November 8, 1978 (30th Parliament, 4th Session)

LIB

Charles Lapointe (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Charles Lapointe (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport):

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to speak at this time. Having heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) and a few members of his party who spoke on the motion, 1 admit that we could easily be led to believe that they are arriving today from some unknown planet and that they have never opened a Canadian history book. All we heard, Mr. Speaker, are the words competition and private enterprise as if it were a cure-all, as if they did not know that Canada-the second largest country in the world-is sparsely populated and without state intervention as far as air services are concerned, hundreds of communities in our country would be without them.
I wonder, Mr. Speaker, how the Leader of the Opposition sees our country. He voices approval at Alberta's purchase of an airline, but is suddenly shocked because we have a successful national airline, Air Canada, and because the government buys a regional carrier on behalf of Canadians. Why should we be shocked, Mr. Speaker, because Canadians are the owners of air lines? In that respect I think I share the view of the leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Broadbent) who feels that we do not have to be ashamed because we have spent public funds to provide essential services for Canadians scattered throughout the country. And if we take a look at the way things are done in several other countries, be it in France, in Italy, in Germany, in Switzerland or in Australia, we can see that these countries do not hesitate to have only one national airline responsible for both domestic and international services. We can see, therefore, that we should not hesitate to do our utmost to protect Air Canada and other regional air carriers in Canada.
In his speech, the Leader of the Opposition said that it does not make any sense that national carriers should take over the regional markets; he also complained about the fact that Air Canada has flown right out of Bagotville. Mr. Speaker, I
National Air Policy
cannot think of a more obvious contradiction. When one of my colleagues asked him whether he thought Air Canada should abandon the service in northern Ontario, for instance North Bay, all he could say was that he did not know if it was better to maintain competition with local, regional, third- or fourth-level carriers, but as he mentioned in his speech he did not want to commit himself and say whether Air Canada or any national airline should withdraw from regional markets.
He also said in his speech that if he were to take office he would develop a whole new policy involving the utilization of the short take-off and landing aircraft. He probably took his ideas from the report published by the Department of Transport under this minister on the future utilization of the STOL aircraft between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and, eventually, Quebec city and Windsor. He also said in his lengthy speech in support of his motion of non-confidence in the government that once in office he would set up a policy governing chartered flights, as if he was not aware that last spring this government, at the suggestion of the Minister of Transport, set up a chartered flight policy in Canada which is most advantageous for Canadian people who want to visit their country from east to west.
Mr. Speaker, commenting on the takeover by the government of Canada of Nordair shares, the hon. member for Rimouski (Mr. Allard) said that we wanted to cut the ground from under Quebecair's feet. I think this is the rrcst frivolous allegation made during the debate this afternoon, because we know very well that Quebecair made no offer for the purchase of Nordair when the company decided to sell.
Mr. Speaker, in light of this debate, I think it is important to have an idea of what kind of country we want. Do we think that by opening all valves on behalf of sacrosanct competition and private enterprise we shall eventually have ten or fifteen airlines, all the while applauding any province anxious to buy its own airline and forgetting the national interest, Mr. Speaker, which, I believe, should override all regional interests?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to state clearly and unequivocally that Nordair will remain a regional carrier and that, in the next twelve months, when we will be trying to find a better way of ensuring a coalition of regional carriers in the east, we will be able to maintain all air routes now served by this airline. We are trying, through this measure, to strengthen in some way the position of regional air carriers in eastern Canada. We are considering some changes at the regional as well as the national level. By strenghtening the activity of regional air carriers, we are hoping to improve service as well as to increase competition between carriers. This must be achieved, Mr. Speaker, without the participation of the government and of Nordair's management and operation. What the government would want to see is some form of regional merger to improve commercial operations on a greater number of routes in eastern Canada.

November 8, 1978
National Air Policy
When it comes to merging, eastern Canada airlines such as Quebecair, Great Lakes and Eastern Provincial Airways immediately come to mind. However, one must not exclude any other group which would eventually be interested in purchasing the shares now held by government. Although the government now owns these shares, it must be pointed out that the company will continue under the present management team. For example, the president, Mr. Lefran<jois, will not quit. Quite the contrary, during this interim period the management and the operation of the company will continue as they were in the past. Taking over the financial aspects of Nordair for the next twelve months will enable the government to ensure the funding and merging of regional carriers. Quite obviously, too much dissipation of efforts on a regional basis will not give good results. By acquiring Nordair, the government takes advantage of an excellent opportunity to review the whole network of airlines in eastern Canada, on a current as well as future operational basis.
In reorganizing regional air transportation, I do not see any problem in there being both competition and co-operation between regional and national carriers. So there can be competition for routes and co-operation with regard to schedules, the main objective still being to provide an efficient service at a reasonable cost. Mr. Speaker, last week I had the pleasure of a discussing this problem rather specifically with representatives of the Miramichi economic society and representatives from Chatham who complained for instance of a lack of co-ordination between EPA schedules on flights between Chatham and Fredericton and asked for a connecting Air Canada flight to Montreal. So I think there is much room for greater co-operation among airlines and for competition.
Mr. Speaker, there is another thing I want to point out and which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark) mentioned in his speech, namely his shocked attitude when he spoke about Canadair and de Havilland operations. One might have thought the Leader of the Opposition was jealous of Cana-dair's unprecedented success, and I would have liked him to say to the 500 Canadair skilled workers and technicians that, in his opinion, it was high time this great state-owned and highly successful corporation be handed over to the private sector. He forgot to mention also the role of the government in the expansion of the Fleet company in southern Ontario which manufactures parts for long range patrol aircraft and how, as a result of government intervention, the number of employees has gone from 200 to 1,000 within 18 months.
To want to sacrifice everything for the sake of free enterprise and competition in this country is, as I said earlier, to disregard the entire history of this country which was first developed, if we go back to the beginning of the railways, thanks to the CNR and also, of course, because the fabric of
our history could be protected precisely by keeping a strong government hand in business while at the same time promoting a free enterprise system which could also make profits.
So I think that the motion before us today should be unequivocally rejected by all members of this House.
I think we picked up today in the statement of the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition (Mr. Clark) the most obvious contradiction that could be expected from a party which wrongly hopes-and very much so, Mr. Speaker-to replace us. On the one hand they argue that national airlines should not fly regional routes, but on the other hand they complain about the fact that national airlines no longer serve cities such as Bagotville and they are unable to say whether the national airlines or rather, in this case, Air Canada, will continue to operate in northern Ontario. Mr. Speaker, I do not think that by talking on both sides of the fence, as did the Leader of the Opposition today, we will succeed in setting up sensible guidelines in the field of air transportation.
The present policy of the government is to continue to have two main regional carriers and two main-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   BUSINESS OF SUPPLY
Full View