March 9, 2015

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault (Sherbrooke, NDP)

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should present, as soon as possible, a mechanism that would allow non-designated airports, that is, airports that are not on the 2004 list of airports designated under the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act (CATSA), to provide, at their expense, CATSA-recognized security screening in a manner that would not compromise the health and safety of passengers, and would uphold existing CATSA standards.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to debate the motion that I have the honour of sponsoring, Motion No. 553. I feel proud and privileged to be able to express myself on behalf of the people of Sherbrooke on such an important issue.

For the benefit of my colleagues and Canadians who are watching, I would like to begin by reading the text of the motion I have moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should present, as soon as possible, a mechanism that would allow non-designated airports, that is, airports that are not on the 2004 list of airports designated under the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act (CATSA), to provide, at their expense, CATSA-recognized security screening in a manner that would not compromise the health and safety of passengers, and would uphold existing CATSA standards.

I would now like to put all of that into context and explain how significant this motion is for many airports across Canada, including of course the Sherbrooke airport. After reading the bill, I have to admit that it is quite technical, but I will do my best to explain it in layman's terms before I try to convince members.

What is CATSA? I am sure many of my colleagues who fly back and forth between their ridings and Ottawa every week are already familiar with CATSA agents. If they are not, they meet them every week. Here is how CATSA defines itself:

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is a Crown corporation responsible for securing specific elements of the air transportation system—from passenger and baggage screening to screening airport workers.

Established on April 1, 2002, CATSA is fully funded by parliamentary appropriations and is accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Transport.

CATSA is governed by a Board of Directors with its operations directed by a Senior Management Team....

CATSA was the centerpiece of the Government of Canada's response to the events of September 11, 2001 and part of a comprehensive $2.2 billion package of aviation security initiatives in the December 2001 budget.

Established on April 1, 2002, CATSA’s responsibilities fall into four major areas:

Pre-board screening of passengers and their belongings;

Hold baggage screening through explosives detection systems at airports;

Non-passenger screening of those entering restricted airport areas;

Restricted area identity card implementation and management....

CATSA’s mission is to protect the public by securing critical elements of the air transportation system as assigned by the Government of Canada.

It is important to highlight “as assigned by”.

Why is such screening by CATSA so important? People are probably wondering what the problem is exactly. Why are we moving this motion today? The answer is simple. When CATSA was created in 2002, the then government established a list of 87 airports that would be served by the administration. In 2004, two airports were added to that list, bringing the number of designated airports to 89. Is the Sherbrooke airport on that list? Obviously, the answer is no. That is where the problem lies, and that is precisely why I am raising this issue today.

Some will likely ask me what difference being on this list makes to an airport's ability to offer commercial flights. It changes everything for Sherbrooke.

Sherbrooke was close to concluding an agreement with a national airline, which was prepared to start operating flights between Sherbrooke and major economic centres. The essential, non-negotiable condition for the airline in question was that the Sherbrooke airport be designated under the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act. It was during these talks that Sherbrooke applied to Transport Canada for its designation.

In June 2013, Transport Canada, through its minister, rejected this application for designation. The agreement with the airline fell through. This abortive agreement proves something very important: airlines are interested in the Sherbrooke airport, and there is certainly an attractive market because they were ready to add flights in 2012-13.

The simplest solution would be to add Sherbrooke to this list as the 90th airport. The government must have thought, why do things the easy way when we can do them the hard way.

Why did the government refuse to give the Sherbrooke airport that designation, especially when adding it is rather simple? It can be given by regulation made by the Governor in Council and does not require legislation. I would remind members that two airports were added by regulation in 2004.

We still do not know why Transport Canada refused the application. Although we have repeatedly asked the minister for an explanation, she has only given one response that might give us a clue, in which she said that CATSA is not an economic development body. Ten other airports besides Sherbrooke have applied for designation since 2004. They were all refused. Is it for financial reasons? It is up to the government to tell us.

Sherbrooke had anticipated this potential pretext for Transport Canada's refusal. In its application for designation, Sherbrooke had offered to cover the associated costs. In its June 2013 letter of refusal and subsequent answers in the House, Transport Canada opened the door to a mechanism that would allow non-designated airports to provide Canadian Air Transport Security Authority security screening on a cost-recovery basis.

Given the government's categorical refusal to add Sherbrooke to the list of designated airports on the one hand and its openness to providing a mechanism whereby non-designated airports could obtain the administration's services on the other, I have questioned the government on several occasions about how the development of the mechanism that it itself proposed is coming along.

We have heard absolutely nothing since June 2013. Nothing has been proposed. No legislative changes have been introduced. That is shameful, and that is why I am moving this motion, which calls on the government to present the mechanism in question to the House as soon as possible.

All of the airports that are not currently on the list of 89 airports would benefit. In my opinion, that is the beauty of the proposal before us today. It does not simply seek to resolve the problems of one airport, the Sherbrooke airport, but to provide a development opportunity for hundreds of non-designated airports across Canada.

There are 518 airports across Canada. If we do not count the 89 airports that are already designated by Transport Canada under the law, over 400 airports could be interested in a mechanism like the one called for in my motion.

