The House resumed from November 6 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Russ Hiebert (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, I am pleased to support the amendments to the Aeronautics Act introduced by my hon. colleague the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. In many ways the proposed amendments are critical.
The proposed changes will modernize the Aeronautics Act and help improve the safety of Canada's military aviation system.
More specifically, Bill C-6 will provide new powers that will ensure that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces have all the necessary authority to conduct full and proper investigations into military aviation accidents. At the same time, the bill will promote openness, independence and integrity in military flight safety investigations.
I would like to begin by describing for my hon. colleagues where things stand at present with the flight safety program.
Since 1942, the Canadian Forces have had an official flight safety program, designed to prevent accidental loss of aviation resources.
This program has proven to be very effective, and after nearly 65 years, is now firmly entrenched in the culture of the air force. The flight safety program includes investigating aviation accidents and developing recommendations to reduce or eliminate the same type of incidents from reoccurring.
Military flight safety investigators use processes, techniques and training that are similar to those of the Transportation Safety Board which investigates, under the provisions of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, civilian aircraft accidents. This act, however, precludes the Transportation Safety Board from investigating a military aircraft accident, unless a civilian aircraft or facility is also involved. In such circumstances, a coordinated investigation is required. Therefore, it is very important that both agencies, civilian and military, operate in the same manner.
For many years military air operations and training were exclusively military. The aircraft were Canadian Forces aircraft and all of the maintenance and flying instruction was conducted by military personnel. However, over the past number of years, civilians in the private sector have become increasingly involved in military air operations and training. For instance, one can now find civilian contractors conducting maintenance on Canadian Forces search and rescue helicopters, our Sea King helicopters, and transport aircraft. Also, one may find civilian personnel providing military flight training associated with base support services and aircraft maintenance services at the NATO flying training in Canada program at Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and Cold Lake, Alberta.
As well, a new civil contract has just been awarded to a company to conduct basic flight training along with advanced helicopter and multi-engine aircraft training at Southport, Manitoba. It is a program that employs civilian aircraft maintained by civilian personnel and operated by either civilian or military instructors.
Civilians are therefore increasingly involved in military aviation in Canada.
These changes in the way operations and flight instruction are supported are raising concerns about whether all the necessary powers to investigate aviation accidents and incidents are in place.
Specifically, today there is no legal means to compel civilian personnel who are involved in an accident to provide information to a military flight safety investigator. This means that under the current legal framework the Canadian Forces do not have the necessary powers to conduct flight safety investigations of military aircraft accidents when civilian personnel are involved. This is a very significant issue for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces.
Unless a full investigation into aircraft accidents is done, we may miss out on important safety lessons, and major safety problems might remain undetected and unresolved.
In the worst case scenario, a similar accident might occur again and result in death or serious injury because appropriate safety measures have not been determined.
This is a serious safety problem that we will address through Bill C-6.
Under the new part II of the act, military flight safety investigators will be specifically designated by the airworthiness investigative authority for National Defence and the Canadian Forces. As a result, they will have the necessary powers to investigate military-civilian aviation accidents. One of these new powers will require civilians to provide information or a statement relevant to the investigation. At this time no such requirement exists and this can be problematic to the investigation process.
Moreover, these amendments will ensure that any additional powers and duties from military flight safety investigations remain consistent with those of the Transportation Safety Board investigators.
One of the key segments of this proposed legislation will extend privilege to oral and written statements made to investigators and also to on-board aircraft recordings and communication records. This will make release of these statements without proper authorization an offence under the law and will prohibit their use in disciplinary and other legal proceedings, except in a prosecution for perjury.
This means that National Defence will be able to ensure that flight safety information reported by civilians involved in military aviation will be protected under the law. It is a move that will strengthen the military flight safety system and will ensure the best possible flight safety program for the Canadian Forces.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada guarantees full protection of flight safety information, but investigations have shown that this protection has not been optimal when it comes to the military.
With Bill C-6, the Department of National Defence will be able to seamlessly share investigation information with the Transportation Safety Board during coordinated investigations.
I would now like to address what would happen to flight safety information in on-board recordings if a military aircraft accident occurred outside Canada.
First, a flight safety investigation would be conducted according to the new amendments to determine the cause of the accident. In addition, other investigations could also be ordered by the department for purposes other than flight safety. Such investigations would normally be conducted by the military boards of inquiry convened under the National Defence Act. Currently, during coordinated investigations with the Transportation Safety Board and during court proceedings, coroners would have limited opportunities to use on-board recordings.
