April 18, 1989

TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD


The House resumed from Monday, April 17, consideration of the motion of Mr. Bouchard (Roberval) that Bill C-2, an Act to establish the Transportation Accident Investigation Board and to amend certain Acts in consequence thereof be read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Transport.


PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paproski):

Resuming debate. When we finished the Hon. Member had 14 minutes left in debate. The Hon. Member for Churchill.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Rodney Edward Murphy (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Rod Murphy (Churchill):

Mr. Speaker, at six o'clock last night I was just finishing my introductory remarks on the legislation. I was pointing out our concern with the fact that this legislation really is not doing anything new. All the problems that we have had with the present Board looking into accidents and air safety will still exist under this legislation.

We still do not have any guarantees that the Board will be competent. We have had at least one political appointee in the past who indicated that the only thing she knew about air safety was the fact that she flew a lot. That is not going to inspire confidence in Canadians. We are concerned that this legislation does not require appointees to be competent and knowledgeable about a very important area.

We have read during recent months about the problems existing within the present Air Safety Board; the divisions, the fights between staff and the Board, the fact that there is a majority and a minority on the Board that cannot agree with each other. We now have a new piece of legislation setting up the Transportation Accident Investigation Board when we have not learned from the errors and problems that we had in the past.

Our critic, the Member from Thunder Bay-Atikokan (Mr. Angus) said yesterday that we should have recognized that there is a problem with the existing Board and its structure. We have not done that. One of the things that is objectionable in this legislation is that this Board will not have an arms-length relationship with the

April 18, 1989

Minister. The legislation specifically requires that the Board report to the Minister with a confidential draft report. We are talking about air safety. We are talking about something that affects the lives and safety of Canadians.

There is no reason for the Minister to have a confidential draft report. The people of Canada have a right to know whether or not the planes are safe and why accidents occur. They have a right to know why people have died. We do not want the Minister to be interfering with the operation of this new Board. The report of this Board should be made directly to Parliament and to the people of Canada. There should be no political interference whatsoever with this Board.

That is one of the problems that we have had with the existing operation. We had people in the Minister's office interfering with the decisions that were made. We had the Board worried about the politics of what they were going to say in the reports. We had the division that we talked about earlier between the Board members and the staff.

Canadians are frightened about what is happening in the air. They are concerned with the fact that there are not enough inspectors, not enough air traffic controllers and they are concerned about the fact that anybody who tries to fly through Toronto knows that it is going to be a disaster. We have had a lot of accidents over the last couple of years. Yet we are not setting up a competent board that will be responsible to the people of Canada rather than the Minister.

This legislation is fundamentally flawed. It is good news that this legislation is being referred to the standing committee rather than the legislative committee because we believe that the people who served on the standing committee in the past know a lot about the problems that exist. They recognize the fact there have to be changes in this legislation.

I hope that when this Bill goes to committee there will be changes. I hope that the government members, many of whom are from ridings that are concerned about air safety, many of whom recognize that there are problems with the existing Board, take their responsibility very seriously, and not think that because they are government members they have to support the Minister. There are flaws. We are talking about an issue of safety. We are talking about making sure that our planes are safe, that people again have confidence with regard to flights, landings, air traffic control, icing problems, that they are

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

confident in what is going to happen. People are frightened now.

I see that the Parliamentary Secretary is here today. As a Parliamentary Secretary, he is not eligible to sit on the committee. However, I am sure he will be sitting in the wings and watching the progress in the committee. I hope that he will take a message back to the Minister and back to the Cabinet indicating that this legislation, as it stands, will not resolve the fears and concerns of Canadians.

There have to be amendments. As New Democrats, first of all, we want to make sure that there is removal of political interference that has existed with the CASB. We want to make sure that the members of the Board are chosen from a list of candidates proposed by interested parties, proposed by those people who have some knowledge and understanding with regard to air safety problems.

