May 18, 1965 (26th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Malcolm MacInnis

Mr. Donald Maclnnis (Cape Breton South):

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege. My question of privilege arises from questions asked in this House on Wednesday, May 12, and answered by the Minister of Transport (Mr. Pickersgill), concerning air traffic safety conditions at the Halifax International Airport, a statement over the week end in reference to this matter by Mr. R. W. Goodwin, Director of Civil Aviation for Canada, and a statement by Mr. G. R. McGregor, President of Air Canada, on the same matter.
On Tuesday, May 11 the Halifax Mail Star made certain assertions about safety conditions at the Halifax International Airport. On Wednesday, May 12 the Minister of Transport was questioned by the hon. Member for Queens (Mr. MacLean) and by myself. In answer to these questions the Minister said in part:
I may say that to the best of my knowledge there is no hazard; that is according to the best information I have been able to secure from those in whom I have confidence. It will be understood, of course, that I have no technical competence myself in this field, but the trusted officers of the Department are of the opinion that there is no hazard of the kind described in the Halifax Mail Star of last night.
Later, in answer to the hon. Member for Queens, the Minister said in part:
I think I will not take the time of the House to deal with the matter, because the whole thing is set out very clearly in an excellent story in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, of this morning.
The Minister, of course, was giving to the House the information he obtained from his
"trusted officials". That information was to the effect that no hazard existed. It becomes clear, however, from statements published over the week end in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. that the Minister misled the House. I invite the attention of the House to an article in Saturday's Halifax Chronicle-Herald, two paragraphs of which read as follows:
Canada's civil aviation director, R. W. Goodwin, has ordered his department to initiate a crash program to train air traffic controllers in use of the new precision radar at Halifax International Airport. He has also ordered quick action to eliminate any existing snags in the idle $500,000 radar installation.
Mr. Goodwin, in a telephone call from Ottawa yesterday, confirmed that the first reports pub-blished in the Mail Star were correct on "many points" in their disclosures of conditions at Halifax airport.
Mr. Goodwin's statement shows that the Minister misinformed the House when he assured the House last Wednesday that no hazard exists of the kind originally described in the Mail Star. The same article in Saturday's Chronicle-Herald states as follows:
Meanwhile, in St. John's, Newfoundland, according to a report from the Canadian Press, Air Canada President G. R. McGregor said that the reports of a near collision in the air and of the two blind spots in radar coverage were "pure fabrication".
Mr. McGregor, who did not know that Mr. Goodwin had confirmed the reports, said that the near collision story "probably originated with a disgruntled Department of Transport employee".
My question of privilege is this, that the Minister of Transport on May 12 was misled by his own officials and gave inaccurate information to the House, on the assurances he had received from "trusted officials", on a serious matter involving the safety of human lives. The Minister of Transport should assure the House that some action is being taken in respect of those officials who victimized him and the House in this way, and the President of Air Canada should be dismissed for attempting to mislead the public by a public statement which the Director of Civil Aviation has shown to be false.

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