The proposed amendments to the aeronautics act will provide investigators with the tools they need to fulfill their mandate. However, as an accident outside Canada could well raise significant international issues with allies in other countries, the new amendments will provide access to these records for military boards in limited circumstances. Canadians can rest assured that these amendments will only be provided during an investigation related to a Canadian Forces military aircraft accident outside Canada and only if the board of inquiry had been personally convened by the Minister of National Defence.
Furthermore, the minister will have to direct that these on-board recordings be released on a case by case basis. However, we should be reminded that use would still remain prohibited in disciplinary proceedings or any other proceedings relating to the capacity or competence of a Canadian Forces member to perform his or her functions.
I must now also acknowledge another significant problem that is currently frustrating military investigators. It concerns how next of kin of deceased personnel are engaged by the flight safety system.
Ideally, next of kin would be informed of the progress of the investigation and of the findings as they come up throughout the investigation.
However, this is currently not possible given the lack of a legal impediment to prevent the unauthorized and premature distribution of information during an investigation.
The early release of information can easily compromise flight safety investigations. Let me explain. If one of the suspected causes of an accident is the failure of an aircraft component, the military investigators would be very interested in reviewing the reasons for the failure with the manufacturer. The manufacturer will have all of the technical data to complete this analysis, and therefore the importance of this interaction cannot be understated, but if this information were also made known to the next of kin, there is currently no legal sanction if the next of kin in turn passes this information on to the media or another third party.
Such sharing of information could cause the equipment manufacturer to cease all communications with the investigators before they can complete their analysis and necessary recommendations. As a result, next of kin are currently not given an update on the cause of the accident until the investigation is completed because of the risk of premature release of information. This has created a situation that is inappropriate and insensitive to the needs of the families involved. The next of kin of our personnel deserve much better.
The legislation before us today will prohibit the unauthorized release of specific investigation information. This will allow full disclosure of the progress and findings of the investigation as it unfolds. Not only will this keep the next of kin in the loop, this amendment will also allow them to be consulted as the investigative reports are being prepared. This process will permit the next of kin to review early drafts of a report and provide valuable feedback on the human factor to investigators. In essence, the amendments to the Aeronautics Act will create a more transparent process that will serve to bring comfort to the loved ones of those lost in air accidents.
Once again, it is important to note that, under the proposed legislation, statements made by the next of kin of personnel involved in military aviation accidents will be privileged. As I mentioned earlier, unauthorized disclosure of privileged information by anyone will be strictly prohibited by law. This will allow the next of kin to remain informed of the progress of an investigation. It will allow them to contribute to the investigation, but it will ensure that they do not release that information to the media or the public. This is crucial to the security and effectiveness of the investigation process.
We all know that sometimes people may find it difficult to come forward and speak about a problem. These amendments to the Aeronautics Act will help address this critical and important issue. As I mentioned before, under the amendments, flight safety information such as oral or written statements, on-board aircraft recordings and communication records received by military flight investigators will be privileged.
We will encourage voluntary statements and we will protect those who disclose information or reprehensible acts. We could, at the same time, implement safety measures that will make the workplace safer for soldiers and civilians taking part in Canadian Air Force operations.
Another factor that must be considered is the safety of the public. When aircraft accidents occur, the aircraft accident site can pose a number of risks to the health and safety of the public. It is therefore very important that public access to the crash site be restricted without delay. This measure will ensure that the site is secured while protecting the public from the dangers posed by such accidents.
Currently, if the crash site is on government controlled property, access of the public is not an issue, but if the accident occurs on privately owned land, public access can be problematic. The proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act would correct this problem by giving accident investigators the authority to restrict access to the accident sites on private land in the interests of public safety. This in turn will ensure that the aircraft wreckage is as undisturbed as possible.
The proposed amendments will also place additional responsibilities on my department. For example, in order to ensure for the public that an open and independent investigation has been conducted, there will be a requirement that the flight safety investigation report be released to the public on completion of the investigation. These reports include appropriate recommendations for public and aviation safety. Though this is something we have been doing voluntarily since 2001, this practice will now become a legal obligation.
I must emphasize that civilian aviation accidents will of course continue to be investigated by the Transportation Safety Board.
The new amendments will also establish the requirement that a confidential interim report on the progress and findings of an investigation be shared with other departments with a direct interest in the investigation. If an occurrence involves a death and significant progress has been made in an investigation, then an interim report could also be provided to the coroner.
