March 24, 2011

CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the humour of my friend opposite, but, frankly, let us talk about some of the facts. We know we have added 538 net new inspectors. That means new from the time the Liberals governed. That is 538 more people to make sure that Canada's food supply remains safe.

Do not listen to me. Let us talk about the executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada, who stated that the grain growers are pleased with the announcement of a $50 million fund for research and innovation.

The Canadian Pork Council stated:

The Canadian pork industry is grateful that the government has recognized the importance of animal health...The funding extension...[will allow] the industry to continue to improve its capacity to react swiftly to emerging animal health challenges.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and others all say the same thing. They support our governments initiatives and this budget, but the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition is going to take down the government even though industry experts have said we are doing the right thing.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Agriculture and Agri-Food
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the members of the House are well aware of how like a vampire the government, through its ever-increasing fees, is sucking the life out of Canada's aviation industry.

According to a report released last year by the National Airlines Council of Canada, these extra costs can comprise between 30% and 70% of total ticket prices. In response, Canadians who live near the U.S. border are heading south to fly out of airports like Buffalo, New York and Seattle, Washington.

In desperation, Vancouver International Airport, for example, has frozen its landing and terminal fees until 2015. Toronto's Pearson International Airport has cut its airport improvement fee from $8 a flight to $4.

Part of the problem is the excessive airport rents charged by the federal government. In 2007, the actual airport rent collected by the federal government at Canadian airports totalled $285 million. The elimination of these rents would result in a significant increase in economic activity. According to the Canadian Airports Council, this economic activity would result in passenger traffic growth of over 590,000 passengers annually. This would increase airfare and traveller expenditures by $304 million.

This increase in passenger traffic would create 2,700 direct person years of employment, which would mean $90 million in direct wages, resulting in an additional $140 million in direct GDP and would create $300 million in direct economic input. That sounds pretty good, does it not? This increased activity would mean an additional $50 million in tax revenues. That is one thing that we can do.

There is another. There is an air travellers security charge, which the government just increased. For domestic itineraries, the ATSC is $7.12 one-way to a maximum charge of $14.25. For transboundary itineraries, the ATSC is $8 one-way to a maximum charge of $16.

Unlike any other form of transportation, air passengers must pay for their own security in Canada. As the National Airlines Council told the transport committee, aviation security is a public good, an essential service in Canada and should not be solely the financial responsibility of Canadian air passengers.

Then there are numerous air and navigation service charges from NAV Canada. They just add up and add up. Annual charges for small aircraft, daily charges for propeller aircraft, en route charge, terminal service charge, en route facilities and services charge, it just goes on and on. We just bleed these airports to death.

We are still not done with the fees and taxes the government charges. There is a federal excise tax on jet fuel. There is the GST, which further increases the base fares for passengers. The GST is imposed on both domestic and transborder flights.

Added to this is the increased costs the government caused when it eliminated funding for providing police protection at airports. The government legislates police protection, but will not help cover the costs.

Though the government does not like science, the facts do not lie. Canadian airports are underperforming compared to their international counterparts.

A report to the National Airlines Council by Dr. Fred Lazar found:

Toronto has fewer passengers per population than all of its comparators with the exception of Barcelona and Philadelphia, and neither of these is the major hub for their respective hub airlines. Toronto lags significantly behind Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Miami, even though geographically it is better located to connect both Europe and Asia to North and South America.

Vancouver underperforms all other similar airports and neither of these two U.S. cities that are similar in--

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Air Transportation
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. Four minutes are up.

I will turn the floor over to the parliamentary secretary.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Air Transportation
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CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I thought I had seen it all and maybe it is the season, but I see now NDP members standing up for private industry, competitiveness and open borders. I thought I had seen it all in this place, but it must just be because the NDP plans to take down our government tomorrow, and they plan to challenge the government on the basis of the great work that the Prime Minister has done in regard to building the economy and protecting us from the economic global recession. I am not sure how and why the member has positioned himself for this. It just does not make sense and I think most people who listen understand that.

