in the act. It became a private company; it might just have been left to the free market.
Imagine that we are in 2013 today and that Aveos decides to move the jobs to El Salvador. Would you feel that Air Canada is still complying with the provisions of its own act of incorporation?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
I had some important questions for the witnesses. However, I would like to second Mr. McCallum's motions.
Besides, the witnesses I had the questions for are no longer here.
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
Particularly when you discuss with your neighbour, too, it's difficult to understand.
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
To interpret a statute, and I don't want to waste all my time explaining the process of statutory construction, we are guided by two factors: the wording of the statute, that is, the text of the statute, and the spirit of the statute. There is also a principle that Parliament does not speak in vain. When the 1988 Conservative Parliament decided what Air Canada's obligations would be, it was precisely to avoid the concerns people have today. The first obligation is to comply with the Official Languages Act, to be sure that a company like Electrolux, whose head office is in Sweden, doesn't write to its unilingual French-speaking employees in l'Assomption exclusively in English. That is one example. It is also to make sure that in the event that Air Canada, the new privatized Air Canada, were sold to the Dutch, the Official Languages Act did not cease to apply. The second obligation was that a head office would be maintained in the Montreal Urban Community, and the third was that the operational and overhaul centres would be maintained in three cities: Mississauga, Winnipeg and the Montreal Urban Community.
Do you think—and any of the four of you can answer—that Air Canada still has general overhaul centres at present?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
I don't know whether you were present during Ms. Sénécal's testimony or whether you have the committee "blues". Ms. Sénécal, who is legal counsel, and I am not questioning her competence here, but I think she tried to pull a fast one on us in her answer, said that Air Canada did not need employees in its overhaul centres to comply with the act. Do you agree with that statement?
In other words, someone could be twiddling their thumbs in Winnipeg and Mississauga and Montreal, and they would say we don't need employees in our overhaul centres. What do you think of Ms. Sénécal's answer?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
In response to a question I asked, Ms. Sénécal told me that Air Canada had no intention of doing business with Aeroman. I asked her why and she answered: "Because I'm telling you." It was as if she were saying: "If I tell you, it's the truth." I don't want to call her a liar. The reason she gave is that Aeroman doesn't have certification to do maintenance for large carriers. We MPs don't know anything about this, because we come from different worlds. But you are experts.
Was she right about Aeroman? Is the company in fact not competent? How much time might it take for it to become competent at this?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
We are approaching budget day. The federal budget will be tabled on March 22. There will be three votes, on March 24, 28 and 29. Technically, if the budget is not passed, an election will be triggered.
To make sure that everyone understands properly and that we all have the same information, I would like to know how many jobs are threatened in Canada. How many in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga, and also in Vancouver, which is affected even though it isn't in the act? How many jobs are we talking about? Are we talking about 222 jobs or 2,242 jobs?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
Are we talking about people earning minimum wage?
I wouldn't want my comments to be misinterpreted. In any event, Mr. Dhaliwal isn't here. So I can't be accused of incompetence or opposing the transfer of jobs to El Salvador and be told that the Bloc Québécois is against El Salvador. Quite the opposite, it's a very nice vacation destination. But Mr. Dhaliwal isn't here, so I can't be accused of anything. He will see, Mr. Dhaliwal, I have a long memory.
What is the average wage? Not counting overtime, how much does a machinist like you earn at Air Canada on average?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
So we're talking about 4,500 jobs at an average wage of $60,000. That is what's at stake.
I'm going to tell you the solution that the Bloc Québécois might propose and tell me whether you agree. You can always start a legal action, but in our opinion, and I hope my Conservative colleagues and all the other parties understand clearly, that would really call for an amendment to the legislation so that even if part of Air Canada's assets is sold, it will still have an obligation to maintain the jobs in Canada. Today we are talking about your jobs, but the same thing could happen at the head office. They might leave just a commissionaire to unlock the door of a closet somewhere in Montreal and say they still have a head office in Montreal. If the commissionaire speaks French and English, the official languages obligation is maintained. At the moment, Air Canada is doing indirectly what the act doesn't allow it to do directly. That is shameful. It would take an amendment to the legislation. I haven't had time to draft one because I'm coming out of another meeting. What do you think of an amendment to the legislation in which it would say in black and white that even if Air Canada divests itself of certain assets, it is not relieved of the legal obligations set out in the 1988 act?
View Michel Guimond Profile
BQ (QC)
On the same point of order, I want to remind this public meeting of a private discussion we had. Mr. Chair, I'm certain that you won't interpret that as a lack of confidence in yourself. Rest assured that I have full confidence in you.
I just want to point out that I have another witness to call. I have approached him and he asked me for two weeks to prepare his testimony. I agree with Mr. Lamoureux's point of order and his idea about hearing the Air Canada people again. But I would like you to tell Ms. Charron, if she comes back, what we agreed together when I went to see you in the House, that we would hear another of my witnesses in the next two weeks.
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