Taken together, these new powers and responsibilities will ensure that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces have the authority necessary to promote openness, independence and integrity in military flight safety investigations.
Military flight safety investigators will be thoroughly trained in respect to all aspects of the new powers and they will be tested before being allowed to exercise them.
Our military has identified some significant gaps in the current legislation and the government has responded.
Amendments to Bill C-6 will improve the capacity of the Canadian Forces to ensure the safety of the men and women in the air force community, civilians involved in military aviation and the general public.
I think all of my colleagues will agree that these amendments show that the government is committed to independent, complete and open military flight safety investigations. I strongly encourage and recommend that all members support these amendments to the Aeronautics Act.
Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-6 concerning the Aeronautics Act.
When this bill was first debated, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport Canada told us that it provides for a legislative framework to further enhance aviation safety and, through safety management systems, to have a system in place that will actually allow a continuous method of keeping Canadians safe. According to him, Australia and the United Kingdom have had great results from this system.
Bill C-6 does indeed deal with integrated management systems and does allow for voluntary reporting programs under which information relating to aviation safety and security can be reported. Bill C-6 is indeed also based on the work done by the previous Liberal government.
However, it will be up to the present government to persuade us, to persuade us and Canadians, that the bill is still a good one.
Before I delve into the provisions of the text, let me make perfectly clear the principle upon which this side of the House's comments are predicated. The average Canadian citizen trusts that when it comes to boarding an airplane in this country, to fly to any destination, our federal government carries out its responsibility to ensure that the flight will be safe.
When parents send their teenage daughter on her first trip away from home, they trust in our federal safety system. When children see their father off on a business trip, they trust in our federal safety system. When a family waits patiently at the airport for a visit from their grandmother, they trust in our federal safety system.
The government has assigned this responsibility to Transport Canada and this bill seeks to amend a large piece of the legislation that safeguards passengers on the planes in our skies.
Bill C-6 amends the Aeronautics Act, which, as we know, establishes the Minister of Transport's responsibility for the development and the regulation of aeronautics in Canada and the supervision of all matters related to aeronautics. In particular, the Aeronautics Act enables the minister to apply the Canadian aviation regulations, which are, in effect, the rules governing aviation in Canada.
Keeping this in mind, I believe all members in the House will understand the caution that we as an opposition will bring to our examination of Bill C-6.
There are four avenues of inquiry that I would like to raise here today. If Bill C-6 is acceptable in premise to this House, then we will soon see it in committee and will be able to apply a stringent analysis of it, beginning, I hope, with these questions.
A large portion of this bill deals with the decision to make “integrated management systems” the basis for a broad range of important regulations, but what exactly are integrated management systems?
Over the past 10 years, companies in the transportation industries have adopted complex plans to achieve certain goals. These are management tools. These plans are systemic, in the sense that they coordinate activities throughout the company to achieve their goals, and they are integrated, in the sense that they bring together the standards set by outside authorities with the processes used by modern transportation enterprises.
Safety management systems are an example of an essential kind of integrated management system. Under a specific safety management system, an airline may, for example, set out how and how often its mechanics have to check an airplane's engines. The plans, the safety management systems, are meant to prevent problems from occurring by taking every reasonable precaution.
By planning how often mechanics are to check the engines and by planning what they should do if there is a question mark of any sort, hopefully there will never be a safety incident. This is the role of a safety management system.
Transport Canada has been working with airlines and safety management systems for several years. Up until now, they have guided a company's actions but have not had the force of law. Instead, Transport Canada has continued to enforce safety regulations, enabled by the existing Aeronautics Act, as the legal standards for safe flying.
If an airline did not comply with the actual aviation regulations, including the paperwork submitted to prove that it was in compliance, it did not matter how good the safety management system was. The airline was simply breaking the law.
Now, with Bill C-6, the government would like to change the obligations of airlines and certain other aviation organizations. The government is saying that Transport Canada should be able to compel these organizations to meet their safety standards, these requirements, and do away with the old prescriptive Transport Canada regulations.
The argument for this evolution is that airlines have many things to do to ensure safety. They have every incentive to be safe and so have already come up with the systems that are most effective.
It is a waste of time and energy, the government argues, for these companies to verify to Transport Canada at every turn that the safety checks are done. Instead, Transport Canada should focus on ensuring that the system agreed to is actually in effect through audits and inspections.