Sherbrooke has waited long enough. The Eastern Townships have waited long enough. The airports that could benefit from this mechanism have waited long enough. It is high time the government took action.

We are all well aware that airports across the country are important economic drivers. A fully functional airport with better commercial ties with other large North American centres will generate major economic spinoffs, which have already been examined at length.

The study led by Luc Savard, a full professor with the faculty of business administration at the Université de Sherbrooke and the director of the Groupe de recherche en économie et développement international, did an excellent job of explaining this.

...a review of existing literature.... Some findings emerged from this review...they all confirmed that airports have a huge impact on their region. First, there appears to be a positive correlation between the number of boardings and GDP, as well as between GDP growth and the growth in the number of domestic flights. Second, when there is an airport on the outskirts of a city, it has a facilitating effect on regional businesses by giving them access to new markets. Third, an airport changes the economic and demographic structure of the region and is one of the factors that companies such as research and development firms consider when deciding whether to locate there.

...Ivy et al. (2005) show that the connectivity of airport services has an impact on jobs at headquarters and promotes the development of research institutions as well as the financial sector. In addition to the complementarity of public and private investments, an airport has a facilitating effect, which increases access to people and their ideas, to capital and to markets...

...Green (2007) finds a strong connection between air traffic in a region and the growth of its population and job market.

...The Sherbrooke University Pole, which helps generate research and development activities in addition to private sector investments, could greatly benefit from this facilitating effect, increasing the economic impact on the region.

The problems related to transportation that the Sherbrooke area is currently facing are part of a larger, similar problem facing Canada, the United States and Australia, namely, low population density and vast distances between communities across the country. In 2011 for instance, about 54% of the population lived in the Montreal and Quebec City census metropolitan areas. That being said, population growth in the Sherbrooke census metropolitan area is higher than the Quebec average. This population growth is taking place without the air transportation infrastructure that the region needs, which means that people from Sherbrooke have to travel to Montreal, if not further, to take a flight anywhere. Population growth is positively correlated to air traffic. For instance, between 1980 and 2000, the population in the U.S. grew by 24%, while air traffic grew by 136% over the same period.

—The bottom line here is that the economic benefits of a fully functional airport have been well established. They have been studied at length and are indisputable. We also have to remember that not having a functional airport can even result in economic losses, because Canadian air travellers will go to U.S. airports near the border. This is a real problem in southern Quebec.

There have been a number of studies on this issue, which affects not only Quebec, but also communities along the Canada-U.S. border all the way to British Columbia. The Library of Parliament summed it up as follows:

Based on the results of these studies, we know that approximately 5 million Canadian passengers travel by plane from American airports every year. According to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications study, Air Canada representatives estimate that, by 2015, up to 3.4 million Canadians could be travelling out of airports in Buffalo, Niagara Falls (U.S.), Plattsburg and Bellingham exclusively, with an associated direct negative impact to the Canadian economy of $2.3 billion. The extent of the impact of this exodus may be summarized as follows: (1) a reduction in the amount of air traffic...in Canada; (2) the undermining of the role of larger Canadian airports as international hubs; and (3) an increase in fees paid by each passenger because airport fixed costs will have to be spread over fewer people. According to the [Conference Board of Canada] report, these factors will likely result in a loss of revenue ([for example,] taxes) for all levels of government.

I wonder if my colleagues know that Sherbrooke is the only centre in Canada with more than 200,000 inhabitants that is not served by a regional airport. That has to change. This is critical to the economic prosperity of Sherbrooke and the whole region.

I would like to close with some thoughts on the words of John Kasarda in his 2011 book Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next. He suggests that aerotropolises, which are cities that grow up around an airport, are the cities of tomorrow. The major urban centres of days gone by were built around railway stations, but those of the future will develop within a 33-kilometre radius of airports.

I would be happy to answer my colleagues' questions.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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CPC

Jeff Watson

Conservative

Mr. Jeff Watson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have a point to clarify in the discussion, that the designation of airports relates to the security risk posed at airports to the network. That is why, in the case of a select number of airports, the government has made it mandatory to have the security screening there and therefore the air transport security charge to fund that.

In this particular case, not only for Sherbrooke, but for for several airports where it is an economic driver, and where airline companies as a condition of service have imposed the requirement to have security screening, there is a need to find a funding mechanism to support the uniform CATSA screening and extend it to other airports.

I want to commend the member for bringing this motion forward, and for initiating a discussion, an important discussion with the government. The government, as he has noted, is open to finding a mechanism like that.

I will signal at this point that the government will be supporting the motion with a slight modification, amendment, which I will raise in my comments later. I want to thank the member for his co-operation in that process, in finding language that achieves the aim he is looking for but also satisfies the clarity that the government needs in moving this issue forward. I want to thank him for that, which is more of a comment than a question.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his co-operation on this issue, which is taking quite a bit of time. I want to remind hon. members that the Conservatives opened the door to this mechanism in June 2013. I am pleased to see that we are heading toward a solution to this lingering impasse. In Sherbrooke, there has been talk of an airport and the resulting economic development for a long time.