We are saying that is the approach that should be taken rather than having more political appointments, rather than having the President of the Conservative Association of Edmonton East, Edmonton West, Vancouver, Sault Ste Marie, Saskatoon, Clark's Crossing or whatever the rest of them are called. We do not want the presidents of Conservative associations any more. We want competent people on this Board. There are interested and concerned groups who are concerned about air safety who could put a list together of competent people. The Minister could pick from that list. That is an approach that should be used for a lot of boards, especially when we are talking about something as complicated as air safety.

Let us take the political appointments, the slush funds and everything else out of air safety to make sure that the Board will be competent. We indicated earlier that the Board should have an arm's length relationship with the Minister. We must no longer allow the Minister to receive a confidential draft report. People should feel confident that when the Transportation Accident Investigation Board has made its report, it was not a political decision, that the Board was competent and made its decision on the basis of its investigation, rather than on whether the Minister liked the draft report.

There are very important considerations that we believe must be addressed. We hope that at the committee stage, during clause by clause study, we are in a situation where government Members will accept those types of amendments.

April 18, 1989

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

We also want to ensure that access to the findings of the investigation is given to all interested parties. We do not want some closed door, behind the scene investigation. If there is an investigation into an accident, not only should the report be made public, but informational documents should be made available to those people concerned. That is the only way to have any faith that the investigation was thorough and it is the only way that people who are directly concerned with an accident will know what process the Board went through, what information was given to the Board and perhaps what information was not given to the Board.

It is ironic that many years after the tragedy at Gander we still do not know what happened. We do not know why the accident occurred. It is ironic that after all this time, a judge has been asked to look into the investigations that took place so many years ago. If we had the amendments we are talking about now, that would not be necessary because the report would be made not just for the benefit of the Minister but also for the public who would have access to the background documents. We believe this legislation could be improved by making sure that information is given to the public.

We also believe that the structure of the Board should include some constitutional autonomy from political interference. We believe that is necessary and what Canadians want after all the problems we have seen in the past.

We support the Bill in principle. We do not like certain aspects of the Bill. Our critic and former critic pointed out the areas where we believe there should be improvements. However, we believe the Bill is necessary and should not be stalled. We hope that at committee stage the Government will be willing to accept the amendments we outlined earlier.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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NDP

Margaret Anne Mitchell (Deputy Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Ms. Mitchell:

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for his knowledgeable comments. He is a northerner who very often uses small planes in the course of his duties. I think of the people in the rural areas, certainly on the islands along our coast and in the territories, who rely on small planes, often charter planes. What is his opinion of the safety record of these aircraft?

The dramatic accidents we have been so concerned about are connected with larger aircraft. However, we remember what happened in Alberta when Grant Notley and others were killed in an accident involving a small plane. Does he have any other ideas how safety can be enhanced for small aircraft in particular?

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
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NDP

Rodney Edward Murphy (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Murphy:

Madam Speaker, I thank our deputy whip for her question. It is a very good question and it gives me an opportunity to talk about some of the concerns we have with regard to small aircraft and the problems that exist not only in my riding but in other areas which should qualify for the northern tax benefit. Thanks to the Hon. Member for Prince George-Peace River (Mr. Oberle), who did not do a very good job in Cabinet for his constituency, they do not qualify.

We know from the first Dubin inquiry that there is a real problem with small planes and regional carriers. Safety is often a minor concern. Often planes are overloaded and maintenance is not kept up. I know from the tragedies that have taken place in my riding that there are too many deaths, too many accidents that could have been avoided had there been proper inspections to ensure that safety was not ignored because of the profit line.

I have flown in planes which I am not overly confident should have been in the air, and I have said so to people. I am also concerned that one of the areas that the Government has cut back over the years is fire-fighting service at airports. It has cut back in the services for smaller airports across the country, especially in remote areas. I know that our critic will expand upon that today, and point out that there is even more information coming out to indicate that the Government, in its desire to cut back the deficit is cutting more money from fire-fighting and those very essential services we need at our airports in Canada.