Let us think about this for the average Canadian as if we were taking care of a truck. Right now, Transport Canada tells the company to inspect the brakes every month. It asks for paperwork stating that the inspection was complete. The company's representative declares that the inspection was done and that there was no problem. With Bill C-6, Transport Canada would instead require the company to plan to check the brakes and it would check to see that the plan was being followed, but no paperwork would be submitted on a continual basis attesting that those individual checks were done successfully.
Is this a better way of ensuring safety for travelling Canadians? Does it allow precious safety resources to be better focused on integrating a whole safe system so that incidents do not occur? Or, does it relieve pressure and ultimately lead to gaps that could have tragic consequences?
Despite the enthusiasm of the parliamentary secretary and the minister for Bill C-6, I do not see a clear-cut answer to this yet. We need to know that the safety measures that are to be used are accurate and encourage the safest possible flights. We also need to know that the safety indicators, tracked by different airlines, are comparable, that when we raise the bar, we are comparing apples to apples in establishing our safety standards.
Bill C-6 contains the provision on voluntary reporting of information relating to aviation safety and security, a provision that gives rise to another concern.
The bill authorizes the minister to establish a program under which individuals working in the transportation industry may report to his department any information relating to aviation safety that they consider to be relevant, in the strictest confidentiality. The goal here is for people who are responsible for mistakes to have every reason to admit them as soon as possible so that they can remedied before any damage is done.
I fully support the creation of an environment in which employees and others will do everything possible to ensure safety. In fact, from the important work done by our government in the area of intelligent regulation, I have observed over the years that we must be more flexible in the instruments we choose to achieve the desired result. The desired result in this case is clear: safe aircraft—period.
The government has a spectrum of possible tools at its disposal to achieve this clear goal of safety. They range, on the one hand, from specific command and control style regulations, with Transport Canada saying, “Thou shalt abide by this rule”, to, on the other hand, purely voluntary measures. My concern is that voluntary reporting of critical safety information may not be sufficient in a situation where people's lives and people's livelihoods are at risk.
Undoubtedly, we need a mix of rules and regulations that provide for the best opportunity to prevent air disasters. We have a good track record. Let us be careful about what changes we are ready to make here.
My third area of concern is the powers of the minister generally. There are several pieces of legislation before us this fall, during a minority government no less, that intend to increase the powers of the Minister of Transport.
Bill C-3 would give the minister the direct power to authorize the construction of international bridges and tunnels without parliamentary oversight. Bill C-6 would open the door for the minister to devolve his powers and responsibilities for aeronautical safety to other organizations. Bill C-11 would allow the minister to review mergers and acquisitions in all federal transportation sectors, hardly the hallmark of a Conservative government. Bill C-20, if we ever see it come to the fore, proposes to let the minister oversee and constrain the operations of airport authorities in new and restrictive ways.
When taken as a whole, these measures indicate clearly that the government is moving forward on all fronts to give the Minister of Transport new powers.
It is fear of this very tendency, what was described as a power grab, that prompted a loud outcry from the members of the Conservative Party when they were in opposition. I note that they have been strangely silent for several months now, however, when it comes to expanding government powers. This is particularly true in the case of the backbenchers on the government side.
I would note that I am not opposed to the principle of greater powers when that is necessary, but I would like to remind the minister and the government side of what they said and the expectations they created on the part of the Canadian public. They still have the onus of demonstrating the urgent need to expand the minister’s powers, not only in Bill C-6, but also in four other transport bills.
Finally, let me turn to my fourth subject and my fourth area of concern, the proposed creation of the Canadian Forces airworthiness investigative authority. The new CFAIA, as it is called, would take on the responsibilities of the Transportation Safety Board for aeronautical incidents, including accidents that involve Canadian Forces aircraft.
The information surrounding these events would now fall under the clear jurisdiction of the Minister of National Defence, as we have just heard from his parliamentary secretary. This is, in and of itself, a sensible development. However, the concerns expressed to me by various groups, which I wish to express to the government, regard incidents that involve both military and civilian aircraft.
The new CFAIA would be given the authority to investigate these incidents and accidents in Bill C-6. However, Canadians want to be assured that they will still have access to full and complete information in the unfortunate circumstance that an accident affects them or their loved ones. In fact, they would like access to full and complete information whether or not the accident directly affects them because transparency is of the utmost importance in a democratic society such as ours.