It is also important to keep airport security in mind. I understand the situation at the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which, according to the government, is not an economic development agency. I agree. We must always keep airport security in mind, however. This mechanism could ensure security at every airport. It would make it possible to provide security service inside the Sherbrooke airport and security service for all of Canada.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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LIB

David McGuinty

Liberal

Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the motion he moved this morning. In my riding, we have the Ottawa International Airport, which provides at least 5,000 jobs. Every day, 5,000 people come and go at the airport.

As we say in English, it is an economic generator of major significance.

I would like my colleague to talk about the fact that he personally approached the minister. I wrote to the minister almost two years ago to ask him about the status of this issue. In Canada, 10 airports are waiting for an answer. It has been two years and they have yet to hear anything.

Can my colleague help us understand why the government still has not made a decision that is important to these airports when it comes to security and their future role as economic generators in their regions?

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. It is difficult for me to say why the government did not present a solution earlier. The goal of my motion is to put pressure on the government so it will feel compelled to take action.

It is my hope that the House of Commons will support my motion—I implore my colleagues to support this motion—to somehow put additional pressure on the government so that it will take action and allow airports such as the Sherbrooke airport and many others in Canada, as I said in my speech, to grow and establish commercial ties with other major North American centres. It would certainly be a significant economic and tourism vector for the Sherbrooke area and the Eastern Townships.

I will also repeat that this mechanism would be available to all the other airports that are not currently designated under the act. This is not just a local solution, but one that will apply across Canada. I hope it will receive the support of all my colleagues in the House.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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CPC

Jeff Watson

Conservative

Mr. Jeff Watson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here in the House today with a minor amendment to support the motion before us, which I will move before the expiry of my time.

I will be supporting the motion because it aligns with the guiding principle of the government's economic action plan to protect Canadians and support jobs and economic growth across the country. The motion is also consistent with our government's risk-based approach whereby security funding is targeted to areas of highest risk.

I am glad to be given the opportunity to talk about the work that has been accomplished on this file over the last year and what we intend to do in the future. However, at the outset, I would like to reiterate that creating jobs and securing economic growth is and will remain our government's top priority.

The aviation industry is a fundamental pillar of our success as a nation. It is a key contributor to our standard of living, economy, connectivity to the world and prosperity. Further, a vibrant aviation sector also supports the prosperity of other industries, such as commerce and tourism.

There are roughly 100 million passengers who travel through or within Canada annually, with nearly 2,500 international flights each and every day. The vastness of Canada's geography and the dispersed nature of our population have directly contributed to the development of one of the largest and most sophisticated civil aviation systems in the world. Transport Canada's national civil aviation security program is among the best in its class, and our government continues to be committed to the promotion of safe and secure air travel.

Canada has over 200 airports that operate commercial flights. Fewer than half of them are regulated to require mandatory passenger and baggage screening. This represents about 99% of all air passengers in Canada.

The mandatory presence of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, CATSA, at all airports would not make sense either from a security or a financial perspective. However, CATSA is and should remain the sole screening authority in Canada. The original version of the motion before us could be construed as opening the door to the establishment of new screening authorities in Canada. For this reason, we will be asking that the proposed motion be amended so as to make it clear that CATSA is and remains the only authorized screening authority in Canada.

This is an important element, because our government believes there is real value in consolidating aviation security under a single authority. Having a national centralized organization perform screening enables greater consistency across the country and more effective responsiveness to security issues. It also ensures that Canada meets international standards and retains the trust of its partners.

The list of airports for regulated mandatory screening was developed in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks, and it captures those airports where screening was already taking place before the creation of CATSA. The screening services received at these airports are financed by air travellers through the air travellers security charge.

Over the last several years, a number of airports not regulated for mandatory passenger screening have expressed an interest in obtaining screening services to improve their economic and development opportunities. Many of them indicated that the absence of these screening services constituted the only barrier to the establishment of new commercial routes at their airports.

While security is always the key consideration when allocating government resources to the prevention and mitigation of threats to the transportation system, our aviation security system must also support rather than hinder economic opportunities. We must strive to strike the right balance between supporting the competitiveness of the air sector while minimizing the impact of this support for Canadian taxpayers. This is why our government is proposing a risk-based approach for any changes to the current list of airports receiving security screening funded by the government.

So far, none of the airports interested in receiving screening services currently meet the risk threshold that would warrant mandatory screening. Nevertheless, I believe it is important that we provide these smaller airports with the necessary tools to foster the economic growth that would come from the establishment of new commercial routes.

In June 2014, the Minister of Transport sent a letter to all the airports that had expressed an interest in procuring screening services to inform them that departmental officials were in the process of exploring and assessing various mechanisms that would allow them to obtain services on a cost-recovery basis. Transport Canada officials will soon be contacting the interested airports in order to gather additional information about their operations. This will help determine the level of service and equipment that the implementation of passenger screening services would require.