There is a problem relating directly to the question by the Hon. Member for Vancouver East (Ms. Mitchell), where many of the small companies working in the North, the Vancouver Island area, northern Ontario, northern Saskatchewan and the interior of British Columbia are not being inspected. Quite often, safety is being threatened because those companies want to keep the planes in the air much too long. We also know that there is a real problem due to the Government cutting services to those airports throughout the country. Every time it cuts back one more fire-fighter, every time it cuts

April 18, 1989

back on a position and takes away an ambulance or fire truck, every time it refuses to spend money to renovate an airport or maintain an airstrip, people are being put at risk. That is one of the tragedies of the cut-backs being implemented by the Government.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

John Cole

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cole:

Mr. Speaker, I have a question with regard to the reporting mechanism. The Bill states:

- the Board shall, on a confidential basis, send a copy of the draft report or its findings and any safety deficiencies that it has identified to the Minister of Transport and to any other Minister or person who, in the opinion of the Board, has a direct interest in the findings of the Board,-

Is the Hon. Member suggesting that those people who have commented on this question and taken part in this investigative process should not be given the opportunity to see that their facts as they have related them have been reported correctly? Should people within the industry, the pilots and air traffic controllers who have witnessed incidents, not be given the same opportunity as any other person involved in the investigative process, including those in the ministry? I would suggest that union officials, pilots involved or other members of the industry should all receive the report as suggested in the Bill. They would then be able to make comments on it before it became public.

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
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NDP

Rodney Edward Murphy (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Murphy:

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we have no problem with having those who are directly involved or concerned with an accident being informed. As Hon. Members probably heard me say, we believe that those documents should be made available to those people. Our concern is that for some reason, we are putting this in a category which creates political interference.

We understand that, as suggested by the Hon. Member, the pilots, union people and those involved in the investigation should have access to those reports and should perhaps help to amend the reports where necessary. However, that same argument cannot be made for the Minister's office. That is the same problem we have had in the past. We do not want political interference in what should be a quasi-judicial system.

I have served as a vice-chairman of the Manitoba Police Commission. I know how important it is for these bodies to have complete independence from political interference. That is why I believe this legislation is

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

flawed. I know that as soon as a board has to report to a Minister, before it puts its final report out, the focus of the board will no longer be on the accident and the investigation of that accident. It will become a political concern because it is reporting to a political master. That creates a real problem and I have seen it before in my own life.

We have to make absolutely sure that this Board is separate from the Minister. One problem with reporting to the Minister before the report is made final is that quite often, it is the Minister's Department that is at fault. Perhaps there were not enough officials involved, no one checked into something or there were inadequate services provided. We are talking not only about a Minister who is responsible for air safety but about someone who, through his Department, may be the offender, the one who may be the guilty party, the person who is actually responsible for the accident. For the Board to have to give a confidential draft copy of the report to the Minister beforehand takes away any semblance of a quasi-judicial system. It puts political interference exactly where it should not be.

We know that many of the accidents have occurred because the Department was not up to snuff. We know that some of those accidents have occurred because the Department was not doing its job. We know that some of those accidents have occurred because of cut-backs in the Minister's Department. How can we possibly trust that Department to police itself? The Board is supposed to be independent. Let us keep it that way.

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Ross Belsher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Ross Belsher (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport):

Mr. Speaker, we have before us today Bill C-2 which represents an essential building block in Canada's regime for maintaining and improving the safety of our transportation system. The Bill is based on a most important principle which is that the accident investigation should be done separately from the writing and enforcing of safety regulations. Both functions are crucial if we are to have a safe transportation system.

Writing effective safety standards and regulations requires predicting what might go wrong and how best to prevent it from happening. Enforcing those standards involves monitoring of the safety procedures of transportation companies and, through independent inspectors, requires knowledge of the standards and how they can be implemented effectively.