The new subsection 17(2) of the Aeronautics Act would read that investigation observers from outside the forces are “Subject to any conditions that the Airworthiness Investigative Authority imposes...”. It is incumbent upon the government to now clarify what measures are being taken to guarantee that the facts of any future incident will not be covered up using the proposed provisions of the Aeronautics Act.
I know that the government is committed in words to transparency, but Canadians need to see that the government is equally committed to act in a transparent manner.
I am pleased to see that under Liberal leadership, the government did extensive consultations with industry, labour and other stakeholders, and that there appears to be widespread support for some of the provisions in this bill, but as a responsible opposition, we are not yet convinced that the bill as written meets the appropriate societal tests.
There is no doubt in my mind that we must be constantly vigilant to ensure that the federal government, which is constitutionally seized with and responsible for aeronautical safety, and the private aircraft operators and companies who compete today in a low margin, highly competitive international marketplace, have struck the appropriate balance of rule and regulation to provide for safety in the greater public interest.
The families who depart and arrive in airports throughout Canada, every minute and every hour of every day, deserve no less than our full attention to Bill C-6.
We will support the bill at second reading and I look forward to the opportunity in committee to hear witnesses explain, in much greater detail, what will actually happen on the ground should Bill C-6 earn our ultimate approval.
Hon. Larry Bagnell (Yukon, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about some elements of the bill first and then use the opportunity to go on to talk about some safety elements related to my riding. They may not be totally connected to the bill, but as everyone knows, I always like to talk about my riding and the issues that are important to it.
Bill C-6 which amends the Aeronautics Act, will provide Transport Canada with an increased ability to maintain and increase safety and security of Canada's aviation systems.
If an imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we in the Liberal Party are very flattered as this proposed legislation mimics Bill C-62 introduced by the former Liberal government in the last Parliament. When talking about flattery, I must say you are doing an excellent job, Mr. Speaker, for your first time in that chair.
Where the safety and security of the flying public and air transport employees are concerned, there can be no compromise. That is why this legislation is so important. There can be no compromise on safety.
Canada is a geographically large and vast country. It is essential that we have the ability to travel by air safely and securely between our large urban centres as well as between the outlying remote communities. Air transport links us as a country from sea to sea to sea.
Air travel is necessary for Canada to compete in the global economy, to allow our tourism industry to flourish, and to unite family and friends who may live half a continent away. Canadians have come to rely on, indeed most take for granted, the safe, secure transportation system of our aviation industry.
We can see that particularly in the north. There are many communities that we cannot even get to except by air. Just to get to work every week I fly every month more than the entire circumference of the world. When I get home, I have to cover an area larger than any country in Europe. Often we use small planes. It is instrumental, part of commuting, that there be safety provisions, both mechanically, legislatively and personnel wise.
This act and its predecessor, Bill C-62, have resulted from extensive consultations through the Canadian Aviation Regulatory Advisory Council and reflect the learned input of labour and management organizations, operators and manufacturers, and aviation associations, all of whom consider safety their number one priority.
I would not be as comfortable in sending this to committee for further study had there been not all this consultation done with labour, manufacturers and those companies that are involved in the industry. They are the experts in the industry and know what needs to be done to ensure the highest level of safety.
The legislation addresses a myriad of administrative clauses so essential for the smooth and safe operations of our aviation systems. The devil is in the details and this devil has been put in its place by the legislation.
The act provides for the establishment of an integrated management system providing for the cumulation of dates that will help Transport Canada to better manage and regulate safety and security concerns, and to set standards leading to continued improvements to adapt changing circumstances. The aim is create a culture of safety and to continuously engage the aviation industry in amending or developing regulations.
One interesting and innovative approach is that the legislation authorizes the establishment of a voluntary reports program under which information relating to aviation safety and security may be reported without fear of reprisal. The program provides for individuals to provide confidential reports of regulation violations, not with the view of punishment but to identify and correct mistakes and to make safety improvements.
To err is human and if mistakes do happen in a less safety regulated environment, let us learn from those errors with immediate disclosure.
It is one of the whistleblower protections in the public service with essential safety and security as its end good. Better to prevent a tragedy than not to have the information.
The protections in section 5.396, part (1), will not apply. However, if there has been a prior contravention of the act within a prior two-year period before to or subsequently, there is a management system of the employer that encourages an employee to disclose a system if the employer did not do so.
I would add a cautionary note, however, that the government and Transport Canada in particular must be vigilant on the safety performance of airlines and by monitoring violations of safety rules must ensure that the whistleblower aspect of this clause in fact has the intended effect of improving aviation safety.