Transport Canada will also be working with CATSA and airports to assess the costs of implementing screening services at smaller airports depending on the number of flights they expect to attract, as well as other factors such as the frequency and destination of flights. Our government will work closely with airports to ensure that the potential benefits of implementing these screening services outweigh their costs.

While we are pleased with the progress that has been made on this initiative, there are various legal and financial challenges that still need to be addressed. The government is currently reviewing the legislative and regulatory changes that would best support this initiative. Beyond this, we also need to ensure that any solution takes a long-term approach with respect to the operations of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority in order to enable it to continue to respond to industry needs.

In closing, I would like to point out that industry has increasingly been linking passenger screening services to economic development. Many airports have expressed a willingness to invest resources into such services. Transport Canada will be working closely with our industry partners to make all the necessary tools available to provide a safe, secure, and efficient transportation system for all Canadians. In order to align the intent of this motion with the approach that the government is pursuing and based on discussions with the mover of the motion, I would like to propose the following amendment.

That the motion be amended by (a) deleting “2004”; and (b) replacing the words “CATSA-recognized” with the word “CATSA”.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion or to a motion for second reading of a private member's bill unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Sherbrooke if he consents to this amendment being moved.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault

New Democratic Party

Mr. Pierre-Luc Dusseault (Sherbrooke, NDP)

I consent, Mr. Speaker.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Ottawa South.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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LIB

David McGuinty

Liberal

Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by commending my colleague from Sherbrooke for bringing this motion. It is a very important motion. It speaks to the legitimate aspirations of many of Canada's smaller centres that want to join the ranks of centres that have proper backstopping, when it comes to their airport systems, to enable more trade, more travel, more tourism, more investment, more growth, and more jobs.

It is unfortunate that this motion had to be brought by the member, because this is something the government has been seized with for many years. It is important to remind members of the House, and Canadians who are watching or reading, that this is the fifth minister of transport in perhaps eight years the government has cycled through the department. That might explain why there has not been serious action on this file for many years.

There are at least 10 airports waiting for an answer, including Puvirnituq, Trois-Rivières, Schefferville, Bromont, and Sherbrooke, in Quebec; St. Catharines, Ontario; Cold Lake, Alberta; Dawson City, Yukon; Edson, Alberta; and Fort Nelson, B.C. All of these airports have repeatedly approached the government for a decision. On the strength of their overtures, the Liberal Party of Canada, through me, then the transport critic, wrote to the minister in June 2013 asking the minister to make a decision with respect to using CATSA security screening services and finding a mechanism whereby these 10 airports, which have been waiting and waiting, could do so at their own expense.

I wrote to the minister in June 2013, on behalf of the Sherbrooke airport, pleading for the minister of transport to make a decision. I received a reply from the minister, but the reply was received on August 28, 2014, over a year later, to respond to that basic letter. I go back to my original comment that it is unfortunate that the member had to bring this motion today to compel the government to do its job.

Everyone in the House recognizes that airports have to be safe and secure. They recognize that airports are becoming very popular economic generators for smaller and larger urban centres. They understand that they are job creators, that they bring in retail investment, and that they facilitate trade, tourism, travel, and the shipping of goods. What we do not understand is why it is taking so long for the government to do its job.

This is not a big file. It is an extremely important file for all the airports involved. It is extremely important to them, but is not a big file for the government, with its thousands of employees at Transport Canada. This decision, and a mechanism to arrive at a decision, should have been made years ago in anticipation of the kind of growth we are seeing in Canada. Why are we seeing this growth? It is because we are seeing rapid urbanization.

For example, Sherbrooke is becoming a regional city in Quebec. More and more people are going there and Sherbrooke is doing more and more trade. It is no different than the situation of the Halifax-Dartmouth region or the greater Vancouver regional district.

We are seeing urbanization. The government knows this. We all know this. We all live it. For the life of us here in the Liberal Party, we cannot understand why this decision was not taken years ago.

Be that as it may, it is encouraging to hear the government say, through its parliamentary secretary, that it will support an amended motion. Frankly, it is about time.

All MPs in the House I am sure transit through Ottawa's beautiful international airport from time to time, and I am fortunate to represent the airport. It is a massive economic generator for the city of Ottawa. It employs at least 5,000 people day in and day out. It is very important to the success of the national capital region and the Ottawa-Gatineau census metropolitan area. Without it, we would have great difficulty competing, and our citizens would not be able to move as freely as they do.

If I recollect correctly, it was the Liberal government that created CATSA. It was the Liberal government that facilitated, in the Open Skies agreement, the movement of Canadians to the United States and back with much greater ease, thereby facilitating the movement of goods and services and professional expertise and generating economic activity and jobs. Therefore, we are pleased that this motion is being brought to the floor of the House. We are also pleased to support it.