April 18, 1989

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

Accident investigation, on the other hand, is a rather different story. Obviously, if an accident occurred, something went wrong. If an incident occurred, something almost went wrong. The job of accident investigation, then, requires identifying what went wrong and drawing lessons for the future.

What went wrong can involve a wide variety of things. Sometimes humans make mistakes and sometimes equipment fails. My key point, however, is that sometimes what went wrong is the result of improperly written regulations or improper enforcement of those regulations.

Can we expect those who write and enforce regulations to conclude from an accident that they blew it, that the regulations they wrote are wrong or at least inefficient or that they did not enforce them properly? In such situations, some will of course rise to the occasion and admit mistakes. However, human nature being as it is, there is a clear potential at least for conflict of interest when the regulators of safety are also accident investigators.

This potential conflict of interest has been recognized by independent studies. The Dubin inquiry in the early 1980s pointed to the problem in the air mode. This led to the Canadian Aviation Safety Board Act passed in 1983.

The Deschenes study on marine casualty investigation recommended separation of the two functions in the marine mode. The Department responded by making the separation within the Department through administrative action, but a complete separation depends on passage and implementation of Bill C-2.

In the rail sector, the former Canadian Transport Commission and more recently the National Transportation Agency have been responsible for both safety regulation and accident investigation. However, with the implementation of the new Railway Safety Act this year, the job of regulating rail safety has become a direct responsibility of the Minister of Transport and his Department. The rail accident investigators remain with the agency pending creation of the Transportation Accident Investigation Board.

To conclude this chapter, Bill C-2 will separate the two key duties of safety regulation and accident investigation in the rail and marine modes as well as in air. This will remove the potential conflict of interest which exists when the same body is responsible for both.

This aspect of the Bill will also help ensure the independence of the Board. In arguing that the Board will not be independent, as the Hon. Member who spoke previously did, Members on the other side seem to have missed this. Other aspects which contribute to the independence of the Board which they may have missed include, for example, first, a broad mandate to investigate any accident, any incident or near accident or any situation which may endanger safety. There are no limits on the Board's independence to interpret this wide-open mandate. The Bill clearly places responsibility with the Board to set policies on what transportation occurrences will be investigated and how the investigations will be conducted.

Second, the Board has exclusive jurisdiction to make findings regarding the cause of accidents and to make recommendations to prevent similar accidents in the future. Third, the Board can decide whether or not to hold a public inquiry into transportation occurrences. Fourth, although the Board reports to Parliament through a designated Minister, the duties of the Minister responsible for the Board are limited to tabling the annual report and the report of the annual audit.

Having said that the responsibility for safety regulation and accident investigation should be separate, however, let me also say that the two must be complementary. They cannot function totally in separate spheres. When something goes wrong and an accident occurs, the regulators must be in a position to take immediate remedial action if necessary or to impose sanctions if appropriate. Therefore, there must be co-ordination and co-operation between the Accident Investigation Board and the safety regulators in Transport Canada. Bill C-2 provides mechanisms for this necessary co-operation and co-ordination.

Clause 14 of the Bill is so worded as to make the TAIB the only federal agency designated to make findings and report on the causes and contributing factors with respect to any transportation accident, and to make recommendations based thereon to improve safety.

If more than one federal agency had the mandate to investigate any given transportation accident to determine and report on its cause, there could be several reports with perhaps varying conclusions with respect to the same accident. This could cause confusion and lack of public confidence in the findings of any of the agencies involved.

April 18, 1989

As mentioned at the outset, this is not to say that other agencies are not interested in or have no role to play with respect to any such transportation accident. It is well recognized that the Department of Transport, as well as others, must also be able to obtain whatever information about the accident is necessary to carry out their responsibilities for safety regulation, and for disciplinary or remedial action.