However, let us talk a bit about Canada and why it is different from the United States because the member suggested that we should compare it to the United States. First of all, we are a bigger country and we have about 10% of the population, so we have one of the greatest, most diverse and lowest density of populations in the world. Clearly, it is a different scenario for us than it is for the United States and I wish the member would understand that. Part of Canada's context is our extended border with our southern neighbour. Certainly most countries do not have this particular implication in their economies, but we do have that.

The close proximity of many of the American airports is of course a situation. The United States has 10 times the population and a little less than a third less land mass. So certainly this is a situation that is troubling, but at the same time it is good for consumers. We stand up for Canadian consumers because we understand that they want choice and they also want to have the opportunity of not having taxes levied for something they are not utilizing.

We have to look at that in context, because comparison of the Canadian air transportation system to that of the United States is very difficult indeed, given the various factors at play. As I said, the United States is 10 times larger with a passenger base almost 13 times larger than that of Canada. Unlike Canada, the United States also has an extensive network of low cost carriers that specialize in greatly discounted domestic airfares for United States leisure destinations. We do not have that same system here, at least not to the same extent.

The Canadian air transportation system subscribes to the user-pay principle, and I think most taxpayers do too. The United States does not adhere to that as much as Canada, believe it or not. So we are proud of that and most Canadian taxpayers want that. All elements of the Canadian transportation industry, including air carriers, airports and NAV Canada are operated by private entities. These are independent of the government. That ensures that they are not only trimmed and doing the right job on the basis of the economy and what they have allocated to them, but they are also independent of public interference. I certainly hope the member opposite is not suggesting that now we need to interfere in NAV Canada, airports and air carriers. That would be the wrong message to send to our economy while it is doing so well.

Like any private entities, these entities seek to recoup their costs through various fees and charges. Our government is committed to helping maintain competitiveness in the Canadian aviation industry. We have one of the most competitive industries in the world and one of the most competitive airport systems in the world. Over the last decade, we have also provided over $400 million to the industry for safety and infrastructure related projects. To be clear though, airport rent is not a tax. As a matter of policy and good business practice, on behalf of all Canadians the government chose to lease rather than sell its airports. Rent is charged to Canada's largest airports as a return on taxpayer investment. Taxpayers paid for those airports. Do they not deserve to receive that money back?

It is clear that this government has taken the right position, and the members opposite are only opportunistic, trying to have an unnecessary election at the cost of taxpayers. It is not necessary at all.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Air Transportation
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague and his party of shopkeeper economics, do not mind giving very large subsidies to oil companies that are making record profits. However, when it comes to airports which provide the service and have the opportunity of expanding business around every hub, the Conservatives are determined to stifle them.

When my hon. colleague talks about the difference in population, the statistics are that Toronto has fewer passengers per population. In other words, for the population of Toronto and surrounding area, fewer passengers are going through that airport than through comparable airports in the United States. Why is that? Because those airports are cheaper. Through the provision of acceptable charges in the United States, those airports can provide their service at a cheaper rate.

No matter what the party in the House of Commons, if members opposite cannot see the sense in that, then they are just simply not getting it.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Air Transportation
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CPC

Brian Jean

Conservative

Mr. Brian Jean

I do get it, Mr. Speaker. The member is talking about the rent charge which is less than 1% of the total ticket price or an average of less than $4 per ticket. Speaking of sense, that is actually what it is, just cents.

Is the hon. member suggesting that we should compromise the security and safety of Canadians at our airports? Is he suggesting that the airports should not have to pay a return on investment to the taxpayers who originally paid for all those improvements? Is he suggesting that we should provide to them free? They already have tax situations that are advantageous, but they should pay taxpayers for what the taxpayer invested in those airports, and certainly they should keep Canadians safe. That is what this government will do.

I understand the NDP is not interested in that, but this Conservative government will keep Canadians safe and secure and keep the economy rolling very well, as we have been managing to do quite well.

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Air Transportation
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

It has been a pleasure to serve as Deputy Speaker in this Parliament. It looks like this will be my last shift in the chair and it will be the last time I will say this. The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7 p.m.)

Topic:   Adjournment Debate
Sub-subtopic:   Air Transportation
Permalink

March 24, 2011