We are scratching our heads trying to figure out why it has taken so long for the government to bring forward this kind of mechanism to facilitate this. It seems to have no problem whatsoever procuring, for example, advertising and running it during NHL hockey games or CFL games or you name it. It has spent $765 million and counting on advertising since its arrival. Not a single MP on the benches of the government can justify this or look their constituents in the eye and say that this was a good investment when we have so many needs, like this need for screening services in our airports, leaving aside other needs in society like insulin pumps for our kids. How about additional nurses? How about home care for our seniors? How about our veterans offices? It is an interesting juxtaposition that the government has found all this time and money for obscene partisan advertising, but it cannot find the time to solve this basic problem to make sure that Sherbrooke and nine other airports in Canada can get the security screening they need to compete. That is all people want. They want a fair shot at competing in their own cluster areas. That is a reasonable thing to be trying to do. We are supportive. It is about time.

The government is going to have to explain to these different citizens and ridings why it took this motion. The minister is going to have to explain why it took her 15 months to respond to a basic piece of correspondence. The answer given says basically that they are still studying it.

I implore the government to not just support the motion but to do what the Liberal Party of Canada has been asking of it for several years: fix the problem. Stop bobbing and weaving, hiding and ducking, and fix the problem for the 10 airports in our country that deserve a solution so that they can get the screening services they need to do what they do best, what Canadians do best, which is compete, create jobs, and grow their local economies.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Jean Rousseau

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jean Rousseau (Compton—Stanstead, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I wish you long life and prosperity during your well-deserved retirement. You will be missed here in the House.

Motion No. 553, which was moved by my riding neighbour, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, and which we are debating this morning, pertains to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. In summary, the motion calls on this government to present, as soon as possible, a mechanism that would allow non-designated airports, that is, airports that are not on the 2004 list of airports designated under the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act, to provide, at their expense, security screening services that are recognized by the act and thus by CATSA.

Above all, motion No. 553 seeks to identify a solution for the numerous airports—they were listed earlier—currently seeking CATSA-recognized security screening. The mechanism that would be identified and implemented by the current or future government would be useful for many Canadian airports not designated in the schedule to the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority Act.

As my colleagues know, airports across the country are important economic drivers for the communities in which they are located. We must support them so that they can grow, move forward and create quality jobs for the middle class.

Air safety, like food safety and rail safety, are very high priorities for me, as they are for my leader, my party and my caucus. However, over time, this government has been slacking in these areas, although these issues should be very important priorities for the government as well. The mechanism proposed in this motion is a practical solution that would in no way compromise air safety, since it takes into account the standards developed by the existing regulations.

The security screenings in question are the responsibility of CATSA, a crown corporation that was created in 2002, as a logical step in air safety in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The law creating this crown corporation stipulates that CATSA must ensure that security screenings are carried out in accordance with strict standards, which we of course respect.

CATSA is responsible for screening costs, which are recovered by means of a tariff added to the price of every plane ticket. CATSA has contracts with security companies—Garda, Securitas and G4S—to perform screening operations in many Canadian airports. The attribution of this screening standard and of new airports is practically arbitrary. Just two new airports have been added since 2004. There have been no real updates. Two airports out of twelve made a request and were added to the list of designated airports. That does not leave much room for expansion or, most importantly, an update, because many regions in the country have experienced economic struggles in the last 15 years. Therefore, it makes sense to update this list, or at least to find a mechanism, a way to ensure that passengers have safe access to flights and that these airports—and there are many—can help the surrounding region grow.

Unfortunately, for the past few years, our requests have been forgotten. Not a word has been said about this for over two years. The government has not come back in any way, shape or form to the proponents who are waiting for answers about economic proposals that could generate revenue for the state and major economic spinoffs for the region. As it happens, one of those regions is in my riding: Sherbrooke, which was known as the “Queen of the Eastern Townships”.

As my colleague said, this is one of the few centres in eastern North America with more than 200,000 inhabitants that unfortunately does not have a functional airport with rules, standards and regulations in place enabling it to function. The municipality of Sherbrooke, which owns infrastructure on lands surrounded by smaller municipalities in the RCM of Haut-Saint-François in my riding, including Westbury, Cookshire-Eaton and East Angus, is impatiently awaiting the day when it can say yes to a whole list of projects. There are many economic development projects that have the support of dozens of economic and political partners in the region.

The area is home to the Université de Sherbrooke, Bishop's University in Lennoxville, and more, including the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke and a number of major corporations, such as Domtar, BRP and Waterville TG. Even companies as far away as Stanstead, which is 45 minutes from the airport, and the Mont-Mégantic observatory could benefit from spinoffs generated by a viable and functional airport that would promote tourism and farm tourism.

Here is what I would like people to know about my region: it is a beacon of farm tourism with amazing locations all around Massawippi and Memphrémagog lakes. All economic players could benefit. In fact, not only will nearby regions benefit, but also those 30 minutes, 45 minutes or an hour from the airport. We need economic development. We need to create long-term jobs. Companies and small businesses really need support; they need an economic driver. They have been waiting for this for 30 years—since before my colleague was born. People have been fighting for a viable, functional airport in Sherbrooke for the past 30 years.

Many efforts have failed, but right now, all of these partners want to work together and ensure that the Sherbrooke airport will serve as a tool for economic development and as a benchmark. We would then be able to stop turning down projects. The chamber of commerce has to turn down development projects every month because there is no air or rail link. Let us forget about rail for the moment and focus on the air link. It would be so simple to work together, with the government, to ensure that not only the Sherbrooke airport, but also the many other airports in Quebec and Canada that are awaiting this designation, actually get it.