In order to make clear that transportation safety regulators and others are not prevented from investigating any transportation occurrence for their purposes, subclauses 14(4) and (5) have been included in the Bill. These subclauses permit the Department of Transport's Coast Guard, for example, to investigate for marine safety regulation or enforcement connected with its responsibility under the Canada Shipping Act.

There are many other clauses in the Bill which are designed to ensure co-operation and smooth co-ordination of the Board's activities with those of other federal agencies. The most important of those clauses are as follows. Clause 15(1) states, in part:

Where, at any time during an investigation into a transportation occurrence under this Act, a Department -investigates that transportation occurrence or undertakes remedial measures-the Board and the Department shall-ensure that their activities with respect to that transportation occurrence are co-ordinated.

This clause specifically requires both the TAIB and the Department concerned to co-ordinate their activities.

The interests served by good regulation and appropriate remedial measures requires that accident investigation be carried out in an efficient and effective manner, and that the various activities with respect to a transportation accident are carried out with the minimum of overlap and confusion.

Clause 23 provides that:

- a person may attend as an observer at an investigation of a transportation occurrence conducted by the Board if the person

(a) is designated as an observer by the Minister of Transport in order to obtain timely information relevant to the responsibilities of that Minister;

(b) is designated as an observer by the Minister responsible for a department having a direct interest in the subject- matter of the investigation;

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

Clause 24(5) requires that the Board shall during its investigation notify forthwith in writing the Minister of Transport (Mr. Bouchard) of any of its findings and recommendations, whether interim or final, that require urgent action.

I expect that with this set of specific requirements and with the efforts of the new Board and the other agencies involved, a high degree of co-operation and co-ordination with respect to the investigation of transportation accidents can be achieved.

Thinking back to the debate yesterday, I recall that the opposition speakers continually referred to the recommendations of Mr. Justice Sopinka and questioned why the legislation did not follow his recommendations.

I would like to state again that Mr. Justice Sopinka was one of many parties consulted in the development of the final Bill. His recommendations were carefully considered and many were accepted. For example, the Bill makes much clearer the respective roles of the board members, the chairman, the Directors of Investigations and the investigators. It clarifies that although the Board is not investigating to find fault, it should not refrain from fully reporting on cause merely because fault may be inferred from the findings. It confirms the importance of the Minister of Transport having an observer at an investigation. It provides for a five-member Board, and it enables investigators to testify by affidavit. Those were all recommendations made by Mr. Justice Sopinka.

Where the Government differs from Mr. Justice Sopinka is in the approach taken in assigning the respective responsibilities. I believe that the Bill contains the best solution, given all of the extensive consultations. For example, Mr. Justice Sopinka would have made the chairman responsible for the administration of the Board, but given him only whatever powers and duties the Board chose to delegate to him. That approach works well in the private sector where profit is the bottom line, and where shareholders can replace board members at any time. It is not well suited to an independent government agency accountable to Parliament for its mandate, for spending of taxpayers' dollars, and for respecting the merit principle in staffing.

The Bill gives the chairman, as the chief executive officer, the usual powers of a deputy head of a Department under the Financial Administration Act. These include responsibility for personnel, financial and property matters, and generally all other aspects of the internal management of the Board.

April 18, 1989

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

The Bill makes equally clear that it is the board members who set policies, by-laws, and regulations for conducting the Board's business, and the chairman must act in accordance with these.

Mr. Justice Sopinka also felt that the board members should have more direct control over the investigators, and more direct involvement in investigations. Other interested parties, however, have argued that the separation between the professional investigators and board members appointed by the Government should be maintained as it was meant to be in the CASB Act.

In response, the Bill does two things. It gives the Directors of Investigations exclusive authority to conduct investigations and submit their reports to the board members. The board members, however, are given the explicit power to make policies on the conduct of the investigations; policies which the investigators must follow. As well, when the investigators report, the Board may ask them to conduct further investigation with respect to any aspect of the accident, and the investigators are obliged to do that further investigation.