We must be mindful of an incident reported by the media where airline mechanics acknowledged being pressured to release planes with defects that could compromise public safety. Such conduct is simply and utterly unacceptable, not only for the confidence of our flying community in the planes that crisscross our skies but also for the economic stability of airline companies. Second best or next time just does not cut it.
In an earlier hour of this debate I asked about, and I hope the witnesses in committee will be prepared to provide some information on this, mandatory reports. What was the incidence of non-compliance when these reports were missing? What type of percentage? What was the number and with this new voluntary reporting system, what effect will that have? Will there be more chances for abrogation or less chances? Would it result in more reports being put in or less reports?
As my colleague mentioned in his speech before mine, there would not be, on occasion, reports to be collected. What effect would this have? If Transport Canada does not have all the reports to do analysis on, is there a possibility that these reports could act like the canary in the mine shaft and be a warning?
There are all sorts of excellent airline companies in the north. There is Air North flying out of Whitehorse, and I know the member from Thunder Bay will be happy to hear about that one. There is First Air, Canadian North, Alkan Air, all small airlines in this country that are very useful and helpful.
However, in their combined reports there may have been one particular mechanical failure to a particular part of the plane. Hopefully, there are not very many in this industry because the results could be devastating. If Transport Canada has all these reports and sees the very same mechanical failing and maybe two months later the same mechanical failing elsewhere, could it put those together and analyze them and prevent a potential tragedy by having that accumulated information? By having the information regarding an airline, a manager of an airline would be quite interested in having this information regarding the safety of his airline. I am hoping the witnesses can comment on this and how it would relate to the new reporting system and its effect.
I also want to mention inputs I have had from local airlines. One flying out of Watson Lake in Yukon was unhappy about some of the conditions, not necessarily safety but related to maintenance on the runways related to gravel. That was for the Dawson City Airport.
Transport Canada has an excellent program that provides grants for improvements to help airport safety across the country. It is an excellent program. We have had excellent projects in Yukon, but unless the amount of money increases in that program, all the projects that need to be done to improve safety at Canada's airports cannot be completed.
On the other side, I had a letter a few days ago about an aircraft flying from Watson Lake to Whitehorse, I believe, a flight of a couple of hours. It was a small plane. In the north, of course, it is a whole different environment, with all sorts of small planes with different technologies. There are bird dogs for the forest fires and the mining camps. There are float planes taking in tourists for canoe trips. This particular small plane landed at place called Teslin, about two hours from Whitehorse, because there was bad weather. These people complimented Sue and Linda at the Teslin airport for the wonderful reception. They were delighted that there was an airport in a town of only several hundred people.
This is an essential investment in Canada's north. It may not seem at the outset to be very economical, but we cannot put a price on a life. That airport was ready for that small plane to come down in bad weather. It is essential, and we need to keep up the investment in the small and rural airports across this country, not underestimate them for something as simple as dollars and cents at the expense of life.
Another thing I want to talk about is one of our major airlines in the north. Although it is a major airline and uses the same planes, like 737s, to be economical and to survive in that environment it needs to put baggage in part of the plane and passengers in another part of the plane. Otherwise, it would need much smaller planes, which would not be economical and would not be as comfortable for the passengers. The airline could not survive.
We do not need any regulations that are unnecessary, regulations that would, for instance, preclude putting baggage in the main compartment. It has been done for years. It is totally safe in the northern environment. It is absolutely essentially that it continue.
As always, I am promoting a rural lens on regulations, a northern lens, to make sure that legislation is effectively looked at from the perspective of small rural communities where we can maintain safety but also be flexible so that it is realistic in the environment we are talking about.
This will probably be the last bit of time we have before members' statements and I thank the Conservatives for all their support for my speech as well. I know they are always enthralled with my speeches.
It is a fact that we now have thousands of flights going over the north pole, the circumpolar area. That never occurred in the past. That is a whole new safety regime. The distance from airports is longer and there is a different type of landing potential in emergencies, but most important for me is the lack of search and rescue north of 60.
Many members have heard me talk about this in the House and in committee and have seen it in the newspapers. The fact that we do not have a single DND search and rescue plane north of 60 is unacceptable. We definitely have to work on that. Why would we have all our search and rescue planes close to the Canada-U.S. border and have to fly all that distance to save someone on one of these flights?
I am happy to have contributed to the debate. We look forward to sending the bill to committee.