Many levels of government, including the city of Sherbrooke and the RCMs of Haut-Saint-François, Coaticook, Memphrémagog and Granit could all benefit from the windfall that would arise around the airport, not only from the travellers, but also through sustainable industrial and economic development. There could be jobs in research and development projects. Consider, for example, Enerkem, a biomass technology company where scientists are engaged in research, development and innovation that are exported across Canada. Many companies are waiting for this. They know that with a major benchmark just outside of Sherbrooke, the region could develop its economy and create jobs at a time when things are otherwise rather gloomy. It is crucial that we work together, with the government, since all the partners are there, ready and waiting to move forward.

In closing, as I said, many regions across Canada stand to benefit if only this government would be more responsive to the pressing needs of shrinking local economies. A positive response to my colleague's initiative could provide hope to thousands of workers across Canada.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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CPC

Ted Opitz

Conservative

Mr. Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today in support of my hon. colleague's motion. This motion, as I am sure members are aware, asks the government to develop a mechanism that would give airports not currently eligible to receive passenger and baggage screening the ability to purchase screening services from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, or CATSA, as it is more commonly known.

In my remarks today, I would like to highlight how our government has long supported the security of our air transport system, as well as the economic benefits that this system brings to us. I am encouraged by the fact that my hon. colleague, the member for Sherbrooke, who is a very impressive young man, has put forward a motion that highlights just one of the many initiatives our government is currently working on to promote jobs and growth while protecting Canadians.

As members of the House know, our government has long advocated policies that promote jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. This pursuit of national prosperity, however, rests on the foundation of our national security. Indeed, as reflected in Canada's National Security Policy:

There can be no greater role, no more important obligation for a government, than the protection and safety of its citizens.

With this in mind, I want to spend a few moments highlighting some of the most salient features of our current approach to aviation security before turning my attention to the motion itself.

Aviation security—the security of aircraft, airports, and all elements of the aviation sector—is a key component of Canada's national security framework.

Canada, as many members know, was a world leader in aviation security long before the events of September 11, 2001. Following the tragic bombing of Air India Flight 182 in June 1985, Canada's civil aviation program was rapidly transformed to include more rigorous measures for screening passengers and their belongings.

The threat to aviation has not diminished in the decades since the Air India tragedy, nor have our government's efforts to mitigate it. The creation of a national screening authority, CATSA, in 2002; the introduction of in-flight security officers; the reinforcement of cockpit doors; and, in 2007, the world's first dual biometric iris and fingerprint airport identity system for workers accessing restricted areas are all examples of improvements made to Canada's aviation security system. Other examples include 100% screening of checked baggage, the implementation of the passenger protect program, and, more recently, the rollout of a national air cargo screening program.

My aim in sharing these security achievements with the House today is to stress that the security of air travel and trade is the principal focus of Canada's aviation security system. At the same time, it is very important to consider that the purpose of security is to protect, not to hinder, air transport. Aviation security measures must not harden the system to a point where they severely undermine the efficiency and competitiveness of the sector that they are trying to protect.

As I noted in the beginning of my remarks, security is a foundation upon which prosperity is built. As such, striking the right balance between investing in security and improving efficiency will always be a key feature of any government's decision-making process. Indeed, the two must go hand in hand.

Our government recognizes the important role that aviation plays in a country the size of ours. Indeed, airports, air carriers, and associated businesses are important parts of a supply chain necessary to meet the needs of the Canadian shippers and travellers who are contributing to economic growth and job creation across this country. Moreover, the Conference Board of Canada estimates that in 2012, Canadian airports accounted for $4.3 billion in real gross domestic product, but had a total economic footprint of $12 billion, generated almost 600 direct jobs, and contributed over $3 billion in federal and regional taxes.

With our security fundamentals well in place, our government is also looking closely at innovative ways to make Canada's aviation security system more cost-effective and convenient for passengers as well as for the industry that directly serves them. Presently, for example, small airports not designated for mandatory screening in the aftermath of 9/11 say that they face difficulty in attracting commercial flights. Many have indicated that the lack of security screening has become a barrier for further economic development in their communities.

In response, the Minister of Transport has been exploring ways to enable these smaller airports, like the one in my hon. colleague's riding of Sherbrooke, to obtain screening services and thereby connect to the wider aviation network. That is why our government supports the motion before us today: it reflects the work we have already undertaken.

As we continue to work toward finding the most appropriate solution to this issue, we need to ensure that the overall security of Canada's civil air system is preserved. That is why we have proposed an amendment to the motion so that screening would be delivered in the same nationally consistent manner under the authority of CATSA. Standards are very important.

In addition to a standardized security approach, the government also supports some form of user pay approach. A cost recovery approach would ensure that revenue streaming from mandated screening would be insulated from the cost of a screening service that would be primarily for the benefit of the local economy.