In sum, Mr. Speaker, a number of Mr. Justice Sopin-ka's recommendations were accepted outright. The intent of some others was accepted but achieved in a different way, taking into account the views of others, particularly those in the industry who actually operate the transportation system.

Finally, I would like to address the question of timing. We have been accused of going too fast. "Wait for another year or two", members of the Opposition have stated. The improvements to accident investigation which this Bill will bring should not wait any longer. In addition, as the Minister of Transport has said, and as the Opposition has agreed, the Canadian people's confidence in the existing Aviation Safety Board has been compromised. The new Board to be created by the Bill will restore that confidence.

Under this Bill, Canadians can look forward with confidence to having an effective, credible Transportation Accident Investigation Board which will contribute to making our transportation system even safer in the future. I hope that it will receive due consideration and be passed as soon as possible.

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paproski):

On questions or comments, the Hon. Member for South Shore (Mr. McCreath).

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PC

Peter L. McCreath

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McCreath:

I would like to compliment the Hon. Member on his speech. I certainly found it very helpful in understanding this complex but important piece of legislation. I would like to ask a fairly general question.

Tragically, we have seen some serious air crashes in recent years either in Canada, or accidents that have involved Canadians. There have been investigations conducted or are under way with respect to the recent crash in northwestern Ontario, and also the crash two or three years ago in Gander, Newfoundland.

Over the past years, a number of people of Indo-Ca-nadian origin have approached me about the tragic Air-India crash that took place nearly four years ago. It was a foreign carrier. It did not crash on Canadian soil, but it did originate in Canada and carried a large number of Canadians who were tragically killed. I wonder if the Hon. Member would tell me, under this new system that will be put in place with this Bill, how a crash that takes place on foreign soil might be handled differently than has been the case under the previous arrangements.

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PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paproski):

The Hon. Member for Fraser Valley East (Mr. Belsher).

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PC

Ross Belsher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Belsher:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Hon. Member for his question. This investigating Board that we are talking about under Bill C-2 is a Board which is to set the policies of how the investigators should investigate accidents. I think what is happening in the debate that has been taking place yesterday and this morning is that people are calling them the investigators.

This is a Board which sets the policy and should act as a Board to make sure that the regulations that we have in place in Canada for transportation safety, whether it be marine, rail or aviation, are the right regulations, and when an accident occurs to check out and follow-up on what the investigators have found. They should evaluate whether or not they are satisfied that the conclusions that the investigators have arrived at are actually based on the facts which lead them to feel that action should be taken and changes should be made to the regulations. Their mandate also states that when they send recommendations forward that require action, the Minister must act upon those within 90 days or give written reasons if the Minister is not willing to accept the recommendations that they have found. These are all made public so the public have a chance of seeing that.

April 18, 1989

There is also one other aspect that the Board has been given in this Bill, and that is where they deem it necessary to have a public inquiry carried out they may so designate an accident to take the form of a public inquiry. The Board is not constrained in its activities.

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
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PC

Steve Eugene Paproski (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paproski):

The Hon. Member for Manicouagan (Mr. Langlois).

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PC

Charles A. Langlois

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Langlois:

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport (Mr. Belsher) and is in two parts. Could he tell us why the directors of investigations have exclusive authority to direct investigations on behalf of the Board? Could he also tell us whether the members of the Board can themselves conduct investigations?

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
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PC

Ross Belsher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Belsher:

This is something that we try to spell out in this Bill clearly, that they are not the investigators. I believe this is where some of the confusion has happened with CASB people, namely, that they wanted to get involved with the investigation itself. The investigators are the professional staff that are in the Department who carry out the investigation. It is the Board's responsibility to evaluate the investigation and to also go back and send them to do further investigation. In this Bill they may order the investigators to carry out further work on that. I can compare it to a university or a community college, the Board is not the chief executive, not the administration of it. The Board has helped to set the policy, and then requires the people who carry it out to fulfil their function. This is where this Bill clearly sets out the differences. They are not the investigators, but they are the ones who oversee the investigators, and set the policies which the investigators should follow.

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
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LIB

Joseph R. (Joe) Comuzzi

Liberal

Mr. Comuzzi:

Mr. Speaker, my question is to my hon. friend. We all know that the three major issues in this new legislation, if it is going to work in contrast to the Canadian Aviation Safety Board legislation, are the independence of the Board; the composition of that Board; and the duties of the chairman. Once we establish that we have those three things under control, this legislation can be functional or the Canadian Aviation Safety Board legislation can also be functional.

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

What I want to ask the Member is, what are we going to get today from this Government to ensure that the composition of the Board will be one of complete independence. That there will be no political overtones in the membership. That if this legislation should pass that only those members who are completely qualified to act in this very responsible position will be the very best people whom we can find in this country, regardless of political affiliation. That is question number one.

Question number two would be the appointment, and perhaps the question of independence. The appointment of the chairman should be made, and I would like your comments, by the Board after the Board is selected. As I said yesterday, and the Minister of State replied, the duties of the chairperson on this new Board would be so onerous that perhaps the duties of that chairperson should be split, so that we have a chief executive officer who should be appointed by the Board. That is the third question. If you agree with that, the chief executive officer should be appointed by the Board and report to the Board through its chairman.

Those are the three questions and I think if we could answer those, it would give us a lot more assurance in going into the committee as to where we are going to go with this Bill C-2.

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Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
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PC

Ross Belsher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Belsher:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will deal with the last question first, and that is the appointment of the chairman. The chairman must be a very highly skilled person so that he can give direction to the chief executive officer. That individual will not be so skilled as to have the oversight, the wherewithal, the knowledge of aviation as such, or of rail of marine situations. It is an administrative role. However, the composition of each of the other members, as I think was suggested in Mr. Sopinka's report, is that in a five-person board that it be relegated on the basis of the chairman, two from the aviation side, and one from each of the marine and the rail side, so that there is a co-ordinated blending of the skills that the people have.

Furthermore, we passed legislation some two to two and a half years ago that gave the right to a standing committee to call before it any Order in Council appointments. I can see a role that the standing committee could possibly follow in something like that, so that when the reports come through, the committee could make rec-

April 18, 1989

Transportation Accident Investigation Act

ommendations back to the Minister for the composition of the Board and the competence that is there.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
Permalink
NDP

Steve Butland

New Democratic Party

Mr. Butland:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question. I excerpted a few words from the hon. gentleman's speech, and he spoke of human mistakes and equipment failure. I would like to point out a couple of facts in air safety that I do not think have been divulged in the past few days of debate. One of them is the Government's radar modernization program. I am told by reliable sources that in the case of American-Cana-dian skies the Canadian software is not compatible with the American aircraft, causing a great deal of extra concern with regard to air safety.

Second, with regard to the reclassification of northern airports across this country, the difference of two feet, on the old measurement scale, can result in a decrease of five firefighters in my particular constituency. I believe it is the same for 16 other airports across the northern part of Canada. My question is very specific. The principle of the Board, I think our Party agrees with, but will the Member not accept the fact that the present government policies of cut-backs exacerbates the problem. That is the real problem rather than the creation of the safety Board.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
Permalink
PC

Ross Belsher (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Belsher:

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not accept the fact that it is because of government action that we are less safe. There have been additional moneys put into the transportation industry over the last years. The Opposition asks the Canadian public to believe that we have cut back in numbers. When it comes to controllers, we have not been able to bring on enough new ones. It takes two years to bring them on stream. Over the last several months action has been taken to get faster relief. The industry has grown faster than what the system was able to take. I certainly do not buy the premise he has been putting forward to Canadian people.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION BOARD
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
Permalink

April 18, 1989