In short, any mechanisms developed to give smaller airports access to the broader national airport system for economic development purposes will need to ensure that national security standards continue to be met.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine has about eight minutes for her remarks today.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Isabelle Morin

New Democratic Party

Ms. Isabelle Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support the motion moved by my colleague from Sherbrooke. This motion would be quite useful not only for his riding, but also for roughly 400 airports across the country. It seeks to allow non-designated airports to provide CATSA-recognized security screening. This mechanism would address a problem faced by the 400 airports I mentioned.

In 2004, in the wake of the events of September 11, a list of designated airports was created in order to enhance air transport security. As hon. members know, when we go to the airport we have to go through scanners, empty our pockets, and sometimes even remove our shoes, depending on the airport. These security measures are controlled by CATSA.

The motion of my colleague from Sherbrooke, an intelligent motion that is very important for his riding and also for other airports, calls on the government to allow these airports to acquire, at their expense, the same security mechanisms that the other airports have. This provides a solution to the airports that currently want to obtain this same screening. The Conservatives already talked about this measure in 2013, when they agreed that this situation had to be resolved. Nonetheless, nothing has happened since. My colleague therefore decided to move this motion in the House today in order to get things moving, because airports are major economic drivers for a number of regions.

As my colleague said, Sherbrooke, a city of 200,000 people, still does not have a designated airport. It is tough. As my colleague from Compton—Stanstead was telling me, the chamber of commerce sometimes has a hard time attracting tourists because this region does not have a good transportation system.

I lived in the Sherbrooke area for five years when I was at university. I was quite involved there, so I know what an impact an airport could have on that region. We are calling on the government to be open to the idea of allowing non-designated airports to provide screening. Everyone who travels by air wants to benefit from these mechanisms.

Air safety is a priority for the NDP, as is the safety of all transportation, whether it be rail or marine transportation. However, people are more likely to see the importance of security screening when it comes to air safety, where passengers are involved. We are therefore asking that non-designated airports be allowed to benefit from this type of security screening. There are 518 airports in Canada, 87 of which are designated. As a result, there are many airports that need these services.

Adopting such a measure could lead to economic growth in many regions. The simplest solution would have been to designate more than these 100 airports, particularly airports that serve a large population, such as the one in Sherbrooke. However, the other parties rejected that option. That is why we are trying to have this motion adopted.

I was pleased to hear my Conservative colleagues say that they are going to support this motion and propose some amendments, since this motion is very important for the Eastern Townships.

I would like to thank the member for Sherbrooke. In my opinion, he does a phenomenal job of standing up for his constituents in the House. We have heard him speak on this subject, but also on many other issues. He is the youngest elected member of the House. He really shines. It is interesting to see how some members of the House are able to move a bill forward, even though they are in opposition. People ask us what we can do. This is further proof that we can do great things, even though we are members of the official opposition.

Many stakeholders support our position, including the City of Sherbrooke, all of the municipalities and RCMs in the Eastern Townships, and the universities and hospitals in the region. To date, 10 airports have had their application for designation rejected by the government.

Before I close, I would like to name them because these are airports and cities that could benefit from the motion. They are Puvirnituq; Trois-Rivières and Schefferville, Quebec; St. Catharines in the Niagra region of Ontario; Bromont, Quebec; Cold Lake, Alberta; Dawson City, Yukon; Edson, Alberta; Sherbrooke, Quebec; and the Northern Rockies regional airport in British Columbia. All of these airports will benefit from the work of the member for Sherbrooke. I want to commend him for all that he has done.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will have three minutes and thirty seconds to finish her speech if she wishes.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
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The House resumed from February 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.


NDP

Jasbir Sandhu

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey North, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to rise in the House to speak on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North.

Bill C-46, An Act to amend the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act would amend the statutory liability regime for federally regulated pipelines in Canada. The bill includes absolute liability for all National Energy Board regulated pipelines, which means companies would be liable for costs and damages, irrespective of fault, up to $1 billion for major oil pipelines, pipelines that would have the capacity to transport at least 250,000 barrels a day. Companies would continue to have unlimited liability when they were at fault or negligent.

The bill is a much needed and long overdue first step toward a true polluter pays regime for pipelines in Canada. The official opposition, the NDP, has been calling on the government to bring in legislation so we have a true polluter pays system.

I think the Conservatives understand what polluter pays is, however they are reluctant to make it happen in Canada. Canadians understand what polluter pays means. Even my children understand what it means. Unfortunately the Conservatives have chosen not to understand its meaning to protect their friends in the oil companies, friends who are damaging the very environment of Canada.

I think Canadians understand what polluter pays means. As I pointed out, my children understand that if one makes a mess, then one cleans it up. It is not for the next generation to clean up that mess, and I will share a story of my children to demonstrate that.

I have two children, a son, Jaron, who is 8 years old, and daughter, Jessica, who is 18. My son is a typical eight year old. He makes a mess, whether it be with his toys, or paint or a lot of other stuff, as it is the case in every Canadian household. Children make messes at home. However, one afternoon there was a huge mess of toys in the livingroom. My wife asked Jaron to clean up the mess he had made from playing with his friends. He looked at her and then looked at my daughter and said that she would clean it up for him. Jessica looked at him and said, no. He had made the mess and he would have to clean it up. Jaron then went running to his mother and told her that his sister would not clean it up. His mom told him that it was his mess and that he would have to clear it up. He understood that. He knew it was his mess and he needed to clean it up.

This is a very basic concept. Whoever makes the mess must clean it up. Unfortunately if the Conservatives' friends in the oil industry make a mess, or if a pipeline erupts or is damaged, they do not expect the oil companies to clean it up. The Canadian taxpayers have to do that. How fair is that? If most Canadians understand the concept of polluter pays, why can the Conservatives not understand that? I think the Conservatives understand it, but they are trying to protect their friends in the oil industry and are putting the liability on Canadian taxpayers.

The bill before us is the first step with regard to the polluter pays, unfortunately the implementation of many of the proposed changes in Bill C-46 are left to the discretion of the National Energy Board and cabinet, or the details are left to regulations.

Bill C-46 leaves considerable leeway for politically motivated decisions and backroom arrangements between operators and the National Energy Board, a regulator that lacks credibility on the pipeline front. We are therefore left with uncertainty as to whether the bill goes far enough.

I come from British Columbia, and we have seen the opposition to the northern gateway pipeline. We know the mess that the National Energy Board has created where legitimate people were not allowed to testify or make their presentations in front of the NEB. The Conservatives have put in so many roadblocks to have a fair process. If we are going to have pipelines, there has to be a clear process in place to ensure that all of the considerations are taken before a decision is made.

The Conservatives have made a mockery of the process, and they have gutted the very environmental regulations that are supposed to protect not only our environment but also our resource sectors in this country. They have failed to take a leadership role to show that some of these projects are viable and that we take into consideration the environmental regulations and guidelines to ensure we have projects protected. Again, the polluter pay system is something that is not foreign to the Conservatives; they choose to be on the side of the oil companies instead of Canadian taxpayers.

Bill C-46, as a first step, makes some important improvements to Canada's liability regime, but the lack of certainty about the degree to which polluters would be required to pay undermines these improvements and leaves uncertainty as to whether the taxpayer would still be on the hook for cleanup costs when $1 billion in fault or negligence cannot be proven.

The amount of $1 billion is a drop in the bucket when it comes to a major oil spill. We have seen oil spills cost much more than $1 billion. There needs to be more to ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not left holding the bag that Conservatives are passing on from their friends in the oil companies to the taxpayers. That is not fair. Canadians expect parliamentarians to ensure that liability stays with the polluter, not with the taxpayer.

When it comes to profits, the oil companies will gladly make sure that they take those profits, and Conservatives actually help the oil companies. If they lose money, that loss is nationalized on the backs of the taxpayers. People in my constituency clearly would not want that to happen. I have talked to many people in my constituency who want a system where we ensure that liability stays with the polluter and not with taxpayers.

I have a minute left, and I could go on in this subject because it is very much a concern to people in my constituency. Basically, there is no doubt that Canada's natural resources are a tremendous blessing and the energy sector is a driving force of our economy. The NDP vision for leveraging those resources to create wealth and prosperity does not sacrifice social or environmental sustainability.

The vision of the official opposition can be summed up in three key principles: first, sustainability, to make sure that polluters pay for pollution they create instead of leaving costs to the next generation; second, partnerships, to make sure that communities, provinces, and first nations all benefit from resource development, and that we create value-added, middle-class, high-paying jobs in Canada; and third, long-term prosperity, to leverage Canada's natural wealth to invest in modern, clean energy technologies that will keep Canada on the cutting edge of energy development and ensure affordable rates into the future.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pipeline Safety Act
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CPC

Kelly Block

Conservative

Mrs. Kelly Block (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite noted that this legislation is a step in the right direction, as many of his colleagues have already done. In fact, one even stated that they have been looking forward to legislation like this for some time.

My question will be directly put: Will the member and his colleagues be supporting this legislation?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pipeline Safety Act
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NDP

Jasbir Sandhu

New Democratic Party

Mr. Jasbir Sandhu

Mr. Speaker, as members know, it is a small step in the right direction.

We have been calling for this legislation for a long time. During the four years I have been here, the Conservatives have failed to see that the polluter must pay. They are more interested in protecting their friends in the oil industry than in actually protecting taxpayers.

This bill does not go far enough. We are hoping for some amendments to be brought in at the committee stage. I hope the Conservatives will accept those amendments to make the legislation better, to protect Canadians and not the oil companies.

At this second reading stage, I will be supporting this bill. However, it is on the condition that we will make this bill stronger so that Canadians are not left with the liability, that polluters are left with the liability. The polluters have to pay.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pipeline Safety Act
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NDP

Brian Masse

New Democratic Party

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague rightly noted that the liability cap at $1 billion is a problem. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, close to where we reside, there was one oil spill into the river there that cost $1.2 billion to clean up.

My question for my colleague is, why is it the liability capped at that rate? If that circumstance took place in our country, for that one incident alone, taxpayers would be on the hook for $200 million.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pipeline Safety Act
Permalink

March 9, 2015